(While the content of this post should be safe in regards to Trigger Warnings, some of the links I post are not. Please click-through with caution because the internet is full of hateful assholes.)
There was a time when I thought just being a good man was enough.
My idea of what it meant to be a good man used to be different. In an ideal world we evolve and question previously held convictions. That was the case for me. I came to realize that my image of a good man wasn’t good enough. I needed to be a good person–a better person.
I took for granted for so long that women were my equals, that I lost sight of how far there was still to go. I figured that as long as I treated women with respect, my job was done. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how wrong I was.
I needed to do more. We need to do more. Guys, I’m talking to you here.
We need to change the language. And holy hell, it’s difficult, even if you’re committed to it. It is ingrained in our culture to use feminine words to call out flaws. Not cowardly, but pussy. Not argumentative, but bitchy. Not a shit-poor athlete, but play like a girl, (and as a long-time fan of the WNBA, I wish I could play basketball that well.) And then there’s the use of rape language to describe the domination of a conflict.
It needs to stop. Because it perpetuates the casual assumption that women are unequal, and that the language of sexual violence is acceptable. Even if you don’t mean any of it. Especially if you don’t mean any of it. Because it isn’t acceptable. We need to make it clear to the people who do mean it that this language, this attitude, won’t be tolerated anymore. Because while “make me is a sandwich” is a (VERY bad) joke coming from most people, there are still some who consider it an order.
I’m late to this fight, because I didn’t realize that 1 in 3 adolescent girls are the victims of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. I didn’t realize that for many women, verbal abuse, cat-calling, aggressive objectification was a fact of daily life. I didn’t realize that many women could not go about normal daily activities that I took for granted without feeling threatened. I didn’t realize that sexual harassment in the workplace was as widespread or as tolerated in some corporate cultures as it is. Let’s face it–I didn’t realize a lot!
I’m late to this fight because I never noticed that women who criticize, hell, even just point out that this kind of inequality exists, are met with violent, hateful verbal abuse and threats against their safety.
I’m late to this fight because while I hate the idea of rape and sexual assault, I never heard of rape culture–even though I saw it around me all the time. I could not see the forest for the trees.
I’m late to this fight because the majority of my good friends are strong, amazing women who radiate confidence. And thanks to them, I have gradually come to see the culture of oppression they’ve been pushing back against their entire lives. I’m not naming names, but I hope they know who they are, because they inspire me daily. I’m sorry it took me so long to get here.
So, why should we care, men? Well, in case the idea that all people should be considered equal doesn’t work for you, then here’s this list as a starting point. (As an interesting aside, a Google search for Why Men Should Be… completed that sentence with Feminists as the top result. The second result was completed with Paid More Than Men, so clearly, work needs to be done.)
But the fascinating thing, to me at least, is that we stand to benefits from joining the fight as well. Because the status quo is harmful. It’s toxic. It reinforces gender roles and stereotypes not just for women, but for men as well. I hate to get all duality on you here, but if we hold to one idea of what it means to be a woman, by default we’re holding to one idea of what it means to be a man. And that idea doesn’t fit everyone. I’d go so far as to say it doesn’t fit MOST people.
I’ve touched on this before, just under a year ago. I like several things that don’t fit that typical manly stereotype. Floral pens. Musicals (love me some Sondheim). Getting flowers (sunflower being my favorite, but also fond of lilies). The music of Rumer (how can you not love that voice? Are you made of stone?). Accessories (no, really…my most recent bag acquisition is by any rational description a purse, no two ways about it, but it’s perfectly sized for my daily needs). Conversely, I suck at most sports (don’t even like watching them for the most part) and am crap at fixing a car. That’s just how it is. I don’t fit that manly man mold. Does that mean I am not a good man?
So to all those who have been rallying against this for years, decades, I’m sorry. I didn’t know the fight was going on. By not seeing it, I helped perpetuate it with lazy language and blind acceptance of the paradigm. I didn’t see that this was my fight, also. I was wrong.
I’m late to the fight. But I’m here, now. I’m working on becoming a better person. And I’m here to help win this.
I will no longer accept the status quo–the casual sexism, the misogyny, the rape culture–and I will challenge it when it rears it’s ugly head. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, “Dude…that’s not cool” to get the conversation started. I will no longer use the language that helps perpetuate and prop up this system of inequality. I’ll continue to push for better, more equal representation in media–strong female characters, talented female writers/artists.
And I’ll continue to encourage all of you, men and women alike, to do the same.
Because it’s never too late to join the fight.