Any of you been on social media today? It’s sad that this #metoo campaign had to exist, but the hope is that the bravery of sexual assault survivors (A.K.A. every woman ever) in coming forward both highlights the alarming frequency of these assaults and provides solidarity for those whom it’s an all too common occurrence. I mean, there should be little argument that any occurrence is all too often, but let’s be real. We live in a world of shitty gendered bias. There are many reasons it sucks to be a woman in our society. Whereby so often these assaults went unmentioned or understated #metoo seems to have changed those ellipses to exclamation marks. Good. I (naively?) hope any who’s been wilfully hiding under a rock starts to take notice.
I’ve seen an avalanche of invaluable conversations. I feel stuck in this weird rally back and forth. It’s not the least bit surprising to hear of how widespread this behaviour is, but that doesn’t make it nice to hear. It’s fantastic to see these aforementioned conversations being raised, but disheartening how commonly the #notallmen brigade jumps in to recuse the statistical validity of calls against men to do better.
I don’t know if any #notallmenonites are reading, but maybe try looking at women calling on men to do better a little differently. It’s another way of saying “the exception proves the rule”. If a woman is talking about her mistreatment at the hands of men and you don’t think it applies to you, maybe you’re the exception that proves her overall rule. If that’s the case, try not jumping in and making it about you, because it probably wasn’t about you in the first place.
The thing is men, we’re all complicit in this societal bias whether we realise it or not. I’d be very surprised to hear otherwise. It’s pervasive enough to be unavoidable. Over the years I’ve said and done a ton of things that contributed to the culture without understanding the insidious ways in which I did so. I’m sure I still do. Acknowledging past faults is important in seeing the path towards better behaviour. Here’s a short list of the stuff I have done and/or may still do unintentionally:
- Rape jokes. In my teens/early 20s the concept of punching down wasn’t even a blip on my radar. It was all about being as edgy as possible, to push the boundaries to reassert some misguided sense of bravery. Oh no, of course I didn’t think rape was funny, but using it as an abstract concept showed, I dunno, my unwillingness to adhere to rigid social structures? Fuck that. How brave I was as someone who didn’t most likely would never have to face the act firsthand. Fuck off forever, this mentality.
- Devils Advocate. Forcing people to argue something that caused them emotional strife. Never mind that I had no emotional stake in the subject, I just wanted to argue and flex my intellectual muscles. Or I just liked being “technically right” or some other shitty nonsense. Once again, fuck off forever.
- Placing my desire for sex above the autonomy, needs and wants of women. Even if I’d never physically pushed anyone towards any sexual activity they weren’t actively seeking (I may well have), so much of this stuff is insidious and ingrained. Did I wilfully misinterpret or ignore “no” signals and keep pushing for a “yes”? Did I objectify women and see them for how their sexuality could benefit me rather than as a person? Befriend women purely because I wanted to sleep with them?
- Judging women on the way that they looked or dressed. Way to discount someone’s humanity. The clothes that I wear do not fully express the person that I am. Why would anyone else be different?
- Ignored or spoken above women because I innately didn’t value their opinion? Of course. I’ve spent my life as a loudmouth and it feels like I’ve only recently learned the importance of listening. I have no doubt that I constantly did this and likely still do without thinking.
- Constant use of gendered language. I’m sure a ton of people mock this kind of specificity, but I feel like there’s something in the way that we talk. Language is an important tool in conveying both meaning and intent. The number of times I’ve referred to large groups of mixed gender as “guys” doesn’t sound like much, but it also sends subtle messages about gender based hierarchy. It’s something I’ve picked up unintentionally throughout my life, but there’s no reason why we can’t unlearn unhelpful patterns. Nobody is truly ever too old to change.
This is not even the tip of the iceberg. Like it or not, all men contribute to patriarchal dominance and oppression. If you’re interested in changing this, maybe examine your behaviours and decide which of these contribute to the kind of world you want to see. Listen to women, not just when it’s trending. If they’re not talking, become the kind of safe space where they feel they can confide. If women are confiding in you, don’t just be horrified. Act, change, grow and help embolden this change in others. Call in shitty behaviour when you can. Call it out when it’s necessary. We can all be better and we have no reason not to continually work towards whatever shape “better” takes in our lives. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey.