Archive for May, 2014

27
May
14

It’s not about you

So I’ve been letting this site whither a bit, and I didn’t mean for the first post to be heavy but here we are anyway.

Here’s hoping this is viewed in the spirit I intend it to be: to open up dialogue and help us understand each other a bit better. To help us get past the issues which roadblock us from solving our problems both personally and from a wider societal view.

It took me hours to write this and I don’t even know if it’s ready to go out into the universe, but here goes.

I’ve kind of avoided commenting on the whole #YesAllWomen hashtag thing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I felt that, as a man in a patriarchal society, this was perhaps something to be observed and considered but not commented upon.

So I watched the posts come, written in some cases by friends, and thought and considered and remained silent.

Then I searched for the hashtag to widen my understanding of what was being said and…. well, I was disturbed.

I was disturbed by the stories women were sharing which, while we all know they happen, we rarely confront face to face. I was disturbed by the endless stream of them, the entirely too frequent incidents  that these women were sharing.

More than anything though, I was disturbed by the guys.

Listen, I more than anyone understand the nature of twitter and twitter trolling. Hell, internet trolling. I don’t read my comments on Bleacher Report anymore because I can only have hate spewed at me for so long before I start regretting things I type.  I’ve been told hateful things on twitter and they pale compared to some of my fellow writers.

I say this and yet I was stunned by the response some men (not all) were having to the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

That’s why I’m writing this.  Because I have something to share with my brothers. Ladies, feel free to stay, but this one is for the fellas.

It’s not about you.

Let me be clear, I get the initial visceral reaction to something like this. Generalities get thrown around in discussions of racism and sexism and as a white male it can feel like everyone is pointing a finger at you.

But it’s not about you.

My wife and I are both passionate people and we argue about a lot of things. There are topics where I feel attacked on a personal level no matter what she says. I have to remember one thing….

It’s not about you.

Listen guys, you have to stop taking this personally.

Wait, check that. You SHOULD take this personally but not for the reasons you have been.

None of this is an attack on you as an individual, but you have responsibility in it.

Let’s separate these two things. First of all, the majority of women are not pointing their finger at you, calling you a rapist.  I’m sure there ARE some but we need to stop judging the whole by the fringe. Just like I shouldn’t judge conservatives by whatever idiocy comes out of Joe the Plumber’s mouth  or all liberals from what whackadoodle junk passes for Bill Mahr’s latest rantings, you shouldn’t judge every woman by the one pointing a finger at you.

If you do, you’re missing the point. Whenever we get caught up in the extremes we’re missing the point.

And pointing out men died in the Santa Barbara shootings, while tragic and true, is also missing the point. Because there wasn’t a 140 page manifesto about eliminating the male gender save for breeding purposes or Youtube videos complaining men weren’t sleeping with this guy.

While this man killed other men, his hatred of women was his motivation. If you focus on the death of the men as a rallying cry to dismiss what these women are saying, you are missing the point.

In this case, you’re missing the point that while you, personally, haven’t assaulted any women, WOMEN GET ASSAULTED.

You know women who have, even if they haven’t told you about it. I know a lot of women who have. I’d never say who-it’s not my story to tell-and there are women who haven’t told me but I suspect were. Many, many women have.

Forget the old saw about “these are mothers and wives and sisters” because the real statement should be “these are people.” People who a nutjob hated so much he ranted about wiping them out and then decided to get a head start.

The point is that, while none of them are shooting anyone right now, he is far from alone in his thoughts.

The whole #YesAllWomen is about that. Saying #NotAllMen is missing the point because more then enough men are.

Listen, intellectually you understand sexism or racism or any other inequity but as a guy you can’t possibly understand it fully.

Once, quite some time ago, I got into a debate on twitter (SHOCKING) about race. A gentleman I very much respect wrote a very good article about race and how it’s approached in our society. One thing I took issue with was the idea that white people-especially white men-cannot fully understand racism.

We argued and debated in the way you do on twitter (with less putdowns) until the light went on for me about what he was really saying. It’s not that I didn’t understand racism on an educational or intellectual level. Of course I did. What I didn’t understand-indeed could never understand-was racism as an actual occurrence.

Nobody was ever walking across the street to avoid me. No old woman would see me in a hoodie and avoid me. And even if a woman did avoid me on the street, that was about gender, not race.

I will never understand what it is to be a black man in America. I just can’t. And I will never understand what it’s like to be a woman in America. I can intellectually understand what they go through. I can cite history of the suffrage movement and women’s rights and all of it but I will never understand how it feels to be whistled at, leered at or attacked as many women are.

And before you say “men get attacked/judged/leered at” please remember:

It’s not about you.

There is absolutely a discussion to be had about societal expectations around men and what it is to be a man. What Hollywood and sports and culture tell us is the right way to be a male. Heck, Joe the Plumber clearly equates his maleness with his gun….which good Lord let’s not dissect that frightening metaphor. I think there are things such as father’s rights and the emasculation of men which should be talked about as well.

But this isn’t the place, and attacking women dealing with their issues with those discussions is missing the point and on top of it, part of the problem. You’re marginalizing their issues, reinforcing the same damned problems they are fighting against.

If you want to raise awareness about domestic abuse against men, I will fully support you in that. Unless you use it to try an downplay the very serious issue of violence against women.

Which brings me to the second point here-we, as men, have a responsibility to change this. Not just by not being jerks to women, but to actively support women in their rights as human beings. Forget equality because it’s not even about that. It’s about treating people like people.

Shocking, right?

We may not actively discriminate against women, but we passively support a system which does. And before you start typing that angry rebuttal, please remember:

It’s not about you.

It’s not about accusing you or making you wrong. It’s about a society where the game was rigged a long time ago, where things were institutionalized before most of us were born. Now, sure, the majority of men on the planet didn’t actively make this mess, but just saying “not my fault” is never going to fix it.

In fact, it’s pretty much what we get on our kids for. Just because you didn’t actively make the mess doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a hand in fixing it.

No, it’s not our mess, but we’re the ones who have some power to fix it. While we might not have magical powers to fix everything on a global scale, we can change the world locally.

We can do it by teaching our sons AND our daughters to treat people like people. Not objects, not goals, not things to win. Just people.

And to broaden the scope a bit, we should do this across the board. It’s not just about gender. It’s about race, sexuality, age, on and on and on.

Because it’s not about you. Or me. Or any one person. It’s about us. All of us across this whole country, across this whole world.

It’s not about you, but you can fix it. You should fix it.

We all should.

#YesAllWomen isn’t about pointing a finger at me or you. It’s pointing a finger at an issue. #NotAllMen is a reaction which, frankly, is missing the point.

Might I suggest #AllMenShould?

As in “All Men Should Work to Improve the World?”

That seems like a much better way to go.

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14
May
14

I am NOT ready for a Solo Professor

image via thetoddanderinfavoritefive.com

So this week, the Professor started biking to school in the morning.

Alone.

I’m not ready for this.

My wonderful wife will point out that you need to let go some time—and she’s right—but I wasn’t quite ready to do this yet.

When Alpha Tween was Prof’s age, he was walking to the Boys and Girls Club for aftercare in New York City  (Yes, Queens is New York City) and I was definitely nervous. But both my wife and I were working and couldn’t pick him up so it was a necessity.

He had a cell phone and was to call or text when he left school and when he arrived at the after-school program and he kind of remembered to do it, sometimes, maybe.

We got used to it though, and we saw a tremendous change in confidence and independence which, in the long run, I think will be invaluable for him as he goes through life.

So it’s a good thing that The Professor is doing this. I think that soon we’ll let him bike home on his own as well.

But it’s so hard to let him go. I love our town and I feel like he (and Alpha) are as safe roaming the streets here as anywhere else—maybe more. But all I see right now are bad drivers and all I do is worry about my kid as he bikes to school. Every morning I spend time worrying that I’ll get a phone call or something and that he’s been hurt or worse.

The thing is, he’s so proud and happy right now. He feels independence in a way that he never has before and he feels “grown up” and responsible. And all that is so important, so vital to his confidence and makes him so damned happy.

So I’m trying to get over myself and mentally prepare for the next step—getting him keys and a phone and anxiously waiting for him to come home.

I’m not ready for it—but I’d better get ready and soon.

 

06
May
14

The Epitome of Team

image via wikipedia

This Spring the boys have begun to play lacrosse. When we lived in California, this wasn’t a sport anyone knew much about and when we lived in Astoria, NY, we never came across anyone playing—though had we wanted to look perhaps we might have found a team.

For those of you unfamiliar with lacrosse, it’s a sport whose growth is on the rise—one of few in youth sports according to the Wall Street Journal.

It’s been an interesting process. The Professor and Alpha Tween are both first timers, and both have enjoyed it, though AT has had a rougher time adjusting. While he’s a solid athlete, he’s not the type of kid who instantly grabs all the nuances of a new sport and given he’s going through regular growth spurts, his hand-eye coordination is sometimes not so coordinated.

Still he’s doing well. His team is split into two squads—“A” and “B”—depending on overall ability. Most of the first time players (and there are a bunch) are on the “B” team though there is some cross-pollination between the two squads. I find that brilliant because the newer kids get a much more thorough and hands on learning experience. If it was all one mass of kids, the better kids would get more of the practice time and coach’s attention. This way, the kids who need basic instruction get it, while the kids learning the finer points and nuances get that.

Recently, the coaches asked if any of the kids wanted to move to goalie. The team, as a whole, only has one goaltender but as incredible as he is—and he’s phenomenal—it’s a rough gig to do for two squads, especially when one isn’t very good defensively yet because they’re just learning to play.

So they needed a second goalie, partly because the “B” team should have their own guy, partly because our main goalie needs some breaks and partly because we need a backup in case—God forbid—our main goalie got hurt.

Enter Alpha Tween. He had been playing “attack” which is a forward position but since the team wasn’t very good, much of his time was spent standing around. He’s played goaltender in soccer, so he has the basics down. And since he wasn’t doing anything on offense, he figured—not wrongly—that he was guaranteed action while in goal.

Goaltending in lacrosse can be a thankless, tough job. Shots can come from anywhere, you wear less equipment than other players, so you have more exposed skin for bruising and it’s a very small ball.

Alpha Tween got thrown into a game a couple of weeks ago and did very well. His teammates all congratulated him and jumped on him in celebration, as you’d expect.

It was a nice moment—but not as nice as last night’s.

Last night, AT was merely a backup. He wasn’t expected to see any time in the game, even though there was a mix-up and the other team didn’t bring all their “A” guys.

However in the fourth quarter, he replaced the main goalie. Unfortunately for him, the “A” team defense was pulled as well. So the other team—which had seen very few scoring opportunities before the fourth—got to take some great shots on my boy.

He let in three goals and was clearly frustrated by the end.

And then something happened which just reinforced my perception that we made the right decision in moving the family here. We’ve been terribly lucky (for the most part) since coming to the East coast, in that pretty much all the sports teams we’ve been involved in have been filled with awesome people.

Gymnastics aside, we’ve been super-happy with it.

So after AT got shelled, letting in three goals and allowing the opposition to close the gap, I wasn’t sure what the reaction from

via Boston.com

his team would be. They’ve loved him, but the reaction to a poor performance versus a good one can be very different.

The first team offense ran onto the field and jumped on AT in celebration.

I was so pleased to see that. I know that, at his age, Alpha needs confidence boosts. I know he was frustrated—maybe even angry—with his performance. And I know he was still annoyed, but instead of being sullen (which we’re used to these days), he was happy.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not like he was all “HEY I LET IN THREE GOALS WHEEEEE” or anything.

But instead of dragging his feet and being pissed off, he was smiling, talking about what he needed to do better and being confident that he could.

Being a team means a lot of things, but what gets lost more often than not is the reality that being a true team is about more than just being in the same space with people, wearing the same jersey colors or playing next to each other.

It’s about supporting each other even when things aren’t great. It’s about picking up someone when they are a little down because they didn’t do as well as they wanted to.

And yeah the team won, so it’s easier to be supportive. Still, it wouldn’t have been a shock if nobody did anything. If they just celebrated the win and didn’t reach out to AT. It’s not like you’d think twice about it.

But they went out of their way to celebrate his efforts.

That’s the sort of thing which really is what being on a team about.




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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages