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.


4 Responses to “It’s not about you”

  1. 1 Ginnie Perry
    May 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    OMG, OMG, yes. This is wonderful. Thank you.

  2. July 21, 2014 at 2:40 am

    You have articulated this beautifully.

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

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