What Can Men Do?

DB from Live. Laugh. Love. stumbled across a thread at a… shall we say “notorious radical feminist’s” blog.  I’m loathe to link to her or even mention her name for fear of incurring her wrath.  I hope y’all won’t see this as cowardly, but merely as prudent.

Anyway, this feminist is having a shitty day.  Some troll offered to poke some holes in her and rape her in them.  A guy showed up to offer his support of her, and, as you might imagine, it turned into something out of Bassarids, what with how the women in the comments turned on him.

DB was watching all this from the sidelines and emailed me the following questions:

In conversations we have had and in some posts on your blog, you have stated that “nice guys” need to not take it anymore by speaking out when it comes to the image of men being shaped by rapists, abusers, and all-around jerks.  My concerns when it comes to this are manifold.  For example:

1. How does a man show support for women without appearing to be seen as “the protector of women who can’t protect themselves”?

2. How to properly show anger at those jerks without appearing to be more concerned with the image of men rather than actually having concern for women?

3. Being labeled a “man terrorist” for not doing enough of the “right” thing.

4. Is this just all hopeless because men are pigs and will always be pigs in the eyes of feminists? 

I think these are great questions and I’m going to offer my thoughts and then throw it open to all y’all, as I’m sure there will be a lack of consensus.

I just want to be clear where I’m starting from, too, as I think it’s important to realize that feminism is a broad umbrella term that mean something slightly different to everyone.  I believe we live in an extremely fucked up hierarchy that encourages the strong to prey on the weak and pretty much everyone is jockeying for position within that hierarchy to have it as good as he or she can. 

Because of how it works, I believe, right now, women in general, have it worse than men, black people have it worse than white people, rich people have it better than poor people, etc., though there are always exceptions.  I believe that women are fucked up in ways that make it very hard for us to trust other women and to work together with them for all our benefits.  We tend to believe that our worth is based on our ability to hook a man with high status.

As my friend Mack once said, women spend a lot of time doing a lot of PR work for the men they’ve fucked.  Well, yeah, because we want to show that we’ve snagged ourselves someone of status worthy of us.

I believe, too, that men are fucked up by this system, this way of relating to each other.  I think that there’s a strain of masculinity, of men who loathe themselves and who figure that anyone who loves them must be an even worse fucked up piece of shit than they are and so those people deserve whatever evil crap they want to dole out to them.  These same men, this same kind of masculinity, tends to view women as an accutrement that proves their status.

I think this kind of masculinity is a subset, a dangerous subset, of the masculinity that equates physical strength and the ability to do harm to others with being powerful.

I, as a feminist, want women to stop being so fucked up towards themselves–I want us to realize that we have inherent value and inherent power and inherent worth and that there’s nothing worthwhile gained from running around treating each other like shit.

But I also want men to stop being so fucked up towards themselves–I’d like to advocate for a type of masculinity that equates power with the ability to make others feel safe and powerful themselves.

Okay, then, whoo.  That was a hell of a disclaimer.  Let’s answer us some questions.  In reverse, because I’m cool like that.

4.  Is this just all hopeless because men are pigs and will always be pigs in the eyes of feminists?

Nope.  I think there’s plenty of reason to hope.  For one, things are decidedly better now than they were in the past (see the decline in rapes for proof of that).  And for another, as long as we keep putting grown men in our vaginas, we’re going to keep on pulling baby men out of them.  It’s one thing to be convinced that all grown-ass men are pigs.  It’s quite another to think of your four year old son that way.

3.  Being labeled a “man terrorist” for not doing enough of the “right” thing.

If you ask any police officer, he or she will tell you that answering domestic dispute calls sucks ass because often the woman will decide to physically defend the man who was beating the crap out of her.  Or ask Exador how some girls will try to encourage you to fight their men for whatever reason (or shoot, doesn’t Bobby Bare Jr. have a song about that?).  My point is that the right thing to do isn’t always clear and asking men to just be able to discern when they should step in and when they shouldn’t is, I think, still encouraging this idea that men should be better than women, or at least have superhuman skills.

Here’s the thing, and maybe I’ll take some slack for saying this, but I still think I’m right.  If we conceed that everyone is fucked up, then I think we can say that a person has a right to ask another person to stop doing something–to stop their racist, sexist, whateverist behavior–and that we, as civilized people ought to do whatever we can to stop doing that, WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT fucked up people will sometimes ask for fucked up things and we have the right to refuse to do fucked up things.  Does that make sense?  I hope so.  To put it more clearly, just because someone has been a victim doesn’t insure that their ideas about what would set things right are always reasonable.

This seems to me to be a clear instance of that–women who have actually been very hurt by men wanting something unreasonable.  Men can’t automatically know what they must do in order to be not lumped in with the “man terrorists” (and, in fact, I suspect there’s nothing they can do that would exclude them from that term).

I think it’s awesome that DB, for instance, wants to know what to do, but I don’t think there’s any reasonable thing he could do.  As Maya Angelou says, most people don’t want change; they want exchange.  I’m not convinced that folks who run off well-meant offers of help really want change at the moment; they just want to feel powerful in circumstances that have made them feel powerless.

2.  How to properly show anger at those jerks without appearing to be more concerned with the image of men rather than actually having concern for women?

I’ll be interested in hearing what other folks think about this, but I think I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter.  Men who treat women like shit don’t think very highly of women.  It’s imperative that those men stop treating women like shit.  If a man is doing something shitty to a woman, I think the first thing is to get it to stop.  If you have to appeal to how he’s making all men look bad, well, make him understand that he’s making all men look bad and you’re not going to stand for it.

1.  How does a man show support for women without appearing to be seen as “the protector of women who can’t protect themselves”?

The first thing that came to my mind when I read this kind of caught me by surprise, so I don’t know if it’s really the main thing men can do to show support for women, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway.

Don’t make your daughters hug or kiss people they don’t want to hug or kiss.

A thing we women tend to do, and I saw it today as I was coming out of Walgreens, is put our feelings of discomfort aside in order to appease men.  Like today, I’m walking out of Walgreen’s and there’s some guy I don’t know looking and sketchy and such and he comes up to me and starts in with, “Hey, pretty lady, can I talk to you?”

I didn’t make eye contact, but I did say, “No.”

Dude was so startled that he hung in midstep for a good second.  Not “sorry, no,” or some other thing that said “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I must be going.”  Just “no.”

But the woman right after me, Dumbass, goes right up to him when he asks to talk to her and starts digging around in her purse looking for change to give him and takes her eyes off him and acts as if what she’s up to is just how things should go, that a yucky dude wants her attention and it’s her place to give it and her money to him.

How do I know all that?  Because I sat in my car watching the whole thing with my cell phone out where he could see it, in case he tried anything.  He seemed displeased by that.  She seemed oblivious.

So, my first bit of advise to you is to teach your daughters to be street smart, to feel that their bodies are theirs and that they decide who has access to them and who doesn’t, and teach your daughters to feel powerful themselves.

Hell, that’s probably good advise for your boys, too.  Start young teaching them that their bodies are their own and that power is about helping everyone feel strong and powerful and safe.

Second, no matter how shitty your ex-wife is, pay your child support and don’t skip out on your kids.  It’s hard, but the better a person you are in adversity models for your sons how they should be (“even when things are unfair, we real men make the best of it and do the right thing, even when we’d rather not”) and it sets a standard for how your daughters think they can be expected to be treated.

Third, embrace the idea of enthusiastic consent.  Of course “no” means “no.”  But folks should be having sex with people who have given a definative and delighted “yes.”

When you hear other men joking about having to cajole a girl into having sex with them, make it clear that you’re laughing at them, not with them.

The important thing, I think, is that men have to talk to each other about this stuff.  But I think that, in order to do that, you have to look at the shit you’re being fed about yourselves–about how you’re monsters who just cannot help but hurt women, for instance–and speak out about that stuff, too.  You don’t have to be strident about it.  But you can say things like “Hey, speak for yourself.  Maybe you can’t [whatever] but I can.”  Or “Oh, yeah, like I’m going to believe that getting a girl so drunk she can’t say no is a reasonable substitute for the woman I love being all ‘hell yes!'”

You see what I’m saying?  I don’t think you can reasonably insert yourself right at the worst moments and expect to do much good.  Real good is done by changing how we think about things in general.

And, again, I don’t think we can use those who clearly just want exchange as a proper guide for what we should be doing.

Oh, hell, yes!  Men, y’all also need ethical pleasure.

What will change, real change, look like?

I don’t know. 

But let’s do what delights us and doesn’t hurt anyone and see where that takes us.

Might be interesting.

I Need a Passport!

In a month!  In a month!  Why have I put off getting my passport until now?  What if I can get into Canada, but can’t get back?

Why are people always willing to boss me around when it’s all “go to the doctor,” “eat your greens,” “give me smooches,” and never “go get your passport shit taken care of?”

That’s what I want to know, world.

p.s. I’m leaving the country!  I’ve only ever left the country once before… also to go to Canada, but I was young.  I barely remember it.  I’m getting a passport!  How cool is that?

Good Feelings, Won’t You Stay With Me Just a Little Longer?

You know, I think that, if you were to ask me if I am a happy person, I would say yes.  I would also probably estimate that I am happy a majority of the time.

And yet, I don’t think that’s true.  I think most of the time, I’m probably an anxious mess with a faltering grip on happiness.

I say that because when I have a day like yesterday, where everything seems to go well and I feel excited and challenged and kind of delighted by things, it feels very different than how I feel most of the time.

Well, lately anyway.

It’s just nice to feel good again, to feel like I’m accomplishing things.  And I hope it lasts.

That’s all I wanted to say.