I don’t have to write a list about “how guys should _____” or shouldn’t, or any variation on how men can participate in treating women like human beings with souls and dignity, and not objects to be used and discarded.
That information IS out there. Yay! Any caring, sentient male with access to the internet or a library card can find that information. (If you do need more specific reading lists or ideas, my office door is always open.)
It should be noted that we are, in fact, at the beginnings of a paradigm shift. I’d love to talk about that.
In case you’re wondering, the takeaway from this weekend’s social media ‘me too’ phenomenon, men?
Open your eyes. I don’t mean this metaphorically! Look. The. Fuck. Around. Right. NOW. Now is your chance to recognize what you’re in the middle of. Now is your opportunity to see our experience, our perspective. You know, the other half of people on the planet. Billions of people.
You (guys, as in, men) are quite literally surrounded by women in your everyday life who’ve known a wide variety of abuse, neglect, and sometimes outright oppression. Almost every woman you’ve ever know in your life has, at some point, been physically and mentally hurt by a man.
Argue about ALL the other details, sure, but the plain, simple fact is that women haven’t been treated well, or as equals for centuries, and some would argue still aren’t. But something is changing. We are getting braver — because what do we have to lose? (For example, to point out the patently obvious — a man who brags about hurting women is the leader of our country.)
We (women) look at our children, and at our little girls especially…and we know exactly what she’s going to face. We know for a fact, as things are now, even if she tries her best, works her hardest, she will be treated badly by men, at some point in her life. A big part of her time and energy, the decisions she makes in life? It will revolve around preventing, avoiding, minimizing or fleeing the attention, harassment, danger, or outright abuse by some men. Honestly.
We’re not exaggerating. We’re not checking over our shoulders at night to see if a woman is following us down the street, guy. If a social media phenomenon is what makes it ‘real’ for you, cool. If speaking to literally any woman in your life right now and asking her if she has ever been abused, assaulted, or harassed while she was most likely minding her own damn business makes it real for you, even better.
But the best case scenario? Please understand that for us (women), abuse, assault, and harassment isn’t potential, hypothetical, or theoretical. It’s not an abstract think piece for us. It has, and will happen to us at some point in our lives, often repeatedly. Often completely unexpectedly. We (women) all grasp this as a reality of our existence on this planet at some point in our lives. Maybe you should, too, and then let that influence your decisions and conduct. Don’t wait for us to tell you want to do, now. We’ve been saying, asking, and explaining for decades, now.
Also, the aforementioned paradigm shift — things are changing. Numero Uno? The internet. We (women) didn’t have this resource mere decades ago. We (women) don’t have to wait for some editor (usually male) to listen to us, or take our stories seriously. We (women) can take our phones out of our pockets and tell anyone in the world who wants to listen what’s happening to us. (And for the record: Numero Dos? This isn’t the only fucking injustice women face. This is the tip of the iceberg, amigos. But that’s a whole other series of conversations. Let’s stick to this discussion, for the moment.)
Just because you’re (men) maybe noticing, now, doesn’t mean we haven’t been telling you these things in different forms, for decades. I’ve personally spoken up plenty of times, just to be swatted away or ignored by a man who doesn’t want to examine life from anyone else’s perspective. That’s been my experience. But here’s the thing — the more and more that we (women) connect and build allegiances because we’re so effing tired of living this way, the more of this sort of speaking out you’re going to start seeing. Until things change, for the better.
You (men), ultimately get to decide where you want to be in all this. You always have, and so far, it’s not been so great. We (women) don’t get that luxury. We have to deal with it, because it could suddenly affect our lives any damn day of the week. It’s really terrific to hear men publicly condemning the behavior of a celebrity sexual predator, but if that had been happening to begin with, there’s literally a list of women who may not have been put in harm’s way. Multiple that thought by millions.
Listen to us (women), and our stories. Believe us.
Why? Because in a world where men get away with abusing women and little girls for years, we’re increasingly having less to lose by speaking up. In a world where Brock Turner sentencing happened, we don’t have a lot to lose. In a world where (male) politicians are working to remove our abilities to have a say over what happens to our own bodies, we’re running out of shit to lose. We saw the leader of our country, on live television, openly verbally abuse MULTIPLE women, over the course of an election season. Little girls watched that. Women who have to teach little girls how to just survive in this world saw that. Think about that.
Our hearts hurt, and it’s not just the hurt of one lifetime. We’ve been erased and ignored from so much of history. As things get functionally and structurally worse for women in many arenas, when after first-wave feminism we expected things to get better…We don’t have a lot to lose, and everything to gain. We’ve (for now, at least) got more access to information at our fingertips than ever before in the history of the planet. And we (women) can see each other, in the millions and millions, finally. It may begin as little symbols on a glowing screen, but we finally, absolutely, know in a concrete way that we’re not alone in our experiences. There is an immense, immeasurable power in that.
Men, show up for this however you want.
It’s no longer about you, in a way. Think about it from our perspective: it’s becoming very, very clear to many of the women of the world in the last few years that we can’t wait anymore for you to ‘get’ it, or even acknowledge our collective experience of existence on the planet. ALTHOUGH IT WOULD BE VERY AWESOME IF YOU DID.
It would really save us a lot of hard work.