I’m talking to you, straight, cis, white men, but before I get #notallmen-ed, not all straight, cis, white men, but, yes, the vast majority of you, so let’s just pretend I’m talking about all of you in the hopes that some of you will read this and give it some real thought; engage in some meaningful self-reflection.
Last week was really been something else for me to both experience and witness.
The week started out with me getting called out on Twitter for not commenting on a truly hideous act perpetrated by a woman. Things like “feminists hide their predators” were said to me along with a call for me to rename this blog and, presumably, for me to turn in my feminist card, as well as being told that I have no backbone. Whilst all that was going on, this same individual was also messaging me privately to invite me to meet with him, providing me with his number, and telling me that he neither meant to call me out (after he did and before he continued to do just that) nor did he want to engage in a “flame war” (after he’d already hurled insults at me). It was a truly bizarre incident.
Two male members of the media who were watching this ridiculousness unfold were getting angry on my behalf (but wisely not wading in), because the remarks were so asinine.
I will say here and now that I not a perfect feminist (hint: no one is). I will also say that I cannot be expected to nor do I have any desire to comment on every atrocity that happens. I have always acknowledged that women commit atrocities. What I will say is that although those incidents are entirely awful and I will never make excuses for those women, we need to acknowledge that the issue of grave concern is that men are the perpetrators of violence 97% of the time, and they perpetrate those acts of violence against girls and women AND boys and men.
This particular woman was punished. She lost her teaching license. So, at least there were some repercussions for this particular woman and the horrible acts she committed.
Most men are not punished. In fact, most men (including the one mentioned above) immediately jump to the defence of other men when accusations are made, painting victims as liars).
Then, I watched that particular individual completely discount the feelings and opinions of indigenous people after a local woman experienced an act of racism from a professor at our local university. Even when other indigenous people called him out and suggested to him that maybe, just maybe, as a white man who’d never experienced racism, he had no place in telling the indigenous man who posted it, the indigenous woman who experienced it, or any of the indigenous commenters how to feel or what to think, he doubled down and told them they were marginalizing the white, male professor. I blocked him. For my own sanity, I blocked him.
The week continued with me finalizing details for the local march we had in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. We saw more than 200 women come out to this march, and I was impressed and moved by the number of women and by the diversity of the crowd.
Around the world, literally millions of women marched.
But the men! (And, yes, a few showed up to the marches.) The men couldn’t understand what we were marching for. Don’t we already have all the legal rights? Aren’t our lives already wonderful? Why weren’t we marching for women in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and Syria? (Hint: we were also marching for them.) Don’t you know how silly you all look? Don’t you know marches don’t change anything? (Hint: Have a little look at history.) And blah, blah, blah. There was post after post and comment after comment that dismissed and devalued and outright ridiculed the marches. Yes, some of those posts and comments were from women, but the vast majority were from men.
Literally millions of women around the world marched and men responded with, “uh, this is silly, don’t you already have all the rights? You should be marching about hydro rates or things that matter here.”
So, dear men: Maybe right now is a really good time to check your privilege. The vast majority of you have not been raped, sexually assaulted, cat called, paid less for work that is similar to your counterparts, been solely responsible for childcare and also had it impact your career trajectory, and, jeez, I could go on and on and on. Maybe now is the time to ask the women in your life why they marched; why this was important to them; what they would like you to do to support them. And listen to them. Really listen to them. We know you can’t relate to many of our experiences. We just want you to listen and to use your own privilege to help us where you can. At the very, very least, how about you don’t dismiss, devalue, and ridicule the experiences of women, whether they be white women, women of colour, LGBTQ women, disabled women, or any other women. How about you take us at our word and if not offer your support and encouragement and least be quiet and let us go about doing the work that so badly needs to be done.
(And to our allies: thank you for always listening to us. We love you.)