October 7, 2016

Men cannot be less bad. Men must be different.

Some awful misogyny hit the news tonight. I won't invoke it. But I felt moved to put this on Facebook, and so I'm posting it here:

It's too easy for men to express outrage when another man gets caught celebrating the same kind of lust that better men push away. It's especially tempting to condemn the offender whose gross misconduct makes my own latent sexism look tame by comparison. But even though it seems necessary to ostracize the offender, male bursts of outrage against one other man does nothing to prevent these aggressions against women from continuing at large. What can we do?

While I feel unable to continue associating with any man who crassly celebrates in private what is shameful to say or do in public, I also struggle to rebuke him in that moment. My silent disapproval and future avoidance of him probably helps no one but myself. And while I cannot shrug off - but I do condemn those who shrug off - the possessive, dehumanizing aggressions of any man who brags about acting out his basest instincts, who plots violence against women to fulfill his own sexual whims, and who laughs and instructs other men about the best ways of getting away with such criminal actions, I cannot simply leap to the opposite extreme of conscience soothing outrage. It is too easy to shrug, and it is too easy to yell. What can we do that will actually help?

I want to offer help, support, encouragement, and resources to any woman who feels unable to speak out against male aggressions. I want to find ways of building up the women who cross my path, of helping them feel empowered to start changing this culture in small ways, every day. I want to push women to lead us in this area. I want to help women enforce these changes, locally and globally, socially and politically. I want to be the second voice someone hears speaking out against sexism, each time proudly echoing the female voices that thankfully are growing louder each year. I want to figure out better ways of sharing with other men about how much Ive learned, and how much I am still learning.

I want to follow the advice of brave women who are willing to teach me how I can help them make this better. 

Men cannot fix this. But men can help fix this. 

We need to listen respectfully and encourage women to lead us. And then we must follow. 

If we do not do these things; if we do not actively encourage the exact opposite of that domineering attitude which says women are tools for the desires of a man; if we do not share the small powers and responsibilities in basic walks of daily life; if we do not seek to empower, rather than coast on our own cultural power... then we men - and our selfish outrage against other men - are merely, ultimately, in some ways perpetuating the grossly destructive extremes of our very own sexism. If we do not do the opposite of what our most awful men do, then we are actually contributing to the problem.

If we are not strengthening the women in our lives, then we are weakening them. If we are not actively empowering them, then we are making them even more vulnerable - and indirectly encouraging them to have the same influence on other women, who thereby also remain vulnerable - to these horrible, unspeakable things which we claim to abhor. 

Help us, Lord. Help us become better men.

Help us to listen, to encourage, to support, and to follow strong women.

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-- Isaac Newton