Normally, as I move through my daily life, the atrocities and violence in this country and across the world do not get a whole lot of my attention. I am aware of these things, they bother me, but in general, I do not get too worked up about them. I am much more concerned with the events in my own life. The successes and setbacks that I directly experience take much more of my emotional and psychic sphere than things happening in New York or Delhi. The issues of the world are important to me. It’s not that I do not see their relevance to my life; I see GREAT importance. It’s just that I don’t get hooked in. It feels very distant.
Not so on Saturday, May 24. This horrible tragedy at UCSB affected me. It twisted my gut. It continues to break my heart and enrage me. My deepest condolences go out to the victims and families touched by this madness. I can not begin to imagine the pain of what you are experiencing.
It is precisely because I can not imagine that pain that I am focusing my attention on what I can imagine. What I do know. What I have experienced. Anything I can think of to say to the victims sounds trite and inauthentic. But I must say SOMETHING. It feels like an imperative.
This tragedy spurred a debate on social media regarding misogyny, mental health, “affluenza,” gun control, misandry, men’s rights, and on and on and on… I guess that is the world we live in, with instant communication and information. Folks jump in with analysis and speculation at a speed which sometimes outpaces the actual reporting of facts on the ground. So be it. I am a child of the information age.
I read a few good pieces that, in my opinion, addressed important aspects of this tragedy. In particular, this piece by Jessica Valenti in The Guardian does a good job of getting to the point. Prior to that piece, I had read an on-the-fly analysis of the perpetrator by Will McLeod at the Daily Kos. I have to admit, that Daily Kos piece really helped form my own perspective early in the day. I have never really understood the “Men’s Rights Movement,” but also have not given them much thought. In my mind, up until Saturday, they seemed like misguided, but mostly harmless, men trying to find an identity.
I don’t think that now.
Which sort of brings me to the whole point of this post. Not All Men. As the day progressed, #YesAllWomen began to trend on both twitter and FaceBook. Personally, I found the hashtag to be powerful and beautiful. The anti-gun voices were being drowned out by women’s stories about their lived experience. The “mental illness” crowd was taking a back seat to every day depictions of misogyny. It has been and continues to be a wonderful and humbling thing to experience. I pray and hope that maybe, some men will hear these stories and begin to reflect on how they contribute or dismantle misogyny in their own lives.
But right. Not All Men. Amidst this mass cathartic revealing of women from all over the interwebs, some guys just can’t seem to lend support. These guys gotta stand up and say, “But Not Me!!” or “Not All Men!!” Or they even say, “Reverse Sexism!!!” I sure hope a few of you guys are reading this right now.
I like to believe in the good of people. I think most guys out there, really are well intentioned, believe in gender equality, don’t hit their partners, listen politely, value women’s perspective and so on. I really do. I even believe that most of the guys uttering variations on Not All Men are, indeed, well meaning men! Guys; as a well meaning man, I understand how confusing it can be to read the #YesAllWomen and the feelings that can surface.
But you gotta hold your mud. Like, Right Now! Regardless of what feelings or thoughts may be surfacing for you when you hear women talk about their treatment from men, you gotta stay supportive. If you, in your heart of hearts, believe in equality, then the moment when women express their pain is the moment you shut the fuck up. Because, and this is what’s hard to grasp, it’s not about YOU.
No, it’s really not. You are not being “lumped in” with all the rapists and abusers. The difference here is that we men, belong to the group which is doing the harm. Doesn’t mean we are active in that harm. Doesn’t mean we condone that harm. But we are men. And men are doing the harm. We are ALL implicated in misogyny.
Can you just sit with that for a moment? Think about America. If America does something really fucked up, be that foreign or domestic, the fact that you do not support the choice does not exclude you from “being American.” So if someone says, “America should not have (fill in your favorite cause),” you would probably never respond with, “Well, Not All Americans!”
Sit with that. Then come back. I have more.
Did you get the difference between the individual and the group? Because if you didn’t, you gotta go back to your man cave and think about it some more. If you can’t understand that piece, this next part will be gibberish.
If you are a man and you insert your opinion regarding Not All Men into a conversation about Violence Against Women, then you are doing “it.” “It” is the re-focusing of the conversation AWAY from the violence and ONTO your feelings. The violence against women is what is being discussed right now. This is of primary importance. This violence is affecting women from all walks of life, all races, all classes, all nations, all ideologies, all religions, ALL OF THEM. When women talk about this violence, our job is simply to listen and support. That’s it. End of.
But I know… You really feel it is important to talk about YOUR feelings too. I get that. So let’s us men, get together and talk about how we feel about and respond to this violence. We gotta talk about it. It hurts me to know that my gender is abusing women so deeply. I am ashamed that I have also participated in that abuse. I am so thankful that I have woken up to that behavior and am (still) dismantling my misogyny and patriarchal attitudes. So let’s join in THAT program, rather than insert ourselves in women’s conversations about the abuse they have suffered.
We, as men, are tasked with stopping the violence against women. The first step for any of us, is to assess how that violence manifests. Through physical and sexual violence, emotional and intellectual battering, objectification, entitlement; the list goes on. The First assessment is to Shut The Fuck Up when women talk about their pain. Believe me, when they feel the need for your or my input, they will ask for it. Women talking about abuse is not the same thing as abuse towards men. It simply isn’t. We can certainly talk about our pain and how we also suffer. But not at women’s expense.
The history and the current data supports the feminist perspective. Men are NOT the victims. No. Our gender are the perpetrators. We need to get our gender to wake up to this horror. It needs to happen Now.
If you are interested in learning how to do this, visit my friend’s web site, www.acalltomen.org. There are plenty of resources to join in the good fight. We men have enabled the culture of violence toward women to persist. We as men have a vital role in ending the violence. It’s time to take our cues from women. They know better than us what hurts them.