It is a few days after the Isla Vista murders so naturally the net is awash in commentary.
Must of it is good, inviting us to consider what we can do, how we can change. Some of it bad, “if he’d come to my school of how to get laid, this would never have happened” (yes, those sites exist, no I will not link to them). It has sparked the #yeseverywoman feed (yes, every women has had to deal with male violence in some form or another) and the related #noteveryman (it’s only some of the men, not all of them).
This part (or a particularly piece of it) has caught my heart and my mind. It is more of a side trip, really. But an important one. At least to me.
I have witnessed multiple discussions wherein the topic has become a defending of each side. “But it’s not all men, it’s not me!” “Yes, but all women have had to face it – not from you but from a few.”
It’s tragic to me. That those of us who should be working together are not. I will likely get lynched for this next bit by a few people, but this is important to me so I shall stride forward.
The good men around us are feeling shut down, excluded, not listened to, marginalized, blamed, lumped in with the bad ones or some combination thereof.
Welcome to a woman’s life. And probably every other marginalized person’s life, but that is not my topic today.
It sucks not to be listened to. It sucks for a group that you’re a part of to get labelled as less than stellar. What I bet really sucks is feeling that there is a relationship between you (by your gender) and the pain of the people around you.
Please hear me when I tell you, it is not your pain. If you have done nothing to be responsible for it, then you are not responsible. Let that go, let the defensiveness go. And then please allow the women to have space for their own pain.
If there are women who are leapfrogging off of this recent horror to claim all men are bad, then shame on them. But for most of what I see, I see women taking this chance to say yes! that is how I feel. They are saying that they are always aware of the choices they need to make of what they will wear in the day, where they will walk, how they can keep themselves safe, even down to “is it safe for me to say no to this offer of a cup of coffee”. That’s horrific. Saying no to a polite offer should not trigger an internal assessment of how safe it will be to say no. But the reality is that it does. Not for everyone, but for many women, especially those who have been hurt before.
Of course men have been hurt! Of course men have been abused and raped, have experienced violence at the hands of women. But that is not today’s discourse. And today’s discourse doesn’t discount that. It doesn’t say that hasn’t happened. It just says look at what’s happening here.
I hurt inside because instead of talking with people of how horrid it is that our culture is perpetuating chains of thoughts that feed into a delusion that men can take what they want from women, that there is an entitlement there at a very basic level, we are talking about (in my little corner of the world anyway) of how the good men are being unfairly lumped in with the bad.
Guys, I love you, but you’re pissing me off. Take a deep breath. Step out of the situation. Are you feeling defensive? Are you reacting from a place of defensiveness? Are you being attacked? Personally? Really?
Yes, there is a lot of negative going on right now. Yes, there are a lot of women expressing potentially a lifetime of angst, of DAILY reminders that they are not as good as men, not entitled to the same as men, feeling potentially daily that they are not safe because of men.
NOT. ALL. MEN.
But some. And that some is significant.
I want you to be on my side. I want you to sit here and discuss with me how we can make it better. I don’t want to have to explain, yet again, that I’m not attacking you directly, that the generalization is that all women have experienced some form of violence at the hand’s of a male, NOT that all men are violent. They are two different statements.
I don’t want you to apologize for your gender (though that might be nice, who knows) and I don’t want you to sit there and feel lumped in with the enemy. I don’t want to lump you in with the enemy! I want to know that I’m surrounded by that other side of the male coin. But when you don’t listen to my pain, when you focus on your own instead, then I will shut you out of my experience. I’m not lumping you in with the bad group. You might be doing that to yourself, but that’s your business.
What I am doing is shutting you out of my healing experience because you are not helping me heal. You are pissing me off because instead of asking “can I help?” or “shit, love, has that happened to you?” or “what do you need” or just the commiserating “I know, I see it, I wish we could change it”, you are crying out “but it’s not me!”
Yep. Got it the first time. I know it’s not you.
But it is the group of guys I walk past on my way to the grocery store, who point, comment, snicker and make me evaluate my safety level. It is the one who stares at my cleavage and just smiles and winks like I should be flattered when I catch him at it. It is the ones who have touched inappropriately and worse. It is the ones who refused my no. It is many of them.
I am not attacking the good men. I back them. But today, today is not about you, my loves. Today is about me and my sisters, and the women who have been hurt. Today they should be receiving my care and attention. We should be gathered together (in internet land if nowhere else) supporting each other. And instead, I am reassuring men around me that it’s not them. Reiterating to other women sometimes that I don’t mean all men (though I honestly don’t know how I can say it clearer than I have been).
I know it is hard to witness such anger and pain and know that you are related, if only by a Y chromosome (or personal identification to gender if you’re XX but feel XY) to the cause of it. But let me say again and for the last time, for those who don’t perpetuate any of the violence in any of its forms, this is not about you. Take the comfort from that. Know that I am just as in love with men as I always have been. After all, I’ve been dealing with this problem my whole life and it’s never stopped me from having male companions on various levels. It’s just unusual to talk about it.
Please don’t feel excluded from the group trying to make it stop. Please don’t exclude yourself from the group trying to make it stop.
If you really want to support and be a part of, tap gently on the door and just ask if I’d mind if you sit a bit with me, in silence or not. And if someone says no, consider that their response has everything to do with being authentic to what they need and nothing to do with you.
In the end, I’m asking for a bit of space for what I’m feeling, a bit of space to look after me and my sisters and not have to worry about you for a bit. I’ve been trained my whole life to look after you first. For this little bit here, I’d like to put the women first.
End of rant.