Today, while waiting for my car to be fixed, I found myself in a room full men, and I was uncomfortable. Such a feeling is in no way foreign to me when being outnumbered by men. I have felt it all my life. Now before anyone pulls the daddy issues card, my father has always been a soft-spoken gentle guy 99% of the time, and my boyfriend is a wonderful, sensitive, caring dude who cooks me dinner. It’s not men that I’ve been close to who make me uncomfortable, it’s strangers, or even friends I don’t know well. There is always this fear of being attacked, groped, or hit on against my will. This is a common feeling for women. Us ladies have been told all our whole lives what to do to “protect” ourselves from the bad men lurking in shadows, and yes it’s always men and seldom ever women (Why is this?). Shouldn’t the blame be put on the men who do bad things? Shouldn’t men be taught what not to do instead of teaching women how to protect themselves? One of my favorite feminist activists, Jackson Katz, does a stellar job in his research and work as an anti-violence educator. Here is a snippet of his documentary Tough Guise:
There is clearly a problem with the way men are portrayed, often in the media, and how they are expected to act as “real men.” Am I saying that masculinity in itself is bad? No. I’m saying that harmful and violent masculinity is bad, and it just so happens that traditional masculinity can and does often lead to violence, which leads to gender and sexual violence. We need to re-define masculinity to something that is not always tough, aggressive, unemotional, and superior. Not only does this harm men (and disproportionately women) in obvious ways, it also stunts their growth as human beings. Growing up under such a ridiculous and limiting social code is not good for the soul. Might I add that women also grow up under a ridiculous and limiting social code, but we’ll leave that for another post.
It’s no wonder why women, such as myself, are often uncomfortable around men. We are taught to distrust men, there is a good possibly that one is always lurking in the shadows waiting to kidnap or rape us. Just look at the abundance of horror films that feature female victims being killed and/or raped by men. This should make men angry. All men are not rapists, or creepy goons who will masturbate while watching you walk down the street, or comment on how fat your ass is and how much they’d like to “get it in” while you’re walking to meet your parents for dinner.
Men should be angry that patriarchy has painted such a shitty picture of what they’re supposed to be. However, what I often experience when discussing such topics with men is denial and offended attitudes, as if I’m emasculating them by saying that they don’t have to live up to the shitty code of traditional masculinity. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what their thought process is here. Let’s face it, men, you’re privileged – especially if you’re white. With privilege can come obliviousness of that privilege. Perhaps that is why men get offended, they (I’m generalizing) don’t understand what it’s like to not be privileged, to be the second sex, or the underdog. So maybe they feel like I am calling them out on “things that don’t exist.” Or maybe they don’t want to give up their power, so they will deny that they have any in the first place. After all, “that’s just how it is” – one of the worst lines (excuses) I’ve heard more than I’d like to admit.
Just because something “is” a certain way, does not mean it is right, or that it cannot be changed.