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Posts Tagged ‘men’

Ladies, let’s have a chat.

We live in a culture – as my last post stated – where, as a female, not only do I not feel grounded in being female, but that I’m surrounded by expectations of what a female should be based on what men want me to be.  There is no shortage of rants we can go on about this topic, about male ignorance, male chauvinism, male ego…

But guess what?  None of that excuses women being sexist, either.

None of that excuses ranting against all men as if all men do anything, because men, being roughly half of the entire population of the world, don’t all think with the same head.  (Nope, not even that one.)  Just like women, men are individuals, with their own ideas, their own ways of being, and especially here in the US, they have sadly short circuited many of their own natural tendencies in the blind pursuit of what they think  it means to be male.

Women, let’s not fall into the trap of following in the footsteps of those whose actions we ourselves didn’t like!

We don’t like being marginalized, let’s not start marginalizing men.  We don’t like being harassed for our sex, let’s not start harassing men for theirs.  We don’t like all being lumped together as being whiny, emotional, manipulative, unfaithful, or  irrational, let’s not lump all men together as being overbearing, sex-crazed, misogynistic, predatory, or emotionless!

Why not you may ask?  Why not, when it seems “only fair” to fight fire with fire; when we do it, it doesn’t “hurt them like it hurts us”?

But it does.  It does, not because men are afraid to walk down the street alone, not because men get harassed at tech conferences, not because men are less likely to be perceived as intelligent or get hired…

But because us treating them like they have treated use does NOT restore balance to our culture, it just makes it even more unbalanced.  I don’t mean that we should just take it.  We absolutely should stand up against it when we are dismissed, marginalized, harassed, threatened, and objectified.  But using this as an excuse to bash men does not solve the problem.

Women are still largely the caretakers of children, whether as mothers, teachers, nurses, daycare providers, babysitters, and more.  Women largely hold these roles in society, to greater or lesser degrees, and therefore our actions and attitudes have a profound effect on these children who may still be searching for where their place in the world is.

That means when a female teacher stands in front of a class of girls and boys and bashes men, she is not restoring balance to a culture out of balance, she is damaging male and female students alike who hear her words and feel her anger.  As women, we do need to have conversations with girls and boys, but it should be in the context of why the negative words and actions are negative, and why they’re damaging.  The conversation should not be shaped by talking about why men are bad or wrong.

Boys don’t just need to be slammed over the head with how awful they are and how horrible they will be when they grow up.  They need to be shown a better way of being, be taught why the current social views are harmful, not just to women but to themselves.

“Why can’t men do that?!”  That’s a good question.  Why can’t they?  We should ask them.  But that doesn’t mean we get to wipe our hands and say “not it.”

Why?  Because it matters more to us!  We’re the ones ultimately affected the worst, so like it or not, we’re the ones who have to keep pushing and keep fighting and keep working toward it.  We’re the ones who have to adopt the most effective means to do this, we’re the ones who have to force the change for the better, because if we sit back and say that’s men’s responsibility, it won’t happen.  And we all know it.

Girls need to be taught why the current social views are harmful, also!  They need to be helped so they don’t just absorb all the negativity and stereotypes.  They need to be encouraged to follow their dreams in the face of opposition – from both men and women!  Even if those dreams are to grow up, get married, and stay home with the kids!  That is a perfectly acceptable dream to have!  And I’m tired of women who want to belittle other women for it.  I’m tired of men thinking they get to dictate my thoughts, thinking I owe them my body, thinking that being angry is the same as being ‘whiny.’

I’m tired of women treating each other like competition, using boys as scape goats, dictating what are or are not acceptable “female aspirations”.

Men being sexist hurts women, girls, boys, and anyone who does not fit a binary gender or biological sex identity.

Women being sexist also hurts women, girls, boys, and anyone who does not fit a binary gender or biological sex identity.

We need to know better than to perpetuate it.  We need to realize that copying negativity does not cancel out negativity.

We need to realize that many, many men don’t know any of this is going on.  That when they do things that are harmful, they aren’t consciously being sexist, they are following the examples that have been taught by society; they’re following the rules they’ve been brought up with; they’re following other men.  So when we confront men about doing something harmful, it isn’t *him* we’re fighting.  It’s the society that taught him, the culture that shaped him, the men that modeled this behavior for him.

A lifetime of learned behavior is not undone in a day.  A lesson of this depth is not understood in a single conversation.  Not for men, not for women.

It “takes a little time to turn the Titanic around,”  Patience and perseverance are things we need to hold to.  It’s personal to us, but we can’t make it personal against them.

Anger, resentment, and bitterness are all understandable feelings to have, but they will not solve this problem, either.  With thousands of years of momentum, we can *want* but we really can’t *expect* even a hundred years to be enough to reverse that course.  We just need to hold to patience and perseverance.

Keep working, keep fighting, keep pushing: but remember we as women are not fighting against ‘men’… we’re fighting against a society and culture that has been shaped by a form of masculinity.  Neither men nor masculinity are the enemy, just the society and culture we’re in.

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I was gonna write this whole wordy rant about this, but really, that’s all it comes down to.   I am not lacking.  My biology is not impaired.  My physiology is not dismembered.   I am not a deviation from the norm.  My vagina is not the lack of a dick.  It’s an organ in its own right.

My worth is not diminished.

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Don’t touch me.

No, I don’t have to explain why.  This is not a subject for discussion or debate.  Don’t touch me.

Why can’t I say those words?

When someone touches me and it makes me feel uncomfortable, I shut down.  I freeze up.  I laugh with overflowing anxiety and try to step away, and yet they want to know why I don’t want them to touch me.

If I say please stop, they ask why.

If I try to come up with an excuse because the words I really want to say are stuck in my throat, they argue with me as if they can somehow prove that I really do want them to touch me, proven I am wrong.  About my body.  And whether I want them touching me.

Don’t touch me.

I should not have to tell you no for you to stop, you should have to gain my yes before you start.  Why can’t you understand the difference?

Why do you start when I haven’t said you can?

Why can’t you stop when I say stop?

People think I’m strong.  People who know me think I’m so strong that they don’t understand this is where I’m weak.  This is where I seize with fear and try to get away but they won’t let me because if I really wanted to get away, surely I’d *make* them stop.  Because I’m so strong.

Get me off this fucking pedestal, I’m afraid of heights!  Stop putting conditions on me, stop acting as if the burden is on me to make you stop.   Just stop touching me.

Why won’t you just stop?

Why should I have to dress for battle because I decided to leave my house?  Why should I have to wage war for the right to own myself, my body?  Why should I have to make you stop touching me?

Why can’t you just stop?  Why can’t you prevent yourself from violating my boundaries?  Why can’t you understand that when I pull away, it’s because I don’t want you touching me?  Why can’t you understand that if I don’t enjoy this, continuing it isn’t going to make it more enjoyable.

Why can’t you understand that the default condition of my permission is not yes.  Why can’t you see that you don’t own a single part of me, you aren’t entitled to my body, you aren’t entitled to receive one ounce of pleasure that I don’t want to give you.

Stop touching me.

Why can’t I say it?  Why can’t I be that strong?

Just stop touching me.

Sometimes my PTSD gets in the way of the words I want to say.  You don’t need to know my whole history to know that when I stay stop touching me, you need to stop touching me.  This isn’t about what happened to me when I was 6, or when I was 14, or when I was 17, or when I was 27.  This isn’t about my last relationship or my relationship with my parents.  This isn’t about therapy or your best friend or the last one who wronged you.

This is about me telling you to stop touching me.

So don’t touch me.

No, I don’t have to explain why.  This is not a subject for discussion or debate.  Don’t touch me.

There is no excuse to touch a person who does not want you to touch them.  I don’t care if it’s a hug, if it’s a tickle, if it’s a caress, if it’s hit, if it’s sex, if it’s you trying to force them to touch you.  I don’t care if it’s a man to a woman, a woman to a man, a man to a man, a woman to a woman. There is no excuse to touch a person who does not want you to touch them.

How do you know if someone does not want you to touch them?  Ask.  If they can’t answer, assume the answer is no.

Yes is not the default.

Okay is not implied.

Permission is not unspoken.

Consent is not silent.

Victims are not at fault.

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Throughout history, across cultures, there have been marriages for love.  Marriages that threw off tradition and social acceptability and proved that bonds forged between two people can triumph over all adversity.

These were the exception, the rare events.

More often, marriages were arranged, and love may or may not have followed the wedding, but it didn’t always matter.

Husbands were meant to support their families.  Wives were meant to raise their children and make their husbands look good.  This was all understood as the proper way to do things.  Love was nice but hardly expected or required.  Divorce because you didn’t love someone was silly, it was usually because of abuse, abandonment, affairs or inability to support the family, and even then it wasn’t terribly common or expected.

Husbands pretty much treated their wives like children, punishing them for ‘wrongs’ and expected to guide them from falling into bad ways.  So yes, children.  I don’t know how a society can expect children to be raised by a person they see as no more than a child herself, but society is often a funny, illogical and downright maddening thing.

As Jane Austen put it, “Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance.”  and “It’s better to know as little as possible of the defects of a person with whom  you are to spend your life.” (Ah Charlotte, I love you.)

The idea was that marriage was not the fulfillment of a bond with another person, a deep, spiritual bond that made you feel complete, your “other half” as it were.  Marriage was a social contract of you do your part, and I’ll do mine.  Let’s not focus too hard on the details, hm?

Women didn’t need men for our self esteem, support, guidance, approval, or even love.  That’s why we had our girlfriends.

The bond between women was the bond that mattered most.  Women had one another to understand, to lean on, to learn from.  Like Anne of Green Gables and her bosom companion, women sought out the closeness and intimacy of other women for things that today we expect men to provide for us.

The idea of gender roles in society and marriage has undergone extreme changes in recent decades, and it saddens me that one of the casualties of this change has been the bonds between women.  I’m not saying no woman today has her deepest, closest friends.

While all people are individuals, there is a trend that can be observed.  Since women became liberated, men aren’t necessary for being bread winners and home providers.  Women have careers and their own places, and the necessity of friendship between women has shifted.  The dynamic of being fulfilled has shifted from girlfriend to man.

Now our friends are everything from casual to convenient, with only one or two deeply close friendships, if we’re lucky.  Instead of sewing circles and knitting groups or other social community gatherings for women, it became girl’s night with the gals from work.  The group got smaller but the intimacy and closeness got less.  You didn’t necessarily *like* the women in either case, but your ability to find support from them became less certain.  The ladies at work were as likely to talk about you behind your back as to help you through a difficult time.

Gossip is age old, of course.  The sewing circles spread rumors (both true and lies) in their day, but there was more certainty of finding support in the sisterhood of your community.

Now it seems that women exist as competition for other women: for men, for jobs, for advancement.  We already promoted one token women, let’s not go crazy here!  Women don’t go to new mothers with a week’s worth of casseroles because the men are expected to pull their weight as the fathers and make dinner while the wife is recovering from child birth.

Is that wrong?  No, of course not.  But it does weaken the bonds between women.  And that is a loss.

Men are great.  I like men.  I don’t have one, but it’s not quite like running down to the Humane Society and adopting one, is it?

But I have my women friends and I have a job and I have a house and maybe that’s why I don’t have that burning sense of needing a man to complete me or justify my life.  My life is pretty good.

This isn’t just one way, either.  I think men desperately need to be with other men for their own support.  (insert anecdotal story of a boyfriend who didn’t think either of them should ever need another person, they should be able to be the only ones required for love, support and comfort worked out very badly for both of them…)

Women need other women.  Men need other men.  Women shouldn’t expect men to replace the close, intimate friendship of another woman, and men shouldn’t expect women to replace the close, intimate friendship of other men.  Neither one of them should expect the other to act as their therapist to just dump all their bad feelings and experiences onto and expect the other to ‘fix’ them or be perfect and unwavering in their support.

So this has been a very rambling opinion of why love in marriage is nice, but the closeness of friendship is essential for personal well-being and I feel a deep sense of sorrow and loss over the decline of women banding with other women for mutual support.  It may still happen, but as a society, we’ve lost that.

(without discounting for one second that some women marry women and some men marry men, I still think women need female *friends* even if they have a wife, and men need male *friends* even if they have a husband.)

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