“I’m just sick of it all; that’s what’s going on. I am sick to death of the bullshit and the egos and – of the men. I am sick of the men. Just one time – just once – I would like to accomplish something in this city without having to spend all of my energy navigating the short-sighted, selfish, self-involved, and oh-so-fragile male egos that suck up all the oxygen in this town.” – Elaine Barrish Hamond, Political Animals
Perhaps it was after I had heard one of my guy friends say something that made me swallow all my anger in an attempt to remember why we were friends. Or maybe it was the chanting chorus of men who said she had it coming. Maybe it was the umpteenth time some guy came up to me and confidently
asked demanded something I was not interested in giving, and then, in his realization that I was not going to be giving, called me a fucking bitch cunt dyke whore slut frigid lesbian. I can’t pinpoint the moment, but I know at one point, a feeling hit me as it had never hit me before. I feel bad for men. Like… real bad.
I know. This is the point in which most of you are about ready to side eye me back to the deep south, but before we pull out the pitchforks reserved for the MRAs, I’m not about to go on a “whoa, the plight of the straight, white male” Limbaugh-O’Reilly kick. No, far from it. However, I still stand by my admission that I do feel bad for these men. The men who define their worth and personhood by dominance (financial, relationship-wise, being right) or by expectation. They had lived in a world where things had always bent to their will, where no one had ever questioned their worth or their intellect – their sanity. They were golden. Meanwhile, most of us living in this sometimes beautiful, sometimes deeply fucked up world, have dealt with the pains of being classified into a 2-D notion of our physical selves, we have also had a level of awareness of what exactly we were up against. We expected it. Yet, most men don’t even have a clue of what patriarchal expectations they are up against. All those privileges aside (and these, depending on the context , can and most definitely change), most men have no real need for a actualization for change. And why would you if something works in your favor? Privilege is one of those little gifts you get for no real reason, other than winning some arbitrary societal/genetic lottery and, for the most part, works as a serious advantage. But, it’s also a trap. It makes you benign, lazy, less likely to understand the complexity that is existing outside of the norm. At its best, it can make you, while privileged, a relatively aware person who is just not such a dick. At worst, it reduces you to a grab bag of your worst qualities, rendering you not as a person, but as a 2-D asshole where your experience of reducing women down to little boxes like fuckable/not fuckable, friendzone, slut, ho, dyke, or wife not only makes it difficult for the rest of us, but dehumanizes you. How am I supposed to think of you as anything but antagonistic and ignorant?
“Contrary to mass media’s insistence that we were learning how to be man hating,” writes renowned visionary bell hooks, “…in fact, we were taught to understand the ways that male identity and self-actualization were usurped by patriarchy. Men who oppressed women did not do so because they acted simply from the space of free will; they were in their own way agents of a system they had not put into place. Yet our compassion for patriarchy’s abuse of men was not as intense as our passion for female agency and our will to gain social equality with men.”
Is it the contentedness to be stuck in the quagmire of “being a man” or is it just a default systematic mode? What does “being a man” actually mean? Is masculinity even relevant or does it need to be redefined over and over, much like any overlooked and evolving sort of identity that begs for people who have experienced it to make it mean something to them. Now, before we take this little passage any further, I do want to make the point that not all men experience the same privileges. All we have to do is look at Trayvon Martin or Brandon Teena to realize that the game isn’t stacked in a fair field for everyone. Men, as in the most super-binary, cis-gender, able bodied, hetero-most often white sort of experience is mainly what I’m referring to here, but again, your product may vary.
Okay, for the men reading this, maybe you feel different. Of course you do. “I ain’t like that!” “I have a girlfriend/wife/daughter!” to which I say, cool, me too. To boot, as one of my favorite artists, Heems, put so accurately and elegantly, “Yo dude, I know like…seven women.” To this day, “Womyn” remains one of my favorite songs because of its honest admissions. When the lines goes “these chicks is womyn,” I can’t help but think, hell yes, this dude right here wants to meet me in the center – and that’s what we need, more dudes to meet us in the center. Because seriously, for every woman who has dared to educate (and lord knows we need some education) there has been a set of clenched teeth, a woman who as her friends laugh at the prospect of Hillary being president (dude! she will get her period and blow up a country) or cringe when a brother or a boyfriend refers to a woman as a “slutcuntbitchwhore.” A woman who has been through enough and she cannot anymore right now. And we should not expect her to.
While I would love to just exist, sometimes, that complicity of existing at the brink of your own privilege, scares me. The power to hurt by just being (and when I say being, I mean being unconscious of the fact that not everyone gets to live like you) and living under the impression that your world view is law, well, that’s a very terrifying thing. It’s one thing to do the best you can. It’s another to do nothing at all. Riding on a generalization, it can paint men as this super evil type of crab demon, one that gives way to the BS claims of “man-hating feminist” that have plagued most feminists throughout the years. While this little tick seems enough to make a sane woman totally lose her shit, most have countered the argument with popular 3rd wave phrases like, “I’m a feminist, but I love all men – just not their misogyny” or ” I love all men, I just want them to be better”. Or even now, with Lady Gaga’s reverse style judo phrase, “I’m not a feminist… I love men.” It’s a one-dimensional view, one that leaves out so much, but yet, brings up an interesting point, at least for myself. I don’t hate men. But I do not love all men. Which one am I expected to do?
As Erica Jong says in Fear of Fifty, ” The truth is, I don’t blame individual men for this system. They carry it on, most unknowingly. And women carry it unknowingly, too. But more and more, I wonder if it can be changed… I believe the world is full of men who are truly perplexed and hurt by women’s anger as women are perplexed by sexism, who only want to be loved and nurtured, who cannot understand how these desires have suddenly become so hard to fulfill.” In the end, Jong makes a good point. Things are ingrained and it can sometimes feel, at least for me, that so much of my life is shouting into the void, at best, coworkers, bosses, producers, cat-callers, men whose comments or actions make my blood boil. At worst, it is something you struggle with those you love the most: partners, friends, fathers, brothers – these instances are the ones that cause me to go quiet with a feeling I cannot explain. Part disappointment, part betrayal, part of an urgent, confused sort of thinking of “but you are supposed to be different.” The truth is, these people who are close in our lives are not different – or maybe they are. But deeply ingrained beliefs are not, and at the end of the day, when I have heard something from someone I love that shakes me to my core, my thought process goes something like this. Why. No. I hate you. I love you. I expected more. I was warned all along. You are just like the rest of them.
And I hate that. I hate that way of thinking. I hate reducing you down to just another dick bag, another ego that needs a coddle, another thing to be afraid of, because that’s what is expected of me and what I have learned. But as much as I am tired of my way of thinking, I am so much more tired of yours. Can you at least meet me near the middle? Can we meet together and then start doing some lifting together? Can you lift some more? This shit gets heavier the older I grow and the more I have to carry, the more I am angry at you for not. I can shout and shout and shout, but if you do not listen, what good does my hoarse throat do? Why can’t you give more?
In the end, we choose our actions. We choose our decisions every day and I’ll go out one further here, we are a collection of our choices; not inherently good or bad people, just people who act on good or bad choices. But we don’t live in a vacuum and unless those choices are presented back to everyone, unless those choices reflect the actual lived reality that privilege can hide, then there is no moving forward. And it dehumanizes you. It corrodes who you are as a free person. You are reduced to the same dimensions that you reduce others to, a tiny world in which you are an ignorant jerk-wad lapping up the fact that you can hurt people, whether you are conscious of it or not. It makes you choose bad choices. It makes you reflect those bad choices as a whole.
And hell, I feel bad for you son.