Dear Sexist Man and Yes I Do Mean You
Dear cis-gendered man,
Yes, I mean you. Not all the other idiots that aren’t as “woke” as you. You, the “good guy”, the “not-a-sexist-but-guy”.
I know you think this is a scary time to be a man. A time where you can easily get tarred with the same brush as the abusers of the world. But if you can watch women everywhere standing up to talk about how they have been intimidated, attacked, stalked, harassed and raped and say this is a scary time for men, you should probably review your capacity for empathy.
I know you’re quick to insist that you think assault is terrible, but what about all those cases where the woman makes it up? It’s funny because you would never actively worry about falsely being accused of murder or theft, and yet being falsely accused of rape terrifies you. Remember that false sexual assault claims are only as frequent as false claims of any other crime. Remember that sexual assault are severely underreported. This isn’t a scary time for men, even for those who should be scared.
In our society when it comes to oppression, the fact of having first-hand experience is treated as something that makes your opinion less legitimate rather than making it more so.
I know that when I call you out for something sexist you have done, you feel like I am taking out my anger on you. You think that your sexist joke or misguided seduction attempt is hardly worth getting worked up about in the face of all the far worse things that are happening. You think this is my trauma talking, or my blind feminist rage. I know that in our society when it comes to oppression, the fact of having first-hand experience is treated as something that makes your opinion less legitimate rather than making it more so. Don’t use that to turn my experiences against me, don’t tell me they make me less entitled to talk about the system I have been a victim of, less able to recognise sexism when I see it.
I know you hate it when you get accused of things you perceive others to have done. You’re sure you’ve never assaulted a woman, so sure of it you don’t even stop to think back at all those blurry moments where there was consent (was there?). It annoys you to have to cross the street to walk on the other side when you go home at night when you see the woman in front looking nervously at you, wondering if you’re following her. I’m sure crossing the street is annoying, but being constantly afraid of being attacked isn’t annoying, it is debilitating and terrifying and when that fear becomes reality it is devastating.
I know your fingers sometimes itch to type out #NotAllMen, but you need to see how badly those words miss the point. Sexism is a systemic oppression — it is enforced by every man and every woman just going about their daily business because the default behaviours we have learned are infused with gender norms and hierarchy. So just writing #NotAllMen makes a person look suspicious — it can only mean they haven’t actually questioned themselves or their behaviour. I doubt anyone could look at their lives and honestly say they have never been sexist. I know I can’t.
I know our society is based on competition and it feels like even your pain has to be the strongest to be legitimate.
I know you get upset when we tell you that you are benefiting from a system that is oppressing women. Maybe you have problems in your everyday life and so it pisses you off to hear that you are privileged. I know our society is based on competition and it feels like even your pain has to be the strongest to be legitimate. You don’t feel like recognising women’s suffering because you wish people would be more aware of your own. But there is a difference between suffering and oppression. On top of the personal suffering that every life brings, women also have to face a society which is weighted against them and brings many more specific forms of hardship.
I know you think that men have their own specific suffering too. You may have suffered at the hands of women. Women who were mean to you and broke your heart, women that made you pay for dates or made fun of you if you weren’t “manly” enough. Maybe you feel like this patriarchy sucks as much for you as for us. But don’t forget that while you are collateral damage, the war is against us.
I wish you would realise that I have far more love of men than the patriarchy does.
I know you think I’m a feminist man-hater, and would like nothing more than to barbecue your balls (relax, I’m a vegetarian). But I wish you would realise that I have far more love of men than the patriarchy does. I know that you are not controlled by your penis and that you are fully capable of being decent human beings. I trust men to be part of the solution. Not by being knights in silver armour taking on the patriarchal dragon. Just as normal human beings, that don’t rape us, or make jokes about it, or force us to adhere to bygone gender norms. Just by listening to our experiences and questioning your behaviour.