Last Wednesday I released a video for “Boss Señorita”—a song I wrote to empower women and offer men a different approach. Two days later, a misogynist killed 6 people because women rejected him. I’ve seen much discussion about misogyny since then and I’m seeing men get very defensive. As a man, I understand why. My hope is that admitting why—to ourselves and to women—may help us create a space where women aren’t terrified of us. One can dream.
Naturally, we feel offended when we hear generalizations about our gender. We want to say, “IT’S NOT ALL MEN.” But the rage I’m hearing and reading from many of us only points out that some of the generalizations hit too close to home.
None of us are truly innocent bystanders. Not all men are violent or disrespectful, but we are more similar to the creeps and violators than we like to admit. We have the same compulsion to look at a woman walking by. We objectify regularly. We feel unwarranted jealousy when a cute girl we barely know has a crush on someone else. We feel a territorial ownership of the females in our lives. The offenders are not some alien species.
I am not suggesting that we should feel guilty for having desires, fantasies or for feeling protective. My goal is to make men aware that these natural instincts feed an unnatural cultural problem. We overlook everyday sexism because it strokes our egos, exploits our desires and skews the balance in our favor.
Much of our behavior and our media bombard women (and men) with the idea that they aren’t worth our time (or maybe anything) if they are not attractive and/or eager to pleasure us. Like the sexy fast food commercials that make our mouths water and our balls twitch. And the cheerleader kicking her legs apart every time our team scores. It’s everywhere. And it’s great, right? A system that tells women that if they desire a man’s attention they must be hot and ready—why wouldn’t we want to keep that system? For one, it’s manipulation. It is also oppression. And it is so pervasive that women police each other on our behalf. And yet it’s still not getting us what we want: to be desired.
We want women to think we are great. Our egos require women to think that we are great. Think? What, like men? System failure. Despite what we are taught, it turns out that women do think and men do have feelings. All the self-doubt that we encourage in women for our benefit instead feeds our own self-doubt. When we can’t tell if a woman thinks we are awesome or if she is simply looking for male validation, our egos cannot truly be satisfied – even if our balls are.
By the way, I despise manipulation and sexism when it comes from women too. I am just focusing on what I think is the heart of the problem. Yes, men get hurt by women. I have been hurt and rejected by women. That it is a part of life. Culture-wide objectification, dissatisfaction, and daily terror don’t have to be.
From as early as we can remember, sexism is passed onto us. We’ve all heard our fathers, grandfathers, uncles and/or favorite movie characters talking about how women are irrational or too complex to understand. We’re told “to keep a woman happy, just say sorry,” or the slightly more blatant “bitches be crazy.” This is dehumanization. From childhood. We weren’t born sexist and we don’t have to pass it on.
As I type this, my son is watching Power Rangers. One of the male characters just said to his buddy, “I saw her first!” As though she is the front seat and he just called “shotgun!” Objectification is everywhere. From childhood. (For the record, I just explained to my son that it is not up to those Power Rangers who the girl likes, and that she doesn’t have to like either of them.)
Until we, as males, change our deeply engrained expectations we will never be innocent bystanders. We start by taking responsibility for our insecurities. By how we talk about women when women aren’t around. By knowing that our worth is not measured by how much women desire us. By how we anonymously comment online. By how we raise our young boys and girls as equals: if it’s not cool for your daughter to have sex, it’s not cool for your son either. By how we listen to her with the same respect we would give our mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, best friends and acquaintances. Just because there is ALSO a part of you that would totally bone her silly if you could—in an alternate universe, in a vacuum, in your head, or wherever—it doesn’t mean you can disrespect her in the real world.
This isn’t to say you can’t make advances. If you want to explore real world options with her just pay attention to her words and body language. And take the hint. Who knows? Whether it’s a one-night stand or a lifetime of commitment, she may actually want what you want! However, if she doesn’t —and this is the crucial part —Let. It. Go. Even if you are the most awesome guy in the world, and spend a lifetime wooing her, you are not entitled to ANYTHING! “But I put a ring on it!” Is NOT an excuse. If you don’t like what you’re getting back in return, communicate. Use your words. You’re a big boy. If your feelings and desires don’t matter to her, move along. She’s clearly not who you are looking for. No amount of emotional or physical manipulation can change that.
Oh and you don’t have to respect all women. You don’t have to respect all men either. If you don’t respect someone, move along. That’s equality. That’s feminism. Just because it starts with “fem” doesn’t make it pro female or anti male… it is literally “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women EQUAL to those of men.”
If we want a leg to stand on when we claim that it’s “NOT ALL MEN” then we need to be less defensive when women stereotype us, and be more offended when men perpetuate the stereotype. Some of us may have stood up for women in obviously harmful cases, but we need to do it in the “harmless” ones too. For too long we have laughed at the sexist joke—whether because we thought in funny or wanted to fit in. Let’s be pioneers. Let’s be revolutionary. I can’t think of anything more manly. Plus, chicks will totally dig it.