During a recent conversation about the shooting in California, a friend despaired, “What do I tell my daughter? How do I teach her not to get raped? Beaten? Murdered?”
This is the question our culture often asks when it comes to women’s safety, and it is flawed. Teaching women how “not to” get raped/beaten/killed takes responsibility off the perpetrator of such violence: men. Why don’t we teach men how not to kill/beat/rape instead of teaching women and girls how to “avoid it”? Why don’t we hold men accountable for their reprehensible crimes the same way we hold women accountable for their victimization?
Today, online, a bunch of dudes – including actor/director Seth Rogan – got all bent out of shape when women named misogyny. “Not all men” they cried. Or, in Rogan’s case, “How dare you . . .”
You know what, dudes? Your egos and entitlement ARE the problem. Every single one of you. I know that’s hard to hear, I know that must make you very uncomfortable, but it’s true.
In my line of work, I spend the majority of my time with people who are African American. As a result, I’ve been confronted with a lot of hard truths about my whiteness, about my deeply internalized racism. It never feels good. And on an almost daily basis I’m forced to confront the ways in which I perpetuate racism. On an almost daily basis, I’m forced to confront the ways in which I contribute to racist constructs.
It’s definitely not Disney World.
While our impetus is to reject that which is uncomfortable, to refuse looking inward and addressing our racism, homophobia, misogyny, these moments of discomfort can be profoundly transformative.
When George Zimmerman was acquitted, I stood in front of a roomful of African American men and said, “You know what? I don’t even have a clue what this means for you. Let’s talk about it.” And then I listened – I listened to their experiences, even when it made me feel sad, even when it made me feel culpable, I listened. Never once did I interject, crying “not all white people,” because that fact was irrelevant. The conversation wasn’t about me, it was about young black men in a white, patriarchal society.
If I could have that conversation, as a white woman, with my African American (predominantly male) students, why can’t men have that conversation with women? Why can’t men listen? Why can’t men say, “I have no clue what this means for you. Let’s talk about it.”
Instead, men say, “Not all men!” Instead, men say, “He was depressed.” Instead, men say, “You’re just trying to sell newspapers!” (The latter is a Seth Rogan paraphrase. Note: Seth Rogan is silent every single fucking day when newspapers are being sold at the expense of women’s objectification – he only lobs the “YOU’RE TRYING TO SELL NEWSPAPERS” accusation at women who are upset about women being murdered.)
Women are silenced at every turn. We’re told to see Elliot Rogers’ massacre as a matter of mental health. We’re told rape is subjective, a matter of perspective. We’re told men are women if they say so. We are baited, bamboozled, battered and conditioned to love every moment of our suffering.
Accustomed to life lived outwardly, comfortably, men, especially, are adverse to listening, to having their tender feelings bruised. Men do not want to be made to feel uncomfortable. When women speak out, they silence us by saying “not all men” or by pointing out that the misogynist-boy also killed men, as though that negates his clearly defined aims (he wanted to kill women for not having sex with him, he made that quite clear in his written and videotaped manifestos). If you rush to this man’s defense, you are a misogynist. If you excuse this man, you are a misogynist.
If you are, in fact, a misogynist (and if you’re a dude/were born a dude, you probably are), you can correct that by listening to women, by looking inward and really interrogating yourself, by facing your super-uncomfortable presumptions, by challenging your own reality. Trust me, brother, you can be reformed.