We are at the beginning of something very old and yet somehow new. Even though women and LGBTQ and people of color have been asking for equality for, well, forever, we finally seem to be making some headway. While we’ve still not gotten the E.R.A. passed, at least we do have legal marriage equality. Even the marriage thing is not going as smoothly as it sounds some days, but it’s a step. In previous posts I’ve begged people to just treat each other like people, to practice empathy, and to stop making everything about them, personally. As we deal with #MeToo and #TimesUp and #TakeAKnee and #ShitholeTrump and all the rest I see human beings asking, once again, to be recognized and treated as human beings. And I see other people being horrible to them/us, trying to make us feel like less for demanding equality.
There were a few issues today alone, but one got particularly under my skin. I’ve written on this before, but apparently, it needs to be repeated. Again. The message, and I’ve seen it often lately, goes something like this: “Respect women like they were YOUR mother.” The variation for the rape/assault conversation goes: “What if that was your daughter?” Even as adults, men still don’t know any better than to say this aloud because they’re too wrapped up in their privilege to notice their mistake, to hear the message they’re sending out. And they get upset when an uppity woman like me calls them on it.
So, as a man, when you’re thinking of a woman, trying to figure out how to deal with her, you assign her value based on her relationship to yourself or to another man. Based on that information you then relate to her as if she was that relative or that. . . property. Think about the message that sends regarding other human beings. For instance, raping another human is fine until it’s your daughter who is raped; you have little to no concern about such a heinous thing being done by one person to another person because that person, the victim, has no value as a human. Until you relate that person to yourself; then they have value in your mind.
By the way, this thing men do – assigning a woman’s value and the man’s accessibility to that woman based on her relationship to themselves or to another man – is the reason a woman will tell you she’s married when she’s single. We wish we could just tell a man “no, thank you,” human to human, when he asks us out or wants to buy us a drink, but if we are not already spoken for. . . if we’re not another man’s “property”. . . we are fair game to many (most?) men. This means that, according to the man since we’re not “taken” (aka already claimed by another man), we owe this lech explanations and very often will be expected to submit to his advances. After all, he’s doing us a favor, right? Sharing his valuable time and attention with a lesser female? If we do not submit, we are belittled, insulted, and we may be assaulted anyway. We don’t owe you anything, by the way, men: no excuses, no explanation, no conversation, no dates. Nothing. We are autonomous human beings. And “no” is not an invitation to ask more questions or bother us in any way. It means exactly what it sounds like.
When the “Respect women like they were YOUR mother” thing came up today, I responded – I don’t always bother but did this time as it’s a fellow resister and I assumed he misspoke as we all do from time to time – “You could even respect women like they were human beings. Just sayin’, they don’t have to be a relation of your own in order to be treated like people.” This time I got a snarky answer that included “that’s what I said.”
That’s not what he said.
He said that if a person is having trouble respecting women as people imagine they’re “your mother,” treat that woman as such. I say if one can’t recognize women as people without assigning their value based on the woman’s relationship to that man, then we have a greater issue: we need to go back and learn again how to interact respectfully with other humans. I felt sure the guy meant well, but as a fellow human of the female gender and sex, I can tell you that what he said is not helpful. It’s demeaning and belittling. But, shortly after, he got very upset and blocked me as well as another woman with a huffy “please go away you are hurting your cause.” It turns out he hadn’t meant well. He made it clear that he was right, and I was wrong, and he meant exactly what he said.
He claimed we attacked when we were both being nice, the kind of nice and pleasant women turn on when they think the man might listen, and much nicer than he deserved considering what he said. It’s part of the whole bullshit woman package. We have to use it, that humble/pleasant demeanor, even when men are being shitty and don’t deserve our courtesy. We can’t just say what we mean. When with men, women have to say things in such a way that the man/men might listen and understand and not instead, as men so often do, critique our demeanor and delivery ignoring the message completely.
And yes, I’m posting some of the comments here because though it sounds like I’m exaggerating, I’m not. And I’ve had this conversation enough times to know to grab screen shots before he blocks me. People are too predictable. I hope one day that changes. (see image of Glenn Beck crying above)
Clearly this guy sees men as worthy of respect on their own merits, as humans. I wanted him to understand that women are also humans, worthy of respect, with their own merits, completely unrelated to male humans/offspring/etc. Our sensitive man blocked me so he likely won’t be around for this, but in the event another person is interested in understanding I’m going to try a similar comparison to his, but I’m going to use his baseline for a human: a man (probably a white one).
Imagine if women had to pretend to respect you, to elevate you to their level, to give you value to them, by pretending you were their brother or Dad or whatever. If they were not interested in your opinion or your ideas until they reminded themselves to pretend to respect you like you were their relative, how would you feel? Now live your entire life like this. At work. At church. At the store. Everywhere. Every day. All the time.
Before you say or do something to a woman, stop and think: “if this were a man would I do/say this to them? Would I even consider it?”
Even better, before you say or do something to a woman, stop and think: “if this were my cellmate at the penitentiary would I say or do this to him?”
How soon would you get sick of being ignored or treated like a child every time a woman didn’t have time to pretend to care what you have to say because you’re just a silly man? Because I can assure you your opinions aren’t nearly as helpful or as welcome as you think they are. When we listen attentively, we’re showing the respect that we do to all humans even as you go on with your unsolicited opinions, bragging, and mansplaining.
How about, from now on, just err on the side of caution and treat all people you meet or interact with as equal human beings, not as your mom or dad, but human beings, with the same potential? other human beings who are likely capable of the same things you are? You can’t go wrong then.
This, all of this, is very much about power.
I had the audacity to once again ask to be regarded and treated as a human being. I was much nicer and more pleasant than I should have to be when dealing with troglodytes, but that’s the result of the patriarchal society I was raised in. Still, I was called petty and snarky for what we women do every day and have for centuries, and those were far from the worst things I’ve been called for doing exactly the same thing. It’s a reasonable request on behalf of literally half of the population of the planet, and it costs nothing for men to honor that request and treat women as humans. We’re not that different; we’re simply the other part of the reproductive equation. I’m not demanding undue respect; I’m insisting that you give me the same chance that everyone else gets to earn your respect. I don’t want to receive any special treatment. I don’t want opportunities others don’t get just because I have breasts. I want nothing more or less than what everyone else has.
It costs nothing to be a decent human being, and when it comes to human dignity we cannot compromise.
All people have value, the same value, regardless of their color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. People you will never meet are exactly as valuable as you are. Everyone. The same. Treat them all with the same dignity and respect you expect from them. Everyone. The same.
In the end, men and women came along and praised this guy for being so enlightened, for appearing to make any effort at all. I wanted to puke. This is why we still deal with the sexism and lower pay and the sexual assault and the other bullshit in the workplace, in our lives, that we do. We, as women and as a society, are setting the bar too low. It’s like Matt Damon expecting us to hand out awards to all the people in Hollywood who haven’t assaulted anyone, yet. We’re making excuses for our abusers, for all the people who can’t separate other humans from their idea of what that person is to/owes/can do for them.
Don’t praise a man for not beating his slaves. Praise him for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you and fighting for the rights and dignity of every person, for fighting alongside you until every single human being has the same rights and opportunities he does.
And finally, stop asking me to teach you how not to be shitty. It’s not my job as a woman or an LGBTQ person (or a person of color which I am not, but I understand that they deal with similar abuse) to teach you how to be a decent human being. Just because I speak up and gently point out your bigotry doesn’t mean it’s my responsibility to take your insults and wake your ass up. That’s on you. And as an adult, you should already know better.
This isn’t rocket science. If you need tricks to remind you to treat another human being with dignity and respect even if they don’t look or act just like you, then you have a much bigger problem than how to talk to a woman. If your nose is out of joint because you suddenly don’t know how to talk to a woman without your intentions being misunderstood then you’ve probably been on the rape-y side all along, and again, the issue isn’t with women; it’s with you.
The next time you’re feeling defensive about something like this, stop and think about what is going on and what you’re upset about, where the fault in the interaction lies. Realistically, what will it cost you to give what this person is asking for? I’m guessing it’s nothing, even if it feels like something, to share a little bit of your power with a fellow human. “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” You can’t walk a mile in their shoes, but you can check your ego and privilege for a little bit. You can listen. And learn. It’s what decent human beings do.
Link: ‘When You’re Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression’ – by Chris Boeskool in Huffpost.
Link: “The Mother Wound as a Missing Link to Understanding Misogyny” – by Bethany Webster of Womb of Light
Link: According To Men. . . – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Through – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Live Your Life; Leave Us Out Of It – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Excuses, Excuses (first in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Nevertheless (second in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Don’t Rape (third/last in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link to original Tweet from Erin Schrode.
Looking through all these related links I realize I’ve been over most aspects of this before. Recently myself and for hundreds of years by the women and oppressed who came before me. We’ll get there. Not in my lifetime, but someday.
Art below is from a Tweet by Women’s Art:
Edited 29 January 2018 to include the link from Bethany Webster.
#UppityWoman #MeToo #TimesUp #TakeAKnee #ShitholeTrump