This is an Open Letter to Men:
It’s hard not to notice the flood of big names being dislodged from their place in the cultural firmament by accusations of sexual misconduct as well as the hashtags #metoo and #BelieveWomen lighting up your social media feeds. I just want you to know that the discomfort you’re feeling right now is only the harbinger of the rapidly approaching change on the horizon. Get used to that discomfort, because women are no longer taking your shit and we’re ready to put our collective foot down. The days of saying and doing whatever you want without consequence have ended. The culture is shifting. Don’t you feel it moving under your feet? Almost like a rug being pulled unceremoniously out from beneath you? I feel it too, and women like me will do whatever we can to make sure that shift is irreversible.
Maybe you’ve never had a woman stand up to you and call you out for some sexist shit. That doesn’t mean you’ve never fed into the systems of oppression used to keep the so-called ‘fairer sex’ in line. And being called out is a strange feeling, right? It’s uncomfortable. Disorienting. Sometimes rage inducing. It just doesn’t jive with the unfettered way you’re used to moving through the world, unchecked and boundless. Oh, to know that freedom. To live and breathe it. To act with complete autonomy, your very existence blessed by society’s warm embrace.
Women don’t know that freedom. We can’t even imagine it. We navigate a world uniquely suited for our male counterparts, attempting to find our place in it. We watch what we say, how we dress, the way we interact with the men around us whenever we venture out in public, always on the lookout, ever vigilant in case a situation suddenly goes sour. And if something happens, if a man takes liberties, follows up his wandering eye with wandering fingers or worse, it all comes back to our conduct, our clothing, our words. Or it did. Before the culture shifted like an earthquake under our feet, shaking some sense into society for the first time ever. Now, all of a sudden, men are being called out for their bullshit, no matter how small. They are being challenged. No longer taken as the fount of objective truth, men are being forced to explain themselves and their bad actions, their words, their ‘jokes’. This has led to a lot of defensiveness. A lot of #notallmen. Rivers of male tears and treatises full of mansplaining.
Here’s my advice: if a woman voicing the opinion that men need to do better triggers your defensiveness, instead of challenging her with the blunt force of your masculinity, ask yourself why you’re so defensive. Is it guilt over past actions? Is it fear that control is slipping from your fingers faster than you can keep hold of it? Is it anger that a woman has the audacity to stand up to men behaving badly? Whatever it is, that’s your emotional labor to burn through, not hers. And if you honestly want to be a man who doesn’t objectify, shout down, shame, or oppress women, then you should want to be better and that means accepting advice and criticism. How else does a person change? The culture is infected, and no one can be born into it and live with it without sipping on that poison. To cast it out takes more than lip service. It takes deliberate action that doesn’t stop as long as you’re alive. Doing better is a process. But if what you really want is for women to post #metoo on Twitter and Facebook one day and then allow the sexist status quo to continue the next, we aren’t about to have that. Those days are done. Change is coming. Jump on the train or get bowled over.