I’ve had a difficult time taking responsibility for all the terrible things I’ve done to women. But, thankfully, I realized I had to get over myself and start to unlearn all that I’d unknowingly subscribed to.
I’ve also learned a lot from my wife, friends, conferences, books, strangers, articles, and videos about the harmful impact of own fragile and toxic masculinity. None of it has been easy to hear. At all.
All of this has made me look back on how much I’ve done in past personal and working relationships to make women feel unsafe. It wasn’t right. I was wrong. And, yes, I wish I was taught to be better, but it’s still on me. Just because we don’t realize we’re doing something, doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for it. It doesn’t mean it’s not harming someone.
Men, we need to do better.
We have to stop doing things that make women feel unsafe and like they can’t exist in their bodies, and like they can be in positions of power, and like they can’t just be.
Change starts with each of us examining ourselves and going, “What am I doing and what have I done to make someone else’s life worse?” and then we have to sit with the uncomfortable answers.
Just because we don’t realize we’re doing something, doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for it. It doesn’t mean it’s not harming someone.
It’s tough, it’s scary, it’s difficult, and it’s necessary. So many of us are fragile and complicated and seemingly unequipped to deal with difficult emotions, but we have to get better. If not, we’ll just keep maintaining this patriarchal standard of oppression and harm, while suffocating, isolating, and damaging every single person around us.
That’s not the kind of world I want to live in.
This post is meant to both call you out and call you in. I’m sticking with you. I’m here for you. This world won’t get any better until all of us are doing better.
Aight. Let’s dig into the list you came for. If you do any of the following things, write it down, reflect, call up a friend and talk about, grab a beer with some guy friends and bring it up, tweet about it. If you don’t wanna go public, email me and let me know you wanna do better. Or just sit with it all. No matter what, nothing will improve until you get honest with yourself.
Find yourself in some version of the following items. Again, I’ve done some of these and I’m not better than anyone.
- You get upset when a women doesn’t speak to you after walking past you on the street, and you call her all types of names. Or think less of her.
- When a woman walks past you, you turn around, look here up and down, sexualize the hell outta her, and then go about your business.
- You say stuff like: “you should smile more”. No one has to smile more. Maybe she’s not happy. Maybe you’re the reason she’s not smiling. Either way, get rid of the expectation that women have to show up as cute, fun, happy, elated, satisfied all of the damn time or ever.
- You talk about menstruation like it’s this deplorable act. It’s not. There’s a loooong history of pain, discrimination, and violence around it and we have a long way to go. Check out websites like Aunt Flow and read up on what’s called the Pink Tax. Work to unlearn those messages you picked up in middle school about how periods are gross. Then, help to make tampons and pads free and more accessible.
- You sexualize most women you come into contact with. Oh, and, you don’t have to say things like “you’re sexy” or “you’re fine as hell” or “I wanna have sex with you” to sexualize someone. It’s as simple as you being so myopic as to only be able to mentally envision them as an object, a thing for you to lust after. This is not to say you can’t have sexual feelings for someone, but if that’s all you do, that’s toxic af.
- You take up all the space in any room and find the need to re-explain something a woman just said. See: staff meetings, board meetings, dinners, or every time you’ve ever started a sentence with “well, actually…”.
- You stare at women in the gym. And you convince yourself no one sees you. We all see you. It’s disgusting and unnerving.
- You walk over to a woman while she’s working out and strike up a conversation with her outta no where. Or you invite yourself to teach her how to use a certain machine or do a particular exercise – completely unsolicited and uncomfortable as hell.
- You do manipulative things like fake being sad or upset just to get love and affection, or sex, or attention.
- You take action before getting consent.
- You get really silent for days when things don’t go your way. Or you ghost them until you’ve felt like they’ve learned their lesson. Or you call them things like “bitch” when you’re upset, or you make threats and make motions with your body as if you’ll hit them, or you get physically violent. None of that is okay. All of that is abusive. Stop it.
- You say things like “I’d smash that” or “I’d hit that” or “I’d tear that ass up”. Confused? Re-read those quotes and consider how violent they sound.
- You’ve referred to someone as a slut, hoe, tramp, hussy, or any other terrible term. Sure, some folks have been reclaiming these words, but I’m talking about how you’ve done the intention of belittling someone.
- You’ve called someone a pussy to insinuate that they’re weak or less than. Think about it.
- You act like you’ve never done any of the things above and refuse to unlearn your toxicity. You say things like “That’s not me. I’m a nice guy” or “This is just another social justice warrior post” or “I can’t help it, I’m a guy, I have hormones and I’m a sexual being” or something that effect because you’re to fragile to actually check yourself.
Now that you know, it’s time to make that change.
What’s one thing you’re actually going to work on changing today?