Thursday, May 29, 2014

Men, Women, and the Real Work at Hand

In the midst of another whole wave of feminist empowerment, I am torn.

I get it. I do.

Some men can be very bad.  Every woman has experienced unwanted advances, has been made to feel uncomfortable, and has been forced to think much longer and harder about her physical safety than her male counterparts.

It is wrong.

It is unfair.

It makes me angry.

I have boys.  Three of them.  We talk all the time about boundaries, respecting personal space, and treating people with kindness and consideration.

Yet I desperately fear my sons are going to again get lumped into that dreaded "All men suck" category which happens every time one of these campaigns gains steam.

My life experiences have been vastly different.

I was a tall, dorky girl throughout most of my schooling.  The other little girls were ruthless to me, degrading my clothes, bad teeth, and flat hair.  I was often left feeling worthless and ugly.

Girls did that to me.  Not men.

There was an older boy on the playground when I was in 5th grade who helped put an end to it all.  He called the girls out. He told them they were mean and that they should be ashamed of themselves.  He basically implied they had ugly souls.

If I knew his name, I would hunt him down and kiss him right now.

When I went off to a liberal arts college, the anti-man message was communicated early and often.  It felt like every literary work studied was presented as men being arrogant takers while women were the docile victims.

It was a female professor who gave me my first (and only) C on a college paper.  I received that grade not because the piece was poorly written, but because it was counter to her views.  She offered to have me re-write it, complimenting my writing style but criticizing my points.

I modified the paper and wrote about how much men suck.

I got an A.

Lesson learned.

When I entered the workforce, my first job was at a Japanese bank under a woman supervisor.  I diligently performed my duties, often working overtime without pay to correct previous employees' errors to ledgers and data entry. Whatever successes I managed were publicly attributed to my boss, and any errors were publicly transferred to me.  I was nitpicked and micromanaged. 

At other jobs, I found women bosses threatened by my youth.  I was made to be an invisible member of the team, not invited to key presentations where I had done 80% of the work.  It wasn't until I ended up with a male boss that my talents were finally recognized and I was put on a much faster track to success. 

Don't get me wrong.  I've also been asked to fetch coffee for men at meetings I was running and asked on dates by men 20 years my senior, even after saying no several times.

The thing is, some people are rotten.  Men and women both.  There is danger in painting everyone in the same bold strokes and creating an environment where men are perceived as universal aggressors and women as chronic victims.  Every time a valid feminist perspective degenerates into "Men are evil," the argument is lessened, the points now diminished.

It is divisive and destroys dialogue, much like the whole "check your privilege" nonsense. When you vilify another side or perspective, you've shut out people you are trying to engage in conversation to help sway the larger issue.  People may nod and smile, even pay lip service to the correct trendy terms.  Maybe they do it in order to get an "A."  Maybe they do it so they don't get called horrible names.

There needs to be more attention paid to human rights abuses against women throughout the world.  The causes for these atrocities span culture, politics, poverty, lack of education, and religion.  We need a global dialogue and action plan.  Chasing the men out of the room is not going to help anyone.    

I am writing today to fight for the health and well-being of all boys and girls.

And this time, I will definitely not be changing my paper.


  1. Way to go, Marianne! I have had a lot of these similar thoughts.

    1. Thanks, TangledLou! It's hard trying to balance the perspective of being a woman and being the mom of boys when feminist movements take hold. At the end of the day, I suppose I am more of a humanist than anything.

  2. I get it. As a mom of boys especially, it is difficult to picture them as the perpetrators of violence or misogyny, but I am pretty sure that if you asked any mother of any cruel man, she would be surprised that her own son had turned out the way that he did. The idea (in my opinion) isn't to single out men as being "bad" but to shake society into realizing that we ALL allow this undercurrent to exist. When we laugh at certain jokes or allow ideas of a man being in control of a woman's body, we help to continue the idea of it being ok.

    I understand - women can be just as cruel as men and we are just as much a part of the problem as they are. I think that this is what these campaigns are SUPPOSED to do. It's what I hope they do, anyway. All we can really do is raise our sons and daughters to know better, and hope that they will be influenced by US more than by society.

    1. You make very good points. I probably am guilty of chuckling uncomfortably when inappropriate and sexist jokes are told as well. I agree that this campaign had a very good feminist message from the start, but social media and discussion has directed a lot of negativity towards men, which I am always sensitive to. Criticize behaviors, cry foul on sexism, but let's not start bashing the boys. I rather love them.

  3. I always hated it when people would complain about "men" lumping them all together. I just had hope that there could be better and more civil guys out there than what some were complaining about. I didn't like the excuse. (I admit that I certainly don't like it when the hubs holds up any of the stereotypes...try harder man!)

    And I think a few of my son's less than finest features might be the mini-me ones ;)

    1. I like what someone wrote on my FB page - it's a character issue more than anything. Thanks for reading, Andrea!

  4. Do NOT change your paper. You are spot-on.