I was all set to write a post on some of the more ridiculous books I’ve read recently. A Facebook post I saw this morning changed my focus to some of the most ridiculous things I’ve read recently. I’m gonna get a whole lot political.
Yesterday, I was waiting at my bus stop after work. While I was waiting, I decided to read the horrifically delightful Tender Wings of Desire.
As I was standing there reading, a person approached me to tell me how to figure out when the next bus was coming. Since I was literally standing right under the bus arrival board at the time and was not looking around helplessly, nor asking random passers-by for assistance, this unsolicited aid surprised me. I believe I responded with the cold & heartless, “Yeah, I know,” before returning to my book.
This was apparently not the right response. The man – because of course it was a man – muttered under his breath, “Ungrateful bitch” as he walked away. He followed that up with a “[you] look too stupid to know things,” which is one of the odder insults I’ve received from random men on the street.
Obviously, I Facebooked this encounter almost immediately. My friends were pretty quick to hop on and comment about the idiocy of this guy (and fortunately, not a single person commented #notallmen on my post).
One commenter replied with a statement and a hashtag: #banmen2017
Another said, “Men. *spits*”
This morning, a Facebook friend had a post about how upsetting it was to see men painted with a broad brush and referenced the comments in my post. I had considered replying to that thread specifically, but I don’t really know her and didn’t want to start an internet fight.
So here’s the deal.
#banmen is a response to those people who want to ban other groups of people based on threat level. Muslim bans are touted as a way to reduce terrorist threats. But you know what? I’m much more likely to be gunned down, assaulted, raped, or harassed by a random white man than a Muslim. In fact, most mass shootings in the US are done by white men. So why not #banmen?
Because it would be ridiculous. As is a Muslim ban. Or a Mexican ban.
My friend who said: “Men. *spits*” does not actually go around spitting on all men. (I checked with her just to make sure.)
The friend who said #banmen2017 isn’t advocating that her son, her husband, her father, or her male friends get deported to man island. That is so not the point. Her actual point is, and I quote, “…of course I don’t want to ban all men forever. Just most of them, for a long time. Seriously though, I would like to ban toxic masculinity everywhere forever and that’s really what I mean when I say ban men.” (Thanks, Harmony!)
I’m almost positive most people have had a bad experience with an individual and picked out something about that person to say, “Ugh, doctors,” or “Vegans are the worst,” or “WTF is up with cross-fitters, am I right?”
When you see statements like that, do you assume that the person actually hates all doctors/vegans/cross-fitters? No, you do not. If you’ve said something like that, is your intent to convey that you hate everyone? (Okay, sometimes, when I say “I hate everyone,” that is kinda my intent. And then I remember that I like my kid, my partner, and at least two or three other people.)
The post that got me all riled up and inspired this blog post equated the comments on my bad experience with the media trope of the incompetent man, which I think misses the point by a mile and a half. I think the bumbling idiot men in commercials and television are as annoying as fuck. Just like commercials that have men show up to show women how to clean are awful. (Thanks, Gain man, but I’m pretty sure I know how to do the fucking laundry.) Both of those tropes harm feminism (and feminism is about eliminating bullshit that harms men and women).
Even more disheartening was the number of people who jumped onto the #notallmen train.
You know what’s more harmful to men and boys than statements that men are creepy? Teaching your sons that “women don’t like nice guys.” Telling your kids that the broad strokes of the brush don’t apply to them and that they can ignore it. Not teaching your sons to think twice about the ways toxic masculinity are present in everyday life, how they can combat it without having a white knight syndrome, and what real consent looks like so they don’t inadvertently perpetuate rape culture is a lot more harmful than a ban men hashtag.
If you’re a man who’s not a creepy jerk (and I know a lot of not-creepy jerk men! LOTS!), and you see a dude being a creepy jerk, call him on it. Don’t fucking #notallmen the women who complain.
Women know that not all men are creeps, but we don’t know which ones in the wild aren’t. The real issue is that most women have had an uncomfortable encounter with a strange man, and you don’t know when a polite rebuffing of an advance will escalate into expletives, insults, and/or violence.
I was power-walking on the waterfront almost five years ago – in the first month I was back to work after Bean was born – because I was late for a meeting. A guy told me to smile. I ignored him, because c’mon… He followed me for three blocks telling me that I was a stuck-up, fat, ugly bitch who deserved to be raped and have my pussy carved up. This was at 8:30 in the morning on a busy thoroughfare in Portland. Guess how many men stood up for me and told the creeper to get lost?
Zero. Zero men intervened.
So, thank you, Facebook acquaintance for at least not going #notallmen on my post, but for everyone out there with that knee-jerk reaction-maybe think twice about the intent of what people are saying before rushing to the defense of #alotoffuckingmen. (And btw – being a male author and writing women into leadership roles doesn’t make you a feminist ally when you immediately negate it by conflating feminism and misandry.)
If you, as a person, care deeply about men being wrongly painted with the creep brush, then stand up and do something about it. Call out men that are harassing women on the street. Teach your sons about feminism and consent and that they, too, should stand up for everyone by not letting street harassment continue. Figure out why you have a #notallmen knee-jerk reaction when you don’t have a #notallvegan reaction. Do you feel the same way when someone says, “Muslims are…,” or “Native Americans are…” or “African Americans are…”? Because if it’s just men you’re leaping to defend, then maybe you need to step back and figure out why the most powerful group in the world needs your defense.