woke

Men Get Woke: Women Still Have to Do the Work

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Tanya

I am the outspoken feminist that Pat Robertson warned you about.

Before we get into it, I want to point out that #MeToo was problematic for a couple of reasons. The first is that Alyssa Milano got all the credit but the campaign had already been invented by a black woman years ago, Tarana Burke. There’s also the peer pressure part of it. Many women who didn’t initially want to participate because they didn’t feel comfortable disclosing eventually did because they felt like they should. And finally, there’s the main problem: that it requires women to do the work, yet again. It requires women to wake up men.

In the same way that people of color don’t want white folks to ask them how not to be racist, women shouldn’t have to educate men on how not to be misogynist. Must we do everything? We don’t want them to need to have a mother/daughter/sister/wife to be empathetic towards women. We want them to get that women are human beings and they just have to stop. The harassment, the rape, the mansplaining, the manterrupting, the catcalling, the sexual assault, the misogyny, the sexism, all of it. IT HAS TO STOP. But even though I know that men won’t take it on themselves to solve this problem without some sort of clarifying epiphany prompted by a woman, I am so angry that we have to be the ones to get them woke. Tarana Burke called it “Empowerment through Empathy” and I get it. I understand the value in it but it is so fucking hard.

I was in a shitty mood the entire week of the #MeToo thing and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized that it was a combination of the fact that I had just found out that a man that I had known for ten years turned out to be a sexual predator (surprise!) and the fact that #MeToo was stirring up all sorts of shit for me. I hadn’t thought about a lot of the stuff that men have done to me over the years in a while and #MeToo forced me to think about it. When you see (almost) every woman you know publicly acknowledging their abuse by men, you can’t help but think about it.

The first time I realized that women were vulnerable to the predatory behavior of men was when I was about five or six years old. I was peeing and my Aunt’s boyfriend at the time opened the door which I had neglected to lock. Instead of apologizing and closing it, he stood there and watched me. It was unnerving. For several years after that, I dealt with the emotionally abusive behavior of an Uncle who, while not sexually threatening, was nasty enough that I would hide in my mother’s closet sitting on top of her shoes and waiting it out in the dark for him leave. There was overt sexual harassment at one of my first jobs requiring some very uncomfortable conversations between nineteen year old me and human resources. Of course, it was all viewed as my fault. Then there were the behaviors of men I dated including an incident where consent was questionable due to me having been intoxicated. That’s not something I have fully processed or labeled but #MeToo prompted me to examine it more than I already do on a regular basis.

And why was all this happening?

It’s not just about Weinstein. It’s because after millennia of men exerting power over women and feminine people physically, sexually, politically, culturally, and socially, we are not only still coping with this oppression but we’re expected to fix it. To fix them. In order to fix them, we have to break ourselves over and over to demonstrate that there is a problem to fix because they can’t even see the problem. Or they minimize the problem by saying things like “catcalling is a compliment”. It’s not a compliment. It’s another way that men can demonstrate that they can look at us in whatever way they want and say whatever they want. Our bodies and even our minds are not ours entirely because they can invade our physical and mental spaces whenever they want.

We didn’t have to participate in #MeToo and if we did, we didn’t need to be specific but there was no avoiding the emotional toll that it can take, the dust that it kicked up, and I don’t see that changing. As more and more men get woke to the issue, I see something else happening; guys who get it now but they need more information. They need to understand it better so they ask their women friends to tell them more. This need for more and more disclosure to help men understand is like pouring salt in the wound. Men need to understand that we’ve been conditioned to not talk about this. The one thing that did surprise me (slightly) about #MeToo was just how many of my women friends participated, some of them are women I’ve known well for years and we’ve never discussed the incidents of abuse. We often don’t even speak to each other about this stuff but now we have to share it with men so we can end misogyny by making them feel for us. The very fact that we need to make men feel for us is sickening.

Well, they should feel bad. Maybe more men should be disclosing what they’ve done. I would like to see the #YesMe movement where men do this:

#YesMe: I have harassed a woman.

#YesMe: I’ve catcalled.

#YesMe: I’ve used my masculinity to intimidate a woman.

#YesMe: I’ve doubted women’s competency in the workplace simply because they’re women.

#YesMe: I have pursued a woman romantically who said they weren’t interested.

#YesMe: I’ve called a woman a slut, a bitch, or a whore.

And on and on. But some of the things that men need to cop to are illegal and they won’t do it. So until then, sadly, it remains on us to get them woke. I just wonder what we lose, which parts of ourselves, in the process.

Stay strong, Ladies.