Dear Men: A Letter & What To Do Now
Let us be angry right now.
Let us be furious and outraged and so overwhelmed with hurt and hopelessness that we may not be able to find the words to describe our emotions and feelings in ways that are socially acceptable.
Let us be raw right now. Many of us feel betrayed and broken right now.
Let us have space to tend to our wounds, especially those that bravely chose to re-open them with the hopes it would make a difference (it did; you woke so many of us up and I am sorry you had to even make that choice but thank you, thank you).
Let us process and regroup but check in on us. Be present, listen.
Let women talk; don’t you dare be the first person to speak up in your meeting or class on Monday morning, the very second a thought or question pops into your head. Be aware of the verbal space you take up.
Let your personal experiences be challenged; don’t just talk with your male friends about feminism (what it is and whether it’s something you align with or not) and what it’s like to be a woman. Instead, ask the women you are closest with in your life about their experiences at work, walking down the street, going for a run, negotiating their salaries, interviewing for jobs, trying to enjoy a beer with friends at the bar. Consider that just because you haven’t seen or experienced something that it can still be real. And ask many women. We are not a monolith.
Let your ego rest and your voice roar- with each other. When your guy friends make sexist or demeaning jokes about women that may seem innocuous to YOU (maybe because they don’t tug on a lifetime of personal experiences??), shut that shit down. It’s as simple as, “Yo man, that’s not cool. I can’t laugh at that.” This isn’t about PC culture as much as just culture and recognizing the very real affects of language, the way our speech affects how we think, act and behave.
Let your defenses down; this is not about men versus women and you pointing out all of the ways critiques don’t apply to you misses the point completely. Breathe. And stay with me because I understand your frustration with generalizing language but as my friend Trevor Persaud taught me, focus on the reality that these statements point towards. It’s not about thinking all men are trash but rather “why do so many women — and an increasing number of men — feel this way about men?” He says that this “doesn’t point to an ontological reality about men so much as it reveals that something is fundamentally broken about masculinity in our society.” Finally, he says that our goal isn’t to combat and resist the notion as much as “to engage with, and understand, the reason that attitude has developed, and the pain that exists behind it.” To those that are doing the work alongside us — thank you. Because our goal isn’t to make you feel shame because that is immobilizing and we need you mobilized. We can’t do it alone.
And finally, again, LET US BE ANGRY. Consider how it feels to see a man get to be a kind of angry we never get to be, no matter what our situation or experiences are. Consider what it feels like to be “told” that sexual harassment and assault without justice are basically inevitable for women because the affects of trauma make it difficult to produce evidence in a timely fashion, and that even when it is produced society discards it, our systems don’t process it, and our courts don’t prosecute it (THIS is a constructive conversation to have, that we need to be having). Consider that calls for peace && politeness && patience are VIOLENCE if the peace you call for silences those crying out in pain from oppression.
And by “Let us” I mean standby and watch because we don’t need your permission.
Get used to it.
Just One Woman
P.S. YES, please apply a class/racial lens to this…for example, this is the exact same kind of reflection and work white folks need to do to combat racism, systemic oppression, and inequalities.