Thursday, June 5, 2014

For Our Sons

I'm only a young man. I haven't seen much in my meagre 23 years. I haven't experienced or done much, either, but this is something that I'm beginning to understand the gravity and magnitude of that I think needs to be better understood by men at large.

Previously, I've clumsily typed my way around the red-herring modesty debate (I'm not going to link it, but it's somewhere here on this site), thinking that was a good approach to take, to chip in my two cents that men need to be proactive and work to prevent what many merely tell women to react to, that is, lust. Equally clumsily, I've spoken with friends who are feminists, trying to ascertain their positions (didn't quite get it, but hey, I was trying, right? [wrong attitude]).

I finally got around to looking at the #YesAllWomen making its rounds. It took me a while, because I'd dismissed it as "just another feminist outrage," but what caught my eye was that men I know whom I have never seen post anything feminist were sharing it, posting it. So, I gave it a look. To me, it was nothing flooring, but it piqued my interest. I did a bit of searching for articles about the movement, read a few of the latest twitter feed posts and realized something crucial - I don't understand.

I don't understand why my sister had to wait until she was older and still take a dog with her to go running, whereas I could've gone on my own whenever.
I don't understand the pressures of the media on women to look beautiful; after all, men's health puts the same standard on us men, right?
I don't understand why women don't feel comfortable walking to the shop after dark for a few quick necessities.
I don't understand why women have to say they have a boyfriend/fiance/spouse for their "no" to be heard.
Just to name a few.

Let me flip this scenario on its head:
Men, you are now the physically weaker sex. Society has relegated your role (traditionally) to cooking, cleaning, and minding the home. Some concessions have been made, however, and you can find work, though you might not be paid equally and you might be discriminated against. In fact, you might be hit on, harassed, or sexually assaulted by someone of the opposite sex who, being stronger than you physically and in the unwritten perception of society, is able to take their way with you, leave you, and still, no-one will fully believe you, stating that you were "asking for it" because of how you were dressed, had led the person on, hadn't said "no," etc.. You face pressure from part of society to change the way you act and dress because you're "making them lust." Conversely, you face pressure from the media and the market to fit an ideal of beauty because, let's face it, regardless of how smart or strong you are, everybody's only truly going to regard you based on how pretty you are; the applicable attributes only begin applying secondarily.

Swap shoes for a moment. Can you truly say "I don't understand" any longer? How about if I told you that the originator of #YesAllWomen is being bullied and pressured by the internet community, or that #YesAllWomenJokes has been made and is making its rounds. Can you not see the discrimination riding on the unwritten undercurrents of Western society?

I send my appreciation to the authors of #AllMenCan and #EachEveryWoman as they seek to keep this discussion on the table.

I'm only a young man. I haven't seen much in my meagre 23 years. I haven't experienced or done much either, but as I grow and (hopefully) become a father, I will teach my sons this message. Will you teach yours?