Lately, I’ve been observing a few racial and feminist activists on twitter complaining about white people and men (especially white men) butting into their conversations about their experiences of oppression. It’s been an interesting ride.
I mirror a number of the sentiments and questions those white people have posed to black activists, and very much dislike the judgement focused on ‘all whites’ in response to them asking.
At the same time, I absolutely want to be more educated and more empathetic to the oppression that surrounds me, because as a white-cis female, in many respects I have had the opportunity not to have to look at it.
I want to look at it. So I can reduce the ways I unconsciously encourage the status quo of dehumanizing people of color and QUILTBAG‘s. Because fuck that. I worked through my distaste for how white people I identified with were being railroaded and vilified and kept watching.
Ultimately I learned a fuckton developing an understanding of what it means to be an ‘ally’, and where best my voice fits in the social justice chorus (hint: It isn’t in the conversations of black women feminists).
One of the many indirect things I have learned from having looked deeper at this, is that sometimes the reason men insert themselves into feminist conversations is not because they don’t see feminism as viable or because they don’t recognize that something is wrong; it is because they do not feel they have voice on the issues of their own sexual and physical abuse.
They see women speaking of their own oppression in the patriarchy and want to let them know, in that completely inappropriate moment, that men suffer physical and sexual abuse as well. They want to be recognized as going through the same things as women are.
In many ways, this is an exercise of their privilege and power to make yet another conversation about them, and it’s not ok to do that. Which is why, for the most part, men will find that this is not an effective way to be heard.
I recognized the need for men to have more safe places to talk about their stigmatized life experiences, even though they like, own everything and everyone and have all the stupid power and all that. Just as I need safe places to talk about my issues even though I’m like, white and cis and pretty and all that.
So a few weeks ago I started a conversation on Facebook inviting the men in my life to discuss their abuse stories, and immediately, the first thing a dear friend of mine feared, was that I was being sarcastic and insincere.
My opening a space for him had triggered his lifetime experience of abuse and subsequent neglect and dehumanization.
This, too, is rape culture, people.
We don’t talk enough about sexual assault against males (or other identified genders besides men and women, for that matter).
If you are a man who thinks they may struggle with the remanence of abuse experiences in his life, 1in6.org is a nonprofit specifically for men, offering tools for thinking about childhood or teenage sexual experiences that may have caused or contributed to current problems.
The site exists as a safe haven for men in specific, and the information here is humanly universal. The depth and quality of it is priceless, and I am very, very glad it exists.
Sadly, it is not enough that this wonderful site exists. We also don’t talk enough about lack of resources for men who are victims of domestic abuse or the realities of the anti-male bias in our court systems.
Plenty of options and resources are openly available for women suffering from physical domestic violence, but for men, as told in this piece published by the also amazing website The Good Men Project, the situation is all too often hopeless and bleak (and utterly heartbreaking).
This story indirectly mirrors my own teenage experiences, in which I would periodically break down in rage and hit my boyfriend. Many times this would happen in front of others, often at parties. I would be held back, and he would be encouraged not to hit me.
This went on for years, until one day, he pinned me down and beat the shit out of me.
When that happened, most of our friends rallied, I was granted a restraining order from him, and the court system prescribed mandatory therapy and kicked him out of the state.
Over the years as I’ve healed, become more aware, able to better control rage when it comes (much more rarely than before), and moved away from behaving like this, I consistently see the effect this double standard has on our society.
Most recently, it showed up in the form of a male lover, when, after being told I was violently triggered for the first time in years and isolating myself because I feared I would potentially hit him, said “That would be ok.”.
No. That would not have been ok.
Years ago I experienced a breakup in which violence was not a concern from me (the other woman, however, had assaulted him and was having fantasies about beating and knifing him.. but I digress); I wanted nothing to do with him under any circumstances.
However, that person chose to file a restraining order against me which disavowed even the existence of the other women, letalone her presence during the confrontation surrounding his infidelity in which he claimed I did what she did.
Though it was a dick move from a calculated self-serving lying jackass, had he actually been in danger, very few people would have believed him over me. Simply because he was a he. And that’s not ok.
Patriarchy is fucking *everyone*. Tear it down.
We need more safe spaces for men to be heard and understood about their experiences with abuse.
We need more education, dialogue and awareness of this problem and the needs of men and boys in abusive situations.
We need more awareness of female violence and resources to help women who hit people as coping mechanisms.
Shame needs secrecy, silence and judgement to exist.
It cannot survive being spoken and recognized.
Note: For another look at the machine of patriarchy, rape culture, of women needing to be the gatekeepers of sex, of the commonality of acceptance of rape in our society, and the reactions to sexual scarcity that I’ve been writing about lately, check out my friend’s thoughtful fairy tale version from an imaginary male child perspective: Rape: A Fairy Tale