Are you a man? Ever get the feeling that maybe you're not quite treating women the way you should do? Do you often find yourself getting into arguments with women about feminism and they always wind up getting annoyed at you? Do you feel as if you can't call yourself a feminist because actually, you're not contributing to the movement at all? Well, now's your chance to learn better! I've put together a list of things to bear in mind if you're a man and you wanna transition from Mr "I Swear I'm a Nice Guy!" to Actually Decent Dude. I know it's lengthy, but just give it a go, please.
1.) First and foremost, listen
This may seem pretty straightforward, but it's amazing how many discussions I get into with men who I feel aren't actually listening to what I'm saying at all. Listen, let it sink in, and then reply. Listen when we say we feel something isn't right. If a woman says something is sexist, then it is not your place as a man to question her. Funnily enough, we have quite a bit of experience in that particular area, so we probably have a better idea of what constitutes sexism.
Another aspect of listening is not talking over women. I've witnessed this far too many times, so please don't get offended when we use the term "mansplaining". This term didn't just originate out of nowhere. It came from the millions of times men have tried to condescendingly explain things to us, without letting us get a word in edge-ways. You may be annoyed to hear this because you might be a man that has never done this in your life (or that you've noticed), but this really does happen. A lot. Especially in the workplace. So just don't do it, OK? Don't assume you always know better, and please don't shout over us. It's just rude.
Male feminists who want to be good allies need to remember this. We don't need men to try and solve the problems of feminism for us. We just need you to stand with us, and to amplify our voices. For instance, an everyday example would be instead of tweeting something about black women, retweet something from a black woman. Or share this article. If you want to tell a story of female oppression, listen to women. Let us tell our stories, and help share them and make them be heard.
2.) Recognise the difference between your life and other peoples'
This has always been a prevalent issue amongst men, but for me, it really came to light after the US Presidential Election. The amount of men that, without even necessarily supporting Trump, turned his whole identity into some sort of fun gimmick. I'm talking about the white male journalists who went to Trump rallies and interviewed Trump supporters as if they were making some kind of observation into an "interesting phenomenon", or poking fun at the people they felt were intellectually below them, but who were actually just giving a voice to fascism. I'm talking about the guys who made jokes about Trump when he was elected, who made "grab them by the pussy" jokes, even if they didn't necessarily agree with him.
Guys - it's all well and good you having a cheeky giggle about stuff like this, or feeling as if you can be the next Louis Theroux and take a real interest in fascism without getting sucked in, but the fact is, it's not a joke for everyone else. For women, for POC, for LGBT+ people, for disabled people - it's not a joke. Do you know how it feels to see countless tweets from American men saying that they were now going to "grab women by the pussy", because "if my President can, why can't I?". Women everywhere have just been told 'do you know what? The world doesn't care if you're sexually assaulted. We're just gonna go right ahead and glorify your attacker anyway.' And do you know how utterly terrifying and crushing that feels? No. So please stop with your jokes, and your 'everything's going to be OK' sentimentality. Of course it's going to be OK...for you. But actually, not everyone has that privilege.
It's funny, I was going to name this section "recognise your privilege", but I just had this image of men rolling their eyes and clicking away. It's become a buzzword, a phrase that to men seems tired and overused, but that's only because it's so real and so important. Recognise your privilege, and don't you dare roll your eyes if someone tells you to. Because it probably means you should.
3.) Stop making this a huge joke
Following on from the Trump thing, just please, in general, stop joking about stuff that is actually pretty serious and upsetting to anyone who isn't you. I recently got into a Facebook argument (story of my life) with some men who were basically treating the whole thing as (and I quote) 'banter' and 'light morning entertainment'. If women come to discuss political views and opinions that matter to us and actually affect our lives, have the courtesy to take them seriously. We're engaging in debate with you because we want you to see things from our perspective, so please try and do so. Laughing at women for 'getting their knickers in a twist' and treating the whole situation as a great bit of banter with the lads just makes you look like an idiot, and just fuels the need for feminism in the first place. This isn't funny for us. This is real life.
And just stop making jokes about women and liberation movements in general. They may seem like a joke to you, but to us it's helping change our lives. No, it's not funny to go around saying 'all lives matter', or to sneer at the word 'triggered'. Those phrases were created to help POC and women, and just because you can't see how that's helping us because it doesn't directly affect you, that doesn't give you the right to laugh about it. Trigger warnings were created to help people suffering from PTSD or for people who have genuinely had to go through traumatic stuff in their life. If you think it's hilarious that some women may need trigger warnings because they were sexually abused and they don't want a reminder of that, then frankly, you are a terrible human being.
4.) Never feel as if a woman owes you anything
Remember that classic 90s movie Ten Things I Hate About You? Remember how, throughout the whole movie, we're made to feel bad for Cameron because Bianca doesn't immediately leap into his arms and proclaim her love for him after he buys a French textbook?
If you haven't seen the movie, it's basically a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and this dude Cameron is in love with this girl Bianca (even though he literally just sees her walking past and his like 'I want her' without knowing the first thing about her, but whatever), and so he goes to all these lengths to be with her. The first thing he does is offer to tutor her in French, so he goes out and buys a French textbook and asks her to dinner. Bianca can't date until her older sister does cos her Dad's a massive over-protective weirdo, so he then sets out on this lengthy mission to get the older sister involved with someone so he can be with Bianca.
The thing is, we're supposed to feel really sorry for Cameron when Bianca doesn't immediately fall head over heels for him. He's all "but I learned French for you!", but firstly, he didn't, he literally just bought a textbook, and secondly, so what? She never ASKED you to do that. You don't pursue a woman and then expect that, because you've made an effort, she HAS to like you back. That's not how it works.
And this translates to the real, non-fictional world, too. Sure, do nice things for someone if you're interested in them, but don't try and force things or expect things from people if they don't feel the same way back. Just because you bought a woman dinner, does not mean she has to sleep with you. Just because you're nice to a woman, don't expect her to fall in love with you. And for God's sake, can we PLEASE give the whole "friend zone" thing a REST now? If a woman just wants to be friends with you, then she's perfectly allowed to do that.
To summarise: WE DON'T OWE YOU ANYTHING. So stop trying to force us into uncomfortably going along with things that we don't want to, just because we feel we have to to be polite. This has happened to me far too many times in my life. Fellas - let it go. Ladies - be strong. Have the courage to say no if you don't want to.
5.) Don't get defensive when we generalise men
Because I've seen far too many usages of the #NotAllMen hashtag, and dudes piping up with "we're not all like that!". Yes, of course. We KNOW you're not all like that. It's why a lot of us continue to date men, and be friends with them. When I'm talking about "men being sexist", I'm obviously not talking about my boyfriend, or my male friends that are good feminist allies. But we're going to still do it, because the fact is, our entire lives, we have always felt some kind of male oppressive influence. Whether it's directly from people we know, or from a vague male institutional presence telling us what to do with our bodies, it's there, and it's real.
In the same way that I have no right to be offended when POC talk about white people as a whole, men should not be angry and defensive when we talk about men as a whole. POC have had to put up with institutional racism for the entire history of life, and they still do now. So they're not going to just suddenly declare all white people OK now, especially as racism is still so rife in this day and age. White people: when you see a POC saying "white people are so..." your first response should not be "omg that's so rude, not all white people are like that"! It should be "how can I use my privilege to help this issue?". White feminism is a real thing. Now, I'm a white girl, and I'm a feminist. Does that mean I'm going to get upset when I see WOC complaining about white feminism? Hell no. I'm going to listen and make sure I don't do the same thing. Because I'm nowhere near perfect, I've been a pretty bad 'white feminist' in the past, and all I can do is move forward and change that. But that's an entirely different blog post for another time.
Anyway, to get back to the point, it's the same with men. If you see a woman complaining about "men doing this" or "men doing that", your first priority should not be to get angry and defensive and proclaim to the world that "actually, I'm not like that!", your first response should be to recognise that this obviously is an issue and that a lot of men are culprits, and then think "how can I change this?". Do NOT get angry and defensive with us, because the truth is, a lot of the time it DOES feel like #YesAllMen. When pretty much all the women I know have a story of being sexually harrassed/assaulted, then yes. I think it's OK for us to generalise. And here's the crucial thing you must remember at all times: THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU.
As a general thing to remember: men have always, since the dawn of time, been benefiting from institutional sexism. Men created it, and a lot of men still help feed it now. Men are not institutionally oppressed. That's why sexism doesn't apply to them in the same way as women, and in the same way that racism doesn't apply to white people. When the way our society is governed has always been stacked in your favour, you have no right to complain about oppression.
Also, please stop complaining about things being "too politically correct" these days, just cos you can't get away with being rude to people anymore. Listen to what minorities are saying and listen to what offends us, and respect that (see point 1).
6) Don't sexualise lesbian & bi relationships
Just don't do it. Gay women are not there to fulfil your sexual fantasy. Porn and real life aren't the same thing. They probably don't want to have a threesome with you. They are people, not objects. Thanks.
7.) Stop saying it should be 'equalism' or that feminism is all about 'hating men'
And for the love of God, do not, for a second, entertain any notions to do with 'meninism'.
Look, here's the thing guys: you've got it better than us. In terms of institutional and social oppression, you've got it better. Especially if you're white and/or rich. Now, of course, men have their issues too, most notably in terms of mental health and the alarming rates of male suicide. Now that is a men's rights problem. As well as the rights of gay men, trans men, disabled men, and men of colour. I get that, these are serious issues that feminism actually helps. Feminism is about everyone being equal, and so therefore, men have just as much a right to talk about their feelings and get emotional as women do.
Feminism is here for everybody, and aims to help everybody. Trust me, I've been interested in this and talking about this for a while now. But that doesn't mean it should be called 'equalism'. Yes, we want equality. No, we're not trying to place ourselves ABOVE men, or tear men down (much). But calling it equalism just disregards the fundamental reasoning behind feminism - it's women that are oppressed, and it's women that need to be liberated. In doing so, this will also help men. But at the core of the argument, it's a movement for women, so the name of the movement will acknowledge this fact. For more info on this (and a great analogy about a see saw) check out my dedicated, much more sassy, article back on my old Blogspot.
It's the same kind of reasoning behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It's called #BlackLivesMatter and not #AllLivesMatter because it's black lives that are the ones in danger. I know us white people hate feeling left out and we like to have everything, but sometimes simply not being the victim of police brutality is enough. It's cool. It's not about us. In the same way that feminism, at it's core, is not about men. So stay in your lane, support us, and stop acting like a victim.
8.) Please learn how our bodies work
And stop spreading damaging myths about them.
I have talked about this SO MUCH and I will continue to talk about this until I am dead and/or men (and women) finally get the memo. But here's a quick run down of the key points you should bear in mind:
Vaginal discharge is completely normal and healthy.
Virginity is actually a social construct. Hymens don't work like a freshness seal.
VAGINAS. DON'T. GET. LOOSE.
Periods are the reason you are alive, so stop being weird about them please.
For more info about this and other topics to do with basic sex education that we weren't given, check out my dedicated blog post.
9.) Just because you're in a relationship with us, does not mean you can control us
In fact, even when we're not in a relationship. Please do not assume that I care about anything you have to say about how I dress or how I present myself.
I've seen far too many tweets that are like "fellas - you gonna let your girl go out looking like this?" as if some woman's outfit is actually something that's up for discussion. This is not a debate, boys. This is just a woman, looking hecka fine, ready to go on a night out. She doesn't care what you think. None of us do. And your opinion does not have a ruling over what we can and can't wear. If we wanna wear something, we're gonna wear it, whether you like it or not. Our bodies. Our clothes. You're irrelevant. Bye.
Also I'm gonna take this moment to remind everyone that using the phrase 'dressed like that, she was asking for it' in relation to rape is hereby BANNED, and never EVER OK.
10.) Stop trying to shame us for literally everything we do
Here are a few things women supposedly aren't allowed to do and why:
Have sex with multiple people - because you will be a slut and your magical play-dough vagina will get really loose and nobody else will want to have sex with you because it'll be like "throwing a sausage down a hallway". Because that's obviously biologically accurate? (See point 8)
Not have sex - cos then you're just boring and a prude.
Wear chokers - because then you have "daddy issues" and are also a slut and an alcoholic, apparently:
Go as Harley Quinn for Halloween - because then you're basic and just like every other girl. Even though there's genuinely always one dude every year that goes as Batman. Or the Joker. But that's fine cos you're dudes.
Wear too much make up - it's hilarious how so many guys are like "I prefer a natural look!" but if you saw what 'the natural look' actually looks like, you probably wouldn't come near us. A man's definition of the 'natural look' will still involve concealer, mascara, and dip-brow at the least.
...And much, much more that, to be honest, I don't have the energy to go into. Maybe I'll keep this post updated when I'm reminded of more. Although then it will probably continue for the rest of my life. Just please stop thinking you can pass judgement on the way women choose to dress. We don't care.
11.) Call your friends out
This is the hardest one, I know. I find it difficult too. But the fact is, your friends are more likely to listen to you than their female friends. So if your buddies make a rape joke, or stereotype women, or slut-shame women, or are just generally sexist: say something. It's little acts like this that help change people's perspectives, and help us move forward as a society.
Anyway, so there you have it. This has just been touching the surface of how to be a Decent Dude, but if you follow these steps correctly, you will be on track to helping defeat sexism: yay! If you feel as if you do some of these things, but you feel you want to make a change, that's great. Sexism and racism have been ingrained in us since we were born. It's hard undoing it all. It takes time, I understand. All you have to do it make a concerted effort. And of course, if you feel like actively making a difference and you've got some spare change you could always donate a charity like Refuge, Women for Women International, or Women's Aid, to name a few.
Here's to smashing the patriarchy, together.