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Health, Paternalism

It’s Time for Men To STFU And Support Women

I tried to stay out of this entire “legitimate rape” controversy, mainly because I felt that, while it was important, it was being played up largely for political purposes.  And then I had that conversation…

It’s a conversation that every man should bear witness to.  Someone close to you discloses that they were raped.  They disclose the difficulty that they had in dealing with it.  They describe how this entire political episode has had such a profound effect on them personally, and how you, as a man, could never…ever…comprehend what it feels like to be violated in such a way.

I’ve had that conversation before.  Too often actually.  But this time, I finally realized…

It’s time for guys to just shut the fuck up…

That obviously includes people like Todd Akin and his band of merry white men who preside over Congress (and outside of Congress) and believe that they have the knowledge, the ability, and worst of all the right to theorize about things that happen to others, the effects of which they will never actually be subject to.  They probably don’t even know the numbers of people they are hurting with their words and actions.  And that’s because while there is already fear and shame in women disclosing that they’ve been raped, Akin’s and other men’s words and actions further cement it and confuse an already confusing situation (which probably should not be so confusing in the first place).  There are probably people  very close to all of these men who have had situations very similar to that which they are waxing poetic about with their loose phrasing and redefinitions, all of which fall well short of what’s needed.

And that’s for them to shut the fuck up

Let’s try to put this in context.  If men had an issue which solely affected us (let’s just throw erectile dysfunction into this firestorm for fun), we’d be damned if a group of women were going to decide the best way to deal with it.  And that’s regardless of how well-intentioned they were.  Seriously?

Which is why men like myself need to shut the fuck up too.  Many of us may be smart.  Many of us may be caring.  Many of us may mean well.   And many of us may be empathetic.  But one thing that none of us is…is a woman.

None of us have to deal with the issues that women have to deal with.  None of us have to wonder whether it’s safe for our sexual organs to walk home alone from work at night.  Whether it’s safe to have that drink that someone else gave us.  Whether what we’re wearing is “too suggestive.”  Whether to violate the law and carry mace just in case.  And whether to tell someone else when all those precautions fatefully don’t be prove to be failsafe.

That doesn’t mean that one doesn’t support the movement for women’s rights and protection from sexual violence.  In fact, more men need to do just that and it’s a shame that more don’t in a more active manner.  And I fully put myself into that category.

And so I’m telling fellow men.  It’s time to shut the fuck up.  All of us.  Listen to what women have to say…what they want.  If you’re an obstacle to these things, get out of the way.  But I’m really writing to supporters in saying that if you want to be an asset, let women lead and support them from the background as they try to overcome these obstacles.  They are the ones who know best.  The one’s with the experiences that make things that may seem murky and complicated to us, crystal clear for them.  Be their advocates.  Protect their safe space to express themselves.  Be their soldiers, but realize they are the officers and we are the gentlemen.  Take some orders – for once – and then execute.

And by execute, that can take many forms, but one way which I’ve been told is paramount is by shifting the conversation from discussing what a woman’s role is in preventing rape and unwanted pregnancies, to what men’s roles should be.  Instead of telling women, “protect yourself from rape,” we need to begin telling men, “stop raping.”  And plenty of women have told me that this is a key area where men can (and should) be on the front lines.  That includes, but is certainly not limited to checking other men when they say inappropriate things and not supporting, encouraging or justifying bad or questionable behavior.  And voicing disapproval when men overstep their boundaries into territory that does not belong to them.

Consider this one of my first attempts.



2 thoughts on “It’s Time for Men To STFU And Support Women

  1. Hi, I want to thank you for writing this piece. I am a cisgender man (meaning, the doctor said I was a boy, I was raised as a boy, and now I identify as a man), and this is definitely relevant for me and some of the folks in my life, especially in terms of talking to other men in some areas and shutting the fuck up in other areas. HOWEVER, I think it’s important to be specific, and there are men in my life whose experiences and lives this piece erases – friends who are trans men or trans masculine, who do worry about being assaulted while walking home, and some of whom have shared some experiences with what many women experience. Also, as a queer man and a man of color, I’ve considered and chosen to carry pepper spray in response to being physically assaulted on the street; it’s not only (cisgender) women whose safety is in jeopardy at night, in the streets, and/or in public space.

    Thanks for reading – from one aspiring ally to another.

    Posted by Anonymous | August 23, 2012, 3:04 pm
    • Very true and thanks for the comment and raising this issue. Rape certainly touches men in more ways than our society likes to acknowledge and the purpose was not to erase those experiences for those men at all. The piece was directed towards men who do not have those experiences, especially since they are the ones that are running their mouths and making decisions, and directing them squarely at women, subsequently, without the same experience as women. I would say though that, even for men who have shared experiences, there are still many differences. I think we’re in agreement but shouldn’t the communities being affected be the ones to lead the discussions, solutions, policies, etc? For instance, would you be comfortable if I or a woman spoke for and made decisions for the cisgender or trans community? Therefore, shouldnt we, as men, perhaps focus ourselves on leading on the issues related to rape that affect men (since that is our unique experience), and support women in addressing their own experience?

      Posted by chico | August 23, 2012, 5:21 pm

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