Mar 082015
So International Women’s Day got me thinking.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that in recent months the raucous discussion of women’s issues has reached epic– or maybe epidemic— proportions.  Some of the heated discourse revolves around specific, male-dominated toxic issues, like GamerGate, but there’s also a general sense that men from all walks just don’t get how to approach women.  Especially those they don’t actually know.

Subsequently, I’ve noticed a lot of related angst prevalent among men, many of whom are intrinsically decent but often come across, inadvertently, as the very boors they endeavor not to be.  I should know.

On occasion, I’ve been one.

The “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” gender dichotomy meme has been around for some time, taking a frivolous and much-contested approach to addressing male-female disconnects due, ostensibly, to natural and embraceable differences.  But the dialog today is more contentious, fraught with hair-trigger tension.  Ribald gender-based remarks have escaped the locker room and slammed the Internet, rampaging across Twitter and Facebook in flaming retweets and furious replies.

Women, consequently, are feeling threatened, maligned and frustrated.  From what I’ve seen, they don’t appreciate the unwanted locker room behavior thrust at them.  Many offenders react to protests by ramping up the egregious behavior, and the war is on.

One reason I believe we’re seeing this on an unprecedented scale is due to technology.  The Internet has grown to serve two masters.  The same way it can empower the small-voiced individual to get a message out to the world, it can whip around and drown such voices via ad hoc frenzied mobs.  The behavior itself isn’t exactly new, but the speed, spread and scale certainly are.

As I touched on in the last article here, a lot of this comes down to privilege.  The world is largely patriarchal, which puts men in the driver’s seat of almost any topic– even women’s issues.  Too many men, however, disingenuously portray themselves as victims who don’t enjoy the same protections as women… unwittingly undermining the very masculinity they want to secure.

And in regards to something like International Women’s Day in particular: guys, when one day a year is allocated to a cause, the other days belong to the status quo.  So stop whining.

With that foundation laid, I’m going to offer some advice to my fellow men… and that includes reminding myself.  I’m sure I’m gonna piss off quite a few.

  • Never defend harassment of any kind, no matter what.  Just don’t.
  • Never respond with “not all men”, even if the other party is generalizing.
  • Listen and empathize.  Don’t be tone deaf.
  • Don’t insert yourself into a contentious, gender-oriented discussion without first asking if you are welcome to contribute
  • Think before dropping that joke on the Internet

Like I said, some of this is a reminder to myself.  Recently I’ve been trying to perform a public service on Twitter by sharing posts from frustrated feminists.  After reading this article from Lily Benson however, I realized with horror that I was being part of the problem.  I recommend every man read it too.

Ladies, I apologize, and am taking Lily’s advice to heart.  But feel free to call on me as an ally any time.  I’m tired of certain men making the rest of us look bad, and like Curt Schilling I’m not standing for it.  Guys, be good please.

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