As a man, I often hear overtly sexist comments made nonchalantly by other men.
I also see women accepting this sexism because of the ostracizing of feminism in our culture.
Feminist by definition means advocating equality for women to that of men, but people do not see that when they see the words “feminism” or “feminist.”
They feel aversion at the mere presence of those words, as though what women are asking for is irrationally radical. They would rather not be reminded of those inequalities and the appalling oppression of women throughout history of which they bear an inescapable responsibility for.
Instead they perpetually defend themselves against it.
They dismiss it with examples of women’s accomplishments today, citing powerful women, citing wealthy women, citing famous women, as though the inequalities perpetuated through and by history that permeate America’s collective consciousness, our frames of reference, identities and aspirations, merely crumble into non-existence due to the accomplishments of a few women.
They treat feminist concerns as frivolities of political correctness that they scoffingly appease.
For their own sake and for America’s sake, men need to face the record of sexism and end this treason against our own sisters, mothers, daughters and wives.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. The White House reports that full-time women’s workers earn on average 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the exact same position. Women remain significantly underrepresented in all forms of government leadership. Based on rankings by the Inter-parliamentary Union by country of the percentage of women represented in national legislatures, the United States was at 98th in the world with 17 percent.
Any progress that women have made toward equality was through the bitter contesting of tyrannical, historic principles that instill power in men over women, and have enabled them to keep it for their own benefits. Men have been paralyzed by this history of sexism and it makes them remain incapable of seeing or changing themselves, thereby changing the world.
That is why they view feminism as incoherent. They are too proud of men’s power, men’s accomplishments and the profits it yields to question themselves or the institutions that reign preference to them.
At the same time, women face the terrible roster of victims to sexism; the rape victim nobody believes, the single mother, the underpaid hardworking woman, the constantly harassed and catcalled woman forced to put up with it because “boys will be boys.”
And women begin operating on the self-destructive belief that they deserve this sort of subjugation and truly believe that it is better to be a man than a woman. That is why many women view feminism as incoherent. And when women fall into this trap, it makes men fall further into the trap of believing they deserve their power over women and their comparative safety.
Men must dare to measure and observe the distance between themselves and women.
Who established this distance? Who is this distance designed to protect and from what?
They must dare to open a dialogue, which must, if honest, become an admission of guilt, a plea for help and healing. Women must also dare to open up the dialogue together, which if it is also honest, becomes a personal confession of grievances.
If we can’t do this, men and women will continue to struggle in these traps; men will continue to lock themselves in a place doomed to repeat their sexist crimes and women, locked in a place doomed to accept them.
Author: Michael Sainato
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Steve Baker/Flickr