April 13, 2021

“Not All Men”: the Difference between a Man-Child & an Ally.

This piece started as a “Not All Men” rant.

Last Sunday, I was a twitchy mess; the unrelenting energy of the full moon in Libra amplified all my insecurities around relationships. I won’t go into the specifics because I don’t want to try to justify my behavior.

But I was raw with emotion, like a wire stripped of its protective casing, spasmodically sparking and primed to flare out in a shower of self-righteous indignation.

So, when I read Kelly Branyik’s article, “Entitlement, Toxicity & Temper Tantrums—Why I’m Tired of Dating Men,” I lost my cool.

Poor little me was thinking, “I’m doing my goddamn best to figure out how to be an ally, and now I’m being told that all men are nothing but entitled babies”—in perfect temper-tantrum form.

Her story opens with one of those sickening experiences we hear so often: a cruel, hurtful deprivation involving sex coerced upon her by a man. As I read, an all-too-familiar gnarled pit of anger and disgust twisted in my gut—anger that this sh*t still happens so frequently it might as well be all men who do it.

And, like the man-child at the heart of us all, I didn’t properly channel that anger. I skimmed through the rest of the article in a huff and read the last line:

“We want more out of our men, and they are not listening.”

That sent me over the top, and I dropped this pouty little passive-aggressive gem in the comments: “Some of us are listening, but no one is talking to us”—gah…reading my own words makes me cringe.

Kelly responded with a long litany of all the horrible sh*t men do to women (all of it true), and I doubled down, this time with a literal “Not All Men” comment.

When I later lashed out at a friend for no reason, the severity of my tailspin dawned on me. I sent a message to Kelly and apologized for overreacting. We had a good chat about it, and maybe that sparked a new friendship.

But the next morning, I was still feeling slighted by the unfairness of it, so I settled into my writing chair to draft a piece about where that anger needs to be directed.

Luckily, I decided to read Kelly’s article a second, thorough time, and discovered that the rest of the piece is actually pretty balanced and contains interesting insights for men to hold each other accountable.

A guilty, sinking, uh-oh feeling slowly metastasized inside me as the full scale of my childish whining began to sink in.

Then I read James Ezimoha’s piece, “A Man’s Perspective on Feminism & How to Show the Eff Up,” and something clicked. I realized that harping on “Not All Men” is simply selfish and pulls attention and energy away from enacting real change.

Thank you, brother, for showing me how to man the f*ck up.

An understanding began to crystalize in my mind of where I fit into this fight against the patriarchy, of what it means to be an ally.

An ally is strong enough to take it when a woman rages against the countless humiliations and savageries they’ve suffered from our gender.

An ally realizes that even if we’ve never perpetrated any of those obviously barbarous acts ourselves, we’ve lived in and benefited from the systemic suppression of women.

In college, my male friends and I used to make jokes that I now realize are callous, misogynistic symptoms of the foundational subjugation that still haunts our culture, so I’m not entirely free of guilt.

I’ve made women uncomfortable with my inept attempts at displaying interest under these baffling rules of repressed emotion and stifling gender norms, so I can stand a little spittle flying in my face from primal roars of exasperation.

While I’ve never pressured a woman into sex only to ghost her once my lust is sated, my pattern of intense infatuation followed by sudden disinterest has caused just as much pain.

Men, my brothers, none of us is guilt-free.

We’ve all benefited from the system in some way—whether it’s higher pay and easier access to education, or the social acceptance of our temper tantrums, or the simple freedom of walking down a street without leering eyes and unwanted advances.

Maybe we’re not total assholes like that guy in Kelly’s story, but demanding recognition for acting like a decent human only erects another obstacle in the path towards social justice.

It’s our responsibility to act like grown men, to examine the ways our unchecked, self-centered drives have maintained the dominant paradigm.

So now this piece has evolved into an invitation.

Women, our sisters, we will proudly witness your fury.

We want you to feel your anger, immerse yourself in the injustice of it, the wrongness of it.

Scream, scream until your voice is hoarse, scream until your fury is exhausted, and the world trembles in well-deserved shame.

Scream until you collapse into a sobbing heap, emotionally drained and utterly spent.

Then take our hand and, together, let’s burn this motherf*cking patriarchy to the ground.

~

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