The Infuriating Calculus Behind Deciding to Not Confront a White Cis Men

we make the choices all the time to not tell white cis men about their impacts on us. look where it took us…

many people are rightfully angry with me.

many people are rightfully angry with white cis men.

many people are rightfully angry with society.

so many us never get past blaming the individual. some of us are aware of the source of each of these three angers within us.

sadly, so many of us hold onto binary mindsets. we don’t want to know or don’t wish to acknowledge that different yet equally valid and experience-based narratives can actually exist and are true — all at the same time. as a society we may ignore the latter two narratives above and blame the individual white cis male for all the harm he’s done and punish him further, beyond the real number that society has already done to him over a lifetime.

disposability is not justice because punishment is not justice. punishment is hypocritical retribution that perpetuates cycles of harm and absolves the society of their complicities and reduces complexities of a conflict to a virtuous side and a dark side. we may wish it was that simple sometimes, but do we really want a world like that? like what we have now? has capitalism made us all too busy for each other’s complexities? do we really have to make decisions without curiously seeking out to know them and who they fully are before we dispose of them?

and there is such beauty & truth in and in our complexities. its so sad that society doesn’t give a lot of men permission, space, or the emotional intelligence to express the extensive beauty contained within our complexities.

our society tells us we are justified in punishing people when that decision is made through societal consensus. right now #MeToo gives our society the ability to come to consensus and have the conversation about toxic men and the harm they do. the movement’s founder is calling for the conversations to be more focused on the victims and less on the punishment of the accused. the problem is that as a society the only way we solve problems is to either avoid people or dispose of people, even though there are many other tools that exist on a spectrum between avoidance and disposal.

seeing Harvey Weinstein punished should not make us (the society that created him and enabled him) feel any better about the ongoing daily conflicts each of us still experience with problematic men. does it bring us any resolution with the white cis males who harmed us in the past? it may make us feel empowered, thats for sure.

unfortunately, at the end of the day, we are still ill-equipped to confront the white cis men in our daily lives and the white cis men in our lives are ill-equipped to be confronted.

no one can get better at something without someone telling them there’s a problem.

no one can repair anything without someone telling them there’s a problem.

the problem is society. yes, and,

the problem is white cis males, yes, and,

the problem is us, and,

the problem is me.

the problem is each privileged part of my identity being viewed as a warning sign, telling others to avoid bringing up anything that may cause even minimal conflict with me.

and over time we have learned so little about our privileged identities and yet so much about how to benefit from our privileged identities — and now we are causing a bunch of harm — sometimes without even knowing it.

yes we are all part of the problem. all of us are also victims of systematic oppression that puts us in roles and narratives we did not consent to. white cis men act like they are in charge and in control, but they are not. we are suffering silently and internally because all the feelings that we should have had lots of practice expressing when we were younger, instead we were forced by our peers and a community full of bullies — many who were white cis and male — to supress any expresion of feelings and emotions — something that would have been helpful for signaling a need for support. asking for help is not something taught well to anyone in society, but especially white cis men.

common narratives about white cis males, like me, include that we are a threat, or we have a temper, or we are defensive and closed off. statistically one would be justified in a general fear of even calling one into a conversation. theres no doubt its a huge risk.

white cis males like me, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, have made that task an anxiety-producing and daunting endeavor which people understandably wish avoid.

in fact, right now as a white cis male, I am currently avoiding a confrontation with a friend who is a white cis male.

we all have a white cis male in our lives who we wish to have a frank conversation with, but we don’t because it’s a potentially difficult or even a dangerous task. if you happen to not have any white cis men in your life, congrats you’re probably better off. not because all white cis men are bad, but because a supermajority have been conditioned and given permission by society to behave in ways that others in society can not. ways that shut down any conversation about their flaws and mistakes while they discredit any claim of harm to which they are responsible. sounds like a formula for loneliness and disconnectedness that no one would actually wish for themselves.

if enough of us in society wish to avoid that anxiety, we have a pretty messed-up default that we gravitate towards. as we all do, we will write a narrative to make us feel better. we will write a narrative that’s steeped in our animosity and anxiety and a narrative that does not have time for the complexities. we will write a narrative that allows us to throw harmdoers away. it’s by far the most comfortable and easiest way for us to deal with them, but it’s not the way to justice. that way just means we don’t have to feel that discomfort, anxiety, powerlessness, or regret that comes with presence of tension and animosity of feeling silenced or feeling threatened by a white cis man.

so, we are angry with our society that gives people who are white and cismale the ability to respond unaccountably, with fragility and hostility to even the slightest challenge or confrontation. sometimes their responses come with threats of violence. some responses are just plain violent.

there are a lot of people angry at the powerlessness and fear they feel when considering the daunting choice of confronting white folks and cis males. i know i am one of the white cis males who are feared (and it makes me sick). i am also a person who feels fear and powerlessness at the hands of other white people and other cis men.

it makes sense that white cis men are angry too. of course it doesn’t makes sense for them to not try do better and not be curious for ways to prevent future harm.

we are rightfully angry to see white cis males walking through life never changing and never being receptive to what would be really helpful feedback & criticism. if we can get white cis men receptive to these tough conversations we could mitigate our toxic behaviors and break these harm cycles and build communities that are willing to hold all complexities (including their own complicities) and suspend indefinitely judgement and blame.

very few people or communities have found healthy ways to navigate the powerlessness one feels when contemplating the possibly astronomical level of emotional labor and time it may take to hold a white cis male accountable, or even to simply give him feedback.

so, yes! please be angry at society for making it a really good bet that if you confront a white cis male he will not be receptive at the very best — at worst, he will punish you for speaking up. be angry with that reality, but then let’s pay attention to all the complicity enabling this cycle of harm continue.

this non-confrontational dynamic has played out in our society too much. not only on a level of interpersonal conflict, but implications to the power structures that allow a fascist & authoritarian leadership style to rise to the highest level in government. we all know trump would not be president or a billionaire if he wasn’t a white cis male.

as a white cismale, i am frustrated. the lack of feedback makes it harder for me to grow into a less toxic version of myself. it makes it harder for me to prevent repeating those harms in the future.

there are even times when i have found myself holding back in my interactions with other white cis men. i often will pause after a white cis male friend says something problematic only to find myself contemplating the sheer futility in the calculus of addressing the conflict. yes, wow. toxic masculinity prevents even other white cis men from talking with one of their own about their problematic behaviors. i can only imagine the hopeless calculus that anyone of a less privileged identity goes through before deciding it’s probably not worth it. and imagine all those hopeless white cis men, repeating harms because no one wanted to be their punching bag.

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so this is what im doing about it:

confrontation and conflict is kind of been my thing. it seems to be around me a lot. so, i’m openly offering support to any friend in conflict with a white cis man in their life.

to be clear: I am offering my labor to help anyone who feels alone in considering the ridiculous amount of emotional labor it would take to say something to a white cis male who is doing/has done harm. if you have been harmed by a white cis male, i wish to help you with that daunting labor.

im also offering my labor to white cis men who have harmed and wish to figure out what they did and how they really feel without imposing labor on those they’ve harmed. society gives white cis men few spaces, outlets, or permission to sort through toxic behaviors without doing more harm. if you are a white cis male, i wish to help you with that daunting labor, too.

for white cis men out there, #MeToo can be our call to action to work with our fellow white cis men on not being hostile or indignant to any challenge to our male ego or our apearence of purity and perfection. there are a lot of people in our lives who are afraid to tell us how bad we really stink — figuratively, but also literally.

imagine how life changing and relationship-deepening it might be if they knew we could constructively listen to them, even when it’s something we won’t want to hear. it would be a good start.

yet we still must do the humbling work of facing the past harm we’ve done. this is work that has challenged me more than i ever could have imagined and demands so much from you, but it is soooo rewarding.

as white cis men, we are in the most advantageous position to break this vicious cycle. we can improve that decision calculus for a lot of people in our lives. we can also help fellow white cis men in our lives to see when their responses to being confronted can push even those closest to them farther away. so, whats stopping us beside ourselves? what are we scared of?

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on a more personal, but relevant note:

feel free to send me a message if there’s something that i personally did that harmed you.

i’m not interested in doing more harm in this life. im interested only in repairing it.

if your calculus still has left you hesitant, you can always send me an anonymous message here:

❤️✊

brendan