Thanks so much for making these remarks. I don’t know if it falls into the category of “micro-aggression” or not, but one thing any man has probably experienced, many if not most of us more than once or even constantly, is being met with reactions from women ranging from skepticism to open, loathing distrust, for our being male. There is even a narrative becoming more commonplace today that goes, in effect: since women have reason enough to distrust all men, it is incumbent on all men to somehow (you tell me?) assuage that mistrust.
That sort of logic is about the same thing as saying, “since everyone knows black men rape white women, black men have to be extra-considerate and reassure white women that they won’t rape them.” I only add in the race component to the analogy to intensify the point, but that point is that bigotry, whatever its underlying rationales, is still bigotry.
As you point out, the majority of men are indeed no threat to any woman and would be horrified to think anyone thought they were. But in everyday life many men still experience everything from a woman acting nervous about getting on an elevator with us, to being treated as if something that may have gone wrong has its roots in some fundamental intent on all men’s part to cheat or violate or discredit women.
Having worked in contracting and home improvement for decades now, I can assure you that this kind of female caution toward men generally is certainly not a constant, but it is certainly a thing any man who has worked in women’s homes will have experienced.
But what is the threat, really? Is a man a threat to a woman only because he is male, as many women choose to regard and approach us? Or are the men who really are threats to women a whole different sort of man, and not any decent man’s burden to answer for?
I know I have just about exhausted my own willingness to further contribute to this narrative about men and manhood, that we have something to apologize for or to mitigate in all women’s behalf. I can tell you from experience, the more a man adopts this apologetic posture within himself, the more he is regarded by women as that much more a probable creep, or is simply not taken seriously and is taken advantage of by those few women who do license themselves to be abusive and dismissive toward all men, when they can get away with it.
Yes, the talk on the bus could accurately be described as of a locker-room quality. But this does not explain away the fact that a great many men don’t care for the whole locker-room mentality precisely because of the kind of behavior some few men license themselves to carry out. Or on the jobsite, either. The kinds of things being discussed on that bus, yes, we hear it, yes, there are men who find it fitting and deserved and funny, and yes, a great many more men find it rude, abusive and unpleasant.
I don’t know how to tell any woman to tell one kind of man apart from another. But I do wish more were willing to try and learn. Men being assholes who disrespect women, is not every man’s fault, nor every man’s basic nature, neither in mixed company nor in a locker room.