Men, We Win When Women Win. Let’s Do Our Part.

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“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet… But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change.”

- Beyoncé

If You Let Them, Women Will 100% Have Your Back

When I was a teenager, my mom taught me how to cook, respect women and what it means to be strong and independent.

My best friend Janice and my sisters helped me understand how to get through my most recent break up. They’ve also taught me how to stand on my own, as a person and as a creative.

My friend Ashley introduced me to the phenomenal work of Naomi Klein. She’s the author of This Changes Everything, a book that changed my diet, how I viewed the environment, climate change, and capitalism.

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has opened my eyes to the problem of mass incarceration and its vicious effects on people of color in America, especially black men.

Rebecca Solnit opened my eyes through her book Men Explain Things To Me to the problems women face in a world fraught with a commitment to the myth of male exceptionalism.

And don’t get me started on Beyoncé.

These aren’t women who are good ‘for a woman’. They’re amazing, period, and we as men have so much to learn if we just listen. For too many men, traditional masculinity means putting aside the opinions, thoughts and feelings of women. The first step in changing the world is in changing our own minds — and men, some of us have work to do to get there.

The Unattainable and Toxic Myth of Traditional Masculinity

Masculinity has many classifications — traditional, hegemonic, patriarchal and most recently and quite possibly most accurately, toxic. It can be distilled into a few core traits. Traditional, or toxic, masculinity is a set of social norms and expectations — particularly in European and American culture but found all around the world — that includes the pursuit of sexual promiscuity, extreme self-reliance and dominance, particularly over women.

This type of alpha male thinking creates a high propensity for violence in its believers. That’s why there’s a correlation between the chilling attack on a gay club in Orlando that left 50 dead and toxic masculinity in the gunman, “His ex-wife describes a man who was controlling and abusive. Both his ex-wife and his father describe him as homophobic, with his father saying he spun into a rage at the sight of two men kissing.”

You could say this is just one case, or that this doesn’t happen as much as it used to but by the numbers, men are more violent, abusive and invasive than women. 80.4% of those arrested for violent crime are men. 90.5% of murder arrests are men. 98.9% of rape arrests were men. The effects of toxic masculinity are clear but let’s take a closer look.

This Isn’t Just a ‘Rich, Old, Powerful (Usually) White Guy’ Problem

“How do women still go out with guys, when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat! To women! …We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them!”

- Louis CK, Oh My God

Now Harvey Weinstein really tried it but you can’t just attribute this problem to ‘rich and powerful guys being schmucks’ or to ‘guys that came up in the 60s or 70s when “things were different”’. The facts would disagree with these falsehoods. This is still very much a problem that arises in boys becoming men today. Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist who escaped justice is literally a textbook example of the fact that this is a systemic problem affecting men of all ages. To be clear, he’s literally in a textbook as the definition of rape.

The Red Pill subreddit community, or as I’d call them, the alt-right of internet misogyny, is a perfect example. ‘Whatever you do, just don’t be pathetic’, ‘Pussy is a Commodity’ & ‘Girls have nothing to offer but their vagina’ are just a few of the posts you’ll find on this subreddit, posts made by men as young as 21, though browsable and available to boys of all ages. The Red Pill’s definition of feminism? ‘A doctrine built on the pre-supposition of victimhood of women by men as a foundation of female identity.’ It’s ridiculous, wrong and disgusting. And it’s a community that is thriving and real all the same.

Sexual Harassment Has Been a Problem For Thousands of Years

It’s been a problem in every country, in every tribe, on every continent and it’s ingrained in nearly every culture. There are no innocent men, including myself. At best there are apologetic ones. I have been a part of the problem of sexual harassment at one point or another in my life.

I am not standing on the sidelines throwing red cards like a referee at a soccer game. This is a reckoning for my own conscience and sense of right and wrong because it’s difficult to face that we as men are all part of the problem. I have objectified women, rated them on a scale of 0–10 and complimented solely on looks while disregarding merit. I’ve abided unwittingly by ‘the code’. I’ve gotten drunk and grabbed butts and committed other disrespectful actions that were deemed as ‘just a drunk guy being drunk’. But alcohol doesn’t create the problem, it just magnifies it.

It’s important to really take a look at the scope of the problem because it ranges from mansplaining to assault to rape. There’s a movement, rightfully so, against mansplaining, a term coined by Rebecca Solnit that’s made it all the way to the Merriam Webster dictionary. It’s what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does. Speaking while female, as Sheryl Sandberg puts it, shouldn’t be an issue, but it is.

According to Slate, in fiscal 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received nearly 7,000 complaints alleging sexual harassment. State agencies received thousands more. Workplace harassment is especially scary because women are already underrepresented and underpaid in nearly every sector.

But the workplace isn’t the only place this happens. Nearly every single woman you know, on some level, has been sexually assaulted, harassed and objectified. Nearly every single one. Let that sink in.

Women are capable of expressing what they do or don’t want. They aren’t playing hard to get when they say no. They aren’t being bitchy, or rude, or mean. They are simply exercising their human right to object to something they don’t want. They have a right to be heard and respected. That’s a basic human right.

Women Shouldn’t All Have To Be Olympians To Compete

In 2011, Serena Williams developed a pulmonary embolism, a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a large vein preventing the normal exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Lung tissue dies. Circulation is impaired. It is thoroughly life threatening.

Thankfully, she took the necessary steps to heal and continue to play but not before she found herself unable to breathe at times, dealing with something she described as mentally tougher than when her sister died. She was facing her own mortality. And yet, she triumphed. She’s strong, easily one of the strongest people, mentally and physically, walking this earth today.

Often there is a call for women to be stronger, work harder, learn more, lean in, take more nonsense, drink less, be thinner, be both sexier and yet not sexual for fear of being called slutty, healthier and succumb to more glass ceilings because that’s the only way forward.

Toxic masculinity is sometimes treated like a pulmonary embolism, something for women to just overcome. However, this kind of thinking is a form of victim blaming because an army of Serena Williams’s in every societal sector, private or otherwise, wouldn’t actually address the issue of toxic masculinity in culture and women shouldn’t all have to become Olympians just to compete. As men, we have to face ourselves because for us all to coexist as equals, change has to be a collective effort.

I Want To Be Clear. It is Not My Aim to Put Men Down.

My aim is to disavow the belief that traditional masculinity is anything but toxic and encourage all men to take a stand in eradicating it by being allies of the women in our lives and women everywhere. Not only is toxic masculinity problematic, it’s the source of almost all of our societal problems. It’s the cause of rape culture in the military and in general.

It’s why men like Rick Ross claim they can’t work with with women because they wouldn’t be able to help but to sleep with them. As if the woman in question is some inanimate object in their foyer that they can’t help but to violate due to its mere existence.

It’s why Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly are the modern predator pantheon of rape and sexual assault, with histories ranging in the decades, a combined army of accusers numbering in the hundreds, those just being the women who spoke up. These cowards are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And while it doesn’t have to be this way, it actually goes deeper, into the roots of modern society.

We Still Live In A World Where ‘Ladies First’ Is A Chivalrous Falsehood When It Comes To Equality.

A perfect example can be found in Ebba Augustin’s book, Palestinian Women: Identity & Experience. Palestinian women activists felt they have to ‘postpone questions of gender liberation till after liberation’ It’s troubling that gender equality is seen as secondary but makes sense when you begin to see that the building blocks for our governmental and societal institutions — from the traditional family structure to the military — are built on male privilege and traditional masculinity.

In turn these institutions protect the values of traditional masculinity through staunch intolerance — as seen through a resistance to allow people of color and LGBTQ to serve, the incredible difficulty women face in the workplace, the severe dominion of white men in public offices, the list goes on and on.

For far too long, women have been fighting inequality while exceeding expectations and demanding rights while improving society. Women’s rights have often been relegated as a women’s fight but the fact is, all struggles are connected and we all have overlapping identities.

So not only is it the mandate of us men as the currently and undeservedly privileged gender to use our privilege to fight but it’s important to note that as men, we do have a personal stake in this struggle. None of us are free until we’re all free. Women must be at the forefront of this struggle but men must be there with them, supporting the fight.

I Believe the Future is Female

“Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.”

Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

It is possible to believe the Future is Female without it meaning the exclusion of everyone else’s future, just like it’s possible to stand with Black Lives Matter without needing to chant All Lives Matter. Don’t miss the point. I am shouting from the rooftops for women to succeed because they’ve been pigeonholed into baby nurseries, kitchens and by society’s low expectations for far too long. The future of equality I imagine doesn’t find itself instantly manifested with the next woman president anymore than racism in America vanished when Barack Obama took office.

Tell your little girls that they are leaders, that their success is predicated on their value and that value is equal and as important as any man’s.

It is our mandate as men to be advocates for women in a world fraught with misogyny, to be vocal and say that it isn’t ok or right. We have to police ourselves. The only way our society will move forward is by liberation being viewed in its purest sense, not as something relegated to men first — as if trickle down equality could work any better than trickle down economics.

To truly create gender equality we will have to massively overhaul every institution and approach. But first, men, it starts with each of us doing our part to advocate and be a voice for women’s rights because women’s rights are human rights.

Now go get in the trenches with the women in your life and let’s make life better for us all.

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