Male fragility and recognizing the 7 stages of their denial
I am still recovering from a particularly bad incident of street harassment that occurred outside my apartment a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough, it happened only two days after I posted my story entitled I will no longer be a witness to my own sexual harassment: an invitation to women, emboldening myself and other womxn to reclaim our abuse by posting our perpetrators.
I recorded the whole incident on my phone and posted the >10 minute video on Facebook. It has since reached over 4,500 people and had over 2000 views.
It all comes down to toxic masculinity
It seems obvious, but this deserves to be stated in black and white: men who abuse womxn from their cars or on the street don’t expect us to talk back; they don’t think it is our ‘right’ to stand up for ourselves. When we do so, we become an even bigger target for violence, ridicule and aggression. You can see the moment when the man in the video just flies off the handle when face to face, eye to eye with me. A 120 pound, 5ft 6" womxn who chooses to reclaim my self-determining power.
We see the destructive nature of male fragility, rooted in the celebration and acceptance of toxic masculinity and the many profoundly damaging ways we raise our boys into ‘men.’
We deny little boys the pleasure of exploring forms of expression that might suggest a hint of anything other than hyper-masculinity. We are so fearful that they will ‘catch the femininity’ or, god forbid, ‘catch the gay.’ But in fact, we are ensuring that in teenage and adulthood they grow to hold little to no empathy for the queer, trans, feminine-identifying and womxn folk (and even themselves) whose personality traits and identities that they have been taught to deeply despise.
But we gotta laugh, right?
To be honest though, beyond being extremely problematic for all involved, we also must see male fragility for what it is; just plain hilarious.
When womxn won’t lay down on the street and let men fuck us right then and there, or let them grab our asses without getting cut, maced or tasered, their brains explode into confetti. It is that hard for them to come to terms with womxn who reject them. In my head I hear a Siri-esque computer voice saying: brain can not compute, I repeat, can not compute.
At least when we look back on all the abuse and harassment that we as womxn encounter on a daily basis, we have something that we can laugh about and bond over. I stopped crying about man-babies a long, long time ago. They don’t deserve my or any other womxn’s tears. Let’s save them tears for shit that actually matters to us. Shit that we can change through our direct actions and interactions.
Following a call out, here are the 7 stages of male denial:
Stage 1: denying any and all wrongdoing by putting the blame on womxn for ‘over-reacting,’ ‘misunderstanding,’ and ‘making a big deal out of nothing.’
Stage 2: verbal abuse, including yelling and using racial slurs. If it’s a confrontation in a more ‘professional’ environment such as work or school, as opposed to a street confrontation, he will probably question her ‘ability’ to get the job done. His role as the patriarch will always give him the perceived license to question why you, a womxn, is existing in a space that only men are entitled to. How dare you not only exist here, but also dare to question my status quo-perpetuating beliefs???
Stage 3: physical aggression, encompassing actual physical violence and the threat of physical violence. Sometimes men may not hit womxn at this stage, but they will use the subtle threats of physical violence as a tool of oppression. For example, a well-timed hand on the arm to show what could happen next, or an unwelcome confrontation while a womxn is away from her group of friends. The goal is to send a clear message that men have the right and the privilege to infiltrate womxn’s personal space and psyche at will.
Stage 4: complimenting womxn’s physical appearance. This is really a mind fuck for me and other womxn who have reported this behaviour — that when we call men out, they will start complimenting us. “You have a pretty smile”; “You look lovely today”; “I like your outfit” etc. Do they really think that we enjoy being objectified by our perpetrators? That if we know that they like our hair, the abuse is somehow forgotten? Give us a fucking break and stop treating us like morons.
Stage 5: guilt and remorse. At this point, men may realize that they screwed up big time and may begin to grovel for our forgiveness but are not sure how, which leads them to the next stage…
Stage 6: fake/token apologizing, but not for the violence, abuse, or aggression, more as an attempt to manipulate us into not holding them accountable for their actions via the already limited pathways that we have available to us; ie. calling the cops and hoping they show up for us this time.
Stage 7: pulling out the gender equality card as a means to pacify us. Ie. ‘you do want gender equality, don’t you?’ which is code for: you’re standing up for yourself, thus you must be a feminist, thus you believe in equality of men and womxn, thus you should let me do whatever the fuck I want to you, thus you should shut up and take it without questioning me because that would make us equal. I will never accept any version of society deemed to be ‘gender equal’ by men, and neither should you.
Now armed with this ‘framework’ to contemplate my and my girlfriends’ various encounters with men, it is interesting to see how universally it can be applied to our experiences. And I think understanding the limited pathway that a man’s mind will travel will only benefit us, as we will know what comes next and will be able to react accordingly. Let me know your thoughts, especially feminine-identifying folks and womxn.
Be safe out there.