I have recently seen a lot of men ask questions or point things out that imply they don’t know or understand how they came to be blamed for everything that happens to all other groups. White men seem particularly susceptible to asking these questions. The problem really comes from this simple brain rule: What’s obvious to you is obvious to you.
Women know that even though each man is not personally responsible for the problems that these other groups face, we are all still paying for these sins of our fathers. But really, it’s bigger than that. They are paying for the sins of our fathers and our mothers and all the ancestors that came before them too. Take a minute to look back through history and notice that it is a long stream of groups seeking to oppress other groups and those other groups rebelling, and then usually oppressing someone else. White American men were compelled to fight for their freedom against Great Britain way back in the day. Once their own freedom was won, they didn’t turn around and free everyone else and start treating women with equality. That was a path that had to be fought for and won separately. So, what am I getting at? Just because you feel and repel your own oppression, doesn’t mean that you can recognize what others are going through.
Women see their own oppression pretty obviously. We believe in our hearts that men must see it too. After all, it is our own fathers that teach us things like how to be a hard target for rape. For men to not recognize that they have an advantageous step ahead of women in general is a little ludicrous in the eyes of most women. It is obvious to us, and it’s really hard to recognize that it is not equally obvious you. But it isn’t, and we need to do a better job of remembering that. We also need to listen to men when you tell us what is obvious to you too because another part of this problem is that people have a tendency to make things about themselves. It’s been pretty easy to see men do that recently, but that doesn’t excuse women to do the same.
These problems can make it incredibly hard to look at the struggles that men do face. These “sins” against men have included a definition of masculinity that some find debilitating. It includes a reputation and example of violence that has the potential to violate all sectors of society, an image of stoic non-involvement with their own families and so much more. Men criticize each other over the littlest things, just as women do, when they “pull the man card” from each other. They let each other know just what is unmanly and they make excuses for their own prowess in those “unmanly” things when it is turned on them.
The good news is yes, things are changing. Men are allowing their images to change. They are allowing themselves to be seen as more sensitive, vulnerable and desiring of intimacy. These words that have been defined as weaknesses in the past are becoming some of their greater strengths. There is strength in the acceptance of these concepts and they are realizing it. When I was a child, I remember a push for allowing our boys to embrace these things and now it is their turn to to teach these things to their children. We may not have all gotten the perfect example from this set of fathers, but they seemed to want to free us from the collective image their own fathers. I truly believe that things are getting better for men, but the road is not an easy one. The unfortunate thing that I have to tell all the men out there who might listen is this:
Brace yourselves, these changes take a long time to truly make. For example, the first stirrings of the American abolitionists began in 1777 when Vermont abolished slavery but it wasn’t fully illegal in the US to own slaves for another 98 years. Even then, the Civil Rights movement had to happen before black Americans (or African Americans, if you prefer) could begin to feel like equality was possible in this country (of course, this is an assumption, correct me if I am wrong on it). For the new men that we are raising to be able to finish redefining masculinity in America alone, it will likely take at least that long for the new definition to be populated and accepted. It takes that long to change the attitudes of a culture that is still patriarchal and has oppressive tendencies, even if those are already dying concepts.
Personally, I would prefer it if we could attain equality from a compromise than from this continuous tug-of-war.
Join me next week for to see why I want chivalry to die and allow men to come down off those white horses!
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Notes and references:
- The phrase “sins of the fathers” is mentioned about 23 times in the Bible and refer to various accounts of punishment or exemption of children who suffer from the bad example of their fathers specifically. See note 5.
- The “brain rule” comes from the book Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina and is linked above.
- A full history of the back and forth of the rights of women throughout the world can be found in The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (in Part II) and is pinned to on my Pinterest “Books about Women” board for any interested in it.
- Yes, I generalized all women and all men quite a bit in this passage and apologize if any feel misrepresented by these statements. If any offense is given, please address it to me so that I may make amends and not cause further offense in future passages if possible.
- While “sin” is traditionally associated as a religious concept, it has come to be also associated with any great transgression against a principle, such as masculinity might be considered. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sin?s=t
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism is where I got the abolitionist information.