I don't know much about women. The ways that their humanity intersects with mine I understand but, like most men, the ways that their humanity is dissimilar from mine are a mystery to me. There is one thing I know about women, though. There is one thing I understand and am certain of and it is an unfortunate thing. Every woman has felt threatened by a man.
I don't think most men understand what that means. I don't think most men realize how huge a thing that thing is. They say but men have felt threatened by women too and sure some of us have ran into women scorned and armed and there are dangerous, violent criminals that are female. Most men, however, have never been scared of a woman. Most men have never felt physically threatened by a woman. All women, yes all women, have felt physically threatened by a man.
The other reaction men have is that not all men are like that and I understand the frustration that response originates from. I remarked to a friend the other day how sick I was of paying for the things that other men have done. I was talking more about the emotional baggage from past relationships that people carry with them into potential new relationships but I could have just as easily been talking about fear and the threat of physical violence. I've had relationships ruined, or never start, because of the evil that other men have done and my inability to understand or help with the lifelong scars caused by it.
Still, simply saying not all men completely misses the point, men. Saying not all men are like that does nothing to help all women that have felt that and does nothing to keep our wives and daughters from feeling that way again. We need to acknowledge the way the world is, accept the roles we've played (even if they've been passive roles) in making the world this way, and begin to figure out what we can do to remake the world. Most men don't see women as objects that they can take by force if necessary, or beat if they aren't being agreeable, but there are things most men can do to get the world closer to the day that all men don't see or treat women that way. If we aren't doing them we are at least somewhat responsible the next time our wives or daughters feel threatened by a man or worse are physically hurt by a man.
That is my first response to the not all men defense. Like I said, I've been there, I understand it, and I feel the frustration. There is another response to that defense, though. Men, if we are honest with each other we must admit that maybe not all men but most men, at one time in our lives or another, have been that man that a woman felt threatened by. Even us nice guys have made a woman feel physically threatened at some point.
About six months after my son was born my ex- wife (who wasn't yet an ex at the time) and I were having what my family would call a discussion. My family usually discusses things at the top of our lungs, however. I won't get into the details but it wasn't just an argument but it was the kind of argument that ends relationships. She had dropped a bombshell on me and I felt betrayal and with betrayal comes anger. My hands clenched and unclenched, seemingly unable to just do nothing, and finally I picked her purse up and threw it against the wall. It made what was to me at the time, I hate to admit, a satisfying boom.
I know a thrown purse isn't much to admit in the grand scheme of things but I still remember the look in her eyes. The woman I was married to was looking at me shocked and scared and trying to decide whether she needed to run or not. As it is for many men, that look was all it took to bring me back to my senses. I decide I needed to leave and I walked out before I could do something stupider or worse.
Masculinity is a confusing thing sometimes. That's a proud moment in my life. I was taught that a man doesn't hit a woman ever or he isn't a man and I was able to walk away before more than a purse was hurt. I was in a situation where many men have become weak and I stayed strong and stayed a man. Still, that's a shameful moment in my life too. Why wasn't I able to walk away before I threw that purse? Why wasn't I able to walk away before I scared her? Why am I proud of having left before I hit her? Why did the thought of hitting her even occur to me?
I know a guy that broke his hand hitting a wall instead of punching a woman who was literally begging him to hit her. I was proud of him but again why did he have to hit the wall? Why couldn't he just walk away? Maybe not all men but most of us have been that guy that scared a woman at least once and I don't want to be too hard on us guys. Throwing a purse instead of throwing her, hitting a wall instead of her, screaming instead of choking, these are all good things to do and you aren't less of a man if you've had to do them. Still, we have to learn not to have to do them and we have to understand that all women have been through them or worse.
So that's the dirty little secret of those of us that say not all men; at one time or another yeah, probably all men. However, if it were just men scaring women sometimes before walking away and leaving them unharmed there probably wouldn't be much discussion of it. Some men don't walk away, though. Some men take pride in scaring women, hurting women, treating women as prizes to be claimed and objects to be used. What should the rest of us men do about those men? We shouldn't tolerate it.
When you see a man in a bar harassing a woman, pushing up against a woman who clearly doesn't want his touch, say something. If you hear your neighbor's wife cry out in pain during an argument call the police at the least. If you hear a friend talking about how he's going to tap that ass or how he did tap that ass don't act impressed instead point out to him that, that is more than an ass. Even if during an online discussion someone calls a woman a bitch or a cunt speak up or remove that person from the discussion if you can. Respect women and demand that the men around you do too. That's what we can do. That's the least we can do.
I was lucky enough to be taught that a man respects women and I'm teaching my son the same thing. I was taught that a man who doesn't isn't a man and I'm teaching my son the same thing. I hope I'm raising a son who will be able to walk away before even throwing the purse but will still be able to step between that guy at the bar and the woman he's harassing. I said masculinity was a confusing thing and it is but not on this topic. We should not do this to women because we are men. We should do our best to see this not happen to women because we are men.
That's our only acceptable response to #YesAllWomen, men. It is to say we understand, we are sorry, and we are going to do our best to change the world so women don't have to feel this way because #WeAreMen.