Men need to be stopped.
I feel comfortable saying that at this point in my development as a male feminist, though not long ago I would have likely derailed any such conversation into a tiptoeing “not all men” plea, or even more shameful, some statement on the relativity of struggles in people’s lives. Meh. I’m haunted by the ivory tower proclamations I’ve transmitted from the pinnacles of privilege, from the mouth of my white, cis, educated, tall, smart, typically abled, handsome male self.
I’ve learned a lot between then and now. I’ve confronted painful truths and worked to change deep-rooted, problematic behavior patterns and mental models. I’ve become a better partner, a better communicator, and a better listener. I’ve become more gentle on myself and others. I’ve hacked away at my pride and gotten better at being wrong and having been wrong. I’ve become more giving and thoughtful. Yet, the more I learn about feminism and male issues, the more I get to know myself, the deeper I go–the more I see how far I have yet to go…I’m becoming better at not being there yet.
In starting this blog, my hope is to document my development from a self-described male feminist with a rich ecosystem of problematic behavior patterns and mental models to a genuine ally who helps stop men in his day-to-day life, no longer willing to complicitly “go along with it because it’s easier” nor waiting for others to do the grunt work.
As a means of learning, synthesizing thoughts on the topics, and hopefully starting discussions, I will pick one Man to stop for every post. For this first one, the Man of the hour is me.
Here is a short, non-exhaustive list of troublesome and/or absurd male things I’ve done as a man that even Quite Woke People have tended to consider aware, thoughtful, and feminist:
- Told a partner, upon wanting to break up with me, that she would never find anyone as good as me…statistically unlikely
- Got upset when a partner wanted to develop a culture of explicitly establishing consent every time because I thought it would be awkward and ruin the mood…turns out it’s not up for debate
- Interrupted countless women because subconsciously I didn’t take their opinions very seriously and more likely than not I was more concerned with getting them to like me than with engaging in a genuine conversation…that’s a lonely, delusional way to think, man!
- Led a partner on for too long because we were “very sexually compatible”…the shame of which is not reduced by euphemism
- Brought friends over to a partner’s house and looked something up on the internet while she prepared us all breakfast. Everyone felt uncomfortable about the situation except me…what? Who are you, man?!
- A FWB painted a picture of me and wrote a note on the back expressing that she liked me. I forgot the painting in a hotel right before leaving the city and we haven’t spoken in the years since…who DOES that?
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Some of those sound less like gendered issues and more akin to you just being a sociopath.” I hear you. However*, “sociopathic”, at least in a pop cultural sense, means to be unable to empathize. Behaving in a typically male fashion, as in the stories above, is a little different. It’s not that I lacked the ability to empathize (hence the shame and guilt felt in hindsight from all these stories), but rather that certain aspects of my maleness stem from deep narcissism and self-absorption, which despite popular belief does not imply high self-esteem and self-worth.
*With men, there’s often a “however” after acknowledgement.
Take the first story above, for example. As a logically-minded, generally rational thinker, I could have answered on paper that there were other guys that would have been better for my partner than me and I would have happily advised any of my friends to move on from anyone that thought or spoke like I was speaking to her. Yet, my superiority complex and fear of abandonment were so strong that I was able to delude myself into believing that I was the best my partner could ask for, despite us just not being compatible at that point in our lives and clearly causing each other a lot of pain. I wasn’t being rational. I was caught in my head, stuck in my ego**, and not taking responsibility for my emotions. I was out of control. I needed to be stopped.
**As in the phantom self that I call “me”, rather than a synonym for “arrogance” as commonly used in the West.
Same thing in the second story. My partner brought something up to me that was important to her. She wanted to feel safer and more in control. Regular, reliable checking in was what she needed from me. Sounds fucking reasonable in hindsight. But at the moment, I somehow managed to take it personally. I got defensive and took it as an attack against me, as an accusation of me having been unconsentual previously. The root of the problem was that I was again stuck in my own little world. I was scared. Scared of having been wrong, scared of being insufficient, scared of being unwanted, scared of being unlovable. I couldn’t see that at the time though. I saw that I was upset, saw a correlation between my partner bringing something up and unpleasant emotions arising in my body, and I quickly concluded that her requests were the causation. I needed to be stopped.
I think this phenomenon of self-absorption has been at the root of a lot of my male bullshit (whether in relation to women or other men). It’s clouded my judgment, trapped me in the delusion of believing my emotions to be real and not my responsibility, fed my pride, and lengthened the refractory period between me getting upset and me coming to my senses. It’s left me isolated and unexpressed, and led to me hurting myself and others. It’s no way to live.
Yet, it’s baked in their deep. I’ve been raised to be an Alpha Male: to be the smartest, the most athletic, the most interesting, the most desirable, the most successfull…to be a winner. Frankly, I’ve been great at traditional “winning” throughout my life. I’ve convinced many, many people that I’m great and worthy of admiration and love. However, despite “winning” this favor over and over again, I still generally feel lonely and isolated because I’m immature and underdeveloped when it comes to knowing how to love myself and others. And frankly, I’m tired of that shit. It’s not good enough, and I can do better.
So as of today, I am committing to stopping this man right here. Not to castrate. Not to diminish. To expand. To grow. To take accountability. To be vulnerable. To be an ally. To stand up for those that are asking for my help. To trade the patriarchal temptation of “power” and “respect” for a richer, deeper connection to myself and others. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, and it won’t be painless, but I’ll try to take it day-by-day.