Thursday, February 22, 2018

It Has to Stop.

Photo credit: Philippe Put on Flickr

This post was inspired by the NY Times opinion article The Boys are Not All Right by Michael Ian Black.

I often joke about how I'm not "manly." In some ways, this is a defense mechanism developed by many years of being told I was "too sensitive" and at the extreme ends "weak" or a "victim." So truth time. I was a victim of abuse and neglect as well as constant bullying by my male peers. But I wasn't weak because, despite the constant beat down, I survived. I grew and have strived to be a better person. Also, I have oppositional tendencies, so I refuse to be told what to do. ;-)

Yesterday I was texting a friend and they were talking about how it was difficult to find a guy that wasn't a huge asshole. She was all "how come you are different?" That question is complex and I didn't have a ready answer. I know I've made mistakes and acted out. Hurt people who didn't deserve it.

My response was this: Because I never wanted to be that way and was strong enough to get the help I needed. This is a pat answer, but it was the best I could come up with without delving into the complexities of my life and the struggles of my undiagnosed autism. The decisions I made and where made for me. The people I met who changed my life and helped me find a clear way based what we call "toxic masculinity."

She rightfully commented that it's a matter of education. We are taught to be who we are. Taught to be "tough" and that crying is for "sissies" and "pussies." We are taught to hit first because feelings are "weak." As I explained to her, most men can't move past this. In the case of abusers, it is often a cycle that has been repeated until someone breaks it. In most cases, men aren't taught to be better. They are given every excuse to be the way they are without any repercussions. We see this every day as more and more men are being outed as serial abusers and harassers.

Women have been saying these things for years. We, as men, haven't listened. We have continued to march forward, oblivious to the pain and suffering we have left in our wake. It's time we started listening. It's time to teach ourselves and our children how to be better people, and feelings are ok and healthy. That violence solves nothing. That no one is entitled to the control and use another person.

If we want to curb mass shootings, this needs to be part of the solution. If we want to reduce sexual assault, this needs to happen. If we want people to feel safe, this needs to happen. Since 1982 the majority of mass shootings have been committed by men with most being white. The majority of sexual assaults and harassment have been committed by men (for example the Olympic doctor who assaulted and abused over 100 people). The majority of abuse cases have been perpetrated by men. These are all statistics that can easily be obtained.

These are the facts. This needs to end. We need to stop hurting ourselves and others.

UPDATE: A friend rightly pointed out to me that the majority of men don't report sexual assault or harassment as it is seen as a weakness. A man is also less likely to report assault when another man is involved. Therefore, the number is probably significantly higher than what is provided. However, there is still a significant disparity between assaults and harassment of women versus men. This is fed by a culture that views women as weaker and a thing to be owned. One just needs to look at how many men are given light sentences when charged with assault.