#CallingAllMen: It’s Time To Help Make #YesAllWomen Safer

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Many will claim that the surge of women’s stories coming through the #YesAllWomen movement is overstated. Some men will be proud that they have never personally hurt a woman, thinking that exempts them. It doesn’t matter whether a man actually confronts a woman with violence, the cumulative effect of a culture of prejudice results in oppression even when no outward hostility is present.

A couple months ago I wrote a massively viral post on racism. Lots of folks pointed out that the story I shared didn’t include any actual prejudiced persons confronting me or my son. “The fear of racism does not make racism,” they claimed. I too used to say that women and minorities need to just get on with living as if inequalities weren’t present. That living as if prejudice and racism were gone would allow people to get on with the business of living a life of opportunity.

There is some truth to this sentiment. Living a life of expecting and looking for prejudice does in fact cripple a person from living into a life of equality. In fact, that was the point of my post. But the error here is assuming that women and minorities can just turn a switch that allows them to ignore the very real prejudices, hatred, and even violence that they’ve endured. The #YesAllWomen stories are evidence that even small aggressions or the stories of aggression against their friends is enough to cause very real and crippling systemic fear for all women.

Many white persons that read my post liked to claim that they aren’t racist because they are “color blind.” They claimed that they treated people as if race doesn’t exist, and that is the real solution to racism. Others, including minorities and women, just need to do what they (the privileged) do and ignore racial differences. But these folks have failed to understand the differences between individual prejudice and institutional prejudice.

Institutional sexism and racism create a culture that wreaks havoc even when no actual violence is present. A massive amount of research that is being highlighted by Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In campaign is showing that persons that experience prejudice have less confidence in their abilities and are therefore less likely to even apply for the opportunities that are available to them. In one study, only 49% of girls applied for a science competition while 71% of boys did so, even though the girls did just a tiny fraction worse on tests than the boys did. That’s the effect of institutional prejudice even when individual prejudice may not be present.

That’s the reason that even web-based movements like #YesAllWomen and #MyStealthyFreedom are important to change the culture that supports the ongoing institutional and cultural oppression of women. No. A hashtag will not change the pain and fear of
women that have experienced violence. Only a change of culture will do that. And these movements can spark that change but cannot accomplish it.

There are surely lots of things needed for this change of culture. One of these is for men to begin creating a culture of safety. Each time a man walks on the other side of street or parking lot to give lots of room to her at night begins to reverse those feelings of fear. When a man respectfully accepts her “no” with grace and humility, she gains confidence that her “no” matters.

So this is my call to men to begin those small practices that will create a culture of safety. Confront your friends when they make body comments (to her face or behind her back). Women know to “take care” of their friends when they have had too much to drink. Can men “take care” of their drunk male friends that might make unwanted advances against women while in their drunken stupor?

I don’t know all that men can do to help create a culture of safety. Why don’t you tweet and post your ideas for how good men can help women feel and be safer. Men, what do you do on behalf of women around you? Women, what do you notice from men that genuinely helps you feel and be safer?

Tweet those under the hashtag #CallingAllMen.

This post is a rewrite with attention to sexism of a similar post on racism: You Aren’t Racist But You Make Racism Possible

Related Post: Double Standards, Women, And The Church

Comments

  1. marie says

    As Christians, we shouldn’t be insulting each other to begin with. That said, I’ve noticed that when men want to insult each other, they do so in terms couched in the feminine: you throw (hit) like a girl, man up, only girls cry. That doesn’t even begin to cover the more profane insults some men use (I’m sure you can think of several). Stop using phrases and terms like this, Every time you hear someone else say something like this, call them on it. Because every time comments like these leave someone’s mouth, the underlying message is that the absolute worst way to insult a man is to compare him to a woman.

    • Michael says

      Well honestly as a man comparing me to a woman is a great way to insult me as a man because I’m not a woman.

      • Linda Carter says

        That’s not marie’s point, Michael. The insult is comparing you to a woman because some men think that being a woman is the worst thing that could happen to them.

        • Michelle says

          Michael’s response does illustrate Marie’s point.

          He finds being compared to a woman a great [way to] insult [him].

          It is a shame that the church has colluded with culture to reinforce this reaction to being compared to another human.

          It is a good thing that God does not feel the same way about being compared to a woman (which would make sense, as male and female we are made in the image of God):

          Deuteronomy 32:18 God who gives birth

          “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”

          Isaiah 66:13 God as a comforting mother

          God: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

          Isaiah 49:15 God compared to a nursing mother

          God: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

          Isaiah 42:14 God as a woman in labor

          God: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”

          Psalm 123:2-3 God compared to a woman

          “As the eyes of a servant looks to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to you, YHWH, until you show us your mercy!”

          Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 God as a Mother Hen

          Jesus: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

          Luke 15:8-10 God as woman looking for her lost coin

          Jesus: “Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

          (Above from: http://www.womensordination.org/resources/female-images-of-god-in-the-bible/)

          This is not an exhaustive list.

      • marie says

        Exactly, Linda! Those insults are much more demeaning to women, because the implication is men are more valuable than women, that “masculinity” is the gold standard for excellence. The implication is that anyone possessing a trait considered even remotely “feminine” is inferior, substandard, bad, inadequate, second class, defective, unacceptable, undesirable, unsatisfactory, and just about every other negative adjective one can think possibly think of.

        Other phrases and terms I’m striking from my vocabulary: “That sucks!” “Oh, I/he/she got screwed/shafted,bent over”. The underlying message is that sex is about one person exercising power over another, with the one on the “receiving” end being in a “weaker” position.

        Friendzone is another term I’ve been thinking about lately, and talking to my (almost) teenage children about. For starters, it demeans the value of friendship between men and women by implying that the end goal of all male/female interaction is or should be a romantic/intimate relationship. Secondly, it also implies that a girl/woman who doesn’t reciprocate the feelings of the “nice guy” who patently adores her is too ignorant/dumb/stupid/unappreciative to recognize a “good thing” when it’s right in front of her. When the more likelihood is that they’re just not compatible in that sense.

  2. Linda Carter says

    Start realizing that if there is an unmarried mother, there is an unmarried father. Stop blaming the mother. The father probably had more to do with the situation, though he may not suffer any consequensces.

    Start teaching men and boys that rape is evil. That attacking someone weaker is cowardice. That not accepting “no” is a crime.

    Spend as much time telling boys how to avoid being a rapist as you spend telling girls how to avoid being raped.

    Believe women when they say, I’ve been raped. Believe it when they say, over half of us have been raped. Believe it when they say, don’t blame the victim. Find the criminal. Believe it when they say, rape has destroyed my life.

    Also believe it when they say, you can rape me but you can’t break me. I will fight back.

    And please, for the sake of your female colleagues, quit talking about “women’s issues,” without consulting the experts — the women with whom you are in covenant.

  3. April says

    Hey Jeremiah! I don’t necessarily know what would make me feel safer. However, I can say that I’m a feminist mom raising two white boys. Vince and I have made an intentional choice in changing the way we play with our boys. They are able to play with any toys they would like (minus the violent ones) regardless of their intended gender specification. We also never use the phrases that Marie (above) points out.

    But most importantly, when we are playing, rough-housing, or tickling and one of our boys says “Stop” or “No,” we immediately stop. And if they ask why we stopped, then we tell them that we will respect their right to stay “stop” or “no” (or similar requests) ANY TIME they ask. We are hoping to intentionally instill this value in them as early and as often as possible. It’s just one small, but hopefully rippling piece of raising our white boys to understand their power and privilege.

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