#YesAllWomen Can Be Thankful for #AllGoodMen

YesAllWomen-Image

Since writing this post, I’ve had some needed criticism on some elements. You can read my apology regarding those and to those whose experiences I failed to consider here.

Riddle me this.

When a feminist can’t identify with #YesAllWomen, is she still a feminist? 

This question has been bugging me the past few days. I think of myself as a feminist. While I can recognise the social attitudes underlying #YesAllWomen and while I truly mourn for all my sisters and brothers, I can’t say yes all women.

I can’t yes, all women because I am a woman and this is not experience. The implication of many tweets and much of the media coverage is that all women have been subject to an attitude where men feel entitled to use women’s bodies.

And I’m sitting here thinking, maybe we need to change the hashtag… #YesAllWomenExceptMe?

All the men in my life have always treated me with dignity and respect. When I say all, I mean all. My dad, my brother, my family and friends. Men I’ve worked with and prayed with, even random strangers on the street.

As I’ve thought of about this, I’ve been deeply thankful. So many women haven’t been so fortunate. I don’t want to sound like I’m thankful that men haven’t harassed or abused me — that’s a rather backhanded compliment.

I do want to praise them, however, for being good men. The way they treat me isn’t some extraordinary concession, it’s because they are men of character. They love their families and friends. They work hard (too hard often!), have real compassion for others and always try to do the right thing. They know that true strength is gentle, and true gentleness is strong. They get it.

So where does this leave me? Is my experience so bizarre and uncharacteristic that there’s no point even mentioning it?

I don’t think so.

I think my experience of good men is the reason #YesAllWomen is happening.

One of the key dimensions of #YesAllWomen is that we live in a culture where men feel entitled to use women’s bodies for sex. If such a belief were truly endemic, however, we wouldn’t even notice it.

The most firmly entrenched cultural assumptions are barely discernible. We’d think it was normal. Worse, we’d internalise it and believe that men really are entitled to use our bodies.

Sexual assault and the sort of attitude women are protesting isn’t new by any means. Historically, it has existed in every society. The reason that the women of the past didn’t rally together wasn’t because they didn’t have twitter. (Although admittedly, twitter does help.) They just accepted it as completely normal. The sun rises, men treat women however they want, the sun sets and the world keeps on turning.

The women of #YesAllWomen live in a society where such sexual violence isn’t acceptable. We have been raised to know our dignity as human persons and that being female doesn’t make us inferior, impure, irrational or good for nothing else except pleasing men.

All the good men in our lives have confirmed this fact.

That’s why we notice sexism. It’s why we’re outraged. It’s why we’re able to voice our concerns and expect to be heard. It’s because so many good men aren’t sexist that we can see sexism at work. It makes the men who are treating us badly all the more obvious.

None of this, of course, detracts in anyway from the reality that such sexual harassment is rife, often unseen, and completely unacceptable.

None of it.

Rather it is my hope that realising how far we’ve come will only make us more eager to change — and more confident that we can. This is not “boys will be boys”, it is not inevitable and the good men prove it.

An important part of feminism, I believe, is being thankful for the men who do honour and support women. We so often fall into a “war of the sexes” mode that helps no one. We should thank them for listening and for their patience; for understanding that sexism is about more than individual acts — it’s about social structures, assumptions and privileges we aren’t even aware of.

We should thank them for fighting the good fight with us.

They are as much a part of this story anyone else.

#YesAllWomen should be thankful for #AllGoodMen.

+JMJ+

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    Let me know what you think!

  1. DivineLily says

    I must say I totally agree! Yes, women should be more grateful for the good, decent men in their lives. Men helped to further the feminist movement of the ’60’s and are helping today’s women’s movement, just like whites helped with the Civil Rights Movement. We need to recognize this fact.

    • says

      It’s so true but it seems many don’t like acknowledging the fact. The truth is that societal change is always so complex and we *need* each other. Your parallel to the Civil Rights movement is a very helpful one! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

  2. says

    Thank you. Your world sounds a good bit like mine but, unfortunately Jess has a different view, although I get the impression that a good bit of it is friends you have made some bad choices. Anyway that’s the way our articles seem to read to me. I was beginning to think I was in a bubble all by myself though.

  3. says

    Thank you! This is my thoughts exactly! I’m in the same position where I have never felt a victim of sexual harrasment or sexism or anything of the sort. ALL the men in my life have always treated me with respect and courtesy. Glad to know I’m not alone!

    • says

      Thanks for commenting, Amanda! I’m so glad you’ve never experienced that sort of thing. No woman deserves such awful treatment – ever! Which is why it’s so good that many of us can say, no that’s not my life at all! :)

  4. Heather says

    I agree that there are a lot of great men out there – I’m married to one of them! I can also say unequivocally that i know far more good men than bad. However, I have experienced harassment both as grad student and a college instructor living in college towns, and I feel very comfortable claiming that it is rife. In Western Massachusetts, for instance, which is a beautiful place full of otherwise very nice people, men feel they can yell obscene things at women and girls, pick them up on the bus, critique their bodies loudly to their male friends, etc. I myself and several of my female friends of all ages have experienced this first hand. I’ve even been followed by a young man in a truck while walking my dog, only to have him slow down and proposition me even though I was not smiling or even making eye contact with him. One of the comforts my religion brings me is hope in a society in which people, male and female, often have so little respect for one another. I’m grateful so many of you have not had to experience this firsthand; just know that it is out there, that everyone comes from a different experience. and that drawing attention to it isn’t necessarily male-bashing. As the mother of a young daughter, it’s definitely on my mind. I pray that more young men will learn to respect women, and that women will likewise learn to respect themselves a little more. Maybe we need more good men to step in when they see it going on – a partnership rather than something that seems accusatory.

    • says

      Thanks for your excellent comment, Heather! I’m so sorry that you have experienced that. I never meant my post to detract in any way from the reality that such sexual harassment is rife. It is. I would have been better to actually say that – but to me it was a given. I need to remember that people can’t read my mind! I’ve updated the post to hopefully make that clearer. You’re absolutely right that we need to draw attention to it and work together to end that. I guess I was trying to express my experience that change is possible, as a society generally, we have changed and although we have a long way to go, we can also be thankful that we have come as far as we have. To me such thankfulness isn’t an excuse to stop working on it, quite the opposite! It’s an encouragement to keep going! I pray that your young daughter will know a world in which such harassment and fear is unknown. She deserves no less. Thanks again for your thoughtful and wise comment. :)

      • says

        I was waiting for this post to get SOME push back, because I think you may have missed the point of the hashtag.

        First off, I think #YesAllWomen is hyberbole for effective marketing, because #MostlyAllWomenReallyItsQuiteALotWePromise is just not very effective! At any rate, some people are saying it’s #YesAllWomen know women who have been abused – that if not every women experiences objectification by men, then we all know someone who has or worse.

        Second, despite the fact that you say you don’t want to say you’re thanking them for not harassing you, it really does come across that way – which is insulting to them and to us. It makes us sound like gushing brainwashed idiots “Thank you so much for not seeing me as an object to possess! Lets make this hashtag, which is supposed to be about women’s experiences, all about how great men are!” Your tagline is almost entirely saying that, so even if you try to explain it away in your post, you may want to rethink that.

        But I get it- you’re not trying to say that. You’re trying to say that it’s because we live in a better time that we can have a reaction against this. Although this is true, I would question – why do we still have such wide spread sexual harassment, against girls as young as 9, if we are living in such enlightened times? Why are rape victims still asked what they are wearing? Why do so many rape cases not go to trial – why are they the hardest to win? (as an attorney, let me assure you that last part is true in the States)

        And why should I be so grateful that now we’ve evolved so much that now I can be sexually harassed, try to voice my opposition to it, then be harassed for doing so? Because at least I’m not so down trodden that I don’t even know to want better? Cold comfort, indeed.

        Also, didn’t you write a post about being female is still dangerous? I am concerned that you are willing to acknowledge sexism and harassment only when the group perpetuating it is consciously doing so, or only when it’s so egregious as to turn the stomach. Do the thousands of first-hand accounts that this hashtag has collected (and those collected by the #grabbed hashtag, started by #everydaysexism author Laura Bates) – do those count as further proof that being female is dangerous – even in our safe, civilized Western culture? Because the number two killer of black women is still men, at least in America (listed after ‘unintentional injuries,’ which is a suspect category in and of itself).

        I think it’s great that you have never experienced sexual harassment in any form. I hope it always stays that way for you – and for my daughter, by the way. But I don’t see why you never having experienced this means that you can’t stand in solidarity with other women in this awareness campaign, or why it should make the rest of us, who have experienced harassment, grateful that you have good men in your life. This hashtag brought together so many women who always thought their experiences were just singular things they should get used to, but now they’re realizing it’s not okay – and that’s why feminists should get behind this.

  5. says

    This is a great post Laura! It would be great if today’s educational system and media would actually help young women comprehend what is appropriate and what is not with regards to how they should aspire to be treated by men. Holy Mother Church has so much to offer through Scripture based theology. Thanks for posting.

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