One Man's thoughts about YesAllWomen
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
So, I figured I could avoid controversy this time and just be clever with a snarky comment on the current state of affairs, and given the limitations of twitter, I thought this might work well:
My thoughts on #YesAllWomen : Don't be a dick, regardless of whether you have one or not. -natedsaint
But as things often do, the conversation has evolved since then, in a lot of directions all at the same time. Even at the time it was reductive and sarcastic. I genuinely feel the need to talk a little more about this.
I'm not going to comment on the general state of the world here, or pretend that as a sensitive male who writes stories about strong women, I know exactly what the struggle is all about.
The truth is I've always been a man who lives as a man, and I won't pretend otherwise. I'll never truly understand what it's like to be a woman in this world. And that's okay, because that's not what this is about. This is about being mindful of the state of our society and addressing problems with a little bit of perspective. That being said...
Hatred is not the answer
If you are calling for the lynching of people like Elliot Rodger the second they post a diatribe online, you are part of the problem. If you see this whole thing as a man who hated all women for no reason other than he was a part of our patriarchal system, the only solution possible from your point of view is the same exact type of narrow-minded thinking that led to this. And as I already said, I'll never understand what it's truly like to be a woman, so I can't criticize someone who's been through things I haven't. Rather than railing against what I think is a really negative viewpoint, I'm just going to provide some positive advice to the men. Men like me.
Some advice from a strange old man to strange young men
If you're a sensitive guy, buckle up. This society is not going to go easy on a guy who cries when he gets picked on. I know from personal experience how much it hurts to deal with bullies and people who think you're not worth anything. I know how it feels for a girl you hardly know to greet you with "hey, you fat freak!" as she walks down the hall. For those of you who haven't, it really sucks. It makes you feel like the game is rigged against you, and the harder you try to win, the more you lose.
But as I've already said, hatred is not the answer. The world may seem cruel, and mean, and unfair, and you may think it owes you something for your trouble. You're wrong.
The world is made up of individuals just like you. They have the same insecurities you do, even if they silence them by shouting down everyone they see. There are people who will like you for who you are, and even more people who will never like you no matter how much you pretend to be what they want. There are people who pick on you today, but in a few years they'll be too busy with their own lives to even remember it. Don't make them feel too bad about it. Buy them a beer. They might know someone who can get you a job.
When it comes to girls, if you end up in the friend-zone, that's a positive sign you're a good friend. It sucks to watch people you care about complain about the guys who hurt them. Especially when they keep going back to them all the while pleading "WHY CAN'T FIND SOMEONE NICE!" But that's their life. If they keep picking the wrong guy, that's their choice. If you truly like her, then you'll love the fact she's a human being with her own ability to make her own decisions. Here's the best part: you get a choice too: move the hell on. I know it's hard to see it from here, but the heartbreak you feel is going to be such a tiny piece of an awesome life one day that you'll hate yourself for dwelling on it. I know you can't choose who you fall in love with, but you can choose how you treat them. Find someone who hangs on your every word. She's out there, you're just not looking hard enough.
Speaking of choice, let's talk about choosing to fail. If you only want to hit on women who people consider a "7" or higher on a decimal scale, then you're just talking yourself out of any chance to meet someone who might actually teach you something about yourself. If you only want to date girls who like the same sports team or video games or music as you, you're missing out on an opportunity to learn something about someone else, and that means you're basically giving up on life. Like I said before, this world is made up of individuals! That guy who picked on you may turn out one day to love the music you do and you bump into each other at a concert. The "alpha" you see getting all the girls may one day have something really bad happen to him and all his friends abandon him. And you can be the one guy who knows exactly how that feels, and give him a hand. Maybe there's a guy you know who gets all the credit for being artistic and creative and you're jealous of him. But then one day he asks you for help, because it turns out he always thought you were the creative one. If you close your mind to these possibilities, you're choosing to live a life of chronic failure.
Be the man you want to be. Hold true to your ideals. Spend your life in service of those goals. Be strong when it hurts, and above all, remember that pain. Not for the obvious reason that it makes you stronger (which it does) or that it will teach you about yourself and the world around you (which it will). Remember the pain because if you truly understand it, you'd never want to inflict it on anyone else. If you do, you might need some help yourself. There's no shame in asking for help when you need it. There are people who genuinely want to help, and they're easy to find. They've probably already offered: say yes when others have said no to you. If you want to truly be the best you can be, you have to accept that you'll always be a work in progress. True pride in yourself comes from the realization you've humbly accepted your shortcomings and overcome them. But you'll always find more, so don't get cocky kid.
And while we're at it: learn to laugh at yourself. The fact is, the things you think are super important may one day seem stupid to you. The things that you think are stupid may be really important one day. So don't spend all your time getting offended. If you're not laughing, you might be missing a great chance to be in on the joke. And even if you're the butt of the jokes, you rob others of their momentum. Especially if your jokes are funnier, so get some practice.
So here's the thing. Since this tragedy, everyone has popped out of the woodwork with solutions. The pickup artist community say they could have helped this kid's game, avoiding the whole problem. I don't think they read his manifesto. The typical gun control and medical health support arguments pop up. I'm not going to go down the list, I'll just address them all at the same time: Every one of these solutions is coming from a good place from people who want to make things better. I'm not going to judge that. The most misogynist thinking in the world is there's a simple solution to problems like this, and they just need your genius idea to fix them. The first lesson in every Men are From Mars type of book you find is that women don't want you to fix their problem, they just want you to listen. And maybe that's the problem on both sides of this thing. Are we really listening to each other, and not just talking past each other? Have you ever gotten in a good-natured argument over a cup of coffee and really changed your mind at the end? Are you being honest with yourself about your choices, and realizing when you treated people unfairly?
One of my friends said he was afraid it was too late for our generation, and maybe the next one will get it right. I think there's as much hope as despair in that statement. But as long as I have a say in it, I want to help. I want to make the world a better place. I can't fix it, not by myself. But I think if enough of us work together, if enough of us actually listen instead of shouting in rage, we can make this place a little better tomorrow.
It's gonna be hard work, we're gonna have to deal with people we don't like. We're going to have to go out of our way to see things from their perspective. But like everyone is saying right now: they don't owe you anything.