Public Service Alert for Men
By: Iyabo Onipede – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Men! Yo, yes, you…… MEN!!! I am yelling to get your attention. Read this. It will help you out.
Here is a word of advice for you. Right now, women are triggered as heck. You heard me. We, as a collective, are triggered.
As you well know, Professor Christine Blasey Ford has accused the US Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school. Unfortunately, since this has hit the news, even more men have shown solidarity and support of the male right to demean women’s bodies through their own unique brand of ignorant expression. And this is just the tip of the iceberg:
- Rep. Ralph Norman of South Caroline joked that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently accused Abraham Lincoln of groping her. (Seriously? Ageism and basically accusing her of making up a story.)
- The son of Billy Graham, Frank, said, “Well, there wasn’t a crime that was committed.” He also said that it is not fair to hold people accountable for things they did as teenagers. He said that Kavanaugh “respected” the victim by not going through with the act of rape. (17 year olds are in prison for life for crimes they committed and it is NEVER respect to only assault and not rape and yes, assault is a crime.)
- Donald Trump Jr. posted a picture of a childish love letter, drawn in crayon, to belittle the sexual assault allegations as “usual nonsense games” from Democrats. (Really? A woman claimed she was sexually assaulted, and you demean her and treat her as if she were a child?)
Let me help you out here men. Physically, there is nothing worse than rape for a woman. You see, you can get over the physical aspect of it, but the emotional aspect lingers on for years and years. Rape fractures the soul. Furthermore, there is stigma associated with rape. Somehow, a woman is not perceived of as “clean” or “pure” and is considered “less than.” Immediately thoughts come to the minds of most men, “What did she do to deserve it? What was she wearing? Why is she saying this now?”
Men are taught to conquer, dominate, take over – mostly in business – and unfortunately, this spills over into their personal lives for some. This same attitude that “I can take what I want, when I want it” surrounds certain men and often manifests as rape.
Know this: Even if a woman has not been raped, it is her worst nightmare. If she has not been raped, or sexually abused, she knows another woman who has been raped or sexually abused. As a collective, we women are experiencing this event as relived violations that we have all encountered along the way.
Men, my recommendation to you right now is “no arguments.” Do not make much conversation about it. This is not your wheelhouse. This is not a right or wrong issue that somehow you need to address. You do not have access to our lived experiences. Therefore, you do not get to speak about it. Be humble and just shut up. Yup. I said it: Shut up.
Even if you have been raped as a man, it is not the same as a woman’s rape at this time, in this context. Yes, you heard me. Not the same. Different. Not worse. Not better but different. Your issue must be addressed and is important, but this is a different issue.
There is a collective issue going on for us now as women over and above the trigger about rape. We are upset that historically our bodies have only been valued for making babies, for men’s pleasure and for labor. We were once considered property and the flagrant disregard for our collective bodies and our experiences by our leadership in this country is enraging.
There is something beautiful about being human. There is a well deep within that cries out for justice and for balance. Right now, women are wailing, lamenting and crying out for justice. We are responding to the clarion call of life that this is not what we were designed for. Professor Anita Hill was shamed and publicly disgraced in 1991 because she accused Clarence Thomas of sexual assault. If she was believed then, how would the world have been different today?
We are having a collective reaction as we see a woman’s integrity being questioned for no other reason than that she is a woman. We are not seeing much improvement in our treatment as our perspectives are considered “less than.” The system is set up to consider us as inferior because our value has been placed, by men, in our bodies and not our personhood, our intellect, our contributions. We are all triggered because that thing is deep in us that wants to be seen and treated with the respect we deserve since we also, like you, live inside a human body. We just want to simply be heard and believed. That thing is called Justice and we are due ours. Now.
Pay attention and listen. Evaluate your relationship. I am trying to help you out.
You know how there is nothing you can do to make her happy? Sex is not fun anymore? She recoils at your touch sometimes? Maybe she is never physically satisfied with sex? Maybe she has packed on more weight than looks attractive to you? Yeah, all of that. Have you ever considered that maybe she herself was a victim of rape or sexual assault? Yup. Maybe.
So what now, right?
Back up and listen closely. Time for you to learn, brother!
Like I said, Shut up. Then, tread lightly. Switch on the internal “proceed with gentleness” button within. Check in with yourself. What have you been taught about women? How glorified is your sex drive in your relationship? Is it all about you? Are you actually curious about the female mind? Do you see her as more than just a warm body?
Even if you have sexually assaulted women, or raped women, (Wow! You read this far?? I am impressed), you can develop into being a better person. Yes, you may be held accountable for your previous actions but in the meantime, you are capable of developing empathy and skills that will improve your relationships with women. All men, rapists or not, are capable.
I am calling all men into a depth that you can only access when you are in an equal relationship with a woman (Assuming you are heterosexual). How can I tell you all this? I once had a conversation with a man who, when he was a teenager, did really rough things to women. He was with his friends and drunk and well…… I was not there. I cannot say what happened.
The look of pain in his eyes as he recounted his stories told me that he himself was tortured. There was a lot of silence in the conversation. He was married, had daughters and had come to a place seeing the dignity in women. He knew he would spend the rest of his life trying to make peace with his memories. But he was curious. And he wanted to do better. He wanted to know how he could redeem himself. He wanted to make sure that even if he could not change the past, he could be a better husband to his wife and father to his children. And so we talked like I did in this article and I gave him a pass.
I give you the same pass – a very little pass. And here it is: It is not 100% your fault. Your culture shaped you. Other men have given you permission to behave like this and, maybe, nobody has told you what would make you a better man. In this culture, we believe in complete personal responsibility. You are held accountable for your actions, and you alone. However, that is a myth. We are all shaped by the cultures we live in. That is why we women as a collective are reacting to this current iteration of foolishness.
Now that you are aware of all this, you know better and when you know better, you do better.
So here is how you do better. Go home to your partner (aka woman) and do the following:
- Hug her.
- Kiss her.
- Ask her how she is.
- Ask her about her day.
- Ask her if she needs help with anything.
- Tell her about your day.
- Name an emotion you experienced today: Sadness, frustration, happy, etc.
- Share it with her.
- Gingerly, gently and appropriately, ask her about the Kavanaugh denial and use words like:
- How is this affecting you?
- As a man, what don’t I know that you would like me to know?
- I am sorry that we men do this to women.
- I am sure I have screwed up along the way with this particular thing of not treating women like equals, but how do we fix it?
- What can I do better?
- Ask her what it would be like for her to experience a society that treats her as valuable. Ask her what Justice for women would look like in a society.
- Don’t ask her if she has experienced rape or sexual assault. It is none of your business. It is her story and if she wants to tell you, she will.
- If she does share, don’t deny her truthiness of the victimizing event. (Notice I said, “victimizing event?” Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking of her as a victim in any way shape or form. The event is what is has “victim” energy. Not her.)
- This is not the time to address how women are terrible to men. Another day. Another time.. Not today. Ok?
- Talk to your sons.
- Talk to your daughters. Ask them their thoughts about it. Tell them they can always come to you if anyone touches them inappropriately and you will believe them. Ditto for your sons.
- Talk to other men. Tell them it is not ok and you are struggling with this.
Be the change.
Yes, you can do this. Your life depends on it.
More by Iyabo:
Iyabo is a Leadership Development Coach whose work focuses on the soul of the leader. She moves leaders from thriving careers into discovering, crafting and living into their life work. By helping successful people integrate spirituality into their leadership roles, they become more engaged with their work, expand the connection of their work to social justice issues and experience more satisfaction in their life work. Using the power of narrative and reflection, she helps leaders fine tune the sacred “work their souls must have” (Alice Walker).
Iyabo is located in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Goucher College (B.A.), Georgetown University Law School (J.D.) and Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.).
Iyabo’s home on the web is at http://www.coachiyabo.com
Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.