Dear Men: You’re Up

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Dear men,

I came to a coffee shop today to try to get some work done but all around me are clusters of women neglecting their laptops and piles of paper, instead raging and talking about Kavanaugh’s hearing and potential nomination. The conversation is everywhere–like a cloud of angry bees.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today with the vote (though I think we all suspect), but I do know women and survivors of sexual assault need you to step up either way.

Not sure what you can do? Here are some ideas:

1. Engage with the rape apologists in your social media circles and in the circles of the women you know. Do this so we don’t have to. If you yourself are not a survivor, do not peace out or block someone because you are frustrated or upset. Right now is when you push through with unrelenting reason, stamina, and determination.

2. Don’t tag us in those conversations or DM us with your YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE WHAT THIS RAPE APOLOGIST SAID stories. Ask if it’s OK to talk about it before you start unloading, or maybe just let us have a break. I guarantee you this is all we are talking about when you’re not around (and also sometimes when you are, if we think it’s safe) and we are exhausted and completely depleted. This is not a time to ask us to debate about our lived experiences (it never is, actually) or to stay calm in the face of rape apologists. Let us tap out. Let us block. It is time for you to the heavy lifting.

3. Say something. Check in. Even if it’s just something like “This week has been so intense. I’ve been thinking about you.” How many of you have actually done this? From where I’m sitting, it’s zero. It’s women who are (still, always, forever) doing the work (and it is work, even if it’s for our survival) of taking care of each other. Not only are we managing our own trauma, but we instinctively know to check in on each other and support others through their trauma. We have been socialized to do this. Now is the time for you to learn to make emotional support a new and consistent behavior you perform.

4. Remember that words are good and all, but they are not enough. We will always believe what you do over what you say. You might secretly think you respect and care for women but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t examine your behavior and ensure it reflects how you claim to feel. You’ve been hardwired NOT to do this, so you’re going to need to go out of your way here. And while you’re at it, ask your friends what they’re doing (not just saying) to support women this week and what their plan is after that too.

5. When you see misogyny and rape apologists, POINT AND NAME THEM. Part of the problem is how these things become normalized through silence (this is part of a process called exnomination, by the way). Kimberlé Crenshaw taught us that before we can solve a problem, we must see it and name it. We all want to see a lot more pointing and naming.

6. Rape doesn’t happen out of the blue; teach your sons–whether they are 1 or 18–about consent and bodily autonomy. See this article I wrote with tips another time a rapist got away with bullshit at the expense of a woman (of all women) and was patted on the head by an agent of the state.

7. My sons are not hormonally hardwired to rape, dominate, or choke down their emotions and neither are anyone else’s. Show other boys and men in your life what they’re worth and what they can become. Show them your vulnerability. Cry in front of them. Ask them how they’re feeling. Help them see healthy versions of masculinity.

8. Stop cutely attributing rough/aggressive behavior to sex/gender as if the aggression and emotional ham-handedness of boys and men cannot be helped. Stop having such low expectations of boys and men and of yourselves. Stop tolerating those low expectations when they are embraced by others. These are socialized behaviors that will become default programming if you don’t interrupt the process.

9. If they are old enough, talk to your sons about what is happening right now. Be clear that it’s not OK. Historicize/contextualize it for them so they know this is not the first time it’s happened and tell them why. Tell them to talk to their friends about it. Tell them IT IS NOT TRUE what all the old white republican dinosaurs are saying: that rape is not a youthful blunder that we should laugh off. Tell them it’s NOT RIGHT to appoint rapists as heads of states or to give them life appointments to the highest court in the nation.

10. Acknowledge the double standard in we saw during the hearing: That many men can enter a hearing on the national stage, become emotionally unhinged, rant about conspiracies, and evade direct lines of questioning; were a woman to do even a fraction of the same, she would be called hysterical, shrill, unfit for office. This becomes even more important when (if? maybe?) Kavanaugh is appointed anyway.

11. White men, this one goes out to you: Acknowledge race. Don’t forget that Bill Cosby isn’t the only serial rapist who should face justice. Notice and wonder why 17-year-old white boys are just immature kids while 17-year-old Black boys are seen as dangerous grown men. Talk about that with your sons, too.

12. GO TO THERAPY. Be honest about your own misogyny because it’s inside all of you. It’s not your fault you were socialized this way and no one asked you if you wanted to opt in, but it happened anyway. You can change but you have to do the work and you should be doing this for yourself and with the other men in your life. Don’t ask your wives and girlfriends and women pals to midwife you through this or make it easy for you. Look at yourself and look at the men around you. The patriarchy has not served you; the wage bump doesn’t cancel out the damage that’s been done to you. This does not make you the victim right now or the first in line at triage care (same with Kavanaugh); it just means the damage done to you will continue to damage you and others if you do not address it–yes, even if you love women and have good intentions. Deal with your feelings. Learn to experience and name a broad spectrum of emotions (especially the “soft” ones) and for the love of Todd, monitor your anger.

Please do these things right now. Know that this week the women in your life are working really hard. On top of the safety work we are always doing because it is necessary to survive rape culture, we are also holding each other up. We are tapped.

Look, if nothing else and you live with a woman, text her right now to tell her you’re making/buying dinner tonight. Then do the dishes, take out the trash, and offer to put the kids to bed.

It’s the least you can do.


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