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#Yesallmen: UCSB, Misogyny, and Being a Male-Ally

This is a bit of a departure from what I usually write about, but I have some things I feel I need to say.  This post is not about the rampage in Santa Barbara.  Rather, it is about how this tragedy has rekindled conversations about misogynic aspects of American culture, and the “not all men” defensiveness I have seen in response to these conversations.

It is my belief that one if the privileges of being an ally is that I get to hear the stories that non-allies would refuse to hear.

As a straight ally, I have the privilege to hear about the effects of homophobia.

As a white ally, I have the privilege to hear about the effects of racism.

As a male ally, I have the privilege to hear about the effects of misogyny.

As a well-employed professional living in a safe neighborhood, I have the privilege to hear about the toll of living in oppressive poverty and persistent violence.  These are the stories I most often hear from my students.

It is a privilege and a responsibility.  It is my responsibility to sit and listen to these stories.  It is my responsibility to believe these stories to be true, especially because they are outside of my privileged reality and beyond my understanding. 

I have the privilege and responsibility to feel sadness and hurt.  The privilege come from sharing empathy with people I love.  The responsibility comes from the sadness and hurt I feel because too many my fellows have yet to awaken to the harm that WE continue to perpetuate.   And… by WE, I mean ME.  #yesallmen.

When I feel guilt... I have a choice I must make. 

On the one hand, I can choose to retreat into defensiveness.

  • I do not wear a white sheet and burn crosses; therefore, I am not racist.
  • I do not say, “That’s gay” or call people I do not like “faggot;” therefore, I am not homophobic.
  • I do not resort to slurs or violence when a woman refuses my advances; therefore, I am not misogynistic.

On the other hand, when I feel guilt, I can choose to look critically at my own behavior. I get to see where my blind spots still are. I get to see where and how I continue to cause harm and hurt people – even without intention.   I get to see where I continue to use and even flaunt my white-straight-male privilege without doing near enough work for equality, freedom, and respect for all.

Understanding that I still have blind spots, that I still hurt others, is more than a responsibility and privilege.  It is a blessing.

Because that is the only way I'll grow.  That is the only way I will be better today than I was yesterday.

4 Comments

Deidra Gammill commented on June 6, 2014 at 10:12pm:

I do not wear a white sheet

I do not wear a white sheet and burn crosses; therefore, I am not racist.

I do not say, “That’s gay” or call people I do not like “faggot;” therefore, I am not homophobic.

I do not resort to slurs or violence when a woman refuses my advances; therefore, I am not misogynistic.

On the other hand, when I feel guilt, I can choose to look critically at my own behavior. I get to see where my blind spots still are. I get to see where and how I continue to cause harm and hurt people – even without intention. I get to see where I continue to use and even flaunt my white-straight-male privilege without doing near enough work for equality, freedom, and respect for all.

Understanding that I still have blind spots, that I still hurt others, is more than a responsibility and privilege. It is a blessing.

Because that is the only way I'll grow. That is the only way I will be better today than I was yesterday.

Dave,

I've wanted to respond to your blog for over a week, but I wanted to “chew” on what you said first. You wrote a powerful blog, one that moved me deeply. Thank you for sharing.

We live in a culture permeated by a "not my responsibility, not my fault, not my problem" attitude. I'm dismayed each school year when my 9th graders read Elie Wiesel's Night and respond to a "Who's to Blame" handout created by the USHMM. More and more, students assign blame to Hitler and his top officials, but other Nazis - those who guard the camps, who put the gas in the chambers, who arrest Jews - these Nazis were “just doing their jobs.” The man who drives the train to Auschwitz - just doing his job. The neighbors who refuse to hide their Jewish friends - not endangering themselves. Over and over and over my students responses reinforce their belief that as long as you do not directly hurt someone, or if you're own life might be in danger, people do not have a responsibility to their fellow man.

It breaks my heart. Because I know where that mindset leads a community, a nation. Sadly, many of my students are simply echoing the mindset found in their homes and in our culture. Your post reminds me that as teachers, we have a tremendous power (and responsibility) to influence these mindsets; we lead by example, by listening, by challenging the status quo. Most importantly, you remind me that I have a responsibility to constantly check for my own blindspots, my own assumptions.

Dave Orphal Dave Orphal commented on June 7, 2014 at 4:52pm:

If drivers were acting the same way...

Bill Ivey commented on June 7, 2014 at 5:41pm:

Great post

For me, it's about listening and being scrupulously honest with oneself and scrupulously respectful of other people and their feelings. It's also about being willing to engage and not avoid the topic altogether for fear of offending. Things will never get better if we don't bring them out into the open and talk them through.

Furthermore, it's about keeping in the back of our minds that when we decide to fight misogyny, as we unquestionably should, that's not just a matter of men joining women. Ideally, we want all people of all genders involved in this fight. I suspect things will continue to improve ridiculously slowly as long as patriarchy remains firmly rooted in our culture, and I think people of all genders will benefit if and when we can finally dismantle patriarchy completely and find ourselves able to respect and embrace each human being for exactly who they actually are.

And it's about keeping your eyes open every single day for opportunities to do this work.

Dave Orphal Dave Orphal commented on June 9, 2014 at 10:16am:

Being scrupulously honest with oneself

Being scrupulously honest with oneself and scrupulously respectful of other people and their feelings...

Sometimes I feel so blessed to be a recoverying adict and in a 12-Step program.  Not only do I have the wonderful tools to help me deal with my compulsive eating and my addiction to cigarettes, I get to use those tools in every aspect of my life.

For instance, at the end of the day, I get to review my day guided by these questions:

  • Was I resenttful?
  • Was I selfish?
  • Was I dishonest?
  • Was I afraid?
  • Do I owe someone an apology?
  • Have I kept something to myself that should be discussed with another person at once?
  • Was I kind and loving toward all?
  • What could I have done better?
  • Was I thinking about myself most of the time?
  • Or, was I thinking of what I could do for others, or what I could pack into the stream of life?

​What a great way to end each day.  It helps me to keep my house in order and keeps it so that WHEN I make a mess, I can get to cleaning it up right away, before it gets so big that I start getting daunted by it.

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