The absolute best way to support women is to show up and sit down.
Exist in spaces where women are sharing their experiences, and in your silence, in your conscious, deliberate decision to not interrupt or make the conversation sink to your comfort level, you contribute support.
Don’t expect a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum, though. Listen to women, and by listen, I don’t mean wait for your turn to talk. It’s not women’s job to educate you. If they choose to do so, be grateful.
Your willingness to care or accept feminism as an ideology shouldn’t depend on whatever random woman you decide should give a sales pitch. There is no boardroom, no power points, and no membership rewards, because women aren’t trying to proselytize. You either want to learn or you don’t.
“But how am I supposed to learn if…” I already hear you starting.
And the answer is: On your own. If you are genuinely interested in educating yourself, Google works just fine.
See, we have the privilege of treating sexism like a hypothetical situation, but to everyone who isn’t a man, it’s an everyday occurrence.
Demanding that people explain the oppression and pain that they constantly face is mentally taxing, and for you to be in a position to hear their firsthand accounts of discrimination and prejudice, then decide you still don’t believe them? That reeks of entitlement. In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.
But let’s be honest here, a lot of the subject matter isn’t only unappealing, it’s downright revolting. Knowing that women are being harassed, assaulted and killed daily, and by men no less, that makes you want to disassociate or get defensive. It’s only natural, but here’s the rub: If you know a statement doesn’t apply to you, don’t worry about it.
“Not all men,” is shouted by men who desperately want to be seen as nice or different. But what they’re actually saying is, “I’m going to assume my anecdotal evidence and limited world view trumps the shockingly similar stories I’m hearing from women around me.”
When you say “Not all men!” you are missing the point entirely. You’re letting your ego suck up all the oxygen in the conversation, only leaving room for people to feel bad for you, which sounds exactly like the victim complex women often get mislabeled with.
Trying to empathize with the female experience proves too difficult for many of us. So we hide behind well-meaning statements such as, “Well I have a -daughter/mother/nonspecific-woman-who-I’m-not-currently-trying-to-bed in my life so I understand,” which only translates to, “I have interacted with at least one woman without the ultimate goal being sex, so I’m exempt from this.” But the truth is: You shouldn’t need a mother or daughter to understand. Why isn’t a woman’s inherent humanity enough?
As a journalist, I was taught to find the story, gather all the relevant information available and inform the public. This is to see if the story has any angles missing, or anyone important whose narrative is being excluded.
Now I don’t regret to inform you: Men, we’re not as important as we think we are. Sometimes, there aren’t even two sides to a story, and your incessant need to play devil’s advocate is akin to a toddler beating their chest like a gorilla, ensuring that nobody, not even for a second, forgets about you.
You know who the devil’s advocate advocates for, right? The devil. This debating technique is supposed to speak for a perspective not currently present or to provoke intelligent discussion and test an argument’s strength, but our perspective is ubiquitous; we don’t need any more unsolicited opinions.
Furthermore, the devil’s advocate stance is another instance of men not realizing (or caring) that we get to have these discussions for leisure or for this week’s bar room debate, and that’s not adding anything to the intellectual zeitgeist that contrarians seem to care about so deeply.
Another obvious, yet subtly complex, dynamic to consider is that you, a man, will never be a woman. No matter how much time you spend around women or read up on Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, you simply can’t co-opt these experiences as your own. You’ll never truly know.
Now, let’s talk about predatory male feminists. It almost seems counterintuitive, right? These guys are calling themselves feminists, proudly waving the flag, so why does it seem like I’m trying to alienate them?
Well, worse than the cliché construction worker yelling about a woman’s “spectacular behind,” these men learn all the correct terminology and use it to masquerade their abusive behavior as allyship. It’s obvious, and their true intentions aren’t as subtle as they wish.
Now, I said all that to say this: Nice people don’t have to convince you that they are, or frequently point to their accomplishments, and if you can’t act like a decent person without expecting anything in return, then you should entertain the notion that maybe, just maybe, you’re not as nice as you think you are.
Don’t let this tough talk deter you, though. Nobody is asking for perfection from you, my dude.
You are allowed to learn and grow as a human being. You can be a person who has done bad things and strives to do better. And if (when) you slip up, acknowledge it, apologize and learn from it. But do not take advantage of that universal truth, if you fail, make sure to genuinely fail. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Now, as I’m running out of room, some quick reminders before I leave you: The future is female; Black Lives Matter; no means no AND yes means yes; her body her choice; transwomen are women; healthcare is a right; human beings aren’t illegal, and for the love of God, don’t catcall women.