Thursday, November 10, 2016

"For the decent straight men who are angered by a Trump presidency, four things you can do to help us all."

Perhaps the single most enjoyable part of 25 years in small business is when former employees proceed into their chosen worlds and excel. 

Earlier today I saw these comments on Shelly Biesel's page at Fb. She worked as a server at Bank Street Brewhouse a few years back, and now is a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Georgia.

Shelly has given me permission to reprint, and her thoughts are below, verbatim. Speaking personally as an aging straight white male, I can do very little to change the world, but quite a lot to change me. Shelly's words are a much needed jolt amid the clamor. 

Get woke, guys. Read and think. There's no better place to start than your own mirror.


For the decent straight men who are angered by a Trump presidency, four things you can do to help us all.

Something that has given me solace in this dark time has been the decent men who have reached out to me and apologized. Apologized for the patriarchal society which has robbed women of this moment, and which has been so glaringly ugly throughout the entirety of this election campaign.

David, Kate's husband who sent our female friend group comforting words about the oppression he’s faced as a minority in America, acknowledging that we deserved this, and encouraging us to keep up the fight. Brian, who called me after Trump made vile brags about assaulting women, acknowledging the aggressive rape culture in which we live, and expressing frustration that misogyny is an everyday reality for women.

Many men who are scared of a Trump presidency and what it means for women have asked me about what we should do next.

Here is my advice for you (albeit hurried and preliminary):

1. Get woke. I promise you one thing, you don’t realize it, but everyday you participate in a patriarchal society, which treats women not only as sexualized objects but also as second-class citizens. The first thing to recognize is that fundamentally, we do not experience the same reality as you do. Women go throughout their days tolerating stares, comments, grabs, and sometimes assault or worse. Beyond that we have fewer opportunities, less pay for the work we do, and political representatives (80% male) making choices about our bodies and our lives. You can start to notice and acknowledge these differences, you can stand up for women in the boardrooms and locker rooms and restaurants and bars. You can educate yourselves about the lived realities of women—who knows even listen to radical women’s music and read feminist authors—and begin to understand the nuanced ways in which you (often unawares) participate in this system. You can choose to not tolerate micro-aggressions in male-to-male conversations, and even to support women’s movements with your time, energy and votes.

2. Take responsibility and be accountable for other white males. The white male vote put Trump into office: like it or not, that is your demographic. It is not okay now to stand back and say, “it’s not my fault, I didn’t do this.” You need to show up and do the work and start having the conversations with males about discourses that perpetuate and normalize rape culture, or confront those who feed on power over women in order to gain power for themselves. Do the difficult work of attempting to understanding how the grief of white males (who currently feel disenfranchised by our neoliberal economic order and disappointed by the broken promises of the American Dream) translates into what Susan Chiva called “toxic paroxysms of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism” (I would add homophobia here).

Your gender is going through a dark time in history, you need to find ways to support fellow white males and combat this tide of grief and frustration in your gender group that ultimately has had (and will have) very violent consequences for women. YOU can lead and set examples for these men.

But first, you need to understand the ways deep-seated misogyny exists in you (and all of us, even women in the form of “internalized misogyny”). Only then can you root it out, only then can you help others root it out. In sum, be accountable and responsible for yourself first; then be accountable and responsible for other males in your demographic who have now elected this sexual aggressor for President.

3. This is important, ultimately, because you are oppressed by patriarchy too. Feminism is NOT about “taking power away from males,” it is about not using gender binaries as tools of domination and control. We ALL need to be liberated from the oppressive constraints of gender identity in this country. Because we will not progress in any fundamental way as long as we gain personal power through the domination and oppression of others.

4. To quote Michaela Angela Davis: it starts with “radical self-care and radical love.” Men are told they do not need self-care and love. These are qualities that patriarchal society has taught men to consider feminine and therefore somehow not relevant. Actually the opposite is true. When you love yourself you pay attention to things that are holding you back. In this country, idealized conceptions of masculinity that are glorified in popular media (just think about all the Marvel movies based on the premise of male saviors protecting us all from the ends of the earth), are out of control and ultimately oppressive. Through self-reflection you can begin to understand the ways that idealized masculinity privileges your gender but ultimately holds you back from liberation. None of us were born with consciousness about the privileged positions we are dealt in this world; by learning about our privilege, and loving ourselves enough to reflect on it with honesty and humility, we can confront and dismantle the deep seated inequalities at the root of this country. To be clear, I am not saying love yourself by not being critical of your behavior, I’m saying that sometimes love requires us to be critical of our internalized biases and take action against them. Only then can we truly love and honor each other as different but ultimately equal sexes. Some of you are already engaged in this work, and for you, I and most women are grateful. Keep up the good fight.

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