Monday, May 26, 2014

#YesAllWomen: My Take

In what will undoubtedly come off as a thinly-veiled ploy to drive traffic to my blog, I thought I'd weigh in on something that's popping up in my social media feeds today. Given the timing, I should really talk about veterans' issues and the somewhat-lost significance of Memorial Day, but I may not be the best person to voice an opinion on that anyway, since I'm not a veteran. For that matter, I'm not a woman either. Oh well. Let's get on with this anyway.

For anyone who was not aware, the tag #YesAllWomen has gained popularity in response to a disgusting murderous little colostomy bag of a human being who doesn't bear mentioning here. The point of the campaign is to publicly voice support for the notion that women are, in fact, human beings deserving of a modicum of respect, at least insofar as being capable of making their own decisions about which penises will or will not enter their bodies.

I know some people have turned feminism into kind of a dirty word. In fact, I know of a few shrill-voiced, hairy old women possessing of a violent hatred of men (while not possessing soap of any kind) who have helped turn feminism into a dirty word. But let's ignore that for a second, because regardless of what you think of the feminist movement, the basic and relatively unassailable position I'm taking in this post, the same position taken by this social media campaign, that women do not have an obligation to fuck every guy that comes onto them, is not a feminist position. It's the position of polite society, and does not bear questioning.

Let me tell you why this resonates with me so much.

I'm a man, and a young and virile one at that. I love women, get along well with the overwhelming majority of them, and would probably jump at the chance to ruin a perfectly good set of bed sheets with most of them. This context is to make it clear, in terms of basic sex drive, I am in no way different from any other guy my age. I'm not a flag-waving feminist who wants his dick chopped off in the name of killing the patriarchy. I'm very fond of my genitals, and would like very much to share them with the world.

I have a friend who is a girl. We've known each other for a few years now. Maybe a year after we met, I somehow worked up enough nerve to indirectly ask her out. She initially turned me down, explaining that she really didn't want to get involved with anybody in Albany since she spent most of the year in NYC working on her degree, and really didn't need any distractions getting in the way of her academic career. I was disappointed, but understood her apprehension and respected her wishes.

To my great surprise, sometime later she had second thoughts. She gave me a chance, and I took it. We were together for maybe half a year, most of which was long distance. As good as it was when we were together, she told me the strain of trying to keep our relationship working while she was away at school was proving too much for her, and her studies had to come first. I was even more disappointed, but once again, I didn't want to be an inconvenience for her, and had to respect her wishes.

Now, this should be the part where a lot of guys will be able to empathize. Getting turned down is hard enough, but being broken up with can be even harder. What's worse, it's not even that I did anything wrong. I'm a good guy, and I treated her well. We get along famously, whatever that means. I was doing everything right, and she let me down anyway. Sure, she was as gentle and nice about it as humanly possible, but it's still a rejection, and it hurt. I was pretty upset about it, and felt like the whole thing just wasn't fair. And do you know what happened next?

I got over it.

Yes, like any self-respecting adult should be able to, I internalized and channeled my frustration rather than take it out on someone else, especially someone I happen to care a great deal about. When it comes right down to it, my frustration wasn't even about our not going out anymore. I was never looking for anything intensely serious to begin with, and things ended amicably enough that we could still see each other. As I said, we get along famously.

All that was happening was that I was being told I wasn't going to get to have any more sex, and that is what upset me. It's a lot like how a child becomes upset when they're eating cookies and then they're told they can't have anymore because they'll spoil their appetite for dinner. Their response is typically to make an angry face, stamp their feet and bellow "But that's not fair!", betraying little understanding of what the word even means. Being marginally more mature now than I was at age 5, I skipped the denial and swallowed my pride, understanding that even if she was telling me something I didn't want to hear, even at the time when I didn't altogether understand why she was saying it, she had her reasons for telling me she wanted to stop, and as a gentleman I had to respect that decision.

The crazy thing is, for a stunning number of men, that childish upset stage is never passed. Somehow, they've gotten the idea in their heads that they can eat all the cookies they want, because they've been a good little boy and those cookies rightly belong to them, and when somebody else says they can't have any, they proceed to throw a fit. Their tantrums might become less pronounced with age, but their inability to get over the rejection persists. They argue, and they harass, and they stalk, and in some terrible cases, they rape and even kill when they aren't given what they want.

I'm sick of hearing about this.

I remain good friends with the girl I mentioned earlier. She has remarked on more than one occasion about what a rare breed I seem to be, because living alone in NYC, and even travelling alone in Albany, she has had innumerable encounters with guys who just don't get it. She has regaled me with many a story of men hitting on her on the bus or the subway, at a bar, or wherever they feel like.

She'll tell them she's not interested. They'll demand to know why, because that somehow isn't reason enough. She can't just say they're gross to look at (though many are), she's too polite for that. She'll say she needs to focus on her schoolwork. They'll insist she can make time somehow. She'll say she's got a boyfriend. They won't believe her. She'll say she has a girlfriend. They'll joke that she just hasn't had a real man yet. (Let's ignore the ulcer-inducing levels of Class-5 fucking ignorance, egotism, and general idiocy present in that statement for now)

It's not even that they're all raging douche-bags who think if they keep pestering her she'll eventually fold and let them fuck her just to shut them up. A few sounded well-meaning enough, but just refused to take a hint. She has had circular conversations with guys who seemed to have selective deafness when it comes to rejection. They'll ask if she's free Saturday. She'll tell them truthfully she has plans. They'll ask about upcoming weekdays. She'll explain that she's finishing up finals. They'll ask about the following Friday. She'll explain she has to go to commencement that night. They ask about getting together earlier in the day. She explains why she doesn't have time. They ask about Saturday again. She mentally suppresses the urge to beat him more senseless than he already is.

And then there are the ones who lie and say they just want to be friends and hang out. And then there's the Facebook stalking. And the text stalking. And the real-life stalking, because apparently treating a girl like a gazelle on the Serengeti is supposed to make her like you more.

You know what? I've been an awkward teenager who was bad at talking to girls. Hell, I was one well into my early twenties. I may have had my issues, my self-esteem was low enough that I'd never try to ask any girl out. But I'd still happily take that approach over going up to some girl who may or may not have even liked me and making her go through the rigmarole of trying to tell me she didn't want to go out with me in a way that would somehow spare my feelings.

What is it like to be on the other side of rejection?

Here's something crazy: in my college experience, I can think of at least one girl who I wasn't particularly attracted to. She was nice enough and I liked her as a person, but had no desire to go out with her. But when we spent time together, the way she talked to me and the way she looked at me gave me the unmistakable impression that she was interested in me. That impression, which managed to elude me throughout the entire span of high school, was clear as a bell at that moment, and I was dreading the possibility that she might act on the interest I perceived. I guess I'm lucky she never did act on it. Or, you know, it could have been my imagination.

Looking back at it now, this is something guys don't experience often enough. Gentlemen, if you're not interested in a girl, but she asks you out, what do you say? Assuming you don't want to be mean, what can you possibly say not to hurt their feelings? Now, imagine if they are persistent, and they demand a reason why you won't go out with them. Just try to think about how you would feel, wrestling with your desire not to be mean and your desire to make this person accept the fact that you're rejected them.

Are we on the same page yet? Good. Now, imagine that girl hitting on you is somebody you've never met. Now imagine further they keep following you and talking to you long after you've made your feelings clear. Imagine they won't leave you the fuck alone. Imagine you made the mistake of giving them your Facebook or Twitter and they start messaging you over and over and over and over and over. Imagine if they started taking it so personally that they decided they're going to start following you home to confront you in person about why you won't go out with them. Really, she's a nice enough girl, and at least in her mind doesn't look half bad, so why are you being such a prude about it?

But the sad thing is...

I know deep down that my words here are not reaching the desired audience. Guys who actually need to hear this message aren't reading a blog post about #YesAllWomen, and they're definitely not reading random tweets from women bearing that hashtag. Guys who have this mindset get that way because they lack the upbringing that would have taught them to respect women as human beings. They don't have good role models. A lot of them have no father, or an absentee father who feels about as responsible for his progeny as he does for his own sexual urges, better control of which would have prevented a lot of grief for everyone. And hell, some of them don't even have it that bad, they just have a piece of shit dad who taught them that might makes right, and you get what you want by being loud and tough and stubborn. The state of the music industry, the movie industry, and the video gaming industry don't exactly help with that either. I'm not saying Grand Theft Auto games shouldn't be made, but their popularity among pre-teens and younger kids is fucking disturbing.

All that is to say that this rant, like practically all of them, is full of sound and fury signifying nothing. While I like this campaign in philosophy, I don't believe it's going to change any minds. Men who value their desire to get laid over all else and treat women as things to be caught, manipulated, conquered and so on, those men will roll their eyes at all this and have a good patronizing laugh about it with all of their buddies, collectively stroking their wannabe-alpha-male egos as they declare in one voice, "Bitches be crazy."

The good news is:

There is hope for change, and here's how we make it happen. Guys like the one who sparked this campaign exist all over, and they're way too stubborn to be changed by douche-bag shaming. What can be changed is how many of them exist in 20 years time. To any man reading this who is a parent, or may soon become one, pay close attention. This is the part that's really important.

A man has a responsibility to teach his son to respect women.

Above all else, it comes down to you. Yes, a mother and other family members certainly have a role in child development, but when you're raising a son, the position of father tends to hold a unique place in his heart. I don't know if misogyny is born from cultural mores, from entitlement, from carnal predatory alpha-male instinct, from trauma and abandonment, or from not breast feeding long enough as an infant. It doesn't matter. Whatever the reason for the existence of men who see women as less substantial and less deserving of respect than their male urges, it is the responsibility of a parent to make sure they're not making one more of these people.

As for the women, I'll say this: please judge slowly, and give us whatever patience you can muster. Understand that not all guys are a mistake waiting to happen. If you do meet a guy who you think is nice and treats you alright, please give him half a chance with you. If you really have no desire at all to be with him, be honest with him, and if it's not his fault, please do explain why as nicely as you can manage. I know it's exhausting, and you're bound to run out of patience from time to time, but understand that if a halfway decent guy gets enough fake phone numbers and enough heartache from girls, that devastation takes its emotional toll. He needs to respect your wishes if you want to be left alone, but please don't forget he's human and has feelings too.

Alright, it's getting late, and I'm running out of steam. If anybody spots any spelling or grammar weirdness, let me know. Thanks for your kind attention, and I hope you took something meaningful away from this. My sincerest love to all my most loyal readers, and to anyone new who found their way here from elsewhere, yes, I'm generally just as preachy and up my own ass as I sound here. I hope you at least found it amusing.

Peace and love, gentle readers.

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