An ode to men.

‘I don’t think I could ever date a feminist,’ said an unnamed friend as he glanced up over his pint, little knowing he’d become the opening line for a blog post. ‘I couldn’t deal with a girlfriend who believes I’m just an ignorant animal, out to rape women at any opportunity.’

It’s a sadly common opinion that feminists have a low view of men, or even hate men. We often seem to be complaining at men, either as individuals or part of a patriarchal system. There’s quite a lot to say, what with all the discrimination and harassment and oppression, you know. But it’s just not the case that we have a low opinion of them. I, for one, am a very big fan.

Here’s the thing: by calling out a man on his sexist behaviour, feminists have a demonstrably higher view of men than those who excuse them for it.

This is an ode to men.

21st birthday with dad

Such an ode could only be represented by the best man I know.

Men, you – just like women – are incredible, highly evolved creatures. Through the eyes of faith, you’re made in the image of God, as his workmanship and his masterpiece. You’re creative and resourceful. You’re thoughtful and rational. You design and you discover and you dance and you doubt. You make a thousand tiny decisions every day. You have potential beyond anyone’s imagination.

So I refuse to believe that when you see a woman in a short skirt* in the street, you are rendered incapable of walking past without shouting obscenities at her.

(*Or, as it goes, any other item of clothing.)

I refuse to believe that if the woman in your bed changes her mind and says no, you just can’t help but have sex with her anyway.

I refuse to believe that, though you manage polite and civil conversation with all kinds of people as you go about your day, the only way you can possibly interact with that girl you met on Tinder is to send an unsolicited picture of your penis.

I refuse to believe that, despite your own uniquely fascinating take on the world, the only kind of humour you can engage with is sexist banter.

I simply refuse to believe those things are inevitable, that being male means that you have no choice but to walk through life treating women as pieces of meat to be ogled, rated and used. You are very much more than a slave to your sexual desires, your ego, or your reputation. You don’t come pre-programmed to hurt and abuse.

So if you or any other man makes a bad choice, the choice to harass or belittle or discriminate against a woman because of her gender,

if you choose to use the power and privilege you have as a man to your advantage over and against a woman,

if you choose to lazily accept aspects of culture that do those things, and so perpetuate them by participating,

…then feminists will absolutely kick up a fuss. Because we know they are choices you didn’t have to make. We know you could choose differently next time, so we want you and other men to think again.

It’s those who excuse sexist jokes and cat-calling as ‘just laddish banter’ who have a very low view of men. It’s those who ask what the victim was wearing and how much she’d had to drink who think men are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. 

When I was young, around 12 or 13, I had my first significant encounter with a boy and he taught me all I knew about men. He taught me that men are controlling and manipulative, that they treat women as objects to be used for their pleasure, and that my feelings don’t matter to them at all.

I’m a feminist now because I’ve learnt, from so many wonderful men that I’ve known since then, that #notallmen are like that. I’m a feminist because I have an amazing dad who has taught me what it means to be gentle and strong and assertive and sensitive. I’m a feminist because friends and teachers and boyfriends and brothers have treated me with the respect and love that I now know I’m worthy of.

Dear men, I’m a feminist because I know you are much, much more than you’re sometimes told you have to be. Patriarchy hurts all of us. Let’s fight it together.


About Claire

@claireylegs Keen on Jesus. Keen on justice. Ministry assistant in the Great North East. Blogger. Find me in: coffee shop / church / pub / bed.
This entry was posted in Gender, Recent posts, Social justice and politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to An ode to men.

  1. Adrian Jones says:

    Love you darlin x say it all again and louder still 🙂

  2. nickgarrett says:

    I work across London as a nomad sign writer! … I am happy that most blokes on building sites conduct themselves pretty well today. It’s unacceptable to harass and anyone doing it gets a sharp word these days. But that is here in UK… the world is still by and large a million miles from where it needs to be.

    • Claire says:

      Here’s a helpful cartoon on why it might be that street harassment is less visible to you as a man than it is to a woman –

      • nickgarrett says:

        most of that isn’t about street harassment –

        • Claire says:

          Oh – it totally is. It’s just that the cartoon explains the attitudes and assumptions that are at work behind street harassment, such as the assumption that public spaces are actually male spaces, and that some men feel that women are there to be controlled.

          So it uses a number of other examples of these how these attitudes show up in daily life to help you to understand better how they work. I can explain more about why they’re relevant to street harassment if you’d like 🙂

          • nickgarrett says:

            A lot of mother’s teach their sons to be pretty diss toward women so those attitudes are reinforced not only on the surface but also in the intimate lives of young boys – males aren’t born abusers however they have traits that are generally a f pain in the ass such as testosterone and aggression. I just saw a boy of 8 kick the front teeth out of my 6 year old girl with a heavy football… aimed and hit… but guess what it was his mother who stepped in between him apologizing to my daughter. We are all in this and blaming has to look at a deeper cause which is often set up by parents. I mean I HATE it seeing f idiots sitting with their legs slayed on the tube seats. It’s so complex but in generally I see attitudes changing. I remember my mum pushing me down the road in a push chair hearing the wolf whistles… she used to love it! Flirt with the brickies etc… that was 1965… it’s a different world here… but not so in India. I mean over here it’s a walk in the park compared to India – my eldest daughter is heading there to assist in a women’s refuge. Most of the way men see women is shaped by their relationship with their mothers. My mother dominated the shit out of me and I retaliated as a young bloke never allowing a woman power with me. Now I have done my counselling and worked it out after her death. After her death I was free of her control and judgement. So men don’t solely get it out of bar room bravado and shabby newspapers. However it is rammed down our throats in one form via media, music industry, and fashion and then slapped about us by feminists when we are found lacking to that different set of healthy standards. We live in a world that devours junk… kills, exploits and objectifies anything it covets. Fact is it is an ugly wretched place for many – how is it for you?

  3. John Allsup says:

    Actions speak, appearances speak, clothing speaks, it is not just words. Everything you do in the world puts out messages that others may interpret, and being aware of how you influence others is an important part of being civilised. We cannot all have total freedom, so a happy balance must be sought. Wearing overly provocative clothing (whether this takes the form of a T-shirt with obscenities written on it, or clothing that is bound to stimulate the sexual desires of young men) puts out messages that others are expected to ignore, just like shouting obscenities puts out messages that others would wisely ignore. It is not nice to stimulate others against their will, nor is it nice to be stimulated against your will. The ‘people can wear what they like’ attitude is a self-centred one, since it is effectively saying ‘people don’t need to care how they influence other’s feelings’, and with the degree to which sex drives are wired within us, super-sexy clothing (and sexualised imagery) can’t help but stimulate sexual desires. ‘I can say what I like and you should just ignore my taunts’ is a wrong attitude to have, no matter whether ‘say’ takes the form of verbal words, or other cues, be it visual, olfactory or tactile. Everybody needs to be aware of how they influence others, everyone needs to care, everyone needs to consider what they do, and say, and wear, in light of whether it is being kind to others. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is the old biblical instruction, and we would have a better society if people took time to understand what that means and to put it into practice.

  4. nickgarrett says:

    I have to say sometimes on the tube you are surrounded by pretty outrageously scantily clad women with DONT F LOOK AT ME LIKE AN OBJECT pouring off them and yet they are dressed in a sexually explicit way insisting ”why not?” – how about that for power – Womens bulging breasts in yr face in the rush hour – plastering make-up on next to you – that’s an invasion that I have to twist away from and endure. I don’t leave have my balls hanging out and wear a peeled off lycra vest to work because I’m a heterosexual man. You can’t go into certain countries or public spaces dressed like that so who says it acceptable to force women and men me to look away day in day out – it is confrontational sexual power play.

  5. Rachel. says:

    I kind of think the guys here are missing the point. Yes, you might feel sexually attracted to a woman in a short skirt or low cut top. It’s what you do or don’t do with those urges that differentiates you. I feel incredible pity for you if you are so challenged by your hormones that it drives you to shove your hand up the skirt of a passing stranger in a nightclub. I feel shame for you if you have so little control over your own body that you have to assert control using violence rather than accept that someone might not agree with you. I feel sadness if your ‘manhood’ or ‘womanhood’ is so challenged by the sight of a gay couple that you need to belittle or humiliate them. You can think whatever you like in the privacy of your own head but if you want to be considered civilized, you have to exert control over how you react. Most men do this and do it very well. Most men can enjoy the sight of a pretty girl (or guy) without feeling ‘over stimulated’. Let’s face it, us girls have managed to control our urges in the face of muscle vests and builders bums for years without going wild with excitement. Yes, we sometimes wear clothing that shows off our assets. That’s cos we want to look good for our partners or to attract a new one. Guess what guys, the days of arranged marriages are over and I’ve never yet been approached by a guy who’s said ‘hey, you have a great science degree, fancy a date?’. My body is part of my identity and I’m proud of it. That doesn’t mean I deserve to be sexually assaulted. I know my husband would agree. I also know he would have a very low opinion of a guy who felt ‘over stimulated’ by any woman, simply cos she wore a tight top. I work with both men and women who suffer abuse. Generally, they don’t learn their behavior from one parent. They learn it from the relationship between BOTH parents and it’s important to remember that what we saw of our parents relationships was very stilted. There was vast amounts of stuff going on that we were never privy to. We can’t expect to live out our lives based of the illogical experiences of childhood. We can however be expected to learn control, moderation and respect. We can also learn not to feel threatened by another persons confidence or self assurance or simply their comfort inside their own skin! actually, I’m not a fan of feminism but I am a fan of being considered equal, human and unique.

Have your say:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s