By Tom Patton
If you look very closely, women might seem just like people.
In fact, let’s be bold and just come right out and say it: Women are people.
I realize this might not seem like a bold realization to you, but for me, this simple truth was what concluded a long journey.
This journey’s twisting road started from a misogyny saturated culture that dismissed women’s humanity so readily that it was easy to be completely oblivious to it. That road’s path took me back and forth across the line of what might be considered the no-man’s land between well-intentioned but ignorant dude and feminist ally.
I was brought up in a good, loving home by married parents who were products of their time: a mother who mostly stayed home and worked her butt off to cook the meals and a father who mostly worked his butt off to pay the bills. I grew up surrounded by casual sexism at virtually every turn.
Outside of the home patriarchy was even more prevalent. There was one notable teacher who made the boys gather up books and distribute them to the girls. I had friends who thought there was nothing funnier than jokes about rape. I myself, and I cringe to even write these words, thought that I was different than these pigs—above them even— because I was such a nice guy™.
It’s one of the insidious things about all-pervasive sexism; it allows the worst misogynists who brag about treating women like crap to get away with it, while at the same time allowing others who aren’t quite as brazenly awful to think that they’re absolute saints because rather than putting women down with words and actions we put them down with false friendship and bitterness instead.
I can step back and be easy enough on myself to admit that sure, on some level some of my intentions were good, but on another, I had a lot of female friends who I was too chicken to genuinely ask out but would rail against behind their backs because they weren’t just falling onto my dick out of deference for my kindness.
One of the first cracks in my misogynistic armor emerged reading the book, “Can’t Buy My Love.”
While the focus of that wonderful read was on advertising and its harmful effects on women in terms of body-shaming comparisons, it also highlighted the use of sexually violent imagery to move goods and the media’s constant portrayal of men as being the only action-oriented individuals. The author (Jean Kilbourne) also talks about all the things women do on a daily basis to ensure their own safety: Keys held like weapons, avoiding being alone at all costs, pretending to be on the phone with friends to create the impression of a witness.
It was one of those moments that breaks your life into a “before” and “after”.
I remember putting the book down for a while, going for a short walk, and just thinking of all the ways my days would have had to change if I felt the same ever-present threat.
This was the first moment I realized that women really were second-class citizens, and that as wonderful and laudable I might find it to offer my burly male protection (ha!) at every opportunity – such offers do absolutely nothing to combat the overall environment which is hostile towards women.
On this walk I flashed through so many little incidents.
The girl I offered to escort home from Freshman orientation; at the time her rejection had hurt, and while it certainly might have been based on a lack of attraction to me, I realized then that it was just as likely she had no reason to trust me, that I was someone to fear like any other unknown man.
The time I turned a corner in the wee hours of the morning and an older woman crossed the street just so I wasn’t walking behind her anymore, I realized then that it wasn’t something to be offended by, I legitimately might be a theat.
My friend from middle-school who I so admired for shouting down boys that heckled her for her chest; I realized then that she must have known I was just as infatuated, just slightly less rude.
I finished that book (and you should too) and that lead me to others, The Purity Myth, Yes Means yes and We Should All Be Feminists, to name a few. Those books lead to feminist blogs, and ultimately to an acceptance of the feminist label, which I do my best to wear daily and to wear right.
However, nothing cemented my stance like the rise of the Men’s Right’s Movement.
These were, in short, idiots, who drew a very strange line in the sand to defend against a message they found frightening: Women are people. Women are equal.
For the most part, I can’t help but laugh at screeds about how what truly defines masculinity is the ability to pee standing up or how women must be treated like cunning opponents in a game to win sex. These men are laughable, pathetic, and above all wrong in just about everything they have to say.
The Men’s Right’s activists have a much scarier side too: the side that attacks any woman who speaks out or speaks up.
The side that fills countless websites with threats of rape and murder and leaks addresses or phone numbers to an anonymous community of cowards.
This is the same dichotomy that splits the “Sad Puppies” from the “Rabid Puppies”. The former being a group of miserable but largely impotent men who write screeds lamenting how science-fiction is no longer strictly relegated to white male characters, the latter their counterparts who made threats of violence should white male authors not sweep the Nebula Awards this year. One head of this Cerberus wanna-be is whiney and weak and laughable, the other brutish and frightening. While the latter is no less deserving of the fun I might make, these threats should not and cannot be taken lightly.
The incredible irony for the Men’s Right’s “movement” is their complaints would be addressed and solved by embracing feminism.
While the idiots whine on about how poor men have to go to war, and poor men have to work the high-paying jobs, and poor men have to fight the burglars, they completely miss the fact that the feminist movement is pushing for less war (or wars fought equally along gender lines,) trying to get women into the high-paying jobs they’d have long sewn up if not for their oppositional sex organs, and above all, that men and women leave through windows holding hands together while neither of them fight anybody over a bunch of empty possessions.
In essence, my own feminism was not so clearly defined until pick-up artists and red-pill morons gave me something to so clearly to contrast my views against. These are bullies who deserve to be bullied back. Some are cowards who need to be made to face their irrational fears, (that women are somehow “taking over”, that all the things they love will vanish, above all that none of them will ever get laid.) The worst are their leaders, lauded pick-up artists like Neil Strauss or celebrity Misogynists like Adam Baldwin who use their platforms to spread dishonesty about how the world works or should work, these are liars who need to choke on truth.
I shudder to think that if I had only slightly different experiences or guides growing up that I could have been one of these individuals.
I say ‘individuals’ instead of ‘people’, because unlike women and sane men, to me, they are monsters undeserving of the term. At least not until they choose to grow up.
But they can grow up. I did; even though I was born into the same culture and raised—like a fish unaware of water— in the same sea of sexism. All they have to do is open their minds and hearts, read and discover that feminism isn’t about marginalizing men, and above all learn a fact that shouldn’t be as controversial as it seems: Women are people.