He Means Well

I’ve had a few interactions with men in the last week which have irked me. These were all good people, “decent human beings,” as I like to say. But I think their male privilege had blinded them to the fact that women experience the world differently than they do. In only one instance did I try to help the other person see things from an alternate point of view…but the inability of that well-intentioned man to put himself in a woman’s shoes became quickly apparent.

I was hesitant to write about this today, because I feel it’s fairly off-topic for this blog, but as my roommate pointed out: this disconnect gets in the way of understanding and love. If putting this out there can help bridge that gap and allow for more love, then perhaps it isn’t so off-topic after all.

The first situation involved a relatively serious conversation about rape. The gentleman I was talking to then uttered this gem:

“I only weigh like 150lbs, there’s no way I could rape someone.”

Yes, he was implying that he was light enough that anyone could shove him off. I’m about 80% sure he wasn’t kidding. He had this sort of “look at me, I’m harmless” argument that he felt made him a safe guy to be around. “Women are safe with me because I’m too weak to overpower them,” he seemed to think.

I just…couldn’t. I didn’t have words in that moment, but I do wish now that I’d said something along the lines of, “Hey, I guess you might not know this, but rape is not just about physical domination. Women, men, trans people, and children have been raped by women, men, trans people and yes, children of much less physical strength. You don’t need to be strong or heavy to rape. I don’t want to imply that you could rape someone, of course. I just hope that the reason you couldn’t rape someone is because you WOULDN’T. Because it’s wrong. It’s terrible. Don’t do it, and don’t imply that if you were stronger or heavier you’d be capable of it.”

Don’t.

So there was that. The second time I found myself in a conversation that made me squirm, I was more ready with my words. I was chatting with a new friend over drinks, and we were comparing experiences meeting new people and navigating the friendship-FWB-relationship lines.

“Women never know what they want, though” he said. “So many times, I take a woman out, we have a great time. We meet up a second time. Things seem to be going somewhere, and then *poof*, she disappears. No more texts. No more calls. Nothing. And no reason given. It’s frustrating.”

As a woman who has been on the other side of that, I tried to offer some possible explanations. It could be many things, of course, but personally, I’ve found myself in that position when I’ve met someone that I’m not attracted to at first, but keep seeing anyway thinking they might grow on me. Once I realize that it’s just not happening, I start to move away. In the past, that sometimes meant ending communication. Today, I like to think I’m better at being honest about why and communicating my reasons, but I was once a “disappearing act.” When I think about why I would do that, it was mostly to avoid confrontation. In my experience, men wanted to know what they did wrong to cause a lack of attraction, and when they found out they’d done nothing wrong and I STILL wasn’t attracted to them, they’d get angry. I have been called childish, stupid, a dumb slut, and other things by men I’ve turned down after meeting. Who wants to hear that? Safer to be silent.

Today, I can recognize insults like that as reflective of a problem with the man, and not with me, but in my younger years…and certainly for many other women like that younger version of myself…it felt safer to just fade into the background. Now I just go on less second dates; if I’m not attracted to you on the first date, then I’m probably not going to be on the second one, so I’ll save us both time.

I did try to get the man sitting across the table from me to understand this, but he…just…couldn’t. He thought it all sounded immature. I don’t think it’s immaturity. I think it has more to do with women being expected to not start conflict, not shake things up, and to please everybody. The moment we know we’re going to make a man who is interested in us unhappy, we feel guilty. All he did was treat you well, and you’re not attracted to him? How dare you!? The common reaction of men to label women who aren’t interested in them as “bitches” certainly doesn’t make being upfront and honest an attractive option.

So there’s that.

My last interaction was one-sided, as it was simply a Facebook post that I didn’t bother commenting on. He had a lot of supportive comments on it, though, which terrifies me a little.

The post mentioned that there would be an advertisement about domestic violence during the Superbowl. The highlights of the post were basically: We’re not ending DV any time soon, if the ad convinces one person to rethink the way they treat their spouse, great, but this is otherwise a waste of time, men are victims too, DV is a psychological problem that a commercial can’t fix, and people lie about DV in divorce cases all the time.

So. Not. The. Point.

I can’t even begin to delve into all of the “no” here. There is already so much literature on domestic violence, and I am much less articulate on the topic than the many people who have put work into making it a more visible issue and encouraging victims to seek help. I didn’t have the energy to reply to him on Facebook, and I don’t have the energy to go into it here, either.

Please, world, take the time to open your eyes and consider other people’s perspectives.

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3 Comments

  1. Shannon,

    When I read your first three sentences I was hooked!!! I knew right away I was about to get mentally & emotionally stimulated like drinking a flaming Dr. Pepper while receiving electro-shock therapy! I already felt sorry for these “men”…these birdbrains. And I love your writing and the way you think too! 😉

    If one wants to connect with others, with humanity fully, walk ten-miles in their shoes. And not just one person. That’s one of the best definitions of empathy, of connecting to others impactfully I’ve heard. And regarding the DV Superbowl ad, if you don’t already know, that is the NFL addressing their horrible blotches of players in the league tarnishing their brand with so many DV cases over this past season. Basically, the NFL is an American employer, company, that up until very recently has a long history of condoning such behavior (against women) by silence and no action. With modern social-media, NFL players can no longer get away with violence off the field.

    Please, world, take the time to open your eyes and consider other people’s perspectives. Ahhh, yes. That familiar foe: the Ego. It only grows bigger, more self-consuming if it is never bound, caged, put on an isolated island, and the key thrown away. *chuckles*

    So Shannon, when you meet men like these again, and you most definitely will, what will your words be? 🙂

    Reply
    • It’s hard to say; I’m a writer. I respond better when I have the time to carefully put my words together and present them on my terms. Now that I’ve written these particular words on these particular topics, these will likely be the words I use when I run into these topics again.

      I need to do more research on DV; it is a phenomenon that bothers me and that has lead to much pain and death in the Virgins Islands I call home, and obviously elsewhere. That might be my new personal project: find the words to talk about it.

      Reply

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