Now, I find it extremely difficult to understand how any man, if he stops and thinks for 15 seconds, wouldn’t understand how filming femmes (women) you don’t know while asking personal questions and making advances, wouldn’t be unsettling to anyone. Or, how any man can believe that engaging femme folk you don’t know in a strange manner at an isolated bus stop is going to result in overwhelming enthusiasm and an invitation for life long partnership. Or, that men can’t understand that there’s something dysfunctional about following someone you don’t know at night into their personal living space without invitation. And, before all the subject matter experts start saying that there are any number of ways in which men get mixed signals from women, etc., I’ll respond to that by saying my frame of reference is from being a 6 foot 3, 225 pound, athletically built African man living in the U.S. who, based on what everyone has always told me, projects a clear energy that it wouldn’t be the wisest move to mess with me. My point is my experience is these same men who carry out this bizarre behavior against women, etc., and then have no issues mansplaining it away as mixed signals, are the same men who routinely take those 15 seconds to think through their behavior before they interact with me. They give me all the space I need. They move out of my way on the sidewalk. They move their bodies and their stuff when I approach on public transportation and the only thing they ever say to me is hello and have a nice day in the calmest and most non-confrontational or appropriate way possible, every time.
The problem here is this capitalist system, where money is always more important than people, has programmed everyone to reduce human beings into commodities. Women identified persons are the primary target of this conditioning. Everyone is aware on a conscious level to the degrees to which women’s bodies are reduced to commodities. This reality, coupled with the hyper-masculinity of patriarchal practices in this society, produces men who have no idea how to express their feelings. This produces an arrested development phenomenon as it relates to men’s intellectual and personal maturity. So, most of us don’t learn healthy ways to talk to femme folks because we never learned healthy ways to share the earth with them. And, since every institution within the capitalist system e.g. church, school, work, family, etc., even our so-called social justice organizations, are all designed to reinforce these patriarchal values (just as they are designed to reinforce white supremacist values), everything men do reaffirms to them that they have every right to say, do, and interact with femmes just as they would interact with their dog or cat because like their pets, femmes are here to service them. And, all the values of patriarchy are promoted everywhere to justify this backward thinking e.g. “stop acting like a girl.” Or “Man up.” Or, “grow some balls!” Clearly, the presidential election has revealed to all who are paying attention how much rape culture and the diminishing of femmes is a deeply embedded aspect within this backward culture we live in. Here, you have a man running for president who it appears has engaged in sexual assault and people are labeling this issue a distraction. Saying that to anyone who has survived sexual assault is like telling a starving child that their screams for food are a distraction away from the priority issue which is the irritation their noise is causing. Then, on the other side of the aisle you have the other candidate who has built a career being more patriarchal than the men she’s competed with. Most everyone who operates based on logic knows that neither side provides a healthy model for anyone, anywhere.
I think what we need is a call to action for men identified folks to get in the center of this fight. We should all be ashamed that femme/women identified people have to walk around dealing with such dysfunctional and disrespectful behavior directed at them every day. We need to force men to respect femmes as full human beings who have intellectual, and spiritual elements to go with their physical characteristics. We need to help men learn how to process our feelings in healthy productive ways that don’t rely on false hyper-masculinity. We need to help men learn how to acknowledge our fears, anxieties, and everything else that makes us resort to violence and intimidation because we don’t know how to acknowledge and work through our shortcomings.
One way forward is for us to start doing the work that revolutionary femme organizations are telling us to do. They are telling us that we should be helping to organize to build capacity to confront this on a systemic level. Patriarchy is an appendage of capitalism. Therefore, at some point people need to stop trying to bypass the capitalist system in this issue. We cannot eliminate patriarchal oppression against femmes while attempting to maintain the capitalist system that created and perpetuates that oppression. So, organizing is key. Men should be involved in organizations struggling to challenge capitalism and within those groups, there must be a strong anti-patriarchal organizing component where members are required to study patriarchy. There must also be strong femme voices within all organizing structures. We have to develop support mechanisms for us to hold ourselves accountable and we have to be willing to do the necessary work to confront this issue on a systemic level which includes providing strong support for femme voices in everything we do.
There’s quite a bit of work that must be done. Much of it goes far beyond what’s identified here. I obviously don’t propose to have all of the answers. What I do know is having experienced oppression from white supremacy my entire life, I know how difficult it is to have your movements restricted. Your ability to express yourself stunted. And, to be dehumanized and disrespected on a daily basis. I’m at least smart enough to understand clearly that I will never taste freedom as long as femmes and every and anyone else is oppressed. My hope is that all men who call themselves proponents of peace and justice will be inspired from this article to start putting the pieces in place to support femme voices against patriarchy and capitalism and for us to organize men accordingly.