A Good Guy

This post started me thinking. I often write about the hypocrisy of certain zealots of feminism and the double standard by which they seem to operate (bear with me, this post isn’t going there). Rather, I’m thinking about a different double standard.

Millions of people object to the status quo believing it limits options and prevents equality for women. Other millions object to a cartoonish, one-dimensional perspective of complex, multi-faceted gender-equality issues that will actually require a stunning degree of cooperation and collaboration to solve.

But let’s talk about Society. The cultural water we swim in – in this instance I’m speaking about North American culture here but the principle applies in every culture. There is much about Society that encourages, facilitates, models, teaches, and enforces the stereotypes so many of us object to. That capital ‘s’ is not an accident. There are very few individuals I know who will admit to espousing cultural norms which perpetuate an unjust or oppressive status quo, and yet, here we are, Society somehow making its presence felt in the most significant ways.

1184206946_3-c504284b-b657-46cc-8b77-18ce411104cdTake the column that started this post. Men, apparently, are bumbling (or ignorant) but well-intentioned, and women are mean. Society will evidently excuse men for inexcusable things because they’re ‘well-intentioned’ or ‘basically a good guy,’ but whatever a woman’s intentions might be are irrelevant, because as soon as she says anything vaguely authoritative, or declarative, she’s a bitch. Again, Society must be perpetuating this issue, because it’s happening everywhere – from the school playground where adults devilwearspradathumbare supervising children, to the boardroom.

So. No stats about women and leadership, or the total unfairness of castigating a woman for being authoritative (“Stop using your ‘mom’ voice”), or the irrefutable data that proves that a man and a woman can say exactly the same thing and he’s perceived as “trustworthy and collaborative,” and she is perceived as “shrewish and difficult.” No. Let’s not go there.

How about we talk about ‘Society.’ You know, you and me? The ones who stand idly by and give this crap a free pass? THAT ‘Society.’

“He is basically a good guy,” confirms one of our most pervasive biases. A colleague who made a sexist remark in a meeting? Well, we think, he didn’t mean it. He’s basically a good guy. The young man who insulted his date in front of his friends? He didn’t think she would take it so personally. He’s really a good guy. 

Being derogatory toward women is not the behaviour of a “good guy.” It is a slip of the tongue revealing values mostly kept hidden.  There may be a willingness to practice humility after the fact and apologize, but this does not change the reality that somewhere, deep in that man’s internal framework, women are ‘less than.’ The source of life’s problems. A convenient whipping girl. Not worthy of respect as an individual. Take your pick. But the rot is there …evidently. Maya Angelou famously stated, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The root etymology of the word ‘violence’ means “with words.” Make no mistake, Fellow Humans. Calling your partner a ‘stupid bitch’ is violence.

I have 54 years’ experience with men. I’ve had a father for that long, brothers for 51 years, and a husband for 35 years. They have done nothing over those years except demonstrate over, and over, and over, sometimes in the most trying circumstances, that women are worthy of the same respect they themselves enjoy. Even women trying really hard to disqualify themselves as worthy of respect were still treated with dignity (not that they appreciated it at the time) by the beloved men in my life. It is normal for good men to have an unshakeable conviction that every human being, regardless of gender is worthy of respect.

Here’s my take (and it is mine). ‘Society’ is you and you and you …x 7.5 billion …and me. When we, that is, ‘Society’ speak up and say, “Good men, real good men don’t refer to women in that way, E.V.E.R,” we become part of the solution and agents for change. The point is, when people don’t speak up, they become part of ‘Society’ which maintains, facilitates, perpetuates, and encourages this behaviour as the acceptable norm. Since ‘Society’ is you …and you …and you …and you …and me, when will you stand up… speak up… IN THE MOMENT when these unacceptable and demeaning behaviours happen?

I suspect that cultural norms would change a lot more quickly if ‘Society’ spoke up often, consistently, vociferously, and implacably.

Be a part of the change you want to see. ~Mahatma Ghandi

Kuwait 2014
Me, and my good man. Photo by Chris Loh Photography

More interesting/relevant stuff here, and here, and here.

And here, here, here, and here.

Chronic Health Issues and the “Spoon Theory”

This is probably the best explanation I’ve ever read about what it’s like to struggle with chronic health issues. As someone in this situation myself (diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996), I understand completely. For those who live with, and love, an individual with a chronic illness it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend how much this changes the parameters of life.

Go ahead – take the time to read Christine’s blog post. It’s worth it.

Women and Shaming

I’m a fan of Brené Brown. I’ve seen her TED talks, and read her book. I admit to hunting up bits and bytes of her on YouTube. She has a lot of good stuff to say, and it’s backed by research, data, and statistics. Essentially, her message boils down to the need to be REAL – authentically vulnerable in order to form the relationship connections we crave, first with ourselves, and then with others. Though vulnerability is risky, the rewards are enormous. That’s enough of a spoiler – y’all need to read/follow Brené for yourself.

Today, I read this blog and had to reblog it. (I’ll wait while you read it. The rest of this post won’t make much sense if you don’t)

As a psychologist, this behaviour is something I’ve witnessed professionally, and experienced personally in social environments. Shame is organised around gender. Women are shamed by other women and by society, in various and myriad ways. Women also shame men. In relationship and as a gender.

Apparently, women are just as likely to shame each other as they are to shame the men in their lives. (This is not to say that men don’t shame – they do. What I find interesting is that shaming is a common, even preferred tactic of women). Pop culture seems to support this premise as well – think of nearly any popular TV show/movie. “Friends” came to mind; and “Grey’s Anatomy,” or how about “The Devil Wears Prada,” or “Mean Girls?” Tina Fey’s quote about sluts and whores is certainly germane.

I did a search for an image to include with this post, and feel seriously jaded after wading through hundreds of shaming images – fat shaming, skinny shaming, too-many-children shaming, not-vegan shaming, slut shaming, not-feminist-enough shaming, stay-at-home/working-mother shaming, [you-name-it] shaming. One particular set of images that kept cropping up are of Kim Kardashian (she’s everywhere!) during various stages of her pregnancy. All the major “star” magazines carried unflattering pictures of her with captions that can only be considered to be intentionally shaming and cruel. And guess what? The majority of the writers and editorial staff (often right up to the VERY top) of the these publications are women.

Shame is a toxic emotion, and being shamed is soul-destroying. Why are we, as women, perpetuating this hurtful, unhelpful response to anything we don’t like or disagree with?

More about shame here, here, and here and here and here and here.