In the wake of the Elliot Rodgers tragedy and ensuing #yesallwomen movement I have found myself contemplating the way we perceive ourselves and those of the opposite gender. I have read articles, pondered the roles we all play in gender relations, and even made my own comments. I have read things that have made me sigh in exasperation, laugh in absurdity, and I am not afraid to say cry in heartbreak. There have been voices of enlightenment and reason to help me in my own journey of growth, and voices of terrifying ignorance to strengthen my resolve.
What I see mostly though is the urge to take the easy way out. It is not surprising that all of us give in to this temptation from time to time, but if we wish to give rise to progress we must look beyond the easy path.
Some women write articles, share blogs, and seemingly promote an over generalized view of all men as predatory beasts incapable of controlling themselves. In reaction to this many men reply and take a defensive stance pointing out that not all men are like that at all. Unfortunately more is lost in this exchange than is gained.
If we truly desire to make a difference, to fight inequality and injustice, we must fight it wherever it is, and whoever it is against. We must join the battle together, on the same side, unified in a common purpose.
It is easy to over-simplify and generalize. It is easy to lump each other into groups and apply labels. It is easy to issue blame to others. It is easy to coin terms like “rape culture” that add no true value to the discussion and ultimately have the effect of minimizing the responsibility of individuals for their evil actions. It is easy to do all of these things, but none of them bring us closer to equality.
True progress is anything but easy. It requires hard work, persistence, sacrifice, and very importantly understanding.
Understanding to recognize that not all men are rapists, not all men objectify women, not all men are enemies or obstacles in your path. Understanding to know that Elliot Rodgers was a sick and twisted individual, mentally ill and reckless toward all human life. Understanding to realize that the overwhelming majority of men are horrified and angered not just by his actions, but his views as well. Understanding to see that men can be victims too, that we can be traumatized, afraid, shamed. We are not immune to many of the very same struggles and situations that women have to face. Understanding to know that many of us already stand with you, and many more are ready to add our voice to yours. All we ask is that you view is for what we are, allies, individuals with our own thoughts, values and ideals.
As a man I recognize that we must embrace understanding as well. We need to be able to understand where a woman is coming from when she says that she lives in fear. We need to be able to put ourselves in their shoes to the best of our ability. We need to understand that she does know that most men are not rapists, even if she posts literature claiming that all men are the same. We need to understand that they do not mean to attack and provoke us, even if that is how we perceive it. We need to understand that there are places where hatred, violence, and abuse towards women IS rampant. We need to understand that even in our neighborhoods and communities female victimization is a problem and is more prevalent that many of us realize. We need to understand that we add more to the conversation by focusing on the points where we agree than those where we differ. We need to understand that this is not just a debate to be won, it is a real issue with real and lasting impacts on the lives of billions. We need to understand that it is imperative to all of us, man or woman to stand against injustice in all forms.
If there was one thing I would wish to impress upon others it is that we are all the same. We are all equally worthy and deserving of love and respect regardless of sex, race, nationality, religion, or any other superficial “difference” by which we perceive ourselves. If we were all to live our lives by the Golden Rule (treat others as you would have them treat you) we would need no other law or rule to live in a society of peace, justice, and equality.
If we could just teach ourselves to think and view the world empathically we could avoid all of the destructive philosophies and actions that cloud the world with pain and anger. We are all human and it is not as simple as it sounds. Like anything worthwhile it will not be easy. We are impatient, envious, we lose our tempers and make mistakes. We will never be perfect, as individuals or as a society. However it will be infinitely worth every moment of inner conflict to do what we can to strive for a mindset that sees the commonality between us all. We can move beyond the labels, stereotypes, and blame. We can climb so much higher if we leave the “Us vs. Them” dichotomy and work together to give everyone a brighter tomorrow.