Recently, someone I love, who happens to be a woman, accused me of this: “I think you have it out for men.”
A part of me instantly wanted to defend myself, to metaphorically raise my fists and swing away without thinking. So many emotions raced to the my chest because her statement was and is untrue and unfair.
It’s rare I hold back when my dander is up, but I did. I chose to set my ego aside and therefore be calm. It felt like it took me a long time to respond but I could be wrong. “I do not have it out for men,” I replied. “I have issues with the way women are treated specifically and generally and in many cases the way they are treated by men. But I don’t have it out for men. I am not out to get anyone.” I then gave some examples both from my own life and specific statistics that show how women are treated in our society.
After I calmly finished, she repeated, “I just think you have it out for men. It’s my opinion.”
This woman loves me and perhaps that is why it hurt so badly to be so misunderstood. It wasn’t the accusation that hurt me (mostly). It was that she so clearly did not know my heart. How could she think such a thing of me? She didn’t just say that I don’t like men (which would also be untrue). She indicated that I was actively, at the very least, rooting against them, and at worst, sabotaging them.
Before I am a feminist, I am a Christian. In fact, I am a feminist because I am a Christian, because I believe Jesus is a feminist. Because I am both of those things, I care about men and my brothers. I don’t wish them ill. I don’t believe it’s an us or them situation. I don’t even think of the words us and them, let alone pit them against one another.
Simply put, I believe that women’s lives matter. I believe women’s stories and voices matter. I believe that society, as a whole, does not function with these truths in mind. Great strides have been made throughout history but no, in the deepest recesses of the world’s consciousness, these truths are not completely lived out. Please notice, in order to communicate my beliefs, I did not have to mention men once because one does not need to hold these beliefs and have it out for men. By clearly stating that women’s voices matter, that our stories matter, I am not saying men’s stories do not matter. It is ignorant to assume it must be one or the other.
I’ve never written the words, “I am a feminist” here because I have not felt the need to write them. I have hoped to demonstrate it with what I write about (and don’t write about) and how I write it. And also, can I be honest? I am a bit cowardly. To write those words is to invite the opinion that hurt me in the first place: that I must have it out for men. So many assumptions are made about a person when they declare themselves a feminist, on both sides of the aisle, from every ideology. It shouldn’t be this way but it is. Still, if you know me personally, I don’t hide this particular fact: I am a feminist. But that does not mean I have it out for men.
If I speak up when I see women’s voices silenced, their stories going untold, it doesn’t really have anything to do with men. I don’t speak up because I have it out for men. I speak up because women’s lives matter; their stories and voices should be heard with the same dignity and respect men receive. I believe this is God’s desire as well. I also believe society–all of us–would be the better for it. Furthermore, I do not believe anyone–but in this case, men–need be cut down to size in order that someone else–in this case, women–be built up. I don’t want to take anything away from men so women can have it. First, that’s not how the world works; that’s not a solution to the problem. Secondly, I love Jesus and I am called to love God and love others–first, last, and always.This whole post started because I finished the latest season of Game of Thrones. I like to delay my gratification and put off watching the latest season as long as possible so I don’t have as long of wait for the next season. There were several scenes that disturbed me. I’d read some of the controversies around the latest season and yet I took issue with something very specific: the use of the male gaze.
I wrote a long dissertation explaining three scenes, two from the male gaze and one from the female gaze, in such a way that one didn’t have to watch the show to understand my point. (I found the topic interesting so maybe I will someday post what I wrote)? And then I remembered her words, “You have it out for men.”
Her words hurt at the time. Now, they make me pause. I know them to be so untrue it is nearly laughable except for the fact that it is such a serious accusation in my mind. So, should I remain silent when I hear a woman’s voice drowned out, when I see a woman treated unfairly based on her gender?
I could be wrong, but in the conversation–which was short because I could not engage without becoming incredibly upset–I felt as if she was implying that this was also why I was still single: because I have it out for men. Maybe that is a wrong assumption and one had nothing to do with the other. But without giving away details that should remain private, I don’t think this is a wildly impossible assumption.
It’s complicated. She is not a villain. In many instances, she has and is my champion and supporter. That’s what made this accusation stick to me so completely even though I knew it untrue. She is not a bad person. She is not a stupid person. She is not an unkind person. If it came from a stranger, or a person who means less to me, the words wouldn’t have come back to me as I wrote about something so wholly unrelated.
To be fair, I haven’t been stewing on them for the weeks since they were spoken. I really only thought of them when I had to declare myself a feminist in order to talk about Game of Thrones…which seems so silly now.
And to be fair, she has no idea what it is like to be a woman in her twenties who has been told her whole life that the sky is the limit, only to walk into a boardroom of potential bosses who make inappropriate comments to her and are merciless for over two hours only to be told by the only silent one after it is over, “They wanted you to cry. If only you would have cried, they would have ended it earlier.” She has no idea what it is like to fall in love with a broken boy–hurt people hurt people–who on good days only pinches and on the worst day commits sexual assault. She doesn’t know what it is like to read hundreds and hundreds of abused women’s stories.
I must acknowledge I’m sure there is a lot I don’t know about her.
Would it be better–I have often wondered–if I was the type of woman who did break down in that boardroom? The type of woman who did give into tears because those men happened to be very good at making women cry (their own co-worker told me so)? I wanted to. Believe me, I wanted to. They wanted me meek; honestly, it felt like some weird sexual dominant situation was happening. I was told my tears would have given them pleasure and that’s why these men took two hours of their very busy days to try and make me cry. But I firmed my back and straightened my shoulders and I answered their questions with all the dignity I’d been raised to have, without ever once attacking them back.
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