Living in our society, regardless of your gender, you’re going to see countless examples of men being terrible. Sure, there are men that aren’t terrible, but that argument is true in the same way “All lives matter” is true. Technically, yes, but it’s only ever used to ignore the fact that there are things we can and should do to improve ourselves and the world around us. So what things are those?
First, we must recognize that this tendency to exhibit reprehensible behavior comes from many cultural sources, mostly including the fact that men are often allowed to do violent things without consequence, (if you doubt this, just Google “Brock Turner’s sentence” or visit this lovely Facebook page) and the more privilege they have, the more they can get away with. There’s a ton of simple things that can be said, for example, don’t rape, don’t catcall, don’t attack women for rejecting you, etc., but these aren’t enough. Part of the reason these behaviors are so prevalent is that less insidious behavior is excused as “boys being boys.” (unfortunately, even the worst behavior is also often excused in the same manner) It’s not okay to just not be a horrible person. That should be the default. No one should be congratulated for not abusing their wife, or not catcalling women.
I’m not saying that all men are awful. I’m also not saying that men are alone in perpetrating this behavior. However, every single man benefits from the normalization of awful behavior, and every man can do something about it. Also, everyone could do these things, and ideally, everyone of every gender would follow this list. However, this list is compiled of behaviors that stem from or are problematic because of their relevance to being raised as a man, being socially perceived as a man, presenting as a man, and/or exhibiting other behavior that is more accepted because of those aforementioned qualities. In essence, everyone should do this, but men, often specifically cis, white, heterosexual, or otherwise privileged men, are most likely to need to follow these steps in order to better themselves. They’re also the ones who most need to take responsibility for their own actions.
1. Call Out Other Men’s Bullshit
There’s a lot of nonsensical arguments that everyone can find themselves using in defense of men who have been called out for their behavior, particularly in opposition to the #MeToo movement As a man, it’s your job to call that out, and to also call other men out, and, most importantly, to believe survivors and allow them to speak. People ask me “what if they’re lying?” often, but, first of all, that could be asked about any crime. But it’s always, always the first thing out of people’s mouth when they discuss sexual assault claims. Second, the likelihood of people lying about being assaulted is virtually zero– we just hear about every single one that happens, because it perpetuates the idea that women are liars. A common reaction to sexual assault claims is to state that men are “confused” or “weren’t taught to recognize consent.” Bullshit. Men absolutely know when someone is consenting, and they know when someone is uncomfortable. They just don’t care and aren’t given consequences. Even I know when I’m making someone uncomfortable, and it’s easy to understand consent, and I’m very bad at reading social cues, in part due to the fact that I have mild autism and ADHD. If someone is excusing a man’s behavior by claiming that he was “confused,” it’s usually because admitting the truth would mean admitting that they themselves or men they know personally are rapists. People who say “if that’s sexual assault, then every woman I know has been sexually assaulted” are so close to getting the point. Yes, pretty much every woman I know has been sexually assaulted. That’s the problem.
2. Clean, Cook, and do Laundry
Domestic labor is still seen as something a woman should do, but it needs to become a thing everyone does. First off, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Queer Eye, men are out there living in their own filth because they “never learned” (which translates to “never were expected or made an effort to learn or perform”) domestic labor.
Different people have different definitions of “clean,” but the expectation that women do domestic labor while men just sit around is one of the most common and most excused forms of gendered oppression. Get off your ass and do your laundry, cook your own food, and clean your own living space. We all work, we all live, we should all be doing the essentials for survival, not forcing others to do them for us.
3. Don’t Rely on Women to Perform Emotional Labor for You
Like domestic labor, there is a vast discrepancy in the amount of emotional labor men perform. Emotional labor, for those who don’t know, is the work you put into maintaining relationships, supporting others when they’re feeling down, and making sure the people around you are okay. How often do you hear about or meet men who are only nice and supportive to the women they want to have sex with? On the other hand, how often do you meet women who will ask you “what’s wrong?” even if you’ve barely met? Faking orgasms during sex, pretending to enjoy sports, nodding and pretending to agree or listen to someone because you’re afraid of making them upset, and “letting them down easily” when rejecting someone are all examples of emotional labor. If you think very hard, you might be able to discover the pattern; All these are most often performed by people of one gender for people of a different gender.
4. Check Your Privilege
This statement gets a lot of flack, but honestly one of the healthiest qualities someone can have is self-awareness. Existing as a man means you benefit from male privilege. Obviously, some men have much more privilege than others, and your privilege depends on many things both inside and outside your control. The basics are simple; we’ve all been socialized to believe men more than women, to place men’s well-being above that of women, and to forgive men for their behavior. To counteract this, simply recognize the following: Women don’t owe you shit, not a smile, not a number, not a laugh, not a hug. If she doesn’t want to interact with you, leave her alone. Next, recognize that women have been socialized not to say no to you. There are countless examples of women rejecting a man and being murdered by the same man soon after. Finally, just learn to shut up sometimes.
Read a book on feminist theory! Take a gender studies class, and keep your mouth shut unless you have something to contribute other than playing “devil’s advocate,” or any other nonsense. Lastly, treat women like human beings, even the ones you don’t find sexually attractive. It’s normal to be nice to people you find attractive, but don’t only treat the people you want to have sex with as human beings. That behavior reveals that you objectify women and only pretend to treat them nicely if you think it’ll get you sex.
5. Pursue an Interesting Hobby
Maybe this one is just a pet peeve of mine, but all the men I meet lately have up to three personality traits chosen from the following list: their sports team, weed, shitty beer, weed, skiing/ snowboarding (that might just be a Utah thing), boring pretentious music taste, weed, pretentious film taste, or their car. Only two of those are actually personality traits, and they’re somehow the ones involving snow. If all you can say about yourself is that you like smoking weed and drinking IPA’s, you’ve mistaken a personality for a list of drugs you like. What do you believe in? What do you want to change in the world? What can you make, how do you create? When do you feel most at peace? What are the names of your stuffed animals? What’s important to you?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s just the things I see all the time that exhaust me to no end. I’m tired of shitty men getting away with being useless and forcing the women around them to do all the work. I’m so, so tired of saying “dump him” to women who are putting infinitely more effort into their relationships. Hell, I’m tired of thinking “dump him” about every couple I see in public. Countless relationships are only surviving because men have, individually and culturally, tricked women into thinking they need to settle for less than they deserve, or that they don’t deserve anything decent at all.
Also, I need to work on these things too, everyone who experiences male privilege does. It boils down to this: Don’t leave labor to be done by women just because they’re women, (or even because they’re willing to do it for you) learn self-awareness and recognize your privilege, and treat women like human beings. Simple, right?