Men, We Need Five Minutes of Your Time
And we need you to ask us an important question.
After a week chock full of encounters with some of the worst men I have ever come across — from an angry sociopath to a pedophile to your garden variety creep— my faith in men was lower than it had ever been.
Then a friend texted me. He’s a sweetheart. One of the good ones. He read one of my recent pieces. He reached out with some humor. He could sense my frustration and I loved that it was his way of just checking in with me. I told him a felt defeated.
I told him that I never considered myself a feminist until I became single. Somehow, I feel changed.
Sure, I have fallen victim to gender discrimination, had demeaning comments made to me by a male boss and been paid less than male counterparts. All while I was married.
But, with a man in my house every day I felt some sort of weird level or removal from the overarching concerns of the women around me. What I dealt with in the workplace was bullshit. But, once I left the office, I felt sheltered from it. I had some pretty stellar blinders. They’re gone now.
My friend asked me a simple question: “Educate me on feminism. What’s it mean to you?”
Some women may be completely irked by the mere idea that he wouldn’t really know what feminism is. How could he not? It’s everywhere! But, the reality was that in years past I didn’t even know. How could he?
I loved that he asked that question. I was overjoyed.
It occurred to me that a lot of good guys out there don’t understand. But they mean well. They’ve just never been able to truly crawl into our skin and walk around a little.
What a lot of men see is what the media portrays and what becomes widespread (mis)understanding of what feminism is: man hating, pink pussy hat wearing women who want to burn their bras and throw away their makeup while marching down the street yelling at people.
I saw that he had given me a solid opportunity. I took a deep breath in and said my peace.
I told him, for me, it was about aggression: physical, emotional, verbal. It was wanting to feel safe in the world and not live in fear or anger.
We talked for a while more. After our brief conversation where he gave me space to rant a little and get a bit emotional, he asked, “So, what’s the answer?” Oh, sweet pea. I wish I knew but I can only surmise where to start: Discourse. Quiet, concentrated, civil discourse.
So, I have a request for men and I have a request for women. Do each other a kindness. It’s simple, really.
Men — Ask the question. Of any woman you know. All kinds of women. Just ask them to help you understand. Ask what feminism means to them. Ask for five minutes. Let them take seven if they need it.
Women — If you don’t have a five minute elevator speech that is well thought out and expresses your beliefs on the subject, now is the time to do it. Five minutes. Honor that space. Practice your elevator speech.
I do not mean to simplify a major issue. Conversation, however, is simple. One person talks, another listens. Back and forth. We just need to be able and ready for that opportunity. We need to build one space so we can close another. Get to it.
*If this hits you, you might also like to read these related pieces…