Something I’ve had to really come to terms with over the last few years is that all white people are racist, even though most of us don’t realize it. Maybe not the “KKK/White Nationalist” type of racist, but when we are young we are benefitting from racist systems without even knowing it and this “not knowing” makes us racist. Here’s why: we benefit from the power that white people yield in our country and our culture and we aren’t raised recognizing that, so we assume we are always getting the things we are getting because we earned them. And sometimes we did, but many MANY times we did NOT, and MANY times we don’t even notice minorities getting shafted in the system that benefits us. Since we don’t recognize those times, we just assume we earned it solely on merit and minorities are getting shafted because the lack of merit, we are racist.
It’s tough, but it’s something I try to remind myself as I learn to recognize the privilege my skin has given me. It’s a difficult truth to embrace, but to truly be part of the change, we must embrace it. We must see the truth of our racism we didn’t knowingly adopt.
It is with this acknowledgement, that I have been racist and am just learning to dismantle this, that I must now talk about feminism and just say: YES, ALL MEN.
In the same way white people benefit from racist systems we may or may not recognize, men benefit from misogyny daily that they don’t recognize. They don’t recognize how rape culture has trained them to instinctively look for what women did to get raped. They don’t recognize the victim blaming that is built into our vernacular when school administrators say, “That outfit is distracting and needs to be changed.” They are not aware of the media culture giving them subtle possession of women’s bodies which makes it acceptable at an early age to comment on those bodies. They are allowed, even encouraged, to make remarks about breast size, or gorgeous legs, or nice ass of the women they see in their periphery. They do not realize that this early behavior reinforces the power system in place that reduces women to objects to be ogled instead of potential team mates or contributors or bosses in a professional environment. They do not acknowledge that harmless cat-calling is threatening or that their mere silence when others behave inappropriately seems to be mandated by this misogyny hidden in all power struggles.
So, yes all men.
To what extreme men have adopted this societal misogyny and rape culture varies. Sure, not all men abide by “locker room talk” but to not acknowledge the societal imbalance that has created a breeding ground for this kind of attitude, is like me not acknowledging the ways systemic racism continues to hold people of color down. As long as the majority of men-only environments are breeding grounds for attitudes of sexual dominance and body shaming and rape culture, then we still have a problem. As long as men feel like they can cat-call in public and not be shamed, that they can joke about sexual advances in the office and not be reprimanded, that they can admit to grabbing women’s crotches and still be elected President…then it is still a systemic problem. And to not acknowledge that, or to not acknowledge your benefit from it, makes you part of the problem.
In the same way I had to painfully open my eyes to my own attitudes about race, all men need to see how societal misogyny reinforced by our media and our politics has benefitted them and hurt women. They need to openly recognize the privilege they’ve enjoyed and share the responsibility for tearing down the systems that have given them that privilege. It’s not just about not being the asshole. Sure, maybe you didn’t write my name, “Kim ‘the whore’ Moore” in spot #2 on the slut list that one time, but if you laughed at it? Or refused to shame the guy who did it? Then you were part of the problem and you were benefitting from a system that made me doubt myself academically. If you just looked past the professor who patted my ass when I walked into his office? Then you benefitted from the onset of insecurities that action gave me. If you knew how drunk I was at a party and let me leave with that guy who would then take advantage of my intoxication? Then you benefitted from the resulting shame I would carry and you benefit from the society that continues to force that shame upon me.
Every time a woman is belittled or harassed or – god forbid – assaulted, you benefit from the system that allowed that to happen. And if you don’t acknowledge that – YES, ALL MEN – you will never see the part you must play in changing it.