“I’m scared to talk about what’s bothering me,” he said.
“I’m scared to walk back to the dorm at night alone,” she said.
A few months ago, I locked myself in my college’s library to study for final exams. While
procrastinating focusing on Social Psychology, I overheard a conversation between a boy and a girl studying in the cubicles to my right.
He shuffled some of his books around. “It’s not a big deal anyway. Every time I try to talk about it with her, I feel weird-,”
“Yeah, well, you should see me every time I go out.” She sighed, either from the stress of finals or the minutiae of her friend’s problem. “If you think you have it bad, try imagining every guy in the room thinking you want it just because you’re wearing a short dress.”
The aspiring therapist inside of me wanted to reach out and console both of them about their issues, but instead, I shook my head, turned up my music, and saved their conversation as material for a future blog post.
I identify as male, so I will not pretend to know what it feels like to be catcalled, paid less for equal performance, or judged just based on my appearance. But, as someone who identifies as gay, I think I can relate to minorities who have faced oppression, inaccurate stereotypes, and inappropriate jokes. As I read more about feminism this summer, I cannot help but notice the amount of social media that castigates men – either from radical feminists who think that men deserve misandry so they can get a taste of their own medicine, or from well-intentioned people who hurt men in subtle ways, such as by suggesting that all men are complicit in rape culture.
Though hating on men, whites, and straight people might alleviate negative anxiety through catharsis, I doubt that it actually contributes to equality. Studies show that people from the majority group might express more prejudice when interacting with minorities just because they feel judged or labeled because of their majority status. Instead of attacking people who have it better than us, we should strive to create room for conversation. In terms of feminism, gender roles hurt men too, and striving for mutual understanding will aid in working toward a common goal. It makes sense that we listen to those who listen to us first, and if all parties listen before trying to talk, then everyone can get on the same page and make progress together – which sounds a lot better than a game of “who has it worse?” or “you don’t understand and you never will.”
In terms of activism, a call to action does much more than a simple criticism. It takes little effort to say “you’re a homophobic idiot” or “wow, you’re just a sexist pig, go kill yourself.” It requires more motivation and time to suggest watching a movie with gay themes, like The Normal Heart, and discussing it afterward, or even saying “hey, I don’t appreciate your use of gender stereotypes, and if you want to learn more, read The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti.” Instead of denouncing people for their ignorance and burning bridges, we should aim to educate and build bonds, even if the latter requires loads of patience and a little bit of love.
I probably will never 100% understand the trials and tribulations my female friends go through on a daily basis, just as my straight best friends might never really get what it feels like to be a gay guy in a still largely heteronormative society. But, unlike the friends I mentioned at the beginning of the post, we try our best to communicate, to understand, and to empathize – we’re willing to take the first steps toward making a difference.
What do you guys think? Agree or disagree that we should try to understand each other instead of just calling each other out? Have you noticed any of the behavior I refer to in this post either online or in real life? If you wish, you can check out my reviews of Something Like Summer by Jay Bell and The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti here and here, respectively. Hope you all have a fabulous Sunday!