this open letter is part II in a series of IV, written to all of you decent men on The Avocado: those of you who understand that we women+ are fully formed human beings with inherent value – a mindset that women+ can’t take for granted in our fellow human beings. If you agree that we should be able to, then this letter is to you. You can find pt. 1 here:
It is brought to you by Tiff & The Collective of Awesome: Flow, Heberta, Katie, Nonsequiturcat, Overcat, Pawnee Goddesses, Picturo, Ramen Episode, Rim, Riversong, Veronica Pepper, Wasp, and We Won’t Go Back.
Dear Decent Man, Thy Fiend Be Called Patriarchy.
Nobody wants to get hurt. Sometimes, getting involved in a situation puts us at risk of getting hurt. Which begets the question: Do we help regardless, just because it’s the right thing to do? Do we assess the situation and decide that the risk is too high for our comfort? Do we just look the other way? Or: Do we downplay the severity of the situation altogether, just so we don’t need to concern ourselves? The Patriarchy uses humankind’s worst instincts against all of us.
Nobody wants to think badly of themself. Sometimes, we retro-rose-tint our not-our best behaviour, only so that we don’t have to feel bad about having been a coward, having misunderstood, or having been genuinely blind to what went down in front of us. And sometimes the easiest out of feeling bad is to simply blame the victim and wash our hands of them.
This happens on both the societal micro- and macrolevel. The problem with this is that it keeps us from learning and growing, from evolving as human beings. Which I think is something that us decent people should make our goal.
Here’s how the Patriarchy screws over everybody: It teaches men that you have to be able to fix anything. And then it lets you loose in a broken system that no one person could ever possibly fix on their own. Because “real men” bla bla bla. Here’s the trap: When one teaches you that you can fix anything, and then you find that you can’t, it will create a whole lot of negative feelings. Fear up to panic. A great deal of anger because you really, really, really don’t want to feel this way. And severe confusion, because the experience of being just a human amongst humans goes against everything that you have been taught to perceive yourselves as. The Patriarchy creates a myth of men as makers and breakers and movers and shakers. That concept leaves no room for men’s humanity. Because humans? We make mistakes. We learn from them, hopefully, and do better.
When one builds up men to be heroes, always, by default, only to have Life confront you with the perfectly mundane fact that you are fallible humans indeed, it creates quite some emotional dissonance. When one tells men that you can do and be whatever the hell you want, only for you to run into Life’s limitations, what is this going to lead to? – Shame.
When one teaches men not to talk about uncomfortable feelings (or preferably not have them to begin with), one ends up with more “real men” crap. And then half the population are either espousing or actively fighting various degrees of delusions of grandeur coupled with copious amounts of stress. You can fix anything! You must fix anything! What do you mean, you can’t, you loser? – Well, okay, here’s the solution: You can fix anything, but some people don’t want to be helped. Some people are different (i.e., not able-bodied straight white man). They just like to complain. They won’t use your perfect solutions because they the people are defective. This is the only logical explanation! They must be actively trying to be difficult because You. Can. Fix. Anything. There there. Toxic, rotten male sense of self lies restored, hussa!
It’s a Trap, It’s a Lie, It’s the Patriarchy!
The Patriarchy as a system has found a way to make men ruin the very things you are trying to fix by misplacing blame. By making you think that if you aren’t super-human, you are nothing. The Patriarchy wants you to forget that you are a fallible human who can do better. And it makes you take the discomfort in your soul out on us.
If you don’t immediately understand it (another trap that we already touched upon in Part I, because how could you?) or it causes you discomfort to think about it, or you don’t know how to fix it, it must mean that the thing doesn’t, or shouldn’t, exist. That “thing” is often your fellow human beings. And that is a freaking problem.
Rationalising away the things that happen to us on your part is not going to make them go away. Telling us not to “exaggerate”/to “stop whining”/not to be “overly sensitive”/or, “just do X, Y, Z” is not going to make them go away. In short, you ignoring what we tell you is not going to make go away the things we are telling you about. You’re not fixing anything by denying our humanity. You’re not fixing anything by denying your own, either.
Disclaimer: I think that the faulty psychology that I am describing in this chapter pertains to any kind of Other. If someone belonging to another marginalised group fundamentally disagrees with my take, please set me straight, either in this comment section or through another channel. Also, I am far from blind to the glaring double blow of misogynoir. I made the conscious choice to talk about women+ only, because as a white, straight cis woman I do not feel competent to speak on behalf of those who are, or who are also people of colour, LGBTQIA people, disabled people etc. I’m not going to whitesplain racism, straightsplain the queer experience etc. There are plenty of smart representatives of other Others on The Avocado.