Saturday, September 26, 2009

From Emily: For the Men

I keep hoping that one, just one, of the many male people who claim to be my friend will come through and contribute to Not Another Wave. But, since that is not happening, I've decided I need to speak up for them.

So, the other day I'm walking home from campus, and I hear this girl shout out to a nearby guy, "Hey! My friend likes your butt!!" It wouldn't be such a big problem, except that this was at Brigham young University. And, let me tell you, most BYU girls would freak out if a boy yelled that at them. I think a lot of women would - it would seem obscene, rude, and utterly inappropriate. Some might even label it "sexual harassment," since it took place on campus. The guy just shook his head and kept walking, but I was irate on his behalf. I don't know where the mistaken belief that there's no such thing as a man being abused, raped, or harassed came from, but I think men deserve just as much respect as women. Nobody deserves to be objectified, men included.

And you know what else? I think we're in a culture that unfairly stereotypes all men as either pathetic losers or promiscuous, testosterone-driven, emotionally dense slobs. Is that true for some men? Of course! But certainly not for all of them, and probably not even for a majority of men. In fact, a few years ago I was in a class where our teacher tried to demonstrate something about the difference between men and women by having us play a game, girls against guys. He said the point of the game was to get as many points as you could, and that there was no competition between teams. You had to choose either "yes" or "no" in each round, and what you chose compared to the other team determined how many points your team earned. If both teams chose "yes," you'd both end up with a high number of points - however, if one team chose "yes" and the other chose "no," the team that chose "yes" would get fewer points, and the team that chose "no" would still get the highest possible number of points.

Well, I wasn't stupid - I knew exactly what the men were going to do - they were going to lie to our faces, act nice, and then stab us in the back in their desire to have the highest possible score. So I talked my team into choosing "no," since I thought we'd get more points that way. (if both teams chose "no," they got more points than if only one person chose "no"). Turns out the guys had chosen "yes." So, the guys told us they wanted to cooperate and both choose "Yes" in the second round, but I still didn't believe them, so once again I talked my team into choosing "no." And once again, the guys chose "yes." Again, they offered to choose "yes" along with us. So, we chose yes, driven by guilt more than anything else.

Our teacher had been using this experiment for 10 years, and he had never once had a class where the girls chose "no" on the first round and the guys chose "yes." NEVER. It almost always worked out that the guys said they wanted to cooperate, and then they didn't. I recently learned that the teacher is still using the activity, and my class is still the only class to defy those stereotypes.

So, what does this say about me? Am I more masculine than BYU guys since I'm from the East? I sincerely doubt it. Do I have issues with trusting men? Eh, yeah, I kind of do, as all of my exes can attest. Am I unusually competetive for a woman? Probably. But I don't think I'm just an anomaly. There's just a lot of deviation within each gender, and a lot of overlap between genders. Even in a predominantly heterosexual environment like BYU.

Now, I'm not trying to say men consistently get the short end of the stick. I don't believe that any more than I believe white, heterosexual, Christian, middle class Americans consistently get the short end of the stick. But I really do feel for men, whatever life situation they may be in. Men are sometimes told to suck it up and accept injustices in their lives that most people would never encourage a woman to accept in her life, and they're also fed stereotypes about themselves that simply are not true.

So, although I tend to focus on the injustices and problems women face, I don't forget what men have to put up with too. Maybe some day we'll all just treat each other with decency and respect.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's something we tend to forget when talking about anti-oppression: while the people in power do benefit overall from the dynamics of the system, they're also constrained by the boundaries that have been set up. Men can't be emotional; straight men can't like fashion and straight women can't be butch; white folk can't dance or be sexual. It's not a question of being oppressed "too," but a question of limiting everyone's human potential in the quest to be on top of the hegemony.