Tuesday, October 21, 2008

54 Things Men Can Do To Respect Women and Girls

What Men Can Do to Help End Men's Domination of Women and Girls
by Julian Real. Copyrighted 2006, 2008. All rights reserved.

Here’s a very partial list of what men can do. This is likely a work in progress, and it currently contains 54 recommendations.

First, recognize and accept that the personal is political, and that challenging and eliminating sexist interpersonal behavior is part of your political work as a responsible, caring human being. Stop either/or’ing the private and the public, the personal and the social, the interpersonal and the institutional. All are intimately linked breeding grounds for men’s domination of women and girls.

Given the above:

1. With their permission and when welcomed to do so, ask Women’s Liberation activists you know who are anti-racism, anti-sexxxism, anti-misogyny, and anti-imperialism: “What can I do that would be helpful to your struggle for human rights, respect, and dignity?”

2. Treat each woman you know in a manner she finds respectful of her full humanity, and which you know is not intended by you to control, demean, or abuse her. Give up all “chauvinist” and “chivalrous” behavior as mandatory to enact when a woman is in your presence. Understand chauvinistic behavior to be outdated and in need of being referenced only in dusty books or rarely visited websites on Western Civilization’s ways to disrespect women.

But also understand that “chivalrous” behavior, too, can be patronising, condescending, and disrespectful. Holding the door open only for women can communicate an attitude and practice of believing women are weaker or more in need of assistance (by a man), only because they are women, not because of what they are doing that may require some assistance. (Never mind that women do most of the world’s work, with no assistance from men, and with no doors being opened, while many are being slammed in their faces.)

Hold a door for someone who you know appreciates that gesture as one of consideration, not condescension. Assist anyone who is carrying a heavy load, if they welcome you to. Don’t be embarrassed or take it as a challenge to your manhood when women hold a door open for you. Thank her when she does this. Individual women can let you know what they prefer in this area and all other areas of your behavior. Listen to them and respect their wishes. Don’t assume what any woman wants or needs from you. Ask her what she wants and needs, from you, and otherwise.

3. Read Deals With The Devil, and Other Reasons To Riot, by Pearl Cleage (it contains the best definition of sexism I’ve ever seen), Black Sexual Politics, by Patricia Hill Collins, Only Words, by Catharine A. MacKinnon, Beauty and Misogyny, by Sheila Jeffreys, and Conquest, by Andrea Smith, and many other contemporary writings on how men and male supremacist institutions and relationships regard and effect women. Learn to recognize how men (including you and me) condescend to, patronise, dehumanise, violate, and degrade women, in words and other actions. It astounds me how often I do it, after thirty years working for human rights for women.

4. See and treat women-as-humans, not as feminine (or any other kind of) objects or things.

5. Stop complimenting girls primarily on their appearance. Compliment and appreciate them for their many attributes other than those associated with their appearance, such as on their intelligence, humor, knowledge, athletic abilities, skills, interests, etc. Don’t continuously behave in ways that demonstrate to a girl that you are better than her. Self-esteem develops early in life, and you have a role in what any girl thinks of herself and men.

6. If you have children of your own, make sure you are doing at least half of the nurturing and other forms of parenting of them, whatever kind of relationship you are in. Support women who are parents in ways they want and welcome your support, not in ways you that occur to you to offer it when you remember to ask. If there’s housework to be done, do it without being repeatedly asked. Do it without any expectation of praise. (That’ll give you greater empathy for what women do for men globally, in ways that go completely unnoticed and unappreciated by far too many men.)

7. Hold every man around you accountable to every sexist-racist-classist-homophobic thing that comes out of his mouth or is demonstrated in his non-verbal behavior, hopefully in ways that are meaningful and useful to him “getting it”. Some men won’t let you know they comprehend why you are critiquing their behavior. But do something rather than nothing each and every time. Practicing this (daily) is the only way to learn how to do it effectively. In my experience, there are abundant opportunities for practice, including by holding ourselves accountable.

8. Live a principled life that respects human rights. Hold your ground, respectfully, when with a woman (or anyone else) does not share those values and practices. I work hard to engage women who are fans of pornography in conversation about how it impacts other women I have know. And don’t castigate or condescend to any woman who doesn’t agree with your point of view. Keep in mind, you haven’t lived their lives and you don’t know what directions your life would have taken if you had.

9. Ask these questions of yourself and other men, and seek answers from Women’s Liberationist resources. (While doing this, don’t take a lot of time and energy from any woman or group of women: ask any woman or women if you may seek their counsel on matters of gender politics. Women aren’t on the Earth to teach men how to be humane, despite what the media sometimes infers.) What does it mean that we live in a society that will offer women more money to take off their clothes on a stage or floor for men, to give a man a lap dance, and to have sex with men they don’t love or even know, than to do anything else? Why is any woman’s sense of worth determined to any degree by men who don’t really know who they are? What would women’s choices be if they were paid exactly the same amount (as men) to work in any field and to do any task? Do you appreciate women for who they are as individuals, or simply because they are female, or have a narrowly defined appearance that attracts you? What does it mean if you appreciate a “look” more than the person behind the façade? Do you want women to value and appreciate you for the depths and complexities of who you are, or for your façade? Why do you think the sexist things some women appear willing to do with you are things that are appropriate to do? What does it mean that an alarming number of men inaccurately define sexual behavior women name correctly as rape to not be rape? Regarding interacting with women, socially and personally, to what degree is what you enjoy witnessing yourself exercising your power to engage with them in ways that are primarily self-serving, if not also exploitive and demeaning?

10. Regarding any woman in your life, how do you communicate and otherwise demonstrate your respect, care, and appreciation for her individuality: her particular history, complexities, and soul?

11. Stop using (consuming or looking at) adult or child pornography, stop using women and girls who are being pimped and otherwise sexually exploited or degraded. Stop using women or children as pornography, in any way, including in fantasy. If you do not understand why this is necessary for women’s and girls’ liberation, just remember that the average age that most girls become caught up in systems of gross sexual exploitation is twelve, and have been and/or are being sexually abused; such systems include populations of women and girls who are pimped and controlled by men with and without cameras, as well as women and girls who are also trapped inside systems of sexual slavery. If seeing images of sexually exploited and displayed people is a turn-on for you, humanise yourself to the point that it isn’t. (Note those images are not primarily “pictures of naked women”. They are most often images of women being portrayed and posed as wh*res-by-nature. Learn about the atrocities, the normal inhumane activities that primarily define and comprise industries of sexual exploitation of and access to women for sex as pimps define it.

12. Systematically deprogram your mind/body to be sexually responsive to pornographic and other dehumanising images of women in dominant cultural media. Stop predatorily pursuing women who look like those images.

13. Stop objectifying women and girls (and everyone else). Understand it as an act of violation or dehumanisation of another person, not something you are born to do or have no control over. Pay attention to when and why you don’t do it, at those times. Pay attention to how you feel before you want to objectify a woman, and stay with that feeling, rather than going on to objectify her. Note if there is a recurring need for an addictive objectifying “fix”. This is culturally learned, not genetically encoded or hormonally produced behavior, regardless of what others claim. It is on the continuum of behaviors men do that support the existence of rape as an endemic atrocity, so please understand why some women are very upset when you do it. (Most young women I know cannot get through one week without being verbally harassed and visually violated by men dozens of times. Don’t add to that experience.)

I have been friends with many heterosexual men who are inexplicably drawn to women who look like what white male supremacist societies and/or pimps promote as “what women should look like in order to be considered attractive”. These men often believe their attractions are normal and “natural”. They may be the norm, but it is also, not coincidentally, the norm to exploit out-of-the-home workers of any gender by bosses and CEOs. Participating in the destruction of the Earth is also the norm. That doesn’t make it humane or beneficial to the world as a whole. Yes, pimps and CEOs (if not one and the same) do “benefit” materially. But, as is commonly known, many suffer for those few to profit and otherwise benefit from the degradation of humanity.

As for whether heterosexual men’s attractions are natural: there’s nothing natural about a shaved tanned or skin-lightened woman with dyed and treated hair, painted fingernails, wearing high heeled shoes. There’s nothing natural about Photoshopped and otherwise “enhanced” images of women. Learn to appreciate what is individually appealing about every person on many levels, rather than fetishising a “genre” of appearance made popular by corporate media controlled by a few white heterosexual men. Find women as friends (first or only) with whom you share common interests and values. Don’t assume it is always fine to approach women for sex. Please keep in mind, if a woman is interested in you, she can approach you. If she doesn’t feel capable of it, it isn’t likely that you initiating contact will support her becoming assertive in this area of social life.

14. Boycott all misogynist-racist cosmetics and misogynist-racist fashion products, and other “beauty” industries that maintain and profit off of a dehumanising standard of what corporate pimps call “hot” and “sexy”. Boycott all products that objectify women and children in the advertising of those products, and write letters to the companies explaining your boycott.

15. If you have anarchist leanings (or not), smash cosmetics counters if no woman is nearby and make sure you let the police and media know you did it to support women’s independence from corporate beauty standards. Smash men’s vehicles that are covered with misogynistic/racist bumper stickers, mud flaps, and images hanging from rear view mirrors. Go into pornography stores and tear up anything that portrays women as wh*res-by-nature, and let the manager and media know why you are doing it.

16. Regarding marriage: If you have real choices in the matter, and are not among an oppressed class fighting for survival, such as by needing immigration papers, or preserving customs and traditions that are not patriarchal and white supremacist, seriously consider not participating in or supporting the Western institution of marriage.

The institution of marriage, as it exists in the United Rapes of Amerikkka, has a grossly misogynistic-racist-heterosexist history, including by forbidding it among people of color, or between people of color and whites, during and following the time of Slavery in the U.S. South; by social ridicule and contempt including lethal violence against “mixed race” heterosexual couples. Other non-dominant ethnic and cultural groups have had their ways of being together intruded upon, violated, and denigrated, by white European heterosexist conquerors and settlers. Genocidal conquerors’ standards of unequal partnership, oppressive forms of family, and insecure and unsustainable kinds of community have become mandatory for social acceptability and legal and political status in the U.S. The predominant marriage institution in the U.S. still effectively, if not also legally, makes women into men’s nurses, cooks, housekeepers, and sexual assistants (or slaves), which disproportionately benefits heterosexual men disproportionately and harms women. (This is why, in many countries where women have economic independence, such as in urban centers of Japan, marriage rates are rapidly dropping.)

For a more engaging discussion about this, read this. Whatever the status of your relationships, keep racist, misogynistic, and heterosexist practices out of them. Demonstrate forms of love, affection, and commitment that do not involve being controlling, abusive, neglectful, exploitive, or disrespectful.

One unequally statused and accepted way of being in the social world should not be privileged and promoted above all others: this is discriminatory against all queer people, people-as-friends, roommates, people choosing a life of solitude, people with other than Western/European-American State-licensed marriage traditions, people who do not wish to involve the State in their relationships, as well as nurturing people who prefer to have house pets around them and not humans, people who are too traumatised from childhood to be able to be in compulsory romantic or emotionally coercive relationships, and those who choose to live in caring community without one primary partner.

17. Stop having sex, if the sex you need or wish to have is objectifying, dehumanising, degrading, humiliating, or otherwise harmful to a woman or girl (or anyone else). Never have degrading or humiliating sex, regardless of what the other person wants you to do sexually. This gets back to living a principled life. (See point 5.)

18. Stop calling heterosexual genital-to-genital intercourse “sex”. “Sex” can be and is a myriad of erotic activities that may have nothing at all to do with your penis. Also keep in mind that there are many sexual activities women enjoy that have nothing to do with men. Stop thinking of “lesbian sex” as something corporately produced for heterosexual men to enjoy. Lesbian sex is sex which you, as a man, are not meant to enjoy or witness.

19. Never accept oral sex if you do not plan to also perform oral sex on a woman you are with. (She may decide to pleasure you that way, without wanting to be pleasured orally-genitally as well, but if you “won’t go down on her” don’t be involved in the act of a woman going down on you.)

20. Friends don’t let friends fuck drunk. Never have sex with a drunk or otherwise chemically inebriated woman (or anyone else). 29. Don’t fuck drunk, and don’t let any woman around you go home with a man if she’s drunk or altered by drugs, or if you know the man to be someone who uses and/or abuses women.

21. To heterosexually active men: Use highly effective barrier methods of STD/STI and pregnancy protection. Always take 100% responsibility for where your sperm and sexual fluid goes. Never leave it up to a woman to plan and use birth control. Use your own. If you cannot have heterosexual genital-to-genital intercourse while using a condom EVERY TIME, don’t have that form of intercourse. (You’ll live). Never self-servingly “allow” a woman to have heterosexual g-to-g intercourse with you if you are not wearing a condom even if she is fine with it. (Note: Kimono is one of the best brands; Trojan and LifeStyles are among the worst.)

22. Keep methods of terminating an unwanted pregnancy available to any woman you are with sexually, including “Plan B”. Understand: the decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy always belongs entirely to the woman who is pregnant. Don’t bully her or coerce her into making a decision that best serves your interests. If you absolutely, never, ever, want to have children, do one of two things as soon as possible: get permanently sterilized, or, never have heterosexual genital-to-genital intercourse. If you do not get sterilized, and do have heterosexual genital-to-genital intercourse, be prepared to be responsible (financially and emotionally) for raising a child.

23. Never coerce, bully, pressure, intimidate, harass, or shame a woman (or anyone else) in order to get her to do things with you sexually. Never give a woman a hard time for deciding to stop engaging with you sexually, no matter how much time has gone by. She doesn’t owe you anything, especially not an orgasm. “Blue balls” is a fictional ailment men use to get women to bring men to orgasm. If you experience what you think is “blue balls” bring yourself to orgasm, without involving her if she doesn’t want to be involved.

24. With regard to sexual behaviors: Don’t habitually or repeatedly propose “new ideas” that are only your idea or sexual fantasy, or things you have experienced before that you liked that you think she’ll like. She’s a different person: ask her what she enjoys. Do that. Let her know what you enjoy, but in a way that makes it apparent there is no pressure to do it. (It’s “apparent” if she can say no with no negative consequence to her or the relationship.)

25. Examine where your sexual fantasies come from. Usually they have been produced and sold to you by the racist-sexxxism industries’ pimps. Boycott racist-sexist sex, and make sure the men around you do also–hold them accountable if they practice sexist-racist sex. Be willing to end friendships with men, including family members, who use or abuse women sexually.

26. Choose women who are concerned about and working for women’s human rights to be involved with, as allies, colleagues, activist partners, and friends, as long as you have done your homework on the issues she works on. Don’t drain women’s energies by trying to get her to bring you up to speed on Womanist and feminist issues and practices. It is not women’s work to humanise patriarchal and otherwise oppressive men. Seek out anti-racist/anti-sexist men for advice of how to humanise yourself and join women in the struggle when you are welcomed to do so.

27. Don’t pretend you know more about Womanism or feminism than women, and don’t seek positions of power and control in women’s organizations and human rights campaigns.
28. Organise with other men to daily practice being a proWomanist and profeminist: to confront other men’s (and our own) misogyny together. Relieve women of the burden of having to call men out: do it before the women around you do it and let anyone who praises you for doing so know that it’s what any man should do. Especially, do it when the women around you won’t or can’t do it.

29. Make your body and the space around it a misogyny-free zone.

30. If you become a parent, consider not giving the child or children your last name.

31. If you have a daughter (or any other children) tell her that no man, including you, ought to touch her bare skin in the areas usually covered by a girl’s bathing-suit. (Use a washcloth or baby wipes on young children. There are no occasions where your hand or other body areas need to touch those bathing-suit areas specifically and only). Teach her by example that no men should do that. Teach older children how to wash and clean themselves so you aren’t doing it. Don’t tell your daughters you’ll kill (or otherwise hurt) any man that touches her in those areas. This will help ensure she will not tell you about being abused. Instead, tell her you will love her always and comfort her if anything confusing, scary, or horrible happens to her that makes her feel confused, ashamed, dirty, or scared. Tell her predators of children often threaten to kill the parents, and that it’s a common lie they tell so they can get away with abusing her and other kids. Give her clear guidance that it is fine to be rude to any adults who mistreat her in any way, including by yelling, kicking, and punching. Get advice from rape crisis, battery-prevention, and family crisis support service groups on how to help your child, or spouse, or friend, if they have been sexually, physically, verbally, psychologically, or emotionally abused or assaulted. Learn what all those things are, and to look for the signs of someone who has been or is being abused. Study the behaviors that constitute being abusive and neglectful and make sure you aren’t practicing any of them.

32. If you have children, make sure pornography is not in your home, or accessible through the television, VCR, camcorder, or computer, including in your own computer hard drive. Never let your child have a webcam, ever, or a computer in their own bedroom alone. The Internet is a common tool for sexual predators to turn your child into a victim of sexual assault, prostitution, sexual slavery, and/or child pornography, without you even knowing it. Teach them it is a tool for research and connecting with friends and family. (If that’s what it is, there’s no need for any child to have one in their room, whether alone or shared with other siblings.)

33. Don’t be in abusive, neglectful, and highly dysfunctional relationships no matter who is being abusive, neglectful, or highly dysfunctional. Get help from family crisis organizations if you are in an abusive or otherwise fucked up relationship, whether you are the one who is mistreating your partner, or you are being mistreated by them. If you know your relationship is highly toxic or chaotic, get out of it.

34. If you live in a house or home where one or more woman (whether your partner or not) or girl lives, regularly do the grocery shopping, prepare the meals, do the dishes, sweep and wash the floors, make the beds, and vacuum the carpets. Demonstrate to those around you that men do housework, and don’t have to be asked, by a mother, sister, or female partner. Let girl children witness you doing this without being asked, reminded, told, or praised for doing so.

35. Don’t physically strike your child, ever. Don’t put them down, ever. Never tell a child “You’re bad!” Discipline them humanely in ways that lets them know you care about them and are upset with their behavior, not with them as a person, and explain why the behavior upsets you. Follow up any humane (and consistent, expectable) discipline or “time outs” by reminding them that you love them.

If you don’t know how to parent in healthy ways, in ways that support your child having healthy self-esteem and a sense of safety and security when with you, learn how to do so. There are people that know how to do this (not necessarily in our families!), so seek out their advice. Never make your children feel afraid to be around you. This includes not yelling around them, not belittling or insulting their mother or other parent or guardian, or their friends, and not being drunk, high, or stoned around them. Never drive your children anywhere if you are under the influence of any substance that reduces your ability to drive as effectively as you can when you drive most responsibly. Don’t “scare” your kids with driving stunts “as a joke”. Scaring kids isn’t a joke: it’s abusive. If you tickle children to make them laugh, when they say “stop”, STOP. It’s cruel to them if you don’t. (Did you ever like it when someone tickled you beyond the time you wanted them to stop?)

36. Don’t tell children, of any gender, not to cry if they are frustrated, hurt, sad, angry, afraid, or overwhelmed. Encourage them to cry and to otherwise express their feelings, verbally and non-verbally. Teach them how to know and identify what they are feeling, they have a right to their feelings, whatever they are, and how to effectively communicate them to others.

37. Don’t regulate, direct, or control your children’s behavior based on the shape of their genitals. Don’t gender-stereotype your children or make assumptions about who they are and what their interests will be.

38. Report all incidents of adult sexual assault, and domestic violence that you are aware of to the police or to rape crisis and family crisis centers (unless the police are part of the problem in your life). Report any police officer or other professional who should know how to behave around an abused or victimized person to their superior if they are behaving inappropriately, in victim-blaming ways, or abusively.

39. Learn how to be present, supportive, and caring when with someone who feels safe with you, if they have been recently assaulted or hurt, or are triggered into past trauma. Never get angry at them, harass or berate them, blame them, or further hurt or disbelieve women (or others) who are in trouble. Report your best male friend, father, brother, son, or any relative you know if he is oppressively harming women (or anyone else).

40. If possible, remove siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandkids from abusive and neglectful homes if there is a stable, safe place for them to be. Call the department of human services and the police (unless they are part of the problem), if you know of any child who is being abused or neglected. And make sure something is done about it that is in the best interests of the child or children.

41. Don’t sexually touch your children or anyone else’s children. If you feel the inclination or desire to do so, remove yourself from the home or area, and seek out adequate professional help or take yourself to the police station and say “I need help–I am in danger of harming a child.”

42. Report all incidents of child neglect and abuse, even if it is your spouse, relative, friend, pastor, doctor, neighbor (or you) who is being abusive or neglectful.

43. If women work for or with you, treat them with respect and dignity, always. Never comment on their appearance, unless it is strictly related to the duties of her employment. If she works at Hooters, encourage her to sue her employer for making her sign a document that is unconstitutional (giving up her right to complain about and file charges against harassers and other men-behaving-badly). If an employer, don’t set the terms of women’s employment so that they are required to wear clothing men wouldn’t wear to work. If you pay employees, always pay women at least as much as you’d pay men to do the same work. Disproportionately, women have more people to take care in their lives, and capitalist-patriarchal system maintainers generally don’t give a shit.

44. Never threaten to kill or harm the rapist, if a woman reports being raped to you. Instead, ask her what she needs from you, and encourage her to make contact with a rape crisis center, and to not blame herself. Encourage her to go to a hospital as soon as possible and have a rape test done to gather evidence and assess her level of injuries (emotional and physical), so that she has the forensic information needed should she wish to later prosecute the raper. (Make sure steps are taken within 72 hours of a sexual assault to administer medical treatment and collect forensic evidence.)

45. Stop controlling women’s behavior in small or large ways. Never hover over or around a woman in a controlling way, or restrict her range of motion, regardless of your reason for doing it. Never isolate women you are with from their social circle. Learn how to deal with your jealousy in ways that DO NOT perpetuate the lie that she is responsible for your feelings. Own your own feelings. Don’t ever strike a woman, ever. If she strikes you in an unprovoked and harmful manner, back off or leave the situation, and break up with her as soon as possible.

46. Never “trade” sex for money. This means any form of sex, and any kind of money (including bartering with alcohol, drugs, dinner, presents, gifts, etc.). The typical male assumption that “I gotta get some sex from someone” is sexist, inhumane bullshit. If you’re horny, go jerk off, alone. You don’t “need” sex. You may desire it and want it, but you don’t need it. You need oxygen, clean water and air, nutritious food, and safe shelter and companionship, as does everyone else.

47. Strive to be a humane person in the world, rather than a person whose behavior exists to prop up a silly idea or expectation of “how masculine you are supposed to be”. Stop worrying about “being a man” in the obnoxious way that phrase is tossed around, and instead continue taking responsibility for being humane, including when around other men.

48. Never call a girl or woman any of these names (you can fill in the missing letters, in the case of some of them–I will not write them out, as many women who experience them regularly as hostile have seen and heard them about 1000 too many times, at least). This is not a complete list, but you’ll get the idea from the terms listed here: b*tch, sl*t, wh*re, sk*nk, hook*r, h*e, tr*mp, sl*g, tw*t, sn*tch, beav*r, po*nt*ng, h*ochie, g*ok, squ*w, g*sh, c*nt, p*ta, p*ssy, d*ke, n*gga, nigg*h, nigg*r, sp*c, ch*nk, k*ke, or j*p.

Women are not what men call women: misogynist and racist terms reveal what men think of and project onto women, how men perceive and treat women, not what women are. Women are human beings, deserving of respect and dignity at all times. Don’t call a woman any derogatory term that applies only or primarily to women-as-a-negative-thing. Don’t call women derogatory terms that refer to their ethnicity, whether or not these terms are also used against men of oppressed ethnicities. Don’t use the excuse “Women call each other b*tch all the time!” So what? That doesn’t entitle you to do the same.

49. Don’t call women terms that men use to control and put down, insult, and silence women, primarily. Such terms include: crazy, unstable, irrational, hysterical, out-of-your-mind, f*cked up, and stupid.

While some of these terms are used against men too, they are disproportionately and distinctively used against women by men who do not agree with the way a woman is communicating or being. There’s no law that says she has to communicate in ways that you approve of. Learn to hear her on her own terms. (She probably has to do that with you and most other men, after all.)

The way men communicate is often irrational, crazy, f*cked up, histerical, and unstable. Women are told and/or forced to endure men’s dangerous behavior, including verbal behavior, in and out of marriage, in and out of relationships, on and off the streets, in schools, at work, in public places, and in private places.

In the words of the feminist activist Celie's Revenge: ‘I’ve been called these things by men and I’ve heard other women branded like this when they dare to speak their minds, especially if their ideas challenge liberal men on their shit. Angry men are sexy, attractive, living up to their manhood as defined by a patriarchal culture. This culture celebrates and congratulates aggression in men. Movies like The Hulk celebrate the idea that one man can get so angry he can destroy an entire city and white rappers like Eminen make their careers off of his anger at women and gay men. But women are expected to be warm, accommodating and repressed when it comes to our feelings of hurt and rage.’

The expectation that women will and should communicate the way you want them to, is sexist and dehumanizing. Learn to listen to women’s anger and hurt, even and especially when it’s expressed in ways that make you uncomfortable, as long as it isn’t physically violent (unless she’s defending herself against your physical or sexual violence). Learn to be present to it, not to move into a defensive or violent posture. Work to understand women’s experience in patriarchy. Learn to empathize. Don’t tell a woman “I understand” if you really don’t.

One strategy men use as a conscious or unconscious strategy to control, regulate, and silence women is to claim to understand them better than they understand themselves, or to politely (or not) request that women rephrase or tone down what they say and express in tones and manners that are comfortable for men, and constricting of what women need to say. The way women express themselves when hurt and angry is PART OF what you need to hear and listen to. She doesn’t need to “calm down” or “speak more quietly” or “stop crying” to suit your needs. She’s expressing her needs and feelings, after all, not yours. Stay present, listen, and be respectful. You can speak about your experience too, but not in ways that obliterate or demean hers, or make hers “wrong” and yours “right”. That’s sexist and silencing, and damned frustrating and annoying as hell.

50. Don’t ever apologize in order to shut a woman up, or to self-servingly and patronisingly end a discussion. Don’t ever apologize if you don’t fully understand what you are apologizing for. Don’t ever apologize if you don’t intend to make sure that behavior will not be repeated. Don’t apologize for your harmful behavior if you don’t understand the meaning and effect of it as she experiences it, not (necessarily) as you intended it. Doing so will only serve to perpetuate a cycle of abusive behavior that you are spinning. If you don’t understand what she experienced, you are likely to repeat the behavior. (And if you’re a prick, you’re likely to repeat it even if you do understand her experience of it.) Learn to tell women: “Wow. I had no idea what I did was so hurtful to you” and “I hear and respect your anger. Please keep expressing what you need to express to me. I’m listening.” Women’s reality is, after all, as much reality as is men’s.

51. In some instances, men put down in women what males were put down for as kids. Pay attention to this connection, and use it to re-humanise yourself. Because you were made fun of or ridiculed for crying when a boy, for example, that doesn’t give you the right to put women down who cry. You don’t like being shamed, so don’t shame women (or anyone else who isn’t behaving oppressively).

Some women and men are emotionally unwell, unstable, and/or seriously mentally ill. No one who is unwell in these ways needs to be called demeaning names. Speak with women respectfully and non-patronisingly about your concerns for their well-being, if and when you have concerns. That is, speak with them as you would your best male friend (unless you verbally abuse and systematically shame your best male friend). This should go without stating it, but calling a woman “a cr*zy b*tch” is not helpful or supportive, or harmless.

In the words of the feminist quoted earlier, Celie's Revenge: ‘I feel that whether or not it’s true, whether or not a woman really is “mentally ill” any man calling any woman crazy or unstable is wrong and sexist. He should try to help her, understand her, not ever label her. I think more women should be crazy living under this system of patriarchy where you can’t walk down the street without feeling eyes and sometimes even hands invading your right to an autonomous space and being. Where you are expected to flirt back with every creep who finds you attractive unless you want to be called a bitch or dyke. Women who get angry over sexism or even a perceived slight by a man should be understood within the context of living in a patriarchy that forces us to second guess our gut feelings, betray our interests and feel nuts every time our “true-true” selves tell us something isn’t right. The oppressor does not have the right to tell the oppressed when or how to express our anger. There’s nothing I hate more than a white person or a man telling me to calm down or how I should feel or respond to an injustice. Women just like people of color are entitled to every ounce of our anger, our hatred, our pain.’

McLune continues: ‘Men should encourage women to trust their feelings, their passions, their pain even if these feeling cause that man discomfort or even fear. Men should encourage women to be angry. Men should understand why a woman would feel enraged or hurt or confused by something he’s done, take responsibility and stop trying to make us believe everything that happens is “all in our heads.”‘

The problem in Western society, historically and institutionally, and also, often, interpersonally, is white men’s contempt, hatred, disregard, and dismissive attitude for women, expressed interpersonally and though white male supremacist institutionals. The problem is not white women and women of Color’s rage at anyone, and not men of Color’s anger at white men. In my experience, white men generally forget which forms of disrespect or contempt are political enforced, normalised, and required for the systems of oppression we live in to exist and continue. We white men often never fully realise just to what extent our racist and sexist values and ways of being are normalised and accepted, so that anyone else’s values and ways of being are seen as “abnormal” and “unacceptable”. That’s f*cked up, to say the least. White men need to learn, too often from women of Color, white women, and men of Color, that there are other ways of being that are just as human and healthy and appropriate as white men’s ways of being. White men also need to learn that we are not the golden standard for “civilised” behavior, unless “civilised” means savage and cruel. We, “our people”, have committed and are committing great atrocities across the globe. What are “we” doing to stop it? Our historic and political heroes are often mass murderers of people of color, and/or rapers of women.

As a feminist mentor once pointed out to me, privileged and powerful white men sit around in corporate board rooms, making decisions that cause death and destruction to many people (and non-human animals, and plant life, and the Earth) that they will never see. And when committing these atrocities by proxy we white men often call what we are doing “rational” and “well-reasoned”. Privileged men, who are in political and military positions of power, have discussed how many nuclear bombs it will take to curtail a war, and call that conversation “sane”. Read Yurugu, by Marimba Ani, for much more on her analysis of the oppressive thoughts and behaviors created by Western [patriarchal] civilisation’s leaders.

Understand who really has institutional power in this world–look at who controls what happens in the world, economically and politically, religiously and secularly, racially and sexually. It isn’t women, especially women of Color.

50. Get used to not being taken care of emotionally by women, especially when they need to express themselves. The burden on women to always be understanding, loving, devoted, kind, deferential, compliant, submissive, subordinate, apologetic, etc. is a burden no human should have to bear, especially women in infuriating, degrading, brutal, and dehumanising patriarchal relationships and societies.
51. Be aware of your own expectations that women are supposed to be the reconcilers in interpersonal conflicts, and also be aware of--and call men out on--our tendency to use being loving, “sexy”, sweet, suddenly kind, begging of forgiveness, deeply apologetic, sad, pleading, and desperate as tools for keeping women in abusive relationships. If a woman wants out, don’t try and keep her in. She doesn’t belong to you. She’s not your CD collection. She is free to go.

52. Learn all you can about male privilege, and how it operates in intimate and group settings. For example, if at an activist event, notice how many non-feminist men are in leadership, or “hold the microphone” so to speak. Interrupt such non-feminist male-led events, calling on them to get feminist voices to the stage. Work to make sure an organization you are part of has anti-racism, anti-sexxxism feminist women in leadership. Don’t ever think that “feminist” men are more knowledgeable about what sexism is than a woman who has lived in patriarchy. Don’t take Women’s Studies courses at a college in order to “score” with feminist women. (It’s all too common, unfortunately.)

53. Learn that growing your humanity is much more important than protecting your socially learned “male ego”. Don’t lie through your teeth, be evasive, or deny a truth that a woman is calling you on. Admit to being wrong when you are wrong, and own what you have done if you’ve done it, right away. Just because a behavior of yours may be fine when around other men, it may have a very different effect on the woman or women you are with, privately or publicly. Be sensitive and respectful of those feelings. And be aware of your tendency to allow and participate in sexist banter when just with men. Interrupt it. And don’t ever talk about the sex you had with a woman, unless it’s one to one with a trusted, humanitarian friend, and you are being vulnerable, not exploitive.

54. Finally, once again from the feminist writer and activist, Jennifer McLune: ‘Another thing the oppressors, both men and white folks are guilty of is arrogance and self congratulation once they feel they have worked on themselves or towards equality on the behalf of the oppressed. They will trot out the few people of color or women who agree with them and celebrate them and use them to manipulate and silence anyone who does not. When a man believes he is progressive, even feminist, and has paid his dues publicly to the cause of gender equality suddenly he believes he can teach women more than he can learn from us. Suddenly not only is he the expert on gender but he will allow himself to use women as cheerleaders for his ego around his supposed enlightenment. Just because some women think you are great and another woman thinks you are a pig does not give you the right to patronize and silence that woman’s feelings. A man who thinks he’s worked on himself, “recovered from his misogyny”, developed gender consciousness and sensitivity would not call a woman crazy under any circumstances nor would he resort to any number of typically misogynistic manipulations to silence and hurt a woman. The eagerness of so many so-called feminist men to become the spokespersons for feminism is nauseating, especially when time and time again these men prove they still have not learned how to listen to women. A man who has not learned to listen to women, ALL women, hasn’t learned much. Listening only when it strokes your ego is not listening. Listening when it is difficult and uncomfortable is a part of the struggle and reflects real enlightenment.’