Being a better man by being a ‘male feminist’

Okay men, it is time to step up. The random, casual and callous disrespect for women is out of control. And even if you were to say, “It’s not me!” the fact is we have not stood up to say to other men, ‘That’s not cool!”

Social media was all a buzz about Shoshana B. Roberts who walked the streets of New York attracting random, unwanted catcalls. Women talked about it on television and comments left on Facebook posts largely condemned those actions. But it is up to men to tell other men to stop!

I love the women in my life, respect my female co-workers and loyally commit to my female bosses in the workplace. But my wiring of sociological acceptance started early in my life.

As long as I can remember, as a little boy growing up in a matriarchy comprised of my mom and grandmother and two sisters,  I would say, “When I grow up, I want to live in an house full of women who love me.” My father left us on our own when I was two years old, with one sister who was two years older and another who was one year younger. So I had known no other love or strength than that of my mother and grandmother.

My grandmother, through a series of unfortunate circumstances was orphaned as an adolescent and endured countless abuse and in her early teens, got pregnant and had my mother at 16. Her husband left her shortly after giving birth and she was forced to carry on, as she said, “Cleaning white folk’s houses.” She raised my mother as a single teenaged parent. This was in the 1920’s.

So my mom grew up with my grandmother almost like sisters. Their bond was close, forged in the fire of male domination and gender disappointment. So when I came along, the only male child in three generations of my family, they wanted me to be different. Their nurturing love was not borne out of resentment, or anger or urgency that I not become like the men they knew, but our or a special kind of demonstrative love that guided me to respect and appreciate all that was women. The only thing I can remember about my father is a late night booty call to my mom when I as about 4. I remember the scratchy feel of his whiskers and the stale smell of alcohol when he attempted to kiss and hug me. He asked me if I wanted to go camping with him and I said NO! That was it.

In short, my father made no attempt to put his imprint on me, but my mother and Grandmother did. They wired me to be gentle, polite, appreciative and respectful of the women in my family and my life. To love and respect who they are is at the core of my love and respect for all women. And to honor them, I remained true to this ideal. So my life had always been focused on being respectful when I dated, being loyal when going steady, understanding that ‘no meant no!’… being a great husband for the past 35 years and being a fantastic father to my only daughter. I display this and promote this among my peers and friends who know NOT to disrespect women in my presence.

Jackson Katz, the anti-sexist male activist, put it this way… That 3-year-old little boy who was loving and sensitive to his mother grows up to objectify, abuse and becomes misogynistic, what happens? The anti-sexism male activist lays it on the line when he says violence against women is “a men’s issue.”

“These are not women’s issues that some good men help out with,” says Katz, “But gender violence is men’s issues that is masked by the way society differentiates between male and female behaviors.”

The morning after Halloween, one of my friends Jonathan Murray of Brooklyn posted the following in Facebook…

“Hey guys, what the fuck is wrong with us? What happened to charm or even dated James Bond-esque vaguely-misogynistic repertoire?

After one hour+ in the subway with Melissa (his girlfriend) this evening the harassment was so fucking pervasive that we had to leave before the two of us got into a physical altercation.

 This was not “smile” or “god bless you” or even “you should appreciate when someone says you are beautiful” that people have to deal with on the daily….but drunken, aggressive, in-our-face, threatening, ignorant, disgusting vitriol.

 Fuck you new york. Fuck you men. And fuck you weak apologist society that allows this bullshit.”

 I can feel the anger in Jonathan and he is right. We, the men of this society, are responsible and should check the actions of other men. One does not advocate getting involved with an altercation in every instance, but we should open dialogues between our friends and co-workers and spread the word that such actions are unacceptable.

In this society where men revel in the adulation of other men, making disrespect for women something to be frowned upon would get fast traction. The group “Hollaback” which is a campaign to end street harassment can’t do it alone.

Be an advocate, be a ‘feminist’, be on the right side of history!

Follow William on Twitter: @willjwright

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