••• The International Writers Magazine: How We Live Now
A #MeToo Mea Culpa
A. R. G.
The sad truth: I’m a male misogynist.
There’s no doubt about it.
I’ve done some of the rotten things to women we’re all hearing about in the #MeToo discussion. I’ve had sex with a woman who was stiff as a board. I get off on feeling like I have license to treat women’s emotional needs as weapons to be used against them.
I own it.
And there’s just a little bit of hating myself for it, right now.
When I was a kid, and even a teenager, you could probably have called me a woman-hater. Like most kids in a divorced family, I blamed the parent who kept me for the breakup of our family, and for the fact that I had a series of ‘uncles’ who didn’t want me, instead of my real dad.
I carried a rage, even hostility, towards that parent - my mother. But my anger went further. Unresolved, it grew and became a distrust and anger at life in general, specifically the nurturing, connecting, caring, so-called ‘feminine’ parts of life. An anger supported by my dad, who carried his own wounds over the divorce and sexuality in general, and constantly warned me about women and what they would do to you.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he would often say to me, before warning me that women are out to trap us men.
I’ve known about the inner architecture of my anger for a very long time. Decades. And I have worked for an equally long time, struggled even, to try and change myself. With mixed results.
To overcome the belief that women and all things feminine are inherently inferior – chauvinism, in other words – in a Western society, hell in most societies, is to overcome the very fundamental nature of that society. To smash and rebuild the bedrock principles upon which our collective lives are built. Because a fear and hatred of women and all things feminine is literally coded into the founding documents, the laws, and the economic structures in which we all operate.
And don’t bother arguing this point with me.
The evidence is so overwhelming, so profound, and so violent, that to deny it is to announce your own unresolved chauvinism. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!
I saw a response to last year’s Aziz Ansari ‘expose’ where a national columnist wrote very logically about how the current sexual misconduct allegations have the power to destroy a man’s career with no hope of redemption, which at least he would have available ‘in a court, or the Inquisition.’ And I had to wonder who, exactly, finds hope in our courts? Natives? Blacks? Poor people?
There are many yardsticks one could use to evaluate the relative impact of #MeToo with historical realities, but here’s one that hits me like a punch in the gut: if a man kills his wife or spouse, the usual prison sentence if convicted is between 2-5 years. If, on the other hand, a woman has the gall to kill her husband or male companion, the average sentence is between 10-15 years. A man’s life, according to the courts, is worth 2-3 times that of a woman!
I am reminded of the American constitution’s declaration that a black person was worth 3/5ths of a ‘whole person.’ They didn’t bother at the time enunciating what a woman was worth. Women weren’t as important as slaves.
And you want me to think the court of public opinion is being too harsh on rich, successful men?
Fixing the wrong problem
Philosophy professor Kate Manne, author of the book “Down Girl,” makes the point that the role and purpose of misogyny is to control women and keep them in their place.
In an online forum she said, “Misogyny’s …fundamental goal is enforcement. Women who know their place do not need to be put in it.”
That ‘place’ being to cater to men, to do pretty much all the emotional work in relationships, and most of all to support, rather than question, the superior moral, physical, and intellectual properties that are deemed inherent to men. Precisely the same list of ‘better than,’ notice, that are used in justifying the superiority of one race over another.
Go along, says the system, and we’ll get along just fine. Don’t do that, however, and as a woman you should expect consequences – from subtle putdowns and being talked over, to harassment, violence, rape and murder.
The cost for breaking the dominance rules has been, historically, very very high for most women, and certainly for poor women or women of colour.
Excuse me if I don’t shed a tear for the travails or Harvey Weinstein, or Ansari. Or myself.
The costs of my choice to buy in.
Manne has shown me that I still have work to do in busting my internalized misogyny, because I still have a pattern of punishing my girlfriend, either through arguing or through withdrawing my affection, when she rises up and questions my behavior or, more outrageously to me, my thought processes or beliefs around my ‘manhood.’ That’s when I work hard to convince myself that she’s ‘a bitch.’ And to wonder why I’m with her.
My behavior, of course, changed the very nature of our relationship. As it was meant to do. So despite the fact that I’m a loving and considerate guy much of the time, she learned early on, and has said as much, to withdraw parts of her power and her sexuality from our relationship. And it has almost killed the spontaneity between us.
And we both know it, and regret it. But we struggle on; hoping that one or the other of us will eventually find the key to solve the problem, and unlock the real potential in our love for each other.
But, it turns out, I, at least, have been working on the wrong problem. Because, like the white supremacist movement that insists, from its position on the top of the racial heap, that “our problems are real, and no one can expect significant change or a better world until the rest of the heap stops complaining and deals with our issues, dammit!” I too have been insisting that my issues with her behaviour must be dealt with and legitimized. Never seeing that some of my ‘issues’ and behaviors were nothing more substantial or necessary or meaningful than simply being a mechanism for the maintenance of what I perceived as my ‘rightful place,’ which really means my safe, dissociated place, in the relationship – on top.
In the beginning.
My first interactions with any sexual intent with girls were mysterious, confusing, and confounding. I didn’t understand what they wanted or, really, what I wanted either. Now, it’s easy to see that what I was really looking for from them, as I am now, is a sense of loving connection, of intimacy, of care and commitment.
I really don’t know how typical my fumblings towards relationship were compared to anybody else, but they were certainly painful and nerve-wracking to me. So while I was a very sensitive and caring kid who felt all the conflict around me deeply, I had pulled some essence away into an inner sanctum, leaving my judgmental self on guard at the gate.
It wasn’t that girls didn’t seem to initially like me. It was that I was terrified of making a mistake, of exposing myself to potential public ridicule, of not fitting in – of shame most of all.
I remember clearly being in grade nine, and having one of my first dates with a girl. Oh, the thrill! We were to attend a school dance, and she asked me to bring booze. Wow, this just kept getting better! With a few shots in her, she necked with me a bit, and I was amazed at how good it felt. I opened the gates a bit, and felt something warm and lovely.
The next morning, as I walked down the school hallway, a kid I hardly knew came up and said to me “Hey, I hear you were with that slut last night.”
I was shocked and instantly ashamed. Was I with a slut? I had no idea. Then one of my ‘friends’ said basically the same thing to me. I had never heard such things being directed at me before.
I dropped her like a stone.
And that ‘friend’ took her to the next dance.
I never forgave his betrayal.
Or my betrayal - of her.
Within a couple of years I made a clear and distinct choice: I was going to ignore all the emotional complexities of relationships, and learn how to get sex – the wonderful, magical cure-all that would do so much for me as a young man – prove my worth, spread my seed, meet my unacknowledged emotional needs for care and intimacy, and, I soon discovered, let me exercise power over women in a way that was strangely compelling. To make a girl do something sexually was to demonstrate, in action, that I was a real man.
So off I went, chasing sex. And I got some, too.
Once a year.
And once per girl.
That was my sexual experience in my late teens, basically. I had no idea why they took me to bed – or let me take them – and no idea why it was only once.
In retrospect, my firm decision to be a chauvinist, against my natural inclinations and my own essential emotional nature, was having consequences.
See, it’s not like this domination bullshit doesn’t come with a heavy price – on me.
I know, boo-hoo, right? I’m a snowflake for noticing that my internalized chauvinism actually hurts ME. But it does.
Because how I treat the woman in my life is how I treat my inner feminine self – the caring, feeling, loving, creative, vulnerable and receptive parts of myself. And, lo and behold, it turns out that those are the mostly the parts that make life worth living.
I have been so harsh with myself, in my efforts to protect my superior façade, suppress my feelings, be a ‘real man,’ and live up to my father’s expectations and exhortations to never let a woman ‘trap’ me, that it has felt for most of my life like I am at war.
The pain I’ve experienced from seeing the hurt I’ve caused the women in my life, the pain I feel for them when I see what society demands, and how heroic are their efforts to meet those demands, have at times been almost too much. I considered suicide at several stages. First as a teenager, fumbling my way towards girls and that promised peace offered by the Holy Grail of sex. And later, as an adult, wondering why life had never turned out the way I hoped it would, with a loving relationship, some success, and mostly some frikken’ inner peace!
My internal battle, like the battle to control women in the world, has never ceased.
Now, though, as more women own their power and rise up to oppose the unjustness of misogyny in this #MeToo moment, they are actually helping me, the misogynist, to understand what I must give up on to have any chance at inner peace.
I have to give up trying to be ‘on top.’
Misogyny is an emperor with no clothes, a hollow man, made real only by the violent insistence of so many men and the institutions they control that it IS real, and valuable, and necessary, and that “if women want change, then THEY must change! For we are perfect as we are. We belong on top, because that is where GOD, in all his male, violent, society-destroying righteous judgment, has placed us!”
The structure of this superior male empire is becoming increasingly brittle as it becomes increasingly visible, and the façade is cracking faster all the time.
I watched Spielberg’s movie “Empire of the Sun” recently, and it reminded me how quickly an entire way of being and social structure that has been on top for hundreds of years can be completely unseated in a matter of months. The British Empire never recovered from World War II, and it crumbled globally.
If we as a species are to survive climate change, and the growing idiocy threatening nuclear war, and all the other real issues we have to deal with on this planet, we must tear asunder the tenants of male superiority, with its ongoing war against women, and its own feminine self.
Time to end the war, and find a just peace.
America has had a war on alcohol. It failed. Wars against communism, and Islamic extremism. Failures. An ongoing war on drugs. Failing harder than ever. Drugs are a natural response to the oppressive psychic space we are living in.
And there’s the war against women.
Time for that, too, to finally fail.
We need, I think, to begin to treat other people in a way we have, collectively, never done. We must begin to accept that all people, and all parts of ourselves, are genuine, worthy participants in our collective process. To unlock the vast potential – political, moral, economic, and inspirational – of the feminine as an equal partner to the masculine. Equally valued. Equally heard.
Who can even imagine what that might lead to? Or look like?
Certainly Hollywood has failed miserably to imagine a woman with power who isn’t a woman who’s kicking a man’s ass. “Wonder Woman” may have inspired little girls, but inspired them to what, exactly? Another perfect example of how deeply ingrained our idea is that to be violent is to be powerful. Is that really the ideal we wish to pursue in the relationship between men and women? I say, if so, then the chauvinists have already won.
It is past time for the institutions and edifices of law, religion, morality, business, and entertainment to discover new guiding principals, new images and imaginings of what value there might be in celebrating the energies of women, of the feminine, of Mother Nature herself.
To go beyond “all men are created equal.” For without compassion and caring and emotional connection for all, we have never been able to remotely live up to that ideal in the first place. It has not served men to be ‘equal.’ Success for us has been to be on top.
It’s an image of success that is, literally, killing people. It’s been killing something in me for a long, long time.
Time to invent a new success. A new manifesto of intimacy, of relationship.
And we will. Even if it’s one chauvinist like me at a time.
© A.R. G. 2018.
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