Now for something completely different. The Washington Post has a “Post Everything” section where it posts opinion pieces from people who aren’t regular writers for the paper. Today, the Post published a piece that really seemed out there. It’s titled, “Thanks for not raping us, all you ‘good men.’ But it’s not enough.”
If you guessed from the title that this is not going to be a carefully reasoned piece, you guessed right. It opens with author Victoria Bissell Brown, a retired history professor, screaming at her husband over something she admits was a very trivial comment:
I yelled at my husband last night. Not pick-up-your-socks yell. Not how-could-you-ignore-that-red-light yell. This was real yelling. This was 30 minutes of from-the-gut yelling. Triggered by a small, thoughtless, dismissive, annoyed, patronizing comment. Really small. A micro-wave that triggered a hurricane. I blew. Hard and fast. And it terrified me. I’m still terrified by what I felt and what I said. I am almost 70 years old. I am a grandmother. Yet in that roiling moment, screaming at my husband as if he represented every clueless male on the planet (and I every angry woman of 2018), I announced that I hate all men and wish all men were dead. If one of my grandchildren yelled something that ridiculous, I’d have to stifle a laugh.
I guess it’s good that she knows how ridiculous this sounds. But does she really know? Because the rest of the article is basically an argument for more rage at men, at least I think it is to the degree it’s coherent at all.
In the centuries of feminist movements that have washed up and away, good men have not once organized their own mass movement to change themselves and their sons or to attack the mean-spirited, teasing, punching thing that passes for male culture. Not once. Bastards. Don’t listen to me. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Earn your power for once.
This is wrong and also offensive (not that I suspect the author cares). There is a long history of men who have sought to restrain the baser impulses of other men. They are called fathers. These days there are plenty of absent ones and I’m sure there were always bad ones but a lot of fathers have taught their sons to respect women from an early age and, to be blunt, not to be rapists and bastards. The idea that there are no men engaged in promoting respect for women is nonsense.
As for male culture being mean-spirited. Okay, I agree that sometimes in some places it is, but often it’s also supportive and helpful and full of mutual respect that is itself worthy of respect. Wishing all men were dead doesn’t seem to allow a lot of room for any of that nuance. Shouting at the men who aren’t the problem makes about as much sense as screaming at your husband for 30 minutes over a minor comment. What do you hope to accomplish?
Think about “listen to women” as a program for change. It says to women: You will continue to suffer these abuses, men will continue to do disgusting things to you, the storms will keep coming, the tide will continue to rise, but now, we will listen and help you rebuild.
Pay attention people: If we do not raise boys to walk humbly and care deeply, if we do not demand that men do more than just listen, we will all drown in the flood.
The Kavanaugh confirmation is only mentioned indirectly but that’s clearly what prompted all of this outrage. The problem, of course, is that his accusers did not have much in the way of corroboration for their accusations. Shouldn’t that matter? I think it should but it doesn’t get mentioned.
And after all of this rage we’re just back to ‘teach boys to respect women’ which is a fine message but, again, it’s not as if no one is doing that already. More to the point, it’s not as if no men are doing that already. And if this constitutes mansplaining in the author’s eyes, so be it. Someone needs to say ‘get a grip’ and it might as well be me.