Men Will Never Truly Understand A Day In The Life of Women. But Shouldn’t We Try?

The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.

For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”

“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.

He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”

For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.

This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been
harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies
indicate that almost 100 percent of women
will face some sort of street harassment at one point
in their lives.

Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet,
many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of
it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst,
annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.

The reality of street harassment is far worse than what most men think or believe. In cities large
and small, women have to contend with comments that range from the mildly offensive to the
disgusting. Beyond being verbally harassed, many women are followed and some women are
even forced to deal with the same harasser on a daily basis. And for some women, this
“harmless” harassment leads to assault.

But I realized, as Dina was telling me her story, that I have never actually been witness to the
kind of street harassment my women friends tell me about. If a woman is walking down the
street with me, other men generally won’t engage in any kind of harassing behavior towards
her because street harassment, like all forms of harassment, is about attacking the vulnerable.

And despite what some readers of this column may think about my gender, I will never know
what it feels like for a woman to walk down the street alone. How am I to fully relate to the pain, fear, and humiliation of street harassment when I have never witnessed its full form and lack the the personal experience of being harassed on the street?

Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.

My passion and main concern with respect to combating sexism has been about revealing
hidden forms of sexism; my fight lies in overturning the idea that women and girls are subject to
a certain biological destiny, and revealing what we think to be biological destiny as actually the
problematic ways in which we condition girls and women in our society. This conditioning
creates a lens through which women see the world and approach their life—a conditioning that
itself is discriminatory.

Women not only deal with discriminatory behavior on a daily basis, but they are also loaded with
the baggage of their social conditioning. We must recognize that, day in and day out, every hour, every minute, women face lives that we men will rarely see and never feel.

Women are constantly reminded that they are different from us. And while we will never fully understand or feel what it’s like to deal with these issues, we also don’t make any effort to ask, we don’t inquire about their struggles. When we do hear about realities like street harassment, we dismiss the situations as just the way things are. Sometimes, as so often happens with street harassment, we diminish the impact it has on women, “Boys will be boys.”

And therein lies the problem: if and when we think of sexism, it’s about class-action lawsuits,
wage fairness—the big issues. We don’t seem to pay attention to the minutiae of daily life and the discrimination that exists on an everyday level.

As men, we will never know what it’s like to get up in the morning with two kids and have the
pressure of getting them ready for school, while simultaneously finding and juggling time to get
primped and ready—instead of the morning routine adopted by most men, which calls for taking a five minute shower and throwing on a suit.

If a woman shows up to work without makeup, everyone assumes there to be a death in the family or that they’re sick. Without makeup, they look haggard and tired to us. A woman who doesn’t have on makeup for work is seen as unprofessional.

As men, we very rarely, if ever, know what it’s like to face unwelcome comments and jokes from
a co-worker and go through a process of deciding, like so many women do, if it’s “worth it” to
say or do anything.

We don’t know what it feels like to ask our friends if our arms look fat or to hear comments like
“just another ten pounds and you’ll be perfect.” We don’t know what it feels like, because we
don’t have to buy Spanx, we don’t have to conform, and we don’t have to combat unhealthy
body images coming at us from multiple directions.

We don’t know what it’s like to deal with the burden of birth control. We don’t try to understand
what it feels like to remember take a pill every day, to deal with the insurance and associated costs, to
confront yearly invasive exams, and to live with possible physical side effects. We don’t seem to
realize that birth control is not just an issue for women deal with; it’s an issue that we should also take responsibility for.

We don’t know what it’s like to have our intuition dismissed, especially when we sense danger
and feel unsafe. How would we know? We men are perceptive and women are just overreacting.

This is why the sexism we have to combat in this country is the kind we don’t even notice. It’s
the sexism that we wave off as, “That’s the way things are.” It’s the kind of sexism we haven’t
even started to address in our society at large. And because we refuse to dig deeper to learn
about the everyday struggles of women, we persist with behavior that simultaneously hurts
women and drives the issue of gender discrimination deeper into a hidden underworld.

My friend Mike gets very frustrated with my writing about women because he doesn’t see a need for it. He sees the way men and women relate to each other in the world as a competition, instead of as an opportunity for us to help and defend each other.

Just the other day, he asked me, “Why don’t you defend men?”

Without the support and care of women, without their consideration of our aspirations and how
we feel, we wouldn’t be who we are. Our daughters, wives, co-workers, mothers, sisters,
girlfriends, need to understand that a day in their life doesn’t have to be lived alone.

Having consciousness about the daily struggles of women is something that I am still learning
how to do. Like so many men, I have been conditioned by our society to think that women are here to support my needs, instead of learning that we are here to support each other.

Last weekend, I had an experience that reminded me to think about the struggles of women.
After leaving a dinner meeting, I walked to a bank of elevators that led to the parking structure
where my car was parked. When the elevator doors opened, I was greeted by a woman who
was headed to the same parking garage. Given the situation—it was late at night with no one
around—I told her, “I’ll take the next one.”

I’m not a saint. I still have so much to learn. But at that moment, I, as a man, made the conscious decision to calculate how riding elevator late at night with a strange man would make this woman feel. And by putting myself in her shoes (as much as I could), I adjusted my behavior accordingly.

This woman knew nothing about my intentions and nothing about me. Did I want her to spend
the next thirty seconds wondering what was going to happen to her at 11pm at night? Nope. I
wonder if she would have asked me to take the next elevator. I know she has probably been
conditioned to think, like so many women, that asking a man to take the next elevator would be
rude and presumptuous.

That night, I did what most women do for men on an everyday basis: I considered her
needs. I thought about how the situation would make her feel—not because I wanted to avoid a
reaction, but because I wanted to support her. It’s just not something men do as easily for
women.

Hopefully, my decision was a respite for her.

But I know it was a brief one.

Because the next morning, she’ll have to start the process all over again: living in a country—
and a world—that may respect her on the surface, but finds a way, every minute, every hour, to
make her feel like she’s different from me.

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Avatar of Yashar

41 Responses to “Men Will Never Truly Understand A Day In The Life of Women. But Shouldn’t We Try?”

  1. Avatar of catt9
    catt9 June 1, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Thank You

  2. Avatar of Beatnik Betty
    Beatnik Betty February 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    “We must recognize that, day in and day out, every hour, every minute, women face lives that we men will rarely see and never feel.”

    Please, plaster this to billboards across the world…

  3. Avatar of yes
    yes December 12, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Hi Yashir,

    Just found your blog today and I am *really* appreciating it. It feels really.. relieving(?) to hear a man so eloquently express some of the things I’ve been trying to explain to men for years and am almost always dismissed. Finally, someone gets it!!!

    On several occasions while reading this morning, I’ve thought about sharing your posts with my boyfriend, in the hopes of sparking some good communication about issues that are important to me. There are a few reasons that have stopped me from doing this however, a big one is in this post.

    Your observations are completely written from the point of view of a man who’s had a privileged upbringing. My boyfriend was never given the opportunity for a quality education, will never work in an office, and will never wear a suit. I think that your writing from this perspective characterizes your observations on feminism and sexism as a “first world problem”. I am pretty sure that my boyfriend, a person of color, who didn’t receive an education, completely sees feminism in that way. In the U.S., women are able to have their own careers, and have access to many resources and opportunities that women in other countries do not have at all. In this way, I think a lot of men in the U.S. can’t help but think that women in the U.S. don’t have it that bad, and therefore feminism is not a major issue anymore. In reality, we don’t have it that bad in comparison, but that thinking enables men to completely dismiss the issues of sexualization and lack of respect for women’s voices in daily life that still exist, in both the first and third world. My only suggestion is that your examples of “daily life” that are laced throughout your posts may be more widely effective if they do not incorporate the assumption that the only people you may be addressing are people of privilege, because that alienates a large swath of the population, and sexism exists in all communities.

  4. Avatar of Leesa
    Leesa December 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    This is an interesting article and there were parts of it that I thought were really good and parts I thought, “Uh-oh”. I also agree with a lot of what Stevenav has to say in response. I don’t think that is all about “What about MEN? Aren’t we the most important beings on the planet???”

    As a woman reading this article, I felt patronised. Ok; I don’t suffer much from street harrassment, possibly because I am of an age and physical type where I no longer attract that sort of attention. I suspect I also have a look about me these days that says “Don’t go there. Just don’t”. I am grateful for that :-). But it has happened to me in the past and I remember only too well the sense of being degraded because of it. I also agree that it is something which simply should not happen, to women or men, boys or girls, people of different cultural backgrounds. So I also agree with whoever said this is not just about women.

    Where I think this article begins to be what it condemns is in the undertone of “we must look after women”. I think you may be suggesting, ever so subtly, that women are a bit fragile, and that men should never forget all the amazing things they do for men, and that women should be respected, cherished and protected for their extraordinary capacities to be nurturers and carers and mothers.

    No, thanks. I would like to be respected for being strong and capable and forthright and competent and singularly unwilling to accept the role that society wants me to inhabit. THAT is what I want the street-harassers, elevator-travellers, workplace sexists, and gender traditionalists to understand and accept. Wake me up when we get there, someone.

    • Avatar of catt9
      catt9 June 1, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      I think that with what he had to work with he’s just trying his best to start the process. I don’t think he meant to infer that women are not strong but that instead we shouldn’t have to be just to live in our society. It’s not even that strength is a bad thing (at all) its just we are all made differently and one persons strength equals respect another equals natural personality and for another it equals a very serious amount of work.
      Secondly, this may be a bit blunt but if you want those “street-harassers, elevator-travellers, workplace sexists, and gender traditionalists to understand and accept (and respect) you for being strong and capable and forthright and competent and singularly unwilling to accept the role that society wants me to inhabit.” Then you’ll have to be those things without demanding that respect. Be those things by acting them out, If you are in fact strong and capable and forthright and competent and singularly unwilling to accept the role that society wants me to inhabit then there should be no problem here with their attitude and sexist remarks. There is a quo to overcome and a distinct disadvantage to women in our society but if you are able to over take them daily with all of those traits then there should be no reason to be concerned with them not understanding your predicament as a woman in the world.

  5. Avatar of Coleen
    Coleen November 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Dean J. R. Schackleton of The University of Westminister School of Economics recently published PEER REVIEWED research showing that gays and lesbians in England make more than heterosexuals (does this not “conclude” that heterosexuals are discriminated against!?… or, is it just that people have different propensities in the work place? He also published peer-reviewed research concluding that Indian men make more than White men and that men and women work the same amount of productive hours – when will feminist research include changing tires, mowing the lawn and painting fences as often as it does knitting socks and making scrapbooks… never, because it’s about making men out to be the “evil” of society.

    The Journal of Economic Litterature (also peer-reviewed; unlike feminist “studies”) reports that when all hours of productive labour are accounted for, men tend to work more hours per week than women. This “equal-work” was recently confirmed by research from Sabrina L. Schaeffer, Dr. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Dr. Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics, Jennifer Baxter and Diana Smart, Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, Dr Walter Block, Dr Warren Farrel, Dr Thomas Sowell and by the CONSAD Research Corporation in a report prepared for and forworded by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Standards Administration and also according to data just released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    But, this MUST be falsified info, as it does not coincide with the “Blame Males” dogma so many blindly follow. Please publish well-researched articles as apposed to “blame-based” opinion pieces and allow men and women to worry about more important issues; like their children and their children’s futures.

    I’m sure that as an open-minded journalist with such critical views that you welcome any serious critique of your articles and willingly allow it to stand beside your published views without sensoring and editing.

    • Avatar of Lestat
      Lestat December 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      women start as children too! why shouldn’t women be supported?

    • Avatar of JustSeeking
      JustSeeking March 19, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      Just for the record, in my married years, this woman cut the firewood, mowed the lawn & trimmed shrubbery, saw to all house repairs, removed all snow (in Anchorage there tends to be a lot of that), raised the kids, cooked all meals, did the laundry, paid the bills and managed the budget, cleaned the house, and worked as many as 40 hours/week outside the home, etc etc etc. During all of that, when he was not at work, my husband either was at a bar or a friend’s house, or else he was sitting in front of his computer or the TV at home. I don’t think he ever bothered to eat anything I cooked for him while it was still hot, choosing to avoid his family during mealtimes. I couldn’t even get him to make a TV dinner for the kids when I was too sick to get out of bed. Your published scientific reports don’t mean squat to me.

      • Avatar of adamski
        adamski October 8, 2012 at 9:50 am #

        Dismissing Scientific stats, because it doesn’t correspondence to your (one person) reality says a lot about how clearly & Objectively you can think. !!!

  6. Avatar of GratefulAlthea
    GratefulAlthea November 20, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    I am street harassed almost EVERY SINGLE TIME that I go out in public and I hate it. It doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing a skirt and blouse or a coat, pants, and flats. I try to avoid eye contact, try to avoid being around men, try to seem threatening and aggressive–those things help alleviate the problem, but it’s still there. Men get angry at me for not speaking to them when they speak to me; I’ve been called all kinds of offensive names. I’d rather be considered a bitch, though, than be assaulted, raped, murdered, or have something else like that happen. I hate it how men think that I OWE it to them to talk to them. If you’re a man, and I don’t know you, hell no I’m not going to talk to you unless you’re a police officer or front desk receptionist or something like that. If you get too close to me for my comfort, hell yes I’m going to step away and back away from you. I have had men ask, “what’s YOUR problem?” My problem is that YOU DO NOT RESPECT ME and you constantly BOTHER and THREATEN me when I’m just trying to go about my daily life and take care of business!

    I had one guy on the bus actually touch me the other day; I was so filled with anger that I expected myself to punch him in the face. My whole body wasn’t even enraged; it had become a drop of rage itself for a moment. Instead, I told the person VERY loudly not to touch me. People turned around and stared at me, but hey, they have NO RIGHT to judge me! I was protecting myself and I have a right to be safe.

    • Avatar of mockkatherine
      mockkatherine June 29, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      “I hate it how men think that I OWE it to them to talk to them.”

      That really is precisely how it feels. This happens to me constantly. At first when I was younger I kind of liked it, because I wasn’t confident in my body, and I didn’t believe I was sexy. But I no longer appreciate having my sexuality affirmed by strangers in this manner. If someone gives me a sincere compliment, male or female, that is one thing. But when these comments are delivered with a tone that is overly familiar, suggestive, or even offensive, or *worst* when the tone is one of entitlement, that is really unacceptable. Even some guy who seemed nice enough who tried to ask me out in the grocery store seemed pissed off when I told him politely that I was flattered but I had a boyfriend.

      Yashar-
      Thank you so much for your blog. I’ve only read this article and “On Women’s Rights: Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Whatever” but so far it is really lovely to hear a male point of view on this stuff. Some things you pointed out in this article as discrimination or burden I hadn’t even noticed because they are so normal. I’m hoping to show this article to my male friends so they understand better what I mean when I seem uncomfortable with their ‘jokes’ or dismissive attitude about women’s rights.

  7. Avatar of annvictoria
    annvictoria November 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    I just had this argument yesterday with this a$$hole at the dog park. He’s disgusting and hitting on me every time I see him, and I”m polite because I need the dog company at the park and don’t want to get a bad reputation, but I had enough yesterday.

    I finally screamed at him (gaslight!) due to his inane remarks trying to get me go out with him, and said that he had no idea what it was like to be a woman and walk around all day with tits and get treated a certain way just because you have them. I’ve managed to walk with a confidence that utterly leaves them speechless, that is, unless I engage them with a smile or comment so I rarely ever do, and do you know what that makes me? An effing bitch on the street and that’s not the mood I wish to be in but it’s simply not possible to walk in NYC looking good FOR YOURSELF and be any other way or you get the harassment.

    And what pisses me off the most about the harassment is this: Most of the men say their comments in a way that they are conveying a freaking validation to me, and in my mind I’m screaming LIKE I NEED YOU TO APPROVE ME YOU ASSHOLE!

    I look good for myself and my job and my sanity.
    If a guy wants to say something he can say it in a nice complimentary way like “you look nice today” or “you look beautiful”. Not “DAMN”! Or the way they make this ridiculous eye contact like you should drop to your knees on the street.

  8. Avatar of Mirin
    Mirin October 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    I’m a woman.

    I’m sure you had good intentions when you were writing that, but while trying to fight against sexism, you are being rather sexist yourself – treating men like a whole different species, and implying that the gender role that’s attached to women is the way they are, and that is the reason why they should be respected.

    You act like men don’t face sexual harassment.
    Do you also deny the existence of female-on-male rape and domestic abuse? Do you know how surprisingly common that is?

    I don’t know the hardships of women that you described, as I don’t spend more than fifteen minutes fixing myself up in the morning, nor have (or plan to have) children, nor am the one who manages birth control.

    Should I then be protected less than those who do?
    Of course not. I should be protected because I’m still a woman.
    Then does it matter if I am a woman or not?

    What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not about women. Harassment is harassment, so you shouldn’t single out women as the victims.

    • Avatar of Lestat
      Lestat December 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

      He’s simply giving a voice to women, not dismissing the fact that men also deal with some of the same issues, there are so many ignorant women who believe we already achieved equality in this world but truth is we all stopped trying 40 years ago and if there’s a lack of females standing up to fight at least there is a man in this world who has the humanity to care enough to say something, which you should really try to appreciate.

    • Avatar of notjustaprettyface
      notjustaprettyface December 17, 2011 at 9:19 am #

      do you hav any idea how few women on male rape there is? even boys are almost always raped by men. im not saying it doesnt happen, but when you compare it to how often men are the rapists if you look at the big picture women rapists are a very small percentage. and more often then not women are being raped. and right now as im typing this i have a group of ten teenage guys staring at my boobs and trying to get my attention. point made.

  9. Avatar of Julie
    Julie September 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    I consider myself lucky that when I tell my boyfriend about any street harassment he never waves it off as harmless. However, I avoid telling him about it because he’s usually a bit too concerned. We’re in college and when I put together my schedule, he gets worried if I have a class end later than 6:00. We live right across the street from a 7eleven and he gets mad if I try to run over there when it’s dark to grab something, even though there are plenty of cops in the area. He always seems so worried if I mention it, even if it was just a car honking at me, not some guy actually talking to me.
    I think since guys never see it happen and girls don’t often tell them about it, they view it as something extremely rare. So they’ll either wave it off as some guy harmlessly flirting or [less often, and probably only if he's your boyfriend] as something really serious. I’m glad he doesn’t wave it off, but I get really frustrated when he tells me I can’t go grab some snacks at 8pm.

    And Yashar, about that woman in the elevator: I’m sure she was confused, but extremely grateful. If it’s late at night it doesn’t matter what the man looks like. He can be any age (teen to adult), any race, and any class and I’ll still feel completely vulnerable.

  10. Avatar of Dana
    Dana September 26, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    There are women who don’t get harassed on the street. That’s those of us who got fat for various reasons (no, it’s not that my mommy didn’t love me enough–it started out as side-effects from that contraceptive pill we have to take ’cause dudes don’t want to wear a condom, then spiraled out of control from there), and thus became invisible.

    I’m not sure which is worse. At least if they’re catcalling, they can see me.

    But I still hated the catcalling.

    • Avatar of NeonCowgirl
      NeonCowgirl October 18, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      Unfortunately, as a life-long fat woman, I’m still not invisible to street harassment. In fact, it is sometimes MORE vicious because I’m supposed to be grateful for the attention.

      Being fat and female in this society is hard because we are both highly visible and totally invisible because we don’t conform to normal beauty standards. This leave us open to harassment that is used to both shame us and objectify us. It’s tiring.

      And it’s taken a lot of time and a lot of exploration of the Fat Acceptance movement, to get to a place where I can understand the injustice of body-policing.

  11. Avatar of _themis_
    _themis_ September 23, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    The “why don’t you defend men” posts are extremely pathetic, irritating and highly misinformed, PROVING the sheer ignorance about this issue among certain men. This article, as one reader has already pointed out, was not written about men, but about the need for men to try and comprehend the situations that women often and unintentionally find themselves in. Men do not end up in these compromising, awkward and intimidating scenarios during their day to day lives. Very few can understand how demeaning and embarrassing it is to be spanked on the ass in a club by a complete stranger, or walking home at night convinced that the guy behind you is about to rape you. After all, a girl saying “hey baby” on the street does not make a guy panic or shudder because he realises he’s walking alone. Which begs the question, if you are not facing the same circumstances, what are we defending you from exactly? Another backward attitude is apparent here: I hate when people think women should be “cool about” or even “grateful for” the heaps of “harmless flirtation” thrown their way. Flirtation is a two way street: if she is alone and minding her own business, anything remotely suggestive or overtly sexual is NOT WELCOME. This is a major faux-pas and can intimidate, frighten, annoy or embarrass her. Save your cat-calls and body-grabbing for a woman who is either paid for it, or explicitly invites you to do so. Men acting like they are already familiar with you is NOT FLATTERY. End of. These men seem to confuse flirtation with objectification…! If you are not my partner, DO NOT get familiar with me on the street. I don’t freaking know you. Keep walking.

    • Avatar of GratefulAlthea
      GratefulAlthea November 20, 2011 at 4:39 am #

      AMEN. That’s EXACTLY how I feel!

      And men who get angry with me for not speaking to them just prove to me that they ARE assholes who would rape me if they had the chance. If a man was truly a good man, he would freaking understand that any kind of attention when a woman is alone or just going about her daily life is unwelcome.

    • Avatar of Lestat
      Lestat December 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      so f*cking true

  12. SarahWilson01 September 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Yes.

    I am a trans woman (that is, a woman choosing to stress an aspect of my identity to make a point). I transitioned late in life (47) and have marvelled at the sense of seeing both sides of life.

    I sometimes wish that the (typically male) clinicians who tell me all about my condition could walk in my shoes for a day. And that cis men could similarly walk in women’s shoes. It is a theme that constantly tugs at me, to the extent that I wrote this about it:

    BEING YOU

    Let me wear your hands and hair,
    ease myself into your legs and
    slip your arms and shoulders on,
    button up your chest and pull your face.

    Let me use your eyes to check
    that everything’s in place, flex
    your muscles, flick your tongue
    across your teeth and speak.

    For then – and only then -
    can I begin to understand
    what being you is really like.

    In whatever situation I find myself, whoever I encounter, I find myself thinking this. It sometimes leads to some impertinent, intrusive questions as I try to see life from someone else’s point of view.

  13. Avatar of pitbullgirl65
    pitbullgirl65 September 3, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Oh god the what about the mennsss!! comments are here. Why don’t you listen to what he is saying and put yourself in our shoes? Let me tell you my experiences with street harrassment:”Smile! it can’t be bad!” (god I hate that. Hate.)Have men hoot rude statements about my body, when all I want is to be able to take a walk. Having : a stranger run his finger down my leg going Ohhhhh and walking away. Having someone actually peek down my shirt, yes he pulled it away from my chest and looked down my motherfucking shirt. Having a man run both of his hands from my ankle up to my knees when i was wearing shorts. Has this happened to any of you or your male friends? What don’t you defend women? Believe me, we are sick and tired of trying explain how demeaning this is, without some man or woman too, jumping in to defend men, instead of listening to us. How about this: I propose that every man reading this live for a few days as a woman: seriously. You will truly understand what we mean by Male (esp white) Privilage afterwards. And maybe, just maybe you will be a better ally.

  14. Avatar of lawahine
    lawahine August 31, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Thank you very much for this post. I appreciate this coming from a male point of view. I also very much appreciate your conscience decision to let that woman ride that elevator on her own. I cannot count the number of times men made me feel uncomfortable, sometimes downright terrified, most likely completely unaware that they were doing so.

    In response to Stevenav, I agree, it may have been quick to say that men don’t “know what it’s like to get up in the morning with two kids and have the pressure of getting them ready for school…” but the point of this was the second part of the sentance. Men don’t know what it is like to deal with these responsibilities and also the added social pressure to do their hair,wear makeup and be “cute.” Men don’t understand this because, in my experiance, most men tend to believe this is something we women enjoy. For most of us it is a chore and in fact one I purposefully and happily avoid most days.

    Also, Stevenav, I do not believe men need more people to “stand up” for them. We live in a patriarchal society and our culture is drenched in ALL “male” perspectives both positive and negative. It is funny to me that when one man decides to try to write speak about how women feel he gets criticized by other men for it. That just speaks to what is wrong in our society. Men and women do NEED to stand in solidarity with each other. That is the only way we can solve this problem. Women cannot win the fight against street harassment alone. MEN need to learn to understand why their behavior perpetuates a very negative situation and yes, the only way they are going to learn is if other MEN tell them it’s not cool. Trust me, when a woman calls out a man on this behavior she can be quickly minimized to a simple expletive.

    So instead of taking the time to criticize this one man for trying to do his part in understanding the perspective of women maybe you should take a moment to put yourself in our shoes and pay attention to your own behavior. Perhaps choose to take the next elevator or cross the street when you just happen to be walking the same direction as a woman some late night.

  15. Avatar of VikingIrish
    VikingIrish August 31, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Can’t that be the subject of another article? Why don’t you write that article.

  16. Avatar of Nickey76
    Nickey76 August 31, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Great post. I find the first response a little funny though…yet again, it’s “what about me, what about my needs as a MAN??” Men weren’t the sole focus for this piece but we find that men and women will see this post from different angles.

    I wish we could each see the good things in each other and try to understand without shifting the focus back to self. Appreciate the post for what it is and try to understand the other side of it.

    As a woman, I’ve been trying to see it from a man’s perspective since I was old enough to understand that men and women are treated very differently and there are double standards. When I flip though the myriad of magazine articles and television shows telling me how to treat a man, and get them to understand me; advising me on what I need to do to be better in bed, more supportive as a partner; how to dress and act to attract a man; interact with Sr. leaders in an organization to get ahead in a man’s world, I’m already trying to be and do better to simply co-exist in a “man’s world”. The thought never really crosses a woman’s mind that men should bend to meet her half way. We are told that the onus is on us from the very beginning to fit in, be better for HIM, do better for family, and get ahead to be better for ourselves.

    You won’t find a lot of women who read an article and flip it to say “well what about my needs, why aren’t you defending me as a woman?!!” because chances are sir, we are in search of answers because we already think we need to be better for a man and to do that, we need to get inside a man’s mind to find out what makes him tick.

    We are also used to having to defend ourselves and we don’t look for others to do it. When it happens though, it is nice to witness. It actually makes our day, we talk about it to our friends because it is a rare occurence. We share articles like the one above, tell our mothers that a man actually came to our “defense” on the street. It’s a big deal to us, and it really shouldn’t be.

    I’m glad you commented to share your side. At least you took the time to read it and share your thoughts which many men wouldn’t do.

  17. Avatar of Stevenav
    Stevenav August 30, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I have to agree with your friend. Why don’t you defend men?

    Your rationale that you provided was awful. It was a soliloquy on the troubles of women, yes, but it utterly failed to answer the question you were asked. Why don’t you defend men?

    Saying that women are great or shaped you is fine and honest. Women do help shape us all, but so do men. They’re called fathers, brothers, and friends, not just men. But from my reading you don’t just not defend men… you dismiss their contributions utterly.

    you state;
    “Just the other day, he asked me, “Why don’t you defend men?”

    Without the support and care of women, without their consideration of our aspirations and how we feel, we wouldn’t be who we are. Our daughters, wives, co-workers, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, need to understand that a day in their life doesn’t need to be lived alone.”

    I absolutely agree that women MUST be treated like people. Not like part of a person, not as a most of a person, but as a whole person with rights and the expectation of respect as an equal.

    But while doing this you do NOT have the right to dismiss men as rightsless oafs or abridge their expectations to be treated as full people or that they or their contributions should be treated with disrespect. And being dismissive is precisely what you are doing here whether you realize it or not.

    You wax rhapsodic about the support of women in your life. But what mention is made of fathers? of brothers? Apparently by the tone of your post you dismiss their contribution out of hand. No mention of the doting father or supportive brother is even hinted at. No, instead you cast men as noncontributing lackwits. Guys that fall out of bed, shower, toss on a suit and are out the door in a flash while taking no responsibility as part of a family. Riiight.

    That said, I can’t speak for your upbringing, but most men and women I know credit their father and mother equally in their upbringing. But you speak in this post as though men live lives of isolation from their progeny and siblings and which lack any responsibility or merit. That men contribute nothing whatsoever other than abuse or harassment.

    If that’s your honest belief then I genuinely feel sorry for the life you’ve lived. You must have had no positive male role models at all.

    I read statements like “As men, we will never know what it’s like to get up in the morning with two kids and have the pressure of getting them ready for school, while simultaneously finding and juggling time to get
    primped and ready—instead of the morning routine adopted by most men, which calls for taking a five minute shower and throwing on a suit.”

    I know full and gosh darned well the responsibilities of caring for a child. My ex had a child from a previous marriage, and in the real world a household shares responsibilities. I know about getting a child up and out of bed, cleaned, fed, cared for, while the wife is getting ready herself. And we sent that child to school with a kiss and knowing he’s loved by both his parents. It’s called parenting, friend. You know, that thing that male parents aka fathers do alongside their wives.

    As to pressures, you likewise seem to be under the impression that life for us men is ideal, and that we don’t have different but equal pressures put on us. That men aren’t held to a different standard. That we aren’t expected to sacrifice our family time or personal time at a far greater degree than women are.

    Most men genuinely lament the sacrifices they have to make to provide for their families. Do you think fathers love their children somehow less than mothers do? That it doesn’t tear their hearts out to miss important moments? If so, you’re very very VERY wrong. But it’s expected of men. That’s a dirty little secret no one wants to talk about. That men are EXPECTED to do this, whether they want to or not, even by their own wives. Ask a woman to sacrifice family time, and it’s frowned on by society, ask a man to do likewise, if he refuses he’s not a team player, all the burden is on him.

    You shine a light on the plight of women, and that is absolutely right and good and you should not stop. Women are treated pretty awfully in the real world and that’s wrong. I likewise can’t stress enough my hatred of sexual discrimination of any sort. So I applaud your advocacy and cheer on your drive to make people realize that they must (not just should… but must) treat each other, regardless of sex, like a full person with rights and respect. But, damn it all, do NOT throw men under the bus out of hand. Men are people to, so act like it.

    Now, I’ll ask you the question your friend asked you. Why don’t you defend men too? Maybe you should think about it.

    • Avatar of ellysbell
      ellysbell September 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      The people who are oppressing men – telling them they are “not team players” as you said for not sacrificing family time for “the company” are most likely other men, though most likely men with more money.

      The person who decided what “reasonable sacrifice” a man was supposed to make is some fat cat who probably has plenty of time to loaf about with his family or an occasional run out to the golf course.

      Fathers have often been denied the chance to be good fathers mostly by the standards employers have placed on them. They aren’t allowed to complain because dominant standards of masculinity – which are of course maintained by men – wouldn’t take their concerns seriously. Masculine standards frequently mean that men can get angry and complain but can’t admit to being hurt.

      I mean, seriously, if any man would think “why am I being denied these things?” it’s because some other man, with more money or more power than you, wants them at your expense.

      Most women I know spend a lot of time talking about how it’s unreasonable for their husbands or partners to “have” to work so much and to be given so little time to spend with their families. I don’t know any women who think it’s a great thing for their husbands to be away at work so much. I can’t think of too many women I know who said “yeah, i’d love you to work the holidays or the anniversary.” Sometimes maybe if money was an issue, but it was seen as a bad deal in a world that doesn’t normally provide reasonable options for many people.

      Someone once pointed out – wisely perhaps – that patriarchy is a system that doesn’t really privilege men over women, but some men over everybody else, leaving everyone else to view themselves as in conflict with other oppressed people rather than as potential allies.

      • Avatar of marissam
        marissam September 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

        Actually all white men are privileged above women. Just because some men have struggles and patriarchy negatively affects men, it does not deny them as it does women. However we should also note that in terms of pay white women make more than most men of color, and women of color make less than everyone. (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0882775.html)

        (Cis)Men may have struggles but they are never based on being a man.

        • Avatar of ellysbell
          ellysbell September 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

          i wouldn’t disagree, i was just pointing out that if a white man feels like he’s being “oppressed” unless he’s looking at someone else in his own demographic, he’s placing the blame in the wrong place. patriarchy definitely shits on women more than men, but lots of men get shit on by it as well, but then they tend to place the blame in the wrong place. what it comes down to is that the man who feel oppressed by society is probably actually doing more to promote patriarchy than opposing it.

          • Avatar of MikeFromCanada
            MikeFromCanada September 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

            Patriarchy is not an institution set up by men. It is the product of societal evolution in which men would be the providers and protectors. It was not set up by men alone, it was set up by men and women as an efficient way of survival. You cannot make a blanket statement by saying that men will never suffer as much as women.

            Suffering is subjective. For every female out there that suffers from sexism, there is one who benefits from it. It is the same way for every man as well.

            And for every woman who suffers greatly, there will always be a man who suffers more, and there will always be a woman who suffers more than him, and so on. Suffering is subjective, and differs from person to person.

            (PS: marissam, you need to stop pretending you know what you’re talking about. Your comment offers no real insight on how society treats both men and women. Stop spreading misinformation that gets fed to you by feminist mantras.)

    • Avatar of Dana
      Dana September 26, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      Let me tell you what happens when a woman goes out there and works her butt off to support her kids. She comes home and then has to do a full day’s worth of housework.

      Men want to contribute? Contribute, then. We’re still waiting.

      We get paid less. We get disrespected more. Only in the past thirty years could we even attend college without some a-hole professor accusing us of going for our MRS degree. Now we can just go to school and it’s no big deal, except now we have to apologize for the fact there are more of us enrolled in college than men, even though men are better able to get unionized blue-collar jobs and sexually harass us when we try to break into *those* industries.

      And we HAVE to lean on a guy as provider, as a result. We HAVE to keep the guy around no matter how he treats us. Most of us can’t support the kids on our own. And then of course when we complain about that, it’s “So don’t have kids.” Sure. Retroactively abort my kids. I’ll get right on that.

      Guys get credit just for writing a check. And expect to be pitied that they even have to do that much.

      Women get blamed if the slightest thing goes wrong with the kids.

    • Avatar of notjustaprettyface
      notjustaprettyface December 17, 2011 at 9:52 am #

      stevenav…
      you might think he’s throwing you men under the bus. but trust me, in the scheme of things… most of us don’t have good experiences with men, of any sort. i can see why you take offense at this. but if what you say about the way you handle your children is true there are very few guys like you. i know my dad loves me, but since i hit puberty im uncomfortable being around him, sitting across from him, having him comment on my clothes, or being in a bathing suit around him. this is partially because he worked almost all the time and never got home til dinner at the earliest, usually not before bedtime. its also in part because, especially in the last few years, ive grown to despise the male species over the age of 29, because from them come the most inappropriate forms of harassment aimed at an 18 year old girl. i work as a hostess and ive had grown men throw sugar packets at me as i bus tables and bend over to pick things up off the floor. they try to shake my hand and pull me close and talk inches from my face. and when i step back or pull my hand away they step right up. not only have they invaded my personal comfort zone by being within mere inches of my face when i make it apparent i feel threatened and uncomfortable they just dont care, and they keep coming. these men have asked me how im doing and when i say “good” their repsonse is rake their gaze over my entire body paying special attention to my face, boobs, and crotch and tell me “i can see that.” they call me baby, sweetheart, sweetie, and worst of all baby girl. these are terms of endearment to be used only by my boyfriend. at their age these men have no chance of becoming my boyfriend. even teenage guys around my own age are not so bold as these men. one time when walking out of a job interview a guy and his friend were walking in and one of them started calling to me asking “baby girl who you with?” over and over again. he then started making his way over to me as his friend laughed. i managed to get in my car before he reached me. i locked the doors and he said “come on honey dont be like that!” and woulldnt leave me alone. i got out my phone dialed 911 and showed him the phone through the window. he called me a bitch and he walked away with his friend (who had just watched and occasionnally laughed through the ordeal). i was so shaken up i just leaned against the steering wheel until i felt i was ok to drive home. when i told my little sister later what happened she told me i was overreacting and they wouldnt have done anything. SERIOUSLY??!!! from my own sister? and my best friend who’s a guy simply said GROSS!!!! yeah. i almost get possibly assaulted or raped and those are the reactions i get. so you can defend guys all you want, but from my experience, the older they are, the worse they treat me and harass me. im sorry, but when he lambasts men what he says (at least in my experience) has proved true.

      • Avatar of Lorelei
        Lorelei May 29, 2012 at 9:49 am #

        I’ve had similar things happen to me. And also it seems the richer they are, the worse behaved they are. I refuse to date a rich man because they think they own you.

    • Avatar of JustSeeking
      JustSeeking March 19, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Contributions by my step-father (my biological father was never in the picture: beatings, sexual molestation, treated like a waste of money.

      Contributions by my brother: punching bag, terrorism target. And if you think I’m exaggerating, you just go right ahead and pat yourself on the back. My grandfather saw these things happening and never lifted one finger to help me.

      To be fair to my brother, he did teach me how to drive a motorcycle and fly a kite. But no one…NO ONE…should be terrified to be at home with the males who live in the house with them, and I was.

      • Avatar of Lorelei
        Lorelei May 29, 2012 at 9:52 am #

        =( My step brothers did that to me. It got to the point where I locked myself in my room and pulled furniture up to the door to keep them out when our parents weren’t at home. My step father laughed and my mother was too much of a wuss to defend me.

        To this day I speak to nobody from my family.

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