For anyone reading this here are some content warnings: rape (mentioned / referenced), Non-consent, toxic masculinity.
* Your instinct before even reading this article is going to be to say #NotAllMen. There’s a lot of ways to say it, so I’m here to challenge you. Are you up for the challenge? If not, stop reading now.
Instead of saying #NotAllMen, just read through what we’re trying to say. There’s emotional labor involved here, emotional labor required by you. You have to do it. Feel free to take help from some friends, but try to give them a neutral entry to the article, text, tweet/toot, video you’d like to discuss, to not pre color their response.
Since emotional labor is difficult, especially when you’ve barely learnt anything about it, but only received tips to repress it your entire life I want to present to you with a simple guide. Again, this will only work if you’re willing to try, and it will probably be a disaster the first time you do it, which is why I’m going to recommend that you either keep it to yourself or share it with someone you trust.
In this case I’d suggest prefacing it with something like: “I’m practicing to not react instinctively to these texts women/POC share of their experiences, but rather reflect on what it triggers in me so I can understand myself, and become a better person. Would you mind having a conversation with me about what I came up with the first time I tried this specific technique I got recommended?” what’s key here is that you’re asking for consent before you offload your emotional burden on someone else, if they don’t feel they have time or energy give them that. As in, don’t press it, and don’t be an ass about it.
The next few things you need to do for your self before you share it with anyone else. Pick an article you’ve already read recently that you reacted strongly to where you wanted to scream at the screen “not me I’m not like this, not all men are like this” (or something similar, you know the bubbly rage I’m talking about). It’s important to note here that this kind of trigger is not the same as a PTSD trigger. But rather it’s a an event which leads to another, like pressing a button will turn the lights on. Except you see red. Okay, let’s carry on.
So, you’ve found an article, which you probably shared on your Facebook or Twitter with some snide remark, or in that “men’s club” Facebook group you have with your close pals. Yes, we know about those, yes even your friends girlfriend and wives, they definitely know everything you say about them in there, but that’s an article for another day.
Identify what is making you feel like you want to scream ‘not all men, not me!’ Done? Oh yeah, I should probably say, identify it by reading the article again. And wait for that pang in your chest. Or the moment when you want to share it with someone else to tell them what a complete idiot the author of the piece is, or when you want to look up articles to prove this author wrong (not all need apply, and it can be several or non of these, but I think you get the gist).
Now look at it again, what in you is making you scared, fearful and uncomfortable?
Are you afraid?
Would you admit fear?
Let me guide you with three questions about what you are feeling, feel free to go back to these at any time and add additional questions which help you (even leave them in the comments if you like):
- Are you afraid that this (described behavior) is you?
- Are you afraid that you’ve done this to someone you actually cared about because you did not know how to express yourself otherwise?
- Are you afraid that your friends will shun you if they find out? That your girlfriend will break up with you if you tell her about that one time you didn’t respect consent (or didn’t understand it yet?, or something else along these lines)
Yes, these questions are focused on fear, because I genuinely believe this is the main driving response to these kind of texts. However, it is completely valid if you identify other root emotions, in your journey.
The things you tell us when you comment directly to us are usually along the lines of “not me nor any of my friends have ever done any of these behaviors or anything which could lead to it”. Yet, as we know “everyone knows someone who’s been raped but no one knows a rapist.”
We as a society is not really taught to reflect upon our own reactions and emotions. Why did this make me mad? Surprisingly often it’s fear.
I’m not here to change your mind, but I believe you’ve read this far because you want to change your mind, or you would’ve done some of the things I already mentioned being a typical behavior as reactions to these kind of texts.
Remember that it’s a journey, and you’re likely to fuck up a few hundred times more, but if you use every single one of them as an chance and opportunity to grow, and learn something about yourself you will soon be rich in experiences and be able to help someone else.
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