#YesAllWomen #NotAllMen

If I had a son, this is exactly what I would want to teach him. (http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/05/27/not_all_men_how_discussing_women_s_issues_gets_derailed.html)


 The following article is a discussion about violence, violence against women, and the oppression women face every day. Have a care if these topics disturb you. Note too: I am a cisgender male, and the hashtags I discuss below deal with the issues in binary men/women terms, so I do as well. Trans and other folks may well have very different feelings about these issues, and I welcome their input.

On Friday, May 23, 2014, a man killed six people (and possibly himself). The manifesto he left behind stated he did it because women wouldn’t sleep with him. I won’t recount the details here; they can be found easily enough. I also won’t speculate on the controversies involving his mental health, or about the NRA, or the police involvement in this. I want to focus on a narrower point here, and that has to do with men and women, and their attitudes toward each other.

The murderer was active on men’s rights fora, where women are highly objectified, to say the very least. They are seen as nonhuman by many such groups, and at the very least lesser than men—sometimes nothing more than targets or things to acquire. What these men write puts them, to me, in the same category as White Power movements, or any other horribly bigoted group that “others” anyone else. While it may not be possible to blame the men’s rights groups for what happened, from the reports we’ve seen they certainly provided an atmosphere of support.

Of course, these loathsome people represent a very small percentage of men out there. Over the weekend, as the discussion across Twitter turned to these horrible events, a lot of men started tweeting this, saying “not all men are like that.” It’s not an unexpected response. However, it’s also not a helpful one.

Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them.

Second, it’s defensive. When people are defensive, they aren’t listening to the other person; they’re busy thinking of ways to defend themselves. I watched this happen on Twitter, over and again.

Third, the people saying it aren’t furthering the conversation, they’re sidetracking it.The discussion isn’t about the men who aren’t a problem. (Though, I’ll note, it can be. I’ll get back to that.) Instead of being defensive and distracting from the topic at hand, try staying quiet for a while and actually listening to what the thousands upon thousands of women discussing this are saying.

Fourth—and this is important, so listen carefully—when a woman is walking down the street, or on a blind date, or, yes, in an elevator alone, she doesn’t know which group you’re in. You might be the potential best guy ever in the history of history, but there’s no way for her to know that. A fraction of men out there are most definitely not in that group. Which are you? Inside your head you know, but outside your head it’s impossible to.

This is the reality women deal with all the time.

Before what I’m saying starts edging into mansplaining, let me note that also over the weekend, the hashtag #YesAllWomen started. It was a place for women to counter the #NotAllMen distraction, and to state clearly and concisely what they actually and for real have to deal with. All the time.

Reading them was jarring, unsettling. I have many friends who are vocal feminists, and it’s all too easy to see what they deal with for the crime of Being a Woman on the Internet. But this hashtag did more than deal with the rape threats, the predators, the violence.

It was the everyday sexism, the everyday misogyny, which struck home. The leering, the catcalls, the groping, the societal othering, the miasma of all this that women bear the brunt of every damn day.

Those tweets say it far better than I ever could, for many reasons. The most important is because I’m a man, so I haven’t lived through what they have. I can’t possibly understand it at the level they do, no matter how deeply disturbed I am by the situation and how sympathetic I may be to what they’ve gone through.

This is not a failing, or an admission of weakness. It’s a simple truth. I’m a white, middle-class male, so I can understand intellectually what black people have undergone, or what women have dealt with, or what Japanese-Americans suffered in America in World War II. As someone raised Jewish, I may have more of an understanding for what an oppressed people have withstood in general, but I’ve never really been oppressed myself. That puts me in a position of—yes—privilege.

All that means is that I can only speak from my own point of view, and try to understand others as best I can. When it comes to sexism, to my shame, that took me a long, long time to figure out. I had to have my head handed to me many times in many embarrassing situations to see how I was participating in that culture, that everyday sexism. It was like air, all around me, so pervasive that I didn’t see it, even when I was in it and a part of it.

What made that harder was coming to an understanding that I will never truly understand what women go through. I can’t. So I listen to what women say about it, try to understand as best I can, and try to modify my own behavior as needed to make things better.

I’ve done a lot of modifying over the years. And there’s still a long way to go.

Over the weekend, I retweeted a few of the #YesAllWomen tweets I thought were most important, or most powerful, and saw that again and again they were misunderstood. In almost all the cases I saw, the men commenting were reacting to it, being defensive about the hashtag instead of listening to what was being said.

Earlier, I mentioned that the conversation is about the men who are the problem, not the ones who aren’t. Well, at this point, a conversation needs to be had about them, too. Even though we may not be the direct problem, we still participate in the cultural problem. If we’re quiet, we’re part of the problem. If we don’t listen, if we don’t help, if we let things slide for whatever reason, then we’re part of the problem, too.

We men need to do better.

Part of this problem is the mislaying of blame, and the misdirection of what to do. When it comes to legal action, to the enforcement of rules, to societal pressure, it all comes down on the women and not the men.

Which leads me to the best tweet using this hashtag that a man put up.

That is exactly right. We need to change the way we talk to boys in our culture as well as change the way we treat women.

And one final word on this. As a man, having written this post I expect there will be comments insulting me, comments questioning my manhood (whatever twisted definition those people have of such a thing, if it even exists), and so on.

But you know what there won’t be? People threatening to stalk me and rape me and kill me for having the audacity to say that women are people, and that we should be listening to them instead of telling them how to feel. Yet that is precisely what every woman on the Internet would face if she were to write this.

And that is, sadly, why we so very much need the #YesAllWomen hashtag.



The Confidence Gap?

I read an article in the Atlantic about the confidence gap between men and women, and there was a test in there to see how confident you are. (Article: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/ Test: http://theconfidencecode.com/confidence-quiz/)

I took the test, and here were my results:

High Confidence

Thank you for participating in The Confidence Code Assessment!

You are now part of one of the first research studies related to women and confidence and we’re excited to work together to gather insight that will help women around the world embrace confidence in their lives.

Based on your responses to this quiz, you have higher than average confidence

What does that mean?

You probably feel up to most challenges, and are likely to embrace more risk and action than most. You feel you can solve problems or make things happen.

Most of the time, you are able to cope and deal with just about any challenge life throws at you – both key attributes of confidence.

How can you work to keep your confidence up?

But even those who are fairly confident often experience periods of self-doubt. Or perhaps you feel confident in most areas, but still feel more nerves than you would like before a speech. We believe there are a number of things you can do to keep your confidence at a high level – some may seem basic, but they can be transformational. 

Sleep, move, share

We may sound like your mother but it’s true. A lack of sleep and exercise produces an extremely anxious brain. (We’ve tested and retested the theory, and there’s no getting around it.) Being close to our friends boosts our oxytocin levels. Guilt-free girlfriend time is healthy. 

Also, find time to meditate. A calm brain is the ultimate confidence tool. You will increase the ability to control your emotions and feel clear and calm about your goals.

Practice making decisions.

The ability to make decisions big and small, in a timely fashion, and take responsibility for them, is a critical expression of confidence, and also leadership, according to all of our most confident women. Even if you make the wrong decision, they say, decide. It’s better than inaction.

What’s the worst that can happen? You could fail – but the costs of failure are nearly always worth the risk that comes with trying something just outside your comfort zone.

Make a list of decisions you’ve been putting off, big and small. Cross off two each day. Keep track of the consequences. 

Missteps really do provide accelerated opportunity for growth, as well as a chance to tap into another internal resource: self-compassion. As the research shows, practicing self-compassion provides a sturdy emotional safety net, one much stronger than our traditional concept of self-esteem. Self-compassion, centers on the acceptance of our weaknesses. Instead of saying, “I am not a failure,” it’s more useful to say, “Yes, sometimes I do fail, we all fail, and that’s okay.” It’s extending the same kindness and tolerance – the very same qualities we find so much easier to afford our friends – to ourselves, while coming to terms with our own imperfections.

Focus on others

Now that you’re cracked your confidence code, pass it on. 

Women support each other, but sometimes what a friend or colleague really needs is a push. All those Hallmark, ‘you’re the best’ might not be working so well, anyway. 

A few years ago, University of Waterloo psychology professor Joanne Wood conducted a study that found positive self-statements such as “I’m great, I’m perfect, and I am lovable” can actually do more harm than good. Wood and her team conducted a study in which they asked participants to answer the ten questions in the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. They then separated the participants into three groups depending on how they ranked on the scale. The people who scored lowest on the Rosenberg scale were deemed low self-esteem while the highest were put in the high self-esteem group, and those in the middle were labeled medium self-esteem. The people in the lowest and the highest groups were then randomly assigned one of two tasks. They either had to continuously repeat to themselves the statement “I’m a lovable person” for four minutes, or they had to write down their thoughts and feelings for a period of four minutes. Woods results showed that the people who’d been in the low self-esteem group and were assigned the “I’m a lovable person” mantra felt worse about themselves after repeating the phrase compared to the low self-esteem people who’d had to write down their thoughts and feelings. Wood believes the findings resulted from the gap between what participants were told to feel and what they really felt. Repeating empty statements only served only to underscore how far they felt they were from an ideal state of mind. The whole exercise made them feel like a double failure.

So, rather than repeatedly telling your friend she’s great, try encouraging her to take action instead. Often, it takes just one suggestion – one comment from a friend or co-worker. “You should consider that city council seat.” “I’m sure you could handle the supervisory job. You should go for it.” We can help each other most by giving each other permission to act. One little nudge might be all we need.

And ban perfectionism in your daughters.

Striving to grab the good girl ring as a child sows the seeds of trying to be perfect as a woman. Girls internalize the lesson that they need to get everything right to reach the top of the class, which leads to perfectionism. But this ends up smothering achievement. Perfection is the enemy of the good. It’s also the enemy of confidence.

– Praise her moderately, not excessively. Saying “Well done for working so hard on this” is much better than “You are the best student ever.”

– Help your daughter feel satisfied when she’s done her best, regardless of whether she’s done better or worse than others.

– Show your daughter you aren’t perfect either. When you make a mistake, don’t hide it. Then show her the world didn’t end just because you messed up.

I sort of wish I’d had this advice about how to encourage your friends before; now I know where I was going wrong with some of my friends. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember and apply this in the future!