Don’t sympathize, just be better
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Every time we hear of yet another horrible misogynistic action perpetuated by a guy or group of guys, so many of us well-meaning dudes say the same thing: “On behalf of all men. I’m so sorry about everything we do.” We say these things because we genuinely do stand in solidarity with those frustrated by all of the crap perpetuated byour gender. We respect women, see them as equals, and try our hardest to combat the patriarchal system that dominates our society.
But listen, guys: Literally no woman wants to hear your oh-so-righteous apology about how you don’t agree with obviously terrible actions. They know that these things are bad, and if they trust you, they know you feel the same. They don’t want apologies, they want action and progressive discussion. Don’t talk about how you think it’s bad when men rape women. Talk about ways to challenge rape culture, such as believing victims, and holding rapists accountable. You should absolutely be open about things you consider not to be okay, but you should also be showing it in your actions and not just be talking about it when everyone else is.
I know how it feels. Whenever the media highlights an on-going, all-encompassing issue—that just happens to be discussed more because of a news story this week—I’m pretty frustrated by people of my gender, too. Every day I wish I lived in a world where men treated women better, and that 50 per cent of the population were not considered second-class citizens.
When someone refuses to believe these issues are a problem, criticizes the feminism movement, or treats a female in a lesser way, it absolutely should make you angry and wonder where it all went wrong. I have definitely felt struggles on how to process so many men being such horrible people, and the internal agony of guiltily benefitting from the patriarchy. I will never know what it is like to live as a woman, or face the many issues that I am fortunate not to deal with. I can speak out against them and listen to others, but I can never really know the struggle first-hand.
Above all, condemning sexism means condemning yourself. While I believe most men who advocate for feminism really do value the cause, it can be easy to become a fake ally, or at least to be seen as one. If you believe in something, it means your actions and morals reflect that; your words aren’t enough. Indeed, words mean nothing if your actions or statements in the past contrast them. If you’ve behaved wrongly in the past or said things that you regret, it’s up to you to take accountability for yourself. Let’s be honest: Every man knows he has done things to women in the past that he shouldn’t have, whether it be a rude comment or misguided gesture.
Criticizing oppressive patriarchal actions is literally the bare minimum you can do to help women. It’s almost as bad as doing nothing. All you’re doing is opposing something that, ideally, everyone would oppose. This is like if a man murdered your best friend and I said “Gosh, I’m sure sorry that some people murder others. I’m pretty ashamed of my gender.” It’s a well-intentioned gesture, but also does nothing to ease the burden of murder. It’s the same with sexist actions that target women. Women are harassed, abused, assaulted, and even murdered every day all around the world, just because they are women.
All we can do as men is try to behave better, encourage others to do the same, and be a trusted person for women to confide in. By commenting, you’re just observing the problem. By being proactive in fixing the problem, you’re part of the solution.