How I Stopped Being an Angry Feminist, and Started Loving Men

Sarah Beaulieu wants us to stop talking about the things men do wrong, and start talking about all the things men do right.

I certainly had a lot of reasons to be angry. I was sexually assaulted. By a man. By two men, in fact. One of them was my own grandfather. The other was a high school friend. The aftermath of these experiences left me broken and betrayed, not knowing how to trust, love, or be loved.

I was angry. I listened to angry feminist folk music. I read and discussed feminist theory, patriarchy, and sexism. I was on the hunt to expose bad men, and because of that, I found signs of their bad-ness everywhere. Every look, every comment, every gesture was a sign: men were just rapists waiting to happen.

But I had it totally wrong. Even if one (rightly) assumes that men commit most sexual assaults (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/), the truth is that most men are not rapists.

Of course, I had a right to be angry at the men who hurt me. But I didn’t have a right to hold all men everywhere responsible for what happened to me. And by being angry, I was shutting down the possibility of love. As I became stronger and more whole, I opened my eyes to the love of men in my life. It was abundant.

For example, my brother steadfastly believed what happened to me and validated how much I was impacted by being molested. The simple act of witnessing me in my pain helped me heal. And so did the mac and cheese he made me when I was sad, and the hours of Nintendo-playing we did when I was too down to do anything else.

My husband taught me that love can be a constant fuel. He taught me that you can get angry, have conflict, resolve it, and love each other throughout. He taught me to love myself, and care for myself. He takes care of me despite my fierce independence. He turns up the heat when it’s cold. He walks the dog when I don’t want to go outside. He puts gas in the car. He volunteers with White Ribbon Project, a group of men committed to ending sexual violence.

My best male friend from college was by my side through the darkest days of my healing journey. After every therapy session, he helped me process what I was learning about myself. He saw me through the powerful emotions that went along with those lessons.  He told me he loved me 10 times a day. He stood by my side when I told my story for the first time in public at a Take Back the Night event on our campus. He learned that while he couldn’t “fix” me, he could love me, and that his love would help me become whole again.

Simple acts of friendship and love are powerful tools that help survivors of sexual violence trust and heal. Men love survivors of sexual violence every single day. Most men are horrified by sexual violence and its impact on those they love. They want to help, but feel powerless – and afraid to say or do the wrong thing. If we want men to join the movement to end rape and sexual violence, we have to stop talking about all the things men do wrong, and start talking about all the things that men do right.

photo by hansvandenberg30 / flickr

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About Sarah Beaulieu

Sarah is the Founder of The Enliven Project , a campaign to bring the issue of sexual violence out of the closet. She is passionate about the power of truth-telling and talking about what is really happening in our lives. Follow her on Twitter @sarahbeaulieu.

Comments

  1. ScandinavianWoman says:

    I am so tired of the assumption; every feminist is a man hater. We need feminists! Just look at all the victim blaming (rape-culture). Women are the only group who constantly have to fight discrimination regardless of color, religious view, ethnicity and so on.

    I do not want to be victim, however it is devastating to read how people assume people fighting sexism are horrible people. What is bad about fighting for equality and human rights? Yes, we should talk about the good thing men does, but really, is it necessary? It should be expected. I would expect anyone regardles of their gender to treat me in a decent way. To be honest if I were a man I would be a bit insulted, like I were a creature that against all odds manage to behave in a decent way.

    • ^^^^^^^^^^ This.

    • “I do not want to be victim, however it is devastating to read how people assume people fighting sexism are horrible people. What is bad about fighting for equality and human rights?”
      If you bother to read many of the arguments against SOME feminists you will see it is not a problem with fighting sexism, it’s a problem of PERPETUATING sexism amongst other issues. Eg, gendering rape and DV so heavily that we end up with sexist laws that actually harm or discriminate against men.

      Of all the anti-feminists I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any that are against equality but they are against badly implimented measures for equality (though some do generalize way too much about feminism and can’t see the good for the bad). Remember there are those who call themselves feminist who love the S.C.U.M manifesto and speak utter hatred against men, the term feminist is so loose that it ranges from egalitarians to extremists, from extremely transphobic radicals to trans-supporters.

      “Women are the only group who constantly have to fight discrimination regardless of color, religious view, ethnicity and so on. ”
      Constantly? Gross generalizations and exaggerations don’t help your cause, name me a single cis-female that has had to sign up for selective service? Discrimination can be high but it is not constant otherwise with such a loose label men too are under a constant discrimination in the U.S with selective service.

      • You raise a good point, and one that, due respect, is not so good. In regards to the point that is not good, I feel like I am banging my head against a wall, so I won’t dwell on it for long.

        The good point you raise involves the issue of gendering and rape. Yes, most of the public discourse around rape focuses on women. You seem to be assuming, though, that it is women who are keeping the issue of rape against men suppressed in public discourse. I respectfully disagree. The gendering of rape defines it as something that happens to women. So if a man is raped, he is demeaned by the entire concept that rape is something feminine. That is something that we men have done to ourselves–the concept holds that a man who is raped is somehow less of a man, because only women get raped. Men have the power to change that concept.

        Yes, men get raped. Quite a bit. They get raped in prison, but “prison rape” continues to be a topic of humor. Where are the men standing up to that, challenging the idea that prison rape is not funny, the way that feminists have been challenging sexist humor for at least two generations? Those men, and the women who support them, exist, but they are few in number. (The same can be said for female-on-male rape, which much of popular culture still does not view as a crime, cf. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RapeIsFunnyWhenItsFemaleOnMale)

        Also, what organizations or people are standing up for male victims of rape? If you look closely at most major organizations that support victims of sexual violence, they actually don’t discriminate based on sex. It’s just that men don’t come forward. Why don’t they? Again, because they are unlikely to get any support from other men.

        If men are serious about fighting male-victim rape, they need to start fighting male-victim rape, not just complaining about it to feminists.

        As if to illustrate my point, a quick Google search for “male rape victim support” turned up a front page of results for organizations in the UK. American men need to get on this. Even if all you do is refuse to laugh at prison rape jokes, it is something. Here are a few resources to get you started:
        http://www.mencanstoprape.org/Resources/resources-for-male-survivors.html
        http://www.malesurvivor.org
        http://www.aftersilence.org/male-survivors.php
        http://www.pandys.org/malesurvivors.html

        The only other point I will address, even though I’ve heard it so many times and it such a ridiculous argument that it will take a miracle to talk sense to anyone, is the issue of the selective service. If selective service registration is the best example you can come up with for discrimination against men in favor of women, then we guys are doing pretty damn swell. See, there are two problems with the argument:
        1. (Assuming you live in the U.S.) we have not had a military draft since the early 1970’s, and there is less than zero political will to reinstate it. I can’t speak for countries that do have mandatory military service, but many of them require service of both men and women.
        2. Regarding combat roles being reserved exclusively for men, that is no longer true in the United States, and many men fought tooth and nail to keep women out of combat. Many women fought tooth and nail to be allowed in combat units. It strikes me as daft to claim women are privileged because they are, until recently, excluded from something some of them want to do.

        • You seem to be assuming, though, that it is women who are keeping the issue of rape against men suppressed in public discourse. I respectfully disagree. The gendering of rape defines it as something that happens to women.
          Actually you are both right. The responsibility for the gendering of rape as “something that men do to women” cannot be laid completely on the shoulders of a single group. From individual people to the organzations that say they are against it there is plenty of blame to go around.

          That is something that we men have done to ourselves….
          If women had nothing to do with it then why are there women (even feminists) that deny the existence of male rape victims?

          Men have the power to change that concept.
          Now this I agree with. We have the power to change the concept. But trying to say we dug this hole all on our own is false.

          Also, what organizations or people are standing up for male victims of rape? If you look closely at most major organizations that support victims of sexual violence, they actually don’t discriminate based on sex. It’s just that men don’t come forward. Why don’t they? Again, because they are unlikely to get any support from other men.
          From what I’ve read of accounts from male victims that doesn’t hold as true as you may think. And to say that the reason that men don’t get help is because they don’t come forward? Well why don’t they come forward? Because in a lot of cases they are actually turned away, if they are lucky enough to not be presumed to be the attacker when they seek help. This is almost on the verge of victim blaming.

          If selective service registration is the best example you can come up with for discrimination against men in favor of women, then we guys are doing pretty damn swell.
          Translation: Women have it worse. The problem with Selective Service isn’t the exclusion of women in and of itself. Its the penalties that are attached to it. Yes women have their own inequalities to deal with but at least they don’t have to face the possibility of losing citizenship status, having college applications declined, applications for goverment based financial aid, fines, and jail time if they don’t sign up for it.

          • ScandinavianWoman says:

            And who decided that women had no place in the military? Luckily more women are entering politics, although I was surprised to see the lack of women in British politics (I do not know the States too well). I don’t think it should be a case of who is worst of, men or women? However no one should rewrite history and It is just stupid to claim women and men are struggeling at the same level in for example Afghanistan (not that anyone here does) My post was not focused on the states but the world in general. (Excuse my English, it’s not my first language) And by the way I was wrong about women being the only group fighting discrimination throughout history. Homosexual and lesbians are of course another group. And I do think it is horrible that men are struggeling with rape and victim blaming as well. Sometimes it is just like it is this constant wall or competition between men and women. I think it is destructive for everyone.

        • ‘You seem to be assuming, though, that it is women who are keeping the issue of rape against men suppressed in public discourse. ”
          Where did I say it was women keeping the issue suppressed? I said some feminists gender rape, and that helps suppress it but feminism is not a term limited to women. Methinks you assume too much of what I say. I’d prefer not to have strawman arguments used against me.

          “That is something that we men have done to ourselves–the concept holds that a man who is raped is somehow less of a man, because only women get raped. Men have the power to change that concept.”
          Wrong, this is something SOCIETY has done to men. Stop acting as if women have no agency in this world, women help contribute to a society which spreads these beliefs. It’s extremely insulting to blame men and men alone for it, and excuse women. WOMEN have more power than you could imagine, they are not a powerless group in the U.S, infact women hold more voting power than men, about 8million more votes. Given the power of social media both genders have quite a lot of power since it’s near fully unrestricted as speaking out against those in power doesn’t usually result in arrest/harm.

          “If men are serious about fighting male-victim rape, they need to start fighting male-victim rape, not just complaining about it to feminists.”
          There are already many anti-rape campaigns in existance, aren’t they already dealing with the stigma and myths against men? Although I have never seen a poster showing a male victim of a female rapist so I do question how much anti-rape campaigns as they exist now want to help men. Could you point me to the major awareness posters RAINN puts out showing a female rapist? I’ve never seen any and RAINN is one of the biggest campaigns isn’t it?

          “Here are a few resources to get you started:
          http://www.mencanstoprape.org/Resources/resources-for-male-survivors.html
          A gendered campaign which continues the myth of man = rapist as there is no sister campaign in existance where women are asked to help stop rape, stop raping men, etc. Without the sister campaign, this contributes to rape culture.

          “It’s just that men don’t come forward. Why don’t they? Again, because they are unlikely to get any support from other men.”
          I’d say because rape has been gendered for so long in the discussions, the extreme lack of accountability and awareness of female rapists plays a huge role. When you have a society which teachs men to be stoic above all else + myths of rape + stigma towards males raped by females it makes it extremely difficult for them to come forward. We’re seeing some come forward about abuse though and the occasional article on male victimization for DV for instance so maybe it is just going to take a bit more time.

          “The only other point I will address, even though I’ve heard it so many times and it such a ridiculous argument that it will take a miracle to talk sense to anyone, is the issue of the selective service. If selective service registration is the best example you can come up with for discrimination against men in favor of women, then we guys are doing pretty damn swell. ”
          So basically men’s issues are not very bad because womengetitworse? Gotcha. If a man fails to sign up for selective service, is he not at risk of fines, jailtime, and refused government funding?

          Other discriminations exist too, such as duluth model style DV awareness and laws where primary aggressor from what I know has resulted in male victims being seen as the perpetrator. Circumcision still is routinely performed against boys under 18, and usually in infancy without their consent. This isn’t a pissing contest however of who gets it worse, but merely pointing out that both genders have discrimination and to say one has to fight constantly against it whilst the other doesn’t is foolish since the discrimination affects both. Now saying women have to do it MORE than men I could understand, but saying they’re the only group in existance to fight discrimination constantly is a major exageration.

          “It strikes me as daft to claim women are privileged because they are, until recently, excluded from something some of them want to do.”
          It strikes me as daft to assume women were not privileged since they weren’t actually forced to DIE for their country everytime war came a knockin. If you cannot see the privilege in that then it’s time to take a deeper look at the world. The men were privileged in being ALLOWED to fight, the women were privileged in not being FORCED to fight. Privilege is a 2 way street, sometimes men get them, sometimes women get them.

        • David…The selective service argument is valid and frankly I am surprised that you are not better informed. The fact is men who wish to go to college and get funded must sign up with the draft under strict penalties.Women don’t have to do that. This is a major difference between how the sexes are made available for the military.

          For MANY poor white men and men of color, the military is the only viable chance they have to “make it.” For black men during the Civil war and WW1 and WW2, risking one’s life in service of “one’s country” was thought to be the best way to achieve freedom. Not just for themselves, but for their entire community. When have feminists ever had to fight in wars to be free? Never! Not everyone has it that good.
          Many” women are not arguing to be allowed to fight in the military. This is just deceptive nonsense.
          The actual numbers of women who are forcefully lobbying for the right to fight are relatively miniscule;especially compared the number of women who lobby for other female issues. The NOW has never seriously considered placing a priority using military service to speed or enhance the process of freedom for women.Furthermore, the number of women who have fought for this country, as compared to men, is also relatively miniscule. And it would take generations to match what men have done. it seems to me that you might want to do some homework because your information is suspect. I would agree that men need to take the lead on this prison rape issue;women are certainly not going to do it.

          Which brings me to my most important point;as long as only women look out for themselves and men only look out for themselves, nothing will change. In a democracy it shouldn’t matter what sex one is.I should be just as vocal in my complaints about a rich white guy who gets screwed as I would be if a poor guy gets screwed

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