I’m in the supermarket, listening to my “Made for you” playlist.
Of course, “Who Run the World” comes up. Cheering me on as I decide between tomato soups — plain or with basil.
I’m in no rush. But, in the name of efficiency, I eye out the shortest checkout queue.
Others are designing their own, albeit with less conventional methods.
It’s not the first time I see someone jumping the queue.
Hell, in the early hoarding-days of the pandemic, I winced while middle-aged white women became outraged with queue-cutters.
I have no fetish for outrage — not today, not any day.
But one can uphold both fairness and a balanced mind. I’m not very good at it myself, but I’ve watched Selma over the weekend. There are people who do it stellarly.
So, I find myself conversing with the gentleman who stole my checkout spot.
“Excuse me, are you looking around or are you in the queue?”
“I’m in the queue.”
“I was in the queue.”
“I was here before.”
The elderly gentleman who was in front of me turns around. He says,
“She was in the queue.”
The Jumper doesn’t budge. He ignores us.
At first, I’m amused.
It’s been a long pandemic, after all, with indoor restrictions, income insecurity, and, oh yes, a heightened risk of dying.
Patience runs thin. I get it.
But then, it hits me. His nonchalance and well-practised trick suggest he’s done this before and will do it again.
I step in front of the Jumper. Where I belong.
“I was in the queue!”
I calmly explain that I was there, waiting, while he pretended to browse and planted himself in my spot.
“Fuck off,” he replied.
I proceed to the checkout. As I take out my first item, he substantiates,
“Stupid little bitch.”
I imagine he thought his first expletive would subordinate me. That I’d become afraid and modestly step behind him.
Instead, my calm continuation of the act of grocery shopping appears to increase his distress.
If I had any suspicion that I was in the wrong, it evaporates.
No one gets this aggravated from being de-queued. Not even from being de-queued when one was first to de-queue.
He can’t stand being put in his place by a woman.
I still trust men even though some are abusive.
After this incident, five men showed me kindness in the 10 minutes it took me to walk home:
the gentleman originally ahead of me in the queue, who gave me a knowing smile as I handled my groceries,
the security guard at the store, who said the Jumper’s behaviour was unacceptable,
a man in a stationary car, who offered a (non-leery) smile as I passed by,
a driver who signalled for me to cross, with an even bigger (non-leery) smile,
the security guard at the local testing centre, who gave me an enthusiastic book review when I asked him, “Watcha readin’?”
Not all men are assholes.
There’s a reason I’ve never used this phrase before.
Words take their meaning from context.
The phrase “not all men…” is generally used to detract from the content of a feminist message, even though no one ever said, “all men are…”
The same way “All lives matter” is used to divert attention away from the movement for Black Lives.
I felt that was important to explain.
If I thought all men are and forever will be misogynists, I’d move to a woman-only island in the middle of the Pacific and never go near a Y chromosome again.
It would be devastating to renounce hope that men can learn and do better. What world would we be leaving for our daughters?
I need to believe there are good guys out there to preserve my sanity.
A “good guy” is:
- a feminist,
- an expert listener,
- aware of his privilege,
- using his privilege to lift up the underprivileged.
I could go on but these are my top 5.
Misogyny, like racism, is a built-in structure of society. These are not passed on by genes. They’re not airborne viruses. They are learned mannerisms.
That’s not to say that someone taught the Jumper that, “you should always address ladies with ‘bitch’, son.”
It only takes one event, where a woman is harassed and no justice is made, for it to appear as acceptable behaviour.
And there are millions of such events every year.
Taught mannerisms can be unlearned and dismantled.
But it takes awareness, will, and tools — actions which cannot fall on the shoulders of a handful of individuals.
The work must be channelled through the collective. Everyone must introspect their own behaviour.
I believe gender relations can be rebalanced because men are able to show up, not despite some men choosing ignorance.
This is a perspective shift that allows for more doing and less fuming.
There is a time for stillness and there is a time for action.
Make no mistake, this is not an unconditional ode to men.
It is not an invitation to pat yourself on the back for never having assaulted a woman.
My faith in men is very much conditional.
It is the rent you pay for drawing the privilege card at birth.
My statement is not congratulatory. It’s a dare.
When I say “Men can be good,” I mean,
“Men, start being good. Now.”
Everyone is a “good guy” until the time comes for them to step up.
It’s the inflexion points that count.
The split-second decision to intervene where abuse is happening. Catching yourself before perpetuating a gender stereotype. Realising you called someone a sexist slur and never apologised.
You are good when you do good.
There’s no being a “good guy” if you’re not prepared to feel uncomfortable, admit your mistakes, and start having some tough conversations.
So now, do you see why I believe men can do better?
I’ve spent all this time spelling out the ways they can achieve it.
Previously published medium
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