Men deserve more voices talking for them, writes GirlWritesWhat, and that’s why she’s doing it.
I’m not a traditionalist woman. I’m bisexual. I’m kind of a dirty old man when it comes to my attitudes about sex, and I’m masculine enough in some ways to pull it off without ever having been burdened with the label of slut. Moreover, I write erotic fiction, much of it with bi-male and bi-female themes (and no, I’m not telling any of you all my pen name, so don’t bother asking). Though I was a stay-at-home mom for the first five years of my marriage, and though I found that role fulfilling and the work intrinsically valuable, I did not feel myself again until I got back into the paid workforce. I am the last person on earth who would wish to return to the world of a hundred years ago.
I’ve been sexually assaulted. I was sexually harassed as a 23 year old woman to the point where I left a job I’d held for four years. I would even regard the last six years of my marriage as emotionally and psychologically abusive.
I’m divorced, have three kids, and grievances against my ex that any reasonable man or woman would likely see as entirely justified. I still struggle with my anger over things he did during our marriage, and tried to do after it was over. The fact that after two and a half years, the only money that has ever changed hands between us has been from me to him only adds insult to injury.
During my travels online through the rugged and often inhospitable landscape of the Men’s Rights Movement, I have been required to “prove my credentials” as a logical and reasonable human being more times than I care to mention. I have had to “prove my credentials” as a woman who did not screw over her ex during her divorce. I have had to “prove my credentials” as not merely a traditionalist woman who wants to go back to men supporting women while women stay at home. This is an environment that is often hostile to women until they have paid their dues. And even when your dues are paid (and paid and paid, lol) you pay in other ways.
I have had to sit and grind my teeth when men in the movement complain that “That bitch got MY house. It was MY property because I paid for it while SHE stayed home,” and resist the urge to remind them that unpaid domestic labor has value too, and that women’s denial of that value in the early days of feminism is part of why men and women are in this mess today. That if she was the kind of wife and mother I’d been when I stayed at home, and he’d had to pay her a fair-market wage for her child-care, housekeeping and maybe even home/yard maintenance duties, her income might have been almost as high as his own during the marriage.
As the survivor of a sexual assault that I suffered as a 14-year-old virgin who hadn’t had her first period yet, I’ve had to sit and grind my teeth time and again at the glib attitude many in the movement have toward rape. If the system has a default assumption that all accusers are telling the truth and all accused are lying pieces of shit, many in the MRM have a bias that leans too far in the opposite direction. I am a firm believer in always believing an accuser–when it comes to providing victims’ services such as counselling and medical treatment. I am also a firm believer in the due process rights of the accused during police investigations and criminal trials, feel a university’s involvement in a sexual assault case should be limited to dialling 911 and letting the criminal justice system take it from there, and that the identity of the accused should be withheld by authorities until he’s convicted. I believe feminism’s elevation of rape-victim status to a bizarre combination of almost religious idolatry and kid-glove handling harms women in very insidious ways. But at the same time, the way some in the MRM talk about rape…well, it upsets me.
I’ve had to wade through dozens of news pieces about female perpetrators of spousal assault, stalking, hideously violent assaults on innocent people, sexual and physical abuse of children, infanticide, premeditated murder of husbands and boyfriends, atrocities beyond counting, held vengefully aloft by the MRM as proof that women are as likely to be sociopathic, psychotic, hateful, brutal, selfish assholes as men are. Story after story after story about yet another woman’s unsubstantiated claims of abuse leading to yet another man losing his kids and yet more kids losing their father, more lives destroyed by women who weren’t even the ones scorned because THEY are more likely to initiate the divorce. A steady diet of misdeeds perpetrated by women on men and innocent kids, enough to turn anyone’s stomach.
It gets tiresome. It gets disheartening. It gets burdensome. It even gets a little scary sometimes, when I realize just how angry some of these men are. Given that many of my personal experiences with men have been…ahh…less than wonderful, given how initially hostile the MRM can be to anyone with a vagina, and how insensitive they can seem on issues that have affected me very deeply from the opposite side of the gender divide, why do I do it? Here’s why:
I used to live in a tiny, isolated town with a resource-based economy–mostly logging and sand/gravel. When the construction industry in the US went kablooie in 2008, most of the jobs in that town disappeared. I work as a server–tips are a huge portion of my income, but that portion depends on how many people eat out. In late 2008, people where I lived stopped eating out, and my income started to go down. And down. And down.
My ex has never paid child support, and had always enjoyed unlimited access to our kids, at my expense, because my kids love their dad and have a right to see him. He exercised that access an average of one night every 6-8 weeks. My nearest family–my parents and sister–lived 2000km away in a city with a robust economy, but the few times I’d suggested moving there, my ex wouldn’t hear of it. His assertion that “How do you expect me to pay child support? I can’t even support myself around here. I don’t even have food in my fridge,” without extrapolating from that just how impossible it would be for me to support four people on my own in the same local economy, and how no food in my fridge would mean his own kids going hungry…well, the level of his tunnel-vision and selfishness was almost surreal to me. I felt like my ex had not only effectively abandoned my kids, he’d abandoned logic, reason, reality, sanity.
In February of 2010, I finally looked at my mounting debts and decided there was no way I could continue to live where I did, supporting four people on my own, and not go bankrupt. That staying solely so my kids could see their dad one night every couple of months, if and when he could be bothered, wasn’t worth the price I and my kids were paying. My debts alone, not including my mortgage, had climbed to almost twice my yearly income at the time. I was paying the mortgage with my Visa card. There were no jobs to be had. And my nearest family lived 2000km away–I really was going it alone.
I was stuck between survival and my own honor. If I stayed, my family would be destroyed. If I did the honorable thing and informed him of my decision, he’d bring an action that would only force us all to stay where we were until I’d spent thousands I didn’t have in legal fees just to get it on a judge’s desk, which would only destroy us all the faster.
And my ex’s objections to what I’d done were dismissed out of hand. I’d moved his kids 2000km away from him, without even informing him I was doing it, and I didn’t even need to present my affidavit to the judge–all I had to say was that I’d moved for work. She took it as a given that she should side with me over him, and made her decision with a sanguinity and certainty that I found appalling, even as I almost wept with relief.
Shortly before I had moved, I’d re-entered the sexual marketplace. I had a brief fling with a married man. I was his first affair, and he struggled with his guilt over stepping out on his wife, even though he’d been sleeping on the couch for two years. Conversely, his wife had been cheating on him for years–remember, this is a small town where everyone knows every bit of dirt about everyone else. I don’t suppose she struggled very much over her own guilt feelings, since she didn’t care to hide her infidelities. He was so unhappy in his marriage I can only describe it as despair because he couldn’t see any way to fix it, but he stayed because he was terrified–not worried, not scared, but terrified–of losing his children.
It wasn’t until after I moved and the judge made her 8-second ruling that I realized just how justifiable his fear had been.
I was raised by parents who told me to never only read the headlines or listen to the soundbites, but to read the entire article and think rationally about things before I formed opinions. To not only regurgitate the information I am fed, but to thoroughly digest it, apply logic and my own experiences to what I hear and read, and then decide if it makes sense. To question. To examine. To look at problems from many angles. To seek out differing points of view because, hey, you just might learn something–even if that something is that people can be full of shit.
They taught me words like “sophistry” and what it means. They taught me that evidence is everything, and statistics can be made to say anything you want, depending on your agenda. They taught me that sometimes people lie so convincingly to themselves, that even when they’re lying to you they feel like they’re telling the truth.
As a teenager, I mostly hung out with guys, because guys were more accepting of the ways I’m different. Because I’m more guy-like than girlie, they never guarded their speech around me, nor do any of my male coworkers now. And though I’ve been deeply wronged by a few men, I know from my other experiences with men that that the vast majority of boys and men are more good than bad. They’re flawed, but they’re still human. They’re not women, but they’re still human.
I have three children. Two sons and a daughter. And as much as I may complain about how much trouble they can be, and despite the fact that I’ve been known to threaten to knock their heads together when they annoy me, I love them and am as proud as fuck of them. I want them to be happy and to succeed in life, however they choose to measure their success.
But I look at the world they are growing up in, a world where my boys will soon be facing the same problems men face are facing now, only worse. A world where my daughter also will be reaping the consequences of living in a society that values the rights of one gender over another and no one seems to give a shit. A world where everything women naturally are is seen as admirable, and everything men naturally are is seen as a pathology to be cured. A world where even women who commit the most heinous and atrocious acts are instantly assumed to have been failed by the system or somehow justified in their actions, while men who commit similar acts are instantly assumed to have done it out of jealousy, anger, a desire to control, aggression, or just…well,maleness. I don’t want my sons to live in a world where no matter how good they are, they will be told they are bad–or my daughter to live in a world where she will always be able to blame someone or something else for her decisions and actions.
I want my daughter to grow up to be a woman who owns her own shit, and my boys to grow into men who are not forced to own everyone else’s shit on top of their own.
The voices that speak for feminism are millions upon millions. They are so legion, they need only whisper to be heard. The voices speaking for equality for men and boys are so few, they’re drowned out by the opposition even when they scream. I don’t know what I can do other than raise my kids to be able to think on their own, and add my voice to the issues I believe in that I feel are underserved. That more people advocate for, and sympathize with, animal rights than men’s rights is a travesty that stymies me. I suppose if men could somehow make themselves look as cute and as helpless as a baby seal, things would be different, but they can’t. Men and boys are in jeopardy–really and for true, honest, not just kinda-sorta jeopardy–and they deserve more voices speaking for them.
So that’s what I’m doing.
Originally appeared at Owning Your Shit.