“That instinct, to doubt what women say, it’s always there. To find some reason not to take their word. Men do it…but we do, too. I do it.” P. 439 of Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties.
I’m on page 495 (of 700) of the above captioned book. This quote struck me for many reasons. But, it touches on the spirit of what’s happening in response to the #metoo movement. The problem of sexism and abuse is not the fault of a specific man or group of men. The problem is not strictly even about men. The problem is the culture as a whole. This is a culture which treats women’s words as suspect or frivolous, and men’s words as authoritative and important. Even if the man is lying. Even if the man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Even if he is not credible. He is given a kind of “benefit of the doubt” (also called privilege) that women, by contrast, have to work long and hard for, if it’s ever given at all.
In the novel Sleeping Beauties, the women are disappearing. (There are no real spoilers here, but if you don’t want to know anything about the book, skip ahead to the next paragraph). They are falling asleep and not waking up. They are not dead, but they are no longer around. Without them, the tiny town in which the story takes place is falling apart. The problem is global. Chaos is reigning all over the world. Women are trying hopelessly to stay awake. Men are trying to live in a world without women. Some men react with sadness; others take to violence. But, throughout the story, the authors comment subtly on the state of male/female relationships.
I don’t know how the novel is going to end, but I can confidently assert my opinion in real life: men and women need each other. We complement each other. Women’s words, their feelings, their experiences, are just as important as men’s. There is nothing we can’t do, if given a fair chance. For tasks where physical strength is necessary, we rely on men on to help, but it is not a requirement. Humans are always creating ways to do things that are physically impossible without mechanized assistance. Men can nurture children and care for elderly parents, just as women stereotypically do. There is wisdom, however, in the division of labor.
This division of labor does not always line up according to gender. Some men are better with children than some women. Some women are much more rational and are better leaders than men. There are gender tendencies, but we are not locked into those. Those difference merely let us know that we need each other. Tasks should be divvied up according to talent and interest, not genitalia.
As we embrace both sides of our natures, we become more mentally balanced, confident, and whole. As a woman, I have some stereotypically female traits: I love babies, I am interested in relationships, I love to make my environment beautiful, and I prioritize people over money and things. On the other hand, I rarely cry, I hate to shop, I’m highly rational, and I’m task-oriented more than social. A man who would balance me out would probably have opposite or complementary traits. Polarity causes attraction, and nature is always seeking a balance.
So, with all the noise and sad news out there, let’s not buy into the idea that we are enemies. Some men do hate women; and some women hate men. But the truth is: we need each other. Sexual harassment is not a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. Listening to women, and taking care of our little girls, is about preserving our human societies. We cannot thrive in a world where women are regularly abused while gaining educations, earning livings, or simply walking down the street.
Men can help protect our societies by protecting the women. Women can express gratitude, acknowledging the good men in our lives who do this automatically. Women can help themselves by refusing to buy into the cultural idea that our thoughts are less relevant than men’s. Discrimination often leads to self-hatred and insecurity. We can’t let this happen. Keep speaking up, ladies! Even when it’s hard. Even when people don’t listen at first. We need our women. And we need our men.
United, we are a human family. Divided, we are each other’s worse nightmares. We get to choose.
Peace and love,