From toxic masculinity, to normalized misogyny, the actions of men affect all genders.
Perhaps you’re an ally looking for ways to be better, or maybe you’re just curious about the lives of others, either way I urge you to take these points in with an open mind. It’s easy to claim you’re blameless and dismiss the stories of others, but these are all derived from real experiences.
Don’t believe me? Try talking to the people, specifically the women, in your life and hear their stories for yourself.
Sometimes the most important thing you can do is listen.
1. Degrading people when they reject them.
Many people have been on the receiving end of this. A guy shoots his shot, we say we’re not interested, and instead of dropping it the guy makes us feel like shit. Sometimes they take every “compliment” they gave out and make it negative.
“You look sexy,” becomes, “you’re not even that hot.”
“Wanna come home with me?” becomes, “Who the fuck would sleep with you anyway?”
And “You’re pretty,” becomes, “Fucking bitch,” the second you say, “No.”
Not being able to accept rejection, and most importantly boundaries, is where normalized rape culutre begins. It’s not easy for people to say “No,” and being degraded makes saying it and holding our ground even harder, especially when guys make it seem like we did something wrong.
2. Calling women females, bitches, and other sexist words.
Some men don’t understand how offensive generally being called “females” can be, specifically because their response is, “Isn’t that what you are?” Well yes, and no.
Unless you’re referring to the medical field, this isn’t Animal Planet, please use our pronouns.
Saying “females” in place of saying women or people when speaking about them is dehumanizing for many reasons.
1. It negates the spectrum of gender and reduces people to their genitalia rather than their humanity.
2. It equates us closer to animals simply following biology instead of people with multi dimensional personalities and complex thoughts.
3. When you combine the first two, it reinforces a hierarchical system of misogyny in which men view themselves as superior.
The list can go on, and it only grows when you add terms like bitch, cunt, slut, etc. If you have an issue with a woman, use the singular term instead of making your problem a generalization. These words are just as bad for the exact same reasons, but they aren’t the only terms that need to go.
3. Using “Gay” and other terms as homophobic slurs to maintain toxic masculinity.
Any time a guy strays from the heteronormative image of masculinity they’re called “gay” or the f word. It could be for something as normal as crying, or as harmless as wearing “feminine” clothing.
Whatever the case may be, using homophobic slurs makes it incredibly difficult for young boys to navigate their own gender identity and sexual orientation without dealing with the internalized homophobia that could drive them towards depression and suicide. Taking on “feminine” attributes doesn’t make someone less or more of a man, it just makes them more of who they are.
If we can create a space in which emotional vulnerability is encouraged throughout all gender identities, we can push a conversation of empathy and understanding that can fix much of our social disconnect.
Yelling “compliments” or whistling/howling at people is uncomfortable as hell and is never welcome. When men call out what they perceive to be “flattery”, they’re treating women, men, and nonbinary people as sexual objects instead of human beings. The difference between cat-calling and genuinely complimenting someone is based on how it’s said.
With cat-calling, the comments are always focused on sexualizing a person’s physical appearance and are never remarks of substance; compliments acknowledge the opposite.
“Damn, you look hot in those jeans!” (cat-calling) vs. “That jacket looks awesome!” (compliment).
In a society where women are constantly shamed for their bodies, being treated this way is both terrifying and wrong, especially since it’s dehumanizing at best and pedophilic at worst. People in my life have literally been catcalled since middle school, and in the fifth grade my mother told me not to wear leggings because of “the men out there”. It didn’t matter that I was nine and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t fair. Though she said this to protect me from a very real threat, rather than hold men accountable we police little girls’ bodies.
Telling a man to “fuck off” isn’t ever a safe option. Women have been hurt, stalked, and sexually assaulted for doing just that, not to mention how difficult it is for other men and non-binary people to do the same. The only solution to this problem is to get men to call out this behavior when they see it.
Hence my final point
5. Stop letting shit slide.
It’s important to educate yourself, but it’s equally as important to call out your friends. Not just once, but every single time. Call guys out when they create spaces of shame when girls talk about periods, or when people mention the importance of pronouns. Don’t just call them out when you’re around other women, speak up even when no one else is around.
Women have a limit to how far they can educate people, primarily because their voices tend to be dismissed by men. There are many men already fighting for equal rights and to them, I say thank you, however it isn’t enough. In order to continue to reshape society more men need to speak up and own their allyship, and that means starting with your friends.
That means putting your foot down and not letting shit slide.
Educate yourself where you can, listen to the struggles of others when you can’t.
With hope for the future,