This will be comparatively brief to my usual pieces. I had a Twitter thread that received a good response, so I want to coalesce that into a piece to share elsewhere.
#LeanOut – a thread: Or “how I wasn’t always ‘woke’, but I cannot fix my past failures, only learn from them and be a better man, a better ally each day forward”
I once said to a colleague, “You are so pretty when you smile. You should smile more”. I thought I was complimenting her smile, but I was really saying, “Alter your mood when I’m around and be as physically attractive as possible”.
I once went back to a restaurant to ask out the waitress. She politely said she had a boyfriend, I thanked her and apologised, and that was it. Still, approaching her at work was not the way to go about that. She had no one of knowing how I might react to the rejection.
I used to get uncomfortable by women discussing their vaginas, feminine hygiene, or anything overtly sexual. It never phased me when men did the same stuff though.
I have absolutely mansplained. Not because I thought women did not understand, but because I thought I was adding something to the conversation. However, adding obvious things to subjects for which the woman clearly has a passion is not the same as adding value.
When I liked a woman and felt compelled to compliment her, even if my compliments included her character (intelligence, work ethic, compassion), they generally opened with a comment about her beauty because that would be the first thing to cross my mind.
I grew up with a “white knight” sense of romance and felt that I had to prove myself to a woman through some heroic act. I realised later that this meant essentially wishing harm on them so that I could play the rescuer.
My idea of rape was some evil guy in a ski mask abducting a woman in a van or breaking into her home. It wasn’t until I spoke with friends that I realised how common it was for “friends” to coerce sex or take advantage of women they knew.
As a result, I rarely corrected the sexually suggestive comments or jokes that male friends would make to women, thinking it was just harmless comments.
When I started dating online, the extent of these issues was so apparent that I would have the woman pick a location for a date (when she was ready) with which she was comfortable and meet her there so she could keep her residence secret.
I would provide my personal information to her friends so that if anything happened they could track me down later (and I wasn’t just some anonymous person she met online).
Today, I will not board an elevator with a woman alone and if I see a woman walking alone on the street I will cross to the other side to (hopefully) help her feel safer about my presence.
The point of all this is, yes, I post feminist messages a lot and I hope women see me as a good ally. But I was not always as good towards women as I thought I was. My male-centric thinking blinded me to how behaviours affected women. I overcame that by listening.
I endeavour to continue listening and continue growing as an ally. Some women may never forgive my past behaviours, but that is not a reflection on them. They are things that I did and I have to own that. That is the only path forward.
#LeanOut and help others.
Why Share This?
Here are some responses I received to this when sharing it on Twitter. This is why getting this message out there is important (names removed to protect the identity of the senders):
“You are a true gem in this World. First, for having the awareness to notice these things for yourself, and second for having the courage to share it with other men.”
“Thank you for this!!!♡♡♡♡♡”
“Excellent thread. You have commendable self awareness.”
“This guy is a ray of fucking sunshine in my TL. Anyone doubting that there are real, live decent men out there who support our movement, give James a follow.”
“Thread, lesenswert für feminist Männer.” (Thread, worth reading for feminist men).
To that end, those of you with Twitter are encouraged to follow some of the wonderful voices I have encountered pushing for gender equality, tolerance, and egalitarianism (in no particular order). Give them a follow!
Shameless self-plug: I am available on Twitter @celticriverside