A likely story.
Are you reading this? If so, you are alive and therefore your life is hard. Life is inherently hard. Whether you’re a young, rich, able-bodied, straight, white, conventionally-attractive, Christian, natural-born male citizen—or—an old, poor, handicapped, gay, dark-skinned, transgender, multiracial, unconventional, non-Christian, female immigrant—life is hard.1
Case in point: Anxiety curses and cripples the able; A fear of change stunts the overwhelmed and the unafraid whip past them, flourishing. The speed blinding the stunted to the differences between them, leaving them to only speculate and often incorrectly; We will all succumb to The Great Futility in our deaths.
Whether you choose to think about it or not, life is hard. You didn’t ask to be born but you’re here. Your life is hard. I’m sincerely sorry.
Lucky for us, there are some struggles that we can get rid of or, at the very least, conceive of a world without through lessening the loads of our brothers and sisters who have different experiences from our own. There are things that come easy to me that don’t come easy to you and I want to help.
With that said, I want to talk about how females have a history of supporting males more than males support females.
STOP: How does that comment make you feel? If the answer includes the words “To be fair…”, “It goes both ways!”, or “bitch”, I want to stop you.
We’re not going to talk about the real ways in which males support females. We’re not going to talk about individual husbands staying home with their new baby while their wife returns to work.
We’re going to talk about how, on the whole, females support males more than males support females. Whether it feels true or not, it’s a measurable and quantifiable fact. It goes by many names: misogyny, oppression, discrimination—and it’s real.
If you disagree, please take a moment to do some research, some soul-searching, and note the following: no one is saying that men are bad; no one is saying that you are bad; and no one is saying that your life is not hard. The only thing that is being said is that we have a history of supporting more men than women.
Once this is an acceptable point, I want you to LISTEN: When a woman writes an article about her experiences with discrimination, there is frequently a comment (written by any gender) along the lines of “To be fair, it goes both ways.” What this comment accomplishes is taking support away from the female author and putting it back in the hands of men. It’s a simple process:
- Male voices are more supported and celebrated than female voices.
- A female writes an article seeking equality in support and celebration.
- A comment is posted about the situation of men and the female voice is negated.
For this reason, the comment is oppressive. It contributes to the suppression of women’s voices and is not supportive.
The message, intentional or unintentional, is that her struggle is irrelevant so long as there is a conceivable situation in which another person can be shown to struggle.
Imagine sitting down with a friend for coffee and he tells you his family member is gravely ill.
Do you say “I can’t imagine how hard that must be. If you need anything, or if there’s anything I can do, just let me know. Do you want to talk about it?” Or do you say “My coworker’s brother died. She’s not broken up about it now so… IDK man up. Her thing was a surprise; at least you get to see it coming.”2
Of course, as a good friend, you would lend support. You would lend support in spite of your coworker’s experience and your bills and your boss (who you’re pretty sure hates you) and your social anxiety that keeps you from the things you want and how they left way too much room in your coffee and they always do, those cheap assholes. You’d lend support in spite of all of it.
COLLABORATE: If you read an article about how female software developers experience discrimination in the workplace, there might be a comment about how “to be fair” male nurses are discriminated against by their patients. It’s a legitimate issue but so is the content of the original article—leaving a comment that shifts the attention to another person’s plight is not supportive. It’s diminishing.
If you want to talk about the struggle of a male nurse, write an article about it. In return, I promise I won’t leave a comment saying how it’s extremely offensive for a man to be considered weak for reminding people of a woman; I’ll just write my own article and, in your comments, I’ll support you.
Today you, tomorrow me.
But what if their issue is illegitimate???
Please keep in mind, whether you think it’s true or not, it’s this person’s experience. (And if it’s corroborated by hundreds or thousands of other voices, that’s a lot of experience.)
That said, if you’re of a different background from them, they’re going to know more about it than you. If it’s truly misguided, let someone who lives in that world talk about it. No matter what, the author is having a hard time and doesn’t need to told by a member of the oppressing group (perceived or not) how they’re wrong.
You may not feel personally supported or celebrated, and that’s a terrible feeling. It still remains true that, on the whole, males are more widely supported and celebrated than females.
I’ll let you in on a secret though: support and celebration can be found in collaboration. Support anyone who’s different from you and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
While you’re learning, you might make mistakes or say what might feel like the wrong thing. As long as you’re trying, that’s all that matters.3
When in doubt, Stop, Listen, and, if you can manage, Collaborate4. If not, take it to your blog.
I will support you in the best way that I am able no matter what. I hope to be supported in return.
See you out there.
It should be noted that these two sorts of people are not opposites—there is of course no such thing—but their experiences and challenges are notably different. ↩
Please don’t ever say “Man up.” ↩
Anyone who gives you shit when you’re clearly trying to learn, has something to learn themselves. Everyone is only ever doing their best. ↩
My apologies to one Mr. Robert Van Winkle ↩