As you saw from both my letters, simply put, this shit runs deep. There is SO much conditioning deeply engrained in both men and women that we have a lot of undoing to do if we are to truly see women as equals. We cannot afford to fuck up another generation of boys and girls. Okay in all honesty, it’ll probably take our whole lifetimes and maybe more to undo but let’s actually do it.
But I said I fear this discourse is leading us down a road of fear, disconnection and vilification. Why?
Women see a man, especially one they don’t know, as a source of potential threat before he is perceived as doing good. How can we change that?
"...it is okay for us to disagree, we must understand that this will take time. But if we disengage entirely or only share our opinions with those that agree with us, we have given up hope on coming together. And our fear for that which we don’t understand will only lead to further disconnection."
We have to talk. Keep sharing your opinions and get involved in the conversation. But this has to be an inviting conversation, on both ends. I’m not saying the burden of making men understand falls on women but just as calling someone a racist will only further polarize them away from seeking to understand, accusing men of being sexual assaulters, misogynists, or anything of the sort isn’t going to invite men to want to open up. I’m referring to our conversations, not to men who actually have assaulted women-- it is okay for us to disagree, we must understand that this will take time. But if we disengage entirely or only share our opinions with those that agree with us, we have given up hope on coming together. And our fear for that which we don’t understand will only lead to further disconnection.
It’s easy to look at someone like Harvey Weinstein as a disgusting monster. It dehumanizes the perpetrator, hence making it much easier to attack them, rather than to understand why they are so sick. Men as a whole are not villains. Yes there are sick men, and we have to address them as such rather than assume they mean harm by demeaning women. Understanding why people do what they do will help more than vilifying someone and writing them off as a degenerate. How else do we learn from our mistakes?
Speaking of mistakes. We men, all men, have done something or another to uphold patriarchy. Even by not saying anything we have passively sided with the oppressor. We have made our mistakes and are continuing to perpetuate them. So how can we make this right, ladies? I won’t answer that. All I ask is you have grace with us and allow us to be on this journey with you all.
We have a lot of unlearning to do. So this conversation has to be heard in ALL spaces, with all intersectionality present. In our families, in our schools, at all ages, churches/temples, where we work-- we must acknowledge this issue exists even in our most sacred spaces for us to tackle this. By sacred I don’t just mean holy and religious, I mean our relationships with our parents, grandparents, our kids, and at those really inopportune times where it just doesn’t feel like the right moment for “one of those talks.”
Men we have a lot of work to do. And we have to start with ourselves. Get in tune with yourself and your emotions. If we were more whole and centered, we wouldn’t put our insecurities on women. Make stronger connections with the older men in your life: mentors, parents, teachers, coaches. Talk to them about what you are going through rather than going out and using casual sex or some other maladaptive pattern that involves women to solve your issues. Talk to older men about your dating life and your relationship to women in general. The more I open up to my parents and older men in general about my dating life, the more patience, love, and understanding I’m able to bring forth with whoever I am talking to. Only when your own cup is full can you begin to worry about those around you.
And listen. Trust me when I say this, but have these conversations with your mothers, your sisters, your friends, the women you date. Allow them to point out your own patterns that suppress them or make them feel less than. It will not feel good. When my sister told me she felt that I didn’t respect her the same way I did the women I dated, first of all, that really threw me off. Then I rejected it and brushed it off because there’s no way that could be true. But if she felt that way, I had to figure out why she did and what I was doing. For her.
We must share with women what we only say around ourselves, too. “If women want true equality, we shouldn’t have to court them on dates!” “Everything should be 50/50.” Let’s talk about gender roles in dating. Let’s talk about gender roles in relationships. In families. Not when an argument or issue arises, but from the get go. With all your relationships. Trust me, I don’t like it when a girl just sits there looking pretty waiting for me to pick up the check either-- but if I don’t talk to her about it, then what good is it? We both just perpetuated a patriarchal pattern neither of us really wanted to. We cannot be afraid to talk about sex either. You obviously must have permission to be granted access to a woman’s vagina, but they are not the gatekeepers of sex. Your boundaries matter too. Don’t be afraid to talk about them. Practice that shit.
TRUST ME, this isn’t just about sexual assault people-- everything matters! If it’s on your mind, engage your friends and family and talk about it. Our dynamics with one another don’t all have to look the same, but as long as everyone feels respected and valued, that’s all that matters.
I hope my vulnerability with these letters has allowed to you understand one side or the other a little better-- and hopefully me too. My platform as a public figure is to lead by example as I share my rawest emotions and experiences; as I practice that, I hope I will encourage you to do the same in your life. Be true to yourself and come with love, always. We can all win together. The faster we can figure that out, the less hate, fear, and misunderstanding we will have. I sincerely appreciate you with all my heart for giving my thoughts the time of day and reading this through and through. I can only hope I added value to your journey, as always.
Thank you 🙏🏽.