The Fears of Inequality

Written in response to the recent Santa Barbara shootings, mental illness, misogyny, and the debates and #YesAllWomen on Twitter. I focus here on fear, because the bodily harm, harassment, stalking, job insecurity, etc are already focused on at the hashtag. This is an important part of that conversation, and one that is missing, but is by no means meant to be the focus.

Years ago, a difference of opinion severely chilled a friendship with someone with whom I loved arguing. He saw the lack of easy acceptance from women as an emotional violence against men at an equal level to the physical violence enacted upon women by men. I agreed that it was problematic, and the two fed into each other, fueled by culture at large. I absolutely disagreed that it was of equal standing. Fear is a very real thing. Whether it is that someone will laugh at you or someone will kill you, the fear is real. The repercussions and reality lived are what are different.

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them. – Margaret Atwood

On a lighter note, I really enjoy this short clip from Louis CK about saying yes to dates:

It is vital to make it clear that the objectification of, violence against, etc+preposition, women is absolutely unacceptable, and that continuance is untenable. It is possible, even necessary, in the same moment and breath, to have empathy for the fear experienced by being on the other side of the coin of these atrocities. How dehumanizing it must be to be expected to treat other human beings as objects. And most of the language we have around this phenomena is in Feminism, which is villainized during the propagation of these issues. How can one make use of tools closed off by the simple fact of where and when and with whom they grew up?

These issues are systemic, a positive (not “yay”, but “self-reinforcing”) feedback loop. (Not the only components in this feedback loop, clearly). Until we address the root cause for women being cautious of men – the high likelihood of violence being inflicted upon them – that caution is a legitimate response to a very real threat. We must make our way up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – not in series, but in parallel, with a focus on the more dire.

I am not blaming you, as a man, for things like what happened in Santa Barbara. I’m blaming what culture makes men think they have to be in order to be manly. What that means for your alienation because it is unobtainable. What it means for people like me, who happen to have a certain body, for you to strive towards that unobtainable standard through the objectification and devaluation of my self. You are not at fault for where we are as a culture. You are, however, responsible for getting us to a better place than where we are right now.

This is what I mean when I call out friends and strangers about discounting the fear felt by all parties in this mess. The fear is shared, but different. The fear is real. Do not discount the fear, or demean people for feeling it – because the fear is legitimate. Hold people accountable for their actions. Address the causes of their fear, in a way that holds all people as whole.

It is because I love you, that I fight to diminish your power over me. When we are equal, we can freely love each other as we are.

3 thoughts on “The Fears of Inequality

  1. Thank you for acknowledging both sides of this. Not at *all* for my own sake, but for my daughter’s.

  2. Hi Willow:

    I’m tuning into the conversation a little late (I didn’t read the news today, oh my!… just the Berkman Buzz)… but I remembered a popular psychology book I read once, in which the author said she survived a kidnapping and escaped from what would have been a rape/murder situation by empathizing with her kidnapper, who ultimately just let her go. She said “This must be really frightening for you, too,” and other things like that. I couldn’t find the exact book, but another related article here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/11/natascha-kampusch-interview

    “I find it very natural that you would adapt yourself to identify with your kidnapper,” she says. “Especially if you spend a great deal of time with that person. It’s about empathy, communication. Looking for normality within the framework of a crime is not a syndrome. It is a survival strategy.” She pauses. “But people get annoyed when I say this. Some say I should be locked up again, that it isn’t really special to have been locked up like that, that I liked it, that it was good for me.”

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