Learning How To Walk A Mile
Not all men rape.
But almost all who rape are men.
Women don’t deserve to be objectified just because they are women.
Not all women are sluts.
And neither are all men.
One of the reasons I work with college students is because I “like” the problem people. And I have found these types of people in my work with Health Education, Campus Recreation, Athletics, and the Center for the Study for Masculinities and Men’s Development. I like talking and advising the most difficult students. I like the bullies and the tough guys and the star athletes and the fraternity brothers. I like them because I’ve been around men all my life. Men are important to me. And I have learned to see past the sarcastic comments and the objectification and the aggression because I get it. It’s hard to be a woman. It’s also hard to be a man. And I imagine it’s extremely difficult when you are a person who blurs those lines between the two.
I can look past these things and what I see is a loneliness. A sadness. And for a few of the men in my life, a deep depression. And depression scares the hell out of me. One of my friends told me, quite casually, that men have higher suicide rates because they execute their plans. They are doers and so if they decide to kill themselves, they won’t mess around. They will cut somewhere that can’t heal. He told me this as casually as I told him I completely identify with a story of an acquaintance rape victim. I’ve been stalked. I’ve been honked at. I’ve been asked to “go further” than I was comfortable. I’ve trusted men who made bad decisions.
My mom once told me that every person should have to work in the service sector at some point in these lives. It’s not easy being a waitress or a janitor or a bus boy. And so if you can get that experience, join that side, you will understand and be grateful for your desk job and your education. You will also probably become a better tipper which is in everyone’s best interests.
I sometimes wish the same was true for male and female interactions. The things our genders take for granted and the things we casually deal with on the day to day are incredible. I advise a group of Peer Educators who present programs on sexual health and other health related topics. On Monday night I sent a group of four females, all attractive and good at what they do, to a group of males in a residence hall. Two of my students got “hit on” and were asked for their numbers. Two comments we got back on the evaluation sheet, in ways to improve the program, were “we need one girl for each male,” “bikinis,” and in what they most enjoyed about the program, “the girls” and “the losers strapin’ on rubbers.” Now, I have about 1,000 remarks for each of these comments. But what I wonder is this…what if we could all trade places? What if those guys lived their lives being honked at and being objectified. What if they could really understand that if they want to date these women, these types of jokes probably won’t work. I’ve had enough conversations about “hook up” culture that I know men sometimes go farther than they want to because it is expected of them. That the male freshmen virgins feel ridiculed and out of place and that they can’t contribute to conversations about sex because they haven’t had enough yet. And I know that some men learn how to talk to girls through their boisterous peers or pornography or media representations.
So my call is this. To my Millenial achievers out there…I expect more of you. I want you to walk a mile in the shoes of any female in your life. And I have a feeling that when you stop hating these females for what they will or will not give you (being mad at them for not wearing bikinis, in April, in a presentation, in a residence hall for example), you might be less harsh on yourself. And that would be an incredible start.
By Molly McKeogh