We Train Men How To Treat Us, And We’re Failing

woman sitting on sand
Soroush Karimi / Unsplash

They are always waiting to take the inch from us.

And, even when we do not give an inch, they will still find a way to take the mile. Look at sperm, for god’s sake. They are biologically wired to sprint for a weakness — a break in the thin membrane of life — to penetrate. To succeed. And thus, evolution continues to run its course.

And so does the evolution of the devolution of male behavior.

I write this because despite protests, marches, celebrities, rage, tears, and pain; despite the fact that most of us are here screaming the same song on the same page, telling the same story, we are still not moving forward the way we should be. As men, as women, as a society at-large, we are divided.

The inches have been given. The mile has been taken. The mile has been trampled and marched across by the haughty feet of the most prodigious powers in the United States.

And as reactive and raw as we’re feeling right now, I am taking this moment to to plan forward, to look within, and to be critical, even though these are the absolute last things my heart and brain want to be doing.

I plead to my fellow women to listen carefully to the data of what’s happening. I beg us to try something new, in addition to our current efforts, to shift the trajectory of this conversation. We are making huge strides, and at the same time, if we do not adjust, I feel we will be in danger of alienating our most potent allies: men. We must look within. We must be responsive, rather than reactive. We must cook something new, rather than simmer in the rancor and rot of this situation.

We are women, and we are not equal. We are better. Let’s be even better.

Insanity is repeating the same methodology in hopes of a different outcome. I am committed to these outcomes: Men respecting women. Men not assaulting women. Women feeling comfortable and confident speaking their truths, before, during and after any encounter of any intensity with the opposite sex. And it’s time to adjust our method.

To do that, we have to understand our part in engineering a new post-#MeToo species of men that are receptive to listening to women as teachers. We need to learn to use our voices to sing, rather than just scream; equally loud, we must intrigue and inspire our opposition.

The most important category of men that actually need these lessons from us are the ones that don’t want them. They have their fingers in their ears. We already have the great men on our side. We need the ones who have the potential to be be normal, or even great, but just happen to suck. We aren’t responsible for their suckiness, but we are responsible for knowing our audience. If we believe in what we are saying, we will adjust our delivery methodology to insure just that — it’s delivery.

The average man has now learned he can’t get away with rape (as easily) anymore. That he will have a light shined by the female wrath of God cast on him, even if his only judgement day happens to be his dying day. (Trump and Kavanaugh. I’m talking to you).

But disturbingly, at the same time, the average man has also learned to be more resourceful; to sneak, scour and to find like-minded mediocres. These guys are learning to take more inches, rather than full miles. And this is a whole different category of vile.

Now ladies, we have to take responsibility for teaching men that our inches, just like everything else, are not up for grabs.

We have not taught men to rape. No particle of assault is our accountability.

But we have taught them they can catcall us without consequence. We have not taught men to grope us, but we have taught them we’ll humor them calling us “babe” just because we’d rather not cause any disturbances. We have taught them that their jokes seem funnier when they have money. That some of us will take a free drink from a guy we don’t actually like, because free drink.

This stuff is our responsibility. It is small. But it adds up. It adds up to a collective understanding that we don’t deserve respect. That we don’t have a voice…because we don’t use it daily. We use it in the extremes, like right now.

We come “out of nowhere” when really, we have been feeling this all along. We undermine our own credibility because we don’t speak up about the little things. (I’m not talking about assault — I’m talking about catcalling, invasion of space, general “innocuous” disrespect.)

These are the inches. And these inches are how we are still surrendering our mile, even though we feel our weary legs and hear our hoarse voices screaming for reform and progress.

We have taught men that they can take inches, literally, and figuratively. This, for a variety of fucked up reasons that suck, is mostly our fault. The quicker we come to terms with this, rather than be offended by it, the quicker we will change the outcome. We will shift this battlecry to a conversation — a two way dialogue where we have the power to rewrite the rules on how we want to be treated — and ultimately, a way to re-wire the men who don’t even know they need to (or don’t want to) be re-wired. This is the demographic who is hiding out from change — the section of the population who is keeping us locked in this holding pattern.

We have taught men how to conduct themselves with us. It’s Pavlovian, at its primal core. Most of the time, they get the treat of our silence.

All of us have the choice to be teachers each day. And a lot of the time, it’s fucking annoying. So are most responsibilities. But, with great power comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility comes greater pain-in-the-ass, so get over it and get ready to work harder than ever.

Sometimes, we are baffled by the bizarre things men say. On occasion, we are scared. We are worried. We are lonely. We are tired. We don’t know how to respond. We are lazy. We have confidence issues. We fear being called a bitch. Or, dare I say, on a low day, we like the attention, but just don’t like it from that particular man.

We are just fucking tired, I know. Trust me, I know! But, now is not the time to be tired. It’s the time to try new approaches and build new bridges, not walls.

Whatever the reason, whatever the methods, we just have to re-commit to being better teachers, under all circumstances. *Circumstances not including assault, okay?

The way men approach us is not our fault. But our response is always our responsibility, ladies. Repeat after me: My response is my responsibility.

Some of the issues that prevent us from being vocal in-the-moment are viable, and the majority, we must admit, are not. We must admit that we can still do better. We are women, and just because we admit we can do better does not mean we are wrong. It just means…we can do better. There is no better time than now to not be offended, and for all of us to just do better.

If a man was met with the shame of rejection for his shitty ways again and again, it is likely he would stop and think “Hmmm, this approach isn’t working.” And if he didn’t stop after that, he would then be a true “victim” of #MeToo, where he would be eviscerated. Good riddance, asshole.

Thanks to #MeToo, there is now a clear and designated “hell” where misbehaving cretins know they will burn in the flames of consequence. But it’s not black or white, and it’s our job to now navigate the grey.

There are “normal” men who are weak; swayed in the opposite direction of our cries because they are confused, overwhelmed, worried or maybe just a little dumb. These guys just want to hide, and we should not, and for the sake of our progress — cannot — let them hide. We want to hate them, but we counterintuitively, need to love the shit out of them. (And if they don’t respond to that, then they can go to the “hell” I mentioned above.)

My fear is that there is a whole other species of male cockroach mutating who might not rape, but certainly doesn’t know how to respect women. A man who knows how to hide; who continues to unravel our progress because we women haven’t figured out how to stand in our confidence when the lines are grey. We haven’t learned how to communicate. We haven’t learned to actually enjoy the feeling of “no” marching from our lips, without even considering the response. This is our chance to step up and learn what our actual power looks like.

We have to do our part. We have to do what doesn’t feel as effective, productive and loud as the collective scream departing our hearts now. We have to do the little things, too, from here on out. We have to take back the inch. And those unfortunate men who dare to take the mile from there, well, good fucking luck, guys.

It’s time we consider our methods, ladies, even if it puts our hearts and souls at risk of being just-a-little offended. I ache for progress, and I yearn for it in the vital soil of this current climate. If I have to point the finger at myself a little, so be it. I don’t care. I’m offended to be a human being right now, so I might as well take a peek at my part in this dynamic.

I feel that this march needs to be a tango from here on out, and to tango, we need a solid partner. I want our partner to be men.

Upon hearing about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I wrote this poem:

the mile they take

from the inch you give

will never be as long

as the distance between you

and your innocence

^ c.boom

These are the inches I’m talking about. They set the tone for a category of interaction — one that seems completely out of our control, but actually isn’t.

Most men are not the enemy. They are not out to get us. They do not want to prey on us. They want to be close to us.

However, incrementally, we have trained an army of opportunists. By nature, men are opportunists, anyway. But we have taught men to “spot the hole” through omission. They are learning volumes from what we do not say.

This ranges from the idiot who makes a “complimentary” remark about your body that you let slide, to the free drink you take from a guy just because you’re “playing the game.”

Men frequently abuse their power, yes. But they also learn from our weaknesses. They learn from our silence, in the smallest moments. The inches.

It’s so annoying to have to confront someone who is audibly talking about your ass with his friend, dancing near you when you just came to dance alone, interrupting an intimate chat with your girlfriend to ask you about the weather. But what if instead of a confrontation, we could have a conversation?

Men “should” know better. And, in the world we are asking for, they “should not” be able to hold the highest offices in the land. As we continue to wage war, we must also battle the nuances that run tandem to a collective nation of people — men and women — who feel responsible for the way we treat each other. Who, ultimately, feel accountable to and responsible for one another. Like human beings.

The underbelly of the human psyche is dancing spectacularly on the stage of our country. It was hiding all these decades. And although it’s being answered mostly by intolerance, this disgusting, unwarranted, despicable behavior is somehow not being met with a unanimous “hell no.” This is a key clue that something is broken. I repeat: Something is fucking broken.

#MeToo has shaken the roaches out of hiding. They are huddled, naked, in the unforgiving beam of the nation’s flashlight. We’ve done our job turning on the lights; shining the light where there was none. But as all roaches do, these opportunists will scurry into the nearest cracks.

We are the light, ladies. But we are at risk of forgetting about the crevices. We must fill in the cracks, too, or the little fuckers are going to go straight back into hiding, perhaps even more resourcefully, than before. And thus the division; us versus them, him versus her, good versus evil, will continue.

If we do indeed want unity, and ultimately, equality, we must now make a two-fold plan. #MeToo is the flashlight. And we, women, must now pay attention to the crevices — the cracks in our own behavior that will teach men how to treat us from here on out. To teach men that we can be friends; that we can communicate. To teach them how it feels to be us. And of course, to teach them, authoritatively, that they cannot hide.

If anything, what we’re seeing with Trump and now, Kavanaugh, is glaring: These human lightning rods for misbehavior are impervious to insult and rage. They are even impervious to the law. They are cheerleaders for poor behavior in men everywhere. And so, we must draw a new plan, and fast.

So, as a woman, here’s how I am going to amend the way I protest:

I am going to protest by being a teacher.

I am going to have the conversations, with patience and love, that could just be slaps in the face.

We have had this power to be warriors of nuance all along, and we have given it away because, why? It’s easier to be quiet. Little surrenders add up to one, big loss.

This is not about the obvious anymore. This is not about the mile.

This is about the smile.

The awkward smile you give when a group of men passing you on the street screams “I want to fuck you!”

The time you ignore the man in line behind you muttering to himself about what he wants to do to your ass.

The shrug you make when someone tells you they have a bet going with their friends who will sleep with you first.

The time you respond to “sweetheart” with a nod, instead of saying “Instead of sweetheart, I like to be called Cristina.”

These are the little moments we surrender. These are the little moments we actually are responsible for. These are the moments when we can teach.

I made a pact with myself two years ago to always speak to the men who hit on me, encroach on my space or make me feel uncomfortable. Because that’s what I actually can change — my own response — my own behavior. And boy, has it taught me a lot.

I learned that my natural reaction is to always ignore. Always! But that when I do, I am depriving men of valuable data — that my silence does not mean “try again” on me, or on someone else, it means “We don’t like what you’re doing.”

I thought at first the guys I told, “You know, the way you are staring at me is making me uncomfortable,” or, “I know I’m here alone, but I actually came to be with my own thoughts, not talk to anyone. I hope you have a great night, though,” would snapback “You’re a fucking bitch.” That’s only happened twice in the last two years, in thousands upon thousands of interactions.

The most frequent reaction I get? “I’m so sorry. I won’t do it again.” Or, “Whoops! I shouldn’t say that kind of thing to women, huh?”

The most memorable conversation I had was about a year ago with with a man who yelled “You can skate all over my face” to me as a skateboarded past him on the Venice boardwalk. Clever, but still, WTF.

Clearly in need of venting his excitement in the form of catcalling, long-range, he just couldn’t help himself. Why? Because people like me usually just ignore him. He has zero . accountability. Or maybe, just maybe, he hasn’t come across a good teacher yet.

What do I do? I hop off my skateboard, backtrack, and walk directly towards him. He’s terrified and confused and maybe a little excited. This never happens to him. I have my moment: “In what world do you think this is going to have a favorable outcome for you? How many phone numbers have you gotten from your methodology? At risk or looking stupid, don’t you think it’s time to adjust your approach?”

He is floored. And silent for a good 20 seconds in a moment of introspection I can tell is foreign to him. “You know, I never thought about it that way. No one’s ever said anything to me, so I figured I’d just keep trying. I’ve never gotten a phone number. I’m not the most attractive guy, so I’m used to women not responding. What would make you want to have a conversation with me?”

Not all cases are that way, but I tell you with confidence, I have been able to teach thousands of men that what they are doing is not the right way to go about interacting with a woman. I have burned molten, hot words into some of their skulls, but most of the time, I just end up having a true conversation about human nature. And I know for a fact they won’t forget it. They might even be reading this now.

#MeToo can deal with the outliers. Let’s take our chance to talk to the rest.

#TakeBackYourInch Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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