Originally published on gentnormal.com
February 1, 2016
This past weekend a woman acquaintance was walking home early in the am after parting with our group. Just outside her door in Grácia a man came up from behind her and physically attacked her. The man did not attempt to steal her belongings, he intended to physically assault her. Luckily, neighbors heard the screaming and came to her aid. The perpetrator left this woman frightened and bruised, but seemingly lucky to have no other damages.
I know exactly what you’re thinking. What happened was terrible, but, normal. And it’s true, statistically speaking. But it got me thinking, reeling, replaying. Who are these people who feel so able to hurt others, more specifically the men perpetrators of violence against women? Where does this violence come from? Why is it so normal? In what ways does society contribute to this normalization?
I think about my experience at the dance club we were all at earlier in the night. A man casually approaching me and asking without a moment of hesitation, “One question: do you want to fuck?” and another man coming up from behind me, grabbing my arm, and pulling me to dance with him. I obviously do not intend to compare my experience with my friend’s attack. But there are commonalities worth noting in these situations. Knowing to simply exist as a woman means being seen by some as an object for taking.
Within these commonalities, there is a space in which violence towards women takes shape. What is the distance between making a lewd comment towards a woman and physically assaulting them? How do we measure this difference? If it is society that promotes the idea of objectification we must look not only within the deepest darkest fabrics of our statistics but start within the small, daily insults to women’s worth. In these seemingly mundane details, we find the fibers that have come to blanket belittling woman as a whole. Simultaneously, they are the means by which we can effect change on a daily basis. Because there are insults to gender equality men can change right now.
Being an average man is not enough. Because statistically speaking, the average man is kind of a jerk. I call on all men to look inward and take tiny steps in their own lives towards becoming a better gender as a whole. See these small practices for how they contribute to a greater or poorer future.
Looking purely at numbers, men aren’t the greatest people to hang out with, have sex with, or even be associated with. Let’s go ahead and say these characteristics have to do with endemic socialization; cultural pressures on men to mature retrogressively because of nonsensical, sometimes dangerous ideas of what it means to be a ‘man’.
Most of the men I am surrounded by, both here in Europe and my native USA, would find the incidence with my friend being attacked despicable. They have many women they love and respect; their family members, friends, and partners. However, many would be afraid to call themselves feminists. Let’s get this out of the way once and for all: if you believe in gender equality, you are a feminist. So, welcome to the club, we are so glad you’re finally here to stand beside women.
As we’ve established, us feminists have quite a bit to keep us occupied these days; women being paid less than men, lack of governmental representation, the constant assault of politicians trying to invade our uteri, life-threatening issues such as rape and domestic violence, to name a few. It’s hard out there for ladies, every single day.
In parallel with other efforts we, as feminists, can make attempts every day to be a little less statistically hot-messes when it comes to gender equality.
Most of the statistics I’ve included below are far from surprising. And that’s the surprising part for me. If they’re so obvious, why haven’t we moved past these patterns of men being in a constant state of arrested development? I feel frustrated by the sheer mediocrity of it all. Because I, and all other women, have much better ways to occupy our precious time.
So, let’s take an optimistic look at five unfavorable, everyday stats. Because I don’t believe statistics tell a whole story, or at the very least they neglect to give room for the subjectivity of people’s capacity to shift. Especially when shifting is so simple and so essential to ensuring the well-being of an entire gender of people.
Sex has to be safe, enjoyable, and positive for men, women, all genders. Men being the sole deciders of when and how sex starts and finishes must end now. Sex doesn’t only begin with penetration and end with the male orgasm. Sex is any type of intimate touching, kissing, licking, biting, etc involving genitalia, and doesn’t necessarily include the stereotypical penetration. Which is important since around only 7% of women orgasm from vaginal penetration alone and on average it takes women 10-20 minutes to reach orgasm.
The solution: consent, communication, foreplay.
If the unanimous, consented goal is penetrative sex, making sure all involved parties are equally excited and interested is key. This almost always means designated time for foreplay (ex. oral sex is a crowd pleaser) before penetration. Speaking for myself, sex is much more fun when it includes a variety of activities, speeds, pauses, positions, and combinations. One more important concept is sex isn’t ‘over’ until ALL parties have orgasms. Certain male hormones can make men feel sleepy after sex or have a hard time concentrating during sex, in which case make sure your partner comes before. An easy way to know what feels good for a person and ultimately brings them to orgasm is to ask. Communication should always be a part of sexual acts anyway, as everyone should verbally receive consent (http://www.consentissexy.net/consent) to touch another person intimately.
Stat 2: “Throughout all 28 European Member States, it was women that performed the bulk of non-work related caring activities, with extremely wide gender gaps between the time spent on caring and educating children and grandchildren: Men use 24.4% to Women’s 44.6% of their personal time to care for children.”
And you wonder why women are bringing their babies to Congress?
We don’t even have to get into the lunacy that there’s not universal family-planning care (like abortions), mandatory maternity and paternity leave, monetary compensation or any type of acknowledgment or public policy for this care work. Women spending more time than men doing care work sometimes means they have less time to do other activities. If this is the choice of the woman, obviously that’s fantastic. But many times, it’s more imposed than chosen.
But let’s keep it ‘simple’. Maybe you don’t have kids, but you probably know someone who does. So, lend a hand. Be purposeful about visiting regularly, asking what help is needed, washing a few dishes, lending an ear, and choosing social locations and activities where children are welcome. Having children can be a very isolating experience and more so for women. Having a supportive, present community can make all the difference for not only mothers but children as well.
Stat 3: “Men accounted for 212 of the 314 total interruptions, about two-thirds of the total. The men I observed accounted for about twice as many interruptions overall as the women did.”
Women’s voices must be heard; whether it be in Parliament or around the dinner table. Interrupting women needs to stop, and more generally interrupting anyone. I get that for many, interruption isn’t totally conscience or done on purpose. Still, interrupting is a sign of disrespect because no person’s word is more important than another’s. Moreover, interrupting usually means the interrupter isn’t listening as well as they could.
These same studies also show males tend to dominate conversations, speaking more often and for longer than women. Some suggest this comes from men being socialized to believe their ideas are more valuable than others. Or what I like to refer to as ‘conversational masturbation’. Having more purposeful conversations involves not speaking unless you have something truly important to contribute to the conversation, allocating time to others, and not repeating something someone else has already mentioned.
And let us not forget, conversation with another is supposed to be an exchange between more than one person, otherwise we could just stay at home and talk to ourselves.
I’m a firm believer that no one person can be everything for another person. It’s too much pressure to have a person put the entirety of their emotional well-being on another person, no matter the gender. Men seem to have friends, but don’t use these friends to divulge deeper, more personal matters, seek advice, and ask for help. Instead, the average man saves these things to pile atop their partners.
Every person needs more than one person they can trust and confide in, and if you can’t find a friend to do so, then find a therapist (and for those lucky ones, they have both friends and therapists).
Stat 5: “On an average day, 20 percent of men reported doing housework—such as cleaning or doing laundry—compared with 49 percent of women. Forty-three percent of men did food preparation or cleanup activities versus 69 percent of women.” (Data are from the 2014 survey).
An important concept is to be conscious of the space you occupy and leave it in the same or better condition. This goes for people, places, situations, and things.
No, women are not ‘better’ at doing housework. Despite socializing, ovaries do not have some sort of magical magnetism towards a mop and broom, trust me. It goes like this, in situations of cohabitation (whether you’re living with your lady family members or with your woman partner), during the average day people in a living space create mess, but if one of those members is leaving their mess, it creates double the work for the other. So not fair. So seriously, just clean up after yourself.
Statistically speaking, if you’re a man reading this article you probably fall into a few to all of the 5 statistics. And you probably have a strong distaste for the opening violent scene. This mix is minorly oxymoronic. We must realize that gender violence is the result of a society accepting inequality as a whole, in both the tiny and giant atrocities. These seemingly insignificant practices replicate upon themselves and turn into something far more abhorrent. The only solution, we must stand and adamantly say no to all of them both conceptually and in their daily manifestations.
*Because this article is binary-based, in that it addresses only two genders, men vs women (conforming to current statistical databases), it’s very worth noting: I feel so excited to be living through a time of change where we are seeing the idea of ‘gender’ stretch, lengthen, and infinitely widen to encompass this intricate topic. ‘Man’ and ‘woman’ are only two ways of identifying gender, and although most of the world currently checks-off one of these two boxes, we know they are simply this, boxes. People are in fact much less suited to be contained into such prepackaging and slowly but surely we are opting for a more holistic idea of gender that reflects all our intersecting queer, trans, incredible, and etcetera-ness.