Let me begin by thanking those of you who value me as your equal. Who see me as equally worthy (or unworthy) as men of your respect, consideration, and attention. Thank you to those of you who read women writers and a special thank you to those of you who read women writers intentionally, realizing that there is a still a power disparity and a difference in the way women and men are perceived in society.
I know most of you include yourselves as part of that paragraph above, and I know on some level most of you belong there. But some of you – sometimes unknowingly – do not see women as equal. I want to help you see the ways you do this so that you can love us better as your equals. Truly.
When you say that women “are more emotional,” even if you mean that as a compliment, you are not only stereotyping women but also devaluing them. Our culture believes that “rational” and “emotional” are opposites, and that “rational” is preferable. Thus, when you equate a woman’s perspective with an emotional one, you are saying, according to our culture’s standards, that it is lesser than a presumably “male” and, thus, “rational” perspective. (For the record, I think making decisions based on emotion is equally valid to making decisions based on rationality – whether a man or a woman makes those choices.)
When you say that women “tend to write for women,” you are subjugating us by saying our voices only matter to “people like us,” and you are also saying that YOU, i.e. men, are not people like us. Because men, particularly white men, hold the most power in our society, you – perhaps unintentionally – say that we have nothing to contribute to the mainstream of our society, especially to the people in power.
When you say that the “industry” or “media” or “church” are to blame for this disparity between the value in men’s voices and women’s voices without acknowledging the very true and painful reality of this disparity, you chuff off responsibility yourselves and work to silence us again because if we cannot speak to people about these situations, we cannot speak to anyone.
When you get defensive and turn our words as if they are attempting to silence you, when you take our words that are speaking to our desire for equality and turn them as attacks on men, then you use your power to steal our words and make them about you. We do not speak against men; we speak for ourselves, as we have always been able to do, even if we are not always heard.
So men of the world, we do not hate you. We do not wish to subjugate you. We do not wish to silence you. We wish you to see – just to see – that when you call us “girls” or make jokes about how women “cry all the time” or are “impossible” during “that time of the month,” when you claim that the “white male” is the most oppressed voice in America or blame institutions for these problems while also eschewing your role in them, you prove the very thing of which we speak – that women’s voices are not as valued, that they are written off as hormonal or emotional, that they need to be quieter. That they need to be quiet.
When you do not acknowledge the very real structure of our society that says women are less valued – even fiscally (making just 87 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job) – you perpetuate the problem. If you will not see it, you cannot address it. And if you cannot address it, you cannot love us, the women in your lives, as well as you might.
So please, men, see. We are here. Hear us. That’s all we ask.
With all the trueness of love and respect,