That’s What She Said

A Letter to Progressive Men: Stand Up or Step Aside


Guys silently nodding in agreement about the issues at stake for women is not enough. Our lives are on the line. So actively fight with us, or realize that you are the problem.



Dear Progressive Men Who Don’t Stand Up For Women,

There’s a line from Absolute Beginners that has stayed with me for decades.

“You know the three most useless things in the world? The Pope’s balls, a nun’s tits, and a good write-up in The Record Mirror.”

Lately I’ve been moved to add a fourth thing to that: progressive men who don’t stick up for women.

Dudes, it’s time we talked.

I’m talking to You. The guy who said he’d vote for a woman if it were Elizabeth Warren, who is now hinting at a presidential bid, and is now trying to resurrect Biden’s presidential prospects even though Warren and Kamala Harris are staring him in the face; and You, the one who thinks he’s a good guy because he paid for an abortion, but voted third party in spite of SCOTUS nominees being at stake; and YOU, the one who said he heard a woman who accused a man of assault was “crazy” but never mentions what he may have heard about the man’s state of mind because no one ever talks about that, even when the man in question has a reputation for being controlling and abusive.

Yeah, you right there.

Seriously, what is your point?

You should just be a Republican since you’re doing half the work for them. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how you can even be “progressive” and not defend the rights of women. I mean you can’t, so I guess what I’m trying to wrap my head around is why the rest of us are letting you get away with calling yourself a progressive even though you’re not doing a blessed fucking thing for us. You’re as helpful to us as a vibrator with no batteries. You’re the parsley garnish but you think you’re an entrée. You’re a CVS extra care coupon, offering me a trivial amount of help on something I don’t need.

You can’t convince me you aren’t the same guy who won’t go down on a woman. I can hear you say, “Cunnilingus is a distraction” before demanding “Blow jobs for all” and “Free Intercourse.” All you’re doing is creating more work for us, and that’s fine, we can get ourselves off and fight this battle, but get out of the way because you are useless. You’re the vestigial tail of progressives. Some of us are still genetically attached to you, but you don’t do anything for us except provide a subplot on a genre show.

Do not tell me this isn’t you. I know it’s you. I went to school with you and work with you and have drinks with you and laugh and spend holidays with you. And I defend you. Yes, when you tell me something awful that you witnessed, that a woman really needed you to be an ally about but you weren’t, I say, “I understand. He’s a good guy, he’s just afraid that if he speaks up he could lose his job.” Never mind that what you witnessed was actually illegal and that in many cases you have a legal obligation to mention it. And even if you’re not required by law, speaking up is just the right thing to do if we’re ever going to have actual progress, the first part of that word you like to call yourself so much: progressive.

I am so fucking tired of defending “good guys.” As long as you decide your fear of maybe losing a job, or the other guys not liking you, or you experiencing a moment of discomfort, is more important than our civil rights, then you must be honest with yourself: you are not a progressive. In fact, you sound very much like a Republican.

And you are absolutely useless to us. We don’t need you to talk about economic justice or universal health care or free college if you don’t also recognize how our race and gender and sexuality—what you dismiss as “identity politics”—factors into us not earning as much as you, how we often receive substandard health care that usually costs us as women more, and how free college doesn’t matter if the classroom bias against your gender or race prevents you from being prepared to get there. Until you do, you’re the plot in a porno.

But the good news is you don’t have to be.

We need you to point out misogyny and to recognize it. The 1007th time you hear why Hillary was a bad candidate or find yourself saying, “I know she had her flaws,” ask yourself if you ever said that for a male candidate ever. Ask yourself why a woman who was the most qualified person in modern history to run for the office, who got more votes than any white men ever, who got almost 3 million more votes than the grifter currently squatting in the office, was a “bad candidate.”

Don’t complain that you didn’t get a job because you’re a straight white guy unless you also complained every time one of us didn’t get a job because we weren’t.

Support candidates who are championing our issues, not just your own. If you’re not sure what those issues are or which candidates do, ask. If you don’t want to because you “just don’t like them,” ask yourself why you like someone who isn’t fighting for all of us and don’t like someone who is.

Don’t defend a guy you don’t know because he makes you laugh, while you take down a woman you don’t know because she “must be crazy.” Try educating yourselves instead. You can start by listening to a woman’s experience with abuse and harassment. How we’ve been conditioned to distrust ourselves, to fear we won’t be believed or that we will face retribution and so we don’t report things right away. Or how many times we go back to an abusive relationship, even act like everything is OK, because that is part of the cycle of abuse. You know, like you keep giving Star Wars movies a chance.

When you hear a woman being talked about in a sexual manner at work say something. When a female co-worker tells you another employee touched her, report it. When you hear a man is up for a job and you know he has a history of abuse or harassment, speak up.

When you hear someone is not getting hired because of gender or skin color, sexuality or age, do something. That is in fact an EEOC violation and the only earthly reason a person is even saying something so patently illegal out loud is because he thinks he can get away with it. And thanks to you, Third Nipple of the Party, he just did.

And we need you to hire us. Sorry to be so blunt about it, but we need to support ourselves and there’s more of you that are doing the hiring than there are of us. When we speak up, the message we receive is that we will never be hired again. And if you don’t hire us, we won’t be. So, fewer of us speak out, meaning more of us get abused. Remember those economic injustice arguments you loved to make in 2016? Now would be a good time to try to right some of that. It doesn’t start on Wall Street. It starts on your street.

Yes, we know it’s not easy. Having to constantly frame an idea in a meeting so the men think they thought of it isn’t easy either, and yet we’ve been doing that for a long time. And for the record, these are all practices that we can all improve upon as we become better allies to each other. Not just men for women, but white women for people of color and heterosexual people for the LGBTQ community, and citizens for immigrants, etc. So while I know I sound demanding and insistent here, what you might call “shrill,” “strident” or, “on the rag,” I want you to know that these are standards I have to hold myself up to. And I don’t always get it right. But when I fail, I ask myself some questions and then I try to do better. And I listen to what the people I want to help tell me they need from me. And that’s what we’re asking of you.

In closing,

Please stop telling me what a feminist you are. Show me. Otherwise, you’re not a feminist. You’re a hairbrush for a bald man; the time for you to actually do something has passed and now we don’t need you.

Sincerely,

Every Woman Who Is Smiling Politely At You Right Now As She Suppresses the Urge to Scream

 

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