Tilting at… windmills?

Your Reckoning. And Mine.

As stories about abuse, assault, and complicity come flooding out, how do we think about the culprits in our lives? Including, sometimes, ourselves.
By

“This is different. This is ’70s-style, organic, mass, radical rage, exploding in unpredictable directions.”

“[…]But it’s also harrowing because it’s confusing; because the wrath may be fierce, but it is not uncomplicated.”

“And yes, there is satisfaction that for a month or so, it’s like we’ve been living in the last ten minutes of an M. Night Shyamalan movie where the big twist is that women have been telling the truth all along.”

My sister texted me the above link. Prefaced only with, “ICYMI.”

I found it a complex, nuanced piece that drew in all sorts of elements and implications that have been simmering in my gut ever since #metoo escaped from my children’s social media spaces into mine. In case you missed this article, read it. It has just about everything—including the whiteness and privilege of the people speaking out (because who would otherwise listen?); the strange quality of too-common-to-be-news splashing out of this pool of rage; the outrage, uneasiness, and confusion of so many of the men in we #metoo women’s lives.

M: At some points I wanted to scream and at some points I wanted to cry.

Out of the breadth of the article, both of us noticed the writer’s mention of her husband’s attempts to come to grips with this moment. We quickly shifted ground to our husbands’ attempts to come to grips with this moment. They are, we feel, acquitting themselves well.

But at the same time, we both spoke with a tiny (tiny!) edge.
I wanted to put a name to it:

K: Maybe some of what this moment is
is exhaustion from the emotional labor of protecting men from this dark current [ed: men as in “men like our spouses”]

M: YES OH GOD YES

K: now that emotional labor is more visible in middle-class, egalitarian-oriented households.

[…]

K: Why does that have to be so?
When we don’t get to be? [ed: protected, or fragile/defensive/quickly upset]

M: Besides Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity, I don’t know
(and I’m not kidding about those being the major contributors)

K: I mean, our mens aren’t part of those boxes per se
But you and I *have to* protect them (sometimes) nevertheless

M: YEP
which is… annoying at best.

 

Traister comments, and quotes others in saying, that this may well be a season of a whole lot of noise with no recognizable alterations once the volume quiets down. Which would not surprise my sister, or me. Still, we yearn for something more out of this unprecedented moment—as a history minor and a feminist, I feel this moment is, indeed, without precedent.

In another section, Traister points to the ways she herself and others she knows have sidestepped around harassers, and abusers, in order to wring the benefits that their positions of privilege could offer her and her colleagues. The benefits she mentions? Mostly being getting to “sit at the table,” and “lean in” sorts of things, not more questionable perqs. She calls out the suspect quality of her behavior as part of trying to figure out how to move us all closer to equality. Because perhaps when we stand level with each other, chastising poor behavior will properly become an individual matter in the way it once was when we were throwing pebbles on the preschool playground.

My sister and I have arrived in a related place. As we interact with friends and lovers, men who are neither harassers nor abusers, but still react to comments as if they are stung… or who stand, feet planted, declaiming #NotAllMen when that’s not the conversation… (thank goodness they’re not ones who indulge in, “But what if—?!”)…

what is our complicity in those reactions?

What do I do that keeps the field tilted? Why do I take on that emotional labor, of managing My Sweetie’s feelings and reactions so that a buffer zone of #NotAllMen sustains his even keel?

Why does My Sweetie let me?

 

I can’t change the world. But I can look at myself, and my actions, closely. I can remember my first car’s bumpersticker: “Silence Is Complicity.” And, stepping away from silence, I can ask a lot of questions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: