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Jun 17 2014

“What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?”

I’m slowly wading through the comments moderation queue, and this one from Jenny on the without-their-silence article stands out:

I read both articles. I then asked my husband to read both articles. He did. When he was finished, he asked, “What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?” I didn’t have an answer. Neither article appeared to have an answer.

Is there an answer? If so, what is it?

An answer? No. Many answers, yes. A few from the top o’ me noggin:

Believe women. They tell you things that are hard for you to believe, sure. Shut up, though, m’kay? Listen. Absorb what they’re saying, and understand that the world is a very different and quite often hostile place to people who don’t identify as male. That’s the first, and most important one to start: don’t automatically dismiss our obsession with locking doors, and our (to you) excessive caution, and our endless stories about harassment and assault. You haven’t experienced what we have. Listen to our truth.

And do more:

  • Familiarize yourself with everyday sexism.
  • Did you realize you’re doing sexist things? Stop doing them.
  • Stop using sexist epithets. Substitute non-gendered ones instead.
  • Did you realize your buddies, coworkers, family, random jackasses are doing sexist things? Call ‘em out. Doesn’t have to be a huge big deal: a simple, “Hey, that’s not cool, bro” often suffices.
  • How ’bout some feminism 101, now.
  • Hey, mebbe a little more.
  • You’re at work, and the men in the meeting are talking over the women? Speak up! All it takes is a simple, “I believe Sally was trying to make a point” is usually sufficient to shut the over-talkers up.
  • Did some jackass just claim credit for the idea Sally came up with? Point out it was Sally’s idea in the first place.

You’re doing great! Keep on keeping on:

  • Brush up on Schroedinger’s Rapist. No, look, you know you’re not a rapist. That female stranger on the street has no fucking idea who or what you are, though, and she has to play it safe, so don’t take it personally, m’kay?
  • Pay more attention to your phone, or the scenery, or some other dude than that woman or group of women on the bus or on the street or on the trail.
  • Sure, you can say “Hi.” Make it short and casual, and don’t pursue conversation unless she does.
  • If a woman asks you to leave her alone, do just that, cheerfully.
  • See some jackass pressing his attentions on a woman who’s all but screaming “Leave me the fuck alone?” Distract him. Run interference. You don’t need to be all obvious and heroic. Just ask him the time and start chatting him up.
  • Did you witness someone getting harassed? Stand with them against the harasser, and assure them you’ll be happy to be a witness, if it comes to a report. And follow the fuck through.

Image shows an otter on its back with its front paws up. Caption says, "Woah, back off, bro"

All right! You’ve come a long way. Give yourself a tasty reward. And then go further:

Check your male privilege.

Are you in a position to influence diversity in your workplace? In your social circles? Do it.

Support women and minorities when they try to advance.

Don’t be lazy and stop at the usual suspects when you’re thinking of putting together a team at work, or a list of speakers for a conference. Seek out a balance of folks rather than letting it be all white males with only a token woman or PoC.

Insist that any panel you’re on or workgroup you’re in be genuinely diverse.

And don’t stop just because it’s hard.

I could go on. And on and on and on. But I’m going to turn it over to my readers, now, because they are wiser than I am, and will catch things I’ve missed, and have seen the world through different eyes. They can give you more ideas on what to do. I’m just going to end my piece with this:

Challenge yourself to be better.

And do at least one thing, every day, to make this world a better place.

Image shows several variously-colored kittens and a green parrot walking on a mantle. Caption says, "Itteh bitteh kitteh committeh promotes diversiteh."

5 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    Oh, look, it’s a parrot!

    I guess I kind of gave up at the first part, where I’m supposed to try and convince Other Person to believe my experiences (and that sexism still exists, yes, even here!), because I got hit with the ‘where are the facts and stats?’ ball – yet was being argued down by ‘no, I don’t have any facts myself, this is just my opinion because I don’t believe it can be that bad and I don’t have time to read’.
    It’s probably a good idea to try again.
    At least he stopped saying things like “He drives like a girl!” and changed that to “He drives like someone in driver’s ed!” Small victories, eh?

  2. 2
    Peter the Mediocre

    Great post. It’s the kind of reminder that we can all use from time to time. It seems to me that many of these points come down to simple empathy, courtesy and consideration, and they’re hard only because they aren’t habit..
    Thanks.

  3. 3
    Pen

    * Whichever field you work in, search out and find some women who’ve gone before whom you admire. Find a woman senior to yourself and seek out her mentorship. Warning: in some fields this may unfortunately threaten your advancement, so in that case seek out two mentors, one male, one female. Make sure to acknowledge your female mentor prominently.

    * Whichever field you’re in make sure to bond and teamplay with the women who are your peers as much as the men. Don’t let yourself get dragged in to the all male socialising where a lot of professional stuff happens under the table. Make sure to socialise with women as well and promote socialising in mixed groups.

    * If you happen to be in a profession where your subordinates tend to be female: secretaries, nurses, etc, take every opportunity to extend respect to their knowledge and experience and do not tolerate other men talking about them as if they were of no consequence either as people or to the running of the enterprise.

    * When you reach senior ranks yourself and the time has come for you to mentor younger people go out of your way to pick equal numbers of men and women and mentor them with equal energy.

    PS: a similar approach can be applied with PoC, minorities, etc.

  4. 4
    Trebuchet

    The internet seems to have eaten my previous reply. I shall try again. If this winds up being redundant, that’s why.

    This is a truly excellent list of starting points. And little things that can be done every day. Applause. Since I’m no longer in the workplace many no longer apply. I wish I’d had this then.

    @rq, #1: My first reaction to your post was “What parrot?” Overwhelmed by kitteh cuteness, I was.

  5. 5
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I think this is a great list of things men can do to help. These things aren’t particularly hard to do.
    One has to listen to what women say.
    Empathize with them.
    Recognize that there’s a problem.
    Realize that you have been part of the problem.
    Display a willingness to change.
    Resist the urge to say shit like “notallmen”.
    Incorporating some of these ideas can take time and effort, but it’s more than worth it.

    It took time for me to eliminate sexist slurs from my everyday speech. One by one though, they vanished. To the point that the only time I think about the words is when there’s a discussion (usually around FtB) about sexist slurs.
    It didn’t take much time for me to listen to women in meatspace, bc I’d learned to do that online with the many wonderful women I interact with here. As a result of that, I learned to listen to what women said. I’ve listened to three women detail the sexual harassment they’ve dealt with and I believed them (and spoke up on their behalf-after they expressed a desire for me to do so).
    I realized long ago that I associate with more women in my various workplaces than men. What took time though, was for me to stop talking over women. I still catch myself (or I did when I had a job) beginning to talk over a woman, and often bite my tongue.

    BTW, I say all of the above for any men that might be reading. It’s not to show my creds or impress anyone. It’s to show that it *can* be done and it *ought* to be done.

    (btw, I completely missed the parrot until rq pointed it out)

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