Fragile male egos: why we need to stop making real problems about men’s sensitivities
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” This quote is from Canadian author and poet Margaret Atwood. Two sentences that send shivers down your spine. Two sentences that get to the heart of the real problem of gender inequality: at its core, it is about nothing less than ego and death. So while men only have to fear that women might not take them seriously, women have to fear that men will hurt them or even kill them.
In Germany alone, on average, a woman is murdered by her partner or ex-partner almost every three days. That’s a valid reason to be really angry. But really angry women don’t go over well because they step on men’s toes. And since no one wants to be portrayed as an aggressive feminist, and since we have learned to treat the male ego like a raw egg, we too often hold back in our demands. A circumstance that can no longer be surpassed in terms of absurdity.
Women and men must take action together
If I had received a euro every time I heard or read the phrase “Not all men…”, I could retire now at the age of 31. Of course, not all men are toxic and misogynistic. But nobody has ever claimed that. Where was it ever written that all men are bad? Especially since we all have to take a good look at ourselves, including us women. Because we have been socialized in the same patriarchal society and have therefore all internalized the same prejudices, the same sexism. Both must now be fought together. But for this, men in particular must learn to endure the things that are now being worked up. And without crying.
It’s certainly not pleasant to realize that you may have in the past crossed physical boundaries yourself, discriminated against women, or stood by and watched as friends and/or co-workers sexually harassed women. But the appropriate response to this may not be to deny all blame, point fingers, get angry, and publish tearful articles about how unfair the world is to men in general. The world is not a fair place and feminists are working hard to change that.
Being called an “old white man” is certainly not nice. In fact, this is probably the number one most popular insult right now. How ironic, right? After all, one has always turned to all other marginalized social groups when looking for inspiration for verbal devaluations. White straight cis men have never had to believe it. And that’s exactly what they think now that everyone would pick at them. Hand me my teardrop.
Let’s get one thing straight: Being called an “old white man” is very tolerable when you consider what’s going on against it. If you can’t recognize that, you’ve probably earned the label. If we had ever cared about the wellbeing of women anywhere near as much as we do that of men, women wouldn’t have to walk home at night with a pocket alarm in their hands. We would not blame women for sexual assault and would believe their words instead of doubting them. We would also pay them the same as men.
It’s okay to be angry and to show it
To anyone who considers what is currently being demanded to be unfair and too “harsh”, I can only say that up to now it has been treated with kid gloves. I don’t understand why, when talking about clear wrongs, one has to pour icing on top so as not to “spook” a group. Why do you have to suppress your anger and frustration if you want to win men over to your side? And why don’t men feel anger and frustration on their own when it comes to gender inequality? Where’s the sense of justice? Where’s the empathy?
If we weren’t wasting our energies trying to stroke men and their egos onto our side and using forgiving words to teach them what’s actually going wrong and what they might be able to do to help, we might not necessarily be further along, because we yes, would have frightened so many of them. But at least we would no longer downplay such existing social problems and could be angry in peace. Because that is our right. Men are allowed to take out their anger and aggression on their fellow human beings all day long without a good reason. We, on the other hand, are meant to be so angry that no one becomes uncomfortable—least of all a sensitive male ego.
In closing, I guess I don’t have to say that this text doesn’t mean all men, because I know that those who check, check, and those who don’t check, just don’t want to check.