*I dedicate this poem to women in general, but also to my mom, who is an amazing woman and still inspires me to be more to this day.
mother did you know it’s all your fault you caused the fall of man but them’s the breaks when you talk to snakes
mother did you know you’re not quite human humans should be a male all those lady parts aren’t on the chart
mother did you know that your emotions make you weak and at 40 you’re past your peak your wisdom your courage cause so much fear that instead of being vulnerable they sneer and jeer
mother did you know you’re a body – that’s it one that must submit and if a man bruises it beats it broken it means you really shouldn’t have spoken
mother did you know you’re not supposed to enjoy sex but ironically you always want it even if you don’t flaunt it somehow you’re always asking what you wear is just masking and if you decide to show it boy then, they really know it you don’t even need to give consent men know what you meant he would have been such a gent if you weren’t giving off a scent
mother did you know you can’t want a career you have a role so just put aside your goals but if you insist on having it all you’ll have to do it all I know it’s not fair it seems insane but that’s what you get for not staying in your lane
mother did you know no other group has survived so long an oppression they legislate your bodies out of your possession voice suppression you’ve had witch trials laws permitting rape violent threats should you try to escape men mutilate you murder you send you to slaughter men say “I love you mom” then violate somebody else’s daughter
and mother did you know that every single day I stand in awe at how you all persevere and still manage to hold your boys near
mother did you know it’s okay you didn’t tell me these things you just loved with unerring equality and kindness patience and color blindness taught me spirituality can break us free from our prison and that we can always do better if we learn to listen
and mother did you know as a man I’ve had to unlearn many things at times admitting a hard truth stings but then there’s you whose womb you made room in because of you I know what it means to be human
If you’d like to hear me read this poem, click here.
*header image is Claire De Lune” by Audrey Kawasaki
I was pondering the other day about biological differences between men and women. While I am certain there are average differences in many categories, as I explained previously, a difference in mean does not imply that we can make any a priori assumptions about the individual nature of any woman or man we might meet.
But it is often been a common argument from men who aren’t interested in gender equality to say that a patriarchy is simply because of the difference in the nature of men and women. The world is as it should be at the women must accept their place and not interfere with the nature of things. In thinking about history and the state of the world today, I thought, if this were in fact true, the conclusion one must arrive at if we are to at least acknowledge the humanity of women is that men are a serious threat to safety and well-being.
From a purely statistical view point, the damage done by men in this world is astounding. Let’s look at political leadership. In 2017 only 8 women held the highest political office in their country. This is a drop from the highest number which was 17. That’s less than 10%, at our best, of all the countries in the world. Only 22.8% of elected offices are held by women. This is up from 11.3% in 1995. The picture gets bleaker the further back you go. Through war and bloodshed, throughout human history there is one commonality among these stories. Men. Male leaders, male generals, male soldiers. Now I am not saying you won’t find some women scattered in there, but the percentage is overwhelmingly low.
The picture doesn’t get much better when you look at religions. Most deities are men, most males play prominent roles in religious stories, and women are usually the troublemakers, tempting men to their end and punishing us all in kind. Clergy are largely men from Brahmans to Pastors. And yes things have got a bit better, but research shows that currently in the U.S. only 10% of congregations are led by a female. And again it gets worse if you go back into the past. So if you’re looking at a history of religious persecution and oppression, the cloistering of education and literacy which typically only happened at religious institutions where women weren’t allowed, the common denominator is once again men.
Let’s now go down in scale, away from the level of nations and large institutions. About 90% of murders are committed by men. Like all those stories about mass shooters? You know what they have in common? It isn’t jihad or domestic terrorism…it’s…you guessed it. Men. About 75 percent of all legal felonies are committed by men and 96% of domestic violence convictions are of men. Before you say that there are men being physically abused too by spouses and aren’t being believed, let’s just call it a wash with other women who are being physically abused in similar situations and can’t report because they are too afraid, are not being believed, or lived in a culture that supports men’s right to beat their wives. When it comes to rape, 1 and 6 women report being a victim of rape. Compare that to about 1 in 33 of men report being a victim of rape. And at least half of those rape victims are being raped by other men.
Now if any MRA members are reading all this, I’m sure you are getting ready to weaponize yourself with facts on the under-reporting of the bad women out there. Again, I don’t doubt that there are, but any claim that the proportions are anywhere close to equal, you are simply going to lose that battle. Once again, the proportion of under-reporting for violence committed against females is still very high. From a percentage standpoint, you aren’t going to gain much ground.
Based on history and present day, it would seem the best thing to do, for the protection of all people is to cloister men. Keep them at home, doing house chores to occupy their time. Their obsession with power mixed with apparently too much free time seems to have terribly violent ends. Perhaps spending more time with children will help them understand why all the excessive killing is harmful. I have no doubt there are some good men out there and this seems really unfair to them but I think when you really look at the violence that has been perpetrated by men to women and even other men, leaving the house is something you should probably ask permission for from a female. And you should probably only be out with a female so they can keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t pull out any weapons, or try to rape somebody. I’d say you’d need a female boss or foreman at work, but the jobs men should get are very limited owing that having too many men in public seems to be extremely dangerous. When out, men should stay in well lit areas, and perhaps some sort of secure undergarment so you don’t whip it out casually in hopes that a random woman on the street will want to see it. Curfews and modesty are the key I think. If it’s true that we recognize women as humans this seems like sensible policy. I suspect that the long history of dehumanizing women is the reason why this hasn’t happened.
Is it true that given equal education a woman could have just as easily come up with the First Law of Thermodynamics or the Universal Law of Gravitation? This seems likely, but I’m not sure that our world of violence isn’t largely the cause of men. You may say this isn’t true, and you may be right, but I for one am happy to give women the reins (and reigns) for awhile and give them a chance to see if they can do it as badly as men. Only then can we have an honest conversation about the true nature of men and women and who is fit for power, rather than just who has power.
“Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”
I sit here and look at the television screen,
What is she wearing? Who are they going to vote off?
Twittering rage, Facebook lols, texting friends,
I’m experiencing life, I hope it never ends,
Not really paying attention,
There’s nothing else to do,
It feels like peace for me, is it peace for you?
I’ve got a lot and I’m going to need more,
I really don’t know what it’s all for, but I got it,
In only 10 years my wealth will double,
Too bad about that housing bubble,
You’ve got to work harder,
You’ve got more to do,
Can’t take a piece from me, I’ll take that piece from you.
I had a job, but well they didn’t need me anymore,
I’m sure I’m important though, but how to show it,
Turning on the news, the worlds gone to hell,
No way I’m going to get out of this well,
I’ve got to fight just to survive,
Only one thing left to do,
Won’t take a piece of me, I’ll take a piece of you.
You want me to trust, but I’m so afraid,
That article told me who’s to blame, the real problem,
Just keep me safe, I’ll do what it takes,
Close the borders for goodness sake,
I’ve got my gun next to me,
What are you going to do?
You took peace from me, I’ll take a piece of you.
I must raze the world to build it anew,
I’ve got a vision, and this is where you come in,
This is divine providence, no need to fear
You’ll change the world, for God is near
Your cause is righteous,
You know what to do,
Take some pieces of them, for pieces of you.
I’ve so much to be thankful for,
My basic needs are met and even a little sugar,
I won’t sit here and be passive,
Let the weight get too massive,
I’ll show you my heart,
Do what you will do,
But you can take a piece of me, and put that piece into you
I know this post will be very unpopular with some people I know, but I write it not as someone who means to offend, but simply as someone who wrestles with ethical principles all the time and this is a subject I’ve though a lot about. I guess I was inspired to share my feelings about this after reading an article that talked about the dangers of automatically associating heroism with anybody who is in the military. I’ve written about heroes before and how there are a lot of people in this world worthy of being called a hero, but most people don’t know about. In this country it seems that if you’ve joined the military and are deployed you are a hero; plain and simple. In fact usually when someone joins the service they are automatically seen as honorable and brave. Adopting any attitude that is in opposition to glorifying the soldier is seen as treasonous by many. The only narrative we are allowed to accept is one that paints the recruit as someone who nobly has joined to serve their country and defend American freedom (this turns out to not be the reason, most people join the military). To think otherwise, it means you don’t appreciate the fact that soldiers died for your freedom. You are ungrateful and you don’t understand the cost of being free. I’ve always taken offense to this generalization, and it seems to me that many people who say things like this experience nationalism in the same way that the devout experience religion.
It’s not that I don’t think it takes a lot of guts to join the military, knowing that one day you may be placed in a situation in which people are trying to kill you. In the middle of combat it is either kill or be killed and to come out of such a situation alive requires
some pretty good team skills and awareness in an extremely stressful situation. There is certainly something to applaud and be amazed by such people. Many of us perhaps would not be able to face such an extreme situation. The question is, does that quality mean that this is their only defining quality of character? And do we not have the right to complain about the context in which these soldiers are placed to take part in this very dangerous combat? People often criticize us peace-lovers if we don’t support the war, and say we are not supporting the troops. But I can think of no better way of supporting the troops than wanting them home and safe and not fighting in a conflict for which we have no business being part of. If your child wants to do something that could get them killed, for which you don’t think there is any valid reason for them to be doing, if you don’t want them to do that are you being unsupportive? Perhaps you just value their life more. And when you don’t support a war, many consider you unpatriotic. Most of those people have no problem criticizing Obama and his policies, so why is it unpatriotic to criticize a decision to go to war?
Often, of course, these things come down to your point of view. If the act of joining the military and the willingness to put yourself in harm’s way automatically makes you a hero, and a brave and honorable person, then every member of the military anywhere must also have such qualities. It may even include rebel forces, or terrorists. Such people believe in their cause just as much as anybody in the military. In some way this would make war even more horrible if the most brave and honorable of men and women are always being killed, it seems to me a terrible way to solve a problem. The
problem is that we tend not to see just any soldier is honorable, but only the ones that fight for us, our allies, or causes that we agree with. To say that a Nazi soldier was as honorable as any allied soldier would not go over well. And of course in order to justify killing the “enemy” we must dehumanize and make them less than they are. When they kill civilians they are the scum of the earth, and when we do it, it’s an accident in the course of an honorable fight. Was every Nazi a Jew-hating genocidal maniac? That seems unlikely. Many were perhaps simply fighting because they had been recruited, because they wanted to provide for their family, because the country was destitute at the time and thought the fight was a cause that could improve the German standard of living. There are likely many other reasons, but how easy would it be to kill someone if he was no different than you, but just happened to live in a different country?
In Henry V, one of the well-known scenes from the play involves King Henry disguising himself as a common soldier and walking through his troops on the eve of a big battle. His troops are tired, sick and will be outnumbered the following day. At one point the King questions one of his men about whether or not they should trust the king, that
what if his reasons for this fight are unjust and is just leading them all to slaughter. A soldier gets angry at this and says that he fights for King and country and that if the King’s reasons be unjust that that is a crime he will have to answer for when he dies and that it is something for the King’s conscious to deal with, and not the soldiers. This seems to be the ultra-nationalistic mentality that many in this country subscribe to. If there is an afterlife then perhaps this is true, but even if there is some supernatural judge up their making us answer for our crimes, does that morally justify leading men to their slaughter even if their loyalty leads them to be willing to do so (although at least in King Henry’s time the King fought along side his men instead of sitting thousands of miles away)? Just because someone is willing to die for you, should they? Is it not even more morally wrong to take advantage of that loyalty for an unjust cause? It seems that context is important. When it comes to killing shouldn’t we need more than simply, “this is just what our government wants, so we have to do it”? Shouldn’t we make absolutely sure that our cause is just? Shouldn’t we also really make sure that other means of solving conflict aren’t a better option?
For the most part, honor and courage being automatically associated with the military mystifies me for a couple of reasons. First I find it very uncomfortable to surrender my choice about what causes I fight for. Would I have enlisted to fight Nazi’s in WWII. I think that’s likely especially given what they were doing in concentration camps. But would I have happily then gone to Korea 5 years later? Absolutely not. And while I realize on some level a military probably wouldn’t work if we got to pick and choose which conflicts we wanted to fight in, when it comes to pointing a gun and killing somebody else I think I should believe in that cause, not do it because someone else believes in the cause. I want to live a moral life. The Nuremberg trials even set the international legal precedent that “just following orders” cannot be used as a defense for committing atrocities and absolving guilt, but only lessening the sentence. I simply don’t want to be put in a position where I am asked to fight and kill others unless I think it is the best and only course of action. I don’t find any honor in simply killing or dying for someone else’s cause.
Secondly, many people will question your lack of courage when you say you don’t want to be a soldier, or say at least that a soldier has more courage. I’d like to say that I am not afraid of dying for a cause I believe in. Dying is a pretty easy thing to do after all. Many people have done it, and you only have to do it once. What I am afraid of is killing. My grandfather fought in WWII. He didn’t talk about it much and I admired the courage it takes to get through such a terrible conflict in which so many, including his brother, were killed. I never asked him how many people he killed though. He was a good man. It was hard to imagine him killing, and if I were to guess, I think he is the type like many who would have carried the weight of those he killed. Even in a cause he believed in. He would have wondered, “what kind of man was it that I killed? In different circumstances could we not have been friends, shared a shot of scotch whiskey and kept each other laughing all night?” I know such questions would plague me. I know the average person loves his/her family, is kind to his/her neighbors and would help those in need. And perhaps it is come to the mind of many in the military, “Perhaps that soldier’s leaders have taught him/her dehumanize me in the same way I had been taught to dehumanize them.” Maybe they have doubts. I certainly would. Like, what if my bullet misses and hits some civilian or my own comrade? What if we were told to attack the wrong target and it was a school instead of a military hideout? If I choose an action that could end my own life, that is my choice, but ending someone else’s life is another matter altogether. From a psychological point of view, one could easily argue that putting yourself into a situation in which you give up your right to choose the causes you fight for, and are willing to kill people you really don’t have a problem with, can be seen as mentally unsound as opposed to a decision filled with honor and courage.
In the end, I can’t subscribe to the idea that those who join the military are the best example of bravery and honor. There are people in the military who have done terrible things. Rape in the military is a huge issue right now. Where is the honor there? Of course we want our military to be honorable, and there are many who are. But there are also many honorable people in different facets of society. If we are going to celebrate heroism let us not only do it for the glorification of war. There are many people who have courage and face difficulties and adversity everyday. Sometimes it takes more courage to live than to die. Let us at least bestow the label of honor, courage and heroism to wherever it applies and not apply it blindly. Such things prevent us from having honest conversations about important issues concerning conflict, war and violence. I bear no ill will towards soldier, and appreciate the sacrifices that they go through. Particularly because I know many of them did not join the military because they wanted to fight in a war. And maybe I don’t understand or am a coward, but personally I’m glad that we have found better ways to deal with conflicts and that there are a smaller percentage of people dying in wars today than in our past. It gives me hope for the future.