I’m a guy who’s trying to fight sexism – but how can I slow down and accept that I can’t fight everyone?
Our elder has some tips on not falling down an internet rabbit hole.
I believe I’m a guy who’s different. Different as in not trying to say I’m better than other people or anything, but because I believe there’s a lot of sexism and misogynistic beliefs in typical ‘manospheres’ that I’ve always disagreed with. I believe I’m pretty gender neutral myself, like, I don’t mind doing things that are traditionally considered ‘feminine’ like embroidery, crochet, art, crafting and so on. I also don’t believe that being sensitive has anything to do with masculinity or femininity as these are just things society defines. The problem is, sometimes I just get really frustrated because there aren’t a lot of people in my gender who think like that. Sure, men face sexism too, and as a guy myself I can understand that. But, I don’t like how most men have these weird stereotypes about women like, “Women don’t know what they want,” “Don’t take advice from women,” “Women are inherently less intelligent,” etc. I don’t have to be a woman to find these statements insulting. I find it offensive when people of any race of gender is subjected to stereotypes. And it’s a good thing actually that I take offensive statements as offensive, but the problem is, sometimes I just find myself ruining my day reading internet comments on random videos or articles where people are gaslighting women’s experiences or saying sexist stuff like “being sensitive is gay” and so on. I obviously can’t fight with every single person in the world no matter how offensive they are. I just want to slow down sometimes and really accept that a lot of people don’t believe what I believe and that’s OK.
I fully understand what you’ve discussed in your letter. I see (and read) the same things you’re seeing and reading, and so do a lot of other people. I’m also very sensitive to the issues you discussed in your letter. What you’re reading and hearing isn’t anything new. Sexism, racism and all the other ‘isms’ have been evident for a really long time. It’s just more out in the open now. Some people have gotten bolder and more brazen with their behavior, but many of them also hide out on their different social media sites. (Have you noticed that when some of these people are held accountable for their words/actions that often their response is that someone hacked into their account? Many of them are cowards.) Also, technology has opened up a whole new world which allows like-minded people to communicate all their filth and hatred via all the different social media sites. I fully understand what you mean by how you can ruin your day after reading a lot of internet comments and so forth. I’ve ruined many days of my own. That’s why you should try to limit how much time you spend on these different sites. You’re right, you can’t fight with every single person on these sites because many people gravitate to these sites to argue in the first place. It’s a source of entertainment for some people too. You’re probably better off dealing with people in person. In other words, if you’re out in the community and you hear and/or see something that isn’t right, that’s the time to speak up if the situation warrants it. Or if you hear a family member, friend or co-worker make a statement that doesn’t sit well with you, that’s the time to address it. I’m not suggesting that you should not express your views on different social media sites, but I think it’s more effective when you deal with people in person.
So, with all that being said, how does someone like you not become too jaded or cynical? Try to keep everything in its proper perspective. Believe it or not, there really are some nice, decent, respectful people out there. They may not be getting a lot of recognition or attention, but please believe that they are around. You need to find like-minded people who think and believe like you do. These are the people who will provide support to you when you feel discouraged.
I’m glad that you have high standards and that you don’t engage in stereotyping people. This is a quality that will carry you far in life. It is a trait that is to be admired. When you see or hear someone being degraded or humiliated, for any reason, I hope that you continue to speak up and fight against the filth that you witness. It’s not your job to fix all these dysfunctional people, but your behavior will stand out to others. They will realize that you’re not like them. Many people will admire you for standing up for what you know is right. Don’t waste your time or energy trying to convert or change anyone. They have to want to change themselves. Just live your life the way that you know is right. These people that you wrote about in your letter are always going to be around, but you don’t have to have any association with them whatsoever.
If you want to spend some time and energy learning why and/or how some of these people got to be so dysfunctional, there’s lots of literature and research available for you to read. Also, if you study the history of women, you’ll find a lot of information about all the things women have had to deal with since almost the beginning of time. The explanations for some of this behavior today can’t be simplified or fully explained in a forum like this. But you sound like a very intelligent man, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you pursued studying this topic and others topics on your own. Based on your letter, you already know a lot.
I see that you live in Pakistan. Perhaps studying some of the history of Pakistan can be useful in helping you understand the different complexities of sexism, racism, classism and so forth. Here in the United States, we have our own complex history which helps explain some of the problems we have today with sexism, racism, classism and so forth. If you’ve ever studied our history here in the U.S., you’ll know that we’ve been through a lot of turmoil. In some areas things have improved, but we have a long way to go before things are anywhere near equal. We have some very dedicated fighters who work very hard on behalf of others so that we don’t go backwards to the way things used to be. But it’s a continual process and each generation has to continue to fight against injustices. I want things to be better for my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and on and on.
Learning about the whys and the hows doesn’t mean we have to give excuses for different behaviors and beliefs that disrespect the rights of others. It just means that we can learn what has happened in the past which helped contribute to what’s going on now. We can learn from past injustices so that history doesn’t repeat itself. There are also cultural influences that help explain things. For instance, our culture here in the United States is different from Pakistan’s culture. Also, people are often a product of how they were raised. Some home environments aren’t healthy and wholesome. But despite some of the negatives, there are many positives! As you know, we now have a multiracial/culture female vice-president! This is a great accomplishment for us and it sets a precedent for more women, and women of color and different backgrounds to gain a strong foothold in high places.
You’re entitled to feel offended when you hear or read negative remarks, so don’t ever feel like you have to apologize for feeling that way. Remember, you’re not alone with that feeling. A lot of us feel the same way, as I mentioned before. But try not to let any bitterness interfere with your willingness to give people a chance. Sometimes we can get cynical (from all the things we’ve read or witnessed) and then we can start making assumptions about other people before we get to know them. People eventually ‘tell on themselves’ if they’re sexists or racists, so just keep your ears and eyes open.
Keep your high standards! You never have to tolerate any kind of misogynistic behavior from anyone. If you can, try to avoid these kind of people like your life depends on it. But if you witness it, step in and express yourself. It’s when people remain quiet and uninvolved that a lot of damage can happen. One good example of this was the Holocaust in Europe. There are many other examples throughout history in various parts of the world when people remained quiet instead of speaking out.
I hope my advice and comments were helpful. Please feel free to write back at any time.