My Trust Issues with Men, Part III: With Friends Like That…

I got trust issues with men. Not all men, and not all the time. Still, I got issues.

Example No. 3. The morning after I was raped, I didn’t go to the police. I didn’t go to the hospital, I didn’t tell my parents, I didn’t even so much as call in sick to work. The one, the only, the single person I did tell was an ex-boyfriend. Why? Because he had spoken so often before about women’s rights and ending sexual violence. I called him because, of all the people I knew, I thought he would be the one to understand.

You know what he told me?

“You were stupid.”

And you know? I felt stupid from that moment on. I felt stupid for years. I buried that experience deep within and told no one about it for 15 years. I almost made myself forget. I never really forgot, but even when I was asked, “did anything traumatic happen to you?,” it just didn’t register. Because I had been stupid — he said so. Because I must have done something wrong and ended up getting what I deserved.

If that’s what male feminism gets you, I want no part of it.

Of all the reasons I mistrust men, this is the worst of them. It’s the worst because it is the harshest betrayal. It’s the worst because it shook my faith that men could ever be trusted at all. If these “male feminists” are the ones who call us their friends, what can we expect from the ones who declare us their enemy?

My uncle was perhaps the worst among them. Once at a family gathering, he sat at our table loudly opining how countries such as Brazil were hopelessly backward because men there were allowed to beat their wives. On and on he went, defending the rights of women and decrying domestic violence, and I remember being puzzled that my parents – who weren’t ones to shy from discussion – sat there awkwardly.

A few weeks later, my aunt showed up at our house, eye blackened, telling us that my uncle had been the one to do it. All his talk about feminism did nothing to slow his fist.

Nor did it do anything to stop himself from deciding to give his son and I a little “hands on” sex ed lesson when I was in fifth grade.

If that’s what male feminism gets you, I want no part of it.

More recently, when I was volunteering at the crisis hotline, I was talking to a fellow volunteer, a college-age young man, about the center’s sexual assault survivor advocate program. He was interested in going through a training to join it, but he wasn’t sure if he was up to the work, which can be incredibly emotionally demanding. And I thought, here’s a guy who gets it. He wants to help, and he understands just how devastating rape is.

And then I overheard one of his calls. “I know, alpha males and betas. They say that 20 percent of men in college have 80 percent of the sex. But you know? That’s OK, because 10 years from now, all those girls having sex now will be desperate to find a husband, and that’s when guys like you and I can find one we want.”

Yes. The guy I had thought actually cared about working to end rape was really little more than a men’s right advocate in “nice guy” clothing. Fantastic.

If that’s what male feminism gets you, I want no part of it.

Yet I know this isn’t entirely fair, either. That sexual assault advocate program I mentioned? It was started by and run for 25 years by a man who truly had a passion for helping survivors and the compassion to match. Often, the program endured mainly through his willpower. He is a male feminist, and a true ally. But it took me years to truly trust him, and that’s not right or fair to him.

Likewise, my dad has been unwavering in his belief that I can do and be anything I want (other than that slight problem I had when I was three and demanded I wanted to be a daddy, too). He not only urged me to try journalism, a career he once shared, but helped me write my first story and gave me sound career advice throughout. And when I decided that’s not what I wanted to do, he supported my 180° career change. When I was interested in carving and woodworking, that’s what he helped me learn. When I wanted to learn music composition, he taught me what he knew. He never doubted I could achieve whatever I worked toward, and I’m thankful to have him for a father. So he is what a male feminist can be, too.

So I know men can truly support feminism. I know it is possible. Still, when a man declares himself to be one, I wait for the other shoe to drop. I don’t take them at their word.

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3 comments

  1. That’s one reason I won’t call myself a feminist. Too many men who do turn out to be chauvinistic jerks. I don’t know if they’re just pretending to be feminists because they think it’ll help them score points with women or if they’re just so self-deluded that they don’t see how their own behavior is misogynistic. The other reason is that, as a man, I don’t think I have a right to call myself a feminist. I can empathize with women, and I can support them, but I can never truly understand the struggles women deal with. I wouldn’t want to presume to; men who do tend to think they can speak for women better than women can.

  2. I never reported anything either, you get told you should but the first time I did was so horrible I’d sooner live with the consequences. I don’t blame anyone in particular it just would have been good to know what to do when I was younger. I have a friend who calls himself a feminist, but mostly he seems concerned with correcting the way I use slang terms and how they degenerate woman, nice but a bit forest/trees. Now I’d have been more assertive, split milk I guess. Like your blog its punchy.

  3. Pingback: Hope | Shreya Pandey

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