#YesAllWomen: #NotAllMen and Considering Male Insecurity
It’s been suggested that critics of those speaking out using the #YesAllWomen should react with more compassion for those who make questionable claims or share – what in the critics’ estimation – something irrelevant. It’s also in the name of compassion that I offer something of an explanation for some of pushback, by males especially, often making their comments with a hashtag of their own: #NotAllMen.
A recent study examined sexual assault with much broader definitions than previously and discovered that “the rates of nonconsensual sexual contact is basically equalized” amongst males and females. They also found that for 46 percent of male victims, a woman was the perpetrator of the assault.
So it makes sense that at least some of the #NotAllMen participants might actually be victims and a woman may have been their abuser. While these men share the same feelings of shame, anger, and violation that female rape victims might, there seems to be no one speaking up for them and affirming that they neither asked for it nor wanted it.
It seems that for every harmful and foolish stigma about women, there exists a counterpart for men. This is often brought up in sexism discussions, although the context is that the stereotypes are somehow not harmful to men. Yet, they create the same brand – similar in tone/judgment if not in specifics – of insecurities in men as they might in women.
The 2013 documentary Unhung Hero tells the story of Patrick Moote, an actor in Los Angeles who proposed to his girlfriend at a basketball game, only to be rejected (he discovered later) because of the size of his penis. Throughout the film, whenever Moote explains his problem the first reaction from everyone – from his mother to doctors – is laughter. It is painfully clear how deeply this hurts him, but they can’t help themselves.
Throughout that film and anywhere else people discuss how men might find a woman who will love him, the importance of projecting “confidence” is always placed at or near the top. Yet millions of men, like women, face crippling insecurity and for them, some of the more generalized and uninspired contributions to #YesAllWomen pick at that wound.
These men can sympathize with what Elliot Rodger was feeling, stopping far short of the impulse for a murderous rampage. The feelings of loneliness and rejection he espoused in hateful writing and videos are feelings that many men (who often see themselves as “nice guys”) share. Again, not to the same degree as Rodger nor do they “hate” women, but there is some deeply personal anger there.
Trying to find someone to love is a problem as old as human emotion. I would bet that for at least some of the #NotAllMen participants, their anger at “the cause” is really just their way of dealing with their own insecurities and sadness. These are not violent misogynists or potential sexual assaulters but simply people who feel misunderstood, discriminated against, and alone.
I once wrote about how it seems we no longer try to convince people about our point-of-view any more, opting instead to simply silence those we disagree with or who are simply plain wrong. To lash out at those using the #YesAllWomen hashtag is distasteful and inappropriate, there is no question there. However, in responding to those folks, compassion goes much farther than animus. Telling people their feelings don’t matter or that their opinions aren’t important are ways to end conversations not start them.
Photo by Sean McGrath via Flickr Creative Commons