An open letter to myself about being a man

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Dear Me,

Pardon the profanity, but it’s time that you got your shit together.

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . as the father of three girls, raised by a kick-ass mother and always surrounded by powerful women, you have always fancied yourself a fairly liberated male and one of the “good” guys.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Men have been raising daughters and strong women and have been raising boys since time began. That does not give you a pass. Seeing the world through their eyes may have taught you much, but if you have been watching the news and have been paying attention to your own internal reactions to conversations about rape, gender and maleness, you know that you and many men and women today still have work to do.

Again it’s time. [see opening sentence]

So here is what I have done for you. I have put together a list of things to remember when it comes being male today. I wish there  was a “Be a good man!” app or that there was this magic list that, when followed, would make you the perfect dude, but alas you’ll have to muddle through just like the rest of us. Deal with it.

So in no particular order, here are a few challenges for you, Bruce, about being a man.

Be present to hear stories of oppression, violence and pain without trying to fix, defend or justify these acts in the world.

In other words, when someone gives you the privilege of sharing a story of pain with you, shut your pie hole and just listen.

When you hear people trying to lift up or strengthen women and girls in the world, stop thinking that it means you are somehow being bashed or are seen as less masculine.

It’s not about you; unless of course it is about you, then see #1.

Use your power and influence to change institutional systems of exclusion.

You may want to “stay out of it” but what you may be doing is being complicit to ongoing injustice and protecting your own power and station. This does not mean that you should take over everything, but it does mean apathy is not an option.

Stop using language that equates weakness with womanhood.

You don’t do it often, but even thinking things like, “Don’t be a pussy!” or “You run/throw/kick like a girl.” or “Come on, hit the ball Nancy.” Not cool. Not. Cool.

Um . . . sexuality is not a commodity to be taken, earned or trivialized, but is something that is powerful, mutual and holy.

Yeah, I see inside your head and heart sometimes. You and Jimmy Carter, just cut it out.

Support women who are modeling powerful ways of being female in the world.

Girls everywhere, yours included, are watching, so show up and support women who are doing amazing things in the world.

For the love of God, please call “bullshit” on other men when they perpetuating the myth that women are somehow “less than.”

If it helps to lean on the ol’ “your mother, your daughter, your sister” thing to help you see how degrading some of this language is, feel free, but don’t let misogynistic language go unchallenged.

Stop thinking that anyone who has been raped or is a victim of sexual violence in any way deserved, asked for it or brought it upon herself.

Nothing justifies harassment, degradation, rape, violence. Nothing.

Stay engaged in conversations about gender.

If you want to help things get better, you must continually do the hard work of examining what it means to be male in the world today; and more importantly what it does not.

Be a good man in the world.

Don’t give up trying to figure out what it means to accomplish the above.

Make no mistake: doing your part in helping the world and culture to fight sexism and violence will not be easy. There are no clear steps to becoming a good man and like so many struggles in the world, you will probably not see “victory” in your lifetime. That said, you can help things to make better while you walk the earth and you support the creation of positive space for generations to come.

No pressure.

At the end of the day, you should not choose to walk down this road because you feel guilty or shamed, but because you know and believe that when you take even a small step in a direction that makes it possible that another human being might experience a better world, it matters — to everyone.

Thanks for listening. You may now return to your fantasy baseball draft preparation work.

Love – Me

Grey Line for Reyes-Chow Blog

TRIGGER WARNING: The following may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.

This post originally started out as an “Open letter to men . . .” so in preparation, I asked my facebook/twitter community for some good links to share and they did not disappoint. I include some of these, not because I agree in totality with everything said, but because I think these folks help keep the conversation going.

Free to browse and add more links on the original Facebook Page Update as there were many great links that I didn’t include.  Please take the time to read back through the comments as there are some gems. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to share.

Finally, while I am way past my go out and drink all night days, I know that others that do hit the bar/drinking scene pretty hard – thank you facebook – so here is a video from New Zealand that pushes and challenges. Eight minutes long, but worth the watch. Intriguing.

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9 comments

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  • suzannah | the smitten word  

    i appreciate this, bruce. listening is so foundational and simple, and yet it’s the exception time and again. there’s a conversation happening on twitter right now #IAskedPolitely where women share how hard it can be to be heard. worth taking a look at.

    • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

      Thanks; and so hard for someone like me, combo gender, personality, position, etc. I’ll check out the hashtag. Thanks.

  • jbecker  

    Maybe this “Good Man” app can have badges for achievements unlocked. 😉 Thanks for this, Bruce. I will be sure to share these wise words.

    • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

      Yep. Thou badges are earned by what others say, “Congratulations, someone just said that you listened.”

  • Julia Holcomb  

    The NZ film is great. It would have been courageous of them to put in the rewind of the girl not drinking so much that she needs rescuing, as well as the other places this date rape could have been derailed.

    • Bruce Reyes-Chow  

      Yes, that would have been an added challenge. My guess is that they didn’t want to get near any inference that it was somehow her fault. Still, good to think about all choices that everyone makes.

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  • Pingback: An open letter to myself about being a man | Makeesha

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