Saturday, January 5, 2013

What About The Good Men?

"If we want rape and sexual assault to stop, we--society--need to stop subtly reinforcing and encouraging hyper-masculinity."

Happy New Year LOVEanese. I really hope 2013 will be a better year than 2012 was. I know for many--including myself--it was a tough year.

I find it fitting that I want to open my first post of 2013 by discussing something I wrote  about exactly a year ago in my first post of 2012: Rape, sexual assault/violence, and gender. It's not a happy post, nor is it as upbeat of a subject as I usually write about. However, it is incredibly important. The context for this post arose out of the infamous December 16th, 2013 gang rape, assault, and murder of a 23-year-old female physiotherapy student in India. You can get the details of what happened as well as the aftermath on a good friend's Tumblr page. She also describes some of the protests taking place in India, South Asia, and across the world in solidarity against rape. But I do not need to lecture about gender/sexual violence either in India or in Lebanon.

No, what I aim to do with this post is remind. And talk about some people who never get the kind of recognition they deserve. I'm talking about the good men out there.

A few days ago, I posted this Tweet:



 

As if the article I posted describing an old, beautiful love story--(I love the quote: "None of the five daughters and four sons have been divorced, either, which is a feat [credited] to the loving relationship they had as a model.)--there was a great slide show at the end highlighting some really great dads out there. But it's not just those dads and men. It's these adorable men who were "blown away by their beautiful brides." It's the Indian male feminists struggling for gender equality in a country fraught with sexism and patriarchy. It's the dad who dressed up as a princess because his daughter wanted to be the prince. It's Dan from Single Dad Laughing. It's this dad who never gave up on his son. It's this dad who wrote an open letter to Victoria's Secret urging them not to develop a proposed lingerie/underwear campaign aimed at adolescent girls. It's this dad who gave heartwarming advice to other dads about how to raise and treat their precious daughters. It's Tony Porter and Jackson Katz who, in their TED talks, call on men to reach higher standards and be better people. It's the brave father of Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and current Super Woman who was shot in the head in Pakistan by the Taliban for going to school, for his perseverance and die-hard conviction to educating girls in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and encouraging them to become great leaders and professionals. There are countless examples of good men, whether it's good dads, good boyfriends, good brothers, good husbands, surely these men are not representative of the exception!

But what do I mean by "good?" Urban Dictionary has some humorous definitions, but I'm talking about those men out there that respect a woman's body. Doesn't assume that sex is the only reason why she exists. Good in the sense that he tries to live a life of integrity, honor, and respect, and is filled with compassion, empathy, kindness, and love. It's unfortunate that I have to even define or outline what a "good" guy is. But this is not the point of this post.

My point is that sexuality and masculinity are and always have been so inextricably tied together that being a good man is a struggle. This post isn't about feminism per se, or even rape and sexual assault. On the contrary, I only mean to highlight how many good men feel in relation to all the bad and the crap in the world--specifically perpetrated by other men. It can be isolating, frustrating, dis-empowering, and despairing to say the least. This post is for all those kind guys, who feel unappreciated, unloved, or invisible, just waiting to be noticed.

Let's examine a wonderful article I read calling for ending rape culture in 2013. In one point in the article, the authors write:

"Gloria Steinem and I have written about how a cult of masculinity is behind the constant violation of women around the world--that some men brutalize women against their own self-interest because of an addiction to control or domination. To put it plainly: Rape is not about sex. "Rape is about violence," Steinem says, "proving 'masculine' superiority; often inserting guns and other objects into women's bodies; playing out hostility to other men by invading the bodies of 'their' females, including old women and babies; occupying wombs with sperm of a conquering group; owning female bodies as the means of reproduction; and raping men and boys to make them as inferior as females.""

These authors aren't bashing men at large at all--nor do they intend to do so. On the contrary, they are merely pointing out that rape and sexual assault is a prevailing element of reinforcing masculinity, especially in a time when men and masculinity is on the decline and power is shifting from male dominance to greater gender equality. Furthermore, no matter what, if you're male--regardless of location, class, or geographic location, you are part of rape culture (see the hyperlink for an explanation of why. It includes, but isn't limited to: defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive, defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive, pressure on men to “score,
perpetuating sexually explicit jokes, tolerating sexual harassment, exposure to gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television, and much more).

As I told the same friend who authors the aforementioned Tumblr, it's a struggle for many men to prevail over all of the selfish men out there who do these horrible things, as well as even struggle against ourselves when we are trying to be better men. I told her that good men are also a victim of these crimes, as they often get engulfed into the umbrella of vilification that happens to men as a whole. That's not trying to say that women don't do bad things too, but I am so tired of seeing rhetoric that bashes men-at-large or unintentionally attacks men. The men who raped that girl, they are not me, nor are they the other men I know. I don't mean to take what happened personally, nor am I accusing anyone of "male bashing." I just think it's time to really, critically think more about the way we talk about being a good guy.

Take Isabelle for example:


Oh Isabelle... #Fail

Given, this is not the best example. But how many times has someone said, "Oh, but tough guys are more attractive," or "Nice guys finish last." While women are often caught in a "double-bind" because of conflicting messages from society and there is a certain biological affinity for tougher guys (translates to more testosterone which is a signal of being stronger, and perhaps a better mate), how do we change the idea, the language surrounding "nice guys?" In case you haven't noticed, being a nice guy isn't exactly a good thing. Sure, we may say it is. But do a Google search for "Nice Guys." Well, actually, I already did. Look at the results of just the first page:



You know, it's just a Google search, true. And this isn't scientific in any way. But it's not exactly encouraging for a good male to be considered "diseased" for not being a selfish asshole. Why should you ever strive to be a good person when society at large creates an entire new type of alienation geared towards emasculation and making you feel inferior? The fact is, men aren't exactly "rewarded" for being good, decent guys either. They're called weak, unattractive, feminine. Socially speaking, what incentives are there to be decent? Of course, you shouldn't have to have a reason or an incentive to be good. But in reality, men also struggle against sexism, as it hurts us dearly as well (both as victims and as individuals with relationships with victims). The fact is, there are punishments for those who are good (e.g., being told no woman wants a "nice guy"), and not many, it seems--particularly depending on what area of the world you live in or what culture you come from--for those who choose not to be a good, respectful man (e.g., whether it's the lax enforcement of laws against rape, or the blame that's attributed to women as opposed to men). And as a friend pointed out, it makes sense since society dictates that femininity is inferior; thus, its tantamount to that stereotypical story of a high-class person in love with someone from a lower-class, and their friends saying something like, "What are you doing mingling with THOSE people?" Just replace gender for class, and its obvious how gender value, stratification, and misogyny are both reproduced and perpetuated.

Take, for instance, the Latin American concept of machismo (and its various synonymous counterparts in other cultures), or being "macho." It includes cat calling women, looking, acting, and being "tough," basically personifying hyper-masculinity, emasculating other men, and constantly emphasizing aggression, hierarchy, and control. In many cultures--especially Arab/Middle Eastern and south Asian ones--this kind of "macho toughness" isn't just emphasized, it's expected. And what does that do, in turn, when it comes to gender relations? Women become objectified even more, and the only time you treat a woman nicely is if you're related to her. Aside from family and perhaps older women, every other one is a sexual object and, thus, "fair game." To harass, follow, or otherwise make her feel that she is nothing by a means to an end for him.


I'm not saying that this is applicable to every single male out there, but honestly tell me that this does not reinforce the idea that being a decent man is wrong? And when you're pondering that answer, just think of all the harassment that has ensued women of all colors, cultures, and nationalities in Cairo, Beirut, Delhi, Bogota, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rabat, Lagos, Mumbai, and so many others. Think about how it's unsafe for a woman to go out alone at night in Bangalore, for fear of being assaulted. I DARE you to tell me there's not something wrong with this!

Another example is of the now-defunct Tumblr, ""Nice Guys" of OkCupid" (the fact that it is no longer active does say a lot). It was basically a site that sought out guys on OkCupid who claimed to be nice guys, but then made generalizations about them based on the answers they gave to OkC questions (which is summarized well by the negatives showcased in this Buzzfeed post). You can see what I'm talking about by looking at multiple sites that supported this Tumblr, including Daily Mail and Huffington Post. They are particularity condemning of these individuals, and while I'm not trying to defend every one of them, their motives, actions, intentions, or presentations, I do agree with both this writer who wrote a sympathetic piece related to this topic for the Atlantic, and this article from the Good Men Project. Basically, it is easy to judge someone based on their cyber-identity, and it is unfair to humiliate these individuals in this way. Moreover, what I think is more interesting, but yet is also irritating is how "nice guy" is being used here. Some individuals who genuinely are good men, are trying to don the "nice guy" persona. Others--perhaps with malicious intentions or at least ulterior motives--are using this persona to try and garner sympathy, which they then take advantage of (for sex and/or selfish reasons). Either way, 1. it is only contributing to the further (negative) objectification of what being a "nice guy" is, 2. arbitrarily passing judgment that may be a fair assessment, however as likely, may also be unfair and inaccurate, and 3. hurting the image of the sincerely nice men out there who are just trying to find love (though I don't think OkC is your best choice, but that's another story).

I'm not trying to speak for every guy out there, but I just find the hypocrisy of shunning good men or forgetting about them altogether is incredibly disadvantageous to not just creating better relationships, but also leads to alienating these men from the larger struggle. Whether it's through discourse or action, or in many cases, inaction, there needs to be better recognition for those kind guys out there who bear the blunt of all the guys who selfishly weigh down our gender. And when women in the U.S. are being sexually assaulted every two minutes, and one in four American women will either be raped or have had rape attempted on them by the time they reach university, we have a serious problem. Internationally, it's just as big of a problem too. Take this story for example. These are our sisters, our mothers, our cousins, our daughters, our wives, our lovers. Why do we want to see them suffer?


Sexism and patriarchy hurt EVERYONE! (Via Tickld)

You see!? Where are the "Fathers Against Rape" groups, or the "Brothers Against Sexual Assault" groups? Am I being too harsh? Obviously, I have a certain bias, and I have seen many individuals who I would consider good guys really hurt in the past--sometimes, multiple times. I realize the entire nature of this post deviates slightly from both the theme and the paradigm of my blog. But I felt it's something that needs to be said more. In no way do I want to change the focus from the victims of rape and assault--absolutely not. But rather, to make a point that if things are going to change, more men need to be involved, and the good men--the kind men out there--need to be given more credit for the way they live their lives. Don't tell women to dress "appropriately," tell men, teach men not to rape. At the same time, the language we use to describe the good men out there do respect women, who wouldn't commit domestic violence, or sexual assault, or rape needs to be more positive, and they need to be given more chances. No one is perfect, and maturity and experience often dictates both attraction as well as understanding what is better for us.


"Don't harass women; they are our lovely mothers, sisters, and daughters."




Indian activists protesting against rape
"Gender equality will come when MEN become part of the solution!"

My friend said it perfectly vis-a-vis good men:

"We silence them. They exist, but it's almost as if we don't want them to."

Simply put, I want to emphasize the importance of empathy--understanding how others feel, especially men who may feel helpless and frustrated by both their character and what they can do. This post is a call for all of you to give more voice to those good men in your life, whether they are romantic partners, friends, family, or anything else. Just appreciate them more, give them the time of day. Good men are not some kind of pseudo-Jesus-saviors, but just love the fact that they love you and respect you, and take some advice from this guy who really spells out what it means to be a "nice guy."" There are so many good guys out there, real gentlemen. I've already made so many related points in last year's post that I don't need to reiterate here, and I'll also remind you that this post isn't to say men are just part of the solution or that we shouldn't do bad things. They are, but help involve them more! Give them more reasons to stand up and defend the fact that they aren't striving for hyper-masculinity--actively fighting misogyny, sexism, and the objectification of women. Men, ourselves, have to help to continue to change other men as well as institutions like marriage, family, fatherhood, and the mass media. And I'm not just saying date nice guys or read up on the "tips to land a good man guidebook." That's the tip-of-the-iceberg, and I can't tell you who to date or whom to be attracted to. They also need to get out of this expectation of preference--that is, don't feel that just because they are "nice" means they are owed something by society, or a women are obligated to notice them. However, I can suggest that we advocate for painting a different picture of the "nice guy," challenge hyper-masculine hegemony, and be more inclusive of men in the dominant discourse of how to uphold human dignity without alienating the real allies through coercion, shame, language, or exclusion.


Give them some more credit, I think they deserve it. At least for knowing that rape doesn't make someone a man, love does. Assault doesn't make you strong, integrity and honor do. For knowing respect is not a weakness.

So, let's stop treating it like it is, and spread the love,

-Ogie, MA

P.S. If anyone wants to know why nice guys really finish last, here's your explanation:

Need I say more?

7 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post. As a woman I've been struggling with this conflict in my life lately. I try to encourage my male friends and family members to look past this "nice guys finish last" persona but it's becoming difficult. Because there is so much negative connotation with being a "nice guy" they're beginning to act out as the opposite. I have a very specific friend who, because he has failed at dating lately, has decided to give up on his true self because he thinks that's how he can attract girls. It's awful. I know I will continue to do my part to encourage those around me to become a part of the solution. Great post! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it! I was worried my thoughts were a bit unorganized or random/incoherent. But what you said is exactly what I'm trying to warn against. Not just the fact that many men are trying to NOT be themselves in order to appear more attractive or desirable, but society actively discourages men from being this "nice guy."

      And, yes! You also keep doing your part to encourage your guy friends to be true to who they are, and encourage your girl friends to avoid hypocrisy or to really give that guy a chance that could treat her so well.

      Thank you for reading :)

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  2. These are some interesting thoughts that I hadn't considered before! Thanks for sharing. It is a good point that good men need encouragement to keep being good, because so many amazing men question themselves and wonder if they should change to have chances with more women, and certainly, many of us women wouldn't want that change.

    I wonder if part of the problem comes from the fact that sometimes, women don't know WHY a guy is being 'good.' (I'll go with your definition of him seeing a woman as more than sex and having a set of honorable values.) Girls wonder: is he being good because he's not that interested, he is too shy, he doesn't know what he wants, he was damaged in some past relationship, etc... I read another article recently about why girls go for bad guys (go figure), and it said that it has a lot to do with their confidence. Bad boys seem to know what they want and girls like that. Plus, because of circumstances in girls' lives, they may also desire being wanted. So the bad boy's behavior becomes doubly attractive.

    Personally, since I happen to know what I want (not just in relationships, but many things), I want a guy who also knows what he wants, while also being wise enough to not be a know-it-all. (Tall order, maybe.) And I truly think that if I could see a good guy being decisive and strong, I would respect that so much. It may be hard for the good guys, to showcase what they're all about. Yet, I think if they were clearer about it, it would come across really positively to girls. Example sentence a guy could say to a girl to let her know that he’s into her without sleazily putting his hands all over her: "You make it hard for me to not think about sex, ya know, since you're clearly awesome and I'm smart, but... don't worry. I promise I won't put any drugs in your drink." Lol. I guess you could tweak that a little. My point is... There is a way for good guys to tell a girl how much he's into her in a non-aggressive, confident way. If a good guy is keeping ALL of his thoughts to himself, that may be the reason that a girl's not taking notice of him....

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    1. Lori, thank YOU for reading!

      Yeah, I feel like on a personal or individual level, it's somewhat of a selfish paradox for many women. Keep our good guy friends just friends, or date them? Sleep with them? Neither? Life presents a lot of schizophrenia with what you want.

      I definitely understand your point about being suspicious of intentions. Does a guy actually have good intentions? Or ulterior motives? I get that. And I also get the whole "bad boys are attractive" thing, especially because of confidence. What if you broke their confidence though? And refused to give in to them? I guess, see past their macho-confident exterior and see them for who they are. Maybe they are deeper, often they are not. There's also the awkward "should I tell her I like her or not?" Research shows that males typically express feelings for a woman more than a female friend reciprocates. So, it can also be a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario--for both parties sometime.

      Of course, this is why in almost every post, I refer to the concept of loving yourself (see: No Man is an Island). Being a "good guy" or a "nice guy" doesn't also automatically make someone less confident, weak, shy, or indecisive. And that's also what I think needs to change: the way we conceive these terms, the way we conceptualize them, frame them in our heads and in our discourse. There are some inherent assumptions we all make about these people and these terms, and they are often expressed unintentionally or unconsciously.

      I'm generalizing a bit too much though now, I don't want to focus on why people go for whom. In the context of preventing rape and sexual assault, I think it's important to just reinforce that there are so many good guys out there that do not condone the activities of many of our fellow man. And also, they don't get enough credit, love, affection, admiration, or respect from anyone--especially society--for being good men. In fact, they are often castigated for it.

      I'm not saying it's anyone's fault in particularly. Nor was I trying to say that everyone should just start dating these men. I'm just saying give them some respect!

      It's time for our focus to change on what is considered valuable, desired, and important. And hyper-masculinity is NOT that! It only leads to more hurt and more pain for everyone.

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  3. I really want to emphasize that it's not just about giving nice guys a chance. It's more about how it's actually looked down-upon to be a good man if you critically look at popular discourse. It is largely societies fault. We celebrate hyper-masculinity and people like Pick-Up Artists and Tucker Max. We emasculate guys for being sweet and having sensitive sides. Actions reinforce this undermining as well. And so then, when we're sitting around asking why sexual assault happens, we automatically blame the victim. Obviously, this is ridiculous. But do we ever ask, how could have we better prevented it in the first place?? THAT'S what's missing.

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  4. Oghie,
    I spent a lot of thoughts on this article. Frankly, I think it is far-fetched to link the Indian tragedy with Western dating behaviour. However, I really REALLY liked what you wrote about nice guys and how they are perceived in our society. It actually made me think about my own perception of nice guys when it comes to dating. Somehow - and I really haven't realized that until now - when I meet a nice potential partner who signals interest in me I consider him to be either weak or desperate. This sounds really stupid, I know, but I never thought about it before. It must be linked to a low self esteem, like 'only desperate guys who would take anyone are nice to me' or 'I don't deserve to be treated nicely'. So, thank you for writing this post that made me reflect my own behaviour.
    And - last but not least - I will definitely try to give nice guys (regardless of their role) a bigger part in my life!

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    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words. Yes, I can see why it was a bit of a stretch to connect the two, but it was for a larger purpose and that was to highlight how gender violence IS connected to masculinity. And that's seemingly universal across cultures.

      But thank you for understanding the message behind this post, and the way it affected you is very flattering, but equally as humbling for me.

      Give them a chance though! We have to start changing our perception of this concept! If a guy's talking to you, obviously they think you're wonderful and attractive!

      I really appreciate it, and hope that you'll always ask a question or foster a discussion if you ever want to talk! LOVEanon is here for people like you :)

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