Response Crafting

Okay, but now let’s talk about good men.

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There’s a lot of hostility towards men right now. Yeah, a lot of us are upset that Trump won and really worried about what that means for women and minorities and probably most other people who are not white men (though, by “white men” we really men “white men of certain income tax brackets,” but whatever.) But even before Trump, there was just so much… tension. A lot of shit being directed at dudes in general, mostly because women feel it’s directed at them in general. We have to take a stance against dudes being let off easy for sexual assault, and mansplaining, and making more money, and controlling our reproductive rights, and everything else they do.

And I get it.

I get the political issues. But I also have sympathy for men socially. I’m not sure where women expect dudes to stand anymore, because it’s not even clear to me. Women have an issue with some men or most men or the patriarchy in general, and take it out on all dudes, most of whom are actually pretty damn decent and just want to understand how, if at all, to approach you at a bar. (We still do that, right?) And when it comes down to it, it’s the good men who are the ones hit hardest by this. The ones who don’t care never will. But the ones who do care don’t understand what’s acceptable anymore.

I’ve already said before that sometimes I don’t do a very reassuring job of being a woman, and I rub women the wrong way when I say things that they perceive as a betrayal to our own kind. I don’t see my role in most “women’s issues” discussions, don’t appreciate being reeled into them on basis of gender, and frequently take the opposite stance, ruffling all kinds of feathers and raising concerns about how little I understand “what’s going on” (which, frankly, is incredibly ironic, because best I can figure “denying people their own experience” is kinda core to the women’s fight. But what do I know.)

I recently discovered Red Pill Theory. For the first 24 hours after I found it, I couldn’t peel myself away. I pored over the articles and forum posts, both aghast and fascinated by the content. On the one hand, yes, it is sexist to the point of being insulting — as much to men as women, if I’m being honest. (And it is also insulting to the point that the dudes driving this content — and the women who subscribe — strike me as tragically insecure, which I guess saves me from taking it all too seriously.) But on the other hand, I almost kind of understand where they’re coming from, in the way I almost kind of understand — but do not share — a number of fetishes. I don’t support what they say — I think they took too extreme of a position — but I can sympathize, I guess, and sort of understand how an era with ever-fluid gender roles can create insecurity and frustration. I see where people might retaliate by drawing these severe gender role lines.

So, look. The thing is, I like dudes. I like them in their imperfections and complexities — I like them as human beings, of course — and I also adore them in their simplicity. I forgive them for their social indiscretions, and I appreciate them for their intentions. Because you guys, I’ve met so many incredible men in my life! And with all the man-negativity floating around, I wanted to at least offer my short list of Good Men that I’ve met.

So here’s a very short list of several good dudes I know — and good interactions with dudes I’ve met:

First, my dad is a good man. Let’s just get this one out of the way and start this list off right. People ask me what my dad’s like and my 1-second answer is: “He’s a good man.” Easily one of the best, if not the best, I know. Sometimes, depending on my mood and whether I like the person, I leave the answer that clean and simple. Other times, a drink or two further in with the right person, I’ll bring up the “stepdad” technicality just to point out and drive home how good — that he loved and supported his biological kids and then took on my brother and me in the same capacity, gave in ways other men didn’t, and never chose favorites. We were all his, and he was all of ours, and we all adore and respect him. On top of being a good dad, he’s a thoroughly nice person, a good, honest worker, and has loved our mom steadily, and at the end of the day those things are pretty much the short list of a good man.

For the most part, my guy friends are good men. I could call in a 3-am favor in the middle of a snowstorm with most of them and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t bat an eye. And overall, most of the men I’ve dated were good men. Even at their worst, they meant well, or were only living out their own realities in those moments they are unknowingly hurtful. We all do this.

Most of the men in tech are good men. I don’t know why men in tech get such a bad rap. The most sexism I’ve ever gotten at work has actually been from the older guys in corporate environments — just for comparison, at no point has any “guy in tech,” developer or otherwise, told me that my clothes don’t show off my figure enough, or exclaimed, the first time I worked up the nerve to wear a skirt: “my god, you’ve got legs!” They’ve never said “I remember girls like you” or “you’re attractive, but not a size 2.” No, that’s the handiwork of the middle-aged corporate man. The tech dude has always been nothing short of an eager ally, and I appreciate and adore him for it.

Chicago men, in general. I don’t like Chicago. But the one thing I do like very much about the city is the men. They are not the pompous, over-preened chauvinists of the east coast, nor are they the tender children of the west coast, the latter of whom come at you like 9 year olds with crushes on their babysitter. Midwest men are creme de la creme — they’re adept enough to banter a bit and open a door, but in a deferential rather than patronizing way. They’re boyish but also rugged, and it’s great.

All of the dudes who offer to help when my arms are full. Look, there’s a difference between being physically able to handle it on my own — and actually needing some help. I’ll turn you down if it’s the former but I will readily accept the latter, and I appreciate you continuing to put yourselves out there. (I also appreciate those of you who laugh and don’t get offended when I offer to help when you’ve got an armful. Because it’s a human being thing, not a gender thing.)

All of the guys who magically manifested out of nowhere every time I dropped my motorcycle the first year I had it. Most of these “drops” were really just the sad, slow-motion, setting-down of the bike when I lost balance while parking, before I figured out how to wield it at very low speeds — or stand it back up. Every time, someone appeared out of thin air to help. But there’s a special shout out to the dude who was there the one time I actually crashed, who stood the bike back up for me and then quietly hovered nearby until someone I knew got there, hanging out even when I tried to convince him from my seated, dizzy position on the curb that I was okay. I wasn’t — I later lost vision for a hot second — and it was cool he stayed to make sure I got somewhere. (I recently ran into him again — I didn’t recognize him but he instantly remembered me, so fortunately I had a chance to properly thank him.)

Tucker, my old roommate’s boyfriend and the darling of our apartment. Maybe I’ve made him out to be something different in my memory, but I do know homeboy was a chef by day and that we had this big happy-house apartment where the door was always unlocked and between the three of us who lived there and our three boyfriends and numerous “drop-in” friends, several people were always there and, as I recall it, we’d often come home from work to him cooking enough for all of us. And it was very endearing. As was he.

The car full of dudes who took me home when I was doing that shameful drunk-crying on the street thing — that one time I did it. I’d gone out with a few friends, and we left the bar together. But they were going one direction and I was going another, so we said our goodbyes and parted ways. A block later I realized I’d left everything — phone, keys, credit card, etc. — inside the bar, but when I went back, the doorman wouldn’t let me in to get them. (In retrospect, that doorman was on some kind of pure shit power-high, and was not a good guy.) My friends were long gone, so in my drunken stupor I broke down, dropped to the sidewalk and just ugly-cried my soul out onto the pavement. A woman actually stopped first. She told me it’d be ok, and it was she who stopped and screened the group of guys for me. I didn’t know them, but I trusted her, and they promised her they’d get me home. And, true to their word, they actually did. It’s sad, of course, that this should be surprising, but I think we all understand that something very bad could’ve happened — but didn’t. I was still thoroughly drunk when I got home and thanked them, but fortunately not so drunk that I ever forgot when the driver of the group said to me in response, “Look, I have sisters. I’m only doing for you what I’d expect some stranger to do for them.”

The doorman outside of Elways on Curtis Street in Denver back in 2010, when my then-boyfriend was losing his shit with me on the sidewalk outside after dragging me out there, berating me because he didn’t like that I was getting happy hour drinks with a group of colleagues, one of whom he didn’t like. The boyfriend had recently lost his mom, so I was putting up with him doing a lot of ridiculous and aggressive things at the time mostly because they weren’t particularly characteristic for him. I was trying to be patient in this moment outside of Elway’s, listening while kinda doing this submissive, deflective thing, smiling sheepishly and allowing myself to be bullied up against a wall and yelled at on a public sidewalk at 5 pm for something stupid.

And the whole time, the doorman was eyeing us, watching. I noticed him and sort of wondered what he was thinking — should I feel embarrassed? For this scene, or getting drinks with colleagues? Maybe he thinks I deserve this? I wasn’t sure. But I did know he wasn’t stepping in, and I assumed it was because I was either in the wrong somehow, or this didn’t look as aggressive as it felt. So I let this go on for a while, letting the boyfriend go off, waiting for it to run its course. But then suddenly I just lost all patience and 180’d. I went from submissive to pissed in about 1 second flat, suddenly moving off the wall, into the boyfriend’s space and said, in flat seriousness “Alright. That’s enough.” And in that split second, suddenly the doorman was rightthere — next to me, his hand between us, and he was facing the boyfriend and saying something to him that made me feel okay and gave me enough space to walk away and go back inside.

Every guy trying to figure out, in earnest, his role — in society, for women in general, or in a particular woman’s life. A lot of these dudes have hearts of gold, and without always having full certainty on what we’d like from them, they still put themselves out there and give it a go, and for god’s sake let’s at least give them that.


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