I’m Afraid of Boys
I’m an egalitarian at heart. I think most people try to be, but many of us don’t truly understand how to be. We base our equality outlooks on those precepts in our own lives as qualifications for others to act accordingly. Which isn’t always well thought through. Sure, we have established some general rules of freedom and equality: freedom of speech (situational at best), freedom to vote (for who and what?), freedom to trial by a court of law (assuming an incorrupt court), freedom to pursue our passions (kind of), freedom to be free thinkers (right, let’s not kid ourselves), freedom from tyranny (you sure about that?). What I am trying to say is that our supposed freedoms and equality system isn’t as pure as we think it is. Challenge any status quo and you will see what I mean. It’s hard enough as a human being to navigate all of the rules and nuances from location to location. It’s even harder for women.
I spend a great deal of time observing human behavior, especially the differences between women and men. I’m not going to list specifics. Instead, I’m going to tell you a story about something I observed the other day.
I was sitting at a cafe working on my book, BOX (my typical past time these days), when I couldn’t help but listen in on a blustering conversation between a man and a woman in their twenties the table over. Most of the bluster was coming from the man as he pontificated on this and that subject as if he was a dominant expert. There wasn’t a single subject he didn’t know something about. It was ludicrous, to say the least. While I observed the conversation, I noticed that the woman would try to sneak in snippets of responses here and there, but the man never truly stopped to listen. Instead, he sought to shut down her opinion at every intersection when she spoke up. After some time, I noticed she just stopped trying and the man would yammer until he was done and then expect some kind of affirmation from the woman, but it always ended in an awkward silence of some sort. Eventually, the man stood up to go to the bathroom. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked the woman if their talks were always like this. She told me no, it was usually her who interrupted him. Somehow, I sensed this wasn’t exactly true and that she was simply defending him in her own way. I spend enough time watching people to know when someone isn’t being truthful (I mean hours upon hours of watching. See poker). All I could say to her was, ‘interesting’ and left it at that as the man came back.
Lo and behold. the same pattern of conversation took place. She would bring up something she wanted to talk about and immediately get shut down by his “expertise”. Finally, she attempted to assert herself, but to no avail. The man simply spoke louder and more “expertly”, if that’s even possible. She had completely shut down by then based on her body language, arms tucked in and hunched over, as if he had mentally brow beat her down. I do want to explain quickly that he wasn’t being abusive in the traditional sense, but his assertion of utter dominance could be a form of mental abuse. At this point, I had heard enough. I wasn’t trying to come to the woman’s aid, but was simply curious to see how he would react to another man who may know a thing or two about dialectic debate (that would be me). I interjected myself into something he was saying and pointed out how ludicrous his opinion was. I’m not one to mince words when up against a vocal wall. Almost immediately, I sensed a shift in tone and deference. He actually stopped to listen to me. Outwardly, I didn’t react. Inwardly, I snorted ‘of course’. I continued to take apart his so called expert argument because I was in that kind of mood. That’s when the woman started reacting with more confidence. My interjection had somehow validated her and she became bolder since she saw me as someone on her side of the ring. I wasn’t exactly taking sides. It was more about a social experiment with me to test equal states between men and women, but if I helped her in some way, then so be it.
We all talked for a few more minutes. I made a conscious effort to emphasize my eye contact on the woman in order to assert to the man that what she said was important and worth listening to. He tried to move the conversation back to himself time and time again (old habits die hard), but I would maintain my eye contact on her in order to keep the conversation on track. This would quiet him down and make him listen. In the end, I thanked them for a nice conversation and got back to work. What is interesting is how their conversations shifted after my stepping away. There was a sense of more equal footing and the man and woman were speaking at more equal pace than the lopsided farce it was before. The woman had more room to speak and the man would let her finish more often. They said their goodbyes to me and left after awhile.
Yeah, So What’s Your Point, Dude?
I know this was a singular event in the global array of occurrences that happen everyday. However, it seems to be vindictive of how male dominant centric many societies are. This is problematic on many levels. At the foremost, it’s not egalitarian between the sexes. I’ve noticed a rash in feminist talk arise lately. I’ve also noticed oppositional voices becoming louder, too. It’s the conversation that I shared above being played out exponentially louder on the world stage. Much of this can be alleviated by us men simply stepping down our egos and listening more, instead of trying to display dominance over every situation.
I don’t wish to live in a world where women are forced to act like us in order to compete and be heard. We must not qualify equality between the sexes with us men saying: I believe in equality as long as women act like (enter any male behavior) or If a woman wants to act like a man, then I’ll treat her like a man. We are not giving women much choice in the matter of how they assert their voices when we continuously up the ante in our bluster. We are essentially saying, “Act like us in order to be respected!” This is absurd and madness!
Men, dial it down. Women, we hear and respect you.
– Egalitarian Rabbit