I have opinions. I like to share them. I like it when people listen. I think my opinions are important.
And, because I’m a straight white man in his 40s, a lot of the time people listen.
It’s nice, feeling free to own the space around me and speak my mind. Feels good. Makes me feel valued. Heard.
For the last year, however, I’ve been kinda quiet. On purpose. Ever since #MeToo began, I haven’t wanted to talk much. Not for the reason people seem to think. It’s somehow assumed that I’m quiet because I’m suddenly afraid. This is a dangerous time, we’re told, to be a man.
This is not a dangerous time to be a man. It’s a dangerous time to be a woman.
Not that it’s ever not a dangerous time to be a woman. But especially right now, at this moment, things are dangerous. Because women are speaking up, and in the history of the world and especially this country, when women speak up, they tend to get trampled. Just look at the death threats against Dr. Ford. And she never even raised her voice.
The reason I’ve tried to be quiet since #MeToo began is because I thought it was important for men, especially straight white men, to shut the hell up and listen.
Listen to the women. That’s been my mantra. Listen. Just listen.
And yeah, it’s uncomfortable. The more I hear, the more I look at my own past behavior and say, “Well, shit, that was toxic and creepy as hell.” One young lady I dated in high school wrote in my yearbook Watch those hands, mister! She was being funny, because she couldn’t haul off and hit me. Because women aren’t allowed to be angry.
But guys, here’s the thing — women ARE angry. And they’re RIGHT to be angry. And they HAVE A RIGHT to be angry, too.
How do I know they’re angry? Because I’m listening, and I choose to hear them. I’m giving them the space they’ve always had to give me. For the last year I’ve tried to listen more than talk, hear more than speak, and take in the stories that to them are commonplace, and to us are horrifying. Ask a woman what she has to think about when she’s out walking the dog and you’ll be angry too.
I just finished Rebecca Traister’s teriffic new book Good And Mad, which is all about women being angry in America (she wanted the title to be Fuck You, You Fucking Fucks, but the publisher wouldn’t go for it). I started listening to the audiobook of it a couple weeks ago. It was Sunday, and my wife and daughter were both out, leaving me and my tween son at home. I was making breakfast, listening to Traister’s book, when Dash came in to the kitchen. I offered to turn on something more kid-friendly. Dash instead asked what the book was about.
ME: It’s about women’s anger, especially American women, and the history of it being both made fun of and getting stuff done.
DASH: That sounds like an awesome book. Is it on our Audible?
ME: Yes. Is that something you want to listen to?
This led to a discussion of the definition of feminism and how it’s misrepresented as being against men.
ME: All feminism means is men and women are equals.
DASH: That’s a great definition.
Yes, my son, it is.
See, as kids, we all know what’s fair. As a kid, I never got angrier than when someone cut the line, or got extra candy, or cheated during a game. Kids are pretty good about equality and sharing and fairness. Some try to break the rules, but every kid knows, deep down, what’s fair.
But as they start reaching Dash’s age, the split becomes visible. We funnel more attention into what boys achieve and what girls look like. Which leads to a tendency to listen to men and look at women. A natural consequence of that is that when women show anger, instead of listening, we step back and say, “Well, that’s unattractive.”
Which keeps us from hearing what they’re saying.
I’m a writer, and I just finished nearly three years of work on a new novel. It’s about the pioneer of undercover reporting, Nellie Bly. Most people know about her story in the madhouse, or her trip around the world. But it was her first spark of anger that hooked me into her story.
Nellie Bly became a reporter because she was made angry by a column entitled “What Girls Are Good For”, written by a man who called himself The Quiet Observer. She penned a furious response, never for a moment thinking the paper would pay attention. But newspaper editor George Madden did an incredible thing. He listened. He heard. He saw that she had a point of view, and a voice, and fury, and offered her a job.
THAT’S the piece that I’ve been missing in my support of the #MeToo movement. While I’ve been listening, I’ve been silent. I genuinely thought my silence helped.
But lately I’ve had more and more female friends demanding that I not only listen, but add my voice to theirs. “We need you to speak the fuck up! We’re alone out here!” I just heard Heather Havrilesky say the same thing on Ana Marie Cox’s podcast With Friends Like These: “I just don’t understand why I don’t see more men kinda beating the same drum we’re beating…I mean, pick up the flag and run with it.”
I haven’t before now because it feels antithetical to the cause. I mean, I firmly believe we should listen more to women. And it sucks because, in a fair world, women could speak up for themselves and be heard.
But it’s not a fair world. That’s the point. And, being a man, I have the privilege of being listened to. Like George Madden, I can use that to help enact change. Because it’s a sad fact that some people will not hear a point of view unless it’s a straight white man in his 40s sharing it.
So this is me adding my voice. This is me, not only listening, but amplifying the voices of women. To other men, I say, speak the fuck up. Amplify. Don’t talk over women. Add your voice to theirs.
I am a man. I have opinions. I like to share them. You should listen. So hear me when I say this:
I am a Feminist. Hear me roar.
David Blixt is an author, actor, and fight director based in Chicago, where he’s allowed to co-exist with an awesome woman and a pair of really cool kids. His new book, WHAT GIRLS ARE GOOD FOR: A Novel of Nellie Bly, is available now on Amazon Kindle and print. Follow David on Twitter @David_Blixt, on Facebook here, and on his website at www.davidblixt.com. Sign up for David’s Mailing List here.