Men: Be Better.
In the late 1990's, I joined up with a band called the Preps, and we changed our name to the Wise Guys. We were known for raucous shows rife with political undertones and overtones. We eventually broke up (as bands do), going on to have three different "reunion" shows. See, we weren't really good, and we never were able to finish recording any EPs or albums, but we produced all-ages shows in Snohomish County, and helped connect other local bands with bigger local bands. There was this one time that we opened for Reel Big Fish, and we intentionally played the least accessible set we could put together because we weren't fond of Reel Big Fish. So confirmation, folks - I have always been kind of a jerk.
After our first breakup, two members paired up with the drummer from a local band, and brought in a guitarist, forming a band called People We Hate. Word is the original band name was going to be We Hate Mike, but they decided that would be too mean. As the story goes, Megan Seling saw PWH once, and thought they were just terrible. So, of course, I follow Megan Seling on Twitter. She now is in Nashville, continuing to write (and occasionally spar with dipshit "candidates" for U.S. Senate). Earlier this week, she had a Tweetstorm that resonated with me.
See, we're hearing a lot lately about bad men. And while it's more comfortable to rest on our laurels and pretend that it's only Trump and Weinstein, that just isn't the case. It's the people we know, the people in power, and the people who hold the keys for others' advancement. Hanna Brooks Olsen had an Evergreen post for this blog that really highlighted this notion.
If you're paying attention to the news, you know about the reports coming out of Olympia - reports that many of us have heard about for years. Yet the men in power have done nothing substantive. You heard about the man who raped a young woman following a Democratic Party meeting - and still asserts that he did nothing wrong. You may have even heard about Kate Burke - running for City Council in Spokane, and exposing those in power telling her that if she opened her mouth, she would be subject to the end of her career. These are particularly egregious, but also expected and almost considered "normal." We have a major problem.
But as Seling points out - we aren't just oppressing women by sexually harassing and assaulting them. As men, we are doing it in many other ways. When we talk over women during meetings. When we hear a woman's idea, and repeat it as if it were our own. When we dismiss the work that women do in order to achieve our own political success.
Many men I know (most, even) want to be better allies. We want to learn from what we're doing wrong, reflect, and grow. And I see many doing just that. Lord knows I'm no saint in this arena, and am continually trying to be a better person, and holding myself accountable. One area that has helped with that: trying to make clear that if I am fucking up, I can be confronted without repercussions. See, I want people to tell me when I'm going sideways, but if I create an environment where folks feel that doing so will lead to retaliation, then I'm doing it wrong. So, on Seling's request (indirectly), and directed to the men who read this blog - my tips for being a better, and more accountable, ally.
1. Don't rape people. Just don't do it. If you think getting drunk will unleash a rage-monster that will rape people, don't get drunk until you address that issue.
2. Give Credit Where it is Due. Women are an integral part of just about everything, yet men get all of the credit. If you find yourself getting credit for something a woman did (or, frankly, anyone else did), give props to where it is due. Back in 2015, my campaign released a paid family leave plan, highlighting that it was really a version of Morgan Beach's plan. Do stuff like that.
3. Don't Understand? Ask! One of the areas that I am working hardest on personally is not stating the same thing a woman did, but slightly different, during meetings. I do it because I'm trying to make sure I understand what they just said, and I'm trying to get better about starting off with "Just so I understand you correctly..." or "I think I get it, but for clarification..." I'm working on it. If you find yourself doing this, work on it, too.
4. Elevate Voices. See two Tweets that are saying the same awesome thing, one by a white dude, one by a woman? Retweet hers. Amplify the voices of women. The importance of doing so: getting more women (and people of color) into positions of making opinions in the public realm is good for kids. Did you see those great photos of little girls going out as Rep. Frederica Wilson or Rep. Maxine Waters for Halloween? When kids see someone who looks like them on the television getting praise, they are more likely to feel their voice does, in fact, matter. This is particularly important for marginalized communities.
5. Believe Women. This is simple enough, yet appears impossible to see implemented. The key: don't say "Yeah, I'm not saying what you say happened didn't happen, it just doesn't seem that big of a deal." "That's just office politics." "She's only saying that for political gain." These are shitty things to say, and are simply attempts to dampen the voices of women willing to come forward. Men treat women terribly - intentionally or not - all the time. If we're trying to ensure more women are willing to confront this toxic masculinity, we have to start with acknowledging and accepting that a woman who feels traumatized or terrified by a man's behavior is real - especially when we see time and again what men get away with. Men are in power far too much, and there is a real fear that I hear from women about outing bad men. When we dismiss women's concerns or complaints, we tell them that they
6. Listen (and make sure people know you will listen). This can be particularly hard. Try to cultivate a persona that informs people that they can confront you without reprisal. That you will listen without being defensive, without interrupting, and will think and take personal action to change your behavior. Nobody is expecting you to be perfect, but we all must be willing to be better. For me, this has meant sitting and silently listening as I've been told how my words have been harmful, and I find that when I make it clear to myself that I'm not going to interrupt to play defense, I learn a lot. And I can use that to grow as a person and hopefully exhibit that I have grown.
7. Apologize. If you get called out, don't immediately respond with "but I don't do that!" or "why didn't you tell me before!" You probably did it. And you weren't told before because the person didn't think they could without reprisal, or didn't think you would listen and learn. Apologize.
8. Be Thankful. After you apologize, be sure to thank the person for telling you. It's really shitty that we expect others to use emotional labor like that, and we shouldn't have to. But if they do, we damned well should be thankful that they are willing to do so.
9. Tell Other Men. It's on us. As Seling points out, we can tell other women how great we are about our growth and this and that all we want - that's not doing a damned bit of good. Tell other men. When you see men being shitty, tell them. We shouldn't rely on women to come forward, we should be willing to stop shitty behavior. Again, placing the requirement for that emotional labor on women is messed up.
This is not, of course, an exhaustive list. But it's something that we as men should all be working on. We live in a patriarchal society, and the way to change that is to change it. And that starts with changing us. The one final thing I would say: don't brag about being so great. Because we're not. We simply get less bad as we grow. That doesn't mean we've earned cookies from everyone else. Buy yourself a cookie - you've earned it. And then get back to being the change you want to see.