Until We’re All Free

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of years about what constitutes racial reconciliation, and what needs to happen to bring us together. In that process, though, I have found something else under the hood which is more troubling. Our society is deeply, fundamentally misogynistic. I know this doesn’t come as a revelation to many of you. It is obvious to the casual objective observer. What’s not obvious is how much it matters. Because we refuse to face how deeply disregard and hatred of women is embedded in our interaction, we’re having an incomplete conversation, laced with hypocrisy.

I hear it in hip-hop and rock-and-roll (let’s not focus on the rappers alone), where women are prop, scorecard, something to use and discard. I hear it in politics and acting, where women are asked about their families, emotions, and fashion while men are asked substantive questions about the issues or their craft. Our misogyny even informs our interaction with LGBTIQ issues. Through this lens of misogyny, a lesbian is just a confused woman who hasn’t met me yet, and who hopefully will bring her partner along to run up my score once she comes around to my way of thinking. A gay man is disgusting because he’s seen as being so much like a woman (and who in their right mind would give manliness up?). A transgender F-to-M is a child in a grown man’s shoes, playing at manhood. A transgender M-to-F is the ultimate deception.

We are trying to understand a three-dimensional cube by looking at lines and squares. Intersectional understanding is predicated on the notion that our system of interaction has unequal inputs and we should have conversations about how to ensure just (not necessarily equal) outcomes. We can’t evaluate the problems being black causes completely separately from the problems being a woman or being poor causes; they feed into each other and amplify each other.

We also know that oppression traps the oppressor as much as the oppressed, though the oppressed suffers more. Men live daily with the limitations placed on them by patriarchal notions of manhood. We can’t cry (except maybe when our sportsball team loses). We can’t be gentle and soft. We are only given anger, stoicism and strength as blunt instruments to deal with everything. What happens when we give a man a full range of healthy tools to become who he needs to be?

Each time we free a segment of society, tremendous potential is unleashed. Much of the creativity and innovation of the 20th century came from people who would have been stifled and lost a century earlier. How much business and technical innovation did we miss because of our rules? What are we still missing as technology booms and is conspicuously missing the contributions of women, black, and Latino people in proportion to their societal presence? Considering that women are half our population, how much potential are we missing by not giving them space to be their fullest selves?

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