Many pockets of feminism would like to paint women as sacred cows who can do no wrong.
While men as the evil-doers who are responsible for all ills in the world. But the truth is that women are just as capable of acting like assholes as men are.
And not just capable.
We straight up screw people over, act catty, aggressive, insulting, oppressive, and toxic. We kill. We rape. We main. We blow shit up. We wage war. We are not innocent. Not by a long shot.
I didn't consciously realize this until a couple year ago.
After an epic blow up, I came to the conclusion that I was just at much at fault for the relationship problems I was experiencing as my partner was. Having somehow subconsciously decided many years before that men were the root of all evil, I believed that all acts of relationship aggression came from my partner. Not me.
That's pretty sexist. In so many ways.
After one particularly spectacular fight my partner and I had the kind of talk that either results in a dramatic break up or in the beginning of a healing process that changes everything. I think I could feel what was at stake, and so despite my desire to finger point and blame, I managed to listen. To ask questions about my partner's experience of me. And to actually, for real, hear the criticism.
And I was shocked.
It was like I'd suddenly been given a movie of all the shitty horrible things I had ever said and done to him, and I was unable to walk away or ignore it. I was stuck there watching this movie unfold inside my mind, act after ugly act.
It was not pretty.
But boy was I grateful. I could have gone my entire life never seeing my own guilt - my own responsability. And thus never seeing how I could change. How I could be better.
I had already been eating up relationship books like they were chocolate and I was on my period.
So I knew about male sensitivity. And I knew that women could hurt their men deeply just using their words. But I had no idea how potent my ability to make my partner feel unsafe was.
That's what I discovered.
I could make a man who is physically twice as strong as me feel unsafe.
You may not strike terror into the heart of your male partner, but you can definitely make him feel unsafe.
Every man started his life as a baby.
A tiny human being who had to navigate a world that expects men to be "manly". And whatever that baby boy's parents decided manly meant resulted in how he was treated.
Many young boys are treated in a surprisingly abusive way.
They're spoken to and treated in ways that a little girl would rarely experience. Because our idea of boys is that they're tough and they can take it.
Newsflash! They're not tough.
And they can't take it. It might appear that they can. But it's all going to come out in the wash somehow, somewhere, in some strange form.
For years I had basically had no male friends.
I didn't seek out male friends. I didn't even think it was possible to be friends with men. I basically objectified men as being only good as romantic or sexual partners. In my head, men simply weren't capable of being friends with a girl.
In the past 5 years I've changed.
Becoming best friends with my romantic partner allowed me to understand men in a way that I could never have before.
I no longer viewed men as simply scary creatures that were probably up to no good. Instead I viewed men as complex beings who were able to experience pain, suffering, trauma, and love just as much as women.
I discovered that men are as romantic, and sometimes more so, than women. I discovered that men are incredibly sensitive. The way they express it and deal with it might be different from how women do. But that doesn't erase the fact that it's there.
For the past few years I've worked in a restaurant with mostly men.
There are three women on a staff of about 15. And on a usual day I might be one of two women in the building. Which means that I've spent A LOT of time talking to men about their lives, about their relationships, about their concerns, their interests, their perspectives.
In a restaurant you typically have a 3 hours window where most of what you're doing is talking. You're polishing glasses and cutlery, you're folding napkins, you're setting up the room. You don't do these activities in silence. You talk -- the entire time.
This experience has been a huge blessing.
Being the minority means that I have learned to listen carefully, to speak up when I hear something that isn't okay, and to try my best to understand differing perspectives. Having previously worked in majority female environments, this has been my first time being surrounded by sensitive men from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Most of the men I work with are introspective and introverted.
They're pretty far from the stereotype of the manly man that we see displayed on screens in the cineplex. Our resident Alpha Male is a former opera singer with an obsession for bit coin, who is a self-professed romantic.
Over the past few years, as I've tried to pay more attention to the men in my life, the men coming into my place of work, I've come to the tentative conclusion that those so-called Manly Men are actually few and far between.
Someone who on first glance looks like he might fit into the stereotypical alpha role on second glance turns out to be eccentric, or introverted, or highly sensitive, or artistic. It's rare that I encounter a man who checks all of those Manly Man boxes.
And so I'm starting to believe that it's largely a myth.
Like the big foot. Or the loch ness monster. I'm starting to believe that even those men who do appear to be hyper "masculine" are in fact just as sensitive as anyone else. Whether I'm right or not doesn't really matter. What matters is that we extend the possibility that women have been oppressing men in a very subtle way for just as long as they have been oppressing us.
Like evil fraternal twins in a soap opera, we've both been out to get each other.
Part of moving forward as a culture, achieving true equality, achieving gender parity, will have to come from women admitting that they are just as capable and guilty of being oppressive as their male counterparts. We have to dig ourselves out of this hole together. Because in many ways we've gotten here together.
But it's going to take compassion, understanding, and an eye to moderate our own behaviour, and dial back our generalist finger pointing.
Sure it's probably true that out in the world men wage more wars, kill more people, and generally wreak more violent havoc. But in the home, it's unlikely that the man is the only one at fault. That the woman is an innocent bystander who has never made her partner feel small, insignificant, unloved, alone, or unsafe.
It's a common thread in spiritual teachings that you must give to others what you think has not been given to you.
Only then will you receive it. We must give love. Compassion. Acceptance. Openness. Understanding. Generosity. Empathy.
And we must, as women, unravel our own sexist thoughts and behaviours, the ones that oppress men.
That rob them of complexity and humanity. Only by doing ourselves what we expect them to do for us will we find the equality that we so deeply desire.