Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A meme crossed my path today that read something along the lines of “one woman lying damages the credibility of all women lying, but one man raping a woman doesn’t damage the credibility of all men.” It went on to bemoan this as an example of male privilege. I respectfully disagree, but before you decide that I’m wrong (or right), please read my explanation.
See, the reality is that the reputation of men, of all men, have already been destroyed. If you don’t believe me, try asking a woman out on a date. Many women today won’t say no to men who ask them out, but not because they are always up for a date. The simple reality is that many women don’t feel safe turning down a man’s invitation.
Men don’t do well with rejection. They stalk women, badger them, berate them and generally attempt to bully them into doing whatever it is that the men want them to do, even going on a date. Many women will give false phone numbers instead of saying she’s not comfortable giving her phone number to a man who requests it. They employ what I have heard referred to as “resting bitch face” to dissuade men to talk with them.
All of this because they don’t trust men, and they don’t trust men because so many men have already destroyed the credibility of all of us. The sad reality is that the war on women is all to real, and all too alive. I don’t blame women at all of their defensive measures. Men, including myself, cannot understand what it’s like to be constantly alert to danger. The closest I’ve come to understanding what women go through was when I lived in New York City and worked in Harlem. Walking through the streets, it was necessary to be constantly aware of my surroundings, and the people around me for my own safety. One day, shortly after I arrived, I picked up a tail. Some man I didn’t know started following me. I couldn’t go home because I didn’t want him to know where I lived. I walked some bizarre routes, but every time I crossed and re-crossed my own path, he was still there. I tried going to public places, and looked for (and failed to find) a cop.
This happened to me once. And although I walked a different way, and at different times, to work every day, it only lasted for about a year while I was in the city. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live that life every day. I’ll never have somebody drop a roofie in a drink, or fear going out alone. Personally, I’ve never wanted to intimidate a woman, and I’ve never had nefarious plans when asking a woman out. I would rather have a woman turn me down directly instead of using tricks and lies because she’s afraid to say no, but frankly, I can’t blame them either. It kind of hurts, honestly, when I think someone is showing interest in me only to discover I have that same dry cleaner’s phone number again.
When a woman lies about having been assaulted, it does harm the credibility of women, and frankly is belittling to women who have been through the trauma although the reason for such a lie should be examined. For example, perhaps the woman changing her story truly did go through what she claimed, but has changed her story either because she’s afraid to continue, or because she is struggling with the emotional fortitude required to continue. Or it could just be a cry for help.
But in a strange kind of way, such lies do harm the credibility of all women because, as a gender, women still have credibility that can be harmed. That men’s credibility is not harmed by the abusers among us is actually not privilege, but rather a reflection of the poor credibility we already have. At one point, there is a man (or are men) reading this and thinking, “not me…my credibility is solid!” Okay, try complimenting, say, a young woman at a checkout that does not know you and watch her demeanor shift, even slightly. She’ll tense up, smile weakly if at all, and if she thanks you at all it will be barely audible.
So, what can be done? Honestly, at this point, I don’t know if we can do anything to change this, at least not anytime soon. We need to accept that this is the way we are and try to put ourselves in the shoes of women who might be feeling uncomfortable. If you want to take it a step farther, if you notice a woman being harassed, stand up for her. We, as men, can do better. Not only that; we must do better.