Cry Me A River, Men

Many men are upset by the number of rules they now have to follow in the era of #MeToo. Some of these rules they have made up for themselves, such as not being alone in a room with a woman who isn’t your wife. Some of the outrage that I’ve personally heard is based not on new rules but on the enforcement of existing ones. It’s been a rule that professors shouldn’t pursue students over whom they have power but that rule wasn’t enforced. Despite the unfair power differential, Professors did and still do use college campuses as hunting grounds. But it’s only in the past couple of years that there has been any consequence for this behavior, despite the rule having been in place all along. Sexual harassment in the workplace has been against the law since 1964. Even as recently as 1992 when Anita Hill testified to congress about being sexually harassed at work there were no lasting consequences for Clarence Thomas—in fact, he became a Supreme Court Justice and still is today.

So after all this time getting away with not following the rules, men are outraged by this new world in which they have consequences for breaking the rules they should have been following all along.

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These same men seem to be unaware of the rules women have had to follow for thousands of years to survive. As far back as ancient Rome there have been rules about fidelity that women had to follow and men did not. While men were free to have multiple partners other than their wife, a wife stepping out on her partner was punishable by death. It was only in the last century that a woman could divorce her husband for infidelity, while men have always been able to divorce an unfaithful wife. Even today it is more socially acceptable for a man to have a side piece while a good woman is expected to remain true.

The right to control their own bodies has been a fight for women in the United States for a hundred years and continues today. Men have written laws about what medical procedures women can and can’t have, often with no input from women. Most recently, in March 2017, the White House was heavily criticized for holding a caucus of all white men to discuss health care, including maternity leave. Men makes rules about women’s healthcare, women’s access to medicine, and the amount of time women can spend at home with their babies after giving birth.

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Fidelity and reproductive rights are formal rules, laws that women have to follow. But what about informal, cultural norms governing our everyday behavior? Women have rules about how much makeup to wear, what to weigh, how to balance job and family. We’re meant to be pretty but not too pretty. Smart but not smarter than our partner. It’s now okay for us to work but only if it doesn’t interfere with raising our children and we don’t make more than our husband. We should be thin but not muscular at the same time that we are curvy but not fat. We should be chaste but good in bed.

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Even our assaults have rules. Writer and musician, Patti Niemi has a brilliant piece called “Woman’s Responsibility.” It satirically outlines all the rules women must follow when being sexually assaulted in order to be believed. These rules include the clothes she must wear, her sobriety, the length of time of the attack, the visible injury required, her reaction afterwards. I would add that she must not know her attacker at all. If she met him even a few hours earlier then there is reason to believe she wanted it.

Oh, and the rules if you do want sex are so complicated almost none of us are getting it right. You can’t actually ask for it—that would be slutty, fast, brazen. You can’t slowly decide if you want to go to the next step because if at some point you decide you do not want to go to the next step you are a tease. You can’t change your mind. You must be very careful of the man’s feelings and ego because if you injure either you risk a male rage spiral (refer to the previous paragraph for guidance on the consequences of that). You must not have too many partners—again, slutty.

These are only a fraction of the rules men have insisted women follow and there have always been consequences for breaking them. The consequences for us however have been assault, re-traumatization at the hands of the government, and death. Forgive me if I don’t have much sympathy for men having to now refrain from abusing their power.

Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist

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