Tuesday 17 October 2017

Advice to myself

• Stop sexual abuse and harassment when you can.

• Call it out. Without fear of repercussions. Remember what she's going through is worse than you might have to go through if you grow a spine.

• When you can't, help amplify her voice. When she stands up, don't assume she needs help, but let her know you're there if she needs you.

• Be aware that as much as you try to be a nice guy — and remember that 'nice' is a work in progress, an aspiration — she doesn't know it. She has seen too many nice guys turn into dick-brains. If you sense discomfort, give her space. That could mean leaving the room. Or making sure the door is open. Or making sure there are other people at least in sight or within earshot. When in doubt, because you're not good at reading social signals, assume you're being threatening.

• Being nice does not get you a medal or any other benefits. It's a minimum requirement.

• You're suspect because of your gender. Big fucking deal. She is a target because of hers.

• Remember, whatever your self-love issues, you're older now, which is power to some, that you sit in a seat that some perceive as powerful, that while you're not a huge guy, you're bigger than most women, that you have loving friends, but so many of them wield power. Remember that any or all of these things make you scary.

• For all of the reasons above, remember that whether you like it or not or deserve it or not, you're a role model.

• Assume no consent. Wait till the consent is explicit. 'Yes' is sexy.

• Listen. It's not about you. Just listen. Provide a shoulder, a hug, when you're sure that that won't intimidate or add to the problem. But at least fucking listen.

Added later

In a conversation with a dear friend (won't tag her, because she's a very private person) yesterday, she said something that made me think.

She did me the honour of saying, you already do these things, so why call it advice to yourself?

Yes, that is partly true.

I do do these things, or try to. But I didn't do them automatically, from some great inner sensitivity. I learned these things because I had good teachers who opened my mind up. And despite trying to internalise them, I often forget. I'm a reasonably normal heterosexual male, and sometimes that can take over. Also, because the nature of privilege, like bias, is that one doesn't see it. So I need to remind myself. Constantly.

As for the title, I did think of starting with something like 'advice to men' but didn't for several reasons.

The most cold-blooded first. My inner copywriter sensed that that would not break through the clutter, because, you know, there's a lot of advice to men happening out there.

Second, that would be a sermon. That is, I am showing you the path, follow me. That wasn't the intention. Related: while some men I know may benefit from reading this, I also know men far more sensitive than I am who reached these points long ago.

Third, this is an encapsulation of a personal journey. These are my learnings, which I try to live by. I'm putting this out there as a personal commitment, and a standard to be held to.

Post script:

The personal journey has by no means reached its destination. Advice, recommendations, pointers, all welcome. #NotAllMen refuse to ask for directions. : )