Men are Complicit in their Silence
I have written a lot about how white people who are silent about racism are complicit in its continuation. One could make the same argument that straight people who are silent about homophobia are complicit, or that cisgendered people who are silent about transphobia are complicit. But today I'm focussing on white men because straight, cis, white, able-bodied men really do have a lot of privilege to shout about but, quite often, they remain the quietest.
Whenever I read about social justice, time and time again it appears that the person advocating for equality is from a marginalised group themselves. It is often gay people that demand gay rights, black people that demand black rights and women that demand women's rights. The truth is that white men often either stay silent or supress the uprisers because they don't want to lose what small influence they have. As Patrick Hutchinson explains in Everyone Vs. Racism: A Letter to my Grandchildren,
When you’ve held power for so long, equality will look like oppression.
Here is a picture of Patrick Hutchinson doing what he does best: being a fucking hero. If you haven't read my book review then feel free to. Otherwise, let's move on, shall we?
What society needs is for those people who hold more power and privilege to actually give a shit about those that hold less. Empathy, in other words. That isn't quite the liberalist message that our capitalist society try to indoctrinate us with. In 1987, Margaret Thatcher famously said that people "Are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing!" In other words, "Don't look to the government for answers. If you're homeless, sort it out, you twat." This brutal message of only looking out for yourself has been reinforced through the years, through politicians, adverts and Molly Mae. Nevertheless, we must challenge this selfishness. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to expand and selfish individualism has a lot to answer for. I'm currently reading the encapsulating Border Nation: A Story of Migration and Leah Conway has this to say about the UK, even if it is 'the ninth richest country of the world'
State-prescribed selfishness encourages us to fold in on ourselves… This obligatory individualism is the bedrock of an unequal society.
White men sometimes seem to lack the empathy necessary to consider how others have it harder. Instead of a willingness to learn about equity, too many deny that they are part of the problem. Indeed, a lot of white men often feel hard done by, sometimes justifiably. I, for one, am pretty fucked off that my energy company have decided to triple my bills in spite the fact that "The largest oil and gas companies made a combined $174bn in profits in the first nine months of 2021". But it's the greedy tax-avoiding corporations, the lying, two-faced politicians, and the greedy, tax-avoiding, lying, two-faced newspapers that we should be angry with. Not women. Or black people. Or bisexuals. We are all being shafted! It's just that layers of institutional inequality mean that marginalised groups are usually even more shafted. We should stand in solidarity with those groups, knowing full well what it's like to struggle, not climbing up the ladder first and kicking it away from under us.
For some, fighting for other people, when they themselves might also have little, might seem like a poor use of resources but rather than just plain old ignorance (which is still not acceptable) many react with vehement anger. They deny the structural nature of inequity, claiming that everyone has the same access to resources, and instead aggressively assert their right to what resources they have. Rather than support gender equality or racial equality, for instance, they protect their own interests and demand that the marginalised be grateful for what they've been allowed to have. On the myth of meritocracy, and the idea that it's a level playing field for everyone, Conway writes:
This way of thinking is fantastically divorced from the social realities of structural inequality along lines of class, race, disability, gender identity and more.
The media love to provoke the 'white working-class' by spinning more yarns about how migrants/women/black people etc are taking our jobs and our wives and our pubs and our hospital beds. It's all bullshit. Economic forecasters calculated that people who came to the UK in 2016, for example, will make a net lifetime contribution of £26.9bn to Britain's public finances. Powerful white men often get the other white men to eat out of the palm of their hands, feeding on whatever spurious tale they have to offer, like the greedy little sparrow bastards they are. Not sure if that analogy works.
With reference to racial equality, Richard Herring provides a great quote in his book, The Problem with Men:
Black Lives Matter is not an assertion that white lives don't, it's just an appeal to the world to realise that you are on the receiving end of a huge and life-threatening injustice if you are black.
Rather than act entitled, we men should recognise our privilege. Rather than hoard, we men should share. Rather than react defensively, we men should listen.
I'll end this messy rant musing on a brilliant TED talk that I recently listened to by Jimmie Briggs entitled 3 things men can do to promote gender equity. He starts by claiming:
It is time for a gender reckoning, beginning with men authentically confronting our internal selves and each other through the toxicity within us.
Lots of parallels can be made with equity in general, and his talk is perfectly intersectional and aware. On the subject of gender equity, he says that "Silence in the face of misogynistic behaviour and language is complicity" but this is true across the equity stage. Men profess to be brave and strong but all-too-often lack the courage to even speak up.
We men need to break free from the pack, take concrete actions to stop violence, create safety and build equity. And most importantly, say something.
I've tried to cover a lot here but I think, upon quickly proof-reading, that I've covered not-that-much. Just the ramblings of a man with Covid. That's right, a white man making his excuses. Absolute classic. To ensure that there is some proficiency, I'll leave you with this final quote from Briggs, who explains how gender equality (and equality in general, I reckon) not only can be achieved but, if it were, would benefit us all. Believe it or not, I'm trying to write a book about all this stuff. Probably should learn to organise my thoughts in a more coherent manner.
There is hope; there is light. Men around the world are putting in the work to catalyse a true gender reckoning. But far more are needed. What I want to say to you today is this. Too many of us -- too many men -- don’t understand that equity, justice, inclusivity, safety for women, girls and nonbinary people serves and saves us all. Broken masculinity harms societies, full stop. When we men reckon with that truth, we will finally find our shared humanity. Women, girls, nonbinary people, men standing together on equal footing with mutual respect in safe environments is the greatest gender reckoning we can create.