Men are changing. Please be kind.

It is hard to look in the mirror and say: I’ve done bad things. It’s hard to even say: I belong to a group that has done bad things. And over the last years, women have been more and more boldly shoving that mirror in men’s faces: Look at who you are! Is this really who you want to be?! 

Some guys have responded by turning away and doubling down on how they were, pining for the good old days when men were men and women were women, and nobody called them out on their shit. Some swallow pills of various colours.

But many men did have a very painful look in that mirror after all. They may have recalled the times when they were a bit too pushy, when their ‘innocent teasing’ has made a woman feel unsafe, when they unthinkingly reinforced harmful gender stereotypes because it was convenient to them. Maybe even the times when they wanted sex so bad they disregarded a ‘no’, however strongly or weakly it was expressed.

‘Is this really who I want to be?!’

No, of course not.

But it takes a great deal of character to admit you’ve done things wrong and start to change. You want to deny it. You want to just be left alone. And as much as you intellectually detest a system of unfair priviledge, it is damn hard to say no when that system hands you things you’d really like to have.

But all that is the easy part. Admitting you’ve done something wrong is a choice you can consciously make. The difficult part is when you realise that your thoughts and actions are only partially determined by your conscious choices. That what actually largely determines how you acted and will continue to act, is all the cultural brainwashing you received for as long as you can remember. All your action toys, every ‘don’t act like a girl’, every James Bond film you’ve seen, every ‘boys will be boys’, every time your mum served your dad, every comment your math teacher made about girls, every adventure story you read, every sexist joke you heard, every porn clip you watched, every ‘woman driver’, every time you had to prove your masculinity to the guys, every unpunished abuse you saw, every biased hiring process, every time you google ‘CEO’ and only pics of men come up, every female politician you’ve seen taken down a peg, every…

The hard part is when you realise that every second of your life so far has brainwashed you into automatically and unreflectively occupying a gender role you now know is wildly problematic. That you go around causing harm just by playing the role society has told you to play. The only role you were taught to play. The role you automatically slip into whenever you don’t go into conscious effort not to.

Women know exactly how much conscious effort goes into questioning and abandoning ingrained gender roles. It takes time to unlearn them, even though they’ve got some pretty uncomfortable roles they are strongly motivated to shed. It is exactly as hard for men — and all the harder if a role benefits you and motivation needs to come from moral reflection alone.

And then, as you take on the difficult challenge of undoing years of social conditioning against your own self-interest and aim to become a better person — then it turns out that however hard you try, #MenAreTrash anyway. You still belong to a group that are guilty before proven innocent and should be bashed on the head, repeatedly, because having a common monolith of an enemy is, for some at least, just a part of the empowerment of women.

Of course, #NotAllWomen think that, but it seems that there are always some who do and who will say it in a million ways to the amusement of all. A small minority deals the blows, sure, but many more like and clap while you cower and wonder what was the point in trying. And I know that this isn’t because they’re evil — they are just tired, they are done, they have lost patience years ago. And they don’t want any more of the crap some men have served them, they just want change and they want it now.

But it hurts all the same.

Dear women. We heard you. We are changing. But it is hard and it takes time. Please don’t bash us on the head. Be kind. Help us.

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