_____ isn’t about you.
I know you would like to believe it is. To place yourself in the center. To maintain the notion that you are the sun, and your pull keeps us encircled. And sure, you aren’t entirely to blame for this, for you are society’s Sons: gifts bestowed from the heavens, the bearer of familial name and your dad’s good looks. I get it. You grew up revered, told you were everything, told the world was your oyster, and with each passing year were given more and more. You were told you could do and be anything, that you were strong, and that nothing could or should stop you. When you didn’t raise your hand, the teacher still let you answer, when you bullied another, it was waved off, you were just boys being boys. Excuses for your actions, your words, were passed down from generation to generation.
And now here you are, mid to late twenties, early thirties, oh and fifties and sixties, and it’s not surprising to find you still think all of it, is about you (except of course when fingers are actually pointed your way). We invite you into conversation, we continually attempt to clue you in, to hint at what everyone else see’s, and still you go on, blinded by your own light.
I am constantly being reminded of this ignorance. And it pains me when I see men whom I hold dearly in my heart continue to make it all about themselves, even in topics or situations where they are irrelevant, and then some. And yet, juxtaposing is the “not all men” cover letter you walk around with like a god damn pageant sash. So which is it? Are you involved? Or is it some other guy over there? In conversations with many men in my life, I am astounded at how often it falls on these spectrums:
When asked to take responsibility: not all men, that’s not me, that’s some place over there.
When you have nothing to do with the conversation or issue at hand: what about me? Let me put myself at the center of this. This is about me.
Do you want to be in, or out? Because I am starting to get whiplash with the constant polarity. This dichotomy is so prevalent it deserves a name.
D Swinging: verb; the baffling contra[dick]tory act of making something about you, whilst taking no responsibility. Step forward d swingers, we see you.
D Swinging is no new trend, but it has been seeping into my life so much lately, it occurs like someone is slowly but surely taking the cap off poison and letting me have a bit each day, in an attempt to build tolerance. But here is the thing, we have spent our entire lives “learning” to tolerate and avoiding the swinging, and I am no longer enrolled. Time to put the cap back on. Enough is enough.
A few weeks back I started a conversation with a man I had never met before thanks to Bumble. It’s no secret, I love banter. The wittier, more sarcastic, more out there: the better. Dating apps are a great way to weed out those who can hang, and those who can’t. And to be totally honest I rarely have any intention of meeting anyone. I am a sucker for daily jokes and hourly flirts via phone. It’s an odd way to connect, but it feeds my struggle with intimacy (a blog for another place and time). I had been talking to this guy for a few days, and after sharing some of my thoughts on “pet peeves” he suddenly asked, “oh god, are you one of those kind of feminists?” I immediately knew this was it. “Those kind?” I asked. “Yeah. Like those ridiculous women who don’t even let men open the door for them, or pull out their chair. The kind that hates gentleman.” I burst out laughing.
“Sounds like you are quite the gentleman yourself.”
“I am,” he protested, “are you the type where you do everything yourself so as to not feel lower than men…cause I’ve met those kind of feminists.” The conversation quickly escalated as I would ask simple questions and he couldn’t seem to produce a response that wasn’t hysterical. Ironically in the few minutes we continued to go back and forth I got both sides of the spectrum––all the d swinging: he was upset that women only think about themselves and don’t let men do what’s necessary, what makes them Men, while claiming he’s not the kind of guy that thinks women are inferior: “I’m not like the guys you are talking about, I was raised to respect women.” Ok.
Granted I do not know this guy, we texted for a few days. So I get that what comes next is assumption, I’m fine with that, I have 28 years of experience to back my assertions. His version of respecting women means ensuring his own role of superiority, in which his desires and needs are met. It has nothing to do with the woman he is opening the door for, her role is merely to solidify his own. It’s completely and utterly about him. And the moment she may disrupt the pattern: “what about me?” Boo. Fucking. Hoo. And then when questioned on this, when a different viewpoint is offered, “oh no, I’m not like that.” Sure. When your masculinity or story of “gentleman” is “threatened” you’re simultaneously upset about being affected, making it all about you, whilst claiming you have no part in this? “I don’t do that, that not me… Wait. What about me?”
So what is it? Is it all about you? Or isn’t it? Which side of the swinging does your D land?
I often wonder if the conversations I have and hear are a result of my age, or of an actual shift in the world around me. I realize that the conversations around the feminine experience have only recently garnered more and more traction in popular culture, but there are things that I clearly remember hearing for the first time, and I am not sure if that’s because I wasn’t listening before, didn’t know where to go to listen, didn’t have friends who were saying it, or because these conversations weren’t actually being spoken about in particular places. Perhaps I was too young and missed it, but I remember when I finally started hearing other women speaking to the request of men for them to smile. As a teen and into my twenties I was asked of this frequently, almost all occurring while walking down the street. I didn’t really understand why it bothered me, but I knew it did. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco that I truly grasped what this represented, and why it was so fucking offensive.
For a few months this year I had a male co worker who on three separate occasions told me to smile. The first time we were extremely busy, it occurred in a passing moment: one second here I was working my ass off, the next a comment made, and swoosh it was gone, because I didn’t have the time nor energy to stop. The second time it was at the beginning of the night. No guests were yet seated, and as I moved through the room we caught eyes, and as I passed the chef’s line: “come on girl, smile.”
I finished what I was doing walked back, and kindly said, “if you tell me to smile one more time I am going to fucking punch you in the face.”
He rolled his eyes. The night started, and I had tables and other humans to concern myself with. The third time, about a week later, he said it again in a giggly, frivolous tone. Like many of the women I know, we often have to choose to stand up for what we believe in, in the gradient we see fit, or stand taller, walk away, and focus our attention to what serves us. Being in the middle of service, and being an employee, I put my anger aside, and went about my job to the best of my ability. Thinking about it through the night, and most of the next day, I decided to remain calm, and confront him in a respectful manner before the next shift started. Approaching him, I simply asked, “do you get why that’s offensive?”
He laughed, “oh come on, I was kidding around.”
“Care to answer my question?”
“Do I get why it’s offensive? Yes of course. But I don’t mean it how other guys say it. It’s just you have such a great smile, it makes my night better.” Ding ding ding. We have a winner. I’m not like those other guys who make it about them, or want you to smile for their enjoyment. Oh and by the way can you smile please, it really makes my night better. D swinger.
The influx of women stepping forward to voice their experiences of harassment and assault is no surprise. I find it disconcerting and also darkly ironic how many of my male friends find this novel. As if we don’t walk around each day, very well knowing the next comment, grab, or rape is just around the corner. Even in the midst of the “me too” phenomenon, many young men were posting from a stance of, “well I have never done anything but I support you.” I find it odd that every guy says “not all men” or “it’s not me,” within their expression of support. What about the support in which you take responsibility? D swinging.
What about the support where it doesn’t become about you? While there are various men to point to in this moment––particularly within the spot light––I can’t help but focus on Al Franken, and his resignation speech. It began, “a couple months ago, I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me.” Here Franken points to the allegations that have come forward against him, of which he wanted to respond in a manner that would be “respectful of that broader conversation. Because all women deserve to be heard and their experience taken seriously.”
He continues: “I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently. […] You know, an important part of the conversation we have been having the last few months has been about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women. I am proud that during my time in the Senate, I have used my power to be a champion of women. And that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day. I know there is a different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am. Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator, nothing has brought dishonor on this institution. I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.”
Slap. To. The. Face. A speech that began so beautifully, unsurprisingly turns: here we are in this important and overdue moment where we listen to how men’s actions affect women, because all women deserve to be heard and their experience taken seriously. But oh just so you know when it came to the allegations about me, I remember them differently and some just aren’t true. Let’s listen to women, oh but that’s not who I really am, I know in my heart that I have done nothing to bring dishonor. Remember when I said let’s listen to those experiences? That all women deserve that? Yeah but just so you know, that’s not how it went.
And then for the most D swinging move of all, the “the responsibility is actually else where” move, the it’s not me look it’s over there: “Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as member of the United States Senate. I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of the sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.” We hear you loud and clear, and we agree that those assholes need to be taken down and are a major fucking problem. But this is about you, and when the fingers are pointed at you, sure you step down, but you do so negating the experiences of the women whom have allegations against you. “I am for this conversation, I am an advocate for this and women need to be heard. Oh but don’t think by me saying this I did that, I didn’t do that. That’s not what happened…but over there with the president and that other guy, that’s where it happened.” Ok.
The stories are endless, I have an ex who put himself in the middle of a Sisterhood conversation, a conversation particularly about women coming together and being for one another. He claimed, “yeah that can’t happen because I am in the middle.” D Swinger.And don’t even get me started on the D Swinging with regards to women’s bodies, birth control, reproductive and oh you know: HUMAN Rights. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
I am not interested in sitting idle while this pendulum continues to violently oscillate back and forth. I’m tired of holding back the barf as you speak, I’m on a projectile mission. D Swingers, your time is up. We are coming for you.