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I saw a diary from May and then a related diary from June that addressed women's issues and men's poor understanding of women's issues, respectively. While one would hope men who visit DK might be more understanding of a woman's plight than the average man (and I believe that's true), the obvious hurt and the backlash in the comments showed just how far we have to go before truer understanding is reached.

I'm a feminist. I'm the son of a Republican father and a lesbian mother. Obviously, they did not last as a couple. But they provided me a vast spectrum of moral lessons, rights and responsibilities, and near-infinite points of view. Along the way, we moved many times (six times by the time I was 12), living in Florida, Texas, NY(C), Wisconsin, NY(S) and Ohio, further expanding our points of view. I also worked in many jobs, ranging from a janitor to junior management, from working at the New York Road Runners to managing a Shakespearean tour, even further expanding my point of view.

In all that, I can say without question that, in general, men suck. In general. Specifically, I have met many a man who were gracious, respectful and caring, and many who even stood up in defense of women when the situation called for it. But, in general, men have power over women in most situations and most men do not give that power away willingly; far worse, millions (and really billions) of men have used that power over a woman (and probably multiple women and likely many women) at some point in their lives, whether or not they admit it or even realize it, which is an obvious sign of their obliviousness to the inequalities between the sexes.

Now, before you think I only see things one way, let me also add that, in general, women suck. In general. Specifically, I’ve met many a woman who were gracious, respectful, caring, etc., paragons of humanity. But I’ve also met women who lie, cheat on their SO, use people in the worst ways, hurt anyone and everyone in their lives, etc.

In short, I think people suck.

But in the battle of the sexes, men have a long way to go before they (or we, since I’m still learning myself) understand the true plight of women in a man’s world. As a man, I'm only a tourist in the feminist world, so I won’t pretend to be an expert, but as a man, I can share a couple happenings with other men here that completely changed me as a man and sharpened my point of view as a feminist.

When I younger, my mother said I had to realize I was a potential rapist. I said that was unfair, that she was pigeonholing me (and basically all men) because of the actions of a very small percentage of men. Then, in college, I left an evening class and walked to my car in the student parking lot. I followed a coed classmate doing the same, maybe 30-40 feet ahead of me. After a few steps, she turned and looked my way, and then she picked up her pace. I thought nothing of it until a few steps later, when she turned and looked my way again, this time quite frightened, and then she turned away and bolted so fast that my spider senses kicked in and I quickly turned and prepared for the worst.

Of course, my spider senses were completely mistaken. There was nothing there. I frightened her. My very presence at that place and at that hour scared the girl to her bones because I was a potential rapist.

If she had known me, she would’ve realized that I was not someone she needed to fear. But she didn’t, and her fear was so real that she instilled it in me for that brief moment (although my fear as a brawny, athletic man probably was a small fraction of her fear as a wispy, five-foot tall woman). If I could bottle that fear and give it to other men, they’d feel much differently (and hopefully ashamed) about their suggestiveness, catcalls and other boorish behavior. At least those with a moral compass. Many sick individuals prey on that fear regularly. Speaking of which…

Years later, my son and I were riding home on the subway one evening. We were in a near-empty car with a couple young women and a slovenly man across from them. The man said nasty things and made nasty gestures to the young women, so I called him on it. He dared me to do anything about it, so I got up and got in his face. He shut up very quickly.

However, after I went back to my seat, he started up again. I didn’t say anything this time. I waited a couple moments until we approached a station, and then I walked over to him. Ironically, he called out for help and shielded his eyes, thinking I was going to punch him, but I just picked him up by his coat lapels, pulled him over to the doors, and pushed him out of the car when the doors opened.

The young women were appreciative, but I didn’t do it for them as much as I did it for my son. I wanted to show him that we shouldn’t stand for such behavior, that saying and doing nothing in the face of such behavior is the same as endorsing it. I don’t endorse it. I abhor it.

Our culture doesn't simply endorse such behavior, our culture promotes rape. Don’t believe me? Studies prove that rape is considered acceptable in some circumstances. In a survey of 11-to-14 year-olds, "51% of the boys and 41% of the girls said forced sex was acceptable if the boy, "spent a lot of money" on the girl; 31% of the boys and 32% of the girls said it was acceptable for a man to rape a woman with past sexual experience; 87% of boys and 79% of girls said sexual assault was acceptable if the man and the woman were married; and 65% of the boys and 47% of the girls said it was acceptable for a boy to rape a girl if they had been dating for more than six months." This is beyond the pale. This is beyond feminism. This is beyond humanity.

The correct answer to all of those scenarios is NEVER. Forced sex is NEVER acceptable. Yet in each of those questions, not only boys but many girls considered rape acceptable if the boy simply spent money on the girl, and the great majority of girls – nearly four out of five! – thought a husband can rape his wife! Those numbers are insane, and a clear condemnation of our rape culture. And if you think that poll is bad, you should see what college students think.

My mother and I got into a debate recently about what young women wear. She was upset that they wear so little and expose so much, and she said they’re only making trouble by dressing that way. I was surprised, to say at the least. She was the one who taught me many years ago that a woman can walk down the street naked, yet that still doesn’t give anyone any permission to assault her or even touch her without her consent. She may be an exhibitionist, she may be mentally or emotionally troubled, for all anyone knows, but that still doesn’t give any man the right to abuse her physically, sexually or emotionally.

So it should go without saying that a woman who is scantily dressed deserves the same rights and protections and then some, yet our rape culture has become so inescapable that even my septuagenarian feminist lesbian mother now questions the rights and protections of said scantily clad women.

I have many more stories, but mine pale in comparison to women's own stories, their own accounts of inequality, abuse, rape and worse. We men need to be better. We need to be more attentive, more receptive, and more willing to replace our current understanding with a deeper, more meaningful understanding, even at cost to our own egos and identities. Because it's not about us, it's about them and their trials and tribulations, and our unwillingness to acknowledge the insidious pervasiveness of our society's tragically unequal standards.

I worry for the future of my daughters and granddaughters. We're failing our female population day in and day out. Feminism does not aim to "entitle" women, it seeks equality:  political, social and economic equality. The feminist movement made tremendous gains last century (nothing even close to equality, but it led to some some legal rights and protections that didn't exist only a few decades ago), but the backlash that created and the men's rights activists that grew out of that backlash are trying to take back those gains and "put women back in their place." The war on women is very real, and these MRAs need to be stopped in their tracks.

The sad truth is most men, even many of the supposedly enlightened men on this site, don't understand the depth and breadth of the actual inequality between the sexes, nor of the fear and outright harm women face daily.

I am a feminist. We all should be feminists.

Originally posted to Kenny Herbert on Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 09:28 AM PDT.

Also republished by Mad Men on Daily Kos, This Week in the War on Women, and Community Spotlight.

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