#yesallmen (stick with me here)

#yesallmen (stick with me here)

#yesallmen is one of those hot button hashtags that immediately split people into one camp or another. I get that. If you wanted to roll your eyes at the title and click away thank you for sticking with me for a few minutes. And yes I will rope this back into the world of open relationships, so really, stick with me. (I end the post with important poly dating advice)

I’ll start by defining my terms. (wow a google search for “what does #yesallmen mean?” leads to some shitty results)

#yesallwomen is a Twitter hashtag and social media campaign in which users share examples or stories of misogyny and violence against women. Because every woman has examples of being harassed, objectified, belittled, abused. All of them. Or, for the persnickety among my legions of readers, close enough to every single woman that we can round up and say all of them.

#notallmen is the defensive counter to #yesallwomen. It expresses the sentiment “I hear you talking about the sexism that you are experiencing but not all men are like that.”

Now, here is the thing. “not all men are like that” is technically true, and simultaneously incredibly problematic. Probability says that there do indeed exist men on the planet earth who are in no way sexist. They have never said anything demeaning or derogatory. They have never talked over a woman as if their voice was more important. They have never explained what a woman had just said perfectly well (known as “mansplaining.) They have never rolled over consent or wheedled or cajoled or attacked after hearing a “no” Sadly, I am not one of these men. But there are 7 billion people on this planet. Almost 1/2 of them are men. There must be a few. But the technical truth of the statement “not all men” doesn’t negate the fact that it is used in a way that is just another example of silencing women. It is used as an excuse to not listen to someone talk about their own real life experience. And as I’ll explain, the technical truth of #yesallmen is irrelevant to the actual truth of #yesallmen.

[Edit inspired by Gloria: If sexism is just function of power imbalance and not individual behavior then as long as society is sexist all men benefit from sexism no matter what attitudes they have. Even the most enlightened feminist man benefits from sexism whether he wants it or not. If you’ve ever been listened to when a woman saying the same thing was ignored you have experienced just one of a million examples of this. I’m not going to edit the rest of this article to reflect this perspective (even though I agree with it) because I want to address people who think that their behavior is more important than systemic power imbalances.]

This video is the inspiration for this blog post. It’s only three minutes and 9 seconds, well worth your time. If watching men verbally abuse women in public is upsetting to you you might want to skip it.

Yes I understand this is comedy. But the deeper truth under it is very real (like all good comedy).

Maybe not all men are abusive, but if you are a woman how are you to know? Anybody can pretend to be not one of those guys who are like that. They can have all the credibility in the world, the shirt, the activism, the language. But are they just putting on a show? Is there some hatred of women lurking under the surface? Is it going to jump out and bite me in the face? Sadly, there is just no way to know.

So, #yesallmen doesn’t have to be literally true to be actually true. Not all men are like that. Who knows what percentage of non-sexist men is in the world. That’s probably not even an answerable question (though I would guess that it’s a really low number) but any man might be sexist. Any man might turn hateful and abusive. And to a person who has been abused by men again and again and again for the entirety of their life, how do you think that feels?

Ok, I promised to rope this back into the world of open relationships. Now is the time for me to make good on that promise.

In each of the encounters in the video the moment when the person went from being friendly to being aggressive was the moment they were rejected. We call this “wounded entitlement.” These men (and the one woman at the end too) were acting as if saying the right things and doing the right things and being who they were entitled them to get what they wanted. Of course they were wrong. “How dare you say no? I’ve said the right things, I should get what I want now. I’m angry that I’m not getting what I want, so that entitles me to say something rude or mean or aggressive you bitch.”

Wounded entitlement is not sexy. It isn’t endearing. It isn’t funny. You aren’t entitled to anything from anyone. It doesn’t matter if you were acting nice, if you bought them a drink or dinner, or if you married them. You have to be able to hear a no. Even if hearing a no is hard. You might feel disappointment. You might feel rejected. You might feel sad or angry or hurt. That’s natural, but it isn’t the fault of the person who rejected you, and it isn’t their problem.

[Note from editor Michon Neal of PostModernWoman.com: “In this section, be sure to include the corollary: there also has to be room for them to say no in the first place. Coerced yeses are still nos. Incapacitated is still a no. Survival yes is still a no. etc”]

And here is the thing. If you act angry at someone for rejecting you in a New York bar you might be too anonymous for that to hurt your chances the next time. Hell, even if you get a bad reputation in that one bar there are thousands of other bars to move onto. Try that shit in the local poly community and people will start to talk real fast. You won’t get invited to things, people will warn their friends about you.

If you want to have an open relationship you are going to have to face rejection. If you can’t face rejection with style and grace and aplomb, if rejection causes you to be the kind of person people say #yesallmen and #yesallwomen about then it doesn’t matter if #yesallmen or #notallmen are technically true. Polyamory is going to be a lot harder for you.

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