Unpacking My Privilege as a Man

Let me acknowledge it. It’s been a fun month over here to say the least. In the last month I have had over 1,000,000 (!?!) visitors to my blog and have had over 2,000,000 views on one post alone. Over 660,000 Facebook shares, a repost in the Huffington Post and the Deseret News. Emails! Lots and lots of emails.

I keep saying to myself, “This just shouldn’t happen. I got a D on my first college paper because it was written so poorly.”

So yes, it’s been fun. Thanks for reading.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to figure out why that post went so viral. Was it super original? Was I that clear and succinct? Was it the tone? Was it because the content was weaved into the fictional conversation with my son? Was it that I avoided the ditch on either side of the road on this particular issue? To some degree I think it was all of this. But I have this nagging feeling that there was something else that contributed to the success of that post.

A man said it.

Hear no evil. Speak no evil. See no evil

I can’t get past the idea that the post went viral because in part I, a man, said all that I said. After all, there was nothing in that post that hasn’t been said by countless women who battle for equal rights. I’m am not the first to say that a man needs to be responsible for how he looks at women. I am not the first to say that, regardless of how a woman dresses, they should be treated with dignity and respect. I am not the first to advocate that women are equals with men. Many women have said exactly what I said again and again and again.

They say it and get labeled as shrill. Combative. Bitchy.

I say it and get reposted in the Huffington Post.

I’m not a feminist. I am an egalitarian. Yes, I believe there are physical and emotional differences between men and women. Our bodies work differently. Our minds are wired differently. Those truths don’t make one better than the other; it simply makes us different. On this point I think most people, men and women, would agree with me. But the way we act towards one another betrays our beliefs. The relationship between men and women is one wrought with competition, fear, and anxiety. Rather than celebrating our differences – literally celebrating the fact that men and women are different which makes us better together – we try to prove our sexes worth to the other.¬†

Mostly, women have to prove themselves to men.

The response to my post, in my mind, highlights the reality that this is still, by and large, a patriarchal society. Don’t get me wrong, I think more men need to speak out on behalf of women. More importantly though, we need to listen to them. Women are fully capable of speaking for themselves.¬†Sadly, men tend to be really bad listeners. Society can be a really bad listener. The fact that people listen when a man says the same thing women have been saying for years puts the patriarchy of our society on full display by proving that the validation of a women’s perspective needs a man. Women do not need men to speak for them. They need men to speak with them.

That’s what we all need. Someone who is different than us to speak with us.

With.

Not “to” and not “for” and not “against” and not “over”. With. When it comes to understanding it may be the most important preposition.

I wonder if we as a society are willing to listen to those who are different than us? That doesn’t matter if we are talking about a different sex, ethnicity, nationality, or political party. If we, as individuals and as a society, truly valued diversity this conversation would be null and void. But I’m beginning to believe that we don’t value diversity. Differences are not celebrated and seen as strengths, they are seen as points of tension. We are not interested in understanding another’s perspective, we are only interested in having our perspective understood. Until we are willing to understand another’s perspective, we will never fully understand our own. Nor will we be understood. Diversity of thought, perspective, and experience can be one of the most powerful tools we as a society have to bring about change.

But that tool is only as useful as our willingness to set aside our desire to be understood in order to understand another.

If we truly value diversity then it is time to start listening to each other. Really listening. The kind of listening that suspends right/wrong, agree/disagree thinking long enough to hear what the other person is saying and ask, “What if what they are saying is so?” Isn’t that what we want from others? For them to pause long enough to consider our viewpoint? Don’t we all just want to be heard and be acknowledge and be respected?

I think so. So do to others as you would have them do to you.

  • Andrew Bossardet

    Thanks for this, Nate. I particularly appreciated this sentence: “Differences are not celebrated and seen as strengths, they are seen as points of tension.” I wonder aloud, as I read that sentence, if the points of tension could be seen as cause for celebration. A point you have made before is how tension is energy and energy can be used for strengthening. I think it’s worth my time to reflect on how the tension in differences between men and women could be energy brought to bear on so many breakdowns in our world. Thanks again.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Thanks, Andy. Like you, I am learning that tension can be positive. Creative tension is great and wonderful and necessary. Emotional tension is not. If we can move into creative tension things can progress in a positive way.

      • Andrew Bossardet

        If only creative tension came without emotional tension…

  • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

    You are a feminist. You just haven’t realized it yet. ;)

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      I was wondering who would be the first to say it.

      • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

        I am nothing if not predictable.

  • Amy Winkfield Oliver

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! Personally I appreciate ‘egalitarian’ because the term ‘feminism’ is defined differently by so many. There are factions of what many consider ‘feminism’ I do not align with. I often find great difficulty having objective conversations around it with others. I don’t appreciate the assumptions about my beliefs that have, in the past, come with the label of ‘feminism’. I am for equality with acknowledgement and celebration of the differences between men and women. My experience tells me we seek to understand when mutual respect is our first point of value. My experience also tells me clarity of definition between understanding/agreeing; tolerance of others equality as a human being vs. acceptance of ideas, lifestyles and behavior are paramount to laying a foundation of mutual respect. We can “disagree without being disagreeable”.

  • Juan Carlos Torres

    i CANNOT ADD DISQUES TO BLOGGER!
    someone please help!

  • lauratoailoa

    Having different people supporting a cause (or opinion) helps strengthen it so it doesn’t seem merely complainy.
    Also, I’m glad a fb shared that post to find your blog. xo

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    yup and thank you from a shrill, combative, bitchy (overbearing, vitriolic, ungracious, angry, contentious…) feminist.

  • Vitor

    Hey Nate, i hope you’re as good as your posts are.. And i think you should thank @shayCarl for retweeting the “seeing women” post.. :) he’s a great guy and follows your blog, as i do after his tweet.. If you already did something like that, keep being awesome and keep on going! Best of luck and huge hugs and love from Brazil!

    (he retweeted 14 aug and tweeted 6 sept.. ^^’ if you wanna see for yourself, i guess.)

  • ajajlanham

    As a mom to two small boys I have great appreciation for your original post on this topic. I hope my husband will have that conversation with each of them one of these days, and I’m pretty sure he will. I desperately wish we could understand the uniqueness of the opposite sex and not see ourselves as us vs. them. There was a reason God created us male and female…two parts of a delightful whole to all of humanity.