Why I will not organize a #YesAllWomen rally

You might have noticed that I take the #YesAllWomen movement very seriously. I also feel like I should be doing more about it. So when I saw on the news that there were #YesAllWomen rallies being organized, and that they were actually getting airtime on TV news, I thought I should organize one. I’ve never done anything like that, so I don’t really know how. I imagined I’d choose a time and place, post some signs and spread the word, get some kind of speaker system so people could be heard, and see who shows up. Maybe as time went on I’d get better at it.

But I’m not going to. Because my wife asked me not to.


Of course I asked her “Why?” First she said that she would be afraid. She’s particularly worried about all the hate that has been heaped on those who express support for the movement.

So I told her I wouldn’t expect her to do any of the organizing, or be in a visible position, or even attend. But I could see, by the look on her face, she was still worried.

So I asked again, why would she still be worried? As she replied, I tried my best not to “counter her arguments” or suggest all the ways it would help, instead to just shut up and listen. That’s something most men, including me, should learn to do better and more often.

Her two reasons were a bit of a surprise. For one thing, she lives in constant vigilance about the threat from men. Like #YesAllWomen do. It’s a terrible burden to bear, so most women do not obsess about it. They don’t focus on it because they’d really like to escape from it, if only briefly. It’s sad when a problem is so pervasive that the victims feel the need to put it “out of mind” when they can, just to get some fucking relief. And if I organized a rally, my wife said, it would “shine a spotlight on my vulnerability.”

The other reason also surprised me. She was afraid for my safety. There’s been a lot of hate heaped on those who support the movement, so much so that I hear the woman who started the hashtag on Twitter has asked people not to use it, hoping that would reduce the stream of abuse she now faces online. The hostility is so extreme that it’s easy to believe, even easy for me to believe, that we men too might be targets for those who are so afraid of facing the truth, or so petrified at the thought of women being equal, they’ll resort to violence.

Me personally, I’d do it anyway. People have to stand up, and if that means courting danger then I wouldn’t tell anybody they should but I would say that I will. There are causes worth dying for, and this is one of them. If I were single, I would. By I’m married to the finest woman I’ve ever known, and for her sake, at her request, I’m not going to.

I’ll continue to do what I can — mostly online, I suppose. I’ll continue to listen to what my wife thinks and feels, and try to remember to shut my mouth while she’s talking (something most men, including me, should learn to do better and more often).

It’s a shame.

12 responses to “Why I will not organize a #YesAllWomen rally

  1. And as they say, “Happy wife, happy life”.

  2. The sad reason is that text based blogging is far less threatening to change than is live television. Once you step in front of camera, or become a visual, emotional martyr – only then does your message take on real power.

    Next step a YouTube channel?

  3. This is one reason I liked your prior post’s suggestion. I saw joining NOW as an opportunity to listen and a reminder to act, or as way to support the cause in demographically or financially without putting my imprint on it. I’m sure NOW and NOW’s leadership have plenty of ideas about what needs to be done and I’m happy to support their choices.

  4. Still a visible, public demonstration of male solidarity with women on this issue would be a fine thing to see.

    How about something a bit more low-key, but visible, like those wee ribbons people wear to support various causes? The teal ribbon covers “sexual assault and sexual violence awareness and support.” Or make something useful out of those silly power/balance/energy bracelets, and donate the proceeds usefully. Lots of ways to promote a good cause.

  5. You’d think we lived in some backward religious fundamentalist war-torn country with easy access to guns where women are threatened when they step out of place, and where they have to live in fear of men because they’ve all experienced something that makes them suspicious, if not outright afraid, of men.

    Aside from our sensible gun laws and less obvious, although still present, fundamentalism in politics I doubt Canada is any better.

  6. Jonathan Gilligan

    Something valuable that you are doing here is making this personal. A big piece of second-wave feminism was the idea that “the personal is political.” Only by connecting personal experiences to feminist politics (consciousness raising) could people begin to see political problems that had been rendered invisible.

    That phase focused on women seeing that their personal experiences informed their perception of their political oppression, but it can apply as well to men seeing that our personal experiences inform our active or passive participation in or assent to oppressing women.

    It is more comfortable to keep discourse on violence toward women impersonal and talk of abstract principles, but it changes things to say, “This matters to me personally, at a visceral level, and violence toward women is a much bigger problem than my pride.”

    As more men say, “Violence toward women outrages me,” and we focus more on the violence (#yesallwomen) than on our own pride (#notallmen), I think we will see a slow movement toward the kind of introspection and action that you are showing, even among those whose first response is “#notallmen, therefore #notmyproblem”. (Here, Eldridge Cleaver’s comment that “You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem” is also relevant.)

    We have seen this in the sea change in public opinion over the last few years toward equal rights for gay and lesbian people and I expect that if more of us, both men and women, speak up in public, make this personal, and express our outrage about violence against women and male complicity therein, we can change the spirit of the times.

    I share your outrage and I am thankful that you are using this blog to make your outrage public and to call on the rest of us to join you in fighting for women’s rights and liberties.

  7. Jonathan Gilligan

    I must follow up to my previous comment by noting that having Eldridge Cleaver now fills me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the ideas expressed in that quotation were relevant.

    On the other hand, I should have thought about who the speaker was: Cleaver at one point advocated rape as part of his political struggle against racism. Throughout his life, he refused to apologize or take responsibility for the rapes he committed and for advocating rape as a legitimate part of political struggle for black liberation.

    I didn’t think about this aspect of Cleaver until shortly after I submitted my earlier comment. One more example of how we men can fail to see violence toward women even when it’s lying just below the surface. I am sorry that I did not realize this context until after I submitted the comment.

  8. Another option for men would be to join (or support) Men Stopping Violence. It addresses the issue head on, including direct work with abusers to change their beliefs and behavior. The hallmarks I’ve observed in MSV are great firmness in confronting abusive behavior and demanding accountability, coupled with great compassion for the emotional wounds from which such evil behavior often springs, and a consistent modeling of what respectful behavior is, what it entails, and what it means.

    Here (with Tamino’s indulgence) is their “About” page:

    http://www.menstoppingviolence.org/about

  9. First, it’s awesome that you are pushing this.

    However, there is another reason why you shouldn’t organize a rally. You almost even say it. “something most men, including me, should learn to do better and more often”

    If you organize a rally, you are assuming a leadership role. But there are almost certainly fully qualified women’s rights advocates in your local community. You should find out who they are and ask them how you can help.

    [Response: I agree I should find out who they are and ask how I can help. I disagree that I should not assume a leadership role. Was it improper for Abraham Lincoln or John Brown to assume leadership roles in the effort to end slavery?]

  10. I came here today looking for climate change, trends and stats and found a properly mature discussion about the problem of male violence, and men being prepared to act in any way that’s appropriate to prevent it. May I congratulate you on your courage. Your hearts are definitely in the right place.

  11. In chess, someone, Alekhine or Fischer, said when you have found a good move, think some more, there may well be a better one. I applaud your reasoning and you have a good wife similar to mine. Amazing really for both of us.

  12. I agree I should find out who they are and ask how I can help. I disagree that I should not assume a leadership role. Was it improper for Abraham Lincoln or John Brown to assume leadership roles in the effort to end slavery?

    Do whatever you can, where you can, whenever you can. But don’t be surprised if it goes haywire on you.

    Long ago, I had to deal with several women complaining about the newsagent shop next to our office building in the city centre. The proprietor took some delight, apparently, in ensuring that the display of magazines categorised as “Men’s Interest” was the most prominent grouping right next to the entry and the cashier. So I asked a bloke I knew who was a really good manager and an excellent negotiator to take up the issue for us because this chap hadn’t responded reasonably at all to women’s complaints.

    He came back with a very glum expression on his face. He said it was up to me to do my fierce feminist routine to talk to this moron. When he, as a concerned man, suggested that a display of porn – soft or otherwise – was a bad idea when women and children were a major part of the customer population he was dismissed. You must be gay (and/or weak and/or unmanly and/or pussywhipped) was the sneering, scornful response.

    So I did my snooty, middle class, suit and pearls, stern schoolmarm, union organiser act. He couldn’t acknowledge face to face that he was in the wrong in any way at all. But the displays were reorganised within a week or so.

    Be ready to take the lead in any way that suits you and the organisation. Be ready also to take what comes your way as a result. Sometimes the ‘best man for the job’ is a woman.