As a reader of this blog, you might be surprised to know that more than 50% of those who reach out to me with either thanks or to share their own tragic story are men. Maybe you're not surprised. I don't know. But I sure was at first. Not because I thought men struggled with sobriety any less than women did or needed something like this any less, either. More because I had a pretty stereotyped idea of men as a species, and as a feminist who saw first hand the damage men do, I kind of felt like, "ummm, you're on your own dudes. I'm just here for the girls," and I was certain that everything about my site screamed that sentiment. I was never expecting the men to show up.
My parents split when I was 14 years-old, and my mom raised me from that point on. She was both my mom and my dad, so she had to do the "dad" things. I remember sitting with her in a car dealership at age 17, and the salesman treating us like we were a joke. I'd never seen my mom so upset, and I'll never forget that moment for as long as I live. She expressed a sentiment I can only describe as man-hate, and I felt it too. I hated that man in that sales office for treating us the way he did and for making my mom hurt, and from that point on, I hated men in a way that burned, and dismissed men as a whole.
This hate and dismissiveness only deepened as I moved through my life and was called a psychotic bitch by ex-boyfriends, as I was objectified to my face and behind my back, as I was sexually violated while drunk, as I was catcalled. Or, more simply put, as I was a woman living in 21st century America.
"Just like a man," I would say with a wave of my hand as if this explained everything neatly. That was my thing, can sometimes still be my thing if I'm feeling especially disempowered. "Just like a fucked-up bro-douche motherfucking pussy-ass entitled white man. FUCK THEM." (<--- this is like, filtered.).
So, this was inconvenient for me. Because I also loved men and I loved masculinity - as much as I loved women and femininity. And also, because I loved people. A lot. And also because I knew really, really good dudes. (<--- which is also what we do, right? "He's one of the 'good ones.'")
Anyway, let's just say it's been hard to fiercely love and hate something in equal parts. It's hard to envy and loathe something in equal parts. It's also really, really, really hard to be hurt by a man, and dismiss him as a fucked-up pussy who can't man up, because you realize that you are doing to him what you are asking him to not do to your gender. You are doing to him the exact thing that he is doing to you and you are doing it because he's doing it to you. You realize you are part of the problem. You realize that you are not a feminist. You realize that you are just another angry person that is stuck in a vicious cycle.
When I started Hip Sobriety, I wanted - and desperately so - to create this just for women. And it would have been so much easier to do that and pretend that men were something outside of the equation.
Except for this one thing: men kept showing up on my electronic doorstep. And for the most part, they were the men who looked just like the ones who had called me a psycho, and the ones who grabbed my breast at a work happy hour, and the ones who ran away, and the ones who lied. They looked like the motherfuckers, or the ones I would at least assume were the motherfuckers.
But they weren't. They weren't any different than any of the women in my inbox. Because they were in pain and hurting and they needed help. You can't imagine what it's like to get a letter from a man you would see on the street and assume the worst about and know that underneath that exterior is a human in pain with nowhere to turn.
Somewhere along the way, I realized this very big truth: if we want to heal women, we have to heal men. If we want to empower women, it can not be at the cost of men's. If we are to ever heal as a species, it will be when we recognize and act from one Universal truth: we belong to each other. We will never return to wholeness unless we heal the whole, and we can never truly rise unless we all do together.
And so for me, it's as simple as this: eIther I'm here for all, or I'm here for none.
This doesn't mean my relationships with men are easier. My dad and I don't talk really and dating still feels impossible. This means that at least I have a north star in my compass and that north star is love. And love just happens to be gender-blind.
I read the Washington Post yesterday and listened to the now famed conversation between Billy Bush and Donald Trump, and of course, as a woman, I was horrified. My vagina actually hurt as I envisioned a man walking up to me with the belief that he was somehow entitled to grab me by it because he had money and fame - our society's misguided notion of what real power is. And then my heart just hurt, for the women, and also, for the men, and because I knew that this wouldn't do anything to affect the root of the problem. I knew the whole thing would get lost in a battle of Hillary and Trump memes and come back down to men vs. women. And it did.
We did what we always do: we blame one person for the problems of the world, and then carry on in a society that permits such behavior. As if we are just stuck with it, as if things just are the way things are, as if we aren't the problem ourselves. Because that's so fucking easy to do. Say something on Facebook about Trump that makes us feel good for a minute, believing we have done all we can, and carry on in our lives as if the world isn't falling apart in front of us.
The thing is, we have a choice. We can either keep playing the blame game and concede to living a life within a structure that upholds the things that are killing us, because then we don't have to personally sacrifice a thing. Or we can do the hard work and actually change.
It's up to us.
Yes, I'm going to vote, and I'm voting for the lesser of two evils (which I'll leave to you to decipher). But that's the least interesting thing about what I'm going to do, and the least effective thing I'm going to do.
I'm going to educate myself as much as I can on whatever the fuck the "imperialist white-supremacist patriarchy" is and how I can be part of the peaceful dismantling of it. I'm going to march for civil rights and speak for women's rights and fight for the rights of those of those who have no voice. But more than anything, I'm going to do the very hard work of loving people like Donald Trump while I condemn his actions and words - because guess what? I love you, no matter what you've done, too. Because we all deserve that kind of love. And I'm going to remember that love, PERIOD, is the only way out of any of this.
I'm also going to remember that this isn't even just about sexism or patriarchy. It's about everything. We can't split our society's ills up into distinct and separate parts and pretend one thing is independent of the other. Racism has as much to do with this as sexism does as the War on Drugs does. Addiction, disenfranchisement, rape-culture, the prison-industrial-complex, homelessness, the environment - we're dying you guys. All around us, there is evidence we are dying. And Hilary isn't going to fix it, and Trump won't really make it that much worse than it already is.
Presidents don't lead countries. We do, and we do it in the very real context of our own lives.
This is good news.