Why men are so important to the #MissRep conversation, and a way to get more of them involved.
by Imran Siddiquee
A few weeks ago, I had the experience of being mistaken for a woman online.
I had just written this piece on comedian Daniel Tosh and his rape “joke,” and was thus expecting some criticism (having seen so many defend Tosh already). And as a man working at MissRepresentation.org, I’ve also come to expect the honest mistake of folks assuming I’m a woman based on my name before they see or hear me. What I wasn’t entirely aware of, though, was how this incorrect gender assumption would so intensely change a few people’s reactions to my blog online.
In private comments, Facebook messages and emails, people called me demeaning gendered names and made threats of sexual violence against me. These individuals really seemed to hate me because I was presumably a woman writing about how unfunny rape jokes are. While reading their angry words, I immediately thought of all the female bloggers who receive this kind of hate (and far more of it) with regularity. I thought about how brave it is for them to speak openly on subjects that they know will inevitably lead to such frightening reactions.
It also reminded me just how much we need men to join this conversation – and to do so in healthy and constructive ways, instead of as anonymous commentators on blogs and YouTube videos. The majority of the comments on this blog are from women, and thus it can often feel like the only men who are paying attention to us are those few who take the time to write messages about how much they hate women. Yet, I know that this is not representative of all men. I know that there are many out there who are actively a part of this campaign to free us all from limiting gender stereotypes (and they do occasionally write us as well!).
(Aside: I read this week that #AkinGate has led to renewed attention focused on “women’s issues” in the mainstream. Which is awesome, but isn’t it strange that a man’s unfounded views on rape are more connected, in the mind of the media, to “women’s issues” than “men’s issues”? It seems like the central “issue” here is with men who sexually assault women, and other men who don’t seem to know what that means.)
Instead of waiting for more men to take a stand, we’re going to have to be proactive in bringing the message to them.
If more men were aware of the realities of some of these issues – especially that of how limiting representations in the media impact young girls – more would join us in shifting culture towards something better for everyone.
This month, through SocialTeeth.org, we have the opportunity to raise money to get our “Cause + Effect” PSA in front of those male audiences – whether through television like ESPN or major web publications like GQ. The short video that was nominated details how the 10+ hours of media that our teenage girls are consuming everyday – much of which consistently objectifies and diminishes women – is impacting their self-esteem and ability to see themselves as leaders. Without more positive role models for girls, we are left with guys named Todd Akin holding positions of power.
Getting this message in front of male audiences is an exciting chance to spark a broader conversation, and an opportunity to reach those men out there who might be willing to become vocal supporters of our cause. If we’re ever going to truly change things, we need everyone’s help.
If you’re interested, check it out and help us get it on the air!
Written by Imran Siddiquee at MissRepresentation.org. Follow him on Twitter @imransiddiquee