Barack and Michelle Obama (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Because I’m the type of guy who is prone to document a personal ah-ha moment in a blog post, I appreciated what Damon wrote here the other day on inherently not trusting women; specifically, with their feelings. He wrote:
But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.
If she approaches me pissed about something, my first reaction is “What’s wrong?”
My typical second reaction? Before she even gets the opportunity to tell me what’s wrong? “She’s probably overreacting.”
My typical third reaction? After she expresses what’s wrong? “Ok. I hear what you’re saying, and I’ll help. But whatever you’re upset about probably really isn’t that serious.”
Everything he said made sense, and yet very little of it applied to me, because I actually have never had an issue trusting women in this specific way.
None of this to say I’m a good man, and Damon’s not. I would like to think we’re both good men who just so happen to have different perspectives on this subject, like many men. I’m sure some guys read what Damon wrote and nodded in agreement, but this post is about guys like me who read it and said, “Wait, what? I’ve always trusted women and their feelings.”
I don’t know if men like me, the kind who trusts a woman instinctively, are an anomaly, but I know I’ve been made to feel like one; mostly by other men. Anytime I am in a back and-forth with guys about a gender-specific issue and I take up for women, it’s usually a man who likes to remind me that women are crazy. They like to remind me that women can lie. They like to remind me that women aren’t perfect, as though I’ve never met these women in my own life. Eventually, these men aim for a very specific thing: The masculinity of the defender, as if to say, a man who believes a woman is less of one. And yet, what those guys don’t realize is that I am a man who believes women because I am very fully, 100 percent, a man.
As Damon pointed out, many men have been programmed to think that women be tripping. But the way I was raised, it was men who I saw as being crazy, and it was men I almost did not trust. The people I cared about the most were women and therefore, I was always fearful that a man would take them away from me or a man would hurt them, physically or emotionally. Sure I understood women can be mean and hateful towards other women, but I never feared that a woman would hurt the women in my life.
In high school, my mother, newly single, was dating for the first time in over a decade. I let her go because mama gotta have a life too, right? But I would tell her to call me, to check in with me, and all those things, like I was the parent, and she was the child. I did this not because I didn’t trust her, but because I didn’t trust the man, this included the man who is my step-dad.
Looking back on the year in issues has not helped my trust with men. When catcalling became a topic in the news cycle, many men said women were making too big of a fuss about it, and wanted to point out how many times men were just saying hello in the PSA video that went viral. (Nevermind that the example is never the whole experience, it’s only the experience.) That video, as problematic as it was in how it portrayed men of color, made me think of how many years I’ve been one of those guys who was just saying hello. In the context of the video, I definitely could see how women don’t even want me saying hello to them. Then, I talked to talk to my woman and my mother, two women who live on two opposite sides of the United States. They said they both experience catcalling so often, it’s almost white noise to them, and they also said how the problem with “hello” is that it can often times escalate into something more unwanted. I chose to trust that they weren’t tripping. If anything, seeing how many men on social media were just plain deaf to women who spoke out against catcalling reinforced what I already knew: A lot of men think it’s their right to talk to any woman.
When the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations blew up in the news, once again, a conversation with a guy I know reminded me that some men, sometimes, really ain’t shit. In a casual conversation we were having about Cosby, he was trying to poke holes in the allegations. When I challenged him on the grounds that if over 15 people say the exact same thing about us, it’s probably true, his retort was so dumb it was smart. “Think about it,” he said. “Cosby has probably slept with hundreds of women, so the number of women who are coming forward doesn’t mean they’re credible when scaled to how many women he’s slept with.” I thought about it after he said it, and decided him and I couldn’t talk about it anymore, so I changed the subject.
On a more personal level, a few weeks ago, my woman was having issues at work with a fellow employee, a guy. It wasn’t anything outlandish like sexual harassment, just a lot of tension and micro-aggressive disrespect of her authority because she was his boss. I would listen to her, and listen to her side of things because it was the only side I had access to. Now, of course, I don’t know exactly what kind of boss my woman is. Maybe she’s the ice queen among her coworkers, but what I chose to believe is that the guy who was giving her so many problems had an issue with authority specifically coming from a woman. I know a lot of men like this, and I know I, at some points in my career, have also been one of them.
When my woman tells me someone is tripping, I don’t ask her or wonder what she did to cause it. The thought doesn’t even occur to me. I’m on her side full stop, until an undeniable reason not to appears right in my face. The way I see it, the alternative – not trusting a woman’s feelings – is what hinders me from lacking empathy, and I don’t ever want to be that guy.
The fact is, women have given me very little reason not to trust them. Meanwhile, because I’m a guy myself, and have been that guy in so many ways, I know better than to trust men instinctively, even myself at times because God is still working on me after all. Also, to be clear, I trust all the men in my life, I wouldn’t be friends with them if I didn’t, but I also fancy those guys in my life as being exceptional men. Men like Damon personify this exceptionalism, but I know while not all men disrespect women, I know many men aren’t exceptional and even if they want to be, it may take some time for them to become so.
At the end of the post, Damon asked somewhat rhetorically, how men like him, who aren’t hardwired to trust a woman’s feelings can be more trustful of women and what they say. I don’t have the answer, but here’s how I am able to take my woman’s side more often than not: I think of the man I used to be, and the many men I know who treat women differently, and sometimes unfairly. When I consider that, trusting my woman is quite easy.