All feminists should be deeply concerned with men’s self-care. Here is one of dozens of stories that helps me explain why.
Just the other day I was walking from the parking lot to my office building in Downtown Los Angeles. After avoiding a pile of human feces (we are five blocks from Skid Row) one of the two dogs I had with me decided to take a poop himself. As I reached for a poop bag I was mortified to realize they had fallen out in the car.
Seeing as I was five feet from my office I decided that I’d drop the dogs off before returning to the car to retrieve the poop bags. Then I’d clean up my contribution to the sidewalk. No big deal.
Before I could take two steps I heard a voice scream, “No! Where are you going? Clean that up right now!”
I turned around to see a white man on a cell phone violently waving his hand at me. He was the owner of the building next door to mine.
At first I was taken aback. I could feel the heat rise in my body as my Fight/Flight system kicked in. I was about to apologize, cower, and politely try to explain the situation. (Honestly, I think I briefly considered picking up the poop in my bare hands).
But instead, I snapped. With a dog leash in either hand I stormed up to the man, got two feet from his face and yelled back, “No! NOOO! You will not talk to me like that!”
He tried to yell back and intimidate me. I somehow grew bigger and exclaimed louder, “NO! YOU back down! I am out of poop bags! I was on my way to get something to pick it up with! You DO NOT got to yell at me like that! You DO NOT get to scare me like that! BACK DOWN!”
To my amazement, the man did back down. He hung up his phone. And he started to cry.
He bashfully apologized, “I’m so sorry. My wife would be so embarrassed if she knew I just yelled at a woman like that.”
To which I said, “Yeah, that’s messed up.”
He tried to explain that he was frustrated by the homeless population. If it wasn’t human dung on the sidewalk it was people shooting up in the alley behind him. I tried to be empathetic. But instead I was honest. I offered, “Look, I get it. But we decided that we wanted to open our businesses here. This is part of what gentrification and transition looks like. And as business people we should be working harder with the community to navigate these situations with compassion. Because the truth is we are the ones invading their turf.” He nodded his head.
Honestly, I was exhausted. I wanted to end the conversation there and go on with my day. But the reason I was so tired was because I had been up until 2 am the night before talking with a friend. This friend confessed to me that his parents had beat him for years as a child. At the age of 30, I was the first person he had ever told. I stayed up for a good chunk of the night holding him as we both cried and built him a game plan for how to find therapists and other healing resources.
So instead of walking away from this man in the middle of a Downtown LA sidewalk, I said this instead. “Look man, I know that women are angry right now. And we have good reason to be. We also aren’t creating space to listen to the feelings of men. I know that it has to feel really confusing to be a man right now. And I empathize with that. It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean me any harm. You’re allowed to be frustrated. Just don’t yell at a woman like that again. It’s scarier for us than it is for you.”
He thanked me and shook my hand. I walked away and into my office. I dropped off my stuff and returned to pick up the doggie doo like I had promised. But when I got there someone had already cleaned it up for me.
About 10 minutes later the man found me downstairs in my building ordering a coffee. He was with a friend. When he caught sight of me he exclaimed to his friend, “That’s the woman I was telling you about.”
Then he turned to me and said, “I was just telling him how fearless you were. I called my wife and cried for 5 minutes after you left, I felt so bad. And it was so cool that you said that you empathize with what men were going through. That really meant a lot. Thank you.”
I was astonished.
I could give dozens of examples just like this. Whether it’s the men I coach, the men I work with, the men I call friends and family, the men that I have dated, or the men that I randomly encounter on the street, I’m never not taken aback by how little permission they have to be human beings with feelings.
As an intersectional feminist and a white woman, I recognize and own that men and white people (like me) are disproportionate contributors to and beneficiaries of the long list of social traumas and injustices currently (and historically) plaguing our society. It’s easy to make the argument that women, and particularly women of color, deserve a disproportionate amount of our empathy, attention, and healing resources. And in many ways, I agree with that sentiment.
But as a self-care coach and a human being, I can’t help but see that an eye-for-an-eye makes the whole world blind. Men’s healing is as crucial to gender and racial equality as women’s. In my opinion, creating safe spaces for men to do the inner work and self-care necessary to accomplish that has to be a core tenet of sustainable, effective, intersectional feminism.
So to all the women out there, please love on your men and boys a little harder today. They need it as much as we do.
To the 20% of my audience that are men, I see you and I’m here for you. My self-care check-ins are free and they aren’t just for women (don’t let my affinity for pink frighten you). If you need someone to talk to and some ideas for how to do the work, kick-start your self-care, and dismantle toxic masculinity, please grab a time to talk. Just click here.
And to anyone on this list who identifies as gender neutral or non-binary, I see you too. And your self-care matters heaps to me. Please feel free to grab a time to chat if you need some support.