I have always been a sensitive guy. When I was little, I cried about everything. I still do. Growing up, I thought it was a weakness. I now realize how much of a blessing it is, and at times, like anything, it can also be a curse. It has taken me a while, but I have come to accept who I am, regardless of what others think.
I’m also a feminist. This is something I had a longing to be for many years, but I thought it was not okay. I thought if I declared being an ally to other women and feminists, I was somehow abandoning my fellow men. I’ve come to realize that that is simply untrue, and that I too have been just as guilty as others of being sexist and misogynistic. I will say that I have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. Cue the uncomfortability of having to admit how often I am wrong.
Listening to my wife weep at 1:30 a.m. on election night was both painful and enlightening. She was grieving not just for her, but for all women. Guess what? I also cried. The next day I cried 15-20 times. I cried on the phone with my sisters and mom. I texted and called friends and told them how much I loved them, just to get myself out of bed. I met my friend Jessica with a hug at a coffee shop and collapsed into her arms. I was a mess. It was so painful to see that women had come such a long way, and in the blink of one night, be devastated.
Until Thursday night, I was convinced I was crying for all the women who have traveled this painful and empowering journey that I will never fully comprehend. That night, I got off the Graham Avenue L train stop on my way home from work, and had a thought in my head mere seconds before I saw a billboard on a bus stop. It was the same thought that the billboard expressed. “I’m sorry. -Men.”
I realized in that moment I haven’t been crying just for women. I’ve been crying for every man who believes women will never amount to what men have amounted to or more. For every man who still thinks his job is to take care of or dominate a woman. I’ve been crying for the men who are afraid to empower their daughters and the other women around them. For the men who are afraid to really listen to the women in their lives. I’ve been crying for the men who are insecure and afraid of being second to a woman. For the men who think and have been taught that men crying is weak. I’ve been crying for men who have raped, abused, and killed other women. I’ve been crying for the boy I was in first grade, when I hit a girl on the top of her head with a closed fist because she didn’t like me back. For the teenager I was, whose goal was to make out with as many women as possible to rack up points. I’ve been crying for the insecure young adult I was, who lost his virginity late in life, and lied about it just to look cool with the other guys. I’ve been crying for all the times I’ve shared my own version of ‘locker room’ talk with other guys. I’ve been crying for the man who has come a long way, but still interrupts his wife to assert his point of view, still gets angry and has to have the last word, still doesn’t listen, still tells her what she’s thinking. I’ve been crying for all of us men: sensitive or not, feminists or not, strong or not.
Every time I have cried in the last 12 days I am saying, “I’m sorry. we have failed.” And we have. We have failed women and we have failed ourselves. I’m crying because there are still so many of us who don’t get it, and don’t want to get it. What happened on election night is painful evidence of the giant step forward we could have taken, were we better informed, and less afraid. We failed you. And no matter how far I have come, I have a long way to go. And no matter how open and equal I am able to make myself to the women and girls in my life today, and embrace them and empower them, I have a duty to own up to the fact that I am a man, and I am just as responsible as the next man. I am sorry. I know It’s not enough. You deserve so much more than what we have given you.