essays

Why, as a man, I want to live in an equitable world

When Donald Trump was elected to the presidency in 2016, I wrote a blog post acknowledging that I was not really as committed to equality as I might like to think. I did this because part of my spiritual practice entails identifying with that which feels frightful to me, and also because I wanted to sense into and investigate our culture’s psychic state at that time. 

In 2020, after four years of a Trump presidency, I can confidently articulate that I want equality and why it is good for me, too. I want to expound on these reasons because I sense that there may be other people yet to make this transition, people for whom this article may constitute a moment of teaching. 

With respect to traditional binaries between men and women, it is good for me when women are paid the same as men, and when the expectation is that men will do equal work in raising children, around the house, etc. This is because, as a man, I would otherwise not explore realms of my being which are beneficial to me, realms such as my nurturing capacity as a parent or my practical side as a homemaker. Through sharing with women the work traditionally denied men, I come to more fully know myself as a human being. 

Similarly, equal pay for equal work means that I can rest assured I am judged on the value I contribute to my company, not on a characteristic of myself I had no choice in inheriting. That is, I can rest assured I am paid well because I give an essential service, not because I am a man. Payment being equal in this way, I will feel more confident about my skills. 

On the note of sexual orientation, it is good for me as a straight man when straightness is not presumed and, instead, when I like others need to declare my preferences. This is because this forces me to get intimate with myself in ways I otherwise would not need to, asking myself questions such as: What types of body am I attracted to? What does love mean to me? Why? Through these routes of inquiry, I deepen both my self-understanding and my capacity for love, opening up realms of intimacy that would be closed to me in a world where my given characteristics doubled as the norms.

Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility”

In terms of representation, it is healthy for me when people of power, such as the president and heads of major corporations, do not exclusively look like me, but rather look like a composite of all the people I have come across in my life. This is because this way, I can be assured that everyone feels equally comfortable and wanted in our world, and so my interactions with other people are authentic. When other people express praise toward me, they do so not because I look like their stereotypical image of a person of power, but rather because that praise is genuinely and specifically merited, through some positive act I have performed in this person’s life. That is, in an equal world I can trust that people seek to know me for me, not because I resemble a person to whom we customarily bestow power. 

It is healthy for me when women feel safe in their sexual interactions with men, and when they feel that their word will be taken seriously should an infraction occur. This way, I can know that I, too, am safe in my sexual interactions, proceeding by agreed-upon societal standards and with general protocols of consent. After a sexual interaction, I will never or rarely wonder whether I took advantage of the person, because those matters will have been out in the open and negotiated according to sociological norms; this way, I can be assured that I and another person had sex because between us there was real love. 

I could go on, but my point in this brief article is to enumerate the psychological reasons why, even as a straight, white man, it is a positive thing for me, too, to live in an equal world, and why I should campaign for equality across all metrics for the rest of my life. With every apparent loss in “freedom” that comes with a shift toward equality, with every stripping away of the historic oppression of people of marginalized identities, I gain an opportunity to know and embrace myself more deeply, even if it comes in a way that is unfamiliar to me. Through this unfamiliarity, my life again becomes exciting, an adventure; I no longer have to “be a man” in a world where this identity is a trope, a cliche; now I can be a human being in a world where that identity is a site of discovery, something we are all of us working out and inventing together. Life is play, but play is only possible when people feel safe and there are equitable rules. 

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