I’ve written before about how I’m not really a naturally cynical person. I don’t like ‘going low.’ I definitely CAN, and from what I’ve heard, I’m pretty good at it, but that doesn’t make it something I’m particularly proud of, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I LIKE being cynical or hateful or making someone feel stupid or small. I don’t like that. I much prefer to build people up.
And I believe in positive reinforcement. I believe that it definitely works. I’ve seen it work. It works on dogs and other animals being trained. It works on children learning new things. And it works in human relationships, even between and among adults, from the personal to the global scale. I’m not saying negative consequences don’t have their place (hoo boy, I could really be cynical and snarky and downright mean talking about that if I got going). But positive reinforcement, when subjects are at ALL receptive, works much better. Its message sticks longer with (at least to me) less effort.
To me, it’s always been a WHOLE lot easier, and feels a whole lot better on the inside, to promote what I love instead of bashing what I hate. I will occasionally, like most other fallible humans, fall into a negative space where bashing what I hate in a cathartic rant feels necessary, but it never actually feels GOOD. I’d much rather be spreading the love around. I’m an unrepentant sap that way. And people who have known me for a long time know this about me. I’m not easy to know, but people in my life know I’m a generally positive person that likes to look on the bright side and talk about good stuff versus constant bitching and moaning about things that aren’t right. (Again…I know there are times one is called to point out wrongness…and I will answer that calling…it’s just not my favorite). I’d rather focus on the good stuff. So some of those people who see me as mostly quietly agreeable and kind are sometimes (unpleasantly) surprised when they find out I’m a feminist. Most of these people are NOT feminists, and they, like many people of every persuasion and perspective, assumed I was ‘like them.’ (I’ve found that many people make that leap…that if a person is quiet, they just assign the quiet person ‘like’ characteristics if they like the quiet person…and they assign the quiet person unfavorable traits if they don’t like the quiet person). These folks tend to equate ‘feminist’ with ‘man-hater.’ And I am not a man-hater. Not even close. I think men are capable of more than what patriarchy dumbs them down to be…base animals who lack self control and need women to take care of their basic emotional (and sometimes even survival) needs without offering reciprocity, and when they shrug off those patriarchal expectations, they’ll often have their masculinity questioned. That’s never made sense to me. ‘Wait? YOU do the cooking? Who’s the wife in that relationship?!’ So…a guy should STARVE if there’s no woman around to make him a sandwich and this makes him MORE of a man? ???? (I’m sincerely baffled by this…for real.)
I think men are more. I think very highly of men, actually. I know a lot of good men personally. I mean…read the blog posts. I’m so in love with J (who is a man…he’s even a classically masculine man) it’s almost universally considered gross. Haha!
I love GOOD men. That adjective is important (that’s why it’s in all caps). Yeah…I’m not a huge fan of men who abuse or harass or discriminate against women (or other men for that matter), or turn the other way when they know women are being abused or harassed or discriminated against (or other men for that matter)…because those aren’t good men. At best, they’re cowards, or extremely lacking in self-reflection or the consideration of other people in general, which are often forgivable things if some growth happens. Growth takes work though, and there are a depressing number of men who aren’t interested in growing. And sometimes? They’re just garden variety entitled boneheads or jerks. Or they ARE the predators. I’m not here to tear down men though, because I know some pretty amazing, bad ass men. I married an amazing, bad ass man. So I’m here to promote what I love….namely…amazing, bad ass men.
I love these songs. Yes. They are love songs. They are all kind of written off as goofy pop tripe, and J gets embarrassed and shakes his head at me when I am feeling extra grateful for him and send him these YouTube links (yeah…I really do that…he loves me anyway…see? He’s so bad ass…anyway…). But they ARE real, sincere (at least I think so) love songs. They are women appreciating the good man in their life. And what makes a good man isn’t necessarily money or fame or physical strength or a bunch of over the top grand gestures or whatever mass media and patriarchy tell men they need to get a woman to go out with them, or to satisfy a woman. A good man is a man who cares and shows it…a man who’s invested in his relationships with other people, particularly his partner. Maybe if we talk these guys up more, more of them will show up. Positive reinforcement tends to work that way. If you praise and reward a behavior, it shows up more.
Feminists don’t hate men. We love good men. And when we come across one, we’ll sing a goofy (but genuinely meant) pop song about him. We’ll write a bunch of fictional love stories based on him.
Christina Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man (readers might recognize this one from Building: A Love Story…woman has some PIPES…)
maybe the only rap song in the love song list (YES…it’s a love song), Whatta Man by Salt n Pepa featuring En Vogue…
…and…from the classic 1980’s movie Footloose (man, did I have a crush on Kevin Bacon in this movie…) Deniece Williams’ Let’s Hear it For the Boy
I know maybe these are considered silly novelty songs, but I don’t think they should be. Good men shouldn’t be a comic novelty act. And I see a lot of men who are into women seeking to know what women want and wanting to understand us. There’s a way to do that. Listen to women when they talk about men they like and admire and respect. We write songs and novels about good men. Maybe we should do more of it. Maybe we should promote more of what we love…good men.