“Good Guys” Are Overrated

Jeremiah Pennebaker
December 07, 2017

“ – and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates, The First White President

So, dudes are creeps. I feel like I should probably just stop the presses right there. That statement and the hashtag, #MenAreTrash, seem pretty self-explanatory. Especially in a time when countless women are reliving some of their darkest and most painful moments out loud. There is an ongoing exposition of men ranging from anonymous individual cases, to some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the media. Yet, when women tweet or exclaim that #MenAreTrash they are typically hounded by #NotAllMen, a cohort of men who believe themselves to be the “good guys.” Statements like #MenAreTrash aren’t as easily digested in this society as ones like, “She’s a liar,” “Why was she dressed like that?” or “She’s just trying to get some attention.” Statements like those, while problematic and misogynistic, are simply accepted at face value as people go about their day.

I think that I’m a good guy, or at least that’s what I’ve been told and what I’d like to believe. That’s what my friends say after they finish listing out the varying degrees of trashiness of the men in their lives, the men that they encounter on the streets, the men they know from work, the guy on their social media who just won’t stop harassing them, the old boyfriend who won’t stop texting them, the guy from high school who shared pictures of them and so on. We live in a society where women have to be afraid of men, and where guys aren’t held accountable for their treatment of women outside of the typical “what if that was your sister?” retort. This all leads me to question how good of a guy I am.

Being a Black man in America is constantly at the forefront of my mind. I think about it when I’m driving around, when I walk into stores, and whenever I am in public spaces. While I completely recognize the fragility of my safety and my body when I show up somewhere as a Black man, I cannot fathom the things that women are simply expected to live with. After hearing and reading the multitude of stories that have come out in the past month on sexual harassment and sexual assault, it makes me wonder how much of a good guy I am.  If I am a “good guy” what have I done to stem the violence and abuse that so many women experience? Do I deserve a pat on the back for simply not assaulting every woman I pass by on a daily basis? Should I get a thumbs up for not catcalling the girl on the metro? Do I get a high five for not lashing out when I get “friendzoned” by a woman with free will? Am I entitled to a round of applause for simply treating women like people?

A good friend of mine always says, “You shouldn’t give credit to a fish for swimming.” While I recognize that all this #MenAreTrash talk isn’t necessarily about me, it really is. How many times have I allowed my brother to make an offhand, misogynist comment? How many times have I not stepped in when my friend was being too aggressive with his girlfriend? How many times have I just blindly participated in a culture of sexism and hate?

I cringe as I recall the moments I could’ve and should’ve stepped in, the times I myself have been trash, and all the times that I didn’t even know that I was being trash. The #NotAllMen and #GoodGuy movement loses all credibility when it is seemingly #AllWomen who have had to deal with varying levels of assault and abuse. I would hope that one day my son or I won’t have to get pats on the back for being “good guys,” but it will simply be the expectation.

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About maryc

Mary is a Communications Associate at NETWORK where she assists with messaging, social media and content creation to connect others to the mission of NETWORK and to keep them informed on current policy issues. She recently graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA where she double majored in French and Religious Studies. Mary’s studies, her involvement with the faith-based social justice group Pax Christi and her volunteer experiences have inspired her to advocate for marginalized communities. Where she finds inspiration for work: • Her faith • One-on-one conversations with those directly affected by injustices • Her role models in the faith and nonprofit community What she loves outside of NETWORK: • Running / spending time outside • Reading, especially fiction novels • Hanging out with close friends and family Originally from: Westford, Massachusetts Follow her on Twitter: @mcunningham36