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estelle tang: an open letter to all my male friends

May 31, 2014

A pretty moving and timely open letter from Estelle Tang via the Guardian:

An open letter to all my male friends

For me, part of growing up, maturing, or whatever you want to call it, is becoming more aware of, and sensitive to, these kinds of realities, seeing that things like patriarchy, racism, sexism, etc. exist and permeate our culture and society in negative and harmful ways, realizing that even the most seemingly innocuous things we do or say can and do carry the seeds of patriarchy, racism, sexism, etc. without us ever knowing it because it’s hard to see the big picture (i.e., history; the multitude of psychology and cultural mechanisms that are at play; the types of discrimination and violence that still exist, even if only in verbal form; etc.).

Reading something like this, it’s easy to say, “Well, that’s not me. I’d never do that.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t do or say things that, unconsciously on our part, help to propagate these kinds of attitudes. And even when we are aware of it, it can be hard to admit. I know that I certainly don’t like admitting to myself that I’ve done and said things that were less than enlightened, that I’ve said racist and sexist shit even though I didn’t see it that way at the time.

And even if we don’t think and act in this way, do we consistently challenge it when we come into contact with others who do? Sometimes, perhaps. But maybe sometimes we’re afraid to confront the person. Maybe we think we’re too busy or think it’s none of our business. Maybe sometimes we think it’s funny. Whatever the case, by not challenging it when we know it for what it is, we give it space to grow. Our non-action helps to preserve an environment that allows this to continue to happen. Reading this, the most important message I get is, “Please help me to create an environment that makes it unacceptable because I can’t do it alone.”

I think her letter is well worth reading, and her advice well worth following.

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