Cathy joins us from Against the Glass:

What is it about the ability to openly make fun of boys and men?

If I were to get the same number of “joke” emails that I get about boys and men, but the subject were African-Americans, or gays, or girls, or women, or name-your-disempowered group, I’d be considered a bigoted jerk.

In my time in the Unitarian-Universalist tradition, I remember that even among enlightened liberals, a public joke about a husband or a son, usually implying they were somehow (wink-wink) abnormal or hard to live with, was considered okay. Public chuckles about socks on the floor, or lifted toilet seats, or hilarious incidents of a lack of common sense on the part of the men we supposedly love, were considered okay.

But catch Andrew Dice Clay, or some other obvious jerk, making a joke about women’s periods, or date rape, or any other number of women-hating topics, and the result is liberal-minded derision.

I am not naive. I know that men and boys are fair game because men have traditionally been the ones in charge of the power structures we’ve created. I know that, historically, minorities and women have had to struggle to obtain parity, and still do, and will for some time. However, I do wonder about the “compassion stops here” mentality that we seem to have when it comes to expressing our resentment, indirectly, through mean-spirited humor about the men and boys in our lives.

You can argue forever about whether Susan Faludi has it right. But, the point is, if you are after a world of compassion, either through Buddhism, Christianity, Secular-Humanism, or any other ethos to which you subscribe, why do we stop the compassion with respect to those that oppress us, in reality, or in our minds?

I read an interview with the Dalai Lama years ago in the New York Times Magazine. He was asked if he was angry at the Chinese, and he said he wasn’t. He said he was sad — sad for them, sad for his people who feel their oppression.

Recently, I was told that in a post here I was attacking someone, and that was not my intention. For reasons of compassion, I took the post down, just in case ANYONE could be hurt by what I said. What I was attempting to do, but apparently did not succeed in doing, was expressing how my vitriole against a particular oppressing group — in my world, any father figure will do — was based in historical emotional experience, and not in fact. I had a visceral response to someone, and wrote about how historically this was based on my reaction to my father.

What I was attempting to do was to dig down below the fearful reaction, to view it as information rather than fact, and discover something inside myself that was keeping myself from feeling compassion for this person whom I experienced as an oppressor in this particular situation.

I am clearly not anywhere near where the Dalai Lama is in this regard. But, I will continue to try to express my struggle with giving compassion to those for which I feel, natively, the least compassion. It’s not really about loving my enemies so much as living with a clear mind and taking responsibility for my reaction to my own oppression.

My first husband, many years ago (25 — gulp!) had an interesting reaction to me once that I’ve always held onto. I complained about his never putting the toilet seat down. He said, “You never put it up for me!” I remember that to this day. Oppression cuts both ways, and mean-spirited humor is not the rightful spoils of the losers of the gender wars. It’s just more ways to keep them going, and to keep from knowing each other in a deeper, more meaningful way.

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