Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Complicity: Yes, it Actually is “All Men” & Our First Step Should Be Admitting That

Often when I’ve stumbled into a discussion about rape-culture, whether it be a general discussion or on a more specific sub-issue within that (including things such as: male entitlement, objectification of women, degrading of women, sexual harassment, general sexism, etc.), I’ve often caught myself having a recoil moment.

That moment when I’d go from feeling like a cheerleader to feeling like I was the chief defendant?

It happened every time I heard the term, “all men.”

As soon as that term came out, I’d find myself defensive and almost angry. As a Christian, I think it’s part of the human condition to ignore the ways we may have contributed to making the world more broken, instead of less. I also think that it feels *really* good to say, “I thank you Lord that I am not like other men…” (Luke 18:11)

That fact that I caught myself continually feeling defensive when people talked about “men” in a broad, general way, led me to realize I had to do some real soul-searching as to why that was happening. Thankfully, through an extended period of reflection, getting honest with myself, and through some difficult conversations with female friends where I managed to set aside my defensive posture long enough to learn something, I had a paradigm shift– one that I hope all the men out there who follow me will have too.

Here’s the deal guys: While it’s true that not all of us share the same degree of being guilty, being less guilty than someone else is not the same thing as being innocent.

Many of us already understand this concept when it comes to white supremacy. For example, just because I don’t belong to the KKK doesn’t mean that I have no share of guilt in upholding a culture of white supremacy. Just because my children are people of color doesn’t give me a free pass for direct or passive complicity in racism.

The same holds true when it comes to rape culture: Just because I haven’t raped someone doesn’t mean I’m innocent of being complicit and contributing to a culture of sexism that oppresses, objectifies, and harms women in an exhaustive list of ways.

Being less guilty than someone else is not the same thing as being innocent.

Through my process, I was able to get to a point where I saw the “all men” comments in a way where I could finally understand them, and accept that yes– this rightly included me, too. And the reason why it really is “all men” is this:

We all live within, and have been influenced by, a culture that has historically been and continues to be oppressive and harmful to women. We have all been influenced by this culture to one degree or anotherWe’ve all had certain harmful beliefs, sexist attitudes, or inappropriate behaviors normalized for us, to one degree or another. And yes, we have all expressed some of these attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors, to one degree or another.

Just because some men have been influenced more, does not mean the rest haven’t been at all. When we’re talking about a culture, no one is left untouched.

None of us are innocent– no matter how badly we wish we were.

As I follow the #MeToo campaign where women share their personal experiences from this harmful culture, I’m also seeing progressive men give expressions of solidarity and support. Some of these have been sincere and beautiful, and have more importantly included an acknowledgement that yes, they too have contributed to those hurts.

But many of these expressions of support and solidarity are premature, in my view. You see, long before we become cheerleaders I think we need to spend some time acknowledging and accepting that, yes– it really is all men. It has been all of us who have created and sustained a culture that led to the #MeToo campaign, and it is all of us– not just those people who we think have a more egregious degree of guilt– who have something to say in the #ImSorry response.

I am deeply skeptical of any of my fellow progressive males out there who post these expressions of solidarity, but who have yet to have the humility to publicly admit personal complicity in the problem. It’s only once we acknowledge this that we are able to begin a journey of learning, growing, stretching, changing, and becoming an agent of change.

As I look back at the man I was 20 years ago, I grieve over the deeply sexist attitudes I expressed and for the harmful fundamentalist view of women I perpetuated in my own heart, and in the heart of others. I grieve over the sexist jokes I told as if they were harmless, and the times I laughed along with the crowd. I feel sick to my stomach as I remember inappropriate comments I’ve made, realizing that just thinking them in my heart was bad enough– and that actually expressing it out loud was even worse. As much as I’d like to say the gray-haired me is a different person than the man I was 20 years ago, I know that “all men” still includes me, today.

While I have changed and grown as a person, I’m still deeply aware of my complicity– especially when it intersects with my tendency to avoid personal conflict.

I grieve over the time a creepy older guy in the checkout aisle was looking a younger woman up and down inappropriately, and that she had to forcefully tell him to leave her alone when he then tried to engage her. I was proud of her, but ashamed of me– I should have said something first, but I didn’t because I was uncomfortable. My lack of action made me complicit, and I’m so sorry that she probably went home rightly believing that I condoned his behavior.

I grieve over the time I had to confront a peer for using their position of power and public influence to hit on a woman, but that I felt so much hesitancy in my own heart as I did it, because I was worried that holding him accountable was going to come at a personal cost to me. My fear and hesitation reminded me that being complicit is still the easy choice, but that it shouldn’t be. It’s a choice I’ve made many times in my life, but it’s not one I want to make anymore.

Yes, “all men” includes me. And for the ways I have contributed directly or collectively to the harm of women, I am sorry. But what I’m more sorrowful about is this: I have no doubt that I’ll do it again. These attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that were engrained in us run deep, and are not washed away overnight. I don’t think for one minute that I have arrived on solid ground. So for me personally, what’s more important than saying I’m sorry is saying this: When I am complicit, I am willing to be held accountable.

Accepting that “all men” includes me, and that “all men” includes you, is the only first step I can think of if we truly want to change culture. Until we acknowledge that we have all been influenced by this culture, and until we can acknowledge that we have all participated and continue to participate in this culture (with varying degrees of guilt), we will simply continue passing this harmful culture to the next generation.

They say the best “I’m sorry” is not doing it anymore.

But to be honest?

I just don’t see how we’d be able to commit to not doing it anymore, until we admit that we’re all somehow complicit in actually doing it.

 

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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  • Sir, one other observation…

    We all live within, and have been influenced by, a culture that has historically been and continues to be oppressive and harmful to women. We have all been influenced by this culture to one degree or another. We’ve all had certain harmful beliefs, sexist attitudes, or inappropriate behaviors normalized for us, to one degree or another. And yes, we have all expressed some of these attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors, to one degree or another.

    Your statement above, if true, implicates all people, not simply all men. The sins you confess yourself (sexist jokes, hesitancy in confronting sexism) are sins that have been committed by women. As well as men.

    If so, why limit your accusation of complicity to only half of the guilty parties?

  • There is a sensible point to be made that those who do not challenge this culture, who go along with it and say nothing are complicit in it. It is also true that men in particular are in a position of privilege, that it is not men who principally suffer from this culture, that men are in a better position to speak out, that sexist and misogynist attitudes make it harder for women and easier for men to take action to stop this, and men, not women who are going to have to take the lead in changing this culture if it is going to change.
    What this article does, though, is just indulge in hand-wringing. Sorry Ben, but although you seem to be confessing how you are no better than any other man and equally complicit, what comes across rather to me is a bit of humblebragging about how enlightened you are for truly recognising this.
    I don’t think that what is needed is men all confessing how dreadful they are and how they are all equally guilty. Saying “all us men are equally guilty” just swaps ineffectual wallowing in guilt for smug complacency as an excuse to abrogate personal responsibility for one’s actions. What is really needed is for more men to say “actually, no, I am not equally guilty, I am in fact better than that, I am not just some passive participant in this culture and am going to start acting like it” and challenge instead of going along with the next sexist remark or joke, report instead of ignore inappropriate behaviour and justify his (entirely unmerited) male privilege to make himself part of the solution.

    • I think you’re onto something when you say that what we need is not all men confessing guilt, but all men challenging the cultural tendencies to objectify women. But I thought Ben made it pretty clear that he doesn’t think all men are equally guilty…some men are less guilty than others, but all men are guilty to some degree.

  • Hi Ben,

    Does “All men” mean all “transgender women” as well–and, namely, those that identify as such?
    Please answer for yourself before continuing.

    Do you remember this blog?
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/the-disgusting-hypocrisy-of-the-anti-trans-bathroom-movement/
    “I think what their side is missing is the fact that our transgender brothers and sisters are not a threat to us.”

    I’m just going to leave this here:
    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/19/transgender-wyoming-woman-convicted-sexually-assaulting-10-year-old-girl-in-bathroom.html

    Guess who isn’t reporting this story:
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=transgender+woman+sexual+assault+CNN

    According to this current article, “Have screwdriver, will screw.”

    For you, Bones, Ron, Herm, Otro, and the rest of your ilk.

    Thanks,

    Josh

    • I think the point Josh is that transgender people are not a threat due to their merely being transgender. A pedophile is a pedophile, whether straight, gay, transgender or otherwise. Being transgender itself doesn’t MAKE one a threat. See the distinction here?

    • Leaving the snide tone aside, this does raise an interesting dilemma given Dr. Corey’s other ideological commitments. In claiming that “all men” are complicit in this oppression of women…. is he also claiming that some women are also complicit, if they are really men even if they have not yet transitioned? Or are they not complicit yet, but they become complicit when they complete their transition to become men?

      Or regarding men that are really women inside, are they likewise complicit? Do they lose their guilt of being complicit when and if they transition to living as a female, or do they retain their guilt given that they were born a man?

      Or is Dr. Corey perhaps betraying that, whatever he has claimed about transgender issues, he deep down recognizes that men are men and women are women? I am told that only if one has transphobic tendencies could one make a blanket pronouncement against “all men” without qualifying that statement by recognizing that some men are not men and that some women are. If the claim that “all men” have male genitalia is transphobic, then how could any claim about “all men” being complicit in oppression of women fail to similarly be transphobic?

      Interesting aspect to the discussion.

  • I have three contentions with your argument:

    1) It would apply equally to all people, not just to all men, yet you’ve specified men. Why?

    2) Your only factual evidence is a couple anecdotes from your own life. Why do you feel that you are able to apply those, wholesale, to every other man?

    3) Would you argue that Jesus was also guilty of this sin? If no, why? Every argument you made would equally apply to him.

  • This is appeasement to a hateful idea. It is an example of how anything can be rationalized, especially when the writer is afraid to confront the bigotry and hatred of feminism. This writer throws away his dignity rather than risk being shamed by women for calling them out on their excesses.

    • The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
      Matthew 23:11-12 (NIV2011)

    • There ya go. Put ‘em in their place. Keep ‘em barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen where they oughta be. Next thing ya know they’ll be demanding the right to vote. Oh wait…

    • Aren’t there multiple instances of God ordering Israel to kill off entire nations of people? Also when King David numbered Israel, God sent angels to kill scores of Israelites.

    • “18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19)

      Biblically, we are all guilty under the sin of Adam, but we are also saved by the righteousness of Christ.
      With that said, this is entirely different than the kind of collective guilt Ben is trying to propose in his article.

  • Those who commit crimes … rape, domestic violence, etc. have cultivated a world that insulates them from the expectations of normal society. The idea that “public education” will somehow make a dent in the “walls” that such criminals have constructed is entirely fallacious. The idea that all males share some responsibility is equally fallacious and quite obviously so. The current fetish with “broadening a sense of responsibility” is akin to earlier religious tendencies to flagellation.

    • You, sir, have insulated yourself from reality behind your protectionist wall of fallacious pomposity. Those of us, speaking out as know-it-all adults as you insinuate here, who transgress the sum of the law by separating their responsibility of self from their responsibility to the health, wellbeing and survival of their entire species are equally as criminally ignorant as those who commit rape, domestic violence, etc. of others.

      You, without any substantiation, wrote, “The idea that all males share some responsibility is equally fallacious and quite obviously so.” I submit that all individuals, and defined pluralities of commonality, within the body of Man, who have awareness and influence over the future of mankind, share first a responsibility that their ignorance is greater than their surety. What is so clearly obvious to you is total blind ignorance when compared to omniscience. To base your observation on “quite obviously so” serves to highlight your wall of self-importance hiding, only from yourself, the magnitude of your ignorance.

      No child is born with any more than a will to live. No child begins with a fear of their ignorance. Fear of self-ignorance is cultivated in children by competitive adults who purport “The idea that “public education” will somehow make a dent in the “walls” that such criminals have constructed is entirely fallacious”. Those adults are the originating criminals who objectify others as less important to the growth and survival of mankind than themselves. Those are the criminals who choose to crucify others for their personal empowerment rather than carry their own cross for those who know not what they do. Those are the 80-year life expectancy mortals who feed off the fears of others from behind their façade of self-praise without substantiation. You exalt yourself as no child is capable of in the beginning.

      No child objectifies another as less important than themselves from birth, that is taught by example and word by their nurturing adults who are intolerant toward those who hold different opinions from themselves and others.

      A child begins, in the womb, with the will to survive with no awareness and very little influence over the whole of their species. It is the responsibility of adults to raise that child to accept responsibility for the survival of their species by the time their awareness influences the future of their entire species. Every carnal child will grow to die but their mankind has no certain time limit if each adult supports mankind as more important than themselves and theirs. That is nothing to fear, just truth that children are not ready to bear while adults must if Man is to survive.

      Public education is the only means by which every influential individual within the body of mankind can grow to support the body rather than destroy the body as a self-important cancer.

      Richard, by your comment, in word and manner as presented, you claim your complicity in the cancerous objectification of others “including things such as: male entitlement, objectification of women, degrading of women, sexual harassment, general sexism, etc.”.

      Criminals don’t themselves consider building walls to protect themselves from truth, no one does. Those walls, you speak of, are planted and cultivated by the world they grew up in. The only possible check and balance is public education that teaches our children, and all adults who know not what they do, that all of Man are each created equal, not that only all men are created equal as is in the USA Declaration of Independence. Love casts out all fear when we understand that none of us can do this alone and only by our love of each other do we support each other and the whole of us. All of us each have, seemingly, an eternity’s worth more to learn, about anything, before any of us can argue another’s perspective founded upon “ quite obviously so”; the graced opportunity of 120 years maximum of growing awareness and influence isn’t nearly enough.

      We must first accept that none of us are aware of the degree of our complicity in the crime of loving our neighbor less than ourselves, before we can begin to learn to love our good neighbor as our self. Ignorance is not bliss to adults who know that they must accept responsibility for themselves and theirs, which includes all of mankind as one, in the image of God, if human kind is to survive. We don’t even begin to know what we don’t know unless another, outside our wall of ignorance, volunteers their perspective to give us a clue.

      We are all complicit in the injury of others when we don’t share (teaching and learning) honestly and fearlessly within the public education system (the nervous system for the body of mankind), as we are doing here. I am boldly telling you that you have much more to learn since I know that I have at least as much yet to learn before I can exalt myself above the criminals who know not what they do (trapped behind the wall of imposed ignorance). I will do to and for you and them, in word and example first (in all empathy, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness I can bear) as I would have them, and you, do to and for me. I love them, you and myself enough today that I carry my cross without any need to fear our ignorance of where that leads.

  • “My lack of action made me complicit, and
    I’m so sorry that she probably went home rightly believing that I
    condoned his behavior” – maybe that’s how you feel about it yourself, but none of us can ever confront every. single. injustice. we see. We need to pick our battles; some battles are not ours to fight. Some battles we need to decline because they might result in more harm for the victim. What if you chide a parent slapping her child in the supermarket queue, and the woman is so mad she then goes home and beats up the chuild even more? Real life is never, ever as simple nor as clear-cut as this piece makes it out to be.

  • Yes, I could do some confessing of complicity. But I am left confused by something. It seems to me that women also participate in the things that set up this environment. I mean really, there seem to be more women wanting to watch beauty contests, or preferring outfits modeled by anorexic women, than men. So is there a point to the “all are guilty” thing? Isn’t the main point to help each other to experience sexuality in a human-centered, life-affirming way? And does that have a lot to do with my piddly little guilt?

  • You want to whip yourself in a thinly disguised form of self-congratulations, your newfound ‘wokeness’ being a ticket to a better lifestyle?
    Go right ahead. Leave me out of it, please.

  • This was…horrifying.

    If you feel like you personally have contributed to “rape culture”, then that problem is on you. I, on the other hand, am guilty of…not being a virgin? Having two kids via sex in a marriage? Laughing at dirty jokes that women tell? Understanding that science clearly shows when life begins?

    How, precisely, are “all men” guilty? One has to accept a number of feminist talking points as being true before such a conclusion can be derived, and I do not accept them.

  • Just watched the BBC’s Storyville – ‘The Work: Four Days to Redemption’ about inmates in Folsom Prison. Powerful stuff. Brought me to tears, perhaps because of my own ‘father issues’. Shows how our own sin and others’ sins against us really messes us up and leads to wasted lives. But the Father is here. There is hope.

  • ‘That fact that I caught myself continually feeling defensive when people talked about “men” in a broad, general way, …’

    – I think you mean ‘women’ rather than ‘people’.

    ‘Just because I haven’t raped someone doesn’t mean I’m innocent of being complicit and contributing to a culture of sexism that oppresses, objectifies, and harms women in an exhaustive list of ways.’

    – true, but that also applies to some women, not just men.

    A while ago I worked in an office. One of the women in our team (in her 30s) was often laughing at sexual jokes or innuendo, and sometimes was the originator of same. One day she went to a meeting with a male colleague, and on the way he made a sexualised comment to her. She immediately reported him and within weeks he was transferred to a different branch. He clearly should not have said what he said to her, but he would have heard her ‘dirty’ mouth on a regular basis and understandably probably thought she would not be ‘offended’ by such a comment. You’ll say Im biased, as a man, but I felt sorry for him. Im pretty sure the management who dealt with the complaint were unaware of the sort of language and ‘talk’ that this woman was coming out with in the office, but I wonder if they would have reacted differently if they had been aware. Not to have condoned his behaviour, but to understand that she was part and parcel of the sort of sexualised ‘culture’ that had developed in that office. I would also add that her female friend in the same office was allowed to put up a couple of photos of shirtless martial arts experts at her desk (I know you couldn’t make it up). If a male colleague had done the same with a female, there would have been outrage.

    Sorry, but Im rather tired of all the male-bashing. Rather than equality, it’s actually started to go the other way.

  • “Yes, it actually is ‘all blacks’ and our first step should be admitting that.”
    “Yes, it actually is ‘all women’ and our first step should be admitting that.”
    “Yes, it actually is ‘all Muslims’ and our first step should be admitting that.”

    I would be curious the reaction if Dr. Corey laid collective guilt on any other class of people in similar fashion.

  • Your blaming all men for the actions of a few, which is the typical feminist tactic. Should be blame all women for the few that make false rape claims? And how about all the supposed victims in this case? Don’t they have any responsibility for remaining silent, and thus, allowing the victimizer to continue doing what he did? Women are not angels, and many of these women may have used the casting couch towards their advantage. Let’s quit painting all women as helpless victims and stop painting all men as abusers.

    • Yes, some women have learned to get around it. But, if you have kids, or are a kid how do you suggest breaking silence at the risk of death or worse for you and your family? There ARE things worse than death.

      It is global, not just the good ole U.S.A. Heck, if (the wealthier) men here, wish to indulge all they have to do is go to a country that looks the other way for any type of behavior.

      Parents in poor situations have been known to sell their children to people who pay for the opportunity to “mold” the children to be the servants that will bring in the most profit.

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