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I’m done. I refuse to be a mealy-mouthed liberal who posts polite, meaningful blogs about issues that are tearing us apart. I refuse to step off the grass at a protest because some uniformed person tells me I must. I will no longer mildly retweet and repost things that sicken my stomach and freeze my heart.

The morning after the San Bernardino shooting, I sat at the breakfast table. Numb. Pissed. Sad beyond belief and terrified not of Muslims but of the effect the shooting might have on the vast, innocent majority of them.

The news is repulsive. The election is a joke. The planet is dying.

Feminists are bickering with each other over trans and cis, inclusion, safe spaces, and trigger warnings. Meanwhile, some poor young woman has to drive three hundred miles to have a dead fetus removed from her uterus because some asshole somewhere ramped up the uneducated hordes and told them Jesus would save them if they voted for him in the next election.

I am no longer a feminist. Yes, I said that. I’ll say it again, loudly and in many ways, not because I reject the pursuit of equality for women or think that any of its issues are in any way irrelevant or wrong, but because feminists are part of the problem.

This country is experiencing an identity crisis that affects every man, woman, and child in it. In a blink of history’s eye, we legislated, regulated, and rocked the foundation of human civilization. Thank god. Thank feminists. Thank judges and politicians who saw the tide turning. But for all our effort, we’ve somehow missed the crucial point.

We forgot to teach people the skills necessary to handle the change. We didn’t demonstrate a different path or support them through radical, unprecedented legislation. We changed the rules, but not the game.

A few facts for those already forming their response:

  • Birth control became legal for all women in this country years after most of us were born and already inoculated with conventional cultural norms.
  • Marital rape was legal until 1995 in some states.
  • Until 1998, when the Supreme Court ruled that companies could be sued for it, sexual harassment was common in this country.
  • The term Rape Culture wasn’t coined until 2012.

I could go on. And on. And on. The fact is, most of us were adults when the legislation passed or the court ruled. Statistics, studies, and efforts by people way smarter than me to research, document, and legislate inequality are failing because we fail to address what happens at home.

Men aren’t equal. Women aren’t equal. Blacks and Hispanics, Jews and Muslims, hell, even fundamentalist Christians aren’t equal. You want to know why? Because the definition of equal — the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities – doesn’t teach us how to be equal.

Since we don’t know how, since we’ve never actually done this before, we keep giving lip service to pet issues and repeating behaviors that are millennia old.

Son scrapes a knee, we say, “Shake it off, honey. Don’t cry.”

Daughter learns early that pretty is more important than smart.

Husband spends an hour cleaning the bathroom while wife cleans the rest of the house.

Wife leaves husband alone with the kids for a few hours, but can’t trust him to do anything right.

Husband is allowed to show anger or reason and not much else.

Wife’s emotions are trivialized.

I’m not talking big picture here – all the things the media will cover. I’m talking how we greet each other in the morning, how we kiss each other goodnight, and all the other little, everyday things that make up most of our lives. We police ourselves, the behaviors are so ingrained. And we police everyone who threatens the way we do things.

Creatures of habit. Out of control and spinning wildly on this wounded sphere, we are in a constant state of suppressed rage, hurt, and fear. So much so that we are numb or choking all the time.

Feminist. Meninist. Terrorist. Is it any wonder the violence is escalating?

So I’m done. I reject the terms chosen by those before me. While I applaud their efforts and thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they’ve done, it’s time to write a new play. Every time we tell a man to stop mansplaining without teaching him the skills he needs, we’re contributing to the problem. Every time we shame a man for a sexist comment, we’re teaching him our pain.

I am now an empathist instead of merely a feminist.

I’m going to open my heart. I’m going to stop telling you who to be. I’m going to try to understand in my bones what you’re going through, hold out a hand and say I know you’re hurting, too. In the process, maybe we’ll both learn a new way.

But I’m also going to hold you accountable for your actions. I’m going to call you out when I think what you’re doing or saying hurts the world and I won’t apologize. Not in my home. Not in the world. Not on Facebook or Twitter or the blogs. If we’re going to stop the violence, legislation is only one step. The other is that which we take on our own. It’s scary. I know. But it must be done.

Rock the damn boat. Not online. Not at a protest. Rock it at home. With love. With empathy. With a modicum of patience. Rock it in small ways. Feel the ripple of uncertainty. Feel the thrill of understanding. Feel whole and help those you love feel whole, too. Help each other. Hold hands. Tell your daughter she’s smart. Listen to your wife. Tell your son and your husband it’s okay to cry. Be a force for the one thing you can control and make empathetic changes in that tiny, beautiful microcosm you call your life.