Tag Archives: gender equality

Tired of Talking To Men

15 Mar

I am tired of talking about feminism to men.

I know that I’m not supposed to say this. I know that as a good little third-wave feminist I’m supposed to sweetly explain to you how much I love and value men. I’m supposed to trot out my husband of nearly five years, my son, all of my male friends and relatives and display them as a sort of badge of honour, proof that I am not a man-hater. I’m supposed to hold out my own open palms, prove to you how harmless I am, how nice I am. Above all, I’m supposed to butter you up, you men, stroke your egos, tell you how very important you are in the fight for equality. This is the right way to go about it, or so I’ve been told. As my mother would say, you catch more flies with honey.

But still. I’m tired of talking about feminism to men.

I’m tired of explaining to men that the feminist movement will, in fact, benefit them as well as women. I’m tired of trying to hawk gender equality like I’m some kind of car salesman showing off a shiny new sedan, explaining all of its bells and whistles. I’m tired of smiling through a thousand thoughtless microaggressions, tired of providing countless pieces of evidence, tired of being questioned on every. single. damn. thing. I’m tired of proving that microaggressions exist, tired of proving that I’m unfairly questioned and asked for proof. For a movement that’s centered around the advancement and empowerment of women, why do I feel like I’m supposed to spend so damn much of my time carefully considering how what I say and do will be taken  by men?

I’m tired of men who insert themselves into feminist spaces with claims of hurt feelings. I’m tired of men who somehow manage to make every issue about them. I’m tired of men like the one who recently stopped by a friend’s Facebook thread in order to call feminism “cunty,” then lecture the women involved for being too “hostile” in their responses to him. I’m tired of men telling me that my understanding of feminism and rape culture are wrong, as if these aren’t things that I have studied intensely. I’m tired of men who claim to be feminist allies, then abuse that position to their own advantage. I’m so fucking exhausted by the fact that I know that I will have to, at some point in this piece, mention that I understand that not all men are like that. I will have to note that some men are good allies. And all of those things are true! And all of you good allies get cookies! But honestly I’m tired of handing out cookies to people just because they’re being decent fucking human beings.

I spoke today on a panel about rape culture, and while the whole experience was fucking fantastic, I was totally disheartened by how many of the other presenters went out of their way to convince the men in the room that rape culture affected them, too. The phrase “rape culture isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a everyone’s issue,” kept coming up, and though I understand why it could be valuable to frame it that way, the rationale behind that makes me kind of sick. Because what we’re really saying is that if rape culture is understood to only be a woman’s issue, then it won’t be as important to men.

Rape culture is something that men should care about not because it might affect them, but because it affects anyone at all. Men should care about women’s safety, full stop, without having the concept somehow relate back to them. Everyone should care about everyone else’s well-being – that’s what good people are supposed to do.

Is it really so hard to have compassion about something that might not directly affect you?

I find that the more that I engage in activism, the more men seem to think that my time belongs to them. There seems to be this idea that if I’ve set myself up as an educator about feminism and gender and women’s rights (and I know that I have, and by and large I enjoy that role), then  it’s somehow part of my job to take the time out of my busy day to explain basic feminist concepts to them. If I don’t, then I’m accused of all kinds of things – not properly backing up what I say with facts (though the facts are easily accessible to those who want them), not caring enough about “converting” men who might be on the fence (though they could convert themselves if they really wanted to), not being strong or smart enough to engage in a discussion (which we both know isn’t going to go anywhere). I used to burn myself out by patiently laying out my talking points over and over, directing people towards resources, never walking away from an arguments be it big or small. But I’m not doing that to myself anymore. This is my space; I get to decide what happens here. If I don’t want to reply to comments, then I won’t. If I don’t want to engage someone, then I’ll ignore them. Yes, I am here to educate and to explain, but I am not under any obligation to do anything that I don’t want to. That is not my job. If you want to learn more, then that’s your job.

I’m going to call on all the men out there who consider themselves to be allies and ask them to step up to the plate and walk their own talk. When you see a woman being mansplained, you be the one to step in and call him out. When you see a bunch of men making misogynistic jokes, you be the one to tell them to fuck off. When someone asks for “proof,” don’t wait for a woman to provide it – you be the one to offer resources. Show us what a good ally you are by standing in the line of fire for once, and when you do, don’t immediately turn around and ask us for praise.

I’m tired of talking to men about feminism, but it doesn’t have to be like this. The burden of this discussion doesn’t have to be on women; we don’t have to be the only ones fighting the good fight. So please, men who are reading this – instead of the usual knee-jerk reaction towards these types of posts, instead of rolling your eyes and saying, “great, another feminist shitting on men,” I’m asking you to instead get involved and do what you can to affect change. I’m not going to condescend to you and try to explain why that will make the world a better place; I trust that you’re all smart enough to figure that out by yourselves.

This image came up when I googled "mansplain" and I'm just going to run with it.

This image came up when I googled “mansplain” and I’m just going to run with it. ETA: this is apparently Milan Greer, a sort of cat whisperer from the 50s. Apparently he was pretty rad and feminist so why someone tagged his picture as “mansplain” I’m not sure. WELL YOU LEARN SOMETHING EVERY DAY AM I RIGHT?

 

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The Consolidated List of Stuff That Isn’t Feminist

9 Dec

As Charlotte Raven helpfully pointed out in the Feminist Times this morning, wearing high heels is not feminist. Nor, apparenty, is staying in an abusive relationship. After reading her piece, I hope that both shoe aficionados and domestic violence victims see how badly they’ve been fucking up and either shape up or ship out, because the feminist movement isn’t interested in the likes of them. I would also like to thank Ms. Raven for being brave enough to say what no one else was women to say – namely, that women who like fancy footwear and who just sit there and let their partners abuse them are failing all women everywhere and just need to find another way to get their kicks other than Louboutins and men who make them fear for their lives.

If I have one criticism of Raven’s piece, it’s just she didn’t go far enough. Sure, high heels are anti-feminist, but so are a lot of things! What we really need is a handy-dandy guide put together by a privileged white woman telling us exactly how to be as feminist as possible. Since Raven has failed us in this regard, it’s obviously necessary for someone to step in and correct this failing. Please allow me, a privileged and lily-white member of the feminist tribe, to be of service.

Feminists Do Not:

1. Wear makeup

2. Wear short skirts. Or any skirts. Or leggings. Or tights. Or tight jeans. Or a bra (note: bandeaus and cute lacy camisoles are fine).

3. Wear saucy shirts that reveal any of the following: cleavage, midriff, shoulders, elbows, collarbone, neck, wrists

4. Shave any part of their body (eyebrow maintenance is, however, strongly encouraged)

5. Get married, even if it’s to another woman. Seriously. Take a close look at the tradition of marriage and tell me WHICH part of that, exactly, is feminist? Is it the part where your father gives you away as if you’re a piece of property, or the part where you promise to love, honour and obey your husband? And don’t tell me that your marriage is different – it’s still promoting an institution that has been and continues to be oppressive to women. Be in a “committed” relationship all you want, but leave marriage out of it unless you want your feminist card revoked.

6. Take their partner’s name – this is basically like stamping “I am my husband’s property” on your forehead. I don’t care that it’s tradition, or that you think it’s nice, or you’re doing it for the kids – it doesn’t matter what argument you come up with, it’s still patriarchal bullshit.

7. Watch network television, except to criticize it (self-explanatory)

8. Let men hold doors, give compliments or pay for dinner. If a man you know tries this, offer him a swift kick in the groin.

9. Have children, unless they have access to a hospital-grade breast pump and a staff of round-the-clock nannies and nurses so that they don’t have to miss more than a few days of work at their high-power jobs.

10. Stay home with their children. Who ends up paying for your cushy suburban life of trips to the library and ice cream cones in the park? A man, that’s who. Feminists are self-reliant – if you think that a man funding your stay-at-home mommy life is empowering to women, you need to sit in the corner, read the Feminine Mystique, and think about what you’ve done.

11. Make jokes, laugh, or otherwise display a sense of humour. Duh.

12. Watch sports. They’re nothing but a masturbatory homage to heteronormative patriarchal ideals. Do you think it’s a coincidence that most sports feature BALLS of some sort? Well, think again. And let’s not even get into the phallic imagery of baseball bats, hockey sticks and golf clubs.

13. Watch ballet. You think high heels classify as self-harm? Check out the damage toe shoes do to feet.

14. Listen to Beyoncé, try to emulate Beyoncé, or even think about Beyoncé. And while we’re on the subject, let’s just be clear about one thing – Beyoncé is categorically not a feminist. How is this even up for discussion? She’s broken basically every rule on this list so far. SHE CALLED HER LAST TOUR THE MRS. CARTER WORLD SHOW TOUR. When the revolution happens, Beyoncé albums will be the first to be burned.

15. Let women of colour speak, unless it’s to toe the same old white feminist line that fails to address many of their most pressing problems. Real feminists know that intersectionality can only be addressed once all white women everywhere are equal.

16. Treat their children in any way that reinforces the gender binary. In the future, the terms “girl” and “boy” will be done away with and everyone will wear sexless onesies with snaps at the crotch. FEMINIST UTOPIA.

17. Diet, or otherwise try to lose weight. If you feel uncomfortable in your body, it’s your own damn fault for buying into patriarchal ideas about how women should look.

18. Smile, unless you’re smiling in anticipation while scheduling your next abortion.

19. Watch or enjoy anything even remotely problematic. See: everything in mainstream culture so far. I don’t care that the Gilmore Girls was your favourite show when you were a kid and you and your mother watched it together when she was dying and it gives you nothing but good feelings – that shit is PROBLEMATIC.

20. Experience any emotion other than rage. There is so much to be outraged about that I cannot fathom how you could feel anything else, unless it’s joy over the aforementioned abortion.

Real talk, though: a lot of the stuff on this list genuinely does not fall within the parameters of what would be considered feminist or egalitarian in a perfect world. In that world, I wouldn’t feel that in order to be attractive and respected I had to slather makeup on my face, shave my armpits, or dress a certain way. In a perfect world women wouldn’t find it romantic to ditch their own last name in favour of a man’s. In a perfect world we would all hold doors for each other, and acts of politeness would not have sexist undertones. But you know what? We do not live in that world.

Yes, we do things that buy into or even promote patriarchal beauty standards. Yes, we sometimes uphold traditions that have been oppressive to women. Yes, we sometimes enjoy stuff that could and maybe should be considered problematic. We’re only human, after all, and we all grew up being brainwashed by the same ideas about how women should look, dress and act. If I hadn’t grown up in a world that told me that removing all of my body hair was considered sexy, would I reach that conclusion on my own? If I didn’t live in a culture that prized a traditionally misogynist ceremony of lifelong commitment as super romantic and de rigueur for all women everywhere, would I have gotten married? The answer to both of those questions is: probably not! But nothing exists in a vacuum, not even feminism. Especially not feminism. And it’s not that we shouldn’t talk about these things – things like why we might get married or take our partner’s name or want our body to look a certain way. We definitely should talk about these things – and we should also talk about why we choose to do them.

We all do things that could be considered anti-feminist. We all compromise sometimes. We give in on some things, and fight tooth and nail on others. We pick our battles and learn to hold two opposing truths at the same time. We let ourselves feel pretty in high heels and makeup while still remembering that this is mainly because men have made us believe that these things make us pretty. We enjoy movies and books that don’t pass the Bechdel test and maybe say some not-so-great things about women, while acknowledging that media representation of women needs to be so much better than it is. We call our children “girl” or “boy” even while accepting that gender is a social construct. We do these things, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t call ourselves feminists.

If I were to make a real list of things that feminists don’t do, there would only be one item on that list: tell people how to be feminists. Because when an individual begins dictating what a movement looks like, then it stops being about what’s in the best interests of women everywhere (spoiler alert: very few things are in the best interests of all women everywhere) and becomes about that person’s biases and opinions. And that? Is pretty unfeminist.

Definitely Not A Feminist

Definitely Not A Feminist

Men and Feminism

19 May

I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking lately. I mean, most of it has been about, like, cat videos and comic books, but over the past week a significant part of my brain has been occupied by the following question:

What place do men have in the feminist movement?

First of all, let me straight up say that I think that they for sure have a place, and an important one at that. I like dudes, I think they are super great and that many of them have important, valuable things to say about feminism. And I don’t think that we have a hope in hell of achieving equality if only self-identified women are welcome in the feminist movement.

But.

BUT.

I don’t think that men have any place as leaders in the movement. I don’t think that they should ever, ever lecture women on how to be feminists. And I sure as hell don’t think that they should claim to support equality while at the same time decrying things like the term “privilege” as a silencing tactic.

There have been a few things this week that have kept this issue at the forefront of my thoughts. First, there was this article that a friend of mine wrote for the Huffington Post about Charles Clymer, the man who runs the Facebook group Equality for Women. Clymer styles himself as a feminist and supporter of gender equality, but has been known to silence women (deleting their comments if they disagree with him, banning them if they question these deletions), and has also written troubling things like this post on why “bitch” and “cunt” can’t ever be reclaimed by women. Even worse, Clymer wrote this email to one of the women who was unhappy with his behaviour:

Stephanie, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that, apparently, no one has had the guts to tell you up to this point in your life: having a vagina does not grant you magical powers of perception and nuance anymore than my penis magically blinds me from the horrors of the world.

You have to earn respect for your opinion. I’m not going to hand it to you because you’re a woman talking women’s rights.
And yes, I am the leader of this page. These are my moderators, who I have selected for the page that I created and into which I have poured money for advertising, and make no mistake: I do hold executive privilege (your favorite word, apparently), and I do have the final say on decisions. However, I trust my mods, and instead of being a dictator, we work as a team of equals. They let me know when something’s off, and I listen to them and heed their advice.

I run this page, a feminist blog, write a column for another feminist blog (under a woman editor-in-chief who respects my writing and invited me to contribute articles), and on top of all that, I volunteer 30-40 hours a week at a feminist lobbying firm.

Here’s a good question: what the fuck have you done for women’s rights, lately, other than troll the page I created?

You want to talk about privilege? Fine, we’ll talk about privilege. What about your idiot privilege? It would seem you’re so used to people not calling you out for being an absolute fucking moron that you’ve become blind to how your asshat actions affect others.

So no, after us reaching out to you, you decided to insult me, and, more importantly, my moderators with your bullshit, half-hearted, tongue-in-cheek apology.

Supposedly, you’re an outstanding feminist but have no problem telling my women moderators how they’re supposed to think and feel.
Please accept my invitation of hide-and-go-fuck-yourself.

And one more thing: If I ever see your name on my page again, I will report you for harassment and block you.

Feel free to relay this message to the 1% of women feminists out there who foam at the mouth and put their bullshit on everyone else who disagrees with them.

Charles

I just … I’m not even sure that I have the words to explain how fucked up this is. Wait, no, here are a few: a man who is purportedly trying to raise women up is using his position of power and influence to belittle and silence women. He’s disrespectful, condescending, and seems to think that because he took Feminism 101 that trumps any kind of lived experience that women might have had.

Another thing that’s got me thinking about men and feminism is the discussion that this article inspired on The Belle Jar’s Facebook page. In it, a few men (men that I know and really like!) mentioned that they find the feminist movement to be unfriendly towards men, and that they believe that women should “make room” for men in feminism. And you know what? I honestly do think that men have a place in the feminist movement, I swear to God that I do. But I think that place is, as my friend Ryan would say, at the back of the room. If you, a hypothetical dude, really want women to achieve equality, then you do whatever you can to give them a platform. You stand back, let them speak, and you fucking listen. And above all, you let women shape the direction of the feminist movement. Dudes, you know I love you, but this ain’t about you.

The final thing that really got me going this week was this speech given by Ronald Lindsay at the Women in Secularism conference. The talk starts out fine-ish, with some discussion of the history of the subjugation and subordination of women, but then, somewhere towards the middle, things become problematic.

This brings me to the concept of privilege, a concept much in use these days. Let me emphasize at the outset that I think it’s a concept that has some validity and utility; it’s also a concept that can be misused, misused as a way to try to silence critics. In what way does it have validity? I think there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there are socially embedded advantages that men have over women, in a very general sense. These advantages manifest in various ways, such as the persistent pay gap between men and women. Also, I’m not a believer in a priori arguments, but I will say that given the thousands of years that women were subordinated to men, it would be absolutely amazing if in the space of several decades all the social advantages that men had were promptly and completely eradicated. Legislation can be very effective for securing rights, but changing deeply engrained patterns of behavior can take some time.

So, basically, it’s fine to talk about privilege as long as it’s only in a general, societal sense. That’s totally kosher. But calling a specific male out on his specific male privilege? That’s apparently called “silencing critics.”

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

First of all, you can’t listen if you don’t shut up. Pretty much physically impossible. And guess what? If you are a man, then you fucking don’t know what it’s like to experience x, y and z, and if you are actually interested in learning about, then yes, you have to shut up and listen.

This approach doesn’t work.  It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and … poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women.

Dude. We’ve tried reasoned arguments, and you (general male you, not you, Ronald Lindsay, specifically) didn’t want to hear them. We’ve tried explaining ourselves and you called us hysterical and accused us of overreacting. We’ve tried to engage and include men in the feminist movement, only to be told that we’re not going about it the right way. We’ve been pushed around, condescended to, belittled, and much, much worse. And now? Now we’re exhausted. If you’re not interested in shutting up and listening to what we have to say, then you’re not interested in gender equality. Not really. Not in any meaningful sense, anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the concept of privilege is useful; in fact it is too useful to have it ossified and turned into a dogma.

By the way, with respect to the “Shut up and listen” meme, I hope it’s clear that it’s the “shut up” part that troubles me, not the “listen” part. Listening is good. People do have different life experiences, and many women have had experiences and perspectives from which men can and should learn. But having had certain experiences does not automatically turn one into an authority to whom others must defer. Listen, listen carefully, but where appropriate, question and engage.

No one is saying that you can’t “question” or “engage,” but you need to understand that at the end of the day, yes, women’s lived experiences make them an authority on the inequality of women. I can’t believe that I have to say that, but apparently I do.

I started my talk with that reading from the New Testament which unmistakably assigned women a subordinate role.  Both the symbol of that oppression and the vehicle for enforcing that oppression was silence.  Enforced silence is always and everywhere the enemy of truth and progress.  If someone is forbidden from speaking, you are obviously not going to hear what they have to say.

Good lord, no one is silencing you. And this time I am specifically talking to you, Ronald Lindsay. Do you even know what the word “silencing” means, old white dude? You have a huge platform, your organization has 14,000 fans on Facebook, and you have so many people listening to you. Just because someone reminds you of your privilege does not mean that you are being silenced.

As my grandmother would say, Jesus, Mary and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

(I added in the Gordon-Levitt part, in case that wasn’t clear)

But enforced silence is also a way of robbing someone of their humanity.  Part of what allows us to give meaning to our lives is the ability to exercise certain core freedoms, such as freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and reproductive freedom.  We need these freedoms to take control of our own lives, to give shape and direction our own lives; otherwise, we are just going to be forced into a role that has been assigned to us.

You are not being robbed of your humanity. No one is trying to rob white, middle class men of their humanity. All that we’re trying to do is continue to assert our own humanity, which is apparently something that you want as well. But if you’re really interested in giving women a hand up, then you need to listen, even when it gets uncomfortable for you. Even when you don’t like what’s being said. Even when the word privilege comes up. And if you can’t do that? Then get the fuck out of the way, stop speaking at feminist conferences, and make room for someone who actually understands how equality works.

Look. There is certainly a place for men in the feminist movement, but that place is not in a position of leadership. Men should never, ever tell women what feminism is, why it’s necessary, and how it works. In the same way, a heterosexual person should not lecture LGBTQ folks on how to advocate for gay rights, and a white person shouldn’t be telling People of Colour how to fight against racism. It just doesn’t work that way. Privilege is a real thing, and it really does blind you to what an oppressed person’s life is really like.

If you want to be a good feminist man, you need to learn to be challenged. You need to learn to feel uncomfortable. Above all, you need to shut up and listen.

white-privilege-and-prejudice