Tag Archives: gender

Fuck “Sexy”

19 Jun

Sometimes I feel like I want to ban the word sexy. Like, take that shit out of the dictionary and impose a fine whenever someone uses it.

Which is pretty funny because I’m super sex-positive and I definitely want people to feel good about their bodies and secure in their sexuality, however it manifests itself.

But man am I ever fucking tired of how we use that word to shame girls and sell them on a bunch of gross patriarchal ideas about how they should be.

Take this picture, which was tweeted/posted by Floyd Mayweather and has been making the rounds over the past few days:

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Like, first of all, this is a dude who has been charged with two counts of domestic violence. Why would anybody think that what he has to say about women is even a little bit valid? I am not really down with anyone advising women on ways to dress or behave in order to meant specifically please men, but I am double-plus definitely one hundred percent not down with someone who hits women telling women how to behave. Talk about classic abusive behaviour. It’s impossible to get anything out of this other than, “Maybe if those women had dressed better and been quieter and more ladylike I wouldn’t have had to hit them.” I guess that according to him, they were asking to be disrespected. This whole post is basically an apologia for abuse.

Second of all, women aren’t fucking products that are trying to advertise themselves. They are for-real people who get to dress however they want. I can’t believe that I have to say this, but: The way I dress is not a fucking advertisement, it is some clothes that I put on my body because they make me feel good.

Third of all, no, how I’m addressed does not, in fact, depend on my attire. It depends on those addressing me recognizing that I am actually a person and that alone makes me deserving of their respect. Can we please stop putting the onus on women when it comes to respect? It’s not up to us to gain men’s respect – it’s up to men to recognize our personhood and stop throwing out ultimatums on when they will or won’t respect us.

Saying that respect is conditional on how you dress or behave means that respect can be revoked at any time, based on some arbitrary decision about what crosses the line from ladylike to slutty. It’s putting the power right back in the hands of the oppressor and it literally does no good whatsoever.

Speaking of respect, this morning I came across this lovely tweet, which describes a sentiment that I hear far too often:

 

 

You know what’s the best way to make a girl feel like she’s respected? Shame her for what she’s wearing!

Like, seriously, allow me to demonstrate how much respect I have for myself by flipping this dude off forever. Because fuck him for trying to control women under the guise of concern. Fuck him for making women feel less-than under the pretence of trying to build up their “self-respect.” Fuck him for implying that the only reason women might want to be self-respecting is so that they can be more attractive to men.

See, here’s the thing: while all of these posts seem to say that women who dress modestly and behave nicely and are self-confident are totally more attractive than any other women, what they’re really saying is, “being sexy is the most important thing for you to be, and please allow me to define what sexy is.” It is not even a little bit empowering to tell women that being modest is sexy; it’s just reinforcing the idea that we only exist to please men and that we should dress and act however they want. It’s saying that being attractive to men is the best and most wonderful thing that women can aspire to. It’s exactly the same shit we’ve been sold all of our lives, only re-packaged as obnoxious concern-trolling about women’s self-confidence.

Fuck. That.

If you really want to empower women, why don’t you try to build up their self-esteem instead of lecturing them on all the ways you think that they’re failing? Instead of telling them that no one will respect them based on the way they dress, why not instead list all the things that you value about them – that they’re funny, smart, capable and brave. Literally no one ever will gain confidence by being criticized for their appearance. No one will gain “self-respect” by having someone else list all of the ways that they’re lacking in that department. And, like, hell yes I want women to feel like they are worth more than their appearance. No one wants that more than me. But how in the fuck do you think you are making women believe than they have more value than just being pretty when your whole message hinges on what is and isn’t sexy?

Fuck sexy.

Fuck telling women how to be sexy.

Fuck “confidence is sexy,” because shaming women for not being confident enough will achieve the opposite of what you apparently want.

And while we’re at it, fuck Consent Is Sexy. Fuck the idea that we need to sell consent to kids by making it all shiny and pretty and “sexy.” People shouldn’t have consensual sex because it’s waaaaay hotter than other kinds of sex – people should have consensual sex because otherwise they are rapists. Consent isn’t a fun new thing that you should try out in the bedroom; it’s the way you should be living your life, all day every day. Consent is not sexy – it’s a human right.

So fuck “sexy” being used as a marketing tool. Fuck dudes who want to control how women behave. Fuck all the not-so-cleverly-disguised ways the patriarchy asserts itself. Fuck the idea that women only ever dress in a certain way to attract men. Fuck. That. Noise.

And to any women reading this, I want you to know that it’s great to feel sexy, whatever that word means to you. It’s even great to dress in a way that you think other people might find attractive – that’s a very normal thing to want to do. We dress in ways that our partners find attractive because it makes us happy to make our partners happy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with wanting sexual attention from other people, and dressing “sexy” is for sure a tried-tested-and-true way of achieving that. It’s good to feel sexy. Seriously. But I also want you to know that it’s not required. I want you to know that you don’t have to feel or be sexy, and that sexy isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of what you should accomplish. And I want you to know that you are funny and smart and capable and brave. Because you really, really are.

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Dispatches From The Gynocracy

16 Jun

“WE HAVE KILLED ALL THE MEN. STOP. MADE THEM JERK OFF INTO CUPS FIRST. STOP. WILL USE THEIR SPERM FOR ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION UNTIL WE DISCOVER ASEXUAL REPRODUCTION OR HAVE PERFECTED CLONING. STOP.”

“WE HAVE BANNED ALL THE LITERARY CLASSICS. STOP. WE DO NOT WANT OUR CITIZENS DEVELOPING PATRIARCHAL IDEAS ABOUT WOMEN BECAUSE OF THE GREAT GATSBY OR THAT DICK ERNEST HEMINGWAY. STOP. DID YOU KNOW ERNEST HEMINGWAY WAS A DICK. STOP.”

“WE WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND TO YOU A FORMAL INVITATION TO OUR ANNUAL ANDREA DWORKIN DAY CELEBRATIONS. STOP. PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN KNIVES FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE CEREMONIAL CASTRATION OF OUR SYMBOLIC PAPIER MACHÉ REPRESENTATION OF THE PATRIARCHY. STOP. AFTERWARDS THERE WILL BE A VEGAN MEAL SERVED IN THE TOWN SQUARE BECAUSE ANIMALS ARE OPPRESSED PEOPLE TOO. STOP.”

“WE HAVE BANNED ALL PHALLIC SYMBOLS. STOP. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY THINGS LOOK PHALLIC WHEN YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT IT. STOP. LIKE PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING LIKE STICKS AND PENCILS AND BASEBALL BATS AND SHIT. STOP. WE HAVE BANNED BASEBALL. STOP. ALTHOUGH WE MUST ADMIT THAT WE DO APPROVE OF THE SYMBOLISM OF HITTING BALLS. STOP.”

“OUR ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION PROJECT WAS A SUCCESS. STOP. BUT NOW WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THESE MALE BABIES. STOP. WORRIED THAT IF WE LEAVE THEM ON A HILLSIDE THEY MIGHT BE SUCKLED BY SHE-WOLVES AND THEN FOUND AN EMPIRE. STOP. SHE-WOLVES ARE GENDER TRAITORS. STOP.”

“LIFE IS MUCH LESS FUN NOW THAT WE CAN NO LONGER MAKE FALSE RAPE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST MEN. STOP. WE HAVE STARTED UP A EUCHRE LEAGUE BUT OF COURSE HAD TO GET RID OF THE KING AND JACK CARDS. IF YOU NEED PROOF THAT WE ONCE LIVED IN A TOXIC PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY YOU ONLY NEED TO THINK ABOUT HOW THE KING CARD RANKS HIGHER THAN THE QUEEN. STOP. WE DO HOWEVER LIKE THE VAGINAL SHAPE OF THE SPADE SUIT. STOP.”

“WE HAVE ERECTED A STATUE IN THE VILLAGE SQUARE PORTRAYING A MAN WITH A NECKBEARD WEARING A FEDORA. STOP. THE INSCRIPTION READS AS FOLLOWS. STOP. TOP LINE: “MILADY”. STOP. BOTTOM LINE: “NEVER FORGET.” STOP.”

“SOMETIMES WE HAVE ABORTIONS JUST FOR FUN. STOP.”

“WE HAVE OUTLAWED RAZORS AND DEPILATORY CREAMS. STOP. YESTERDAY WE CAUGHT A WOMAN TRYING TO SHAVE WITH A SHARP ROCK. STOP. OBVIOUSLY SHE WAS HANGED IN THE VILLAGE SQUARE AS AN EXAMPLE. STOP.”

“WE EAT OUR PLACENTAS. STOP. THEY ARE DELICIOUS AND GIVE US SUPERPOWERS. STOP. THEY ARE BEST WHEN FRICASSEED. STOP. DON’T FORGET THE SALT. STOP.”

“I DON’T CARE THAT THE PLURAL OF PLACENTA IS PLACENTAE. STOP. DON’T MANSPLAIN PLACENTAS TO ME. STOP.”

“YES YOU CAN MANSPLAIN EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A MAN. STOP. IT’S CALLED INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY LOOK IT UP. STOP.”

“THE DOWNSIDE TO COMMUNAL PARENTING IS THAT THERE ARE NO MORE CUSTODY BATTLES. STOP. WE MISS BEING ABLE TO USE THE COURTS TO EXERT OUR FEMALE PRIVILEGE AND SHAME FATHERS EVERYWHERE. STOP. THERE IS NO ONE HERE TO FALSELY ACCUSE OF CHILD MOLESTATION. STOP. SOMETIMES WE BECOME NOSTALGIC FOR THE GOOD OLD DAYS. STOP.”

“WE HAVE RUN OUT OF MALE TEARS TO BATHE IN. STOP. PLEASE SEND MORE. STOP. WE FEAR THAT OUR HIDEOUSLY DESICCATED SKIN WILL CRUMBLE WITHOUT THEM. STOP.”

“YESTERDAY WE HELD A BATTLE ROYALE BETWEEN THE WORKING MOTHERS AND THE STAY-AT-HOME MOTHERS. STOP. OBVIOUSLY IT WAS JUST A PRETEXT TO PUBLICLY EXECUTE ALL OF THE STAY-AT-HOME MOTHERS. STOP. THEY HAVE NO PLACE IN THE REVOLUTION. STOP. WE ARMED ALL THE WORKING MOTHERS WITH SABRES AND A VERY GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL. STOP.”

“WE MAKE ART WITH OUR OWN MENSTRUAL BLOOD. STOP.”

“WE HAVE OUTLAWED CRYING. STOP. THERE IS NO CRYING ALLOWED IN THE GYNOCRACY. STOP. EXCEPT IN SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES. STOP. LIKE IF YOU THINK IT WILL GET YOU EXTRA PRIVILEGES OR HELP YOU NOT GET A SPEEDING TICKET. STOP.”

“WE MAKE SO MANY PRISON RAPE JOKES ABOUT MEN YOU HAVE NO IDEA. STOP.”

“NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO DRESS IN SEXY OUTFITS ANYMORE. STOP. UNLESS IT IS BECAUSE IT MAKES THEM FEEL GOOD AND PUTS THEM IN TOUCH WITH THEIR DIVINE FEMININE SEXUALITY. STOP. WE USE OUR GODDESS POWERS AND A LIE DETECTOR TEST TO DETERMINE SEXINESS MOTIVATION. STOP.”

“WE HAVE BURNED ALL THE BRAS. STOP. TURNS OUT THEY CREATE A LOT OF TOXIC SMOKE WHEN THEY BURN. STOP. WE HAVE HAD THREE BRA-BURNING FATALITIES THUS FAR. STOP.”

“ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS. STOP.”

Teri Slotkin, photograph of the Cave Girls (left to right: Marnie Greenholtz, Cara Brownell, Verge Piersol, Julie Harrison, Ellen Cooper, Bebe Smith); 1982; © Teri Slotkin Photography.

Teri Slotkin, photograph of the Cave Girls (left to right: Marnie Greenholtz, Cara Brownell, Verge Piersol, Julie Harrison, Ellen Cooper, Bebe Smith); 1982; © Teri Slotkin Photography.

To All Of The Girls Accused Of Just Wanting Attention

6 May

TW for talk of suicide

Also a note to mention that I recognize that it’s not only women who are accused of being attention-seeking – however, it does seem to be a highly gendered thing

The first thing I need you to know is that there is nothing wrong with wanting attention. Asking people to notice you does not make you needy or pathetic or anything of the other things people have called you when you’ve somehow been too honest about your want. Wanting attention is human nature – we’re social creatures, and it’s perfectly natural to want some kind of social regard from other people.

The second thing that I need you to know is that your feelings – whatever they might be – are valid. If you want attention because you are lonely or sad or scared, you shouldn’t be ashamed of that fact. Those are very good reasons to ask for attention. Try not to let people discredit your feelings because your emotions make them uncomfortable. That is their issue, not yours.

There are so many good reasons for wanting attention. You might want to be complimented, or comforted, or distracted. You might need reassurance that the people around you love you and value your presence in their lives. You might just need that little boost to get you through the rest of the day. There is no wrong reason to want attention. Attention is not a bad thing. In fact, attention is necessary to our survival – we need attention in order to grow and thrive and develop as people. As mammals, we need other members of our species to love and care for us from the moment we’re born. That’s what sets us apart from other animals.

The third thing that I need you to know is that the best way to get what you want is to ask for it. You’ve been taught your whole life not to ask for things, to sit passively and sweetly until they come to you, but try to fight that urge. Be as clear as possible about what kind of support you want – it’s unfair to expect people to guess. If you want a compliment, then say so. If you want cute pictures of animals or funny gifs, then ask for those. If you want a shoulder to cry on or space to vent, then be honest about it. It’s hard for people to give you what you need if all they have to go on are vague suggestions.

The fourth thing that I need you to know is that you have been socialized from a very young age to compete for attention. You’ve been taught that other women are the enemy and men are the prize. You’ve been told in a thousand subtle ways that what’s most important is that you are pretty, charming, and sweet. You’ve learned to cut other girls down in order to make yourself look better. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I need you to know that you can ask for attention in a way that is not at another girl’s expense.

I also need you to know that accusing another girl of just wanting for attention is another way of cutting them down.

The fifth thing that I need you to know is that you are worth so much more than how you look. There’s nothing wrong with wanting compliments on your appearance, but you should know that your value does not depend on how pretty you are. I know that you’ve been taught since day one that beauty trumps everything else, but please, please try your hardest to unlearn that lesson. You are a smart and talented and creative and interesting creature. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough: you are so much more than your looks.

The sixth thing that I need you to know is that not all attention is created equal, and what might feel affirming in the moment might create damaging patterns in the long term. If you cannot feel pretty without having other people confirm your prettiness, asking over and over for that validation will not change your self-perception. And maybe that’s not your goal – maybe you don’t want to change. You’re allowed to not want to change. But you should know that it is dangerous to base any part of your self-esteem on the opinion of other people.

Finally, for anyone who might roll their eyes at someone who just wants attention, I need you to know that sometimes that attention – even if it’s just a hug or a phone call or a quick text message – can make an enormous difference. Sometimes it can even mean the difference between life and death. Studies show that suicide is an impulsive act, and, contrary to popular belief, if someone intervenes most often the survivor will not immediately go find some other way of killing themselves. Your text could be that intervention – you have no way of knowing what type of mental state anyone else is in, and if you sense that they need some kind of help, you should offer them whatever you can.

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On Being Useful

8 Apr

I often worry about being useful.

Especially these days, when I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of bad moods and even the most basic daily activities are a struggle to complete. The truth is that for this past month I’ve barely been able to take care of myself, let alone do things like wash the dishes or give my kid a bath or think up genius words to write. For most of this year so far I have been the opposite of useful, and that’s been frightening and disorienting. I am so accustomed to being the unstoppably active one, the go-getter, to do-er of things that I just don’t know what to make of myself right now. All that I know is that I am not useful, either to myself or to anyone else.

I don’t just mean in a general sense, like a broad what-am-I-doing-with-my-life sort of thing, but rather an exhaustive catalogue of every little thing that I accomplish in a day. I worry about what I should be doing at any particular moment, and even times of rest are evaluated by what and how much they are accomplishing. For example, if I spend half an hour sitting in a coffee shop reading my book, then I tally that up as thirty minutes of preparing myself for the rest of the day, or thirty minutes longer that I will be able to work that night, or thirty minutes of “getting better.” I’m told that focussing on myself will help me get better, as if I don’t spend all of my time already mired in the stupid fucking mess that is my pathetic self. At least being useful helps me forget myself, even just briefly.

I’m encouraged by many people – by doctors, therapists, friends and family – to think that doing pleasurable things is part of the cure for for what ails me. And I know that these people have good intentions, and I know that they only want me to relax and be happy, but the truth is that telling me this only results in me feeling that experiencing pleasure is yet another thing that I have to check off my list. Pleasure is not something to achieve in and of itself, but rather a means to an end – it’s a way to fix my broken brain, or a way to create or maintain a relationship with someone else, or else just a way to swing from one moment to another so that I can make it through the day. On my worst days, the idea of pleasure seems like little more than work. And if I’m going to work, then why not be useful?

I worry about how much love I will lose if I am not useful. If I am not constantly on the move, if I am not always somehow working towards something important, if I am not proving my worth at every chance that I get, then how will I convince people that they ought to keep me around? Surely my value to them depends solely on my ability to keep the conversation going, to offer whatever help I can, to soothe hurt feelings or give encouragement or else plan interesting activities. Surely if I were to sit there and let my face go slack, if I were to let every little bit of happiness, eagerness, optimism, charm, sweetness or whatever else it is that I think people want from me drain out of my expression, then everyone would turn and run. Surely if I were to let anyone see my true self, the self that doubts and is sometimes afraid and sometimes clueless about what to do, then no one would love me. What else, other than my usefulness, do I have to offer?

I’ve been wondering lately if this desire to be useful is a gendered trait. The men that I know don’t seem to have any trouble kicking back and spending an hour or two watching a movie or playing guitar or reading a book. It seems to be mainly the women that I know who are constantly bustling about, washing a dish here or tidying a room there. The men seem much more capable of just being, whereas the women seem much more intent on justifying why they should be allowed to be. And when these women are sick or hurt or otherwise unable to fulfill what they see as their duty, they are the first to apologize to everyone around them for how useless they are. Perhaps there’s a part of us that believes that if we want to have it all, then we need to do it all, if only to convince the world that we’re capable enough for this.

Sometimes the feeling of not being useful brushes uncomfortably close to what we imagine female frailty might feel like. And that is the last thing that we want.

But the truth is that equality lies not in our ability to tackle everything, but rather in our ability to share responsibility. And feminism doesn’t just depend on women enthusiastically tackling every issue that comes their way in an effort to fix the gender gap; it also depends on our being able to sit with ourselves, to accept ourselves as we are in that moment rather than constantly looking for areas of improvement. And none of this is to say that we should give up or try to stop bettering ourselves and the world around us, but rather that if every single goddamn moment of every day has to be a fight in one way or another, then what are we fighting for? If we are fighting for equality, then we are also fighting for the right to sometimes take time for ourselves, time that might otherwise be employed doing something practical.

And if I don’t ever learn how to sit with myself, if I don’t ever learn to love myself even just enough to be present in my own body with my own thoughts, then I’m never going to get better. Yes, doing useful things distracts me from how I feel, but at the end of the day I always have to come back to myself. And no matter how much I feel that I’ve accomplished, if I can’t comfortably live in my own skin then it’s hard to feel as if I’m succeeding.

The fact is that I don’t always need to be useful.

I don’t need to fill every second of my day with activities that prove my value in this world. I am not on trial; I am not expected to prove my worthiness of being able to occupy space. My grandmother was wrong – idle hands are not the devil’s playthings. Sometimes they are just resting. Sometimes they are enjoying themselves. Sometimes they exist in the space between one thing and another, and the truth is that they have every right to do that.

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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?

 

“But Not All ______ Are Like That!”

25 Feb

I see this happen all the damn time.

Someone describes the actions of a privileged group of people and how these actions, purposefully or not, encourage the marginalization of a less-privileged group. Most often this description occurs within the context of trying to explain to the privileged folks how this dynamic is hurtful and oppressive. The hope is that the privileged group will listen to the marginalized person, examine their own behaviour, and try to do better in the future. The reality is that the person doing the explaining is nearly always met with a chorus of, “but not all men/white people/straight people/cis people/able-bodied people are like that!”

Look. I get it. You, whatever privileged group you happen to fall into, are a good person. You want to remind the marginalized group that you view yourself as an ally. You want them to know that not everyone is against them – the world, after all, isn’t such a grim place as all that. You want to make it clear that although you understand that your group has done some not-so-great things in the past, you are a better, more evolved person than that.

Maybe you even think you are somehow helping the marginalized group realize that you’re more than just a blank face in a group – you’re an individual person with your own thoughts and actions.

You know what, though?

You are not helping.

You are just making things worse.

In fact, you are only helping to prove the original point: that you, as a privileged person, perpetuate actions and ideas that oppress less privileged people.

See, what you’re really doing with your comment is a classic derailment tactic. In a discussion that is supposed to be about those who have frequently been silenced, you are contributing to that silencing by making it all about you. The message that you are giving out is that your feelings, your poor, hurt, privileged feelings should be taken into account no matter what the topic at hand. You are putting yourself in the centre of the discussion, and pushing the original topic off to the side. You are occupying a space that was created by and for people who don’t have many other spaces to occupy, and yet you feel entitled to be there because your privilege has taught you that you are entitled to be anywhere you want. You are telling oppressed groups that they cannot discuss the issues that affect them unless they have first considered the feelings of the oppressive group.

You are being a bad fucking ally.

I’m going to give you three pieces of advice:

1. If you don’t feel like the action attributed to the privileged group is something that you do, then assume the person is not talking about you

If you are not guilty of this particular oppressive act, then great! You are a good ally! Here’s a cookie for you! You can revel in the knowledge of your goodness without having to ask for reassurance from anyone else.

2. Take a moment to examine your past actions and ask yourself if this might, in fact, be something of which you have been guilty

The truth is that you may very well have been unconsciously participating in subtle forms of oppression without realizing it. Often our privilege is so deeply ingrained that we don’t always recognize when we are abusing it; before you decide whether or not you’re fully innocent of any wrongdoing, it’s worth taking the time to check in with yourself and see if you’re being totally honest.

3. Use this as a learning opportunity, and an opportunity to educate others

Whether or not you are guilty of involvement in some kind of oppression (and, I mean, spoiler alert: you probably are), any marginalized person relating their lived experience should be something you take seriously. Rather than just dismissing what they’re saying as something that you would never, ever, ever do, use what they are telling you as a chance to further educate yourself on the dynamics of oppression. Not only that, but use your privilege to amplify their voice – share their post, retweet their message, reblog it on your Tumblr. Instead of crying that not all ____ are like that, use your actions to show that you, personally, are not like that.

Whether or not you intend to cause harm, you, as a privileged person, have almost certainly engaged in some form of oppression or marginalization. Our culture has taught you that your skin colour or gender or sexual orientation mean that your thoughts and feelings are more valuable than those of other groups, and that is some social programming that takes a lot of hard work to undo. But if you want to consider yourself to be anti-oppression – if, instead of just saying that you’re not racist or homophobic or a misogynist, you actually want to actively not be any of those things – you need to put in the time to try to dismantle the fucked up outlook that your privilege has given you. Otherwise, you have absolutely no place in any kind of social justice movement.

And if you really want others to believe that not all men/white people/cis people/straight people/able-bodied people are total assholes, then instead of whining about how good you actually are, you need to prove it.

white-privilege-and-prejudice

“Why Won’t You Educate Me About Feminism?”

22 Feb

He doesn’t hate women.

Above and beyond everything else, he wants you to know this: he does not hate women.

He has two daughters, for god’s sake, and a wife that he adores beyond anything else, and a sister that he texts every day and a mother who is the strongest person that he’s ever known – yes, stronger than any of the men he’s met. So don’t think that this is because he hates women.

If anything, his real problem is loving women too much.

See, he just wants his daughters to grow up safe and happy. And to be honest, some of the things that you’re saying – that these feminists are saying – are troubling to him.

He just wants to have a sort of academic chat. Peer to peer. Grownup to grownup. That’s all. He’s not saying you’re wrong – not by a long shot! He just wants you to explain a few things. He’s a reasonable, logical man, and he’s only asking for what any reasonable, logical person would want: proof.

After all, if you’re going to call yourself a feminist, you should be willing to back that belief up with facts, right?

And if you’ve got all the facts, it should be easy enough to convince him, shouldn’t it?

And after all, how is he supposed to understand anything if you won’t educate him?

He just wants so badly to understand.

If you don’t mind, could you start by providing him with some kind empirical data that women continue to suffer from systematic oppression? He doesn’t care about the past, and doesn’t want a history lesson. He wants to talk about the here and now. And from what he can see in the here and now, women are doing pretty well. Just look at you! Smart, well-educated, pretty. What about your gender could you possibly imagine has ever held you back? If anything, it’s probably done you a few favours!

He wonders if, for instance, you knew that there are now more women in post-secondary institutions than men? Gee, it sure seems like being a woman has benefited you in that regard!

He wonders if knew that more men were killed on the job than women, or that more men died violent deaths than women.

He wonders if you were aware that the rate of suicide was higher for men than for women.

He wonders if you even care about men, the way that he cares so much about women.

When you bring up the wage gap, he tells you that women make less because they work, on average, fewer hours. He tells you that men receive bonuses for doing more hazardous work, which skews the numbers. He tells you that the wage gap isn’t based on discrimination, but rather on mitigating factors that you obviously haven’t taken into consideration.

When you bring up rape and domestic violence statistics, he tells you that of course he’s sympathetic to female victims, but then asks why you didn’t mention male victims. He ponders aloud how interesting it is, the fact that you focus so much on women and seem to care so little about men. Don’t you think that men are victims of rape and domestic violence too? Have you ever thought about the fact that men’s numbers might be so much lower because stigma prevents so many victims from reporting their attacks? When a woman is raped or beaten, she’s treated with kindness and pity, but if it happens to a man, well, you can only imagine the comments about his masculinity and sexuality. And there are no men’s shelters for male victims of domestic abuse, there are no workshops for men to learn how to defend themselves against rapists. So wouldn’t you say that men actually have it worse with regards to these issues?

He doesn’t like the term “victim-blaming,” because, well, he finds that people use it when they want to escape the consequences of their actions. The thing is, if you’re a young girl out drinking and partying with the boys, he’s sure we all know that certain things might happen. Of course any rapist is a terrible person and deserves to be punished, but. Well. Women need to practice risk management, don’t they? If we know that rapists exist (and we do), then logically why would women make certain choices that would increase their risk of being raped? Rapists are monsters and we can’t change that, but women can certainly do their part to make sure that they stay safe.

After all, if someone’s house is robbed because they didn’t lock their door, we acknowledge that locking the door could have prevented the crime, don’t we? We don’t hold the person whose house was robbed to be completely blameless just because in a perfect world crimes would never be committed, do we?

Or to put it another way, when we drive cars, we wear seat belts, not because we think that we are bad drivers, but because we can’t control what other people on the road might do.

He wants his daughters to dress and behave modestly because although he trusts them, he can’t trust other people. That’s not victim-blaming, that’s just common sense.

He asks if you think that his daughters should serve as collateral damage for some point you are trying to prove.

He asks why it’s fine to put his daughter’ lives at risk for your so-called feminist principles.

He asks why you would want his daughters to dress and act like sluts – wouldn’t you rather they attract boys with their brains and character rather than their looks?

You see, it’s not that he hates women – not at all. He cares a great deal – obviously more than you do – about their health and safety. He wants his daughters to marry men who treat them well – men who hold open doors, men who pull out chairs, men who treat women as the exalted creatures that they are. He tells you that women – all women – deserve nothing less than this, because they are better, kinder, sweeter people than men. Women are stronger than men, he says – how else could they endure childbirth? Women are more nurturing and loving than men, he says – that’s why for thousands of years they’ve stayed home with the children while the men were out providing for the family.

Why would you want to deny his daughters all these wonderful qualities of womanhood and femininity?

Why would you want his daughters to be more like men, who are so obviously the lesser sex in so many regards?

You bring up the way that we as a society perpetuate and reinforce traditional gender roles; he counters with anecdotes about little boys being naturally interested in trucks, while little girls gravitate towards dolls and cooking sets.

You bring up the extreme beauty standards that women are held up to; he scoffs and asks if you’ve noticed how attractive the men in Hollywood are. He wonders if you think that women are alone when it comes to having body image issues – do you truly believe that men don’t face the same pressure that women do?

You bring up abortion; he bemoans the fact that men have no say over whether their child, their own flesh and blood, is born.

He uses the term “logical fallacy.”

He uses the term “straw man argument.”

He uses the term “ad hominem attack.”

When you tell him that he is not using any of these terms correctly, he calls that an ad hominem attack.

When you try to end the discussion, he accuses you of being too emotional about this. After all, here he is being all calm and rational, while you seem very, very upset. Here he has sat politely listening to you, presenting some very valid arguments, treating you exactly as he would treat a man, but you can’t seem to handle it. He humbly suggests that, if you cannot have a calm, rational discussion with him, perhaps women are not as equal as you imagine.

He asks why you so enjoy the role of the victim.

He asks why you would want to reduce his smart, competent daughters to victims.

He asks why you want to think of his mother, his brave, strong mother who raised him all on her own, as a victim.

He would never think of women as victims because, unlike you, he does not hate women.

mensClub