Tag Archives: men

Why The Men’s Rights Movement Is Garbage

28 Mar

I need to take a moment here to talk about the Men’s Rights Movement, because there seems to be some confusion. Actually, there seems to be a whole lot of confusion.

Over the past little while, I’ve had a number of people challenge me on calling out men’s rights activists (hereafter referred to as MRAs). “But men are oppressed too,” people say. “Feminism is sexist, and it teaches men that masculinity is wrong.” “Straight, white men aren’t allowed to be proud of themselves anymore.” “If you believe in equality, then you should want men to have the same type of activism as women.” “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

First of all, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But let’s not pretend that all opinions are created equal – some are based on fact, and some are total bullshit. Like, I could tell you that I believe that vaccines cause autism, and that would be my opinion, but it would also be demonstrably untrue. So let’s not pretend that all opinions should be given the same consideration, because we both know better than that.

Second of all, let’s get one thing straight: men, as a group, do not face systematic oppression because of their gender. Am I saying that literally no men out there are oppressed? No, I am for sure not saying that. Men can and do face oppression and marginalization for many reasons – because of race, class, sexuality, poverty, to name a few. Am I saying that every white cishet dude out there has an amazing life because of all his amassed privilege? Nope, I’m not saying that either. There are many circumstances that might lead to someone living a difficult life. But men do not face oppression because they are men. Misandry is not actually a thing, and pretending that it’s an oppressive force on par with or worse than misogyny is offensive, gross, and intellectually dishonest.

MRAs believe that feminists are to blame for basically everything that’s wrong with their lives. The Men’s Rights Movement is a reactionary movement created specifically to counter feminism, and most (if not all) of their time and resources go towards silencing and marginalizing women. They do things like starting the Don’t Be That Girl campaign, a campaign that accuses women of making false rape reports. They attend feminist events in order to bully and intimidate women, they flood online feminist spaces with threatening messages, and they regularly use smear campaigns and scare tactics to make the women who don’t back down afraid for their physical safety. They do literally nothing to actually resolve the problems that they claim to care about, and instead do everything they can to discredit the feminist movement.

There are certainly issues that disproportionately affect men – the suicide rate among men is higher, as is the rate of homelessness. Men are more likely to be injured or killed on the job or because of violence. Men who are the victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault are less likely to report these things. These are the issues that MRAs are purportedly working on, and by “working on” I mean “blaming feminism for.” The problem is that none of these things are caused by feminism, or equal rights for women, or anything like that. You know what’s actually to blame for a lot of these issues? Marginalizing forces like class and race, for one thing – I mean, it’s not rich white men who are grappling with homelessness or dangerous workplaces or gun violence. You know what else is to blame? Our patriarchal culture and its strictly enforced gender roles which, hey, happens to be exactly the same power structure that feminism is trying to take down. The patriarchy has some fucked up ideas about masculinity, ideas that make men less likely to seek help for issues that they perceive to be too feminine – such as being hurt or raped by a female partner, not being able to provide for themselves, or not seeking help for health issues like depression and anxiety. On a societal level, it means that resources are not as readily available for men who face these challenges, because patriarchal ideas tell our courts, our governments and our charitable organizations that men don’t ever need that kind of help. Yes, the patriarchy overwhelmingly privileges the interests of men, but it also hurts men. It hurts men in all the ways that MRAs are apparently so concerned about, which means that you would think that MRAs would be totally on board with dismantling the patriarchy, but they’re not. Instead, they would rather blame women for their problems.

See, the problem with the Men’s Rights Movement is that they are not doing anything concrete to resolve any of the above issues. They are not raising money to open shelters for homeless or abused men. They are not starting up suicide hotlines for men. They are not lobbying for safer workplaces or gun control. Instead, they are crying about feminism, pooh-poohing the idea of patriarchy and generally making the world a sadder, scarier, less safe place to live in. In fact, I would argue that their stupid antics are actually a detriment t0 the causes that they claim to espouse, because they’re creating an association between actual real issues that men face and their disgusting buffoonery. So good fucking job, MRAs. Way to fuck vulnerable men over in your quest to prove that feminism is evil. I hope you’re all really proud of yourselves.

The Men’s Rights Movement is not “feminism for men.” It’s not some kind of complimentary activism meant to help promote equal treatment of men and women. And it fucking most certainly  is not friendly towards women, unless we’re talking about women with crippling cases of internalized misogyny. I believe in equality for men and women, but I also believe that we’re not born with an even playing field. Women still face disenfranchisement, discrimination and a lack of basic freedoms and rights, and although feminism has done a lot of great work over the last century or so, we still haven’t undone several millennia’s worth of social programming and oppression. So that’s why it’s not “men’s turn” to have a social justice movement. That’s why we have the fem in feminism. That’s why fairness and equality involve promoting the empowerment of women, rather than promoting the empowerment of both genders in equal amounts. Because, to use a stupid analogy here, if one person starts out with no apples and another person starts out with five apples and then you give them both three apples each in the name of fairness, one person still has five more fucking apples.

So yes, let’s talk about issues that affect men. Let’s come up with solutions for problems that disproportionately hurt men, like suicide and homelessness and violent deaths (while at the same time recognizing that the fact that there are issues that affect more men than women does not mean that men are oppressed because of their gender). Let’s work on opening up shelters for abused men, let’s create campaigns bringing awareness to the fact that men are also the victims of rape, and let’s pressure the government to improve workplace safety. But let’s find a way to do this that’s not at the expense of women. Instead, let’s join together and fuck up the patriarchy real good, because that way everyone wins.

p.s. If you actually think that straight white men aren’t encouraged to be “proud” of themselves you need to check your privilege a million times over and then check it some more because seriously

How I Feel About MRAs

How I Feel About MRAs

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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?

 

Just (or, an insidious little word that I use too often)

27 Sep

I teach a regular yoga class on Sunday evenings. My friend Charlene, who is an amazing teacher that I respect like whoa, teaches the class right before mine. For a few weeks now she’s been threatening promising to take my class, the thought of which was basically vomit-inducing.

I mean, imagine this: you, a neophyte in your field, suddenly have someone with years of experience and training under their belt, someone who has been inspiring you with their amazingness for quite some time now, who wants to be your student. Pretty nerve-wracking, right?

Anyway, I was nervous, my voice quavered a little when giving instructions, and every time I looked at her I forgot everything I’d ever learned, but other than that it went pretty well. Afterwards she thanked me for the class and said she’d enjoyed it, so I asked if she would email me with some feedback and constructive criticism.

I received her (extremely lovely and thoughtful) email the other night, and one paragraph really jumped out at me:

I noticed that you say “just _________”  a lot, as in, “just reach your arm up, just step forward”.  I catch myself doing this as well sometimes and realise that it detracts from the impact of the practice and my presence. There are no “justs” in yoga, since every movement and breath should be linked with some degree of awareness and attention- everything we do matters. Saying “just” a lot also makes the class seem more casual than perhaps we want it to be, since after all, people come to class to learn….they need to trust that we are confident in our capabilities to guide them.

Having read this, I’ve been carefully monitoring my speech for the last few days, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: I say just a lot.

I don’t just say it in a yoga context, either. I use it quite often when I’m talking about myself, and about my accomplishments. This morning I was sitting in the cafe across the street from the studio, and a woman asked me what I did for a living. Oh, I just manage a yoga studio, I replied without thinking. The real kicker is, it’s NOT EVEN TRUE. I don’t just manage a yoga studio – for one thing, phrasing it that way makes it sound lesser or inferior to other jobs, and for another thing, I also teach yoga and write, but for some reason I never think to mention those.

I mean, I say some reason, but I totally know the reason. It’s because I am a woman and, as such, it makes my life easier to constantly diminish my own accomplishments and make myself appear less threatening.

Every time I say just, what I’m really saying is, This isn’t important. I’m not important. Please don’t question me on this.

Every time I say I think when I really mean I know, what I’m actually saying is, Please don’t think that I’m trying to show you how smart I am or how accomplished, I’m sure you’re very smart and accomplished too.

The dangerous thing is that I keep telling myself that if I just teach more often, or get more stuff published, or accumulate more successes, then I will stop feeling this way. I tell myself that I use this kind of demeaning language against myself because I’m just not good enough yet, but someday I’ll get there. Really, though, the truth is that if I don’t think I’m there yet, then I will never get there and I will never be good enough, because my desire to self-deprecate will continue to push my goals just out of reach.

Let’s go back to the basics here:

Men feel threatened by women, especially powerful, successful women. This is ground that’s been covered over and over, but it bears revisiting.

Women also feel threatened by the success of other women, because we’ve been set up by society to compete against each other. There’s some jealousy in there, of course, but I also get the feeling that women often feel like success is something finite, and if one woman uses up a big chunk of success, then there will be less for everyone else. And maybe that’s a even a bit true, because while society seems to tolerate plenty of successful men, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for women at the top.

So how do you react when you’re challenged by someone on your success? Do you get defensive, grow angry and maybe start to lose your temper as you try to prove your point? Some people do, and that’s not necessarily a bad or wrong reaction – but it is one that’s certainly far more accepted from men than it is from women. If a man becomes righteously angry, he’s often lauded for it. If a woman does the same thing, it’s frequently blamed on her menstrual cycle, or her lack of sex, or because, you know, ladies.

So what’s one way around this problem? To be nice and reasonable, because you catch more flies with honey? To be nice enough that you can convince men that sure, you’re smart and well-educated, but you’re not one of those women. To be reasonable enough to prove that not all feminists are hysterical and crazy, some are totally kind and thoughtful and soft-spoken.

To be so fucking nice and reasonable that you start to undermine yourself, to diminish yourself because you don’t want to cause conflict. To be so respectful of other people’s opinions, so concerned about not offending them, that it starts to become hard to stand up for what you yourself believe in.

I’m not saying don’t be nice and respectful, but what I am saying is that these are qualities that men have come to expect from what they think of as “reasonable” women. And every time you describe yourself as just being whatever, every time you back away from an argument by conceding that everyone’s allowed an opinion even though what the other person is saying is totally wrong and offensive to you, you are playing right into that expectation.

I’ve written here about being careful about the words we use when talking about other women, but we also need to watch the words we use when talking about ourselves. In order to be successful, we need to learn to talk ourselves up, to speak positively about our accomplishments, and not be afraid of a little conflict. We need to learn to be assertive, because society isn’t going to begin tolerating assertive until more women are comfortable in that role.

So I challenge you to spend a few days watching what you say, and taking stock of how often you use words like just or think or only when you’re talking about yourself or your opinions. Ask yourself what your speech would sound like without those words. Finally, try to make a few statements about yourself every day that celebrate your work, your life, or your accomplishments instead of demeaning them.

Because if you don’t take yourself seriously, probably no one else will.