Monday, 12 December 2011
When I began writing this post, I wondered whether I was opening a can of worms that I shouldn't. You see, every time I post about feminism and talk about women's issues on my blog or twitter, I get angry emails asking me "but what about the men?" As if talking about women's rights immediately excludes men. It doesn't, it means focusing on women, which is my right to do as this is ultimately my blog. And then, last week, I had to delete a bunch of aggressive comments from one of my feminism posts which basically implied that because I highlight the problems women face in society and culture, I'm therefore excluding men. Wrong again. I left one anonymous man's comment, because at least he had the decency to be polite and not threaten me or use hostile language.
I won't tolerate being intimidated. I've worked too hard for my ideas, my beliefs and opinions. They have come to me through hard work and personal experiences, they are not things I throw around for the sake of theory. I believe everything I write here. So while it may be easier to keep quiet about such things, I suspect the whole point of such emails and comments is to make me, like so many other women, shut up. This is a strategy used by many misogynists on the internet to shut down discussion on pertinent topics that relate to women, as if there is something wrong with highlighting the position of women.
Men have historically enjoyed a biased privilege. This is just an historical fact, not an attack against men. We can't really talk about these topics in a mature manner if we blindly ignore history and engage with the history of male privilege in a disingenuous manner. The fact that we are now starting to redress this balance by talking about women does not signal that feminists are trying to exclude men, or "hate" men. This is a rather childish and simplistic response to feminism, and also suggests a distinct lack of empathy or willingness to understand how other people experience the world and daily life. When I think of all the significant relationships and life-long friendships that I have with the men in my life who understand and support my perspective, it seems ridiculous to me to even have to justify my position. I ultimately don't think the emails I've gotten are about the sender's own gender, but more about their level of maturity and empathy. This is not an "us" versus "them" paradigm. I am not attacking men, I'm interrogating misogyny and sexists assumptions.
One of the best responses to this topic that I've found on the internet, is this article, which I urge you to read in full. But I find that I have to quote large chunks of it here because it says everything that I feel about this subject:
When you read a post where a woman describes her rape trauma, and someone comes in and says “Well, men get raped too, what about the men?”, they’re not saying “We’re all potential victims of sexual assault, look at how awful this is, let’s examine it as one entity called “human” that is opposed to this type of behavior in all of its forms.” What they ARE saying is “STFU, woman. This isn’t just a woman problem, so you’re not allowed to talk about it in any terms that acknowledge your womaness, or gender as a factor at all. We don’t care that rape statistics show that women are much, much, more likely to be raped than straight cis men. ... Straight cis men get raped too. Therefore this is a non-story and you really shouldn’t be talking about it. Especially not in any context that we don’t agree with or approve of.”
That’s why “But what about the menz?” is a meme in feminist circles. It’s because we see that idea ALL THE GODDAMN TIME. If we talk about about anything related to harassment, anything related to how we experience the world on a day to day basis, some asshole will come in and say “Men could conceivably experience that too, YOUR ARGUMENT IS IRRELEVANT.” It’s a derailing tactic. A way of telling us to Shut The Fuck Up, and center the conversation around the people that matter: straight white cis guys.
It’s a reminder that if we make the conversation about us and our own experiences, and we don’t go out of our way to acknowledge those straight, cis white guys … well, clearly it’s because WE are excluding THEM, and it has nothing to do with their inability to identify with us. Because they’re the default. So you can’t talk about human experience in female terms and have it not be automatically exclusionary to the guys that you are not talking about.
And as a feminist, let me say this: Guys, I understand that bad things happen to you. I understand that you experience rape, harassment, problems related to sexuality and your masculinity. I get that. When I talk about me? It’s not because I’m refusing to talk about you. You’re allowed in. Share your stories, but stop acting like there’s something wrong with me if I don’t talk about yours every single time I talk about mine.
I really couldn't agree more, and have nothing else to add. This article says it all, so go on, read it.
P.S. All comments are now moderated on this blog. This is not just because of misogynist comments, but also because of annoying spam/advertising. I also won't allow derogatory remarks to be part of this blog (usually under the guise of anonymous). In general, I've been noticing an increase in downright mean-spirited comments on other blogs lately. This is truly baffling, and completely unnecessary. Let's be kind to one another.
Image credit: image from here, picturing the wonderful Bill Bailey.