Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Men: How Not To Do Feminism

[TW: Rape culture, threats]

Oh. Yay. A fledgling Nice Guy.

Because why wouldn't an 18-year-old young man get his very own forum in a newspaper to set the feminist agenda and order women to watch their tone? I mean, if there's one flaw I see in modern feminism it's that we just don't have enough Dudely Devil's Advocates. Lulz.

He begins:

"Do I consider myself a feminist? Absolutely."

Years of hearing men preface shmarmy, entitled, and privileged pontifications with this question (and answer) have conditioned me to brace myself whenever I hear this beginning. Indeed, after admirably stating that he agrees that women can be doctors, lawyers, and whatever else arouses our adorable passions "just as all human beings should" be able to, he bemoans:

"However, being a feminist is tough these days."

Tell me about it, brother. We're always assumed to be feminists only because we're fat, ugly lesbians who don't shave our legs and have had, like 15 abortions (with the assumption that these are all bad things, of course).

For caring about stuff like sexual harassment and rape jokes, we're constantly told we Ruin Everyone's Fun, Have No Sense Of Humor, and Are the PC Police.

For advocating against rape culture, dudes regularly threaten feminist bloggers with rape and others forms of violence.

Even though social conservatives create narratives that men are violent rapists, a stereotype many feminists are working to counter, feminsts are nonetheless blamed for the creation and perpetuation of this stereotype and then assumed to be man-haters.

A movement with creepy, aggressive, and eliminationist elements exists with the sole purpose of categorizing feminists as "parasites" and eradicating feminism/feminists.

Misogynists and their anti-feminist ilk accuse male feminists of being man-ginas (because vaginas, gross!) and of Only Being In It To Score With the Ladies.

Surely, these are some of the tough things of which our Young Feminist Man (YFM) is referring, right?

He continues:

"One minute I'm being reprimanded for referring to a female as an 'actress' and the next I'm being interrogated about whether I support breast cancer awareness. Let me explain."

Let's not.

In fact, allow me. See, YFM isn't actually talking about how hard it is to be a feminist, but how hard it is to be sexist around feminists.

For one, YFM finds it hypocritical that, on the one hand, Woman objects to gendered terms like "actress," but on the other hand, she also embraces the cultural phenomenon of associating pink with breast cancer.

Yes, dear readers, YFM has apparently not yet learned that the categories "women" and "feminist" consist of multiple persons, all with widely diverging views about stuff and so he mistakenly thinks that if one feminist, say, opposes gendered words like "actress" but another feminist embraces pink shit, then the entirety of feminism has just 'asploded from hypocrisy and inconsistency (ker-pow!). Thus, Daddy's Little Mansplainer writes as though his Logical ManBrain is here to objectively observe and point out our womanly feminist silliness.

It's understandable, really. He's merely taking a cue from our larger society which puts forth these "truths" on a daily basis. So, like I said, why wouldn't he get his own forum in a newspaper to echo the Common Sense?

His second complaint is that he found a recent Facebook phenomenon where women promoted breast cancer awareness by posting where they put their handbags (Sample- "I like it on the table") to be "coarse" and "juvenile." Indeed, this crass tone almost made him be totally against breast cancer awareness. But in the end, he decided to still be for it. Because he's "absolutely" a feminist. But still:

"[The campaign] causes me to hesitate the next time I support the promotion of breast cancer awareness, even if it is for only a moment....

There is no winning for males in a world where calling a woman an actor or actress can result in being labeled a sexist, nor a world where men must take breast cancer awareness completely seriously, while some women downplay its importance with crass insinuations."

Note that he appears less concerned with how and why gendered words like "actress" might be sexist and more concerned with his own discomfort at being called out for using words like "actress." So, do we really expect him to pick up on the fact that these Facebook women are merely reflecting the double-bind that our society puts women in: Hey ladies, your ability to sexually titillate men gets you validation and attention! Hey ladies, how do you expect us to take you seriously when you're dressed like that?!

So, in a fit of hyper-defensive angst, he throws his hands up into the air, taking another cue from the larger society by blaming this situation on the irrationality of Woman, what does she want anyway, whaddaryagunnado?:

"Many [women] are sympathetic to my pleas for some rationality in modern feminism, which has overcompensated to pose men as the eternal antagonist. This should not be an issue of solidarity against men. Women do not need to unite against men. They need to unite with men, especially with those who support ideals of equality and social and economic freedom."

Let me suggest that, due to the subject matter of YFM's post, he might not be thinking rationally about the topic of "modern feminism." For, a rational person might concede that persons who "absolutely" identified as feminists would not suggest that the way men and women could best unite to "support ideals of equality" would be for feminists to stop labeling sexism when they see it because it makes lots of men uncomfortable.

They also might familiarize themselves with modern feminism enough to know that most of us don't, actually, see or "pose men as the eternal antagonist." And, well, they might save their condescending pleas for "unity," when what they're really talking about is Women Being Sufficiently Smiley About Sexist Stuff.

But alas. The way YFM sees it, it's he who's being treated unfairly by the irrational feminazis:

"A certain percentage of women think I am a sexist."

Oh, a "certain" percentage. Lulz. How very... informative. He continues:

"Perhaps it is because I am white, male and aggressive in my demeanor."

Nah, I'd go with your It's Worse For Women To Call Me Sexist Than It Is For Me To Be Sexist bit or your Treating Feminism Like Its Primary Concern Is Men's Feelings. (Anyone else wondering what he means by "aggressive in demeanor"? Let me guess. Men are entitled to aggression. We ladies need to watch our tone.) He continues:

"So, I apologize in advance if I accidentally call you an actress when you prefer actor, or if I forget to steal one of my sister's headbands for the next 'Pink Out.' All I ask is that you cut men a break and make the world a little friendlier for the male feminist."

You know, aside from being skeptical of the notion that hoards feminists give two shits about whether or not YFM dons his sister's pink headband, the thing about these tsk-tsk tone arguments is that there's always that implicit (and oftentimes, explicit) threat. Watch it ladies, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Like, men can't be feminists just because it's the right thing to do. A man's feminism has to be contingent on women coddling him and never calling out sexist stuff that makes him uncomfortable, a tact that, when you think about it, is somewhat self-defeating to the goals of feminism, no? I mean, if dude can't handle the "actor/actress" thing, how in hades is he going to handle the radical concept that even though he's (a) a man and (b) thinks he's a feminist, he might still have a lot to learn about feminism and male privilege?

I strongly believe men can be, must be, and often are, part of the solution. But fellas, if you're looking for a primer on how not to be, I daresay we've just witnessed it.

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