Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cross-Gender Convos About Feminist Interactions

Over at Shakesville, Liss has written some helpful tips for how men can communicate more effectively in good faith conversations with women about feminist issues.

I thought I'd share both because it may be helpful to some male readers who may be seeking such advice, and because I think it can also be helpful for many women to see these suggestions articulated.  I know that when I have engaged with men on feminist issues, even if all parties are engaging in good faith and with good intentions, the interactions have still felt hostile.

Yet, like men, many women have internalized the stereotype that men are more objective and rational than women and so sometimes when men are engaging in sexist behavior it can be hard to immediately recognize and name what's going on.

I agree with all of the suggestions Liss makes, and in the comments I added one of my own:
When discussing feminist issues, "joking" about how scared you are "as a man" to be in the conversation is not helpful (eg, "I'm just going to say this and *duck* outta the way!"). These kinds of statements usually precede statements that are hostile to women while simultaneously putting the onus on women to center the man's feelings and ensure that he feels safe and not-too-challenged at all times in the conversation.
Even guys who are generally open to feminist arguments will trot this jokey-joke out. I've gotten, for instance, "Don't kill me for saying this, but Title IX should have never happened." The "joke" has always felt so unfair to me, and it wasn't until relatively recently that I really began to consider and articulate why.  Through the "joke," the man gives himself permission to say something offensive while pre-emptively framing any response that's not 100% appeasing as unduly hostile.

Now, when I see men make this "joke," I recognize them as men who are not adult enough to stand by their positions.  It's the equivalent of if feminists preceded gender conversations with men with, "Don't get pissed about this, but all men should be kicked in the nuts twice a week. Whoa, whoa down boy! You mad?"

On Humor and Civility

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