‘But dude, not all men are like that!’ you might be saying. ‘Some of us really want to discuss this stuff! We have questions! We want to learn!’
I hear you. And rather than use this platform to ridicule and publicly humiliate Facebook Guy with a blow-by-blow account of his asshattery, I have decided to turn it into a tool, an example through which to teach men** how to actually have a thoughtful, polite and grown-up conversation about feminist issues with feminist women.
1) ‘Check Your Privilege’
Yes, I totally went there.
I’m actually not a big fan of this phrase; I find it a bit dismissive, and think that a lot of people use it as a sort of shorthand for ‘stfu straight white dude,’ which, obviously, upsets a lot of straight white dudes who want to take part in a conversation. Having said that, I do believe that if you’re going to enter into a discussion on feminist topics, and you are a man (or, particularly, a straight white man), you need to consider that you are coming at the issue from a place of privilege, and that really matters.
Wait, don’t go! I know that the dreaded word ‘privilege’ is provocative; it offends men and puts them on the defensive. ‘How can you tell me I’m privileged when my life has been really hard?’ you say. ‘I worked my ass off to get this shit job at the slaughterhouse and nothing was just handed to me dammit!’ This is because you don’t actually understand what we mean. And rather than argue back and forth about it for however long, I will instead point towards this essay, which I think offers one of the best and simplest analogies I’ve probably ever come across to explain the concept of privilege. In fact I totally stole this analogy once in an effort to explain to Facebook Guy what I meant when I talked about male privilege, and that it was, like, actually a real thing. (No prizes for correctly guessing whether or not it worked.)
Or, if you’re more into comic books and geek culture than fantasy RPGs, I give you an alternate viewpoint via Doctor Nerdlove.
Please, go ahead and read up. I’ll wait…
So, why does this matter? It matters because, as a man, your experience of the world is very different from my experience of the world. And you’re probably saying, ‘Well, no shit!’, but one of the reasons so many men find it so easy to argue against feminism is because, you know, they don’t know what it’s like to be us. Your experience is your reality. You don’t see or experience sexism like women do in our day-to-day lives, so it’s easy to believe it doesn’t exist, that it isn’t real, that we’re just making it up. This is male privilege. And this is why you need to ‘check’ it.
2) Seriously, don’t do the ‘not all men!’ thing.
Trust me. We know not all men are misogynist fuckheads. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that the vast majority of men are not misogynist fuckheads. We are not talking about you and your non-misogynist fuckhead brethren. We are not blaming you as an individual or men as an entire gender for everything (#NotAllFeminists!). If you think that this is what feminism is about, go forth and google for a bit, do some reading, educate yourself on mainstream feminism and feminist issues, and please stop being so defensive. (And before you come back at me with a list of notorious quotes from man-hating feminists to prove that I’m full of shit, have a gander at this.)
We don’t need to keep having this argument; it only wastes time and takes the focus off of what we’re actually trying to talk about.
3) Also, don’t do the ‘what about the men?’ thing.
Just as we know that not all men are chauvinist pigs, we also know that men are raped too; that they are abused by their partners; that they have their own impossible body standards to live up to; that they often get the shaft over custody of their children; that they are more likely to die in a war; that they are expected to be tough and stoic and never to cry or show weakness; that nobody thinks they can properly operate a washing machine.
Men point out these things in an effort to somehow invalidate feminism, or to prove that men have it ‘worse’ and we should just shut up and enjoy another slice of that tasty equality cheesecake we’ve made. The thing is, most of this stuff is the result of a patriarchal society. Feminism is not the cause of these masculine problems; it’s seeking to destroy them (the problems, not the men). Feminism (apart from being the radical notion that women are people!) is a movement which is actively fighting against a patriarchal society that harms both men and women, but has historically harmed women in much more tangible ways. That’s why it’s called ‘feminism’ as opposed to ‘humanism’ or whatever. So yes, women do recognise and care about the problems that men face – but until we’re actually on equal footing (and sorry, but we’re not), we’re going to need a lot more feminism than we are masculism.
Which isn’t to say discussions about men’s issues are never appropriate or that feminists don’t want to hear them. But don’t go barging into a feminist discussion, particularly on a feminist website, screaming ‘WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ?’ It’s just rude.
4) We’re not all lying in order to promote the vast feminazi conspiracy.
A common response to women’s reported experiences is a demand for ‘proof’ or ‘more details’ – the implication being that an exact, verbatim transcript of whatever event the woman recounts is needed in order to make sure she didn’t just misinterpret something (i.e. ‘it wasn’t really sexism, you were just being an irrational feminist’). Don’t come into a feminist discussion asking for charts and graphs and annotated quotes and photos. No one’s on trial here, OK?
Maybe you didn’t realise how insulting and infuriating it is when you ask what, exactly, was said or done. Or maybe you honestly believe you need some sort of proof that sexism and misogyny are real, and if you are a woman, it’s just part of your everyday experience. I suppose you could start by re-reading point #1 above. Once you’ve done that, google ‘#YesAllWomen‘ and read some of the thousands of tweets from women experiencing this shit every day. Or this essay describing how goddamn tiring it is to have to constantly defend not just your opinions, but your own personal experience to people who don’t believe you, and who will argue and tell you you’re wrong, even when you can provide the proof they insist upon. Or, like, talk to some women you know. Ask them about it. Listen to them. And take them at their word.
5) Learn what irony is.
Don’t read an essay about, for example, how women are constantly asked to prove their arguments and are generally doubted and then comment that you’re not sure it’s that simple and you need more details. You just end up proving the essay’s point.
6) Finally, if things don’t go your way, don’t start spamming our inboxes with insults and comparisons to Andrea Dworkin.
That shit just gets you blocked on Facebook.
* There were actually two dudes involved in the discussion, but only one of them truly upset me, so I’m talking about that one in particular.
** I know, I know. #NotAllMen! I’m aware that there are also anti-feminist women out there. But in my experience the people who argue with me about this stuff have always been men, so I’m using ‘men’ here. If you are one of the Good Guys, please assume I’m not talking about you.