Originally posted on September 16, 2013
Every few weeks, a feminist writes an article bemoaning the lack of men calling themselves feminists. The feminist complains about men equating feminism with man-hating. She objects to men thinking that feminism is only about women and women’s concerns. Sure, the feminist says, feminism is concerned with addressing oppression against women. However, it is also about addressing men’s issues. Men, she reminds us, are also hurt by “patriarchy.” Feminism is not just about women’s grievances; it is for everyone.
Except when the men who believe that have the temerity to take feminists at their word. In the article The trouble with male allies, Meghan Murphy takes issue with male feminists:
Now, more than ever before, feminists should be skeptical of men who claim the title of “feminist” or “feminist ally.” We’ve learned a number of things (one would hope) from the Hugo Schwyzer debacle – one of those things being that we should be skeptical of any man who claims to be an authority on feminism (particularly when these men have a history of abuse, but in general as well).
Murphy previously expressed distrust in men calling themselves feminists, arguing that “when men claim feminism as their own either to gain legitimacy in feminist spaces and conversations or as a way to excuse their misogynist behaviour, it makes me wonder whether men might be better off staying away from the title completely.”
Yet what bugs her in the recent article is male feminists deciding what feminists should talk about. As Murphy explains:
This past week I’ve had some decidedly off-putting encounters with self-described “allies,” due specifically to discussions around Hugo Schwyzer. Some men joined in on efforts to harass and bully feminists online who they felt hadn’t responded correctly to the Schwyzer issue/incidents, criticizing them for having been duped by a manipulative sociopath. While certainly people, feminists too, should be held to account for their actions and many have admitted and apologized for their failure to condemn Schwyzer sooner, it is not men’s place to demand accountability from feminists. It is their place to demand accountability from other men.
Murphy focuses on a Twitter exchange she had with Angus Johnston, a male feminist blogger. During the exchange, Johnston brought up the lack of response from any of the feminists who allowed Hugo Schwyzer to write for their websites:
Murphy writes in her article:
In the midst of finger-pointing […], when it comes to male “allies,” […] the finger should be pointed squarely at the perpetrator. But also, for men in feminism, a great deal of the work involves looking at their own behaviours, as men, and the ways they roam the world, equipped with male privilege. […] My desire in writing this is not to “call out” any individual man in particular, but to remind men that the word “mansplaining” came in to being because it’s something women experience so often. Not because men can’t and shouldn’t have opinions or that they must be silent — but because men fall so easily into the role of “expert” — because they’ve learned they are the “experts” — and seem to expect cookies and back pats for doing the bare minimum in terms of being pro-feminist. I’ve fallen into this myself, being so caught off guard by a man actually saying something feministish that I am too easily willing to trust him.
Perhaps the reason Murphy responds in this condescending way is because Johnston has a point. To my knowledge, none of the feminist websites Schwyzer wrote for addressed Schwyzer’s admissions. Many feminist blogs have been incredibly silent on this issue, despite Schwyzer’s prominence in the online feminist community. They expressed more outrage over Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance than they have been against Schwyzer.
Perhaps the reason for their silence is because they do not want to admit that the men’s rights movement called this years ago.Every thing that Schwyzer admitted to men’s rights activists had already called him out on. They had him pegged the moment he reached notoriety. They saw through his ruse, and pointed out every flaw in his argument, every distorted theory, and every misandry diatribe. Yet feminists still chose to support Schwyzer. Men’s rights activists told feminists that Schwyzer was simply saying what feminists and women wanted to hear, and feminists continued to support him.
Or perhaps the reason for their silence is because Schwyzer showed how transparent feminism really is. All of his comments show that feminism is more about pitching grievances and getting pats on the back for one’s level of “oppression” than it is about creating or promoting equality. There is no desire to see things become equal because that would make feminism moot. Modern feminism is little more than a pity party in which women complain about random, exaggerated experiences and wait for others to validate their pain while blaming all males for their problems.
Is it a wonder then that men do not want to be a part of such a movement?
Murphy does not appear to think so. She waxes on about men who “get” what it means to be an ally. The notion that there is a “right” way to be an “ally” belies the idea that feminism is for everyone. If every can be a feminist and participate equally, there should not be an issue. However, Murphy disagrees:
While “show, don’t tell” should be the basic rule, my friend and sister, Elizabeth Pickett, came up with a set of more elaborate and specific guidelines for men who wish to ally with feminists. I think it is excellent and have published it on this site. Please do take a look.
Yes, let us have a look at Pickett’s guidelines. The first on the list states:
1) Read as much as you can about feminist issues and feminist critical thinking … and keep reading. Not just mass media either. In fact, with a very few exceptions, reports about feminists and what they do in the mass media are apt to be oversimplified, sensationalised or outright sexist.
Would that include mass media outlets like Feministing, Slate, Salon, Mother Jones, and MSNBC?
What Pickett implies is that male “allies” should stick to feminist literature about feminism because it is more balanced. That would be akin to telling someone interested in right-wing Christianity to stick with right-wing Christian literature because the liberal media machine reports, with a very few exceptions, are apt to be oversimplified, sensationalized, or outright bigoted.
2) Talk to women and mostly listen. Or ask questions. Try not to presuppose. Be curious as opposed to critical – for your own education and our good.
The way to be a good “ally” is to listen to whatever women say and never question it? How is that for someone’s own education and for women’s good? Such thinking simply allows women to make outlandish statements and never be challenged for doing so.
3) Think for yourself but do it mostly by yourself. It’s your work, not the work of feminists, to educate yourself. Don’t come to us knowing nothing and acting as if you know everything. We are most often treated by men as if we are in need of their advice and direction and we might just be a little sensitive about this. It’s YOUR job to treat us as true equals – because we are – and because when it comes to women’s lives we know more than you do. It’s true that we’ll make lots of mistakes – just like you. It’s not your job to tell us what they are. We are an exploited and oppressed sex class and it is up to us to define the terms of our own liberation.
Let us start from the top. How is it someone’s responsibility to educate themselves about something they apparently know nothing about? If women know more about women’s lives than men do, would it not make more sense for men to come to women for the answers rather than trying to figure it out on their own in silence? Would that not prevent men who know nothing from acting like they know everything?
Likewise, is it not also women’s job to treat men as true equals since men are their equals, and because when it comes to men’s lives men know more than women do? Is it also not contradictory for women to think it is their job to tell men about men’s mistakes while expecting men to keep silent about women’s mistakes? Do not equals correct each other’s bad behavior, not turn a blind eye to it?
And since women are allowed to define the terms of their own liberation, should the same thing not apply to men?
4) There are differences among feminists in terms of our analyses and the strategies and tactics we decide are appropriate for our own liberation. Choose those whom you wish to support and then support them by advocating amongst men. Keep your critiques of individual feminists or feminist perspectives to yourselves. As a result of our exploitation and oppression there is horizontal fighting and even bullying between us sometimes. Leave this to us to sort out. Your “contributions” to the fight only make matters worse, divide us further, force us to choose between our supporters, make male opinions the issue instead of feminist opinions and generally stall our efforts. If you think you have some brilliant insight or thought that no woman has had that can save our movement or send us unerringly in the right direction – I don’t believe you. But feel free to send us a secret message via a feminist friend.
In other words, the fourth rule of feminism is that you do not criticize feminism or feminists. If you are a man, your opinion does not matter because your are the oppressor and do not know what you are talking about. However, on the off chance you might actually have a clue, tell it to the more intelligent woman who will share it with the other smarter-than-you-but-more-oppressed women.
If feminism is about equality and for everyone, why are men’s opinions so devalued?
5) It’s a fact that you will hear some women/feminists say things that sound negative toward men and about men. Leave it alone. It is the result of our experiences of violence and oppression. There isn’t one single woman who isn’t placed somewhere on the continuum of violence against women either as a direct or vicarious victim. Let us deal with it and accept that a generations-long system of oppression and violence has done its work on some of us. Wait for us. And don’t take it personally – it just makes you sound defensive and it lengthens the time it takes for each of us to come to terms with our lives and the lives of our sisters. Be particularly attentive to this with women whom you know have experienced violence and those of us who work with them.
In other words, when feminists and women do it, it is not sexist.
Coincidentally, this rule also condones women’s violence against men and boys. If a woman rapes, beats, or hurts a man or boy, the male victim should keep his mouth shut because it okay for women to abuse others because they were abused first. One ought not take it personally because it makes it harder for women and their sisters to get on with their lives.
6) If you feel divided from women and excluded from feminism sometimes, for gawd sakes deal with it. Women are divided from men and excluded from social, cultural, economic and political life in a thousand ways. We have to deal with it. You should be able to do that much. And use it to motivate your actions on behalf of our liberation.
One bad act justifies the other? Some men keep you out of their community, so it is fair for you to keep out men from your community? Someone should show feminists this rule the next time they complain about fan girls feeling divided from geeks and excluded from geek culture. It is okay for those men and boys to keep women out because those men and boys are divided from women and excluded from social, cultural, economic, and political life in a thousand ways.
7) If you’re afraid to stand up against sexism, male violence against women and the exploitation of women – how do you think we feel? Speak up and speak out.
So in all other aspects of feminism men should sit in the back of the bus, but when it comes to saying things that might result in push back and criticism men should stand up front?
8) Your primary job is with men. And yourself.
How is this any different from what men are doing now? Is not the complaint that men are too focused on other men and themselves? Better yet, is not the primary job of feminism to address women’s issues? Why should men focus on other men instead of addressing the former?
Here is a thought: if you have a checklist of what people should do in order to be your ally, you should not be surprised to find that few people, if any, want to be your ally.
The above two articles are the reason feminists cannot convince most men or women to become feminists. As I noted above, modern feminism is little more than a pity party, and the above list shows that. There is nothing in the list other than telling men to shut up and do as they are told.
That is not equality. That is not even tolerance. That is discrimination and bigotry masquerading as intellectual insight. Those articles prove that feminism is not for “everyone.” It is only for those who want to give condescending, disrespectful rants about how hard they have it compared to their “oppressors.”
Who would want to be allies with someone who thinks like that?