Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Shut up and come back when you can ask nicely...

In an online discussion, a feminist recently asked my boyfriend (oops, partner) to tell her of some things he considered to be "female privilege". Believing she was asking in good faith (which she might have been, who knows?), he asked *me*, from my arguably less biased position as a woman, to provide a list of what I felt were privileges women benefit from.

I posted a "checklist" of 17 items similar to the one frequently used to determine male privilege, concentrating on issues where women's privilege most seriously disenfranchises men, and asked her if she could say "yes" to any of them.

Items included:

-if I physically abuse my partner, people are likely to believe my partner did something to deserve it, like hitting me first.
-if my partner physically abuses me, even if I have no physical signs of it, I will be believed by the authorities.
-if I physically abuse my partner, and they reciprocate, it is likely that they will be arrested/charged and I will not.
-if I divorce my spouse, the default assumption is that I will have primary custody of my children, even if my spouse and I shared breadwinning and child care duties during the marriage.
-if I divorce my spouse, I will be awarded child support, and if my ex-spouse does not pay they will face serious legal consequences. They will face these consequences even if they cannot pay because their financial situation has changed since the marriage.
-if I divorce my spouse, and they are granted primary custody of my children, I will rarely be ordered to pay child support, even if I can afford it. If I am ordered to pay, and I don't, it is unlikely I will face serious consequences.

Her response, after giving a couple examples of what she considered female privilege, was to call my list a "trite rehash of the MRA agenda", express her "disappoint[ment]", and actually "feel bad for [me]" that I had "bothered to type it up." Her two examples of female privilege were:

-people will assume I am a warm and empathetic person
-people will be more likely to assist me when I must accomplish a physically arduous task

Um. Okaayyyy. Way to dismiss, shame and distract. And while I agree with her examples, I'm pretty sure she suggested them because they are seemingly innocuous, in order to present female privilege as essentially a non-issue. The extrapolation of these privileges to their inevitable real-world consequences seemed beyond her.

Her first example is almost certainly a major contributing factor in the current gender bias in DV law. And it didn't occur to her that people would be more likely to assist her when she must accomplish arduous tasks that are not physical (such as, say, negotiating a custody agreement).

Weary, but not prepared to give up, I presented more examples I thought would be less apt to provoke a defensive response, some of which include:

-dress codes in the workplace are more likely to allow for me to emphasize my more attractive physical features and de-emphasize the ones I'm unhappy with (if a man looks like a pear in a suit, tough luck)
-if I work in a profession dominated by the opposite gender, I will be seen as "heroic" or an indicator of "social progress", not an indication that I'm somehow deficient (think Meet the Parents--"You're a male nurse? You must have failed the entry tests for med school.")
-if I earn less than my partner, no one will look at me funny
-if I earn less than my partner, people will not automatically expect me to contribute equally to our living expenses

Her response was this:

Do you notice that anything either of us has come up with is actually a feminist issue? Gender roles, the beauty myth, wage disparity...not a terribly successful experiment.

Sigh. Now I am not only weary, but frustrated. I feel like I am banging my head against the wall. I responded:

I know! All issues, when you really think about them, are feminist issues. Wow! I just realized: there are no men's rights issues. In every instance that a man is disenfranchised by virtue of his gender, it's actually an oppression of women.

But if feminism is, as you imply, THE ANSWER to all gender equality issues, I wonder how long men will have to wait before feminism seriously addresses the issues that concern them? And when feminism does decide to tackle them, which will they tackle first? The man who loses access to his kids because his ex's new boyfriend lives in another state and the courts don't take his rights as a father (or his children's right TO a father) seriously? Or the fact that he's expected to carry the heavier bags when it's time to bring in the groceries?

Her response?

My life has been touched by custody issues more than you can ever know. Your attempt to shame me with your personal story is inappropriate and is starting to piss me off. This isn't a sorrow and woe competition.

Re-read the article. If you want to get feminists to champion your cause, show how it is a feminist issue, don't just rage and blame. Spouting rhetoric isn't the same as engaging in dialogue.

"I'm a victim and you're not being nice to me. Shut up and go away and come back when you can ask nicely."

My reply to her:

When did I ever claim to want feminists to champion any Men's Rights cause? What I want is gender equality, and if I want that I would be ill-advised to rely on a movement that prioritizes social and legal change in areas where women are disenfranchised, no?

And please don't get me wrong. This in itself is not a criticism of feminism. It would be kind of retarded for me to expect women in the movement to feel as strongly about male disenfranchisement as they do their own--especially when I have been told by (some) feminists themselves that it is not a reasonable expectation, that feminism may ally itself with other rights movements, but it is understandably concerned with women first.

And it would be equally retarded to assume that any political movement will be as interested in taking privileges away from those it champions as it is in elevating them to an equal status. This too is only understandable--it is a both a vagary of human nature and a political reality.

What I want is for ANYONE to listen and take these issues seriously. Sometimes that means shouting and even blaming. I would advise any feminist who tells any group that if they want to be listened to they should stop shouting, that I am sure men and conservative women said the same thing to suffragettes--"Sheesh, you gals are strident and shouty. If you're nice, and you ask a certain way, maybe we'll listen." I'm also pretty sure that if suffragettes had stopped shouting (and blaming), women still would not have the vote. Telling people that their issues are not issues until and unless they present them "nicely" and politely and according to this rule or that rule or the other rule is a silencing tactic used on feminists so frequently, even now, that I am constantly amazed by their inability to recognize when they are trivializing and dismissing others' issues in the same damn way.

And oddly enough, the only issues they want people to stop being shouty about are issues that--if addressed--will negatively affect some individual women. "Gay rights are cool--hell, we'll shout with you. Equal rights for people of color or the poor are cool--don't stop shouting until they listen. Hell yeah! Equal rights for men? Shhhhhhh! No one will take you seriously unless you're pleasant." How often have strong, capable, aggressive women in the movement and the business world heard that one used against them, and how insulting is it to them?

It's disingenuous of anyone to believe that any group advocating for radical social change is going to be listened to if only they are calm and reasonable. Since the mid-80s, academics have been quietly, calmly, convincingly and reasonably publishing 159 surveys, studies and papers tabulating data on domestic violence based on community samples (general population, rather than police records or otherwise skewed or self-selecting samples) of 109 000 men and women, that quietly, calmly, reasonably and convincingly disconfirm the "patriarchal [terrorist]" paradigm of intimate partner violence. Yet who's talking about them--or rather, who's talking about the half of the data in them that disproves the notion that men are the only perpetrators and women the only victims? The criminal justice system? Nope. DV awareness and prevention groups? Nope. Feminists? Nope. These academics have been nice, calm, reasonable in their approach to these issues, imploring judicial officials, government agencies and victims' rights advocacy groups to only consider the data and adjust policies to protect all victims. It's been 25 years, and what has this calm, reasoned approach got them?

When justifiably angry early feminists were told to be "nice", to be "pleasant", to "calm down", that their justifiable and righteous anger at women's disenfranchisement was "unbecoming and unfeminine" and they "should be quiet and go home until you can be nice about it", what do YOU think their response should have been? And yet when it comes to issues where men's disenfranchisement has often been life-destroying for individuals--domestic violence and father's rights--people, not only feminists, tell them they should be more "stoic", to "suck it up" to "deal with it", that their anger is just typical "male aggression" and that they should "go away until you learn how to be nice."

What do you think their response should be? What do you think it will be?

I hope--hell, if I believed in god I would pray--that men will not be quiet. That they will not stop shouting. That they will not settle down and focus solely on compromise, calm debate and pleasant discussion prematurely. That they will not shift from a stance of anger to one of begging. The time will come for settling down, but considering the resistance of those in power--in all defiance of a mountain of empirical evidence and sometimes even their own deeply traumatic personal experiences growing up without fathers or with abusive mothers--their acceptance of a reality that doesn't conform to what is currently considered politically correct isn't coming anytime soon. 

All political movements advocating for meaningful social and political change have had to shout to be heard and taken seriously: The environmental movement, the feminist movement, the equal rights movement, the gay rights movement. There were marches, angry chants of "Hell no, we won't go!", strongly worded placards and slogans, yelling and fist-slamming in venues of political debate, and all manner of unruly, angry, righteous protest.

Contrary to what the feminist above claims, when people are accustomed to the comfort of their status quo, they need to be shouted at before they will be motivated to change it. Sometimes getting people to take you seriously is as much about making a nuisance of yourself until the powers that be finally throw up their hands and cry, "All right already! We'll give you what you want if that's what it takes to shut you guys up!" as it is about logic and evidence and reasoned arguments. Sometimes it requires extremist movements like those of Malcolm X to threaten the masses with a real shake-up before the powers that be are willing to opt for the saner option of Martin Luther King.

However this kind of change happens, it always, always requires shouting. So please, guys, don't stop shouting. Please.


  1. This is a beautiful rant, and I thank you for it. I am going to save it so I can read it in the future.

  2. Fantastic post! You've really nailed the arguments, I love it :D

  3. I must warn you, if you keep making rational posts that point out bias and irrational parts of feminism or do anything that might piss off a feminist, which is likely since you are a female writing for the MRM, you will get your blog banned and removed by blogger.

    My blog was more "controversal" and more 'out there' than yours but I didn't violate google/bloggers content restrictions and I didn't spam and to my knowledge I didn't violate the TOS agreement and they deleted twice and now it is dead for good.

    I don't know how many complaints google got from feminists and maybe others about my blog.I do know that I took a break from it and started posting on r/mr and then posted a bunch of stuff to feminist sites and then started posting on feminist sites in the comment section (meaning my blog link showed up above the comment) and then my blog got deleted once and I went through hell getting it restored and then it got deleted again and isn't coming back.

    What I found disturbing was that the people at google didn't just delete my blog and then put it back up after my protests with a disclaimer link but someone at google actually changed all my privacy settings. This meant that my private email account with my real name was visible for days under my MRA name until I changed it back. This has happened twice now.

    I would suggest to you and any other MRA to switch to a different blogging platform. Read the content guidelines and see that they claim they want freedom of expression and to be uncencored and then they give all sorts of conditions that are vague. I suspect that one of the google employees was a feminist and got offended when reviewing my blog the second time around.

    Nice article, I will follow you.

  4. My blog:

  5. What's the rest of that female privilege list?

  6. Hi everyone, and thanks for the kind words (and the link, Troll--I'll check it out).

    As for that list, I'm working on it. Will post it fairly soon. :)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Interesting rant. I wish people could remove the label applied to the
    human in front of them in other areas that are beyond that person's
    ability to make a conscious decision on. I haven't met a single person that choose the way they were brought into existence including, race, gender, nationality, religious
    Upbringing and indoctrination, class, intellectual potential in any
    aspect, physical characteristics or when they were born.

    Yet, I have seen people be racist, sexist, belittling of foreigners, judge other religions, defend being wealthy because of working hard even though opportunity came their way because of privileged circumstances, believing lower intelligence or physical characteristics should influence someone’s right to be happy, that old people are lesser in some way, that young people are lesser in some way. Most of the time, it seems as if these judgments are based on the stereotypical lowest common denominator off the outer group and using the ideal values of the inner group even if the person hasn't achieved them. (Going both or multiple ways) Definitely need some robot ruler objectiveness IMO, but w/e.

    Removed previous one, my dyslexia pulled a fast one and it looked all kinda weird.

  9. I am, and am not, with you on this one.

    You make a very good point about Malcolm X--who by the way is one of my very personal heroes. I love Malcolm. What happened to Malcolm, his whole life story, it still makes me misty-eyed when I think of him. But let's remember who murdered him: angry members of his own movement.

    And remember that Martin Luther King was the radical opposite in almost all ways to Malcolm. He preached peace, he preached justice, he appealed to the better nature of white Americans, he preached to their sense of justice and fairness, he preached to the values that they all shared with him, and, hardest of all, he preached loving your enemies. See, for example, this famous speech:

    I think sometimes you have to know when to be angry, and when to realize that anger is counterproductive.

    Maybe it's unfair to expect you, or anyone, to manage both. Maybe some people can only yell while others can be the ones to be nice. Or maybe it's possible to blend, to know who to show anger to and who to show reasoned and even compassion to.

    This "feminist" person you argued with, I think there's probably very little point in either one. She's probably impervious. She'd use anger from you to excuse dismissing you. But if you're sweet, she'll pat you on the head in patronizing fashion and dismiss you. Either way she wins, right?

    I think it was very telling that she got worked up when you brought up child custody. What do you want to bet she's a classic parental alienator, who has used her children as a weapon against her ex-? Wouldn't be a bit surprising.

    Write people like her off. Concentrate on those who can be persuaded, not those who obviously can't.

    1. I think you're right about that woman, but remember that for every person who posts on a forum or blog, there will be probably 10 or 20 lurkers who can be reached.

      Not everyone posts, some people just read, and maybe they can be reached, even if the original poster can't.


Commenting policy:

All comments are welcome here. I refuse to censor points of view that differ from my own.

I recognize that I may be challenging the deep-seated beliefs of some people, and perhaps stirring up emotions in others. However, I would ask:

- if you care to respond to anything that I have said, please do not simply link to or quote some statistic. Do not simply regurgitate things you have been told are true. Think about what I am saying. Respond with an argument. Offer something from your personal observations, and explain to me how you feel your statistic is connected to your experience.

- If you wish to be part of a discussion, try not to dismiss what I or a another commenter says out of hand. Yes, that means that some lines of thought or ideologies may not stand up to scrutiny (perhaps even my own).

- Remember, ad hominem attacks diminish everyone involved. If you want to criticize anything, do so passionately and directly - but debate is about attacking ideas, not people.

Have at you!