Tag: Gender Equality
The other day I posted Emma Watson’s address to the UN, promoting the #HeForShe movement. I was happy to signal boost without comment. Her speech was excellent written and performed, and I felt stood on its own.
The same day, as I was making my way through some social media sites, I saw a friend post the Emma Watson video, and in the comments two people were explaining how they hated feminism because it was just anti-male non-senses, or tried to degenerate women who assumed traditional gender roles but that they were all for gender equality. So I did something that I rarely ever do. I commented back, explaining that anyone who calls themselves feminist and espoused anti-male sentiments or disparaged other women for taking traditional gender roles was ignorant of what feminism actually is. I received angry responses in kind. Excessively angry. I don’t know if these commenters were having a bad day, have anger issues that they need to seek treatment for, or were intentionally trolling. I personally felt their anger seemed to belie their arguments. After all, you’re getting angry over what comes down to a semantics argument.
Still, it was a new experience for me. I told myself as I was writing my response that I would not “feed the trolls” by making any comments back. I was expecting hostility. I’d made my point, rationally, for others to see. There was someone else on that post, defending feminism as it should be, not as its detractors want to define it to be. Still I felt an anxiety about doing this and it took me awhile to figure out why. My anxiety stemmed from two parts. One part was from confronting angry people on the internet, which common wisdom says is never a good idea but which I’ve recently learned is far too much pacifistic to be effective in countering the growing trolling evident across most of our online culture.
Another was talking about feminism in a public space.
It wasn’t until I read I read Chuck Wendig’s latest blog post that I realized why the last one bothered me so. The follow are experts from Chuck Wendig’s post: #HeForShe: Yes, I Am A Feminist. It pretty much sums up most of my thoughts on the issue.
For a while, I was really hesitant to call myself a feminist.
Not because I dismissed the idea of feminism or the cause of feminism or the history that is baked into the movement — but because I didn’t feel like it was a title that I had earned. I didn’t feel like it was my space to share. I didn’t feel like a very good feminist, really — I got things wrong then, still get them wrong now. I still possess the privilege that comes with being male and sometimes that means my privilege blinds me to behaviors or language that can be hurtful (not merely offensive, which I accept and embrace, but hurtful, which by my mileage works to diminish and damage others). And so it felt a bit fakey-fakey, like I was a heathen in a church pulpit, a meat-eater at a vegan restaurant. I thought, oh, you’ve actually struggled with the mantle of feminism. Me, it’s no struggle at all. I can waltz in, put on the hat and the nametag, give a couple of thumbs-up and boom, FEMINIST. It costs me nothing. It’s so easy. Too easy.
I was more comfortable calling myself an ally, then — as if I was a member of another nation entirely willing to support your nation’s coalition. “Yes, of course I’ll vote for that,” I say from my mountaintop lair at in the capital of Mansylvania. “Please place your feminist agenda in front of me and I will rubber-stamp it. Whatever you need, please, consider me your ally.”
But that’s horseshit, really.
Not the part where I support feminism, but the part where I consider myself separate from it.
Because of course I’m not separate from it.
The correction of the imbalance isn’t about bringing men down, but lifting women up.
So, let’s just put this right here:
I am a feminist.
Not just an ally — though, I am that, too. But a feminist.
Not always a perfect one. Certainly not the one you asked for. But here I am.
I think male privilege is real. I think it’s imperfect and not absolute, but that doesn’t change its reality — male privilege is ever-present and difficult to deny.
I think that privilege is blinding.
I think there are real issues affecting men, and that doesn’t diminish the need for feminism.
I think that feminism is a many-headed, many-hearted movement. Feminists don’t all get together in a room once a year to determine the agenda for the next 365 days.
I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. As noted: many hearts and many minds.
I think it’s more important for men to listen than it is for them to speak on the subject of feminism. (And I recognize the irony here — I’m using the blog to speak, but the blog acts as a much better mouth than it does an ear. But I promise, I am listening. This blog is a direct result of me listening — and, as Anita Sarkeesian notes, me believing your experiences are real.)
I think it’s more important for men to signal boost than it is for them to take over the signal.
(But I also think it’s vital for men to be a part of that signal, too.)
I think a lot of this begins with teaching our kids this stuff — yes, I know, blah blah blah children are our future, but seriously, this is critical if we’re to overturn a lot of the nastiness that’s been institutionalized, that’s been stamped into the mud of our history with hard boots.
But I think we must also be active in social media, in politics, with family, with friends.
I think that it’s very easy to dismiss feminism and claim egalitarianism instead, but realize that the two are not mutually exclusive — and, by denying feminism, you misunderstand that the imbalance here is particularly and troublingly one-sided.
There’s far more that Chuck Wendig says in the article that I agree with and I urge you to read the entire thing, but the above really stood out to me, in regards to my experiences the last few days online. Because he effectively outlined what was causing some of my anxiety about talking about feminism. I read about it quite a bit, I try to understand the issues. There are times when I see people on the net scream “misogyny!” and I look, and can’t see it, and I fret over if the internet is wrong, or if I’m blind to it. And do these weaknesses, and my place in society, make me ineligible to be a real feminist.
Which is obviously silly. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody starts off ignorant. I’m no ally of feminism so much as I am a feminist, even if I sometimes get it wrong, and while I may never be John Scalzi or Chuck Wendig, willing to exclaim to an exceptionally large audience and all but invite the trolls and nay sayers, I’ll still do my best to listen, signal boost, and discuss.
This video is rather long, for an internet video, but well worth watching. It will help you understand an aspect of U.S. society you may or may not be aware of.
You don’t have to look very far these days to see sexism but you do have to know what you are looking for. The problem is that most of us are effectively blind to it, both because it is kept behind close doors and because it is hiding in plain sight. And when people, particularly women, call attention to it, they’re often labeled misogynist, or simply told to “laugh it off”. Even when sexism is dragged out from behind doors for all to see, it is easy to claim that it is happening to just one person, or a small group of people, hidden away, and not a systemic problem within our society.
Noted and award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal was slandered by some of her peers in the Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) the other day. Male members of the organization made comments via the organization’s public email listserv. One called her a hypocrite based upon her public views as a feminist and what clothing she chooses to wear to award ceremonies, as well as simply calling her phony and incompetent.
To her credit, Mary has offered a response which, rather than simply attacking back, called attention to this attack and focused instead on making it an example of sexism and to make note that this is not an incident she is facing alone, but that women inside and outside the SFWA suffer all the time from what is effectively verbal abuse.
In her response entitled”Me, as a useful representative example“, she says the following:
Then I replied to the messages saying, “Honestly, I’m fine. Four years in office inured me to this so mostly I’m just laughing.”
And this is the part that I feel I should draw attention to — I was “mostly” laughing. I was also having mild stress reactions. Dry sweats, elevated heart rate. I was ready to shrug them off as, “Meh, doesn’t materially affect me. I’ve seen worse.”
Until someone pointed it out that I was basically saying, “I’m inured to being abused, because I was abused for years.” See… the things those folks are saying in that public forum? When I was in office, they would email that bile directly to me and because I was an officer, I could not choose to ignore it. I had to read every single one. And I had to reply politely to them. Strangely, sometimes I had trouble doing that, but a polite response was the one that was expected. Now? Being out of office for two years, I can say whatever the fuck I want, but most beautifully, I don’t have to read the emails.
So this is why I feel weird about writing about this. My impulse is to tell you all that I’m fine and that this has no material affect on my life. And that is true. But I also know that I am a useful representative sample of the abuse that happens to other women.
Too many places, too many women, get this sort of unwelcome attention and commentary about what they were wearing but no one does anything. It’s always, “Laugh about it” or “Just shrug it off,” or “Ignore it and he’ll go away.”
You see how well that last is working?
So, I really, truly am fine. But watch what happens to me now that I’m posting. Read the comments when they happen. Note the people who say that because I’m talking about the abuse, I must be begging for attention.
Take me as a useful representative example. And know that I am not an isolated case.
It is sad that we need examples and I applaud Kowal for providing one. And we do need one. I recently was reading an online article about a video game that was in no way related to gender equality. In the middle of this author’s article, he says the following:
…this is, after all, a game where half the punchlines are “ogling women is funny” (and I say that as a staunch anti-feminist)…
It stopped me reading right in my tracks. It took me awhile to comprehend that the initial statement meant that the game wasn’t necessarily to be taken so seriously as it relied upon humor like men staring at women. Yet I couldn’t understand why he felt compelled to add the anti-feminism qualifier, to declare that he was staunchly opposed to a society where men and women are treated equally without discrimination or abuse, be it physical or emotional.
Actually it seems unlikely that the author is an active proponent of sexism. Instead he is likely ignorant of the amount of sexism that exists in our culture and the harm that it does. Instead he is reacting to the backlash that accompanies attempts to educate people regarding this harm, shielding himself from it by claiming that he is not a feminist. This backlash is what Mary Robinette Kowal wants you to look for in the coming days.
That backlash will be just some of the sexism that hides in plain sight.
Apparently, these guys don’t want women to write science fiction by Aja Romano [DailyDot.com]
Me, as a useful representative example by Mary Robinette Kowal [MaryRobinetteKowal.com]
Cheap Arts by Silvia Moreno-Garcia [Silvia Moreno-Garcia.com]
Mary Robinette Kowal Offers Herself Up as a Useful Representative Example by John Scalzi [whatever.scazli.com]
Does Bravely Default Hate Atheists? by Geoff Thew [HardCoreGamer.com]