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Mar 06 2013

Totally Unsolicited Advice For Feminist Guys

Jezebel has a pretty good piece up about feminist men and what “we” (by which I take it the author means feminist women) want from them. Some excerpts:

[E]ven allegedly unfunny feminists acknowledge how extra-dry fighting sexism can be, and so we hope that when men join us, they, too can have a good, not always so self-serious laugh about gender roles and the complications in working to level the playing field….That said, it’s nice when a dude can see how utterly unjust the way women are still treated the world-over, and get a little pissed about it.

[...]You don’t have to call yourself a feminist to be welcome at this party. Not every dude is going to fly the feminist flag proudly, and that’s totally cool (not to mention, lots of kickass women don’t identify as feminists either).

[...]We don’t care how you got here, as long as you mean it. That means no sensitive ponytail man schtick to get more ‘tang. I’m sure more than one woman has met a male feminist who seems a little too preoccupied with our safety, a little too willing to jump in and rescue us, a little too into the narrative of the vulnerable woman and the man who’s here to show her he’s not like those “other guys.” Gross. Women need men who want to work as our equals and helpmates, not our protectors and guardians.

[...]You don’t have to be perfect….Feminism is about change and progress, and unpacking prejudice, not hairsplitting the backstory of every person who is out there saying good things.

[...]Dudes are important influences on other dudes when it comes to changing how gender divides us, and men who support these advances shouldn’t be afraid to point out when something is utterly sexist and bullshit.

[...]Don’t be afraid to challenge masculinity….When men show a comfort level with the spectrum gender exists on, it shows other men that gender isn’t binary, and redefines what being a “man” is anyway.

I think the piece brings up a lot of really good points, especially the one about not having to be perfect. Something I hear from many progressive men is a lot of anxiety about being “good feminists” and toeing the party line. My advice would be to not rely entirely on Internet Feminists for validation and criticism; try to find some trustworthy female feminist friends that you can ask for feedback that is actually constructive, as opposed to the destructive and counterproductive “call-outs” you see online. That said, if you’re a male feminist and a ton of women keep telling you that they disagree with a particular stance you have or feel uncomfortable with something you’re saying or doing, then it may be time to seriously reevaluate it.

The point about labels is also important. Many men call themselves “pro-feminists” or “feminist allies”; that’s cool. I’ll even accept the “humanist” and “equalist” and “egalitarian” thing as long as you don’t refuse to acknowledge that, in most societies and for most of history, men have had privilege over women. Ultimately, what you do matters much more than what you call yourself.

I have some suggestions of my own to add to Jezebel’s list. Note that these are my personal suggestions; the typical disclaimer that I Do Not Represent Feminism Unless Someone Has Nominated Me For Official Ambassador Of Feminism Without My Knowledge applies.

1. Do not lecture women about their own oppression.

Something really awkward that happens fairly often is when a feminist guy comes across an anti-feminist woman and proceeds to lecture her about how sexism is still hurting women and how she needs to be a feminist. Although the guy might be correct in this situation, and I would probably agree with him, feminist men should be mindful of the fact that most women spend our entire lives getting talked down to by men who think they’re experts on our personal experiences. If a woman says she hasn’t been impacted by sexism and doesn’t need this feminism stuff, perhaps respectfully point her to some resources on sexism and agree to disagree. It’s not your place to tell her how to interpret her own life, because even though you’re probably right, she can easily just tell you that she knows her own situation better than you do. And she’ll be right, too.

This, by the way, applies to all allies. White people shouldn’t lecture people of color about their own oppression. Straight people shouldn’t lecture queer people about their own oppression. And so on. Patrick put this really well:

it’s not my job to tell woman-identified persons how to be feminists, even if I disagree with something they have said. My job is to talk to male-identified persons, and *with* people who are not male-identified.

2. Understand and try to accept that you will not always be welcome in all feminist spaces.

Yeah, I get that it really sucks when you know that you’re a caring, informed, supportive ally, but some of the people you’re trying to ally yourself with still don’t necessarily want to include you all of the time. Personally, I believe that the vast majority of feminist activism should include people of all genders, but I also understand that many non-male people who are struggling to overcome the effects of sexism on their lives–harassment, assault, abuse, discrimination–need spaces in which they can feel safe, and sometimes feeling safe means being away from men. As a feminist guy, please try to understand that, even if it hurts to feel “rejected” from these groups or events.

3. Don’t expect a cookie.

I know this sounds harsh, but you are not entitled to extra praise or attention from women because you’ve deigned to support issues that are important to them. You may get that extra praise and attention in due course, though, and that’s great. And, luckily, most of the feminist men I know aren’t like this at all. In fact, many of them have told me that it’s actually almost uncomfortable when women tell them what wonderful people they are for supporting causes like reproductive rights or rape prevention. They feel that they’re doing the bare minimum of being a decent human being, but many women, accustomed to male friends, family members, and partners who treat feminism with hostility, feel compelled to praise guys who see it differently.

To sum it up, you probably will get a cookie respect and admiration from women. You just shouldn’t feel entitled to it.

4. Remember that your feminist credentials don’t mean you can pretend to be a sexist.

Just because you’re a badass feminist doesn’t mean that people are necessarily going to feel okay with you making sexist jokes “ironically” and “reclaiming” words like bitch and slut. If you do something like that and are asked to stop, your response should not be “Yeah well you know I’m totally a feminist!” You should either stop, or accept that the people you’re hurting with your language are not obligated to continue interacting with you.

(Of course, people really vary on this. When I genuinely trust people, men included, there’s actually very little they can say that would offend me. I have plenty of male friends who make sandwich jokes to me and I find them hilarious, not because “hur hur women can’t do anything but cook and clean and serve men” but because I trust these guys so much that the irony actually reads as irony. )

But the fact that you’re a Bona Fide Feminist Dude doesn’t mean that non-male people are required to be comfortable with everything you say and do, especially if it involves stuff that can read as sexism to those who don’t know you very well.

5. Use feminism to address issues that affect men.

Men are harmed by sexism in many of the same ways as women are (gender roles, for example). In some ways, though, their issues are a bit different. Because men make up such a substantial part of the prison population, they are more likely to become the victims of sexual assault in prison, and, in general, male victims of sexual assault face unique and serious difficulties in understanding what happened to them, speaking out, and seeking justice. Men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime and police brutality. And where being male intersects with marginalized identities, such as being queer, trans*, non-white, disabled, or poor, these issues become even more pronounced.

Many people (not just men) have noticed this and, unfortunately, decided to blame it all on women and feminism. These are called MRAs, but what they advocate for isn’t really “men’s rights” at all. It’s just anti-feminism.

MRAs do rightfully point out that non-male feminists don’t spend a lot of time addressing uniquely “male” issues. While I think that addressing power differentials in society will eventually bring about equality for everyone, I do think that these issues are important and should be discussed.

But women can’t take leadership of efforts to address problems that they have never experienced. I can’t tell people what it’s like to be a male rape victim–or how to support male rape victims–because I am not one and can never be one. Men, however, can use the “toolbox” of feminism–examining power differentials, paying attention to intersectionality, critiquing pop culture, etc.–to advocate for their own causes. That’s why we need feminist men who will be allies to non-male feminists while also leading initiatives to support other men, reduce violence against men, and eradicate sexism for everyone.

Edit: Alright, alright, I was just kidding about the damn cookies. Here, have one.

113 comments

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  1. 1
    Hunt

    No. 2 seems a little “Ellen Jamesian.”

    1. 1.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      I’m afraid I don’t understand the reference.

      1. 1.1.1
        tuibguy

        It is from “The World According to Garp.”

        1. 1.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Okay, but I still don’t understand what Hunt means.

          1. Alteredstory

            I haven’t read the book, but here’s what I turned up. As far as I can tell, Hunt is mistaking “wanting time away from men” for “hating men” or at least assuming that all men are in some way a threat.

            “The “Ellen Jamesians” were a group of women who showed their opposition of men by cutting out their tongues because there was a twelve year old girl, named Ellen James, who was raped and had her tongue cut out. John Irving uses them to ridicule some of the stupidities of the feminist movement when it is at its extremes. The Ellen Jamesians are the product of the change of the feminist movement to a state of craziness where hundreds of women maimed themselves just to show how feminist they are when they could do the same thing in different ways, like Jenny did. This is how the author ridicules the feminist movement, not for its thinking that women are equals of men, but for the stupid things that it does.

            Another aspect which is important in the book is the contact that Garp has with the Ellen Jamesians. Garp is portrayed in the book as a man who is impartial to somewhat sensitive to the women’s movement and is much aware of it because of his mother. The Ellen Jamesians see him as just a man, and they stereotype all men as pigs who are out to make all women subservient to the male gender. They don’t even realize that he is the son of Jenny Fields, and that he might be aware of the struggles that women have. Thus, the interaction that they have ends up emphasizing the lunacy of the feminist extremists and taking away from the little amount of sympathy that Garp had for women, almost to the point where he becomes a chauvinist.”http://www.studyworld.com/newsite/reportessay/Literature/Novel%5CThe_World_According_To_Garp-40747.htm

          2. Alteredstory

            On a side note, the system apparently doesn’t like me when I’m logged in under my wordpress login. Told me I was an impostor (sadface)

          3. dianne

            Thus, the interaction that they have ends up emphasizing the lunacy of the feminist extremists and taking away from the little amount of sympathy that Garp had for women, almost to the point where he becomes a chauvinist.

            In other words, Garp doesn’t get a cookie and so he turns into a sexist and it’s all the fault of those mean, mean feminists who hurt his fee fees.

            The same with men who can’t understand why sometimes there need to be discussions of feminism that include women only. The reason is that, sorry guys, it’s not about you. Sometimes victims of oppression, whether it be gender based, race based, sexual orientation based, or whatever else people use to distinguish “in” versus “out”, sometimes the victims simply need to be able to work it out together without the oppressor class looking in. You’ll be welcome at other events, everyone is happy that you’re enlightened and all, but please, just this once, it needs to be about us.

  2. 2
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    The advice may be unsolicited, but it is not unappreciated.

  3. 3
    fantysq (a Radical Feminist and a Militant Atheist)

    “Do not lecture women about their own oppression.”
    This, definitely. Not just when it comes to lecturing anti-feminist women, but also when it comes to disagreement between feminists themselves, especially since the feminists that guys tend to promote with their dudely approval tend to be the ones that are the least threatening to the status quo. If there was a body deciding Official Feminist Policy, feminist men would get no vote.

    1. 3.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      the feminists that guys tend to promote with their dudely approval tend to be the ones that are the least threatening to the status quo.

      QFT. Reminds me a lot of this part of this article:

      Sexy, funny feminism is inspired by the fear that feminism will never get anywhere unless it is likeable. For a long time now, feminists have been told that their message will never spread to the masses if the messenger appears to be an angry man-hating lesbian shouting the odds from a gender studies seminar room. But we need to realise that popular, non-threatening feminism is destined for failure as well. In a patriarchy – and if you are a feminist, you accept that we are living in one – what is popular and non-threatening is what men deem to be acceptable.

    2. 3.2
      Robert Arnow, Freeze Peach Inspector

      Who are some feminists you think are worthy of being Canonizers of Policy, insofar as that position would be a good idea?

  4. 4
    Lofty

    All cool by me.

  5. 5
    Jedda

    I’m guessing it’s a World According to Garp reference, judging by the first few sentences in the Wikipedia entry. However I never watched the movie, so I’m not entirely sure what’s meant here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_According_to_Garp

    1. 5.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Yeahhh I’ve literally never heard of that. Attention commenters! I’m a foreigner and if you make references to Western media that was produced before the year 2000, I probably won’t get it and you will be wasting your time. :)

      1. 5.1.1
        MichaelScott MonjeJr (@MMonjeJr)

        The book is worth picking up if you read fiction for pleasure. The movie was… not as successful. And I’m not claiming the book was problem-free, just that it was unique enough to interest me.

        1. 5.1.1.1
          Hunt

          Many people actually thought the reverse, that the movie was better than the book (for once).

  6. 6
    smhll

    I didn’t get it either, and I read the Garp book. (OK, it was maybe 25 years ago.)

  7. 7
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    #2 and #3 seem especially useful for starting out, and can be covered by a more general statement: “Guys, it isn’t about you.” I’ve had to especially learn #2… safe spaces are hard to find, and people are especially protective of them. If I find that I’m not welcome, I remember how protective I am of MY spaces, and respect how other people feel. Sometimes people are unfair, but what do I gain by fighting them, and what harm can I cause by fighting? Part of my privilege is that I can walk away and take the “high road” even when I feel like I’m being hit with a lot of low blows.

    Also… DECLARING that you’re taking the high road in someone’s face? Not actually taking the high road then.

  8. 8
    Claga Trix (@ClagaTrix)

    In the book, Ellen James was a rape victim who had her tongue cut out. One of the characters in the book forms (or become a leader of, I forget which) the Ellen James Society, which are people who cut out there tongues in support of Ellen.

    Hunt was being a hyperbolic ass, in other words.

    1. 8.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Yeahhhh, no. A better analogy would be if Ellen James decided that she wanted to overcome what she went through by getting involved in a women’s-only activist group, and the men in her life respected that and didn’t act like they ought to be welcomed into that group.

      1. 8.1.1
        Hunt

        I just lost a huge reply since this site was doing something weird. I really have to learn to save them first.

      2. 8.1.2
        Hunt

        Oh, *now* it works.

        Well, the gist was

        – Ignore TWAG. I dropped that little turd since No. 2 does strike me as a baby step toward radfem separatism.

        – No. 2 is problematic since it codifies formal sex exclusion, or it *could be* construed that way. I understand the wink, nod informal acceptance of free association, like “women’s tea” or “guy’s beer bash,” but you seem to be suggesting something more than that, which I think is ultimately not ethically justifiable. I also understand the justification for what you describe in special case settings, like therapeutic settings. The juicy analogy I set up in my lost (sob!) comment was this: Imagine a group fighting urban crime that, though it appreciated the help and cooperation of young black men, felt the need, perhaps due to fearfulness of its members, to exclude them from certain meetings. Needless to say, I think you can see why that wouldn’t fly.

        – Also, for No. 1 I gave the example of indoctrinated right-wing women anti-feminists who probably will never be reached but by the counsel of men due to the nature of their indoctrination. Sometimes you need to fight sexism with sexism. Also, you would probably never think it out-of-bounds for a man to lecture a KKK racist who has been lectured and talked down to by men his entire life. Being lectured by men from day one doesn’t seem reason enough to exclude men from in turn correcting those misinformed. That doesn’t seem to be a coherent ethical precept.

        And so much more. Ah, the loss, the humanity, the humanity.

        1. 8.1.2.1
          fantysq (a Radical Feminist and a Militant Atheist)

          “young black men”
          That analogy would only work if the crime-fighting group is made up of young black men who prefer to not get any help from white men. You can’t just churn out these analogies while completely ignoring who’s the oppressor and who’s the oppressed.

          1. Hunt

            You’re a radfem, if your self appellation is accurate, so it’s possible that you really do believe in group guilt, i.e. in this case collective male culpability for rape, etc. In fact, there’s a whole raft of possible things you might believe that might prevent me from taking anything you have to say on this topic seriously. It’s up to you to present your position. Thus far, it’s not too promising.

        2. 8.1.2.2
          S. Noir

          I apologize, oh blog host, if I am providing tasty troll kibble.

          – No. 2 is problematic since it codifies formal sex exclusion

          Actually, it asks that people not get their feelings hurt and whine about not being invited everywhere.

          , or it *could be* construed that way.

          Indeed; by people wondering why they’re not allowed everywhere, which is a subject of wonder only to people who’ve lived most of their lives with considerable unexamined privilege.

          For the rest of us, we don’t need to wonder; we know, and we learn how to cope, or to fight. So, tell me, what’s so important about your viewpoint/feelings/etc. that you need to fight to get into a women’s-only space?

          I understand the wink, nod informal acceptance of free association, like “women’s tea” or “guy’s beer bash,” but you seem to be suggesting something more than that, which I think is ultimately not ethically justifiable.

          Again; the suggestion is primarily in your own head. I don’t read ” you will not always be welcome in all feminist spaces.” as somehow ethically corrupt, unless you are leaping straight from the current, flawed world to an utterly perfect world of equality and lack of issues — in which case I question your tactics as well as your opinions.

          No one is “always welcome” everywhere. The statement above was a request for making people’s lives easier; a request for kindness and understanding. That you have chosen to interpret it as an exclusionary and unethical remark says rather more about you, than about it, I think.

          I also understand the justification for what you describe in special case settings, like therapeutic settings. The juicy analogy I set up in my lost (sob!) comment was this: Imagine a group fighting urban crime that, though it appreciated the help and cooperation of young black men, felt the need, perhaps due to fearfulness of its members, to exclude them from certain meetings. Needless to say, I think you can see why that wouldn’t fly.

          I think the juice in your analogy mostly comes from the assumptions you inject into it to make it seem fatter and juicier for market. ;)

          Your connective tissue is this:

          women who need therapeutic space people fighting urban crime
          men young black men
          And, by extension:
          the people who have perpetrated sexism against women The people who commit urban crime
          and thus:
          young black men The people who commit urban crime

          (We shall merely note in passing the way you convert “a desire to feel safe” into “perhaps due to the fearfulness of its members.”)

          I think you see why that analogy won’t fly, along several axes, no?

          We can, if you like, also go into the difference between “seeking support amongst people with the same experience” vs. “working to change other people”, etc., etc., and so forth.

          In summary, I do not find anything wrong with all-female support groups, even though I am on the border (usually the excluded side) of inclusion. I would find something very wrong with a group trying to “fight urban crime” that excluded the primary *victims* of such crimes.

          1. Hunt

            Actually, it asks that people not get their feelings hurt and whine about not being invited everywhere.

            This is goalpost moving. Not being invited everywhere is different than not being welcome.

            So, tell me, what’s so important about your viewpoint/feelings/etc. that you need to fight to get into a women’s-only space?

            First of all, this is question begging, since the very question is whether the “women’s-only” spaces should be sanctioned. Second, it’s not just about me. It’s a general principle, like the longstanding debate between the right of “free association” as libertarians call it (no, I’m not one) and discrimination. I would have to list all the possible cases that are theoretically possible, something that I’m probably not able to do. That doesn’t disqualify my point. I could throw the question right back at you and ask what the purpose of the woman’s-only spaces might be. Just what is going to go on there, behind closed doors, that it is so proscriptive against the appearance of men. Is this the place that women exchange the secrete handshake or something? Again, I “get it” about therapeutic spaces, group therapy, etc. See below.

            (We shall merely note in passing the way you convert “a desire to feel safe” into “perhaps due to the fearfulness of its members.”)

            How else to interpret it?

            In summary, I do not find anything wrong with all-female support groups

            Support groups fall under the heading of the therapeutic special case I mentioned. Miri mentions “groups and events” which is general enough to be problematic.

        3. 8.1.2.3
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Sometimes you need to fight sexism with sexism.

          This is where we part ways. No. Never. We cannot hold ourselves up as ethically sound if we rely on the same unethical methods that we are trying to fight.

          Also, you would probably never think it out-of-bounds for a man to lecture a KKK racist who has been lectured and talked down to by men his entire life. Being lectured by men from day one doesn’t seem reason enough to exclude men from in turn correcting those misinformed. That doesn’t seem to be a coherent ethical precept.

          I was only referring to lecturing victims of oppression about their oppression, not lecturing people in general. And really, what I was getting at is not that men lecturing women about sexism is unethical, but rather that it’s ineffective, because the woman can just say, “Nope, I know my life better than you do.” And she’s right. I’ve seen this play out many times, both between men and women and between white people and people of color, and so on. It just doesn’t work. Besides, if a woman sees that within feminism she’ll just get the same condescending, patriarchal treatment from men as she gets elsewhere, why on earth would she want to get involved?

          1. Hunt

            This is where we part ways. No. Never. We cannot hold ourselves up as ethically sound if we rely on the same unethical methods that we are trying to fight.

            But supporting sex exclusion can also be interpreted as fighting sexism with sexism, or perhaps misogyny with misogyny. It’s probably the best spine I can give it. This is similar to how affirmative action is actually fighting prejudice with prejudice. AA is not meant as a permanent fixture of society, only a temporary measure to redress an imbalance of opportunity and status. The object of AA is to kill the need for AA. If AA is considered permanent, it’s a tacit admission that racial injustice will never be eradicated.

          2. Hunt

            Sorry, that should be “misogyny with sexism.” That should make a little more sense.

        4. 8.1.2.4
          S. Noir

          Ah, and I forgot this last paragraph:

          Also, for No. 1 I gave the example of indoctrinated right-wing women anti-feminists who probably will never be reached but by the counsel of men due to the nature of their indoctrination.

          In the first part of your post you argue, essentially, that “Doing X is against your ultimate principles, therefore you cannot do X”. While here, you argue “Doing Y, though it is against your principles, is tactically needed, therefore you should do Y.”

          I sense a contradiction. Again, I find it interesting that the arguments both point in the direction of “Men get to do what they want.”

          Sometimes you need to fight sexism with sexism.

          If you believe this, then your statements regarding women’s-only spaces are, to put it mildly, contradictory.

          If I (while male-identified) use that male privilege to explain to a woman that she’s my equal, and she accepts it because I, as male, know better — then that is not a victory at all; it is a self-reinforcing defeat.

          (I think you know the apropos Audre Lorde quote here, yes?)

          Also, you would probably never think it out-of-bounds for a man to lecture a KKK racist who has been lectured and talked down to by men his entire life.

          No, but I would think it out of bounds for a white man to lecture a black man on how he’s not being a good African-American, which the white man knows all about because he’s a good African-American ally.

          Your analogies repeatedly point the wrong way in the power structure; excluding the less-powerful, or, in this case, lecturing the person who is trying to disempower others rather than accepting their own disempowerment.

          Perhaps you should think about why this is, before you go analogizing again.

          Being lectured by men from day one doesn’t seem reason enough to exclude men from in turn correcting those misinformed. That doesn’t seem to be a coherent ethical precept.

          Try this logical precept on for size, if you’re looking for coherence:

          Using an argument from authority to persuade people of the invalidity of arguments from authority is not useful.

          1. Hunt

            If you believe this, then your statements regarding women’s-only spaces are, to put it mildly, contradictory.

            It’s possible the objection here is really one about timescale. I really have no problem with sacrificing principle on a short term basis to gain an advantage in the long run. This is really one of the more powerful things at our disposal and one that rigid right-wingers have a hard time grasping. They think they’ve found some grand hypocrisy in, say, affirmative action, when actually the time-limited contradictions of principle where mapped out from the beginning. If your interpretation of feminism is an immediate struggle whose long-term goal is to destroy its reason for being, then I think you automatically give yourself permission to “get dirty” to a certain extent, even deliberately and conscientiously contradict your own principles, in service to that end. So what am I saying? I’m not entirely sure, maybe that we are actually in total agreement.

        5. 8.1.2.5
          Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

          You really don’t understand this power dynamics thingy well, do you?
          But to come back to your complaint about being yes, actually excluded from certain spaces: This shows exactly why those spaces are needed.
          Members of the dominant group are used to having your voices heard, to have their opinion treated as something that is very important and insightful and that matters.
          Members of the minority group are used to having their voices silenced, their opinions dismissed and members of the dominant group talking over their heads.
          And now they say: This is our space, here we will be able to talk, and here we’ll be listened to, and taken seriously, here we will matter.
          And here you are complaining loudly how unfair it is that for once in your life your opinion isn’t wanted and treated with automatic respect.
          And because you do that, and because you feel entitled to that we sometimes need a bit of space without any guy who thinks that it’s high time for us to liten to him.

        6. 8.1.2.6
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Also, I just wanted to point out that research has consistently shown that women are talked over/interrupted/ignored by men in group settings; Google the “chilly climate effect” for more on that. This happens in all fields and settings, such as classrooms and research labs, and it’s a problem no matter where it happens, but don’t women deserve to at least have spaces to discuss their own experiences with sexism without getting talked over?

          1. Hunt

            Yes, as per above, I think you have a point, but I still think it’s useful to keep in mind that this is a case of fighting fire with fire, or prejudice with prejudice.

          2. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Perhaps if feminism said that in order to eradicate sexism, we must permanently and universally separate men from women, yes. That would be solving a problem of prejudice WITH prejudice. But instead, most feminists say, as I said in my post, that the majority of spaces should be open to everyone, but that sometimes there is practical value in having a space that is only open to those who have been victimized by a certain oppression.

            After all, that’s not all we do. We also educate people about the chilly climate effect. We research ways to prevent it (there’s a lot of great work in psychology about that). We try to design integrated spaces that are more equitable for everyone.

  9. 9
    Nothing

    This post was just perfect.

  10. 10
    Dunc

    Makes a change from all the totally unsolicited advice from “feminist” guys… ;)

  11. 11
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Members of the Ellen James Society have their tongues cut off because Ellen James had that happen when she was attacked. What Hunt is saying is that not allowing men into feminist spaces is like cutting your own tongue off.

    Such a fine argument.

    1. 11.1
      Alteredstory

      Well, the other part of that Ellen Jamesians was that they vilified ALL men, regardless of how those men acted. Hunt is saying that not allowing men into some spaces (nobody said anything about keeping them out of ALL feminist spaces) is like saying that all men are, by default, misogynist pigs.

      As far as I can tell, Hunt is either a troll or an idiot.

  12. 12
    Bronze Dog

    On anti-feminist women, one alternative to lecturing that comes to mind is expressing incredulity followed by listening to her and asking honest questions. All too often, I’ve encountered trolls in various topics who simply won’t listen to my position statement because they’ve just got to rehearse their prejudices. I don’t intend to emulate that sort of behavior.

    3. Don’t expect a cookie.

    Good thing I’m not doing my part for the cookies. One trope I find particularly annoying is the MRA assertion that we’re in this for the cookies, rather than actually caring about equality.

    1. 12.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      On anti-feminist women, one alternative to lecturing that comes to mind is expressing incredulity followed by listening to her and asking honest questions.

      This is actually the technique I typically use in person, although I haven’t tried it online yet. Once I talked to someone who was claiming that false rape accusations are a HUGE problem (he was male, though). I asked a bunch of questions about his opinions and gently mentioned research evidence where appropriate, and the conversation was polite and I think we both came away from it understanding each other better.

      Good thing I’m not doing my part for the cookies. One trope I find particularly annoying is the MRA assertion that we’re in this for the cookies, rather than actually caring about equality.

      Yeah, I really hope I didn’t overstate the prevalence of men in the feminist movement who do this, because they’re really not that common. I’ve seen it happen, but the vast majority of feminist men I met are not there for the cookies. Even if many were, though, that’s not an excuse to tar earnest allies with the same brush.

  13. 13
    Gregory in Seattle

    With only minor changes as appropriate, this is solid advice for any kind of ally.

    1. 13.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Perhaps! :) I think that with gender issues it’s a bit different because men do stand to gain so much from feminism even though they may not be its primary beneficiaries.

  14. 14
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    But I like cookies :(

  15. 15
    Argle Bargle

    I don’t get a cookie? Oh well, I’m not trying for cookies anyway. Besides they probably are sour.

    Note to Hunt: The last sentence is an Aesop reference.

  16. 16
    NK

    How do I talk about how I’m not doing this for a cookie without it coming off as asking for a cookie? I don’t know what flag I fly, but suffice it to say that this is all well-argued, much appreciated advice. In general, I find it much easier to act rather than talk about how feminist/ally/gender-egalitarian my views are. Whatever. If I’m doing the right thing, then great. If not, I want to be called out on it. I fully agree that “feminism is about change and progress.” As a guy, I don’t expect to be perfect (and that goes for everything, not just gender relations). I just want to be aware enough to reexamine instances where I might behave in a way or say something that’s full of bullshit.

    Second paragraph of #4 is spot on. I feel it’s okay to use sexist language ironically, but make sure you’re among company who’s going to get it. Otherwise you’re just being an ass.

    #2 kind of bugs me (after all, I know I’m great, why doesn’t everyone else?), but I get why it’s there. I might disagree with the solution, but in the spirit of #1, I won’t spout my opinion unless asked.

    1. 16.1
      Alteredstory

      My general approach to #2, and also to the fact that some women who don’t know me treat me as a threat is to be pissed at the system and people that make those actions necessary.

      For a couple years after getting a nasty burn with boiling water as a kid, I couldn’t be around boiling water. It didn’t matter that it was just one burn, and that I’ve never had anything close to that since, what mattered was that I’d had a terrible experience, and that means that boiling water was a source of fear, anxiety, and sometimes nausea for me for some years.

      It’s not a perfect analogy, but it goes in the right direction. It’s not fun to be excluded, but it’s a natural defensive response to living in a patriarchal society filled with assholes.

      1. 16.1.1
        NK

        “My general approach to #2, and also to the fact that some women who don’t know me treat me as a threat is to be pissed at the system and people that make those actions necessary.”

        Seems a reasonable reaction to me. People who share something with those who’ve caused the problem have as much a reason to be pissed at the people who gave them “a bad name,” so to speak as the people who were wronged.

    2. 16.2
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      How do I talk about how I’m not doing this for a cookie without it coming off as asking for a cookie?

      I don’t think this is something you necessarily need to talk about? As long as you can point to specific actions you’ve taken to help a given cause, then you have evidence to show that you’re not there just for the cookies if someone accuses you of that (regardless of which cause it is).

      #2 kind of bugs me (after all, I know I’m great, why doesn’t everyone else?), but I get why it’s there. I might disagree with the solution, but in the spirit of #1, I won’t spout my opinion unless asked.

      I think it might be helpful not to think of it as people not recognizing that you’re a good person, but rather as people being uncomfortable around you for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with your character.

      For instance, I wrote in a recent post about how I was bullied by teachers when I was a kid. As a result, I have difficulty trusting teachers/professors sometimes, and although I’ve made plenty of valuable and meaningful connections with professors, I might often be uncomfortable discussing my history of bullying in the presence of educators. I feel like they wouldn’t understand what I went through, or they’d get defensive and miss the point. Even if they’re wonderful people! It’s just that they’re in the same category as the people who tormented me.

      And for the record I really respect and admire teachers and professors. One of my best friends is studying to be a teacher, as is my partner. A lot of classmates I respect are doing Teach For America. I myself am considering doing some college lecturing someday. But that doesn’t erase what I went through.

      1. 16.2.1
        NK

        Oh, I completely understand. I wasn’t trying to say that there was anything invalid about the reasons for #2. If anyone’s uncomfortable around me as a man, it’s not personal. I was simply trying to state that I might have an idea about how *I* would prefer to handle the situation, but it’s not my call as it’s a safe space being created for others, not me. I wrote that comment on my phone and argument composition can suffer.

    3. 16.3
      benco

      You don’t ever need to start a conversation about whether you’re “in it for the cookie”. If someone accuses you of being in it for the cookie then you honestly have little recourse if ze doesn’t want to believe you when you say otherwise, particularly if ze is someone who’s opinion you do actually care about. I’d recommend just extracting yourself honestly from the conversation and hoping that time and your actions convince hir of your motivations.

  17. 17
    smrnda

    4. I get tired of the pretending to be sexist, racist, homophobic whatever and then someone pulls out “well, I did X so that proves that I’m not!” I think there’s a possibility for a kind of satire of prejudice or sexism, but the ‘I’m being ironic when I say .*slur*. ‘ makes it all okay. If a person from an oppressed group thinks your ironic parody of prejudice isn’t working, it isn’t working. It’s also an issue of context. You can only ironically satirize sexist behavior attitudes and language if it’s extremely obvious that you don’t agree with what you’re saying, and that isn’t necessarily always possible.

    On number 2, there’s a time when people want to include allies and then a time when they don’t. It’s part of life, the same way that sometimes a person wants to hang out with a friend without a significant other – it’s just being decent to respect a need for space.

    On 5, I think men need to do a lot of work on toxic notions of masculinity, though a problem I find is that everybody tends to self-select in terms of their social circle, so you can too often end up with men who are aware of the importance of certain issues just talking it over amongst themselves and not reaching a broader audience of men who aren’t always so aware.

  18. 18
    pitchguest

    It’s funny. Nr. 1 on this list is pretty much what every man who’s a blogger on this network, and commenter, has done.

    Are you making a case against them, Miriam?

    Nr. 2 is, in my opinion, condescending and patronizing. I’m sorry.

    Nr. 3 is … how should I put this? A backhanded compliment.

    With Nr. 4 I disagree completely. Does Slutwalk ring any bells? That’s a conscious effort by (female) sex-workers (with male support) to not only remove the stigma of the word ‘slut’ but also reclaim it. By offering this ‘advice’, you are indirectly talking down to these people. Then there’s the ‘Godless bitches’ podcast. Would you call in and tell them their use of the word ‘bitch’ is hurtful? Not to mention this effort by Australian feminist Germaine Greer. So is this a suggestion by women in general, or just by you, Miriam?

    Nr. 5 is actually the most helpful on your list, but sadly used to denigrate Men’s Rights Activists. I’m not an MRA and I don’t want to be, nor would I consider myself a feminist, but I do wish for equal rights for women. But you know as well as I do, Miriam, that not all feminists are alike and therefore (logically) not all MRA’s are alike.

    For instance, there’s a certain feminist on FtB who refer to women who doesn’t agree with her approach as ‘gender traitors’. Then there’s another feminist who refer to them as ‘chill girls’ and ‘sister punishers’. Then there’s the radical variant who espouse the Valerie Solanas/Andrea Dworkin type of feminism or Gloria Steinem type of feminism, or the somewhat lesser Christina Hoff Sommers type of feminism. Each type is different and doesn’t hold the same principles at all. Then we have the RadFemHub type of feminism, which isn’t so much feminism as it is amazonism as it consistently have members talking about killing men and getting rid of women who don’t fit with their ideology.

    Or is there a be-all, end-all type of feminism which I’m unaware of?

    All in all, I find your list very hollow. A lot of it stands on the authority of you being a woman, for the benefit of women, and not so much for the benefit of the men you claim to address.

    1. 18.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      You keep showing up on this blog and accusing me of attempting to Speak For All Feminism, but:

      Note that these are my personal suggestions; the typical disclaimer that I Do Not Represent Feminism Unless Someone Has Nominated Me For Official Ambassador Of Feminism Without My Knowledge applies.

      1. 18.1.1
        pitchguest

        Ahh. I missed that one. Sorry.

    2. 18.2
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      With Nr. 4 I disagree completely. Does Slutwalk ring any bells? That’s a conscious effort by (female) sex-workers (with male support) to not only remove the stigma of the word ‘slut’ but also reclaim it. By offering this ‘advice’, you are indirectly talking down to these people. Then there’s the ‘Godless bitches’ podcast. Would you call in and tell them their use of the word ‘bitch’ is hurtful?

      You’re completely missing the point. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t reclaim derogatory words. I’m saying that if you’re not the target of a slur and you choose to reclaim it and apply it to those who are the targets of the slur, and they tell you that that offends them, the ethical thing to do is to stop applying that slur to them. If they’re totally fine with it? Great!

      1. 18.2.1
        pitchguest

        No, you didn’t say anything about applying slurs to people who are targets of those slurs. That’s changing the goalposts.

        But whatever.

        1. 18.2.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Yes, I did. This post is addressed at feminist men. Not women. Not non-feminist men. I say as much several times. Keeping that in mind, reread:

          Just because you’re a badass feminist doesn’t mean that people are necessarily going to feel okay with you making sexist jokes “ironically” and “reclaiming” words like bitch and slut. If you do something like that and are asked to stop, your response should not be “Yeah well you know I’m totally a feminist!” You should either stop, or accept that the people you’re hurting with your language are not obligated to continue interacting with you.

          Note that the only reason I didn’t use the word “women” in this paragraph was in order to not erase those who identify as neither male or female.

          1. pitchguest

            That’s making a general statement about not using words like bitch and slut, *not* saying you shouldn’t say it to people who want to reclaim those words. And if they want to reclaim those words, why would it offend them in the first place? That doesn’t make sense.

            Just to be clear: I don’t advocate using words like bitch and slut to people who don’t appreciate it. I don’t advocate using words like cunt to people who don’t appreciate it. However, I don’t agree that these words are necessarily sexist either. (cf. Germaine Greer, Godless Bitches, Slutwalk, etc)

          2. Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

            Once again, this is a post addressed to feminist men from the perspective of feminist women who they would like to work with. Reread the intro. You seem to be reading into the words so literally as to completely miss the contextual point, over and over.

            Also, while I’m responding, I’ve noticed that you’ve changed your identity in this comments section. You have the same IP address as a certain “Washington Cornwallis” who recently accused me of posing nude for a calendar (which I never did) while criticizing Beyonce for doing the same on a men’s magazine (which I also never did). Seems your reading comprehension hasn’t improved much. In any case, please keep a consistent identity. That’s one of my commenting rules.

        2. 18.2.1.2
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          And, honestly, even if you too are targeted by a slur, if someone doesn’t want to participate in your reclamation of that word, that’s their choice. I’ve had women trying to call me a bitch and a slut and I told them politely that I didn’t really appreciate it. Since you’re clearly familiar with Slutwalk, read up on the objections of women of color:

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-brison/slutwalk-black-women_b_980215.html

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keli-goff/slutwalk-new-york_b_993261.html

    3. 18.3
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Nr. 2 is, in my opinion, condescending and patronizing. I’m sorry.

      You’ve said yourself that you’re not a feminist guy, so I don’t understand why you think this advice applies to you or why I should care if it’s “condescending and patronizing” to people who are not its intended audience.

    4. 18.4
      Alteredstory

      You seem to be missing a few points…

    5. 18.5
      Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

      It’s funny. Nr. 1 on this list is pretty much what every man who’s a blogger on this network, and commenter, has done.

      The point, it’s over there.
      As anybody with some reading comprehension can see, the point is about men in individual encounters with women. So, please show us where the feminist men on FtB, bloggers and commenters alike have done so.
      Be specific, please: Where did the feminist men lecture an individual woman about knowing her life better than she does (and without pushback)?

      Nr. 2 is, in my opinion, condescending and patronizing. I’m sorry.

      Like, how excatly? You’re not telling anybody anything here. You’re just throwing in some negative words. And I don’t believe that you’re sorry.

      Nr. 3 is … how should I put this? A backhanded compliment.

      Again, noise only.

      With Nr. 4 I disagree completely. Does Slutwalk ring any bells? That’s a conscious effort by (female) sex-workers (with male support) to not only remove the stigma of the word ‘slut’ but also reclaim it. By offering this ‘advice’, you are indirectly talking down to these people. Then there’s the ‘Godless bitches’ podcast. Would you call in and tell them their use of the word ‘bitch’ is hurtful? Not to mention this effort by Australian feminist Germaine Greer. So is this a suggestion by women in general, or just by you, Miriam?

      Miriam has already told you why you went wrong there. Yes, live with it. The fact that a woman refers to herself as a “slut” doesn’t mean you can, too.
      Have you ever said “Damn, I’m such an idiot” after you did something stupid? If yes, does that mean the word idiot is now free to use for all about everybody?

      Nr. 5 is actually the most helpful on your list, but sadly used to denigrate Men’s Rights Activists. I’m not an MRA and I don’t want to be, nor would I consider myself a feminist, but I do wish for equal rights for women. But you know as well as I do, Miriam, that not all feminists are alike and therefore (logically) not all MRA’s are alike.

      No, that not all MRAs are alink doesn’t follow logically from “not all feminists are alike”. To make that point you have to actually show that there are different kinds of MRAs. Actually I believe you, only that I still have to see any variety of them that’s not deeply anti-feminist.

      For instance, there’s a certain feminist on FtB who refer to women who doesn’t agree with her approach as ‘gender traitors’.

      Nice try, making it sound like it was a blogger on FtB instead of a commentor when you well know that she isn’t. Secondly you make it sound like a frequent occurence and well tolerated. And a big fat *yawn* for the “who disagrees with her”. People disagree with each other all the time and funny enough, terms like “sexist” aren’t flung around as random insults. They are used to describe behaviours and actual mindsets.

      Then there’s another feminist who refer to them as ‘chill girls’ and ‘sister punishers’.

      There’s more than one person on FtB who uses the term “chill girl”. Do you know where it originates? From the “chill girl” herself who coined it as a label for herself and women like her.
      But, what would you think is an acceptable term for a woman who supports patriarchal structures and behaviours?

  19. 19
    pitchguest

    It might also interest you that Nr. 5, while helpful, is not actually accepted, at least here at FtB.

    If I had a nickel for every time the phrase ‘what about the menz’ was repeated by members here, in all its variants. I don’t think you’ll find much agreement on that point.

    1. 19.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Uh, so? I am not responsible for what other FtB bloggers say and do. I’m not on this network because I agree with everyone here. I’m on this network because it gives my writing greater visibility, because I have friends and colleagues here, and because I enjoy being part a community where there are a lot of interesting ideas (most of which have nothing to do with feminism) being tossed around.

    2. 19.2
      leftwingfox

      Handy guide for pitchguest:

      Creating a post about men’s issues; good.

      Walking into a post about women’s issues, and talking about men’s issues instead; rude.

      Generally speaking, walking into ANYONE ELSE’S post and complaining that there’s other’s issues more important is derailing and rude as hell.

      1. 19.2.1
        Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

        C’mon now. We ALL know pitchguest’s only reason for living is lying about feminism.

  20. 20
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    I think one of the more useful things about the “men should accept that they are not always welcome in all feminist situations” is that it helps weed out the men who really don’t want to accept “no”. Like, if they start arguing about why they should ignore stated boundaries (I feel this applies especially to some commenters in this thread), it says a lot about them that I feel is really useful to know upfront!

    Also, men who decide to step into an interfeminist argument and to tell other women that they are doing feminism wrong tend to mostly just seem like they’re looking or acceptable women to bash.

    1. 20.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      I think one of the more useful things about the “men should accept that they are not always welcome in all feminist situations” is that it helps weed out the men who really don’t want to accept “no”. Like, if they start arguing about why they should ignore stated boundaries (I feel this applies especially to some commenters in this thread), it says a lot about them that I feel is really useful to know upfront!

      Yup, absolutely. Even if the people who are excluding you have NO valid reason to do it (and, let me reiterate, feminist women do have some valid reasons to exclude men from certain spaces), there’s something a little strange to me about someone who desperately wants to be allowed into everything and raises a fuss when they’re not. Why would you want to go somewhere you’re not wanted? Why would you not accept that people have the right not to invite you?

      If a bunch of people you know get invited to a party but you receive no invitation, are you going to contact the host and demand one? And if you do, and they say no, are you going to argue with them or just show up anyway? I don’t get it.

      1. 20.1.1
        Hunt

        Why would you want to go somewhere you’re not wanted? Why would you not accept that people have the right not to invite you?

        Because often people don’t have the right not to invite you! I mean, this is simply erasing a huge portion of the civil rights movement. Why would blacks want to invade a white country club? This topic is far more complicated than you’re presenting it. It gets into the scope of the “space” you’re talking about. Is it private or public? If you’re talking about a public organization you need a pretty good reason to exclude a group. Even if you’re talking about a private space, you still need a pretty good reason. Yes, I realize you’re not making a legal argument; nevertheless, things that have been established by law are inevitably going to have a bearing on what you’re talking about. It’s quite possible that some of the things that have been cursorily hinted at within this post are actually illegal! Fer reals. And for a reason.

        1. 20.1.1.1
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          Actually, a better analogy would be people of color having their own spaces to discuss civil rights issues and racism. Which they do. And I, as a white person, do not expect or demand to be invited to these spaces.

        2. 20.1.1.2
          smrnda

          I think there’s a difference in spaces in which members of dominant groups exclude others and spaces that marginalized groups create for themselves. I mean, before the civil rights movement almost any group that had social influence could have been considered a whites only club, and spaces like drinking fountains and restrooms were being claimed as exclusive white spaces.

          I also think this post is less about *legal issues* and more about etiquette. For example, I am not a sexual abuse or assault survivor (lucky me.) I can respect that people who are might want a private space exclusive to survivors where they would prefer I not join.

        3. 20.1.1.3
          Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

          What smrnda said, and in addition, that part of the post is not about public organizations or institutions. It’s about support groups, consciousness-raising groups, that type of thing.

  21. 21
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    “What about the menz” is used when men’s issues are brought up on posts that are about women’s issues in order to derail the topic away from the women and towards the men. It’s not applicable to situations where the OP is about men’s issues in the first place (remember that post PZ did about male circumcision and how just about no one who usually derail FGM threads pitched up to discuss the issue? That was… interesting.) S

    So no, #5 is in fact often engaged in by other bloggers and comments on FtB

    1. 21.1
      Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

      Dang. Sorry, was supposed to be a reply to Pitchguest

      1. 21.1.1
        leftwingfox

        …and then I missed your reply and accidentally mansplained. Clusterfail high-five!

  22. 22
    Brian

    Sigh, I can’t tell you how much I wanted to find stuff like this (and the Jezebel’s article) back in the 1990s when I was trying to figure this out for myself.

    1. 22.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Well, I think a lot of women didn’t exactly have it figured out either. And we’re still working on it.

  23. 23
    bad Jim

    I don’t understand the pushback on Number 2. There are all sorts of places where it’s generally understood that the discussion is for women, by women, and no shortage of discussions in which men don’t really have much to offer. Two that come to mind are the experience of the threat of rape and the discouragement of, and discrimination against, women in science.

    Concerning Number 4, I only recently came to understand why jokes are often taken amiss by women even when they’re poking fun at men – the motives of the narrator have to be taken into account, and they’re not always obvious. You can’t expect everyone to find the same thing funny.

    1. 23.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      I don’t understand the pushback on Number 2.

      Entitlement. “How DARE you not include me in something I probably have no interest in being included in anyway! Wah!”

      1. 23.1.1
        Hunt

        How do you connect “men will probably have no interest” with “men are not welcome”? I mean, this really makes no sense. If men will not be interested, then why proscribe men? It’s kind of like setting up stereotypical exclusionary (and pretty much sexist) gatherings like “women’s tea,” knowing full well that no man in a hundred miles will attend, then deliberately saying “no men allowed.” Does not compute. You can’t then turn around and complain when some men ask you what the hell is up.

        1. 23.1.1.1
          Stevarious, Public Health Problem

          “How do you connect “men will probably have no interest” with “men are not welcome”?

          Because, oh person who cannot keep up, #2 was directed at feminist men, who are interested but occasionally unwelcome. You, on the other hand, have repeatedly stated that you are NOT a feminist, and therefor it’s reasonable to assume that you personally would not be interested in attending in the first place.

          Miri has you pegged exactly right. Entitlement. You’re not a feminist and would not be the least bit interested in attending a feminist function – but the moment someone suggests that you might not be welcome you lose you shit.

          1. Hunt

            Why are you insistent that I have to be arguing out of a totally narcissistic point of view? What’s wrong with arguing principle?

          2. SallyStrange

            Your arguments for principle fall apart. You claim to believe that allowing women to gather without having men around every once in a while goes against equality. But you can’t explain or demonstrate what kind of harm such gatherings would do to the cause of equality, nor how it occurs. Which makes it obvious that you’re talking out of your ass; whether you have sincerely convinced yourself or not, there’s no empirical basis for you to maintain a belief that women gathering without men hurts equality.

            So, you’re maintaining a false belief and using this belief as a justification for hectoring, judging, and criticizing people who actually are attempting to fight for their equal rights.

            Yeah, sounds pretty narcissistic to me.

  24. 24
    Hunt

    Let me just try to take another run at this thing in the non-nested context.

    As I’ve said, No. 2 does strike me as separatist, and so what you think of it depends heavily on whether you have any separatist sympathies or not. It may surprise people that I don’t necessarily disagree with separatism, which is usually classed under radical feminism. It doesn’t necessarily connote feminists who strive for a male-free life. It can just mean that under some circumstances, the work of feminism skews toward woman-only. It’s easy to make that sound bad, but obviously most people here agree with it.

    However, No. 2 does seem to conflict with No. 5, since if feminism is actually supposed to subsume men’s issues, then it’s unclear why it should exclude men in certain of its functions. Unless, of course, I’m reading more than intended into No. 5. It may just mean that a legitimate (read: non-contemptible) men’s rights movement, should one ever be formed, would find the principles of feminism useful, not that feminism should be the instrument of choice to address men’s issues. Another interpretation is that within feminism women should sometimes have their space and men their’s. But as I asked in the nested comments, one wonders what will be going on behind those closed doors. (Secret handshakes, masculine drumming?)

    As I’ve said already a couple times, if No. 2 is only meant in the context of therapeutics–and for the most part it seems that way on the face of it–then I don’t see any problem with it. But then it doesn’t even seem to be worth mentioning. It seems to be only common sense that rape and abuse victims who might have developed phobic reactions to men should be spared their presence until they have healed. But that’s different than creating an event, say a conference, that excludes men, particularly in light of No. 5.

    To a certain extend I don’t think you can have it both ways, 2 and 5 are mutually exclusive. Either feminism is inclusive and there are no elements of sex exclusion, or you admit that feminism is part of a women’s movement, and so men should be referred to the…men’s movement. But here’s the problem; there is no legitimate men’s movement. MRAism and MRM (as distinguished from the non-movement of the 90′s which had as its key feature…drumming) is for the most part a hateful reactionary to feminism. It does on occasion have good points, unfortunately it is awash in anti-feminist hatred. Every time I lament the absence of a legitimate men’s movement, I give AVfM another try and make it half way through an article before I’m inevitably appalled. If the article isn’t enough, the comments will be. But the MRM doesn’t seem to have any inclination to change, and feminism doesn’t seem to have any desire to salvage the MRM or build one from the ground up. So, basically the only resort for men who legitimately want to address men’s issues is feminism, which often treats them as oppressors.

    1. 24.1
      Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

      So, you didn’t actually read what people replied to you, went ahead to re-phrase the points you made already and then you wonder why sometimes there might be discussions where people don’t want to include you…
      Again, this has nothing to do with “seperatism” or “exclusion” or “sex discrimination” but with the need of minorieties to once in a while having a space to discuss their issues without privileged people either condescendingly explaining their lives to them or demanding that they are explained what people talk about and to be totally paid attention to and being the centre of the universe.
      Oh, and btw, I haven’t yet met a feminist who reacted to “you know, there are issues I would only like to discuss with men present”. Actually, feminist men’s groups where men discussed their issues amongst themselves were quite a thing…

      1. 24.1.1
        Hunt

        Right, that’s how I managed to respond to at least five of them.

      2. 24.1.2
        Hunt

        then you wonder why sometimes there might be discussions where people don’t want to include you…

        Again, this has nothing to do with “seperatism” or “exclusion”

        D’oh!

        1. 24.1.2.1
          Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

          So, do you think that the fact that if you turn up uninvited at a scientific congress you will probably not even be allowed in and most certainly not invited to speak and to ask questions as a sign of “seperatism” and “exclusion” and that scientists don’t do science for all of humankind? Or do you see it as a necessary means to get the things done the congress was meant to do?

          1. Hunt

            I wouldn’t have a problem with it. That would be like showing up at a movie theater without a ticket. If I were barred entry due to gender I would rightfully object to it. You probably mean if I had no qualifications as a scientist, would I expect welcome at the conference. No I wouldn’t. So by analogy you’re saying that a man, having no qualifications as a woman, might be excluded from a woman’s congress. Well, fine.

            I might tempt you to make the further qualification that the conference isn’t primarily about therapy or recovery, and then ask you, as I wondered above, what proceedings are being conducted that should proscribe the involvement of men. It’s just a matter of curiosity. What are these Masonic rituals?

            But that’s a different argument than that women are going to be shouted down by the aggressive he-men. How is that not stereotyping and bigoted?

          2. Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

            “Masonic rituals”
            I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean in this context.
            So, yes, women decide that soemtimes they need to have a space where they can discuss issues of gender, sex and sexuality with people whose qualification is “woman”. So, you accept that.
            So what’s your problem?
            Nobody said anything about “shouting down”, although the research on time-taking and turn-taking in mixed conversations is well studied and so is the phenomenon of men explaining things to women (but not to other men). That’s not “stereotyping and bigoted” but those are facts of our patriarchal societies. You’re right that this doesn’t apply to each and every guy out there, but why should women waste the time they have finding out time after time again whether this guy is the one who’ll just listen and not interrupt and not try to be an expert on being a woman any more than scientists should give each layperson who shows up at a congress a try because they could be the respectful listener who’s in for the learning experience?

          3. Hunt

            So, yes, women decide that soemtimes they need to have a space where they can discuss issues of gender, sex and sexuality with people whose qualification is “woman”. So, you accept that.
            So what’s your problem?

            I don’t have a problem with it, if that’s what it’s all about. It’s kind of like when men decided they needed to drum back in the 90′s. I reserve the right to consider that type of exclusiveness somewhat silly, but if you find it productive due to the fact that men are a distraction, whatever.

            That’s a long way from considering men dangerous to the group or unsavory, but even on top of that concession, I agree that when men *are* regarded as unsavory as part of an irrational fear, it might be a good idea to exclude them. This is the exception of the therapeutic environment.

            What I don’t agree with is excluding men out of some vague sense that men, qua men, create an unsafe environment or even the feeling of an unsafe environment, as suggested by the OP. That is a pernicious recommendation, and I don’t see any good coming from it. Again, for the tenth time, outside a recovery setting, it’s not even good for the women who are supposedly comforted by it, as it only reinforces irrational feelings.

          4. Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

            So, would you feel safe to discuss your erectile problems or, not to make it personal, do you think that men would feel in general to discuss their erectile and sexual problems in a mixed group or do you think they would prefer a men only group to discuss that issue?

            What I don’t agree with is excluding men out of some vague sense that men, qua men, create an unsafe environment or even the feeling of an unsafe environment, as suggested by the OP.

            See, this is where the problem starts: you’re talking out of your ass. You have never experienced how it is to be a woman in a mixed conversation, yet you think that women’s desire to have spaces where that doesn’t happen to them as unnecessary.

            I agree that when men *are* regarded as unsavory as part of an irrational fear, it might be a good idea to exclude them.

            The fear that men might talk down to us, condescend to us, mansplain to us and interrupt us isn’t irrational. Why are you constantly trying to make this about shouting and assault? I get the lingering impression that you have actually no idea what “safe space” means.

          5. Hunt

            Well, you’d never catch me talking about erectile dysfunction in a group anyway, but if it happened it would probably result more in embarrassment than fear.

            yet you think that women’s desire to have spaces where that doesn’t happen to them as unnecessary

            You’re shifting the goalposts on what is mean by a “safe space.” In the OP it was away from those who might trigger memories of assault, discrimination, etc. and now it’s away from those who might dominate the conversation.

            I get the lingering impression that you have actually no idea what “safe space” means.

            Possible, but what “safe space” means is being equivocated. It’s either away from dominating men or away from *men*, as a concession to bad feelings their presence might evoke, or both. *I* get the lingering impression that in each instance, it’s whichever casts men in the worst light possible.

          6. SallyStrange

            You’re shifting the goalposts on what is mean by a “safe space.” In the OP it was away from those who might trigger memories of assault, discrimination, etc. and now it’s away from those who might dominate the conversation.

            Goalpost shifting? Oh, you mean that fact that Miri listed SOME of the reasons women might want a space away from men, and the Gilliell mentioned a few MORE? It’s goalpost shifting because One or the other of them didn’t exhaustively list every single possible negative experience with sexist behavior on the part of men that might inspire them to wish for a space where they don’t have to worry about dealing with said sexist behavior?

            Right, of course it is. Because you’re totally arguing in good faith. And not just throwing labels of fallacies around because you think that “I’m a skeptic” is a magical incantation that erases all wrong beliefs, and “That’s a fallacy” is another magical incantation that means that everyone else is wrong despite the fact that you can’t explain why they’re wrong. Nope. Not at all. Perish the thought.

          7. Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

            See, we’re at the root of the problem:
            You have no idea what a “safe space” and “safe space discourse” mean, you’re ignorant on the sociolinguistic data on gender in conversation or what on earth a power imbalance is (as demonstrated time after time again when you compare women excluding men from white people excluding black people), but you still think that you have something important and noteworthy to say and that we should treat your opinion as if it contributed something substantial to the discussion.
            You behave, in short, like the creationist who insists to be heard at a scientific conference about evolution and who shouts “silencing!!! opression!!! 11!!!” when shown the door.

          8. Hunt

            It sounds like you don’t really believe that men can be actual feminists but rather, possibly pro-feminist, and there are also hints of this in the OP as well:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro-feminist
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_and_feminism

            An except from the second link:

            Other female feminists argue that men cannot be feminists simply because they are not women, cannot understand women’s issues, and are collectively members of the class of oppressors against women. They claim that men are granted inherent privileges that prevent them from identifying with feminist struggles and thus make it impossible for them to identify with feminists.[30]

            A common idea supporting men’s inclusion as ‘feminists’ is that excluding men from the feminist movement labels it as solely a female task, which is argued to be sexist in itself. They assert that until men share equal responsibility for struggling to end sexism against women, the feminist movement will reflect the very sexist contradiction it wishes to eradicate.[27] The term ‘profeminist’ occupies the middle ground in this semantic debate, because it offers a degree of closeness to feminism without using the term itself. Also, the prefix ‘pro’ characterizes the term as more proactive and positive.

            The difficulty I have is in appealing to male feminists *as* male feminists, but then qualifying that they will not have access to all feminists spaces. To me, that just seems to logically indicate that these men are not really considered feminists to begin with. Splitting them into female feminist and male pro-feminist at least resolves the apparent contradiction, but doesn’t do anything for the seemingly inherent sexism in making this division. However, to me, that may actually make the most sense, particularly if it’s a utilitarian concession, or in other words, fighting sexism with sexism. If these are movements that aim to extinguish themselves once they have achieved their objective, it’s less important to rigidly adhere to fixed principles.

            The argument *is* being shifted here, depending on where people choose to focus it. There are a number of ways to interpret the (notorious) No. 2. Miri phrased is in terms of women seeking to heal themselves from assault, etc., which indicates, well, healing and therapy. This in itself isn’t enough to imply anything about the status of men as true feminists. This is like the erectile dysfunction group example: There’s an easily understood reason why there might be gender exclusiveness, although the reasons are entirely different. They are clear and understandable.

            But then there’s also the “groups and events” wording, which seems to indicate that men should be disallowed from some activism as a matter of course within feminism, as confirmed by the prior statement about how all genders should normally be allowed in all feminist activism. That sounds a lot more like men being considered at most pro-feminists, not actual male feminists.

            And remember, we’re talking about male *feminists*, working with female *feminists*. These are already people who supposedly agree that they are members of an oppressor class, working with people who supposedly know that they know it.

          9. Robert Arnow, Freeze Peach Inspector

            It’s not that men can’t be feminists, it’s that, as feminists, male feminists should recognize in what contexts they don’t have the personal authority to speak and in what venues they are not welcome. My feminism has nothing to do with being a woman, and everything to do with being a person who is both reasonable and considerate about a) issues relating to identities and b) consent. There is nothing in that definition of being a feminist that precludes men from identifying as feminists, though the bit about being “considerate” precludes men from demanding acceptance in woman-only spaces.

            Side-note: given feminism’s history of transphobia, it’s important to stipulate that “woman-only spaces” must always be established on the basis of gender, and never on the basis of sex. If someone is a woman, it doesn’t matter what reproductive organs she has – she should be welcome in a space only for women. If someone is a man, regardless of what reproductive organs he has, he shouldn’t try to insert himself into a space only for women.

    2. 24.2
      Alteredstory

      Again – Number two does NOT say that ALL spaces should be excluded.

      Just because I like to meditate alone for a little while every day does not mean that I never want to interact with other humans EVER.

      Creating a safe space for people does not mean they will always BE in that space, and that they will never interact with you. It doesn’t mean that men aren’t allowed to participate.

      ALL that it means is that you don’t have a right to go wherever you want and be part of everything that’s going on.

      There’s nothing “separatist” about that, unless you think it’s your RIGHT to be present wherever you want to be, no matter what ill effects it might have on people.

      1. 24.2.1
        Hunt

        If you’re talking about spaces for recovery, you have a point. If you’re talking about segregating genders as a matter of course within the everyday functions of feminist activism, I see a lot of problems. Then it implies that female gender is the only rightful heir to feminism, or IOW males can be at most ersatz feminists. It’s kind of like the Mormon Church, where women can definitely be considered members, however, certain functions are occupied by male-only clergy. Ironically, it creates a second class being, the male feminist, who while considered feminist, is not allowed into the inner-sanctum of feminist functions. Males are welcome…but there will come a time when the women will don their special robes and enter the hallowed halls of feminism to follow the sacred rituals (or something). Why would you want to introduce that kind of bullshit into the movement? If so; if that’s really the serious intent, I think it would be highly preferable to just make a clean break from “male feminism” and embrace something like pro-feminism for men explicitly, perhaps as part of a legitimate men’s movement.

        1. 24.2.1.1
          Alteredstory

          NOBODY here said “segregating genders as a matter of course”. That only exists in your head.

          You’re arguing against something that’s non-existent. There’s no inner sanctum, there are no “classes”, there are no “rituals” – it’s just a space to have a discussion about issues relating to sexism and women without people like you coming in to tell them that they’re wrong about their life experiences, or belittle their desire for a safe space. Maybe you’d even do it in the most well-meaning way possible, but the effect would be the same. Hell, maybe you’d just sit there quietly, but your presence, as a man, could mean that women might not feel comfortable talking about some things around you.

          You seem to be basing your objection on paranoia. Nobody is persecuting you. If someone says they want a “safe” space to talk about something, and they say that, even if though YOU might not be responsible for it, your presence would get in the way of that, maybe you should consider that IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, and the fact that you insist that you have a right to be there no matter how disruptive your presence would be, just shows how important it is to have a space where you aren’t allowed.

          1. Hunt

            This is actually a very complex topic, and I ultimately I’m probably not going to sway you or others here, probably due to the limitations of my own rhetorical skills, not because I’m not pointing out a potential problem that deserves to be analyzed carefully. There’s only so much a person can include in a single post, and this was even already a fairly long one. Unfortunately I still found it extremely ambiguous on a number of points.

            There are a number of things being conflated here, some of which are: groups oriented toward healing and therapy, groups that might discussion potentially embarrassing things like sexual difficulty, and so on. What raises a red flag for me is that normally these groups have no need to explicitly state attendee exclusions; everyone kind of knows what’s up. What’s interesting is that it’s only for those groups where gender exclusion might be potentially problematic (e.g. activist events) where explicit exclusionary language might need to signal it. In other words, where gender exclusiveness just makes sense, nobody needs to state it. It’s exactly in the places where it might be controversial that it even needs to be mentioned. So then why even bring it up? (You may be right; I may be paranoid.) I think there’s a certain amount of fighting withdrawal going on here by conflating the less problematic with the more, and I think a lot of people here know what I mean. They just don’t want to allow that into the conversation because it’s a potential detriment to their arguments.

            Your initial remarks concern my hyperbole, which was deliberate, but to a point, which is what hyperbole is meant to be.

            To a large extent, it *IS* about me if feminism claims to be a general activist movement that welcomes members of each gender, or at least it’s as much about me as anyone else.

  25. 25
    penn

    Great post!

    I think it’s a good list, and I really liked number 5. The snippets I’ve read from MRAs often argue that feminists don’t really care about equality because they aren’t focused on men’s issue X, which is obviously more important than these women’s issues. It’s an interesting sort of privilege to assume that others need to be activists for you and your causes, but the onus needs to be on men to take the lead as activists in areas that disproportionately harm men, and that feminist men especially need to lead, so that these issues aren’t dominated by MRAs.

  26. 26
    Lou Doench

    As a stay at home husband and aspiring feminist dude… I can make my own cookies TYVM! I think I’ll make some today. ;)

    1. 26.1
      dianne

      I can make my own cookies TYVM! I think I’ll make some today.

      …Can I have one?

  27. 27
    dianne

    The objections to this post seem to boil down to this: What about the menz?

    There’s a claim that not allowing men into EVERY last discussion of feminism ever, including discussions between victims of abuse by men and how to cope with that abuse, is sexist oppression. Because it’s more important to make sure that the oppressor class is never excluded than to make sure that the victim class has safe space to process their feelings.

    Then there’s the objection to #4, which seems to boil down to “but women do it”. Yep. Guess what, guys? The only people who can reclaim a derogatory term are those people who are being addressed by it. The band name NWA wouldn’t work at all if it were a band made up of white guys or gals. Sorry, but this is just one of those situations where the speaker matters. There are a million non-gendered insults you can use if you want to insult a woman and there are tons of words that you can use “ironically” without being a sexist. I doubt your language will be greatly impoverished by giving up the words slut and bitch.

    If you’re a man using these sorts of arguments, you’re not a feminist or feminist ally or much of anything but a sexist. That’s ok. There’s a lot of subconscious sexism in the culture and you can hardly help absorbing some of it. But if you’d rather be a feminist or at least a decent human being who tries to fight against your own sexism, start by examining your own motives and consider why you feel the need to immediately jump in and criticize a woman who is discussing sexism and feminism. Maybe you’ll conclude that her arguments aren’t valid–being female doesn’t automatically make one perfectly enlightened about sexism and perfectly feminist. But you need to at least strongly examine your own motives and understand that you’re likely to reject arguments based on the gender of the speaker. This is not your fault-society trained you that way-but it is your problem if you want to grow beyond what society has made you. Think things through, criticize your own thoughts and then readdress the arguments.

  28. 28
    Matthew, a Pretty Ace Guy

    On a related note to #1, “Do not lecture women about their own oppression”, especially calling out internalized misogyny, is it appropriate as a straight person to call out the internalized homophobia of queer people (specifically regarding somewhat homophobic jokes in an environment like Tumblr, where it may be obvious to people who follow said queer person that they mean no harm, but it may be less obvious once the post has been reblogged a few times)? My gut tells me yes, but I’ve gotten some pushback on this subject before and I would appreciate help.

    1. 28.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      I’m not sure on that one. I’m inclined to say no, not because it’s WRONG, but because people will just be like “Yeah well I’m gay and it doesn’t hurt me, so.” You could always do something like “Hey, I’m sure you meant that as a joke, but someone might not realize and be really hurt!” There’s a difference between gently calling out and, like, lecturing. :)

  29. 29
    5i5i

    Thanks for your blog. Very cool. One point, you say “But women can’t take leadership of efforts to address problems that they have never experienced”. I disagree on this one. There’s something called empathy that is key here, and means a person can fight for the rights of another very effectively. A white can take leadership in fighting for the rights of blacks, a woman fighting for the rights of men, etc…

    1. 29.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      I think there’s a difference between having enough empathy to fight for someone else’s rights and actually taking leadership of that fight. In social justice circles (it started off in the disability rights movement) there’s this concept of “Nothing about us without us.” It means that first and foremost, we must let people who are directly affected by injustice speak for themselves and lead their own movements. As a woman, it’s not my job to tell men how to deal with their issues; it’s my job to learn about them, educate other women, and help out with initiatives that already exist.

  30. 30
    Katy Kay

    Another great blog, thanks. Can you divulge who “Jezebel” is? More of her writings?

    1. 30.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Jezebel is a well-known blog about women’s issues. Follow my initial link and you’ll see it.

  1. 31
    No cookies? » Pharyngula

    [...] That settles it: I’m totally becoming an MRA now. Miri says men who are feminists aren’t entitled to cookies. [...]

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