Laurie Penny is tired of “Not all men!!” and similar petulant irrelevancies. True, it’s not all men, but that’s not the same thing as not a problem.
You can be the gentlest, sweetest man in the world yet still benefit from sexism. That’s how oppression works. Thousands of otherwise decent people are persuaded to go along with an unfair system because it’s less hassle that way. The appropriate response when somebody demands a change in that unfair system is to listen, rather than turning away or yelling, as a child might, that it’s not your fault. And it isn’t your fault. I’m sure you’re lovely. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to do something about it.
Dealing with sexism – that is, trying to change it – really is a massive hassle. I know why that is, too – it’s because we’re all tangled up together. Women and men live together, work together, ride the bus together, swim in the culture together. Sexism is all over every bit of that stuff. To change it you have to pay attention to fucking everything, and that’s a huge pain in the ass. Nag nag nag – why is this show all about men working together and having a beer together and women are just an occasional dead body? Kvetch kvetch kvetch – why are you telling me to smile when I don’t know you from Adam? Call me a waaaaaaaambulance – I wish people could disagree with Hillary Clinton without calling her a bitch or a cunt.
But many hands make light work, right? If more people did it, the rest of us wouldn’t have to be such nagging kvetching Professional Victims.
Sexism should be uncomfortable. It is painful and enraging to be on the receiving end of misogynist attacks and it is also painful to watch them happen and to know that you’re implicated, even though you never chose to be.
Mmmmmm. No. Not as painful and enraging, at least. She doesn’t say it is, but she seems to imply it with that sentence structure – and I can tell you, it’s not. How do I know? Because attacks on people in groups that don’t include me are not as painful and enraging to me as misogynist attacks on me are. That’s a filthy thing to say, I realize, but it’s the truth. I hate them, but not as viscerally as I hate the ones that are personal.
Saying that “all men are implicated in a culture of sexism” – all men, not just some men –may sound like an accusation. In reality, it’s a challenge. You, individual man, with your individual dreams and desires, did not ask to be born into a world where being a boy gave you social and sexual advantages over girls. You don’t want to live in a world where little girls get raped and then are told they provoked it in a court of law; where women’s work is poorly paid or unpaid; where we are called sluts and whores for demanding simple sexual equality. You did not choose any of this. What you do get to choose, right now, is what happens next.You can choose, as a man, to help create a fairer world for women – and for men, too. You can choose to challenge misogyny and sexual violence wherever you see them. You can choose to take risks and spend energy supporting women, promoting women, treating the women in your life as true equals. You can choose to stand up and say no and, every day, more men and boys are making that choice.