Try staying quiet for a while and actually listening

Phil Plait has a great article at Slate on #YesAllWomen, with a shout-out to Amy at the end for giving him a helpful idea – that’s how good it is.

The murderer was active on men’s rights fora, where women are highly objectified, to say the very least. They are seen as nonhuman by many such groups, and at the very least lesser than men—sometimes nothing more than targets or things to acquire. What these men write puts them, to me, in the same category as White Power movements, or any other horribly bigoted group that “others” anyone else. While it may not be possible to blame the men’s rights groups for what happened, from the reports we’ve seen they certainly provided an atmosphere of support.

Horribly bigoted group that others and also dominates and despises.

He says the defensive reactions of a lot of men on Twitter were unhelpful.

…the people saying it aren’t furthering the conversation, they’re sidetracking it.The discussion isn’t about the men who aren’t a problem. (Though, I’ll note, it can be. I’ll get back to that.) Instead of being defensive and distracting from the topic at hand, try staying quiet for a while and actually listening to what the thousands upon thousands of women discussing this are saying.


Fourth—and this is important, so listen carefully—when a woman is walking down the street, or on a blind date, or, yes, in an elevator alone, she doesn’t know which group you’re in. You might be the potential best guy ever in the history of history, but there’s no way for her to know that. A fraction of men out there are most definitelynot in that group. Which are you? Inside your head you know, but outside your head it’s impossible to.

This is the reality women deal with all the time.

He says he can’t know what it’s like because he’s not a woman, and it’s taken him a long time to adjust his thinking to reflect that.

Over the weekend, I retweeted a few of the #YesAllWomen tweets I thought were most important, or most powerful, and saw that again and again they were misunderstood. In almost all the cases I saw, the men commenting were reacting to it, being defensive about the hashtag instead of listening to what was being said.

Earlier, I mentioned that the conversation is about the men who are the problem, not the ones who aren’t. Well, at this point, a conversation needs to be had about them, too. Even though we may not be the direct problem, we still participate in the cultural problem. If we’re quiet, we’re part of the problem. If we don’t listen, if we don’t help, if we let things slide for whatever reason, then we’re part of the problem, too.

We men need to do better.

That would help. It would help a lot.

And one final word on this. As a man, having written this post I expect there will be comments insulting me, comments questioning my manhood (whatever twisted definition those people have of such a thing, if it even exists), and so on.

But you know what there won’t be? People threatening to stalk me and rape me and kill me for having the audacity to say that women are people, and that we should be listening to them instead of telling them how to feel. Yet that is precisely what every woman on the Internet would face if she were to write this.

And that is, sadly, why we so very much need the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

My thanks to Surly Amy for a helpful suggestion she made to me about this article.

That was good. No “concern” about feminists furthering their agenda, no alarm at the “cruelty” of feminists saying misogyny played a bit part in the actions of Elliot Rodger, no tutting about feminists “grandstanding” or turning a “tragedy” into something [gasp] “political.” #Notallmen yo.



  1. says

    Yeah, even the guys without a particular agenda of their own, not listening, reacting, having to post “not all men” comments: Yeah, thanks Captain Obvious. Think it through for a half second and realize that no one could not know that it isn’t all men, or we’d be extinct. At the very least, this should stop you if you failed to listen to more reasonable thoughts. #Duhguys

  2. kellym says

    Reading Phil Plait’s essay, it became clear that even if he had wanted to remain JREF president, he would have been forced out shortly after Dear Muslima. The man has far too much integrity to have remained there.

  3. Dunc says

    You might be the potential best guy ever in the history of history, but there’s no way for her to know that. A fraction of men out there are most definitely not in that group. Which are you? Inside your head you know, but outside your head it’s impossible to.

    I don’t think this is right. Inside your head you think you know, but nobody thinks they’re the bad guy. Some people are clearly wrong about that. But then I suppose asking for that level of self-awareness from people who are evidently still struggling with the concept that other people can’t see inside their minds might be asking too much…

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Well said Phil Plait – we men can and should all do better & the M& M’s analogy quoted here is spot on.

    I was just about to link this on one of your earlier threads too! Should’ve guessed.

  5. Kevin Kehres says

    Memory failed me, so google had to confirm. Remember this golden oldie?

    But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

    That’s Ron Lindsay, of course.

    Compare and contrast with the above.

  6. medivh says

    Dunc, it’s an argument from absurdity, effectively. Let’s grant the strongest possible case, let all the assertions stand and question none of the premises. It’s still a losing proposition at its strongest possible point.

    In this case: let’s grant you’re the perfect gentleman (or whatever term you want to use for the most decent possible male human). Let’s ignore all the things you ignore and more. Let’s grant that you’ve never had a violent thought toward anything living or not. There’s still no way of knowing that at a glance. You are still a threat by virtue of your unknown (to anyone who doesn’t know your history) virtues.

    Of course, that’s the argument that “not all men” is supposed to counter.

  7. Stacy says

    Kevin Kehres, I’m happy to report that since that awful little speech, Ron Lindsay has actually done some shutting-up-and-listening. His introduction to this year’s Women in Secularism conference reflected his growth in understanding.

    Baby steps.

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