Archive for the ‘sexism in the movement’ Category
This list is based on my own experiences with men in SDS. If you’re a man that I know, and you’re reading this and wondering if any of it is about you… then it could be.
Please don’t send me a(nother) long e-mail about how you’re angry about the way I “called you out” (notice that there are no names) or how you think this list is “counter-productive” or “self-righteous.” Instead, I encourage you to take that anger or defensiveness or whatever emotion you have after reading this, and think about why these behaviors might be upsetting and how you could change these behaviors to make SDS a more welcoming place to women/queer/transfolk.
Fellow women/queer/transfolk: feel free to add your own lessons in the comments! (I’m sure I’ve left out a lot – after all, men have so much to teach us!)
Lessons That Men in SDS Have Taught Me:
- It is wrong to call women “bitches.” It is, however, perfectly acceptable to call them “aggressive,” “intimidating,” and “hostile.”
- It is “self-righteous” and counter-productive to call people out, to ask people to respect you, or to tell people why/that their words and actions are hurtful and oppressive.
- The appropriate way to deal with a conflict is to send out long e-mails about it, preferably to every listserv you’re on.
- When problems arise, long e-mails may also be combined or substituted with passive-aggressive statuses on Facebook and/or gchat.
- The most effective and liberatory way to share your knowledge with people is in monologue form.
- Questions on feminist politics should be taken to the token woman.
- The best way(s) to deal with your emotions are (a.) refuse to acknowledge that they exist, and/or (b.) dump them on your (least?) favorite female/queer/trans friend.
- Women are only worth your time if they’ll “hook up” with you. (Or if there’s a chance that they will sometime in the future.)
- “Feminism” and “sexual liberation” mean “fucking lots of women.”
- Men in SDS never commit sexual assault. Only “normal” men (such as liberal environmentalists) do that!
- It is wrong for women and queer/transfolks to use violence to defend themselves against rape and queer bashings.
- If you’ve read The Will to Change, it means that you’re no longer a patriarch. It also means that you can be self-righteous about how you’re in touch with your emotions, and how you’re no longer a part of patriarchy.
- Having a penis and being male are the only qualifications you need to do a job. Take charge — no one will mind!
- The fact that someone “has come a long way” means you should be totally understanding of, and patient with, their current fucked up behaviors.
- Abuse, patriarchy, and sexism are totally compatible with radical/anarchist and feminist politics.
<3 sarah b. (dc-sds)
Posted February 16, 2009on:
“It’s not me…it’s patriarchy” How men hide behind patriarchy (A Series)
by Tyneisha Bowens
Part 1: How men deny the effects of patriarchy on their emotional intelligence
“I’m just not as emotional as you are”. Many of us have heard the men in our lives utter these words. And to some extent it’s true.
I mean, we all know what it’s like to want and need more emotional disclosure from the men in our lives. We feel this way because we as women and female bodied folks are encouraged by society and fucked up gender roles to be more in touch with the emotional needs and wants of others, to provide emotional support for all those around us. This training has lead many of us to be emotional slaves of our fathers, lovers, children and friends.
While it has lead many women to a horrible emotional enslavement the rest of us use this emotional training to connect with each other, ourselves and our own needs, and to cultivate a community based on love and open communication. So, it’s no wonder men find themselves almost constantly being asked to and expected to be more emotionally aware, open….intelligent. We want them to be a part of this new emotionally charged community and we want them to do so actively!
It seems the biggest mystery is why they always revert to the same explanation or excuse for their disappointing emotional display. But this is no mystery at all, according to them it’s just this simple… they just aren’t as emotional as we are. WOW, now I understand! Thanks guys. At first I thought it was that you all have been crippled into a perpetual state of emotional immaturity from your patriarchal socialization and the many ways it has manifested for you all personally. BUT NO! It’s just that you all happen to be less emotional than us….and furthermore since it’s “how you are” there is no need to hold yourself accountable to actively change it.
Bullshit! If any of you reading this (men, women and trans/gender queer folks alike) believe that shit you are sadly mistaken. Men are not “just not as emotional” as women and female bodied folks. They are emotionally crippled…yes. But less emotional..no. See, it’s not that men have an inability to feel and have emotions, the problem is usually that they have a much harder time recognizing,respecting, owning and expressing their emotions. But they do have them.
So, let’s talk about how they can’t talk about their emotions! Most of us have also heard this excuse before “Some people just don’t talk about their emotions”. Well, they are right about that too. It just so happens that almost half of the population doesn’t talk about their emotions…what a coincidence!
In reality, where many of us women and female bodied folks live, it’s not that the men in our lives “just” don’t talk about their emotions….it’s that they are taught not to and they haven’t gotten off of their patriarchal asses to change that.
We all know that patriarchy enforces gender roles for all of us and a part of that for men is the myth that emotions and talking about them is not a masculine thing to do….it’s only for the women folk. The problem, at least for us in the movement, isn’t that the men in our lives don’t know this…they do. I mean, they have read The Will to Change like 100 times.
The problem is that they don’t think of themselves as affected individually and more importantly as responsible for changing. So they can read and write about how patriarchy as an overall system affects men as an overall group. But that is usually where it stops. They can’t really get to the part where they realize that patriarchy manifesting in their own lives affects them…individual men.
They don’t see that it’s not just “some people” that don’t express emotions…..it’s patriarchs. Now, don’t get me wrong…there are women that don’t openly express emotions either but it’s not a coincidence that those women are often following the model of success and power that patriarchy teaches us all. You know, having to “run with the big boys”….but that is another entry waiting to happen. Back to the men folk!
For me this kind of behavior, men’s refusal to admit and challenge how patriarchy cripples their emotional intelligence, is a refusal of true collective liberation itself. I mean collective liberation in a very small nutshell is just the understanding, and most importantly manifestations of this understanding, that the liberation of any of us lies in the liberation of all of us. What a great idea…and the men in our lives will often be the first to tell you that. However for many of them it seems to stop at being an idea. If all of our liberation depends on the liberation of everyone else….if we are all in this together and all have a whole hell of a lot to gain….isn’t it possible that we are all…..idk….oppressed and repressed. And if we all are oppressed and repressed isn’t also possible that we all have a lot of socialization to combat before we can begin to break down the pillars of oppression that hold up this system? I’ll go ahead and answer that one….it’s not possible….it is a fact!
What I’m trying to say is that men who claim to aspire to the idea and action of collective liberation should know that a part of what they must do in that struggle is reflect on how patriarchy cripples and oppresses them and then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
The issue is not that the men in our lives, many of whom are activists and organizers, are incapable of analyzing oppression and privilege dynamics and even trying to act on that analysis. But they are often too busy reading and blogging and even trying to “help” us to actually help themselves. And when they realize that they do need to work on their own shit the have no idea how to do it (a starter kit for them is outlined bellow).
It’s crucial for the movement and for us to build a better world that men start owning their privilege and oppression and a huge part of that is owning their emotions.
How else can they expect us to work with and love them? How else can we trust them? I mean, I don’t know about you but I can’t truly trust a person that doesn’t know themselves and men who don’t tap into and express their emotions don’t really know who they are.
So let’s get to the practical part because unfortunately they won’t really be able to do this unless we hold their hands a little (of course, if you don’t want to do that for them more power to you….fuck it).
Now, (for those of you who want to help them) it’s time that men stop using these excuses and begin to realize a few things about themselves- cut and paste this for the men in your lives (this is in list formation because I know how men love their lists).
You are not the exception to socialization and patriarchy (I know it’s hard to accept).
You are responsible for actively challenging the patriarchy that you enact and perpetuate (and yes you do perpetuate and enact it….even if you read bell hooks): listen to the women and female bodied folks in your life; do not get defensive (criticism is a gift…treat it as such); create a restorative justice model of recovery with the women and female bodied folks in your life; create a restorative justice model of recovery with the queer folks in your life; work with other men to hold each other accountable; put your theory into practice!
You are sexist….all of you…realize this. you have been socialized to be and you are….and you will be until the day you die….but you have to fight that as much as you can every day! of course you are not all sexist in the same way….but that does not mean that you can take a break or you should got prizes just b/c you are not as sexist as other men. it just means that you have more work to do with those other men!
You are oppressed by patriarchy…therefore you should be fighting it….not defending, ignoring, or hiding behind it.
YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO IGNORE YOUR PRIVILEGE! this includes how it affects/effects you and others in your life.
Those things should help the men in our lives a little and help us too. We all need to be actively challenging the patriarchy in our lives. For many of us this means becoming more assertive with the men in our lives about how their excuses are outdated and unwanted. We want them to change and so they have to.
I mean, what kind of revolutionary can’t say ” I love you” or “I’m afraid” or articulate what they feel and need emotionally? No revolutionary at all.
So, next time your father, lover, partner, friend tells you that they aren’t as emotional as you are let them know the truth. In case you don’t know what I mean, here’s a recap: They (men) have just as many emotions as we do…they just aren’t currently able to communicate them…and yes it is their responsibility to actively change this and if we decide to help them they should be super fucking grateful!
Coming Soon…. How Men’s Emotional Infancy Hurts Us!
What is I.N.A.Y.? It’s an acronym for “It’s Not About You”, a heading under which I plan to do a series of blog posts here. (And I invite others to join me too!)
And now, I.N.A.Y. #1: “Effectively” Calling Out Patriarchy:
Something I am sick and tired of hearing from men who have been called out on patriarchal behavior by myself or another woman is that the way we did it “wasn’t the most effective way” we could have gone about it. Yesterday I had a dude send me an e-mail in which he said, “Perhaps you feel that the way you have interacted with me is just part of your attempt to make me aware of my biases. I would caution you that inflaming anger and defensiveness is not productive.”
Oh! Thank you Mr.Man! I had no idea that my “aggressiveness” that was clearly meant to inflame anger and defensiveness in you was not the most effective strategy for telling you about your oppressive behavior! Next time you act like a dick I’ll be sure to employ more agreeable tactics so you feel more comfortable.
This entitled reaction from dudes makes me think of a few things: One is, what is it they hear when we bring up issues of patriarchy and sexism with them? I am reminded of a comment made by author Marc Rudov on Fox News during the election : “When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, ‘Take off for the future.’ And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, ‘Take out the garbage.’” It seems like no matter how nicely we try to bring things up, no matter how even our tone of voice or how pleasant the expression on our faces, when women break out of passive, silent gender roles and stick up for ourselves, many men hear yelling, “bitching” and nagging. No woman has ever told me she finds me aggressive, but apparently I come off that way to a lot of men.
Second, why is their first reaction not only to tell me that the way I approached them was wrong, but that they know how to do it better. Despite having no experience being on the other side of the interaction, they still know a better way to do it. Not only does the I’m-a-dude-so-I-know-how-to-do-things-best attitude piss me off, but the assumption that I had the luxury to carefully plan how I would call them out and that I am just not strategical baffles me. As an organizer, I know how to pick the best strategies and tactics for my audience when I am planning a campaign or action. That is because I can usually plan a campaign or action in a rational and thoughtful manner with plenty of time. This does not apply to my daily interactions. Not only do I usually have to choose if and how to call a man out on the fly, but I have never been given any guidance or instruction in how to do it. I am figuring it out as I go along. Considering the fact that everything in society has socialized women NOT to address these situations and talk openly about patriarchy makes my act of bringing the issue up at all an incredible feat in itself.
Another thing that bugs me is the ‘the way you did it hurt my feelings’ line. As if it is my responsibility to make sure men’s feelings are not hurt. Not just in our general interactions, but even when I am giving them criticism. Memo to men: sometimes hearing criticism will cause you to feel bad about yourself. That is not my problem. The implication that I should not give criticism because it makes you feel bad (or that the way I gave the criticism hurt your feelings) is outrageous. Especially because – hello? – why do you think I’m giving you criticism in the first place? Because I think it’s fucking fun? “Oh, I hurt your feelings? How do you think I felt 10 minutes ago when you did XYZ patriarchal things, which is the REASON I had to talk to you in the first place??”. Way to privilege your feelings over the woman’s. Telling women that the way we brought things up hurt your feelings or was “ineffective” is just another way women are silenced into not saying anything.
And finally, why the hell do men think they have a right to never have their feelings hurt in the first place? (Let’s not even get into how most of them don’t want to acknowledge or talk about their feelings until suddenly -gasp!- I hurt them!) I think I know the answer to this one: privilege. People with privilege are accustomed to being comfortable, and feel entitled to feel comfortable all the time. They become angry when something, or someone, disrupts that spell of comfort. It scares them, and they want to push it away and/or avoid it rather than allow the feelings of discomfort to sit or to work through them. (If they actually did the work to push through these feelings, they may find that the discomfort was actually productive and allowed them to grow.) They mistake feeling uncomfortable for feeling unsafe. And rather than blame the oppressive systems that have allowed them to feel so comfortable all their lives while women bared the brunt of patriarchal oppression, they blame the women who point out the behavior.
image by jacky fleming
This is why I am so fed up with hearing that I didn’t call someone out the way they think I have should have. Maybe if they focused their attention on not being patriarchal, instead of critiquing my technique, I wouldn’t have to call them out in the first place.