Gender and Housework (A Confession)

Among cohabiting straight couples, married and otherwise, women do more housework than men on average, regardless of employment.  There are a lot of studies backing this assertion up, although this article is particularly damning.  But I want to talk about the particulars for men, and specifically how it’s related to my own life.

I’m a slob.  I’m not good about keeping a clean house, and without significant conscious effort on my part, living alone, I will find myself surrounded by trash and dirty dishes.  It’s a really big personality flaw, and it’s one that I’ve dismissed as not being that big a deal at times in the past.  I’ve said that it doesn’t bother me personally, and I don’t really have people over so it’s not a big deal, and so on.  And I’ve really believed those things.

But when I sit down to think about it, I know I’m actually much happier in a clean home.  I can find everything, I don’t have to scrub dishes when I want to eat off something clean, I cook more because the pots and pans aren’t all disgusting, and I can actually have people over (since I would never invite someone to my filthy home).  And yet, when I’ve cohabited with a girlfriend (or now with my lovely wife), I haven’t picked up the slack.  I’ve given the same excuses, even when I know damn well they’re bullshit.

And I think that can be traced back to patriarchy.  I get whiny and petulant when I have to clean, because I don’t want to do it.  And in the back of my mind there’s this idea that if I don’t do it, it will still get done.  By, you know, someone else, or something.  When I live alone, it results in me living miserably.  When I live with someone, it’s frequently resulted in them living miserably.  And they’re both pretty silly problems to have, since I have the ability to pick things up and put them other places (sometimes turning a knob on the place I put them to clean them).  I just have to get over my sense of entitlement and do it.

I’ve gotten a lot better about this over time, although I’m still not where I want to be.  But at the end of the day, being aware that it’s a gender dynamic helps motivate me a lot.  If I know, flat-out, that I’m treating my wife poorly because of some bullshit about “but I don’t want to cook and clean,” it suddenly becomes a lot easier to get over it, stop whining, and do a little work.

It helps me, a little.  The house gets cleaner with both of us chipping in equally, so I get to live in a more pleasant environment.  But it helps my partner much more, since she’s not having to take on the vast majority of the work in addition to her full time job.  We both work just as hard to bring home the bacon, so we should both work just as hard cooking the bacon and putting away the bacon pan.  That metaphor fell apart quickly, but you know what I mean.  Do your part, guys.

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Fights on the Playground

(Trigger warning: violence.  Hat tip to @dys_morphia for inspiring this.)

I got into a lot of fights when I was little.  I have theories about why this was, but nothing really definitive.  I know for sure why adults told me I got picked on, though.  “They’re just jealous, because you’re so smart.”  That wasn’t it.

I’m 6’6″, and as you might imagine I was a lot taller than most other kids in elementary school.  I think that was part of it; I still have guys pick fights with me at bars because it’s a can’t-lose proposition for them.  If I agree to fight and they win, they kicked my ass.  If they lose, they have a ready excuse: I’m fucking huge. (The other option, the one they always get, is I avoid fighting them, in which case they tell their friends they intimidated tall pussy.)

I also grew up without a lot of social grace.  I suffered from depression very early on, and I just wasn’t great at making friends.  So I was a pretty easy target, in the social environment of recess.  I think that contributed too.  I never got the impression anyone picking fights with me gave a shit whether I was smart or not.  They mostly seemed to care that they could pick on me.

So I got picked on, and my dad told me that if I was getting picked on, it was okay to defend myself.  He took me in the back yard and taught me how to throw a punch, told me how important it was to punch  through the other boy’s face, not at his face.  Like I said before, I’m tall, and reach goes a long way in a fight.  I started hitting back, and I felt less powerless.  I also ended up in the principal’s office a lot, sitting in these oversized-for-a-nine-year-old leather chairs (they were brown, with brass roll-y wheels, and between them was a glass end table with a vase of fake flowers), waiting for Dr. Colbert and Mr. Wallace (the counselor) to call us in.  Sometimes I was sitting next to a friend who’d started a fight for dumb reasons, and we’d apologized to each other already and had to sheepishly recreate the apology for adult witnesses.  Most of the time, though, I was sitting side by side with a bully, a dedicated tormentor.  I was still angry, I still wanted to fight, to hit back, to end it.

I stopped hitting back, stopped even talking back when bullied, when I was 12.  I was in 7th grade, going to a junior high halfway across town due to some funky redistricting.  I got on the bus one Friday afternoon and sat next to my friend.  Sitting behind her was a bully I’d known (and been picked on by) since kindergarten.  He told me not to sit there, and I ignored him.  He started punching me in the shoulder, painfully, repeating his demand that I not sit there.  I didn’t get it at the time, but in hindsight I realized he was upset with me for sitting there because he was in the process of trying his damnedest at the age of 13 to pressure my friend into fucking him.  I just wanted to sit with my friend.

So after a few punches in the shoulder, I turned around and hit the kid back.  He stood up and punched me in the jaw, hard.  I fell into the aisle of the bus, and the bus driver he noticed.  He yelled the bully’s name and told him to sit in the front seat.  That was how you dealt with a fight on the bus, break them up and don’t worry about it.

He stared at me in the big wide rear-view mirror the entire ride back to our neighborhood.  When we got to my stop (two before his), he stood up and got off the bus.  My friend I’d sat next to walked with me to the front of the bus, her behind me.  I walked off the bus and said something smart-ass to the other boy, “Hi” or something equivalent.  He lashed out, grabbing my shoulder-length hair, and threw me up against the chain link fence surrounding the house on that corner.  I tried to get free, but the kid was strong and he had a tight grip on my head.  He punched me in the face with his free hand, over and over, until my legs sagged under me, and then he threw me to the sidewalk, kicked me between the shoulder blades, and began stomping on my face with his combat boots.  I could hear my friend screaming his name and the word “stop” over and over.  Then she ran away.  This part didn’t go on very long, since the bus driver finally yelled at him to stop.

He took his foot off my face and stood there, watching the adult behind the driver’s wheel.  The bus doors closed and the bus began rolling on, and the bully started stomping my face into the concrete again.  I could see all the other kids on the bus cram up into the rear of the bus to watch the “fight” for as long as they could before the bus rolled out of sight.  I don’t know how long he went on kicking my face into a pulp while I watched cars roll by without slowing, much less stopping.  But one of them did stop, a neighborhood mom jumping out of the driver’s seat.  The kid beating the shit out of me took off running, and the woman who’d stopped helped me stagger to my feet into her car.  She drove me the half block to my house, and my mom took me to the hospital.  I didn’t have a concussion, just a lot of bruising on one side of my face and a lot of cuts on the other, where my head had ground into the sidewalk.  I gave a report to a police officer, who recognized the other kid by name.

I went to school Monday, beaten up as hell.  My parents didn’t press charges, and the bully wasn’t expelled or even suspended.  He was banned from riding the bus.  It was supposed to last the rest of the school year, but the bus driver let the other kid back on after a month.  That Monday when I went back to school, a gang of other kids beat the shit out of him in the bathroom.  I heard about it later, but it didn’t give me any comfort.  The time I actually needed help was when a dozen kids were crowding at the bus windows to watch me get my ass kicked.

I got picked on still, but I only fought back once, when I was cornered in a bathroom after school had let out.  I had to punch the other kid in the jaw and then zip up my pants; he’d started punching me while I was standing at a urinal.  Otherwise, when other boys (and eventually other men, as I grew older) tried to start a fight with me, I told them to either start throwing punches or get out of my way and let me be.  It’s worked for avoiding fights, and thankfully I’m at the point where I only get the aforementioned belligerent drunks at bars anymore.

I’m still affected by a childhood of violence.  I hate feeling powerless, more than anything in the world, and it can completely shut me down.  I don’t trust anyone very easily, and I always fear the worst when I put someone in a position to abandon me to the wolves.

I don’t really have a moral to tie this up with.  I wish the consequences for fighting had been so severe that I would never have fought back and the kids who had picked on me maliciously had been kicked out of school.  I have a lot of thoughts about toxic masculinity and “zero tolerance” policies, but mostly I just wanted to share.  Take fights between kids seriously.  Break them up, protect kids.

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Being smart doesn’t make you that special.

There are a couple annoying things nerds tend to say that really stick in my craw, and they’re part of a larger issue where smart people think they’re better than everyone else by dint of their innate gifts.  First, the annoying things!

The first is “when I’m not good at something right away, I get frustrated and quit.”  Now, lots of people say this, in recognition of kind of a natural tendency.  The problem is when people say it and think it’s some unique quality that comes along with naturally picking up other things really quickly.  And that is one of the benefits of being smart!  You can pretty frequently grasp a complicated subject more quickly than your peers.  But you’ll still fail to immediately become proficient at any number of other things: learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, getting kills in Halo.  That’s life.

In a similar vein, the other thing I hate hearing from nerds is “I was always bored in grade school, because I was so smart.”  No.  You were bored in school because it was school.  Everyone was bored!  Listening to lectures for 6 hours of a 7-hour day is really, really boring.  Being intelligent didn’t make it more boring for you.

I’m pretty smart.  And I’m guilty of saying both these things, at earlier points in my life.  I think our culture lionizes intelligent people unfairly and severely overemphasizes the importance of smarts.  People are largely pretty much the same.  They get sad about the same stuff, laugh at the same stuff, care about the same stuff on a basic level.  Two people might not both be able to talk about symbolism in Macbeth or whatever, but who the fuck cares?  In the vast majority of areas where we care about what makes a person who they are, emotionally and morally and intellectually, smart people and people of average intelligence are cut from the same cloth.

Where it gets even worse (beyond the belief that being smart makes you special) is the sense of moral superiority, as if anyone made some meaningful choice to be smart.  Now, I’m not denigrating the actual meaningful choices that people make – if you worked hard in school and made some real accomplishments through that hard work, you should be proud.  Not everyone with that opportunity follows through (although that isn’t cut-and-dry either, but we can leave that for another time).  But just thinking that you’re better than someone because you’re smart?  Because you grew up in a position to develop your intellect to the point that you can talk about Macbeth and Plato and so on?  That’s bullshit.

I got lucky.  Whether intelligence is heritable or not, there’s no denying that I was smart as a kid, well before I was making any significant choices that contributed to my intellectual development.  It’s the same as if I’d been born to rich parents who gave me lots of financial support, or had been born with genes that destined me for conventionally good looks or height or whatever.

We live in a system that gives substantial financial rewards to smart people (and wealthy people and attractive people and tall people).  I make more money than I would if I were less intelligent, thanks to the allocation of resources in capitalism.  But it would be silly to think that I was in any way better, more valuable to society as a whole or more morally upstanding, than less intelligent people by dint of that.  Nerds have an awful tendency to slip into that trap, confusing a trait that opens doors with one that is worthy of praise.  Meaningful choices are worthy of praise, but being smart is just the luck of the draw.

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More Feminism for Dudes: On “White Knighting”

Periodically, when I argue against sexism online, I’m told that I’m just trying to impress women or sleep with them.  Why else would I espouse feminist views, after all?  I’m trying to be some woman’s big strong white knight, and I think she’ll be so impressed that I agree with feminism that she’ll fall in love with me.  Or, other times, I’m accused of trying to teach women about feminism, and I should shut up.  This latter criticism is fair, actually, if it’s accurate (and I try hard to make sure it’s not accurate).  The former is just a way to silence men who speak up against sexism.

Listen Here, Ladies

Let’s talk about that fair criticism first.  In this form of white knighting, a guy wades into a conversation about abortion, or rape, or any other topic that’s tied up in our sexist culture, and shares his view.  Not only that, but he talks over women in the discussion, discounting their opinions if they don’t line up with his.  He even takes pride in how he discovered some brand new concept, like the fact that our culture treats both promiscuous and virginal women poorly.  Guys that do this stuff are assholes, and it’s completely fair to tell them to cut it out.

I think it’s fair for men to engage in feminist discussion (obviously!).  And I think there are lots of times it’s helpful for guys to share their personal point of view on a feminist topic, so long as those guys remember that they’re coming to feminism as outsiders who will automatically have a diminished ability to recognize and comprehend sexism, since they don’t experience it.  What becomes really troublesome, really quick is when guys decide it’s their place to dictate the terms of feminism to women.  That’s bullshit white knighting, with the man thinking he’s so smart and clear-headed and rational that he’s sorted out feminism and can lead women to the promised land.  He is this Onion article, in the flesh.

I talk to female friends about feminism, and when I do it’s generally to sound out a thought that I’m having trouble with or to ask questions.  It’s to learn, pretty much.  And I like to think that occasionally I vocalize an idea in a way that’s helpful or useful, but I’m pretty much not going to revolutionize feminist thought.  I naturally suck at feminism.  Things that women realize quickly and immediately take some real thought and observation for me to grasp, and I can accept that while I might be welcome as a feminist ally (in some, but not all, spaces), I’m not leading the charge.

I also try to talk to other guys about feminism, and that’s pretty much what I focus on when I write my rare blog post or record my occasional video.  And that’s not white knighting, because I’m not at risk of talking over women, or talking down to them.  What’s more, there are some things that are easier for me in talking to guys about feminism.  While I don’t have any lived experience as a woman struggling against sexism, I do have experience as a guy overcoming sexist attitudes.  And I can share how I did that with other guys, who might actually find that perspective useful.  So that’s what I take comfort in, when I’m accused of trying to talk for women about feminism: I’m really not, and I don’t ever want to give the impression that I’m some authority on the subject.  I know what I know from reading, and from talking to lots of friends, and I know a little about the saturation of sexist attitudes from what I’ve had to unlearn myself.

“Feminism Will Not Help You Get Laid More Often”

In comments on YouTube, I’ve been told countless times that 1) I’m just saying this stuff to seduce women and 2) it won’t work.  It’s an easy way to dismiss my opinions, and it’s bullshit.  I’m sure there are guys who consciously pretend to hold feminist opinions in the hopes that women will give them a roll in the hay.  But I don’t think they’re going online and arguing with other guys to do it.  I mean, how much sense does that even make?  “My brilliant plan is coming to fruition: I’ve made a blog post addressing other men, talking about common experiences men have while coming to grips with male privilege, and now I’ll just start sharing the link at bars!”  I write and say all this stuff because I think it’s important, and I’m really passionate about it.

And the root of the argument ends up being really twisted, too.  Let’s walk through it.  I’m just saying this stuff to get laid, right?  So I don’t believe in feminism.  When I say that women have a harder time getting into high-paying jobs than men, or that rape is a serious problem caused by deep flaws in our culture, I’m just spouting stuff I think women want to hear.  And why am I lying about my beliefs about pretty important stuff?  For sex!  So the guy accusing me of white knighting is the pure, brave soul who says what he actually thinks, that women are complaining about a big bunch of nothing.  I’m so corrupted by my desperate need for sex that I’ll lie about anything in the misguided belief it will help my chances.

That’s some odious shit right there.  It’s also pretty ridiculous, when you look at it on its face.  Good ways to get laid, in my experience as a straight guy, are learning to cook, maintaining good hygiene, and practicing telling stories to the point that you can tell an entertaining one over dinner.  Bad ways to get laid are making complex political arguments online.  That’s not a hard distinction to draw.

But I’m an Ally!

I do want to talk about one last thing I finish, and it’s related to the legitimate critique of guys talking over women.  Sometimes when a guy says something shitty and gets called out on it by women, he’ll come back with, “Hey, I’m on your side!  I’m an ally!  You should respect my opinion!”  It’s this tendency that actually causes a lot of women to treat “ally” as a dirty word.  They have an idea of feminist allies as guys who totally think rape is bad and abortion should be legal, but hey lay off pornography and strip clubs, those are different, and I’m an ally so you need to stop disagreeing with me about those topics.

Agreeing with feminism doesn’t make you special.  Feminism isn’t some super-secret enigma that you figured out by being so clever.  It’s really just “men get treated better than women, and it’s ingrained in our culture.”  Realizing that leads to a lot of other realizations, but they all flow from something that’s pretty easy for women to realize, and only hard for men to realize because they’ve had smoke blown up their asses by a sexist culture for years.

And the difficult part for guys coming to feminism is you start to feel entitled.  The bar is really low for being considered a stand-up guy on gender issues.  One time, he criticized another guy for using the word “bitch!”  It sucks that it works like this, but a lot of women are really happy to see a guy not being a total piece of shit about feminist issues.  So if, as a guy, you get used to women praising you for just being a decent person (praise that women frequently don’t receive from other women for the exact same opinions, by the way), it comes as a shock when someone even gently tells you, “Hey, what you just said was out of line.”  And you come back with “But I’m an ally!”

Don’t be that guy, guy.  And look, I disagree with some of those aforementioned feminist friends from time to time.  When it happens, I try to honestly assess whether I’m continuing to believe something that is just sexist, or if I have good, justifiable reasons to believe what I do.  But do that, instead of coming back defensively because you feel like you’re God’s gift to feminism just because you’re a man.  Feeling like you deserve special treatment for being a guy is the whole fucking problem in the first place.

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So, since I rarely update this thing as it is…

Hi to new people!  As you can see, I haven’t updated in a while, but I have put a few feminism-related things on the youtube, if you’re interested.  My channel can be found here, and the feminism-y things are here specifically!

Hi!

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The Conflation of Legality and Morality

From Twitter, I followed a link to this post at Good Men Project.  It’s offensively terrible.

The entire premise rests on the idea that you can’t call something rape unless it’s an act that fits the legal definition of rape.  The author has a problem with the concept of enthusiastic consent because that is not what is required to keep sex from being prosecutable rape.

But just because something isn’t prosecutable doesn’t make it right.  There are some good reasons to define crimes narrowly: free speech can be impeded by expansive gate speech laws, for instance, and overly broad rape laws might result in the conviction of innocent people.  But if someone hurls racial slurs, we know that behavior is wrong.  And even if we don’t want our government to prosecute the speaker, we should feel free to tell that speaker to shut the fuck up and stop being such a racist shitbag.

Similarly, enthusiastic consent is the proper requirement for sex.  It’s not hard to make sure your partner is as eager to have sex as you are, and even if we don’t require enthusiastic consent for legal sex, we should require it for moral sex.  And shaming those who act immorally while skirting the line of what is legal is not wrong.  In fact, it’s one of the best ways we have to make people acutely aware of what rape is and how not to be a rapist.

Criminal law exists to define what acts we will have the government punish someone for.  But it has nothing to do with what we would criticize someone for.  This bullshit conflation came up in another context recently, with redditors complaining that certain kinds of child porn are legally permissible, so everyone should stop trying to get Reddit to remove all the child porn from its site.  But just because freedom of expression has carved out areas where child pornography laws do not touch does not mean those works have to be accepted by society.

There are a lot of things I can do without being arrested.  I can lie to my friends, call strangers obscene names, and fart in elevators.  None of those are crimes.  But if I fart in an elevator and respond to everyone telling me I’m an asshole by saying, “Hey, it’s legal!”, I’ll be laughed at for making such a fatuous argument.  The same thing goes for rape and child porn apologists.

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COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO WORLD OF WARCRAFT: feminism for dudes (from a dude)

So this was spurred by talking to a friend who is a lady and a feminist, about how annoying it is for feminists to answer all the questions guys coming to grips with being a feminist ally inevitably have.

(A side note: I call myself a feminist, and consider myself a feminist.  I am a dude, and some feminists feel that men can’t really be feminists because they have never experienced all the shit that comes with being a woman, and get to go around experiencing all the advantages of being a man on a day to day basis, i.e. male privilege.  Most of these feminists would call me a “feminist ally,” since I’m on the same side politically but can’t really “get it.”  Moving on.)

Literally every single guy that comes to feminism goes through pretty much the same process (I did, and if you’re reading this and not immediately scoffing at the word privilege you probably have/are currently as well.)  Because EVERY SINGLE GUY that is friendly to feminism (and even those who are not) goes through this, feminists get really fucking tired of it.  The guys all ask the same questions.  They all make the same arguments.  They all think they’re the first ones to ask these questions and make these arguments.  Like, imagine you think sunsets are pretty.  Now imagine that half of all people on the face of the earth are taught that sunsets are ugly.  Every friend you have from this half of humanity has to learn, over time, that sunsets are pretty.  And they all come to you asking things like “But don’t sunsets signal the end of the day and make you sad?” and making arguments like “If sunsets were pretty, the word sunset wouldn’t be synonymous with the end of something good” and the first friend you answer those questions for doesn’t annoy you very much.  The fiftieth annoys you a lot.  And then on the INTERNET, there are like a thousand people making these arguments and they all think they’re so clever for thinking them up.  That might make you fucking mad, actually, to put up with over and over.  NOW imagine that you run a pro-sunset blog, have a pro-sunset twitter feed, or whatever.  There are even anti-sunset trolls that just like fucking with people who like sunsets, and end up making arguments similar to your well-intentioned questions.  You’d probably go apeshit, even more-so than a friend asking about this stuff.

So here you are, and you have questions about feminism, and if my analogy wasn’t fucking terrible, you understand that asking feminists basic questions about feminism can be tiresome or even infuriating for them, based on context.  What do?  First, be aware that context is pretty important.  If you have a feminist best friend/partner, it will be less annoying for them to go through this stuff with you than a stranger on the Internet.  Second, be ready to suck it up and admit that you’re not special or clever for agreeing with feminist ideas.  By and large they’re pretty basic, and we as men are just overcoming years of social programming to understand what amounts to “women shouldn’t be mistreated because of their gender, and massive cultural bias results in that very thing happening even unintentionally.”  Third, be aware that feminism has a lot of its own terminology and that terminology exists for good reasons.  You might think that, for example, “queer” means one thing (an insult) while it’s used in feminist academia differently (i.e. queer studies) and among members of the LGBT community as an identifier (i.e. “I’m a queer woman”).  Arguing about these definitions is pointless, since they exist for a much broader community and derive their usefulness from the commonality of the definition.  Finally, finish reading this and then go see if any questions you still have (or that you think I answered terribly) are on http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/.  That there is just FULL of questions you have, and it’s a really good resource and you should search it for your questions.

Now, for your actual edification, here is the basic path every guy coming to feminism goes through.

First, they learn what privilege is and think it’s not really a thing.  “But women have advantages too!”  “What about the draft?  Women will never have to get shot at involuntarily!”  And so on.  Privilege is a thing.  You just have to accept it, even though it makes you feel kind of icky.  And it seriously does make you feel icky, thinking that you get stuff just for being a guy.  I get treated differently (i.e. better) by car dealers because I’m a guy, I have a much lower chance of being raped because I’m a guy, I get paid more (on average) just by default because I’m a guy.  I got preferential treatment in school because I was male, giving me more confidence and assertiveness (immensely advantageous psychological traits) as an adult man.  Male privilege is an enormous and completely undeserved advantage, and not having it would suck.  It would be being a woman.

Next, guys coming to feminism accept that privilege exists, but try to minimize its impact.  “There are laws requiring equal hiring practices, so women can’t really make less.”  “But women have advantages too.  They have all the power in dating!”  There are some things that have been done to mitigate male privilege and structural sexism.  Just because those things have been done, however, doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to do.  As for advantages women have, they tend to be the result of sexist culture (which feminists want to eliminate), and frequently aren’t really advantages for women who don’t want to be treated differently.  Feminists would like custody decisions after a divorce, for example, to be decided entirely based on the welfare of the child, rather than leaning toward giving custody to the mother by default (which is, on a tangential note, a recent development in custody law).  They don’t like that women are treated differently based on their gender alone, and furthermore don’t like that women getting custody by default limits them to the domestic sphere to some extent.  So just accept that privilege is a serious problem, and even if steps have been taken to correct it, the work isn’t done yet.

After that, men argue something that boils down to “but what about men and how feminism affects them.”  For example, they might say that all this talk about rape culture makes it sound like all men are rapists, and I’m not a rapist so you shouldn’t paint all men with such a broad brush.  (This is the biggie out of these arguments, actually.)  The frequent response, and the one that you really need to take to heart, is this: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.  If someone talks about rapists, and you’re not a rapist, THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU.  If someone talks about companies that never promotes women to the highest positions, but your employer has a female CEO and half its board are women, THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOUR COMPANY.  It’s nice that you personally are not directly contributing to the particular problem being discussed, but it’s extremely disruptive to respond to a discussion of that problem by saying you’re not part of the problem.  It comes across as 1) diminishing the problem, more or less saying that since you aren’t part of it, it must not be that commonplace and 2) complaining that your feelings are hurt by this discussion and you deserve compensatory praise for not being an awful sexist.

Feminism is not aiming to make men feel comfortable while also eliminating sexism.  It’s just aiming to eliminate sexism.  You will probably be made uncomfortable by some things feminists say, because they’re horrifying.  That one in four women is raped is awful, and that men are doing virtually all of that raping is proof of a systemic problem in our culture.  That you personally have not raped anyone is nice, but beside the point.  It’s okay to feel uncomfortable about the problems our sexist culture creates for women.  Women feel considerably more uncomfortable about it because it hurts them.  Accept that feeling and move on, and hopefully be comforted by the fact that if sexism is completely eliminated, nobody will have to feel uncomfortable about male privilege or rape or discrimination EVER AGAIN!  YAY!

Finally, the big argument that men coming around to feminism make that is trickiest is what’s called “tone argument.”  In short, it boils down to something like this: “I agree that sexism is awful, and I look forward to the day when it’s eliminated.  But whenever you talk about sexism, you sound really angry about it, and that’s alienating for guys like me, who want to help!  You should adopt a more friendly tone, that would draw more people in.”  This is a surefire way to make a feminist on the Internet annoyed with you.  They hear this constantly, in a variety of forms, and it’s not helpful.  There are feminists out there making arguments with friendly, inclusive overtures to non-feminists.  It takes multiple approaches to reach everyone, and the assertive brand of feminism you’re taking issue with IS NOT AIMED AT YOU.  It’s aimed, in all likelihood, at other women who are also upset with the effects of sexism in society.  Just like any political movement rallies its base, feminists talk to each other about what bothers them to raise awareness, to practice articulating particular ideas, and just to fucking vent.  If you are bothered by the tone, repeat to yourself: It’s Not About You.  If a woman is angry about pick up artists, and you’re not a pick up artist, she’s not mad at you!  If a woman is pissed she lost a job to a less qualified male candidate, and you aren’t the person who made the hiring decision, she’s not pissed at you!  And her anger is helpful in reaching out to other people who are angry about the same issues.

There’s a time for diplomatic tone, but it’s really not your place to suggest when that time is.  Doing so comes across as condescending, and you can bet that the feminist making the angry post/tweet/comment/whatever has thought about this more than you.  Furthermore, even if you’re completely well-meaning and just think you’re offering helpful advice, your suggestion is used by a lot of trolls to try to shut down feminist arguments.  Because of that, telling a feminist to consider a different tone frequently provokes an angry response, one you may be surprised by given your good intentions, but one that is reasonable nonetheless.  If her anger at sexist behavior/attitudes makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself if you’re uncomfortable because you think the thing she’s talking about doesn’t exist, or if it’s because you feel like she’s mad at you and that makes you feel bad.  If it’s the former, you’re probably wrong, should check the issue out on feminism 101, and think long and hard before getting into it with her over that issue.  If it’s the latter, suck it up.  If she’s mad about something you have yourself done, STOP DOING THAT THING.  If she’s mad about something you’re not part of, it’s not about you!

If you take all of this to heart, you can probably avoid annoying a huge swathe of women on the internet!  And that will be nice for you and also really nice for them.

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