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

  1. Dysmorphia says:

    This is great. I’m going to point guys to this post every time they go through that awkward new feminist ally phase now. Giving feminism 101 lectures is frustrating, including the first less of “I don’t feel like giving you feminism 101 lessons”. Now I can just hand them the link and say, read this first.

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  3. WoWExlucis says:

    Thanks for posting this. As a dude learning more about feminism, I really appreciate the rundown and am grateful for the community at large for being so willing to get the info out there!

  4. ambient says:

    Truly awesome, just a fantastic manifesto and so clearly written. I want to paste this all over the internet!

  5. Syl says:

    Wonderful post, eloquently delivered. I guess it goes without saying how refreshing it is to hear these points from a male voice.
    I have a particular forum this will be linked in, and soon. Thanks.

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  7. BasementBoi says:

    Personally I earn a very low wage and I worked under a female boss. I also went to a therapist because I had/have problems with confindence.
    I admit i have a hard time accepting the privileges theory.
    But the world is not fair, that however is pretty obvious to me.

    • connect-a-craze says:

      …did you completely just miss the ‘not about you’ part? saying something like that basically amounts to ‘oh, i don’t see the problem, so it must not be all that big a problem’. thank you, though, for acknowledging that there are problems with equality in society.

  8. Molly says:

    This is very, very well done. Good work being a legitimate ally :)

  9. Shreya Sen says:

    I think I might be in love with you.

  10. archismita says:

    AWWWWEEESSSSOOOOMMMMMEEEEEEEEE

  11. Anita says:

    Thanks a lot for this. You’ve covered all the starter arguments neatly. Definitely bookmarking.

  12. Sean says:

    That’s a hell of a lot to take in… I really don’t know if I can ever understand it, it seems so arbitrary and I feel like some kind of failure just trying to read it. All I know is I don’t feel priveleged in any way. I’m just a man who doesn’t know where he’s supposed to fit in all of this.

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  14. Kristen says:

    Great article! To those of you who don’t understand how you are privileged, ask yourselves this:

    Have you ever walked down the street at night and tensed at every single person who walked by you afraid that they were going to shove a rag full of chloroform over your face and drag you down an alley and rape and murder you?

    Have you ever walked down a deserted street during the day and consistently looked over your shoulder? Was your walk accompanied by a consistent undercurrent of fear? Did you deliberately change the way you walk and avoid eye contact with a stranger for fear that they would follow you home?

    Privilege doesn’t mean you are bad or spoiled, it just means that society is structured so that you lucked out of some things. Sexism puts men at disadvantages as well. I’m not a man, so I can’t say this for sure, but it does seem like society puts a lot of pressure on men to be “real men.” That’s why feminism isn’t antagonistic toward men – it’s antagonistic toward an outdated patriarchal society. Feminists may be angry at men sometimes and the things that many of them do, but we don’t hate them. We hate sexist ideology.

    • Dummerjan says:

      To those of you who don’t understand how you are privileged, ask yourselves this:
      1) have you ever walk the street day and night with closed eyes without breaking a leg or something you white female whinging person.
      2) How does it feel if you arent even talked to because you wear black glasses and a white stick – even if teh quys in that firm use the software you have written
      3) how does it feel if you are invisible to all females simply because you cannot see.

      I hope you don’t even try to answer, otherwise you don’t eat the medicine you will sell to others.

      • Leptos says:

        Being sighted is a privilege as well, a huge one. There are a lot of things I can take for granted because I can see. But lacking one privilege doesn’t make all the ones someone does have go away. You can be blind and still experience preferential treatment due to being male, just like a sighted woman will experience preferential treatment because she isn’t blind.

  15. gilbster says:

    Request to the author: Are you okay with translations of your blogposts? We’d love to translate this one, but we want to ask for your permission first :)

  16. Daniel Bohrer says:

    “If she’s mad about something you’re not part of, it’s not about you!”. Thanks for that statement, it really helps :-)

  17. Marcus says:

    I wonder why ppl always think, writing single words or phrases in uppercase, makes them stand out strong. It just makes texts harder to read, sorry.

  18. Adrian says:

    English is not my mother tongue, so I appolgize for any inconvenience:

    Women live longer, they are better educated, they are are less often victims of murder, drug abuse, alcoholism. And they get to sleep with men without being harassed ore discriminated. What a great life! I would not mind to be a women in the western world. You can present your tits and everybody will listen to you and adore you, and there is no need to be intelligent or to have the ability for rational thinking.

    Bye the way, dude. To ally with feminism will not help you to get laid more often. Women still will dump you, scorn you, laugh about you. They still go to a date with the macho, not the softi.

    • That people like you have the gall to spew their shit all over the internet is one of the reasons why people like me are feminists (or feminist allies at least). Being a man seems to mean to you that “there is no need to be intelligent or to have the ability for rational thinking” before you think about publicly uttering the crap that goes through your mind.

      By the way, rest assured that being a feminist guy is not a decision born out of the hope of getting laid more often. This has nothing at all to do with it. And even if you might not believe it, you can subscribe to the feminist ideal and still be quite assertive in an erotic encounter.

      The main difference to the kind of guy *you* seem to think one has to be is this: I will walk a woman to her door and wait until she is inside just to see her safely back home, not because I am expecting anything in return. And I would never presume that an invitation to stay for a coffee is *guaranteed* to mean more than just coffee, so I won’t feel “cheated” or get pissed if it doesn’t.

      And I would never sink to the low abyss that some men live in and ignore her “no” in a situation arising from that invitation (except if it is a playful “no” that really means “you have to be a bigger flirt still to make me really want you” and will become a “yes” soon enough). If she *means* “no”, this is clearly recognizable, and there is no excuse at all not to thank her for the coffee and the nice evening and wish her a good night there and then – no matter how late in the proceedings she utters it.

      That there are far too many men who will ignore it anyhow makes me certain that you *would* mind being a woman in the western world some day or the other. And it also makes me violently sick whenever I have to read such bullshit from men who think being female means you can wear your rose-tinted glasses all day and never come to rue it.

      There you go, I managed to get to the end *without* ranting about your spelling. ;-)

  19. Tino says:

    You are so crank

    When mens have priviligies, why there are died 7 jears before woman?

    Go to psyco clinic.

  20. Tino says:

    @Kristen

    The most victims of murderes are mens. Why switch you the facts`?

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  22. Robert says:

    Very good explanation, thank you!
    To do some recap: feminists (and women) have to be treated as princesses, they are always right. I as a man do not have the right of own feelings, I “just” have to “accept” bad and uncivilised behaviour of feminists. I as a man am the asshole of the world, because I have privileges (even if I personally don’t perceive that), and women have not (and it’s inadequate e.g. to note that to be killed in wars is not a privilege). And “sexism” does only exist in the form “male sexism (against women)” but not vice versa.

    BTW: anyone wonders, why I never will be a “feminist ally”?

    • Leptos says:

      If you’re still at the point where women who disagree with you have to be denigrated as “princesses,” there’s not much I can do for you.

      If you’re going to start out the argument by using demeaning language, though, you’re going to get called out pretty damn early. Ever notice that men are never called “prince” in arguments?

      That’s privilege right there.

      • Robert says:

        “If you’re still at the point where women who disagree with you have to be denigrated as “princesses,” there’s not much I can do for you.”
        A woman who disagrees with me is not a “princess”. For me its pretty normal that different people have different opinions. Only if I have not the right to argue with her or to criticize her, makes her a “princess”.
        And its your argument, that all feminists/women cannot be criticized, esp. not by me (because I am a man …).
        BTW: A man is never a “prince”, he always can be criticized by whomever. And thats not a privilege!

        You make women to princesses by your approach, that I as a man have to “accept” everything a woman/feminist does/feels/whatever. And that’s not, what I understand in “at eye level” (which is the only principle I accept in human relations!).

    • Alex says:

      I must say as a woman, I don’t want to be treated as a princess at all. Wanting to be treated with respect however is a different story. If you were in an argument with a man about something (whether it be a big deal or something trivial), do you honestly think you would ever comment on their tone? What if something you dealt with everyday, such as getting harassed and molested by men who thought they had some sort of right to? Do you really think you would have no right to be angry? Society shows this is the norm, and that’s why people never do anything about it. Whether you choose or don’t choose to believe privileges exist, it does not eradicate that there is a lot of sexism in society, against both men and women. So instead of trying to argue against it, try to learn about the perspectives of others, and maybe then you’ll start to get it.

  23. Omti says:

    Don’t take this wrong, but you seem like somekind of devoted follower to a religion.
    If I want to be a feminism ally I must:
    1. Never ask feminists to justify their beliefs and just accept them as gospel from god.
    2. Never demand of them to adher to standarts of civilized conversation and just accept their temper tandrums.
    3. not feel affected when their rhetoric attacks men in general, even if the crimes are done by a small minority.

    Now the big question: Why should I care for people who can’t be bothered to justify their believes, don’t respect me as a person and are rude as hell?

    • Leptos says:

      If you showed up at a crytography conference, without even a background in math, and started telling everyone that they were stupid for even caring about encryption, you’d get treated pretty poorly.

      You know very little about what women face in western culture, because you’re a guy. I’m not saying all feminists are right about all gender issues, ever. What I’m saying is that women know more than men about what it’s like to be a woman. And if you seriously can’t accept that, you’ve got a long road ahead of you getting over that mental block.

  24. Dummerjan says:

    @leptos: Because you have the privilege to see, you have not the right to discuss with me about your privileges.
    And I can definitely prove that a highliy visually handicapped person(99%) is treated worse as any seeing female (color is not a concept for me). Those no male or female person with the privilege to see has the rigt to claim the opposite, because the privileged do not define the privilege.
    Sure, there is a problem with the “privilege ranking”, so to say, however, it is not in the privileged who define it.

    • Alex says:

      You actually stated that pretty perfectly. Everyone faces issues based on privileges others have. In short, life sucks sometimes. The only thing you can do is try your best to educate others about it (only if you choose to however, since it isn’t your job to do so). People have issues understanding their privileges because they can’t see them since they are not subjected to the disadvantages the unprivileged have. Just because you are not the privileged does not mean you don’t deserve to be treated the same way as they are (regardless of the what the privilege in question is, whether it be a person who can see, a male, etc.)

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  26. Alex says:

    I am seriously ridiculously happy that I came across this article!! Just two nights ago I had a discussion with my 23-year-old brother about feminism, and he made the same points and acted the way a typical male would who has a bad impression of feminism (ie. “Feminists are all angry and bitter,” “That’s how society is,” “It’s not sexism, it’s just guys being assholes,” and the like). When we had the discussion, I admit I was getting angry and had a tone that could be deemed aggressive, and he commented on it INCESSANTLY. Your last two paragraphs were basically epic (as was the entire article). I really want my brother to read this–and also everyone else on the planet–because I think it’ll really help him understand where I was coming from. Thanks so much for this!

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