The Feminist Who Loved Men

I couldn’t think of a better title amid my seething, but I think it’s accurate. I have embraced the moniker of feminist, as in: I actively promote the betterment of women. Let’s face it, historically, we’ve had  it pretty rough.

So the latest woman-hating whacko went on a rampage. People got angry, naturally. Many have taken their anger to the internet. I have watched the #Yesallwomen campaign unfold, with quiet solidarity.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, I won’t bore you with a long explanation of hashtags but essentially this is a means by which anyone can join in a common conversation. In this case, women were responding both to the tragedy and to the old (oh so old) standby, “but not all men _______” (rape, murder, harass, etc), that gets used to silence women who speak up about violence against women. (Based on the assumption that women are so stupid we don’t know that not all men are the same?)

Here are a few example of these tweets:

Tweet 2

tweet 3

Tweet 4

You can read more here but be warned that some are extremely graphic.

I had not chimed in on the #yesallwomen public conversation until this evening. I have experienced bulldozer loads of misogyny in my lifetime but I’ve made my peace with that and have chosen to move forward with positivity. I did not, however, make any move to stop or stifle the other female voices who have been expressing their anger, frustration, and, (sometimes), hate in the wake of this latest crime.  They have earned that right and for too many years we women have been told to be quiet, to be nice, to be kind, to not rock the boat.

Every right and freedom I have, as a female, came from the blood, sweat, and tears of other women who would not be silent. They faced all the same criticism the #yesallwomen folks face today, and they refused to back down. Because of those women, I can vote, I have access to birth control and safe legal abortions, I can do jobs that were once closed to all women regardless of their qualifications, and I know I can report sexual assault and actually be believed. Thanks to those brave women, I am now a “person” under the law.

You do realize that, in Canada, it has been less than 100 years since women were declared “persons” under the law, don’t you?

So here I was, quiet yet supportive, watching the situation unfold and waiting for the inevitable denouement, when I see a little Facebook rant posted by a male relative that I am quite close to. He meant well, I know that. He was reacting to some of the more overtly hateful diatribes against men going on via the #yesallwomen conversation. From his vantage point, he saw the hate as pointless at best and damaging at worst. And while, in the most general sense, I agree with that sentiment, seeing a male (any male, even one I love), essentially telling women how to conduct themselves in the face of yet another misogynistic tragedy pushed all my buttons.

Yes. You can have your opinions. We’re all entitled to those.

No. You don’t get to tell us to shut up–even the hateful ones.

No. That is not a double standard. As Chuck Wendig put it, the big difference here is the result.

(Yes, the search for equality is messy.)

And, still, I refrained from comment. Until I read some of the replies, like this one…

Feminists usually start out with their heart in the right place, but their “activism” so often turns to misandry and clouds their opinions.

This generalization from a man who is angry at feminists for making generalizations about men.

Ignoring the nails-on-chalkboard condescending “oh those poor women mean well but they don’t know what they’re doing” attitude in that statement…

First, my feminism has very little to do with my heart. It has to do with equity and equality and the need for such in order to promote a healthy society. This idea (surprise!) comes from my brain. You know, where all the logic happens. And my activism, if that’s what you choose to call it, has never turned to misandry. I have never advocated hate or violence toward men. It pisses me off (as I know it pisses so many other women off) that I even have to counter my arguments in favour of equity and equality for women with the addition of “but I love men”. Finally, my “opinions” are based on facts, on statistics, and on my own personal experiences over 45 years.

And so, against all better judgement, I jumped into the fray.

What always amazes me in these arguments is how narrow they are. “My experience has been this and so therefore all the other information out there is invalid.” Look, no one’s suggesting that men aren’t ever the victims of violence (perpetrated by a male or a female) or that they don’t ever experience gender bias or sexism. But if you step back, if you step waaaaaay back, if you look at the world and not just your tiny corner of it, and then if you look at history, not just the small section you have occupied, what you will see is a trend. And it is not a trend that favours women. Not at all.

Yes, men have their own problems and their own forms of discrimination. No one is trying to take that away from you.

BUT.

Globally–we’re talking big picture here–who has the least rights and freedoms? Women or men? Who is mostly likely to be a victim of violence and/or rape perpetrated by the opposite sex? Women or men? Historically, who has been more oppressed? Women or men?

If you answered “men” to any of those, get thee to the Google and do some research.

And here’s where it just gets weird. You see, every time women come forward en masse to speak up against violence and sexism against women, EVERY TIME, there are men who stand up and tell us women (politely or otherwise) that we are doing it wrong. That they, the men, know what is best and that we, the women, should follow their directions and express our outrage in ways the men find acceptable.

Huh?

Weirder still. Our outrage becomes the conduit through which these men convey all the ways in which they suffer and they are discriminated against.

Wha?

Dude, if you’re suffering and being discriminated against that’s awful but hijacking our voices to talk about it is just…well, can you see the irony here?

(Hint: You’re doing exactly the thing you’re complaining about).

I hate hate. Which sounds weird, I know. I don’t encourage hate, let’s put it that way. But if there are women out there who need to stand up and yell and pound on their chests and decry the patriarchy and denounce all men as the devil, I’m not going to stop them. I don’t feel that way but I understand where their rage comes from. Because, like it or not, we are still less powerful than men, we still have fewer rights, we are still less privileged, we still get shot for trying to get an education, we are still stoned to death for marrying the man we love, we still have our genitals mutilated, we are still kidnapped and abandoned by our governments, we are still, STILL not equal.

My hackles were firmly up when I first joined in this Facebook discussion–mostly because these old derailment tactics have been going on as long as I’ve been alive–but ultimately I am glad it was out there. I doubt I changed the minds of the strangers who posted there but the person I love who started the conversation felt genuinely bad when he saw how angry and upset this had made me. It helped him to see how these kinds of sentiments affect real women, women who matter to him. And it gave me the opportunity to speak with him privately about my own experiences and about what it means to be a feminist, and that kind of dialogue is actually beneficial.

Whatever my personal situation may be, I support the rights of all women to speak out against violence, inequality, and misogyny. And I ask men to respect that, to respect the rights of all women, even the ones who you think are hateful, or too angry, or who make you uncomfortable. Change never comes for women when we sit back and quietly, politely, and patiently wait for it. Sometimes the voices that seem most hateful in the moment happen to be the ones who actually make a meaningful difference for all women.

Yes, all women.

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