Let's Talk

Men’s Feelings Are Being Hurt

LetsTalk5.jpg
Following my last post about the toxicity of social media arguments, I’d like to extend the discussion to a series of particular online debates I found myself in:

 

When Caitlyn Jenner was nominated as Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine, I didn’t initially care. This was because Glamour Magazine doesn’t hold much esteem on a global stage, but, because of the headlines this was making (likely media sensationalism for publicuty), I started to take part in discussion. Although I don’t consider her a role-model personally, Jenner has made a global impact on the recognition of transgendered people; and even though she was born a man, I was fine with the awarding.

 

But a lot of people weren’t. Some reasons for this were that Jenner hadn’t yet outed herself as a woman for an entire year, and another was that she had come from a notorious reality TV family and this was simply a publicity stunt (a bit extreme to think she’d have a sex change for a bit of publicity, really). The most common argument was that she hadn’t actively done anything more for transgendered people other than claim she is transgendered. All of these seem like valid arguments, until I noticed a lot of the online backlash was coming from the fingertips of furious, non-transgendered men. One man I read about, James Smith, whose deceased wife had won the same award for her heroism in 9/11 actually returned the award on her behalf in protest.

 

One may view this anger-on-behalf-of-women as men finally coming on board to support equality of the sexes, but this to me looked more like thinly veiled trans-bashing and misdirected anger at a system that is progressively moving away from singularly favouring white heterosexual men. Let’s admit it: The contempt against Jenner was not for women!  James Smith behaved more like a man using feminism as an excuse for his anger rather than a man supporting feminism.

 

For so long, women have been looked down upon as the ’emotional’ gender, and this emotional nature is exactly the reason why women weren’t considered good leaders or decision makers. It was completely illogical of course, but who made the rules? Now that this concept is obsolete (or is it), it seems that everyone is using emotion (ie anger) to drive their own voice, rather than regarding the oppressed people in question. The disgust over Jenner’s award was more contempt for transgendered people than in support of women. (You don’t need to read between the lines of this quote by Smith: “Was there no woman in America, or the rest of the world, more deserving than this man?”).

 

Ultimately, Caitlyn Jenner’s awarding didn’t bother me because she identifies with being female. I am not here to question this. But in what became a social media experiment, when I made a similar statement on Facebook saying Bono of U2 didn’t deserve the recognition of Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine, some men turned on me instead. This is basically what I wrote:

 

A few days ago, Bono from U2 was nominated as Woman of the year by Glamour Magazine. This probably for some vague reference where he may have regarded women as actual people. If this is the way that awarding is going, this basically qualifies me to become Maori of the year if I publicly proclaim the need for cultural tolerance in our country, right? NO, because that would be like whitewashing civil rights, and this is simply men taking over feminism.

Empowerment is there for people who face oppression from societal structures based on superiority of skin colour, gender or sexual orientation etc. This means that minority groups do NOT need to regard the feelings of white, hetereosexual men.

Although most people didn’t take notice, and statistics of FB friends aside, the negative commentary came specifically from white men. Their focus was not on the context, their anger specifically focused on segregating my statement that ‘minority groups do NOT need to regard the feelings of white, hetereosexual men‘ as a whole. Of course, I should have probably said men in general, and you also have to remember that emotions are hard to identify online, but considering the special correlation between of the word ‘feelings’ and women, it’s kind of funny that it was men who were so quick to fire back in anger. One of these men was actually someone very close to me. Without quoting him, he claimed that my statement provoked double standards, and that I was targeting a group that included my father and brothers. He criticized this “belief” that white men are the cause of everyone’s pain, and then went on to define Feminism to me…???

He was standing up for something that in his mind, targeted him, and thereby offended him. People are quick to defend what they identify with, but this isn’t an excuse, it’s narrow-mindedness. I love this person, it’s a form of gaslighting to use my family to justify his anger’, or educate me on something I am passionate about.

Let’s define Feminism properly. Feminism IS the belief that men and women are equal. Feminism is NOT the criticism of men. Feminism the critique of the system.

We have to stop shaming women’s anger, and start condemning the system. You cannot make excuses that “not all men are like this”, or in this case, “white men are not the cause of everyone’s pain”, and then urge me to make peace with the fact that I am going to face sexism as it’s a part of life. People construct worldviews. People construct mindsets. I do not agree the theory that bad things are a part of life, when we sure as hell know that people aren’t born racist, sexist, or phobic of people who are different.

Commenting on social media to market how they view gender equality does not mean men are automatically feminists and pro-women. I don’t buy it. I don’t believe that the comments in response to my viewpoint on Bono as Woman of the Year are made in my best interest, but more so out of a discomfort with their own feeling that they’re on the receiving end of my anger. I think if they reformed their desire to subdue my anger into a desire to subdue the system that caused it, we’d be making progression.

So a man can’t be a spokesperson for women. But can a man be a spokesperson for Feminism?

YES.

If I can give any credit to Bono, it was that he said, “…We’re largely responsible for the problem, so we have to be involved in the solutions. In saying that, we have SO MANY awesome men who are stepping up in support of the movement. Well known men like Daniel Radcliffe, Mark Ruffalo, Barack Obama, Alan Alda etc etc. These men regard that the focus is on the plight of women, not of people in general. Too many people masculinize Feminism into Humanism, which takes away the special significance of the cause for women, all the while subscribing to double standards in government, religion, media and social constructs.

All this may make me sound like a bit of a misandrist, but I simply refuse to be pressured into considering the feelings of the “nice guys”, when the feelings of minorities were never considered important before. But I don’t hate men. I hate ignorance. I hate the system. And I hate how the system has made people accept what we have as ‘good enough’, and anyone who points out injustices as a ‘female supremacist’, a ‘feminazi’ or even just a bit of a negative nancy.

8b71d9a2298a6bd554c36cc05703794b.jpg

 

On a positive note, it’s great to see that western society has constructed value around Gender Equality and men are willing to talk about Feminism. We are improving! I like to think this is thanks to causes like HeForShe, which invites men to the discussion. Feminism is in Vogue these days. However, people need to be careful about throwing around the term around for the sake of an argument, often without fully appreciating the reason behind the movement and what it has achieved.

 

“It’s really easy for people who have some form of social privilege to instinctively feel they can lead the charge. Fight that urge.”Bustle.com

In this respect, I often avoid discussing feminism for women of colour, or feminism for lesbians, or even feminism for men, because I don’t have the life experience or viewpoint to talk on their behalf. The best I can do is recognise the importance of their plights, and listen. As a white heterosexual, I am already well advantaged. This doesn’t mean I can be their spokesperson, I just need to be a pillar of support in order to make everyone feel valued and recognised. You can’t erase the history behind oppression, even if it’s better today, even if the people who largely caused it have long since died. 

This aside, the issue I am trying to point out here is that feminism isn’t obliged to make room for men, and this isn’t personal. I recognise that men’s feelings are just as important and valued as women’s – but context matters. It cannot be used as a means of gaslighting people who are privy to forms of oppression, ie. “equality means men too!”, as a means of undermining their history or struggle.

 

In an Utopian world, there would be no such thing as sporting “Women’s World Cups”, just “World Cups” with men and women teams.

In a Utopian world, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be the first Female President of the USA, she’d just be the Next President of the USA.

In a Utopian world, there would be no concept of Female Priesthood, there would just be Priesthood.

In a Utopian world, social constructs would not have white, straight men as the primary label, and we wouldn’t have to owe it to minorities to make up for this imbalance.

 

But the fact remains is that so much political struggle went into overturning laws that segregates gender, race, sexuality etc, and following that, there was a lot of hesitation with integration. So the segregation was already set in place, and the establishment of specific awards was to cater to those who wouldn’t be recognised for efforts elsewhere. Men, we recognise your support in our cause on behalf of your wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. But we need deeds, not words. If gender equality really is an issue for you – which it should be – you need to get angry about the bigger struggle, not just the parts that hurt your feelings.
Advertisements
Standard

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s