The moment I tell you “You’re ALL sexists,” some poor Jeremy is gonna wail out:
“But we’re not AAALLL like thaaat!!!”
But that’s precisely the point.
There’s something very significant about the fact that this is precisely the typical response to the (actually defensible) idea that the problem is “men…”
And not “the bad guys” who “spoil it” for all the “good guys.”
If you actually look at this kind of response, it really means:
I’m not an abuser, a sex offender, a pimp, a warmonger…
Ergo: I’m actually a REALLY REALLY GOOD GUY! SOMEBODY X ME!
So whenever you walk down the street, people don’t spit at you or curse at you for the way you treat women…
Hence, you CLEARLY treat all women with equal and absolute respect.
You just got yourself one hell of a non sequitur, huh?
Actually, the whole myth of the “good guy/bad guy” in gender relations is radically flawed.
Germaine Greer said:
Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.
But very few of the people who stop to point and laugh at this are prepared to also stop to look at the context of the original quotation…
If you’d actually read “The Female Eunuch,” you might know. But I guess that’s beneath you, right?…
And Andrea Dworkin was convinced that:
The problem is MEN.
But you assumed she was demonizing the entire “male community.” But you never seriously examined the logic of her view.
How about this one:
I, as a woman writer, am… not allowed to have any ambivalences, any hostilities, any raging questions, any passions, any concerns.
And elsewhere, in Dworkin’s book “Intercourse,” she spoke of how women have to:
Lower our voices.
Women are compelled to speak gently, and be generally reticent.
The thesis of the latter book has often been reduced solely to the strawman sound-bite that “all men are rapists” or “all (heterosexual?) sex is rape…”
But this fairly obvious straw-man-ning, if anything, strongly evidences Dworkin’s point about women not being equal partners in communication.
Yet, it’s worthwhile acknowledging that I have to be careful not to be the “Conspicuous Exception.”
Sadly, a proportion of us who criticize male-centered special pleading may unwittingly end up conducting our own self-indulgent “Thwarted Knight” projects…
In which case it would merely be a slight change from the proverbial whinge. “I’M not like that,” and not “WE…”
Hardly an improvement.
That’s the thing though…
The moment you start talking about how “men” behave, or any other group to which you belong, you risk becoming complicit with precisely the same logic.
That doesn’t mean “men shouldn’t talk about sexism.” Nor does it mean “all men must talk about sexism 24/7…”
But it does mean that whenever we do, we should be careful not to become the next White Knight.
And I know I use this phrase a lot:
But saying that you are, that I am, “not one of the BAD MEN” is setting one hell of a low bar.
Well, congratulations for having some basic human decency! Well done, kid!
Yeah like, you don’t beat your wife or your girlfriend, you don’t visit brothels, you aren’t a porn impresario…
It must have been SO DAMN HARD for you to restrain that vicious primal beast within you… right?
Nope. It must have been PRETTY BLOODY EASY for you to NOT do those things.
Yup! I’m afraid the fact that you are not one of the “bad guys” isn’t a sign that you are a wonderful person of excellent and awe-inspiring character.
… ACTUALLY, I’m afraid it merely means that you aren’t a scum-of-the-earth-kind-of-bastard-type who should be shitting out blast-chill budget meals behind bars this very moment.
Of course, the next self-pitying, semantically ludicrous wail is:
“But that’s LITERALLY moral equiiivaleeence!”
But while moral equivalence (as Thomas Sowell says) is “always moral self-exaltation,” I always think 99% of the self-exalting accusations of “moral equivalence” we see floating around are actually NOT about moral equivalence…
I’m not gonna unriddle this one for you in exhaustive detail.
But the point is NOT that “all men are evil.”
The point is that, as men, (yes, that’s ME too, as much as anyone) are often prone to be oblivious to some things, and to get complacent.
For example, if all a particular man is aware of is that he doesn’t curse or swear at a woman close to him, and that he doesn’t threaten or otherwise explicitly demean her…
Well, that would risk drawing away this man’s own attention (conveniently enough) that the “silencing” of women that Dworkin spoke of DOESN’T just mean the crudeness and violence of telling a woman to:
Yes, indirect forms of verbal violence can be perpetrated in a million subtle ways…
And, interestingly enough, this less “obvious” shutting-up process can be more obvious to one of the partners in the conversation (or “monologue”) than to the other…
Now… I wonder why that might be?
I’ll leave you to think about factors might allow men (ALL of us) to have such leeway.
Leeway which, interestingly enough…
Is not granted equally to every human being.
Disclaimer: I don’t intend any flippancy in this article. The line between ridiculing sexism and reinforcing it is a fine one. But I believe we can all think seriously about the importance of recognizing when any one of us may be complacently contributing to subtler forms of inequality.