Don’t be a “NotAllMen” Man

dawsoncrying

First, to clarify, let me define the “NotAllMen” or “NAM.”

A “NotAllMen” is typically a heterosexual white male, who, when encountered with feminist anger, the patriarchy, or women’s issues in general, respond with “but I’M not like that. It’s not ALL men! this is an isolated incident. It cannot possibly be as bad as you think!” A NAM shares similarities with those who call themselves Men’s Right’s Activists, but may be less extreme or active or even know about the MRA because they really don’t know a lot about the whole women’s rights thing to begin with.

The NAM suffers from something known as “Male Privilege.” They show a natural tendency to resist any acknowledgment of such privilege, and make a concerted effort to remain ignorant of what the term means.

Male Privilege is often invisible to the typical NAM, but symptoms include a warped world view due to the fact that they have never encountered many of the systematic forms of societal oppression women face every day, and therefor seem unable to understand how the life of an average woman can be so different from their own. Since they do not grasp the fact that they are afforded more opportunities and freedoms (I.E. Feeling safe walking alone) they view feminists are trying to take away something from them, rather than giving women more equality. To them, equality is a finite resource. In order to give it to women, it must be taken away from men. Most people know this not to be true.

The NAM may also show signs of entitlement to their (often uninformed) opinion. These opinions typically include (but are not limited to)

  • It’s not ALL men
  • Feminism is just a platform to hate men!
  • It hurts my feelings to be told men do bad things
  • We already HAVE equality
  • Some form of blaming the victim
  • But men have issues, too!
  • We NEED inequality to function as a society!

The NAM also may exhibit signs of “Mansplaining,” in which he will attempt to explain things to you, on topics which you are well-informed and well versed, and he knows little. However well informed you may be, the NAM will always feel that he has to explain it to you, using knowledge often gained from other uninformed NAM’s, internet comments, and Fox News. The NAM believes he knows what feminism ACTUALLY is, and how the world ACTUALLY works, according to him. The NAM’s invisible Male Privilege causes him to believe, while oblivious to the sheer level of narcissism involved to create such a delusion, that if he as an individual has never encountered a problem, the problem does not exist. The problems inherent in this logic are obvious.

The NAM attempts to sound reasonable and respectful, as a contrast to the typical woman’s hysteria. However, what the NAM understands to be reason and respect is actually intense condescension and patronizing. It is typical of a NAM to have a misunderstanding of the definitions of many words.

While all of these symptoms may indicate NAM tendencies, men who exhibit them may recover if they manage to possess an open mind, a willingness to learn, and enough maturity to admit they were misinformed.

A true NAM will reveal himself when actually challenged on any of the above. If at first patronizing doesn’t succeed, try, try again. If you politely and respectfully attempt to explain to a NAM why his opinion is problematic, his initial response will be “oh dear, her small lady brain was unable to understand what I so clearly explained to her. Let me try again.” This time he will reach a level of simplicity so obtuse, most observing will be slightly shocked. After, once again, attempting a respectful, if more forceful reply to the NAM, who is now exposing himself to be severely uneducated on the topic he is attempting to discuss, he will now start to get pissy. This is because being challenged on something he has told a woman is such a blow to the NAM’s fragile ego, he must now resort to grand generalizations, name calling, and general sexist stupidity.

Let me explain to you how your comments look to a well-informed feminist, woman, or female friend who posted an article on an issue related to women’s rights or feminism.

When you try to explain to a feminist what feminism is, to be base, you look like an idiot. It would be like me trying to explain to OJ Simpson how best to write a book about getting away with murder. I’ve never gotten away with murder! I haven’t even researched it! Or read his book! Who am I to try to explain to OJ Simpson how it’s done? This is just general common sense when it comes to literally any discussion in life. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, or if your opinion is based on other people’s opinions and you haven’t actually done any unbiased research you can’t expect other people to take your opinion seriously. When I talk about feminism, I’m talking from personal experience, academic research, personal research, and a whole lot of statistics. When you try to talk to me about feminism, and want to disagree, you better be able to back yourself up, because otherwise your opinion is not valid. Not to me.

When men do this, especially men I know and am acquainted with, this is what it says to me: You don’t respect me and you don’t respect women. If you really, really respected me as your equal, you wouldn’t feel the need to talk down to me. You don’t actually respect my opinion, because although it is generally back up with facts, figures, and hundreds of years of systemized oppression, you STILL feel the need to chime in with your uninformed, simplistic, privileged understanding of what women go through every day. If you actually respected me and women as a whole, you’d be an ally. You wouldn’t be telling me to shut up and stop posting articles on Facebook.

I just want to clarify, once again, how narcissistic this is. When I post an article calling out sexist behavior, violence against women, or Men’s Rights Activists, it is not me yelling at you. I am not saying “LOOK AT THIS SHITTY STUFF MEN DID AND HEY PAUL YOU ARE A MAN THEREFORE YOU ARE A PIECE OF SHIT!” That is you personalizing the issue to you as an individual, and  is probably missing whatever point I was trying to make entirely.

I’m not suggesting that men can’t have opinions about feminism, and they can’t be different than mine. But you must keep in mind the platform you’re speaking from. If you are a heterosexual white male, you are speaking from the most privileged platform in our current North American society. You’re life experience is going to be vastly different than say, a queer African American Woman. Vastly. Everyone as an individual can only speak with a combination of their personal experience, perspective, and education. Before speaking on any issue of inequality, it is your responsibility to acknowledge that you are speaking from a privileged platform, and that you do not have the firsthand experience of being part of an oppressed or minority group. Until you accept and acknowledge your privilege, you really can’t expect to be taken seriously in matters like feminism or any kind of inequality. 

I used to have a policy of education over confrontation, but the more NAM’s I encounter the more I realize they just don’t want to hear it. Trying to be civil with a NAM or an MRA is like trying to convince a brick wall that it’s anything other than a brick wall, because a brick wall is a brick wall and it ain’t gonna change.

But, if you’re mature enough and want to actually learn, that’s when I’ll be willing to talk to you like an adult. But remember: the oppressed are allowed to be angry at their oppressor. Women are allowed to be angry at men. Again, this does not mean that I am angry with you, Dustin, Sean, Kurt, or any of my male acquaintances individually.

So instead of getting up in arms and trying to defend yourself against the evil feminists, how about you defend women? Be an ally. Learn. Educate yourself. Don’t be a NAM.

Ban Bossy (Before it turns into a Bitch)

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I think the Ban Bossy campaign is great.

This is their mission statement“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”

I will admit I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it, because it seems like a rather innocuous, uncontroversial campaign to encourage young girls to be leaders. It’s not attacking anyone. It’s not blaming anyone in particular. It’s just drawing attention to the fact that girls are exposed to this kind of harmful language at an early age, and if we make a point to stop using it now, it’s an easy way to influence positive change.

But then I started to hear criticism. From women. Grown women. I agree that ideas should be discussed, especially campaigns targeted at young women in the name of feminism, but the arguments against this are pissing me off, and for me, have brought up the more serious issue of the kind of hateful language women and girls alike are trained to tolerate.

Margaret Talbot argues in her blog post on the NewYorker.com that “Banning is really only for words that solely degrade or demean, and even then you want to proceed with caution because you’re depleting the expressive richness of the language.” Now, frankly I feel like the argument is just taking the campaign a bit too literally. I don’t think anyone actually expects to erase the word from the English language. Also, I think she’s kind of boarding on problematic with the whole “depleting the expressive richness of language” argument. There are plenty of words we don’t use anymore  due to the fact that they served no other purpose than to express hate towards certain groups or individuals. BUT I DIGRESS. This argument is weak, Margaret. Weak.

Robyn Urback brings up multiple issues she has with the campaign in her article for the National Post. However, her arguments, to me, actually just emphasize a bigger issue. First, she starts off by quoting Karen McCrindle, who is the director of French and Linguistics at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Apparently, when McCrindle was a young tot and kids on the playground called her bossy “she was fine with that” because “That meant I was confident. I didn’t internalize the negative connotation at all.” WELL ISN’T THAT NICE FOR YOU, KAREN! ISN’T THAT NICE FOR US ALL! I didn’t realize that McCrindle spoke for all women and girls. Beyoncé really should have asked Karen before starting all this drama in the first place. Classic Beyoncé, forgetting to consult Karen. Micheline Maynard made a similar comment during a debate on Ban Bossy on the CBC Radio show Day 6To paraphrase, because I am too lazy to listen to the podcast and transcribe a direct quote, she said that when she gets called bossy, she takes it as a compliment, because she knows she’s doing a good job.

Again, good for you, Micheline. I’m glad that you, as a grown woman, are able to recognize that a co-worker calling you bossy is actually an indicator that you’re doing your job right. Know what other word that’s really a demeaning insult adult women are now able to recognize as meaning they know how to get shit done? Bitch.

Being called “bossy” isn’t a compliment. They aren’t calling you “the Boss.” They are calling you “boss-like,” and it is implied that you don’t really have the right to be acting like a boss. They don’t want you telling them what to do. It means they don’t respect you. “Bitch” is the PG13 version of “bossy.” It means the same thing, but at least whoever called you it knows enough to be somewhat intimidated by you.

This really gets to the real reason why I think banning “bossy” in elementary school is so important; because bossy hits puberty and turns into a bitch. “Bossy” is a word used against girls. “Bitch” is a word used against women.

If we teach young girls and boys that girls taking leadership roles is A-Okay, then maybe they’ll grow up and stop having a problem with women taking leadership roles as adults.

We shouldn’t be teaching girls to tolerate hateful and belittling language, and then translate it internally as an indicator that they’re on the right track. We should be teaching boys and girls NOT TO USE THAT LANGUAGE AT ALL. Why can’t we try to create a world where we just tell them they’re on the right track? And when Maynard says things like “I take it as a compliment,” this is a horrible indicator of the language we as grown women have learned to tolerate, to accept as indicators of a job well done. We simply can’t expect to be praised for showing the same work ethic and drive as our male colleagues. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t it tragic that Maynard has just accepted this? Karen McCrindle goes on to say that “I now have a young daughter who is almost seven. If people tell her she’s bossy, I’ll tell her that means she has leadership skills.” Isn’t that SAD? She’s not teaching her daughter to stand up for herself and tell those bullies to go to hell, she’s teaching her daughter to just accept verbal abuse as a compliment, because it would be unrealistic to expect an actual compliment.

Robyn Urback continues on in her piece to argue that the Ban Bossy campaign actually teaches young girls at an early age that women need protection. I would argue that it teaches girls to empower themselves. We’re socialized to think we’re less than men from such an early age, it hardly even registers. Not only are girls bossy, but “girl” is one of the biggest playground insults you can hurl at someone. “Don’t be a girl,” “you play like a girl,” “what are you, A GIRL?” Ban Bossy gives girls a voice. It empowers them to stand up for themselves. It’s telling them that “girl” is not an insult, and that they have just as much right as any boy to be in charge. Honestly, I wish this was around when I was in school.

Ban Bossy isn’t about protecting girls, it’s about teaching them that they don’t have to sit back and take sexist bullshit.

If you want to take the pledge and support the campaign, head over to http://banbossy.com/

Call It What It Is: The SMU Rape Chant

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The headline “Saint Mary’s Frosh Underage Sex Chant Sparks Review” is in and of itself problematic.

“Underage Sex” = statutory rape. It just does. That’s the definition. And that’s not even that part where they actually cheer for rape. Rape in general.

Let’s break down this masterpiece of (university level)prose, shall we? It reaches a level Robin Thick could never hope to capture.

“Y… is for your sister” The “Y” is probably the least offensive, proving that these university kids are extremely clever. Or maybe they’re just naming their victim. YOU CHOOSE!

“O… is for Oh so tight.” Tight vagina. Because preferably she would be a virgin?

“U… is for underage” Okay shut it down. Stop. Please. Just don’t. The implication of this is that you are looking for girls who are not able to legally consent to sex. This makes whatever you wish to do rape, and also pushes you towards that “pedofile” arena in case you were wondering.

“N… is for No Consent” So Rape. You mean rape. “No consent” is the DEFINITION of rape.

“G… is for grab that ass.” While you rape her. Grab that ass while you rape her.

To summarize, in case this breakdown was too difficult for you to follow, translated from ass-hole misogynist-potential rapist language, the chanters wish to rape underage girls. Preferably your sister.

They want to rape underage girls.

They want to rape underage girls.

They. Want. To. Rape. Underage. Girls.

THEY ARE HAPPILY CHANTING ABOUT RAPING UNDERAGE GIRLS, POSSIBLY YOUR SISTER.

I’m sorry to keep repeating myself, but I don’t know how to make this ANY MORE CLEAR. There is no defense to this! There is no excuse! This is condoning rape, and violence against women and GIRLS. Not only does this CONDONE rape. IT ENCOURAGES RAPE. IT CELEBRATES RAPE. AND I’M GOING TO CONTINUE SAYING RAPE BECAUSE THE MEDIA REFUSES TO!

Student Union President Jared Perry (who had the decency to step down from his position of Chair of Students Nova Scotia) was quoted by CBC: “These are great leaders,” said Perry. “This was simply a moment with a lack of judgment.”

Don’t try to tell me they didn’t know what they were saying. Take some goddamn responsibility for what comes out of your mouth.

Also, they DID know what they were saying. And it wasn’t only the men. In the CBC article on this story, they interviewed two women at the event.

“We thought it was funny,” said Siobhan Evans. ”We were all just excited … I don’t regret it.”

“It wasn’t a big deal to me. I’m not a feminist kind of person. It didn’t affect me personally,” said second-year psychology student Amanda Fougere.

These two gems come from two young women who should be ashamed of themselves. Because not only does participating in this disgusting parade of hate towards women and girls show a SHOCKING amount of ignorance, but it illustrates that they give no shits towards the well being of their fellow women on campus. Because it doesn’t affect them and they think it’s funny.

Ladies of SMU, next time you’re out at a bar, I don’t recommend asking Evans or Fourgere to watch your drink. They’re not on your side.

And to be clear, the sides here are not Men Vs. Women.

The sides are “people who are trying to convince you rape is okay” Vs. “people who know it’s not.”

You can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMY9Tqxz-Ec

My Own Body Hair and other Feminist Dilemmas

Happy blogaverary! To… me?

This week (I started this 2 weeks ago woops)  marks one whole year of me being a loud obnoxious feminist. It’s been great. I’ve ranted! I’ve raved! I’ve grown out my arm pit hair! I’ve burned bras (literally!) But most important, I’ve learned.

That’s right. I’ve learned in italics. That means I’m not even shitting you.

I’ve learned that feminism isn’t just one thing! And it can mean different things to different people! And not all feminists even AGREE on everything! And that’s okay! And never start a sentence with a conjunction!

I’ve learned that I’m not right all of the time, and I don’t know everything. (this came as a shock to me as well.) I don’t even know my OWN opinion on a lot of thing, and sometimes I even CHANGE MY MIND. So that’s what this post is about. My top three feminist dilemmas, and how having them doesn’t make me a bad feminist (right? RIGHT?).

1.     My own body hair

During the whole No-Shave November deal, the internet was flooded with comments from dudes reminding us women that the No-Shave part need not apply to us. Because that would be gross. Well, as an angry feminist, it was MY JOB to say FUCK YOU, SIRS AND MADAMS OF THE INTERNET, LADY HAIR IS TOATS NORMAL  AND I WILL NOW STOP SHAVING FOREVER!…. as long as it’s winter anyway… and I’m not wearing short sleeves…. And nobody will see my legs… but I have to go to the gym so maybe I’ll just shave my legs but JUST MY LEGS! I still have my armpit hair so I’m still totally empowered.

I like feeling superior… but I also like feeling shiny.

You see, whilst aware of beauty standards and the fact that body hair is totally normal, I still care. For some reason. I have dark hair and I’m pale and it grows in thick and strong, so I guess I’m a little wee bit sensitive about it. I blame the media. I admire those ladies who give no shits about this issue and run free with the breeze tickling their luscious leg locks. I hope to get there one day. But until then, I might continue the bi-weekly process of pulling each and every hair out of my legs. Because society.

2.     How do I even feel about the word “slut?”

I know I wrote a long post about this, which I still stand by most of, but I’m still caught up on how I feel about the word itself. After discussing the matter with some proud sluts and friends, and friends who happen to be sluts, I began to ponder the question again. I think I actually really like the idea of trying to reclaim the word. There’s something really attractive about taking a word that’s been thrown in our faces for so long to shame us about sex and really owning it. It’s about not being ashamed of your own sexuality.

I want to proudly proclaim that I am, indeed, a slutty, slut, Slutty McSlutterson, from Slutsville Slutsulvainia. Population sluts. Where we all hang out and have slut parties and slut bake sales and “take your slut to work” day.

But I don’t know if I can. Even my most liberated friends still use the word with just a touch of self-deprecation. It’s like they are intellectually okay with whatever kind of life style they lead, but the word “slut” just sounds bad. It’s still the ignorant college kid go-to insult. It still has so many negative connotations that I don’t even know if it CAN be reclaimed. Maybe we don’t need a word for it at all.

And speaking of which…

3. Not calling yourself a feminist

This is something I’ve been struggling with. I get why women don’t want to claim the title. It sounds bad. It makes people think of you in a certain way, and nobody likes labels. Unless the label is “awesome, cool person! Be friends with them!”

Sometimes it IS hard to be a vocal feminist. There is this whole celebrity trend where women like Katy Perry and Beyonce say things like they “Believe in the strength of women but I’m not a Feminist.” Which is disappointing, considering how influential these women can be for a lot of girls and women, but is understandable I guess. It’s way easier to not be a Feminist. A lot of the reactions you get when you are vocal can range anywhere from irritating to infuriating. A lot of times there are raised eyebrows, weird joke comments like “You think she’s hot? Don’t let her hear that, she’ll think she’s being objectified!”, or awkward laughter and an abrupt change of subject. So I get it. And I also get it if you just don’t know what you’re talking about. I would never claim to be a sloth activist because I know nothing about sloths. Except for the fact that I find them terrifying (this isn’t even a joke. I think I’m the only person on the internet who finds their weird finger-toes creepy).

This came up when Jian Ghomeshi had Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams debate Nona Willis Aronowitz, author of Girldrive: Crisscrossing America, Redefining Feminism on if the feminist label really need apply anymore.

Aronowitz made an interesting argument in favor for “it doesn’t matter.” Just because young women aren’t using the WORD feminism, it doesn’t mean they don’t share all the same values and ideas, and aren’t equally passionate about them. The main problem here is lack of education: young people simply don’t know what feminism means. So should we really be chastising women who aren’t comfortable claiming the label? You can listen to the debate here http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/05/15/does-the-feminist-label-matter/

There is also this discussion that feminism today is a way more of a personal movement than a political movement. Young women are making the values and ideas of feminism part of their life by ignoring conventional rules about how we should dress or behave, and saying “fuck you” to anyone who tries to say anything different. Not to say we don’t have things we need to fight for politically – but I think a lot of women are – they just aren’t claiming the feminist label.

SO, what do you think? Feel free to hit the comments and let me know.

An Open Letter to Men Who Yell at Me From Your Car

Image from: A Christmas Story (this is what I look like when I go outside)

First of all, thank you, for I must assume that the honking was a misguided attempt to give me a compliment, and as I am a lady, I have been raised to graciously accept these complements with a shy smile.

However, since it is in the middle of winter, I must admit to some confusion. While in the spring and summer I sport lovely floral print dresses, in the winter I am forced to choose survival and warmth over flattering flowers. In fact, when I do sum up the courage to travel out of doors on my own, I seldom resemble a woman at all! My layers of coats, scarves, and hats actually make me more comparable to a Bison, or perhaps even a large moving boulder.

So, though I try hard not to question too many things since I am a lady, this has caused me to pause and ponder your possible motives for continuing your flamboyant accolades on my appearance, when I myself would be unable to identify the fact that I am a human female.

Is this a chivalrous attempt to comfort me in a time of need? Is the honk of your horn your way of saying “Don’t worry miss, I still know you’re in there! And I bet you are BEAUTIFUL!”

If so, I wish to express my gratitude. I was feeling quite self-conscious about being forced to choose warmth and the continuation of my life over my ability to express my femininity.

Or perhaps you are in a situation in which women are quite a rare occurrence? In your life, are women a majestic myth akin to a Unicorn that you have only ever seen pictures of? Were you so shocked to see what might be a woman out of the corner of your eye that your automatic response was to shout “GIRL!” for the benefit of those around you?

If this is the case, congratulations! I was a female! I hope seeing me was a thrill.

Or maybe you think I had forgotten my gender all together, and were only seeking to remind me. I know it is surprising to see a woman in so many unflattering layers. Why, you can hardly make out the shape of my bosom at all!

Thank you so much for your concern, and for reminding me of my place. Though the weather often reaches 30 below, I will attempt to be more visually pleasing next time you happen upon me during your travels down the road.

Whatever the reason, being a modern woman, I often forget that you seem to believe my main purpose in life is your enjoyment.  However you get that enjoyment, either by attempting to be a chivalrous gentlemen looking out for my needs, some lonely sole just surprised by my existence, or aggressively reminding me that I am, in fact, a woman, I must urge you to reconsider your behaviour.

Honking and yelling from your automobile is base, simple, rude, intimidating, and a form of sexual harassment.  I strongly believe that I and my fellow women should be free to walk down the road without being constantly reminded of our gender, without being objectified on such a base level, and without being sexualized simply for being out in public.

To my dear lady friends who urge me to hide my anger and accept the compliment, I implore you to reconsider the complexities of the social exchange that has just occurred. The fact that street harassment occurs even in the dead of winter illustrates that it seldom has anything to do with your personal looks – it only has to do with the fact that you are a woman.

So, in conclusion, though the act of yelling at me from your car may even in the best light be a misguided attempt at a compliment, it’s not.

Stop it.

Sincerely,

Tessa MacIntyre

If you want to help end street harassment, check out http://www.ihollaback.org/