It isn’t all about you: Emsy’s Feminism Posts 2Posted: June 3, 2014
Imagine if you will that you’re walking down the pavement. Just, minding your own business. You walk round a corner and BAM you get hit by a cyclist riding on the pavement coming the other way. You fall over, maybe you graze your elbow. Maybe you even bang your head on the floor. Either way you’re kinda banged up and feeling sore and hurty. The cyclist ignores you and continues on his way.
Later that day you meet up with a friend who’s also a cyclist. You say to him “You’ll never believe what happened to me today, I got hit by a cyclist who was riding on the PAVEMENT! They knocked me over, I’m lucky I didn’t get a concussion!”
“Um, I’m not like that” your friend replies, hurt. “I’d never ride on the pavement.”
“I…know.” You reply. “I wasn’t suggesting that you did…I was just saying that THIS one did.”
“Look, we don’t ALL ride on the pavement, some of us are GOOD cyclists and we ALWAYS ride on the road, so don’t go thinking that we’re ALL like that because we’re NOT!”
“Look, I’ve just had a bad experience with a cyclist and I’m kind of in pain here…”
“GOD will you just STOP badmouthing cyclists it’s UNFAIR!”
How about another scenario? Let’s say, you’re a massive football fan. Huge fan. You follow your team, try and catch every game. Your team has just found it’s way to the final, and you and a friend are having an in-depth discussion about what you think went well this season, the tactics you think they should use, what the new manager’s been like.
Up comes another friend. “Oh, hi, you’re talking about football? I don’t know much about football, what’s the offside rule?”
You blink at him. “Well, I can explain that to you later if you want but we’re kind of in the middle of a conversation here…”
“Hey!” says your friend. “I just wanted to KNOW. Jeez, you people go on about football ALL THE TIME, if you want me to be interested in it you’ll have to tell me how it works!”
“Well, sure” you say “but right now I’m talking to this guy about this season…”
“What’s a season? I don’t understand! How do you expect me to like football if you WON’T EXPLAIN IT TO ME?”
“Look, dude, you could Google it? Or maybe read a book about it? Or, find a website that talks about the basics? But now’s really not the time…”
“Um, no, you’re the one who keeps saying I should like football, so YOU should explain it to me and you should do it NOW, HERE so I can join in your conversation! Otherwise I won’t understand.”
“This isn’t the right time. Maybe you can let us have this conversation here, and then maybe you could go and read up on football?”
“FORGET IT. You always say I should look into football but I GUESS if you won’t explain it to me you’d rather be ELITIST. You complain all the time about how people don’t understand it but now you won’t explain it to me.”
The first one involves someone someone being more concerned with their own reputation despite someone having been hurt. The second involves someone wanting to have their needs met despite it not being the correct situation for their needs to be considered. Both of these (somewhat simplified) situations arise wherever women meet to talk about feminism Both online and offline.
The first one is happening right now. Women are sharing their (real, disturbing, traumatic, upsetting) stories of times they’ve been assaulted by men. The response from men is “But not ALL men are like that!” As I said in my last post, this now makes the conversation about the man, not about the woman. It suggests that the man’s hurt feelings are worth more than women telling the truth about their experiences. We know that “not all men are like that.” In fact, very few are suggesting that. But, it’s men’s hurt feelings being more important than women telling their stories.
The second one usually comes up either in online or real-life discussion when feminist theory debate and discussion is going on. Women are having their discussion when a man shows up and says “Hey, I want to join in! Why are you saying we’re all bad? What’s privilege? What’s intersectionality?” and the women say “Um, actually, we were kind of in the middle of a conversation here..” and the response is pretty much always a version of “Well, you want men to learn more about feminism and then you won’t help, what do you expect?”
Firstly. it is not the women’s job to teach men about feminism. It is the up to the individual to educate themselves. There are places you can do that.
Secondly, it’s another example of the man wanting to make his feelings and needs the priority. “I don’t know about the stuff you’re discussing, educate me!” No. This conversation is not for you. As has been proved, there is a habit of men wanting to make the conversation about them.
“But, I won’t make the conversation all about me!” First, see point one. Second, sometimes there needs to be space for women to talk about being women without men present. Unfair, no? Well, no, it’s not unfair, not really. Just think of all the male spaces readily provided in society. The football pitch. The pub. Many company boardrooms. There are so many male spaces that sometimes women need to create a space of their own.
And there’s no risk of men being “oppressed” by this creation of women’s space. Mainly (to quote myself, modestly):
Oppression happens over centuries, through cultural norms, through generations of being taught that you should be a certain way or that you have power over someone else. It doesn’t happen through a hashtag.
There are spaces I don’t get to go into. I don’t belong in spaces for people of colour. I don’t belong in spaces for trans people. Even though I’m married to a trans man! And I probably know more about being trans than a lot of the population! Yet I still don’t get to be in that space! Oh no, poor oppressed me! No. I don’t belong there because that space is not for me. My issues do not matter in that situation.
So, therefore, men’s issues are not relevant in a women’s discussion of feminism.
Again, I welcome comments and discussion. Again, I ask you to work out if you feel pissed off, then think about why you do before you comment. Again, I’m not going to spend my time reassuring men that “they’re not all like that” because that is not my priority. It isn’t all about you.