My Feminism Isn’t an Invitation to Debate Your Sexist Views
Your Opinion Isn’t Always Welcome
You know how it goes. I’m enjoying a night out with friends, and a few people I don’t know that much. I’m sipping fine wine, having a good time and suddenly, some unknown Douche makes a crappy joke that’s slightly sexist. My face goes into an “I’m not laughing” smile cause after all it’s really too shitty to even start justifying the sexism. And then someone tells him not to bother, and to be careful with me cause I'm… A FEMINIST.
From that point on Douche is super curious. I mean he hasn’t been able to study such a weird creature in a while and his interest is peaked. What could possibly be in the head of a feminist?
“What does feminism actually mean?” he asks — nicely — because he’s heard the definition a thousand times but he can’t believe it’s that simple.
It has to be about burning bras, breaking balls and growing your body hair until you can braid it. OK, I’m exaggerating slightly. But somehow, they’re not satisfied with feminism being about equality. And so the “Well, I’m all for equality, but (…)” pivotal moment inevitably comes up.
Wait, dude. You tell a sexist joke, I give you my best resting bitch face, you hear I’m a feminist and your first instinct is to… just keep it rolling with the sexist stuff? Explain that to me.
Of course, Douche here doesn’t believe he’s being sexist, he’s just stating facts about men and women and how we’re fundamentally different. He’ll start by making me admit that biological differences exist, because isn’t biology always the perfect excuse? And then he’ll talk about pregnancy, and maternal instinct, and natural feminine qualities he’ll try to explain through science and evolution by a faulty reasoning. Or about differences in body strength. Or the brain. Anything he can come up with to say equality’s fine, but men and women are complementary. And we shouldn’t want what men want, because as good as they have it, it just isn’t for us.
If I’m lucky enough, he might just want to debate the legitimacy of the word “feminism”. He’ll think of himself as an “equalitarian” or a “humanist” (words so unspecific that they no longer have any real meaning). After all, women should have no problem feeling represented in the word “mankind” and deal with all the other language rules deriving from men being the universal standard. But a man having to identify with a word containing “fem” is really too much of an ask. Don’t I feel it excludes them? Maybe I should try putting myself in their shoes.
If I’m less lucky, he’ll mansplain sexism to me. He’ll talk about how equality’s great, but “apart from the wage gap”, don’t we already have it all? Cause sexual violence is about violence, not sexism. What’s that, it’s hugely men doing it to women? Oh, that’s just because of the weakness factor, they do it to us cause they can and we can’t. Let’s be objective, it’s all about opportunity, nothing sexist here. Harassment? That’s just flattery, how can it be sexist if it’s men showing their appreciation of women? The glass ceiling? Women just don’t have enough of a go-getter personality to ask for what they want. How enlightening.
He might also just mansplain how to be a real feminist, saying he believes in it too, but he really can’t support feminists cause they’re doing it all wrong. You know, the pioneers from the 70s were reasonable — how fucking ironic — but now we’re just going too far. We shouldn’t antagonise the men, we should try to make men understand nicely, patiently, with a smile even. Cause you know nobody likes an angry woman. So, be soft. Break the patriarchy by following its rules. That will definitely work.
Or maybe he’ll tell me transgenderism is a sickness, and when I point out that people used to say the same thing about the gays and that should tell him something, he’ll say that too is unnatural. Of course, he’s not homophobic, he doesn’t mind gay people, he just thinks there’s something wrong with them. And I look blankly into his face and know this conversation needs to end before or my fine wine ends up all over his face. (Muscle reflex.)
How nice must it be to be a man and to always feel like people want to hear your opinion. Sweetie, no feminist wants to hear your opinion of feminism, because we know if you feel the need to share it with us that bad, it doesn’t bode very well for the rest of our evening. The fact is, feminist men know when to shut up and listen. And the rest of you, well, it’s not like we don’t have enough opportunities to hear about.
I mean, I didn’t make up any of the above. I’m not even 24 yet and I’ve had extensive experience hearing all those points being argued. Several times. I’d bet any feminist reading those lines could picture men — granted, sometimes women too — arguing the same to them.
What really strikes me is, how do you fail to realise it’s of no interest to us? How do you miss that there’s nothing unique, or controversial, about your point of view? The fact that you might feel interested to talk to us about this subject doesn’t automatically mean there’s anything of interest for us in debating any of this with you.
We’re feminists. We think, theorise, talk about this all day. We have thought about this through and through. This is our expertise.
Even when we don’t try to, as soon as we leave our close circle of friends and relatives that have learnt how to behave around us, we’ll notice all the little things people do or say, with or without meaning to, that are related to gender or sexism in any way. A lot of the time we’ll just have to deal with it and pretend like we haven’t noticed cause it’s just too much work saying something every time. We’ll save that energy cause we know we need to pick our battles.
All of this is violence to us. Your opinion belittles us. It’s not hypothetical. It’s not victimless.
So, do not feel invited to speak. If you really are interested, read, and listen.