Those who know me understand that my blue touchpaper of rage lights fast and can leave me incandescent. Yesterday the flame was lit by a posting of this Independent article with the comment ‘And we get called out for “mansplaining”’.
Now I find this indicative of a viewpoint I’ve come across from quite a few men I know and consider friends and I try to discuss it with them and explain my issue with a) mansplaining and b) the idea of #NotAllMen. These guys are largely good guys so I really want them to understand that by talking about our negative experiences with other men doesn’t mean we blame or hate them. I’m not sure they always do. The friend who put up this link (Which you must read as it covers several salient points) is one of the most educated and supportive men I know when it comes to the feminist viewpoint – so I was both surprised and upset by what I suppose might have been a throwaway comment on a piece where he took issue with the tone. Regardless I was so annoyed that the best I could do in response immediately was to sarcastically comment: “You forgot your #notallmen”.
Genuinely hurt and upset by this I decided to compose a response that addressed exactly why I became so outraged at such a little thing and it reads as follows:
My Dear Friend,
I need you to understand that I’m upset and I have to tell you why. I’m sorry that The Independent piece “If you have a penis, stop doing these things immediately” caused you upset around the unfairness of an article leveled at male misbehaviour and that the tone of the piece was in your eyes on par with “mansplaining” and therefore grossly unfair. Let me mention now that the world isn’t fair – but you should know that it’s a little more unfair on some than others.
For you to recognise the experiences that women live with as reality, involves you understanding that you enjoy privilege that comes with being a white heterosexual male. This privilege is that you’ll never experience some of the things we take to be as the way things are.
For a start if you were a woman you would have experienced at least one, or even all of the things listed in that piece. Even if you’re a man who hasn’t done any of those things – your female friends, colleagues and partners will have experienced them. Even if you haven’t done them – they have happened. For example: Unsolicited dick pics – they happen, often when sex talk hasn’t even arisen on the agenda or is unlikely to. In addition sexual assaults by strangers and “friends” – they happen – we don’t mention them because they scare us, depress us and when we mention them we’re likely to be thought of as attention seeking for going on about them.
Then let us start on the issues with communication – men don’t have to worry that if they’re “too nice” to women they might be sexually assaulted – then when they call the perpetrator out that they’ll be accused of having “led someone on”, nor do men have the evolutionarily sound worry that if they argue with a woman that the woman will hurt them with their superior strength and perhaps kill them. As Margaret Atwood once memorably wrote: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
To be clear “Mansplaining” isn’t pointing out some of these simple facts which illustrate some of the more base and oft ignored inequalities – it’s the premise that men, being of superior footing, have an obligation to explain subjects under the apprehension that woman either lack the knowledge or capacity to form their own opinion in the matter at hand.
Suck up your share of femsplaining – you need to hear and listen to our experiences – you need to understand how male behaviour affects us – even if it isn’t your behaviour. As with the #NotAllMen crowd – we know it isn’t every guy out there – but believe us when we say #YesAllWomen.
I AM NOT SAYING IT IS YOU, BUT SOMETIMES IT IS ME.
I know as soon as I press publish on this I’ve potentially put a target on my back. There are many anonymous folk on the internet who will troll, abuse and threaten women for voicing such views – but what I hope for from my male friends is that they will say – “Fair play, I didn’t understand” – and will have my back.
Here’s the kicker #NotAllMenfolk – we know you’re not that guy – but it means we expect more from you. We certainly don’t expect your pity or your protection – we don’t need it. We expect for you to listen to our experiences, appreciate our anger and to stand by us as we shred “that guy”, not making excuses or defusing our rage, but being at our sides saying: “She’s right man, you’re a piece of shit.”
My dear friend, please understand and be with me. Be my friend.