Fellow men, doesn’t the topic of feminism often degenerate into a fight club? Isn’t it frustrating how women refuse to listen to your point of view even when you present logical perspectives? Why does it always turn into the same exasperating struggle when they deny hearing us out? I need you to think back on the last conversation you had with a woman about feminism. What did you talk about? How did you approach the subject? And most importantly, who talked the most?
My co-ed conversations about feminism have broken down into something like this: guys talking about how sexism is over because Hillary Clinton is running for president—60 percent; guys talking about that one time a purple-haired “Nazi-feminist” verbally assaulted them—20 percent; guys talking about how feminism is about the equality of genders and how gender roles are constraining for both sexes—16 percent; girls getting a couple sentences into a personal account of sexism before being interrupted—4 percent. I’m being quite facetious, but my point remains—men often don’t allow women to fully articulate how sexism has impacted their lives.
But men, as much as we want to articulate our perspective, by talking more than them, we are actively perpetuating the exact issue women are trying to bring to our attention. If women are claiming systemic oppression of their gender and being societally unequal in relation to men, doesn’t our dominance of these conversations illustrate the problem? Every one-sided dialogue undermines any good intention. Every time we pretend to listen while carefully constructing our next point, we are promoting the very injustices they say they experience.
This is something that had never crossed my mind. How can I be sexist when I’m not wanting or trying to be? The mere possibility that I could oppress creates cognitive dissonance. I know myself—I couldn’t be sexist! Yet, just like Fight Club taught us, two seemingly distinct personas can actually be one and the same. I can simultaneously desire gender equality while also taking part in the subconscious manifestations that stop equality from becoming a reality.
The good news is that this is okay as long as we recognize it. Do you take note of this subconscious apprehension regarding the word “feminism?” For example, would you have even read this column if written by a woman? If not, don’t feel bad, just begin to recognize this mindset. Women have been subjugated for over two millennia, so the systems through which they are oppressed are not going to simply disappear if Clinton wins the presidency or Beyonce releases the most empowering album of the century (which she obviously will). We are going to have innate misogynistic tendencies due to the immense weight that our history holds. Dismantling them requires admitting that sexism exists within each and everyone one of us. As men, our first step is to step back.
The first rule of feminism is to not talk about feminism. That is, to not dominate conversations and to recognize our bias as men. This does not mean that we should fear entering conversations about feminism—if anything, we should have more of them—but, we need to genuinely listen to women when they share their experiences. Our view is certainly not worthless, but shouldn’t women, the subject of discrimination, have more say? We will never entirely know what it’s like to be a woman in this world, but admitting that fact will get us closer to understanding. Yes, us men might have to admit we are a part of the grander system of gendered oppression, but it is paramount that we listen. Even well-meaning men can end up co-opting the conversation and begin to “mansplain” their way into a one-way exchange (like I’m doing now). So, there you have it boys, the first rule of feminism: don’t talk about feminism.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Staff