Alexander Gordon Jahans
The world is lighting up with the hashtag #MeToo as people all across the world come forward to talk about sexual assault and sexual harassment. And I’ve not been talking about it because I have nothing to say. I have not been sexually assaulted nor sexually harassed and I’m not a woman nor have I ever been particularly femme so I don’t have any stories of trying to avoid such an issue.
So why am I writing an article on this?
Because with the call comes the response and I have been there.
Do you know what happened when I really learned about feminism? Beyond the idea that women should be equal and into the ways that they weren’t, the ways that society keeps women unequal? I became an anti-feminist.
I was so outraged and so hurt because I lived in a bubble of ignorance where sexism was like homelessness in that it happens, it sucks, but there’s nothing anybody can really do so you don’t think about it. Terms like Patriarchy and Rape Culture sounded like Chem Trails and Anti-Vaxxing. They sounded like conspiracy theories and I am programmed by society to dismiss conspiracy theories.
The thing is that Radical Feminists and the Alt-Right have one thing in common, their communities are designed like traps to weed out the unworthy because outsiders can be so dangerous. I can understand why it happens. Cliqueification is natural when a community gets established, inside jokes get established, new terminology is coined. I mean look at the Bechdel Test the way you hear it described it sounds like it’s up there with the Skinner effect or the double slit experiment in Quantum Physics. It’s actually an idea taken from a lesbian comic.
I am not belittling feminism. I have passed through my phase of anti-feminism but I keep saying men I trust and like tripping up on the same hurdles. It’s all very well and good telling us to shut up and listen but that is not how men do anything. We practice, we experiment, we analyse and interrogate data. We call the teacher on bullshit when we see it and we want the answer explained in terms that we understand. Not all men clearly. And it is important to point out that we are not talking about all men.
The thing is feminism and the LGBTQA+ community has been immersed in this world and this war for fucking years. They are bloodied and scarred veterans and then we come up to them like guys who’ve just played five minutes of call of duty and we want all the answers. Heck I think about how frustrated and tired I feel explaining computers to my pensioner mother when I have used ubuntu, windows and macintosh. It’s like how do I explain the fundamental basics of this theory and metaphor to you when you think so differently to me and you are but a babe lost in the woods. Except oh yeah with Feminism this lost babe is telling you that the war you’ve been fighting your whole life isn’t real and you are just a bitter arsehole of an individual who is stupid, wrong and judgemental.
I have been stalked by fucking nazis and at this point I’m thinking feminists and trans people are the most patient and tolerant saints in the world because at this point my rage for those that harass me is such that death is too good for them. So I get the exasperation. I get the outrage and the bitterness and the “Oh for fuck’s sake look it up, you clearly have access to the internet” mentality.
The problem is that there comes a point when a movement stops being about hiding away in safe spaces for your own kin and starts being about creating wider change and in that wider change telling people to look it up for themselves isn’t enough. Especially because there are plenty of misogynistic shit heads looking to exploit the need for understanding and solidarity.
If your ego has been bruised you don’t want someone telling you it’s your fault, you want someone to agree with you and console you but offer suggestions as to how to improve.
So here is my advise to men freaking out in the wake of #MeToo and #HimThough
1. Don’t Panic - Yes, the problem is large, yes you are probably part of the problem but you can’t do anything to help anyone while your fight or flight reflex is in gear. Even if you are a problematic and dangerous individual the fact you know changes nothing to the outside world in a negative way.
2. Women and victims are going to talk about what it is like to be women and victims. That will be jarring. That will raise ugly questions. You don’t have to jump into the boiling hot depths of discourse in the beginning. It is okay to seek out feminist discourse from perspectives you understand first.
3. Feminism is a new language of cultural references and terminology. You can no more dip into an essay of deep feminist discourse as a beginner than you could dip into series 5 of a tv show and expect to understand everything. You are allowed to be confused and ease yourself in.
4. Yes feminism is calling you out and wants you to be better, no it is not calling you a monster. Feminism is about overturning a system of oppression so perfect that we are all a part of it even if we don’t realise it. Blame is not as important as changing your part in the system off oppression. Recognition is important but feeling shitty is not wanted, ceasing to be part of the problem is.
5. Sexism is a spectrum. This is something I am only just now coming to understand. You can be a problematic man with issues and a past and still try to get better and you will get better if you allow yourself to learn in your own way. At the same time we aren’t going to build the perfect utopia overnight. Habits have been learned, biases ingrained, tastes and instincts established. You are not going to wake up from a long nightmare to find yourself feminist and not sexist and that is okay because the world is built on sexist arseholes who tried to be less sexist and make the world less sexist and they helped.
6. Yes feminism is annoying. Yes, feminism is frustrating. Yes, feminism reeks of double standards and yes some feminists are just dickheads because feminists are still humans and we can be stupid and cruel about anything for any damned reason. This point is important because Feminism is important and as a guy being critical of feminists and feminism puts you on the same spectrum as men who are in favour of raping women. To some people that sentence is going to be ridiculously mundane and tame, to some that is going to be ridiculously offensive. Feminism will offend you. Accept that.
7. Not everything about feminism is perfect and not all feminists are perfect but the majority of it is right enough that it is useful and should be championed and learned from despite its flaws.
8. I am a 6 foot guy with a loud voice who goies walking at night and has social anxiety. If you think I am not ridiculously anxious about whether I might offend, upset or creep out women you are wrong. Anxiety about whether you are being a problem is going to happen and sometimes it will suck.
9. Like it or not feminism is the brand of equality going forward and you will get steam rolled if you decide that you aren’t sexist but you do have enough legitimate problems with feminism to stand against it. Nazis have threatened me and hurt the people I cared about to get to be because they are obsessed with trying to destroy me for standing in opposition to them. The Feminists succeeded because the feminists are right and they are all around you and if they decide you are a danger I have the utmost of pity for you because there isn’t a force in the land that can defeat the juggernaut, not forever.
10. If you are scared or intimidated by women angrily expressing their opinions then for your own sake shut up and learn feminism.