My inspiration this morning is the fairer sex telling me how to properly respect them. In case I’m unversed in how not to be a dick to other people, Everyday Feminism is here to educate me with 5 Simple Ways Men Can Better Respect Women. The article brought up good points to dissect, so let the fun (respectfully) begin!
1. Stop Mansplaining
For the uninitiated, mansplaining is “[explaining] something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” We could just as easily include almost anything a man tells a woman and label it mansplaining if it suits us. Curiously, we don’t have a word for articles like today’s piece that treat men as uncivilized rubes in need of learning the most basic etiquette. The author Melissa Fabello supplies a couple examples of men timidly offering contrarian opinions like “I really don’t think this happens as often as you think it does.” She also points to a man invading a female space and disputing the severity of the gender wage gap. Fabello is the kind of person who wishes to stifle any dissent, and instead of making a “safe space” for women, she fabricates echo chambers.
Fabello doesn’t want men to stop her from “standing up for [her] own intellect and truth.” Her own truth. As I’ve seen in other parts of the feminist movement, one’s subjective experiences trump objective reality. Combining this outlook with an insular group of likeminded individuals is a recipe for disaster; dismissing dissent as “mansplaining” may make some women feel empowered, yet it relieves them of the duty to examine criticism. This article I’m writing will likely be dismissed as mansplaining by some. I am, after all, a man who had the gall to discuss issues relating to women.
2. Stop Using Diminutives
At this point, Fabello drifts into some pretty paranoid territory. Why is she up in arms? Well, a man deigned to call her “hun.” This person was one of the few men attending a workshop she was conducting. He apparently thoroughly enjoyed the session, approached her to indicate as much, and then degraded her with this awful three letter word. She goes even further, expressing abject horror at the idea of a stranger calling her by her nickname “Meliss.”
This strikes me as yet another example of feminists infantilizing women. It’s the idea that women are too frail to stand up for themselves or suffer through the trials of being exposed to anything that hurts their feelings. Fabello would have us believe that trying to personalize an interaction with someone is equivalent to men subjugating women who are helpless in the face of platitudes. It’s the faulty reasoning behind believing rape survivors – forever and always, no matter what – that helped contribute to the recent Rolling Stone case. It’s the reasoning that says when two consensually drinking people engage in sex, only the woman is unable to provide consent because she is somehow incapable of making decisions that sensible men can make while imbibing alcohol. It’s this reasoning of sheltering that leads to professors being unable to teach rape law to students because they can’t handle even contemplating the topic.
Why is this attempt at making a personal connection with other human beings so terrible? Fabello flounders with, “It just makes me feel some type of way.” You did something that makes me feel bad, so you’re a bad man. That sums up a frighteningly large sample of my dealings with feminists online. This ideology of “how you feel is your truth, so don’t bother exploring any further” is entirely counterproductive to the movement.
3. Stop Asking For Education
This hypocritical sentiment is rampant and, frankly, infuriating. Feminism in academia has produced a sprawling lexicon, both of new terms and new definitions for old ones (here is but a small sampling). Their goals include dismantling and replacing entire systems (smash the patriarchy!), with a focus on “unlearning” all the toxic habits that old paradigms have inculcated into us. But whatever you do, don’t ask a feminist to tell you how to do all of this.
After flashing her educator credentials, Fabello is insulted that people have the nerve to ask for education on the topic of feminism. In fact, committing this offense while sporting a penis is nothing short of male entitlement! Now I understand that your time is finite, and you can’t individually educate every man on earth. Yet there is this air of arrogance where feminists will condescendingly point to resources or just tell you to figure it out yourself.
Feminists have grown lazy and have forgotten how a movement functions. When I am championing a cause that challenges the status quo, the burden is on me to disseminate those ideas and persuade others. However self-evident I find my position to be is irrelevant. Assuming all other right-thinking people should naturally conform to my ideas does not grow the movement: it stunts it.
I don’t care if this is the tenth misogynist you’ve spoken to today; your job is to educate others about feminism. If you’re mentally exhausted and need to take a break, fine. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss potential converts and label them as unworthy of your time.
4. Stop Staying Silent
This point is not completely without merit. Don’t stay silent in the face of rape or domestic violence. Don’t let your silence serve as abetting the crimes other people commit. However, Fabello – with her delicate sensibilities – would like to more broadly apply the concept of “silence.”
Two guys at work are talking about how attractive another coworker is and whether they would “hit that.” Is this “screwed up?” as Fabello suggests? One only need to consider the opposite scenario. Is it misandrist for two women to talk about how hot a guy is and whether or not they’d want to sleep with him? I always get a chuckle out of the various buzzfeed articles that objectify men and are received uncritically by social justice crusaders not unlike Fabello.
People are free to privately comment on the physical appearances of acquaintances, strangers, and anyone else. In these cases, physical appearance may very well be the only thing you know about this person. When walking down the street, I don’t necessarily look at someone and think wow, I’m sure that she is a respectable independent women with a job and maybe some beautiful children and once was… I look at someone, think to myself that they’re hot, average, whatever, get off my stop on the metro, and don’t think about them again. Fabello wants to paint this as internalized misogyny. Thinking these thoughts or expressing them privately to friends is not some form of disrespect. From now until the end of time, human beings will appraise other human beings based solely on how they look. The world will continue to turn. Teaching women to treat every askance glance and hot-or-not discussion as evidence of their helpless victimhood is yet more infantilization and presumption that women cannot handle being the topic of such discussions.
5. Stop Trying to Prove How ‘Not Like That’ You Are
This final point is another thing that speaks to the pomposity of feminists. Fabello is directing her disdain specifically towards those who are allies of the movement. I briefly touched on the subject here about the trials and travails of being an ally. They are people who are expressly submissive to feminists like Fabello and act as a mouthpiece to amplify her ideas and her voice. Regardless of how supportive an ally is, Fabello, like many others, stands firm in reminding allies that they are nothing like oppressed minorities and can never try to act like they are “one of them.” They don’t deserve encouragement or praise for supporting these ideals because you should already be accepting them. Feminism’s rigid structure of oppression systems pits allies forever at odds with feminists. Once a bourgeois, always a bourgeois. How is this inclusive?
Respect is not a difficult concept. This article is representative of how “respect” is often conflated with “don’t offend me or disagree with me.” As people like Fabello lower the bar for offense further and further, people will only retreat deeper into their personal enclaves of the internet. Let’s try discourse for a change.