By Nina Kegelman || Copy Editor
I recently stumbled upon an article written for our good old College Reporter titled “Feminism from a Male’s Perspective.” Nervous as to what I was about to read after hitting click, let’s just say I was angry but not surprised. In the wake of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—legendary legal scholar and trailblazer of the modern feminist movement—I felt the need to respond to many of the critiques offered by my peer, hereafter referred to as “A Male.”
The first complaint A Male lists is the frequent use of phrases such as “I hate men” and “Men are the worst” by women on social media. The problem, I understand, as A Male puts it is the apparent “degrading of half of the human race.” Now, given that A Male considers himself a feminist (who even respects women!) I am disappointed by the personal offense he seems to take at these “generalizations,” as he puts them. How come he can’t write the same thing about women??! He wonders.
The reason, A Male, is this: For basically the entire course of recorded history, men have actually been doing just that. Explicitly, openly hating women. Maybe not in their words (though often they do), but in their actions—physical, legal, religious, you name it.
“ButT tHaT’s OvEr NoW! We LiVe iN a FrEe CoUnTrY!! WhAt’S dOnE iS dOnE!!”
Maybe if I put it another way, our woke feminist friend will understand better. There is this phenomenon called Black Twitter. No—it is not a separate app designed for Black people. Rather, it refers to the common discourse of Black people, who often turn to social media to share frustrations about white people. Now, if you, A Male, read a tweet that said “I hate white people,” would you find that generalization unfair? Would you write up an article titled “Anti-Racism from a White Person’s Perspective?”
If you do indeed understand the complexity of systemic racism—that is, that racism is not just a problem of individual white people being prejudiced towards BIPOC—you probably wouldn’t. You then might just understand the eerie similarities between our two best friends: racism and sexism. When women write, “I hate men,” what A Male might take away is “I hate you.” But that is not the case. What we mean, in our feminist discourse, is “I hate misogyny and the ways it manifests in the men in our lives.” I hoped that A Male’s “analytical perspective” would be so deep as to recognize this distinction. But alas, I was wrong.
It might be the case, though, that the racism-sexism analogy will not work for A Male. He may uphold the “reverse racism” argument just as he did the “reverse sexism” argument. That being so, I’ll have to try to reason with him another way: appealing to irony.
Now, we all know irony has been dead for a few years now. I don’t know, maybe since about 2016. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent backpedaling on the precedent he set in 2016 for replacing supreme court justices in the last year of a sitting president’s term is evidence enough of that. But I myself am still a believer in irony, and I hope A Male is, too.
How A Male can call himself a feminist and then sit down and write a 1,000 word essay mansplaining how (in his expert opinion, I’m sure) he believes today’s feminist movement should operate is beyond me. Did he even once consider that maybe what he was actually doing was itself a part of the problem? Of course not.
While I respect and agree with A Male’s point that men are necessary for the success of the feminist movement—as they are the reason it exists ;)—A Male makes his case for a male-targeted feminism (whatever that is?) well, pretty poorly. Searching website after website of feminist organizations, he frantically seeks photos of just one man. But poor A Male only found but two whole men featured on the pages. Even after he made it past the icky pink Me Too logo! Blecch!
Imagine how we women feel, let’s say, looking at a comprehensive list of Presidents—and Vice Presidents—of the United States of America.
What A Male is asking, or rather, demanding, is that the feminist movement not just accommodate men, but that it roll out the red carpet invitation for blatantly sexist men whom we then must urge to learn to respect us. Imagine explaining to the BIPOC community that their antiracist movement should focus on outreach to the Klan. Or that expressing their frustration with white hegemony is what’s really setting them back because it alienates their “potential allies.”
Such ignorant proposals remind me of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, […] who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.”
What makes A Male different from the blatant sexist is not his recommendations for how feminists are to go about achieving their goals the “right” way. It’s being the kind of person who accepts and embraces the discomfort of the method we choose, even if it’s inconvenient. Or hard. Or requires rethinking what it means to be an ally. It’s not being the “male” moderate.
Newsflash: As often as we do it, it is not women’s job to educate men on the issue of sexism. And it’s certainly not men’s place to tell us how to go about doing it. The fact that men aren’t innately motivated to do it themselves is the problem. As troubling and overwhelming as this may come to A Male, it is not our responsibility as people marginalized by the patriarchy to convince the most sexist of sexists to understand their sexism. That, I’m afraid, is on them. And on you who benefit from the patriarchy alongside them.
Yes, women need male allies. But A Male reminds us of this in a painfully tone-deaf and condescending manner—as if the feminist movement was born yesterday and those within it have never once troubleshooted challenges to it ourselves. “It is impossible to spark a critical discussion about how to create a more equal world without a single man in the room.” “Women cannot single-handedly rewrite the laws,” he says.
Yeah. We know. That’s the problem.
What was an attempt at fostering cooperation across the gender spectrum wound up being a 10 minute lecture about the limits and obstacles to gender equality. Aren’t women all too familiar with our own glass ceiling already? Or maybe after 243 years of a male-dominated government, can’t we dream of one day seeing the same for ourselves?
Perhaps the reason for taking offense at the claim “Men are the worst” (or the mere notion of a group of women declaring their place in a decision room) comes down to sheer male fragility. Just because a room is full of women doesn’t mean it excludes men. Rather, it’s open to those who are intellectually humble enough to sit at the table and let someone else speak for a change.
Finishing up, I’d like to end on the words of the great Ruth Bader Ginsburg (may she rest in power) that I think speak to the crux of my debate with A Male: “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
On behalf of feminists everywhere, we appreciate your concern. But please, take a seat. It’s our turn now.
Senior Nina Kegelman is a copy editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.