By Jonny Teklit ’20
The recent op-ed from TCR, “Feminism From a Male Perspective,” does not say anything new. Honestly, it could have been condensed into the common (read: grating) refrain of “Not All Men” that we see crop up from time to time. At first, I didn’t think responding was worth it, but something compelled me to do so—probably the title of the piece which by its wording can imply that I, as a man, share the writer’s perspective. I do not. So let’s get into it so that the labor of defending, articulating, and educating does not fall, like it usually does, on the women and non-cis folk of F&M
The following does not need to be explained, but I will do so anyway so that there is no room for any confusion. May it be a cheat sheet that anyone can return to should they have questions.
1.) As a man, I am personally offended by comments like “I hate men.”
Saying “I hate men” or something equivalent to it does not mean all men. It does not mean that all men are evil or are no different than your worst offender. The same logic applies to a phrase like “I hate white people.” It does not mean that all white people are racist or xenophobic. C’mon, we know this.
2.) If it doesn’t mean all men, why say it that way? Why not phrase it differently?
One must always keep in mind that phrases like these do not simply come out of nowhere. When we consider all of the violence and microaggressions that women face, mostly from men, on a day-to-day basis all around the world, it becomes pretty easy to understand how a phrase like “I hate men” would come about and be so resonant. If a woman tells another woman, “I hate men” or “I’m afraid of men,” the other woman will likely not be baffled or offended by such a claim because she has almost certainly had her own slew of adverse experiences with men. The phrase does not incur acts of violence and/or microaggressions against women but rather exists because the violence and microaggressions against women are so ubiquitous. This is why saying something like “I hate women” does not hold water. The scale is just not tipped in the same way. No, women are not above critique, but saying “I hate women” is not indicative of any shared lived experience; it’s just textbook misogyny.
3.) But I’m an ally and I find these phrases hurtful. Shouldn’t they consider my feelings?
Fun fact: you don’t get to choose whether you’re an ally or not. What can women, BIPOC, queer, and trans folks in your community say about you? Do they know you? Do they know that you’re often fighting for important causes and not interested solely when it affects you and/or calls you out? Also, generally speaking, most allies I know are not much bothered by phrases like “I hate men” or “I hate white people” etc. In my three years as a part of the Alice Drum Women’s Center, I didn’t spend any energy thinking that my fellow board members hated me because I know who I am and what my values are and, perhaps more importantly, so do my peers. If hearing phrases like “I hate men” triggers an instinctual defensiveness in you, it is worth interrogating and unpacking what it is you’re actually concerned or defensive about. With work, that defensiveness can be dismantled and while oftentimes it can be a continual, ongoing process, it is possible.
4.) “The [feminist] movement’s main audience should be men.”
This is just flat out wrong. Furthermore, the particular phrasing of it connotes a certain binary opposition that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, men indeed need to have conversations with other men about sexism and the importance of feminism, but why must that come with the tone policing of women and non-cis people? Our job should be explaining the reasons for the rage, not decrying it as unnecessary, rude, or counterproductive. No one owes you comfort or politeness. There’s also a point in the op-ed where Spear asserts that “men have been completely excluded” from conversations and lessons about advocating for equality. To be clear, there is no conversation about, or around, the feminism that men are not privy to. There is no “secret equality club” that men cannot get into. The internet exists; any and all information about how to better advocate for a more equal world is available should that person decide to simply look for it. There are even places and resources on the F&M campus that can provide that information.
5.) “By attacking [men]… you are effectively contributing to their deafness on the topic.”
You’re equating deafness to willful ignorance. Deafness is not something people choose. Keep the ableism out, okay?
6.) The MeToo movement was “slightly more advanced in terms of including men.” “Although the logo is pink…”
This sentence might have taken the cake as the most frustrating. I’m not even going to address the comment about the logo because I know I’d start rambling. Instead, I’ll say this: in the white, patriarchal, colonial, ableist, and heteronormative world we find ourselves in, those with power–literally and culturally–love to find some angle in which they can claim to be oppressed and/or discriminated against. This is not because they want to be oppressed, but because when their claim is inevitably refuted, they have an opportunity to decry those who push back against them as intolerant hypocrites. Make no mistake: space carved out for women and non-cis people is not misandrist. Space carved out for Black and non-white people is not racist. Space carved out for queer and trans people is not heterophobic. They are merely a response to a world that has denied them total safety in almost every other sphere.
7.) “Men need to be the priority [of feminism].” & “Feminism needs to change”
Some serious mental gymnastics is going on with this first claim. Men are not, and should not, be the priority of feminism. One of the driving motivations of feminism is trying to change the fact that men have been the priority in virtually everything throughout history. As for the latter assertion that “feminism needs to change,” I encourage you to learn more about the ways feminism has changed over the decades, and how it continues to change even now.
I know I’ve done a lot of talking, but I want to wrap it up with this. A few months ago, there was some discourse on Twitter over a racist poem that had been published out of Poetry, the Poetry Foundation’s monthly literary magazine. I read many takes and opinions on how the poem was racist, but there was one tweet that caught my attention in particular. I cannot find it in my sea of liked tweets, so I’m paraphrasing here, but essentially the tweeter agreed that the poem was racist. But they also mention how they don’t spend their time meticulously analyzing trash. They throw it out. That’s the energy I want to have: to be able to say this is a bad take and not expend excess labor articulating why it was a bad take.
Spear, your column was, in my opinion, a bad take.
Jonny Teklit graduated from F&M in Spring 2020. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.