I’ve seen a lot of criticism about people who are not within a minority or put upon group speaking out about the problems said group experiences. When debates on gay rights don’t include a homosexual or even bi sexual panellist I have seen gay friends point out their annoyance that straight people are leaping to their defence. The same is true for race and gender issues. If you are going to have a panel discussion on sexism in society it kind of helps to have women on the team.
I’ve seen valid points being made about sexism, but quite rightly women have pointed out that they were made by men and that maybe, just maybe, it would have been useful to have that point made by a woman. I’ve been watching it and following a lot of the debates as closely as time will permit. One thing that strikes me is that when we men leap to a woman’s defence to shout out about sexism we are in fact helping to perpetuate a stereotype that women need defending and are therefore just as much part of the problem as those we criticise as sexist.
Gentlemen- women don’t need us to leap to their defence. My anger and annoyance at the misogynistic society that we live in isn’t because I feel the need to defend women- it’s because I don’t want to live in a society where ANYONE is treated badly because of who they are. I wouldn’t want to be treated as lesser because I am white, male and (mostly) heterosexual and it is for that reason I speak out against what I see as misogyny, or racism, or homophobia. Because these issues DO affect me. Any issue that treats a member of society differently based on their sex, race, orientation etc does affect ALL of us.
So this is about me and MY position only.
I’m walking down the street, I’m going about my daily business. I’m not dressed in anything more than a suit, going to work or maybe to get some milk. On my way all I hear are whistles and calls to “come here” from women in packs. If I were black and was receiving these calls because of that people would say its racist, but no, I’m a man and they are women and they are just complimenting me apparently. When I get to work my female boss calls me into the office to criticise what I’m wearing- apparently my tie is distracting the others from working so I have to change it.
When I finally get home I sit down to play some online game, multiplayer around the world. Instead of taking part equally all I get is abuse , not the usual “noob” type abuse but some rather sexualised comments that are “just jokes”. All I want to do is shoot some mother fucking alien with my hyper gun- no I do not want to eat your quim.
After the game I scroll through the Doctor Who forums and see there is a picture competition- take a snap shot of you and your Doctor memorabilia. Excellent- I get out my toy TARDIS, my Sonic Screwdrivers, signed The Robot DVDS and take a snap. Instead of people commenting on the geekiness of my collection I get an abundance of marriage proposals and comments that at least some male doctor Who fans are sexy.
I have to go on a business trip the next day- a strange country, I don’t know too may people. I make it clear that I don’t like being hit on and decide to go to bed, alone, at 4am. A woman follows me- stronger, bigger, a stranger I don’t know from Adam (or Eve) and gets into the lift. In a not so subtle way she invites me to her room for sex. I later point out to people that maybe it isn’t such a good idea to do this and receive a torrent of abuse, rape threats and insults.
All of this because I’m a man. Of course that’s nonsense. I will never have to deal with getting told my clothes are too provocative for work when I’m just dressed normally. I will never be criticised for the number of sexual partners I’ve had, in fact I’ll be cheered for it. I will never walk down a dark alley at night, hear footsteps and think “here’s my rape, I wondered when it would come”.
We like to think we live in an equal society but far from it. We live in a society where women who dress up for comic-cons are called fake for putting time, effort and serious energy into a costume- yet I can turn up in a cardboard Iron man suit made of brown boxes and become a minor fan favourite, even if just for the weekend.
I’m not doing this to defend women. They don’t need my defence. I’m doing this because I don’t want to live in a society where I *could* walk down a street and think “here’s my rape”. I’m doing this because sexism affects men as well as women- the patriarchal society with its institutionalise misogyny is damaging to men as well because it tells us we shouldn’t worry that half our population is treated as second class.
Maybe its for selfish reasons- but I need feminism because the last thing any of us need in this world is to be treated like a woman. We need to be treated like human beings. John Lennon said once, and it still rings true – woman is the nigger of the world. And we all know how much anger that word conjures up, it should conjure the same anger when you think of our gender imbalanced society.