I write this essay absolutely heart broken. I am at my wits’ end. The power of socialization defeats me. And I reluctantly recognize, that only women will want women’s freedom as badly as a person suffocating needs to take a breath. At the end of the day, the destructive power of sexism is merely an intellectual exercise for men. For men, it is witnessing someone else’s mistreatment and deciding whether to ignore, support or undermine it. For women, it is waking up everyday to live in a world where you are presumed to be less. Less rational, less equal, less emotionally stable, less economically viable, (have) less political power, less social standing, less brilliance, less respect, less pay, (be) less capable, less strong, less sexual, less less less. And those few men who claim to have made a commitment to re-orient the world, so women fail to be treated as less, are unfortunately less than inspiring. Nonetheless, the fight for equitable societal conditions moves on, as I write this essay to detail 6 habits that leave me clinging to my sisters for support.
Horrid Habit 1: Failing To Understand Sexism As Male-Domination
Patriarchy is a local and global system of dominance that ensures that the social order puts men ahead of women. It is not a system that goes both ways. Women do not possess the power to rob men of social, political and economic resources as a function of gender. Every discomfort that men experience is rooted within patriarchy and aims to perpetuate a system of male dominance. Here are three examples of seeming “male disadvantage”:
- Well men have to pay for dates. Because patriarchy divests in women’s economic power to ensure that women must rely on men for sustenance and thus survival.
- Well women get paid more in porn and get in clubs free. Because porn and club spaces are for men’s consumption and it is men’s sexual demands that are being fulfilled with a supply of women’s bodies.
- Why are men supposed to buy women wedding rings? Because historically women were excluded out of the working force thus ensuring that marriage to men was the only means of survival. To compensate for the lack of living income, women were left with a costly piece of jewelry to sell and use for survival just in case a man made a marriage proposal that they did not fulfill.
In short, every single “male disadvantage” that one could conceive of is rooted in patriarchal social systems that seek to prop men at the top of a sexist hierarchy. And thus men feminists must stop whining and making baseless claims that hint at the possibility of reverse sexism. Sexism is inherently about men’s supremacy.
Horrid Habit 2: Pushing Back As Women Vent Frustration About Maltreatment
Living in a sexist society as a woman who is aware of sexism is soul crushing. It consists of daily microaggressions that seek to remind you of your socially assigned inferior status. Whether it is being sexually harassed at work till you are forced to quit, or the mental rape preventative tactics you have memorized before you go out, living in an unequal world everyday robs women of esteem and dignity. And sometimes women need to vent. Sometimes women need to scream from the top of our lungs and make rude comments about men, as an emotional release to a set of societal circumstances that render us powerless yet captive in patriarchy’s grasps. And our feelings are justified. Prioritizing men’s individual feelings over women’s much needed mental release from damaging experiences of sexism is another way that women’s humanity is denied. Essentially, women are not allowed to be angry about injustice, and must repress justified feelings of contempt to spare men’s feelings.
We are oppressed for goodness sake and the least that men feminists could allow us to do is vent. Instead, women who vent their frustrations are met with ridicule, and multiple attempts to present women’s frustrations as sexist, trivial, and indicative of emotional disturbance.
Horrid Habit 3: The Need To Defend Men’s Collective Reputation Rather Than Addressing Women’s Suffering #NotAllMen
What is worse, a person failing to use “some” in describing how patriarchy emboldens men to rape, or women being raped? According to many men feminists, the failure to specify is reason enough to interrupt a conversation about women’s harm to interject moot points about “generalizing”.
A quick review of how systems of oppression operate.
When Black Americans criticize police brutality, police officers present a narrative of “not all police officers are bad” to shift focus from institutionalized state sponsored violence to speculation about individual police intent. When Black people globally discuss white supremacy, white people pop out of their hidden holes to declare, “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE ARE RACIST”. Beautifully ignoring centuries of anti-Blackness as an effort to reduce racism to bad “feelings”. to speculate on individual white goodness.
The tactic is a successful one. When members of a marginalized identity discuss the ways in which a privileged group robs them of dignity, members of those privileged group immediately derail the content of the conversation by declaring that not all members of the group are bigoted or have ill intent. It’s distracting, and effective. It changes the conversation from one about the experiences and pain of the oppressed, to one that seeks to maintain the moral superiority of those who benefit from oppression..
Ofcourse not all men are bigoted. However, all men are beneficiaries of patriarchy. Whether it is a Ghanaian parliament where close to 90% of those making the laws are men, whether it is Ghanaian men being 2x likely to be educated than Ghanaian women, whether it is marriage not being the basis of defining men’s worth, or heterosexual men’s freedom to be sexual beings (before, during, and after marriage) without malice, all men in some shape or form will benefit from our male supremacist society that reserves unequal shares of resources and goodness for men. So perhaps men feminists can collectively remove their heads from their asses to focus on what needs rectifying: women’s subjugation, rather than derailing conversations about sexism to merely defend the moral standing of men.
Ofcourse all men are not bigoted, but who the fuck cares? Systems of oppression do not need active bigotry to perpetuate itself. Even though a very high number of men are bigoted, (because socialization ensures that men are raised to feel superior to women in many ways) patriarchy does not need men’s active bigotry to assert and reinforce itself. That’s the beauty of systems, they need active dismantling to fail to cease, yet do not necessarily need active participation to exert itself once solid foundations are built.
Here’s a quick discussion about right-handed and left-handed persons to demonstrate what systems of oppression are.
Whether most people are right handed or not, tables/desks in schools, writing instruments, scissors, computer input devices, and power tools are created to cater to the needs of right-handed people, much to the exclusion of left handed persons. While there are few conscious, malicious sentiments about left-handed persons, our entire society is created for the benefit of right-handed people and erases the needs of left-handed people.
- And as a right handed person, I rarely notice the benefits that I am afforded from a society that is created to satisfy my needs.
- As a right-handed person, the early socialization habits that encouraged me to believe that being right-handed was better than being left-handed is something I never interrogated.
- Lastly, as a right-handed person my active bias is unnecessary to further the stigma and discriminatory behavior that targets left-handed people.The institutions that produce the elements of society that continue to satisfy right-handed people’s needs while erasing left-handed people are already in place and can only be eradicated with active dismantling.
Men feminists have much socialization to undo. And nowhere is this fact evident than their repeated attempts to shift the conversation from women’s institutionalized oppression to men’s feelings about generalizing. It is instrumental that men feminists leave the discourse of “not all men” in the garbage, so they can better understand that yes all women are negatively impacted by patriarchy.
Horrid Habit 4: Relying on Sexist Tropes to Assert Dominance Over Women When Cornered
Dismissing women’s thoughts, words, and analysis is very easy. Sexism presumes women to be irrational, and for centuries not even the brightest philosophers have had the courage and the empathy to see women as human equals. From Aristotle to Kant, centuries of Western European knowledge production have operated under the presumption that women lack similar intellectual capacities as men. They have also operated under the belief that women are more likely to be emotionally disturbed, and thus incapable of rational thought.
Anti-feminist tropes rely on sexist categorizations of women as irrational, unreasonable, bitter, and emotionally disturbed, to dismiss women feminists’ critiques. Ad hominem attacks that seek to attack women feminists for being women are often utilized to ignore the content of women’s words. Unfortunately, when cornered by women, men feminists often revert to utilizing sexist stereotypes that present women as irrational, angry and unworthy of being taken seriously. Thereby asserting the male privilege that presumes men to be inherently rational to dismiss women.
Horrid Habit 5: Silence In The Face of Bigotry
Even those men who claim to “get it” demonstrate repeatedly: a lack of empathy, a lack of dedication, and a commitment to all talk and little action. It is women who suffer the brunt of anti-feminist attacks. As women feminists are subjected to demeaning gendered insults, as women feminists are presumed to be intellectually inferior, as women feminists are treated as emotionally disturbed irrational beings, men who are feminist and men who are not, often sit there quietly and watch.Especially when attackers are their friends.
If women are not related to men: if the women targeted are not men’s friends, sisters, mothers or wives, men feminists seldom come to the defense of a woman subjected to violent emotional or verbal attacks.
Horrid Habit 6: False sense of Importance
The sixth irritating habit about men feminists, is (a) the erroneous belief that they are better feminists than they are, and (b) the belief that women feminists will have no “allies” if we do not appease them. Men feminists love to compare themselves to hateful misogynists to look good. This habit occurs any time that a woman feminist critiques a sub-par men feminist. It occurred after my post asking Ghanaian humanist men to eradicate their internal sexism. Men supposedly interested in sexism, unwilling to self-evaluate, asked me to focus on men who abuse me overtly rather than focus on them.
Newsflash: There’s no virtue in being the best of the utmost worst.
Furthermore, many women feminists are not so desperate to be fed that we’ll eat shit offered to us in the form of “allyship”. Men feminists must lose their inflated sense of relevance to the feminist movement. You should be a feminist because it is the righteous thing to do, not because you want admiration, praise, or recognition.
While I look forward to better days with men, I am no longer optimistic about men’s capacity to overcome their advantaged social position to advocate for women’s liberation to the fullest extent.