Getting to 101

A Shapeling (who wishes to remain anonymous for the purpose of this thread) has some questions she’s been mulling after some of our recent discussions about gender and feminism. What do you do when the men in your life are only partway to feminism — when they agree that, say, women should have equal pay for equal work, and that rape is bad, but they think the rest of it is silly or overreacting? Or when they don’t accept that some of their own behavior — whether it’s as “minor” as flirting in the street or as major as thinking their sexual needs are more urgent and non-negotiable than their female partners’ — contributes to the culture of sexism?

Our Shapeling asks:

So I guess my question is, how do you navigate this type of territory?  How do you educate a loved one about their own sexist behavior when they don’t believe they are being sexist?  Without any back story, the easy response is that I should just dump him if he can’t learn to respect me and take me seriously…  But what do you do about men you can’t dump?  What do you do if it’s like, your uncle, or your dad, or your brother?  You can’t just dump your family.  So what are you supposed to do when you’re dealing with someone who, for the most part, is on board with your feminism, but still has certain sexist expectations about you, and is unwilling to admit or acknowledge that certain behaviors are sexist?

I’m sure we all have some experience with negotiating our own feminism (and other commitments to social justice) with reluctant people in our lives. What do you do when people you care about convinced they’re not sexist — and are wrong?

583 thoughts on “Getting to 101

  1. Sometimes I find that I can reach people by putting concepts in terms they are familiar with/understand; sometimes literally asking people to think about standing in the shoes of someone else is an effective way to get them to think about social justice issues. I especially try to stay away from jargon, assumptions, and common lingo when I’m talking with people about basic feminist topics. Just using the “F” word is enough to put some people off, so I kind of try to back into things and to make sure that assertions are always connected so that people can follow the logic.

    Like, “hey, you think rape is bad, that’s awesome, can you see how something like stalking might/does lead to rape?”

    I’m also a big fan of small doses. I’ve been introducing my father to intersectional feminism, and I find that it’s way better to give him little soundbites to think about, than to lob the book at him, as it were. It gives him a chance to digest and process things on his own terms, so that when he sees me next, he’s settled in a bit. He might even have questions I can answer, now that he’s had an opportunity to get over a kneejerk response.

    A lot of people seem to get highly defensive when introduced to social justice issues because they think that they, personally, are being attacked or asked to do something right this very minute. If you can help make it less scary for them, they tend to be more open.

    Sometimes. Other people, of course, are a lost cause. (Otherwise, where would we get more trolls from?!)

  2. My partner is super on-board with feminism and understands his male privilege… my boyfriend, not so much. He mostly just has no idea what feminism is about, has never had to examine his privilege, kinda just doesn’t see the water of sexism he’s been swimming in his whole life.

    He was watching me play Zelda: Twilight Princess the other night and commented that “The game designers must enjoy being dominated by forceful women!” because of the character Midna, who is a bossy little female creature. And I was like, uh, what? So I called him out thusly: “For that to be true, you’re assuming that a) all the game desingers were straight men*, and b) the only reason they would write a strong female character is that they like being sexually dominated. I don’t know if I’m on board with that line of reasoning.”

    Unfortunately that did not inspire the productive discussion I would have liked. His response was a slightly sheepish “…ok.”

    I’m planning on giving him a book I read about in the latest issue of Bitch, called Men and Feminism. I haven’t read it yet, but according to the review it’s good for beginners who don’t know much about feminist history and examines how feminism benefits men. Considering that he’s not actively misogynist, just ignorant, I think it will help him realize that a lot of his assumptions are sexist and a lot of the movies, TV and stuff he likes are sexist too. Like, I explained why I wasn’t too keen on “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (because it has 3 women in it who are all accessories to men: a stripper who is basically scenery, a passed-out girlfriend who never speaks, and an older poker dealer dealing a game for the boys) and his response was “It’s a guy movie!”

    *they could also be lesbians but I’m sure that was NOT one of the assumptions working in his mind…

  3. I’d probably just give the same s*it back in kind, when possible. If they were, say, mocking some woman’s appearance, I’d attack them the exact same way:

    “Yeah? So you consider yourself a regular male model, right? So what’s the deal with those fat rolls of yours, eh?

    Or

    “So how would you like it if your wife flirted all the time?”

    However, why would you need to do anything? Just tell them that if those really are their opininions, you can’t respect them. Period. Then have as little to do with them as possible and/or live your life as you se fit.

    “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

  4. I know this isn’t an easy path, but being someone who is not bothered by being alone I don’t have too much of a problem with this. If the men in my life won’t listen to my voice of reason and experience then I don’t need them and it is their loss. I’m better off without them.

    However, I understand that is most people won’t or can’t do so I hope for the sake of the querent and others in a similar situation that others have some helpful advice.

  5. I am one of those guys, so I can empathize with the questioner’s plight.

    For myself, I tend to resist when I feel people are telling me how to think or what I should believe regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Meloukhia’s strategy of ‘small doses’ and giving the person a chance to process what you’re throwing at him seems like a sound strategy to me.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to recognize that I have no control over what people choose to do with their lives or what they choose to believe. I think it was my sister who first threw the question at me that you have to ask yourself in any given situation “How important is this specific issue in this specific relationship?”

    I think that’s a decision people have to make for themselves.

    Dan

  6. I keep my mouth shut and laugh or cry as necessary behind his back. I’ve had that argument, and I’ve lost that argument, over and over again. I’ve stopped trying.

  7. If the man in question is willing to have an actual conversation about it, I would tell him that the reason I’m bringing it up at all is because I care about him and want him in my life but he is hurting me when he says/does X. That might help to get it across to him to really pay attention to what you are saying.

  8. I think a link to Liss’s “My Terrible Bargain’s” post would be great here, but I have search engine fail, and can’t find it.

    The simple answer is that there are no simple answers. Navigating relationships with men you “can’t dump” but who remain somewhat unevolved when it comes to gender/race/FA/etc. issues, is flat out tough, especially if you are a conflict avoidant, “keep the peace” type like me. Alot of times it’s easier to let things slide and go unaddressed even when they make you uncomfortable, but that, admittedly solves absolutely nothing.

    Take, for example, my father, whom I adore, but who says some asinine shit from time to time. Recently, he forwarded two email “jokes” to me and a long list of friends and family that were blatantly sexist and racist. I decided that deleting the emails wasn’t enough this time, so I wrote him back saying that the “jokes” were disgusting and politely asked him to quit sending that sort of thing my way. Sometimes just knowing that there is at least one person who won’t tolerate that kind of “humor” is enough to get someone’s attention, and this time it did. He apologized for offending me but unfortunately also took the opportunity to try to defend the indefensible. So I took that as an opportunity to send him a long response about why he should most definitely play it safe in this area.

    In this case, I appealed to his position as an employer, a husband, and a father, who exercises both privilege and authority over women and persons of color on a day to day basis. Now, in my experience, this is a man who has always treated his employees and female relatives with respect but who is prone to the occasional insensitive remark. Appealing to his self-interest, I explained how a stray remark can quickly turn into a lawsuit, but I also explained how those kinds of remarks can create hostile work/relationship environments for people who are differentially empowered relative to him. As someone who is basically compassionate wants to remain on good terms with female employees and relatives, he ought to recognize that bigoted jokes sabotage healthy relationships by making people feel inferior and unsafe. This argument seemed to be pretty persuasive in this case, though it probably wouldn’t be for everyone.

    For example, the fight my husband and I recently had. In the midst of a conversation about budgeting, he began praising me for my frugality and responsibility when it comes to managing our finances. A compliment, right? Then he dug himself a big old hole by comparing me favorably to, basically, every other woman in the world, becuz, ya know, chicks don’t know the value of a dollar right? They don’t have to worry about money cuz Daddy will always bail them out, right? When I pointed out how sexist this was, he got defensive and wouldn’t back down. Pointing out that his compliment had backfired and made me actually feel like shit did not persaude him. I’m still kind of reeling over that one.

  9. Oooh, good topic.

    These are often the folks who will react really badly if the word ‘sexism’ even enters the discussion, too. I find it helpful to frame things in terms of basic fairness when I’m dealing with this. For example, my dad, who’s generally on board with feminism but still has sexist ideas, was raised to believe that well-mannered men hold doors for women. It drives him nuts when I hold the door open for him, instead. So I tried pointing out that holding doors, generally, is about courtesy, right? About helping someone else? So why not people holding doors for other people, just generally– especially if one person’s hands are full, or one gets to the door first? Isn’t that a courtesy everyone can show, instead of operating with the assumption that women are too weak to open doors?

  10. My boyfriend of many years is a slowly reforming sexist. I had admitting it, but there it is. Sometimes he thoughtfully considers his privilege, and sometimes he says shit I can’t stand about women on television, or laughs at a craptastic Bill Maher joke. In these situations, I do not call him sexist. He gets defensive and it all goes down hill. I’ve found this line of reasoning works best:
    Boyfriend: “Haha, that Bill Maher is hilarious. Jessica Simpson’s tits, haha.”

    Me: “Honey, how would you feel if Bill Maher were talking about my tits on television? Or your mom’s tits.”

    Boyfriend: “Uhhhh…. what?”

    Me: “When Bill Maher says something disgusting about a woman that makes people laugh, the joke isn’t just on Jessica Simpson. It’s on women. All of us. Me, your sisters, your mother, your aunts, etc. Bill Maher just made a joke about me, and instead of defending me, you’re laughing.”

    Boyfriend: “Shit.”

    Me: “Yeah.”

    That will usually lead to a more thoughtful discussion. Just like always, make the political personal.

  11. I’ve used two strategies that seem to have had some success.

    The first one was making a list of “guys who get it.” The ones who are “all in.” The ones who I think could teach a Feminism 101 class with his eyes shut and one hand tied behind his back. It’s a really short list. Then I refer to the list, out loud, in public, where the Guys-Who-Almost-Get-It can hear. Twice, now, that’s inspired men in my life to shape up (without me having to ask). They’d been handed some role-models and a challenge, all rolled up in one little list.

    The second strategy is finding things they can do, finding a difference they can make. At least one almost-feminist man in my life seems like he’s hanging back because it’s such a huge, complicated problem and he can’t see himself making any difference. So we’ve talked about how, for instance, he could notice when his coworkers make demeaning comments about women, and he could say something. He’s still mulling over *what* he can say. But the fact that he’s planning to take action means that he’s *paying attention* and notices all sorts of crap that would otherwise be under the radar for him.

    (Ashley, the Terrible Bargain post you were looking for is here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/08/terrible-bargain-we-have-regretfully.html?dsq=14842461#comment-14842461)

  12. i think one of the easiest places to start is just to say that whether he agrees with you or not, you find x behavior bothersome, and he should quit doing or saying it around you as a simple measure of respect. i dated one fellow who felt it appropriate to use racial slurs. i wasn’t going to change him or his mind on that one, but i didn’t enjoy hearing them, and as someone who was at the time teaching a college course on multicultural feminism, it felt extra icky to have it in my consciousness and kind of interfered with my teaching, so he agreed to knock it off. again, not because he agreed with my premise (he “used it as a joke”?), but because as a friend and partner, he respected my wishes.

    as far as the other stuff, when i used to teach race and gender issues (to very resistant upper middle class white southern kids) i started as basic as i could – explaining how patriarchy and racism aren’t really about overt acts against marginalized individuals or groups, or often even about conscious attitudes towards them, but about systems of privilege. benefiting from a system of privilege doesn’t make you racist or misogynist, but it’s nice to understand and acknowledge the privilege you have that others don’t. that way, people start to understand that it’s not just about “don’t rape, don’t objectify, don’t discriminate, don’t call people names,” but bigger systems that we can’t always control or even fight directly.

    so then when the system idea sinks in, i usually would go from there to media analysis and critical thinking — okay, we can’t fix everything, but we can look at what’s around us and comment on whether or not it’s contributing to a system we don’t like. then there’s an opening to talk about everyday actions and things like that, stuff you see on tv and in the news, and you’ve opened up the dialogue. and i agree that it’s also a good place to talk about not only if it’s insulting to women, but if it assumes insulting things about men as well (e.g., is he ruled by his penis without a brain of his own, is he viewed as an incompetent doofus in the home, etc.?), because that’s often a good way to get men on board with the conversation.

    and i think it’s also worth acknowledging that even as feminists, sometimes we do stuff that contributes to the kyriarchy too, that for one thing not everything is clear-cut, and that sometimes we just want what we want and it’s not always for the right reasons, but as long as we can talk about it and unpack it and understand its repercussions it doesn’t have to make us “Bad Feminists”.

  13. The Shakesville post is amazing. This quotation is what scares me about talking feminism and male privilege:

    Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

    Why do we take it personally? Because it is personal! How is that not obvious?

    I have trouble keeping discussions civil when I feel as though people aren’t understanding my points. This all seems so simple to me: catcalling, cow-calling, and judging womens’ bodies are all part of the same pattern of thinking that can lead to assault and rape.

  14. On the whole, my boyfriend is a better example of overcoming male bias than most men I’ve met, but there are times when he quite obviously is speaking from a place of privilege and he doesn’t even realize it. Its hard for me to point out his behavior at those times, because his behavior and beliefs are so consistently positive in all other respects.

    For example, he is known, on many occasions, to preface a comment about women in his experience with “I’m sorry hon, but it really is usually all women”, and in those cases, I usually let it slide. I probably shouldn’t, because its one of the most pervasive and hard to eliminate elements of discrimination to assume that a few constitute the whole, but he never extrapolates those beliefs to his behavior with me, and I almost never want to stir the waters unnecessarily.

    I would suppose that the best thing to do when faced with male privilege, especially unwitting, is to make sure that you stay calm when you are explaining your point of view, and stay consistent in calling out certain behaviors. Use humor if you have to but make sure he understands even when the smallest comments are sexist, and stick to your guns.

  15. My partner is rather enlightened, and I don’t mean he has it all sewn up, but rather he has an amazingly teachable heart. He has created space in our relationship to deal with issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, size and how it intersects with my feminism. He listens way more than he talks, but also gives me appropriate push back when I’m being truculent.

    We talk out a lot of issues, despite my aversion to “processing”. Also, he doesn’t seem to get too freaked when I start ranting and spontaneously burst into flames.

    I think when I’m dealing with a clueless guy, I make a choice about how much of myself and time I feel like invested, depending on the situation and what my desired outcome will be. There are some people who are NEVER going to get it. And while i have no desire to let them off the hook, if I can just get them NOT to say that shit out loud, at least there is some realization they’re being fucked up.

    But I’m not a very good activist due to my cynical nature.

  16. For my partner… It started with pointing out that I, personally, am not better at social stuff than he is, but his family got cross with ME when we became a couple and WE didn’t send them greetings cards for birthdays, Christmas etc. He had never bothered, himself.

    Then the way his mother would quietly criticise MY housework, when she used to visit him and clean his flat, before we were a couple.

    He had grown up with the rhetoric of equality – he believed men and women were equal, and that women have a lot of power these days, and that women should be allowed proper jobs, and so on. But what he saw was different. He sometimes says that his mother was a feminist and would have gone on rallies and marches and stuff but she had to get home in time to cook her husband’s dinner.

    Stark undeniable reproducible examples made a huge difference. As did pointing out when *I* made sexist assumptions *too*.

  17. When it’s my husband, or my brother, or someone close enough to me that I have a real vested interest in the outcome, I just…keep going.

    It’s absolutely true that they tend to react all defensive-like, but I react defensively when someone calls me on my shit, too. And then I go away and either think about it or don’t, but either way the awareness that maybe I was wrong seeps into my worldview. And next time, maybe I won’t add the irrelevant racial descriptor into that anecdote, or make the quip about fashion designers designing for pre-pubescent boys, or whatever.

    So it’s dripping water onto a stone, but I’ll still point it out every time, and hopefully wear something away in the process.

    It’s also easier, I think, to use examples that don’t hit them where they hurt. My husband will react like whoa if I pointed out that in all probability, his professional success is only partially due to his own hard work and a lot due to his class, race and sex. But when I talk about the fact that an advertisement for [male dominated profession] has only men on the screen, and girls won’t see that advert and think of it as an option for them, he’ll agree with me. I’m not directly threatening his self worth that way, you see.

  18. It’s also easier, I think, to use examples that don’t hit them where they hurt. My husband will react like whoa if I pointed out that in all probability, his professional success is only partially due to his own hard work and a lot due to his class, race and sex. But when I talk about the fact that an advertisement for [male dominated profession] has only men on the screen, and girls won’t see that advert and think of it as an option for them, he’ll agree with me. I’m not directly threatening his self worth that way, you see.

    I’m so taking this advice. I have done the thing (when I’m especially feeling beaten down) where I do what you mention trying to avoid. It is never pretty.

  19. It really depends on the person and the situation for me. With my brother, any attempt at a discussion will devolve into a screaming match because he hates his opinions to be challenged. So I’ll change the subject or leave the room, depending on the level of offensiveness. My stepfather, on the other hand, is quite rational and will listen to my arguements, but he has a habit of dismissing certain things(especially when it relates to emotional reactions) as inconsequential. So I have to try to keep my emotions out of the conversation if I want him to really listen.

    For some reason, the image of the Bride in Kill Bill trying to break through the wood comes to mind. Sometimes you have to hit the same place a million times before you crack it, much less break through.

  20. I have found more success with the eating the elephant strategy. One bite at a time. The best teaching tool (at least for me) is the media. When I’m with my brothers I’ll just point things out. Like the enormous jugs on every single woman in gaming animation or how the Halloween costumes in a commercial are all sexy for women and the men get regular costumes. They translate it to the world around them really well.

    I don’t try this with guy friends much. Cowardice I guess. Except one time I confided to a male team mate that I got depressed after we interviewed a candidate who was clearly less qualified and experienced than me. “you know, he will always make more money than me” I told him and then by a fluke we found out that guy made double what I make. It really shocked my male team mate and I think gave some of my feminist comments some validity in his eyes. But that was dumb luck.

    The women in my life (friends, relatives) are much harder to talk to about this. They are much more resistant and I find they tend to “police” me more than the men in my life. Like they need to regulate my behavior on the behalf of all women. They always just want me to “get over it.” It is like they think I’ll give them a bad name. They are much more afraid of the feminism equals no man in your life myth.

  21. @snarkysmachine: I laughed at your description of ranting and bursting into flames, because I often do the same thing! My boyfriend has come to accept that though certain topics will always get me angry and frothing, my anger is not directed at him, and he has become a good sounding board for me when I discuss potential posts.

    As to the main topic, I’ve often had success by using anecdata, and explaining why my own personal experiences color the way I view certain issues. That approach is not for everyone, obviously, but if you’re alright with discussing personal information in an argument or debate, that tactic can really bring it home.

    Generally speaking, I second a lot of the other advice that has been posted. Couch it in general terms so the person doesn’t feel attacked, ask the guy to imagine that statement about his mother/girlfriend/sister/daughter, simply state that you’re offended by that statement and/or line of thinking.

    That was a lo of slashies!

    Anyhow, I definitely am looking forward to reading more responses and advice as this comment thread continues.

  22. This was an issue I learned to navigate much more carefully with my last boyfriend. He was the Most Defensive Person On The Planet, super passive-aggressive in an argument, and easily annoyed if I expressed opinions he thought were too one-sided (like, you know, opinions). Yeah, we had problems. But anyway, we fought like crazy, and that generally got us nowhere. If he said something offensive and I reacted in a (very justly) offended manner, he would get defensive, and then attack. So while I didn’t back off about expressing hurt when he was hurtful, and I would completely stand up for myself, I also stopped bringing up social justice issues in an overt way. Instead I’d make little jokes and comments, or share something funny that I saw (Sarah Haskins for the win), and over the course of a year or two I saw significant changes in his opinions. He’d still get super impatient if I took a stand on an issue, but he actually said to me in one conversation near the end of our relationship, “I think I actually agree with you about a lot of that fat acceptance stuff now,” which made me basically fall over on the floor in shock. Saying one little joke and or comment and then leaving him to think about it for two weeks before saying anything else was by far the most persuasive technique I tried with a super-defensive person.

  23. I try to decide what behaviors are non-negotiable in my relationship. For example, I don’t want to be nagged about sex, or have to call and report on my whereabouts, or want my partner to assume that I will do x chore.

    With those things in mind, I am very conscious of not asking my partner to do the same kind of thing. When something comes up, I can say: You know how I work very hard to treat you like a complete, responsible person and not just like an accessory in my life? That is what I expect from you as well.

    It is about feminism because it proceeds from the idea that I am a person, but it’s not about feminist “theory” which makes it more palatable.

    Also, I know that we don’t live in a perfect world and that we all have to make compromises, BUT if someone is doing something that makes you uncomfortable and won’t change when you let them know; then they don’t respect you. Period, full stop. If we continue to spend time and energy on them, knowing that it is against our interest, we are saying we don’t deserve to be treated well.

  24. (Note that I do not recommend dating someone like that. He was also embarrassed to show affection in public because people might see us, and he criticized my clothes. Bad times.)

    The complete flip side is the guy I have a massive crush on right now. (But cannot date. sooooo saaaaad.) When I jokingly pointed out that his handwriting is girlier than mine, he joked right back (knowing I’m a feminist) that I am just so gender essentialist, which made me stammer and blush and then want to kiss him. Note to romantic interests, do more things like this plz.

  25. I think what I’m about to say has already been said upthread in various forms, but I’d like to underline the point a bit. One strategy that works really well for me when communicating with people close to me is to use “I” phrases as much as possible. It tends to keep the defensive reaction to a minimum and it works quite well for my wife when she needs to check my behavior. For instance, rather than say something like, “That was an asinine comment to make,” she might say, “That comment makes me feel like crap, why did you say that?” The first phrase is likely to get my back up, whereas the second one poses an honest query that’s hard to avoid when coming from a loved one.

    Although I’m quite sure that they are many instances where a simple, “You’re full of shit,” would be more appropriate, if I’m talking with people I love then I want to avoid confrontations and this seems to work well. YMMV :-]

  26. I love my father. He is never going to be a feminist. This is not a deal breaker for this relationship because, well, it just isn’t.

    What I have found, however, is that he respects my opinion and that we disagree. He also knows that I will be vocal about any issues that come up.

    In the rest of my life, I live in the bubble of the Bay Area so my male friends and partner are hip to the ideas…and my clients/patients are not people I discuss personal philosophy with.

  27. I have a friend who fits that description to a T. He says his mom raised him to believe that women are his equals in every way, but then he doesn’t understand the rape culture that exists (Or refuses to believe it) or he doesn’t see how sexism hurts men and women, not just women. Today I tried the tack of reasoning with him in his own language (“Women can be just as bad as men when it comes to cheating!) and turn it around so that he sees that while that may be true, society has come to expect men to be unable to control themselves, and women are expected to be weak. It really helped that we were discussing the case US v. Virginia in which Justice Ginsburg gets the first woman into VMI.

    On a much brighter note, a guy at school who I haven’t hung out with much was watching the Daily Show with me in the lounge and the bit about Franken’s Rape Clause Amendment came up. I was overjoyed to find out that he was on exactly the right page with rape culture and he completely understood the idea of Schrodinger’s Rapist and all that comes with it! I almost cried, but I don’t know him that well so I just said “Hearing you say that makes me feel wonderful. You have no idea.”

  28. One step at a time. Some days, several steps in the right direction – some days, no steps at all. My SO is really good about these things from an intellectual standpoint, but he has this amazing ability to express male points of view that I just never understood. So we are both learning from each other. Also, while I consider myself more and more of a feminist, I came from a very traditional upbringing, and I have to put a lot of effort into considering my own expectations, behaviors, and responses around gender roles than into correcting the men in my life about theirs.

    On a semi-related topic: I’ve been wondering: what countries in the world are the most feminist? (I have a 1 year old child, and sometimes the thought of raising her in the US really worries me – esp. when I see all the statistics.) Someone told me Mongolia …?

  29. I try very hard when dealing with people who I disagree with to not become a “woman who explains things.” (They do exsist, I am totally one of them, I get away with it because I am bigger and louder than most men, I have glasses that make me look smart and a scary sounding job title. I try not to do it though, which I like to think makes me superior to other explainers, even though it probably doesn’t.) No one likes to be lectured. I also try to provide sources other than my opinion for people, articles, videos, so on and so forth on whatever the issue is if it is appropriate.

    I think the most important thing, if you really want to change mindsets is to give people the opportunity to change their minds, without having to admit that they were wrong (y’know, even when they are.) Admitting they were wrong, or have been wrong for like their whole lives, or have been treating women badly forever, so on and so forth is a HUGE deal that can mean basically saying “I thought I was a good person, but I was wrong, I’m an ASSHOLE” and that’s pretty unlikely. A lot of times you need to make an argument less personal. If someone is saying offensive stuff, you’re probably not going to win them over right away on its offensiveness because then they have to admit what they did wrong.

    It’s not about what they do or say, it’s about society as a whole encouraging them to do or say things that oppress people. This means it is not about them doing something wrong, it’s about some larger issue. And a lot of times the changing of minds happens slowly over time, gradual exposure to different viewpoints really does change people. (So essentially I agree with everyone else on this thread and my comment is totally unnecessary.)

    As for whether or not they stay in your life, personally I don’t cut people out of my life for disagreeing with me. My father and I essentially will never agree on anything, but he’s still a good person, just, foxnewsed, crochety and unwilling change his mind. (I seriously expect he’ll be telling me to get off his lawn any day now.) I try to avoid sensitive topics, when he goes of on a tear spouting the latest right wing talking point I just ignore him and let him talk or change the subject. He’s not interested in fair debate, he’s only interested in people agreeing with him.

    But even though he’s ashamed of me for being a fat athiest liberal living in sin with her fat boyfriend, he has never cut off contact with me because of it. We’ve had some pretty epic fights, but at the end of the day we both focus on the good about the other person. (this is made easier by living far away from one another and watching our tongues.)

    That said even though he disagrees with me a lot, he’s never tried to stop me from being myself. And I think that’s the key. If he had threatened me, or pushed me to be other than myself I’m sure our relationship would have faded.

    So anyway, I try to go for an agree to disagree attitude. I still call people out (you should see me with my rural not-quite-in-laws, omg) but they are entitled to their (completely wrong) opinions and I am entitled to mine.

  30. One strategy that works really well for me when communicating with people close to me is to use “I” phrases as much as possible. It tends to keep the defensive reaction to a minimum and it works quite well for my wife when she needs to check my behavior. For instance, rather than say something like, “That was an asinine comment to make,” she might say, “That comment makes me feel like crap, why did you say that?” The first phrase is likely to get my back up, whereas the second one poses an honest query that’s hard to avoid when coming from a loved one.

    This is a good one; Mr Machine and I use it all the time. I hasten to add that Mr Machine is a committed and knowledgeable feminist — there are only the occasional things that he does that push my buttons harder than he realizes. One of them is that he doesn’t realize how personally I take comments about my appearance, even with all my FA-fu (and I’m talking comments in both directions). So, for instance, when I was on acne medication but really hated my dermatologist, he said something like, “You can just stop going! The medicine isn’t doing much anyway,” which my brain translated immediately into “Your skin is hideously ugly,” which of course was not what he meant. It wasn’t a feminism fail on his part so much as a “SM has internalized body shame so much that even neutral comments do not feel neutral” fail. Anyway, when I did talk to him about it later that day, it was really helpful for me to go “That thing you said affected me much more than I let on at the time: here’s why” than “You suck for saying that” (which is not what I meant, anyway).

    Uh, wow, so that was all very personal. Point being: “I” statements! I endorse them!

  31. My aunt’s answer was, “Never trust someone who is untrustworthy.” She then repeated it about 20 times. And to all my, “But –“‘s, she repeated it again.

    She’s right.

    The men in question can be trusted for some things, like following certain social scripts they already follow or following their own convenience. It’s reasonable to trust them that far if you decide you want to.

    It’s not reasonable to invest trust in them that they’ll treat you as a person who matters when they’re faced with a situation for which they have no socially-indoctrinated script, or which goes too far against their convenience.

    For example, I trust one of my co-workers to be good at what he does, well-behaved at work, and worth collaborating with if a project comes up that we’d like to work together on. I also trust him to be fun to have around when a bunch of us go out to dinner. I wouldn’t trust him as a close friend though, because he hasn’t even attempted to confront how blind to reality he is.

    With such guys I draw a circle around what I know they can be trusted for, don’t trust them for anything else, and then decide whether I want to bother with them or not. And I drop the occasional pebble in their pool of blindness when it comes up in conversation.

  32. The first one was making a list of “guys who get it.”

    Holy shit, you have a list? My list would have zero entries.

  33. My husband will react like whoa if I pointed out that in all probability, his professional success is only partially due to his own hard work and a lot due to his class, race and sex.

    I have zero patience with that kind of crap. I’m in a profession that is supposed to be all about the pursuit of verifiable reality, so people who want to be in that kind of profession *and* have their little pet delusions about how they got there strike me as ridiculously incompetent, and I can’t trust their work as much as I can that of a rational person.

  34. On lists, I have 3 on the “almost get it” list. The list of “think they get it but haven’t got a clue” is really long, and I know they’d all be really offended about the elderly white Republican dude being on my “almost get it” list when they’re not. But he walks the walk of being a feminist ally far, far more than any of them do.

  35. Oh crap. I would like to apologize for using an ableist metaphor for ignorance/willful ignorance — I used “blindness”.

    I’m sorry.

  36. Helen Huntingdon, your Tante Tautology scares me.

    I suspect a lot of this may prove analogous to ‘invisible disability’ issues. These people are not aware they are sexist because sexism is invisible to them. Quite likely sexism is invisible to them because they are not listening. Pretty much like the people at several former workplaces of mine who refused to accommodate for some simple sensory-integration problems I’ve got, instead insisting that I am lazy or would adapt with continued practice/pressure.

    I am at a loss as to how to make people see the logic of, “Dipshit, how dare you suppose that your assessment of what my experience must be like is more valid than my own.” Sorry.

  37. I had a close male friend ask me if I thought it was fair for a woman to be expected to have dinner on the table for her husband when he came home from work if she had stayed at home all day. I told him absolutely not. I told him that if he removed gender from the equation, it would be slightly less offensive but if children or work from home were factored in, the equation would change as well. He said that all his female friends he asked that question had the same response. And he was a little shocked. Thus began his very, very, agonizingly slow path toward dropping his sexism. It’s difficult. He is very encouraging of women in general, very positive toward women’s rights, is pro-choice, and anti-rape, but his commentary gets to be pretty problematic. Like meloukhia said, a little bit at a time. That’s what I’m finding works best. Ideally, it would be 101 all the time, but as with all things, people respond in different stages to different things. So when it comes up, we talk about it. Or we try to. Sometimes I just can’t deal with his bullshit, so the conversation is short.

    Best of luck, anon!

  38. Grafton, that must be infuriating.

    A relative of mine can’t process verbal lists. It’s part of a form of dyslexia, and it’s the only thing left she hasn’t worked out a way to do anyway. A written list works fine, or giving her time to write down what you say as you say it, both of which are really easy to do. So often the accommodations people need are just that simple, and you have to wonder what is going on with people who won’t make them.

  39. @volcanista That is such an adorable response. I’d swoon if a guy were to say something like that to me!

  40. Volcanista, that I so great I might steal it.

    As far as pebble-dropping goes, I’ve found adopting a just-between-us-insiders approach works amazingly well. “Whoa, you might want to be careful who you say that to,” for example, usually startles them enough that they really listen to the answer when they ask why. And with male colleagues, “Just so you know, that can get you fired at some companies / in this day and age / in this country / in the country you’re about to visit.”

  41. Helen Huntingdon, it is indeed infuriating. I’ve some problems similar to what you describe.

    I had to quit a job because I essentially went ’round the twist with the strain of having people insist on talking at me while somebody else was talking at me, and people insisting that it was okay to get my attention by tapping me on the shoulder. I can’t filter the one so I’d get yelled at for not paying attention, and the other, well. Mostly I cannot stand to be touched. I was terrorized all day by stuff that other people decided didn’t matter, and I am guessing that this is what happens to women all the time. And then, like me, you’re just being whiney and demanding if you want it to stop so you can please god just function.

  42. Ugh. This hits home, as I got into a screaming fight with my husband (we never fight) about this not long ago, re both gender and race, when we drove past a billboard advertising Don Imus’ show and he decided he wanted to debate whether people should just “get over” Imus’ infamous comment. I knew from experience that he’s a sticks-and-stones type who simply does not agree with me that words have power, so I calmly but firmly declined to discuss the issue. But he just kept pushing.

    What the argument came down to was his belief that feminism and antiracism were useful for things like suffrage, of course, but that everything else is just people being too sensitive. I pointed out that he did not have the authority to decide which issues were the “important” ones in other people’s lives, and that the stuff they bring up must be important because for every issue that an oppressed person speaks up about, there are usually ten or twenty or a hundred that they just swallow because it’s too tiring to fight back. Like what, he said. Like this conversation, I replied; I knew that discussing this would be exhausting and upsetting for me (because for him it’s an intellectual exercise, and for me it’s my life), so instead of fighting to voice my opinion, I chose just not to discuss it, and by pushing the issue, he took that choice away from me.

    I don’t know whether it was my words or the fact that I’d started to cry (something I never do), but that seemed to get through a bit, although the fight got worse before it got better (according to him, I thought he was “stupid” because I pointed out that he doesn’t fucking know what other people’s lives are like). We’ve been together thirteen years and I love him more than life itself, but it breaks my heart knowing he will never, ever get it.

  43. If you want to know, this guy finds the phrase
    “What about the menz”
    extremely off-putting. I know this is your site and if I’m going to hang out here that means accepting the jargon. But if someone were seeking my attention instead, that would probably be a conversation ender.

  44. Yes. I swooned. It is only one example of him saying something awesome and me swooning. Example from ten minutes ago on the phone: “I was going to show a video in class tomorrow by this feminist talking about how global economic policy affects women’s social status, but it’s actually really boring because she speaks in a monotone, so I think I need to cut it short and only show part of it.” *SWOON*

    First I wrote “swoom,” which I think should mean something. Maybe it’s a very fast swoon. SWOOM

    SORRY this thread was about how to talk to guys who DON’T get it. So maybe you can compare them to this one guy I have a crush on and say, “PLEASE BE MORE LIKE HIM.” I’ll tell you, I am very tempted to do that, in no small part because this guy is unavailable. If more people acted like him I would find them pretty irresistible and would absolutely have more dating options!

    People of the world, please be more awesome so I want to date you, thnx.

  45. If more people acted like him I would find them pretty irresistible and would absolutely have more dating options!

    WHY DON’T YOU JUST APPROACH MORE MEN, IT WORKS EVERY TIME

  46. I have zero patience with that kind of crap. I’m in a profession that is supposed to be all about the pursuit of verifiable reality, so people who want to be in that kind of profession *and* have their little pet delusions about how they got there strike me as ridiculously incompetent, and I can’t trust their work as much as I can that of a rational person.

    Right, but, can you see how as a ‘getting to 101′ step, it’s awfully confronting to tell someone that they are not as clever/successul/hard working as they’ve always thought? We’re talking here about how to get to 101 from a place of such invisible privilege that it’s never needed to be confronted before. Telling someone that they haven’t earned their success, and then following that up with ‘and you’re obviously delusional and irrational if you can’t see that, thus I can’t trust you professionally any more’ is possibly not completely uncounterproductive.

    Now that he’s accustomed to spotting more hidden sexism, he’s more aware that women in his field get a rough deal in ways that he would never have thought of before. And on some level, that does translate to “…and therefore I get an easier deal”. So the goal is accomplished: he’s not inclined to assume that women don’t excel in his industry because they’re less hardworking or less competent, but because of a macho culture and inherent sexism that begins in school.

    I do think that ‘oh, crap, that means that what success I do have is only partially earned’ is something one has to come to oneself, rather than hear it from another person.

    Aleks, is it because it’s dismissive? The way I understand What about the menz is that it’s utilised where women are talking about their experience, and men come along all ‘but you have overlooked the fact that Men Are Also Sometimes A Bit Unfulfilled’ and expect the women to both drop their conversation in favour of that one, and/or to be activists on behalf of men’s issues.

    I mean, if someone were seeking your attention in the first place, it would make no sense for them to be ‘WATM’, right?

  47. aleks, I think that phrase (which I often see as WATM) is usually directed at someone who’s already derailed a thread — I agree that it may not be effective in a respectful, engaged conversation, but IME that is rarely happening anyway when the phrase needs to be pulled out. But I appreciate hearing your opinion.

  48. I do think that ‘oh, crap, that means that what success I do have is only partially earned’ is something one has to come to oneself, rather than hear it from another person.

    Yeah, I specifically remember my brother telling me and my SIL that he didn’t have white/male privilege because “no one opened any doors for me.” To which we both rolled our eyes and said, “It’s not about which doors are opened, it’s about which ones were closed” and kinda left it at that. I’m not sure if that made any impact, but it helped me think about where that defensiveness comes from.

  49. aleks, why is it off-putting? I really don’t get it. If a woman of color used “oh wah, what about the white girls” on me, I wouldn’t end the conversation, I’d go into it further to make sure I understood what she meant.

  50. rainne, it’s actually really productive, because now I know that the man in question has no reasonable level of control over his own confirmation bias. It makes all of his work more questionable than if he had a rational perception of his own abilities.

    These things are closely knit together. You can’t be a good pursuer of rational inquiry if your estimation of your own abilities is that flawed.

  51. Telling someone that they haven’t earned their success, and then following that up with ‘and you’re obviously delusional and irrational if you can’t see that, thus I can’t trust you professionally any more’ is possibly not completely uncounterproductive.

    Ah, I see. I don’t go around having that conversation. What I do is what I outlined above; note where they can be trusted, note that the pursuit of rational inquiry in any but the most limited forms is not part of that, and then get on with life.

  52. @meloukhia and dan_brodribb: I think the “small doses” strategy sounds like the best approach for men one wants to keep in hir life, because it will be taken as more of a discussion and less of an attack. (The fact that a woman can’t just jump right into a robust debate with a man and must instead tiptoe into it to get any amount of respect or consideration given to her ideas is itself a great example of why such men need a little feminism in their lives, IMO. If you’re a man and your male friend argues respectfully but forcefully with you, do you automatically feel like you’re being attacked?)

    My question is, where do I start? I have this problem with bringing up any social justice issue with someone who I know is starting at sub-101 level; I want so badly to jump ahead to all the stuff that makes perfect sense to me at this point, but I have trouble picking out the pieces of info that are going to be the most effective at making the person think and want to consider/know more. I also tend to react angrily (usually dismissed as being “oversensitive/defensive”) to ignorant remarks made by such people, and it fuels my anger when I am laughed at, see eyes rolling, or get brushed off with things like, “That’s just the way it is/I didn’t mean it that way/It’s just a joke, chill out.” And the more I’m dismissed, the angrier I get and the more I feel like I shouldn’t HAVE to spell things out for them and maybe if they can’t at least show me respect in the discussion, they’re not worth having in my life, AAARGH!!! …But, some of these men are worth having in my life for various reasons, and so even if it means taking a deep breath and choosing my dainty little words very carefully so as to appear gentle and soothing and make them think that feminism was THEIR idea all along, I would rather do that than have to choose between them and my sanity.

    @Meems: Why do we take it personally? Because it is personal! How is that not obvious? … I have trouble keeping discussions civil when I feel as though people aren’t understanding my points.
    This. Especially when I feel as though people are deliberately refusing to understand my points. Grrrrrr..

    @bellacoker: BUT if someone is doing something that makes you uncomfortable and won’t change when you let them know; then they don’t respect you. Period, full stop. If we continue to spend time and energy on them, knowing that it is against our interest, we are saying we don’t deserve to be treated well.
    Sigh. I should know this by now and accept it, but there are a couple of people in my life who I feel like I can’t cut loose despite the fact that they clearly don’t respect me as a full, equal person. One of them is my father, who I live with. Some relationships like that, you don’t have the option of walking away from.

    *hits “Submit” and waits to see how many comments appeared while she was typing*

  53. rainne

    Aleks, is it because it’s dismissive? The way I understand What about the menz is that it’s utilised where women are talking about their experience, and men come along all ‘but you have overlooked the fact that Men Are Also Sometimes A Bit Unfulfilled’ and expect the women to both drop their conversation in favour of that one, and/or to be activists on behalf of men’s issues.

    I mean, if someone were seeking your attention in the first place, it would make no sense for them to be ‘WATM’, right?

    Well yes, it’s dismissive, and the deliberate misspelling of my classification seems like an insult (which I’m okay with, I like insults, but some people don’t). I’ve seen SM explain it here, and I certainly agree that it’s a problem for a discussion of women’s issues to be overrun by complaints about every problem any guy’s ever had. Like I said, I’m a guest here and I accept the house rules. Also, this is (due to draconian/Darwinistic modding?) a blog with an extraordinarily high quality commentariat, but on other Feminist blogs (see the link I gave above) WATMz is used to dismiss things like a spike in the male suicide rate discussed in Men’s Health. What I meant by seeking my attention is the scenario some have given about trying to broach Feminism to the men in their lives who are not inherently interested. In that case, my advice would be to avoid words like “menz”.

  54. Helen Huntingdon permalink

    aleks, why is it off-putting? I really don’t get it. If a woman of color used “oh wah, what about the white girls” on me, I wouldn’t end the conversation, I’d go into it further to make sure I understood what she meant.

    Still here ain’t I? :”)

    As to why it’s off-putting, see my reply to rainne above.

  55. #
    volcanista permalink

    aleks, you are in minnesota. no one can approach you if NO ONE LIVES THERE.

    Nonsense, I saw a woman ice fishing last week. Well I think she was a woman, it’s hard to tell through all the winter clothing. With luck I’ll see her again next spring (late June) and know for sure.

  56. That was me. I caught all the ice I need at least until next August. Did you know jello shots make good bait?

  57. Yeah, I think WATM is a direct reply to a certain kind of derail, which is usually blatant and ridiculous enough to deserve a little bit of mockery. mockeryz.

  58. @shinobi: Oops. I think I might be a Woman Who Explains Things, too. Or at least I’m willing to bet that’s how some people in my life think of me.

  59. Helen, I like your monster.

    Volcanista, and that’s a fine use for it. I’m just saying, as a first encounter with feminism (which is not what this blog seems to be for), it’s off-putting, especially when used to go on the offensive against men’s issues (which no one has done here, but see my link) instead of defensively to protect women’s issues against incursion.

  60. It seems to me that WATM is something of a term of art. Unless the listener already understands the domain and connotation of the phrase it’s likely to be read in all sorts of ways. Now, once the term is defined, I think it’s entirely appropriate to use it without hesitation when calling a man on a point during an argument. If he is a rational human capable of robust debate then it won’t and shouldn’t be taken personally, but unless the context is established first it seems likely to me that it’s not going to lead to a productive discussion.

    In a broader sense, I would say that men are likely to receive the 101 course better if it isn’t couched in phrases or references that they don’t yet understand. Sort of like any 101 course, really. I’m not saying that the conversation needs to be dumbed-down, just that the terminology should be adapted to suit the as-yet-uneducated. ;-]

    Also, I’m made a little nervous by the “small doses” theory mentioned above. I’m guilty of using it with some of my Southern relatives when it comes to racism, but it feels too accommodating, to much like lending legitimacy to their views. I do understand why it’s sometimes the only option, though. I’d love to hear some more views on this and alternative strategies.

  61. Sean,
    Shouting “Sherman didn’t burn enough!” has the advantage of moral clarity, but I’ve found it unsuccessful at actually changing attitudes. Along with every other strategy.

  62. Could someone please tell me what WATM stands for? I feel like an idiot for not knowing, and I did try to find out (my google-fu is usually mighty), and I still don’t get it.

    I have used “but you didn’t CHOOSE to have X” with my husband. He didn’t choose to be born into a middle-class family that both permitted him to keep the money he earned at his job during high school AND encouraged him to go to an expensive college. He didn’t choose not to be hit by a car while crossing a street at school (not that this is something that happened to me, just a thing I present to him sometimes) that ended his college career. He didn’t choose to be white, and male. He took what he had and he made some really great things out of it, but he started from a much more advantageous position than a lot of people.

    And I think that he gets that now. I think he still bristles at the idea that it wasn’t his hard work that got him here, but that bristling is at the system, not at me for pointing it out.

    I’ve also used the things that we have gotten for free because we are married as a learning thing. “So, now I can just sign your credit card receipts, legally, because we are married, but our friends X and Y can’t just do that. And I can visit you in the hospital if something bad happens. And if you die, I can keep this house because I’m married to you. And if you are unconscious and someone has to make a decision, *I* am the one who makes it, not your parents.”

    Putting it in real concrete examples like that I think makes a difference too.

    Recently I got into an argument on an email list that we are both on along with a bunch of college friends, basically a way to keep in touch after college. And he came home and said to me, about one of his friends who also went to his college who is now his coworker, “Yeah, he’s basically a huge sexist. He doesn’t think he is because he doesn’t consciously think that women are less, but he reacts differently when a woman knows something versus when a man does. It’s kind of appalling.”

    And I was all, YOU GET IT, OH YES YOU DO.

  63. In my experience (and it goes both ways), correcting someone can lead to hideous confrontations. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong. They especially don’t like being told they’re sexist when they’ve believed for a really long time that they’re extraordinarily tolerant and progressive-minded. I like the advice about “I” statements – something that was hammered into me during the therapy years of my adolescence. As a reasonably intelligent person (and an admitted know-it-all), I tend to launch into diatribes. However, when I encounter sexism in the people who are close to me, I don’t want them to just refrain from making sexist statements. I want them to really understand why what they’ve said hurts, and to change their worldview…

    And then I remember that brainwashing is bad.

  64. Aleks, I read your link after posting, and I agreed with your take on that particular post, by the way. Thanks for the explanatoryness.

    HH, What I do is what I outlined above; note where they can be trusted, note that the pursuit of rational inquiry in any but the most limited forms is not part of that, and then get on with life.

    Sure. So that I understand, this is your response to the general inquiry of the post? That you don’t try and do the baby steps to 101 thing, but rather note the sexism, limit your interactions with the person expressing the delusion/unexamined privilege/etc, and carry on with life?

    That’s not me being snarky, lest my tone is ambiguous; I think it’s a perfectly reasonable response to ‘how do I get someone to 101′ (…’I don’t’. I’m just clarifying that this is the case.

    The broader issue I struggle with, and I think this goes back to the WATM thing to some extent, is the sense that I shouldn’t have to be all ego-couching and baby stepping and bloody well appeasing just to get someone who already loves me to be an ally in something so damn fundamentally obviously right as equal fucking rights. We’re all sick to death of the tone argument, after all.

    But this is exactly where it comes back to WATM; if I’m going to him, I do need to watch my tone. It’s different than if a man wanders into a feminist blog (there should be a joke about that), demands to be educated and stipulates the acceptable tone for how this should be done. This is outreach by me, so the tone of my message matters.

    Frustrating as that is.

  65. Sean, I think it’s only desirable to do this with a person where you either have to deal with them for the foreseeable future (like family) or where you have a lot of other reasons to want to both be on good terms with them and persuade them to consider your point of view (like a significant other with other redeeming qualities, or something). It’s super accomodating of things I’d otherwise never want or try to accomodate. And when you’re talking to someone you don’t feel you want or need to educate or persuade on the topic, and they’re being belligerent or rude, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making fun of them using smarty pants terms they don’t understand. :)

  66. On small steps or pebble-dropping or whatever, I do it for two reasons:

    The guys who have shown they’re seriously trying to get a clue (like I said, I only know three of them, though maybe a few hundred who think they are), pebble-dropping is a favor I’m doing for a friend. A colleague and I used to have a game where I would deliberately use a word he didn’t know about once a day, whereupon he would look it up and then grill me about its uses — he said it did wonders for his English vocab. The ones really trying react pretty much the same way.

    As for all the others, like I said, I’ve already written them off. I’m not ever going to try to get them to 101-level. If you’re a decent human being, you make it your business to haul yourself to 101 level no matter what it takes. If you haven’t bothered, I’m not going to try to do it for you. But I do the pebble-dropping, not for me, but for other women. If it stops a guy from repeating one sexist thing, that’s one sexist thing less that other women have to hear from that guy.

  67. @volcanista: oh yes, smarty pants comments and outright upbraiding of a person’s intelligence are quite a good defense against belligerence, and I’m all for it. :-] Better to take some macabre humor in the situation than to let them make you mad.

  68. from spinsterwitch – “I love my father. He is never going to be a feminist. This is not a deal breaker for this relationship because, well, it just isn’t.

    What I have found, however, is that he respects my opinion and that we disagree. He also knows that I will be vocal about any issues that come up.”

    Yep, I live with my father and that pretty much sums up our relationship right now. Sometimes life is really difficult, but we generally respect each other and that helps a lot. I am grateful that my family does not shy away from debates, although sometimes I do long for more calmness…lol

  69. @rainne: if your comment was directed at me, even in part, I would like to clarify that I don’t think women should ever have to adapt their tone when trying to educate someone on issues of privilege. I just think the terms used in feminist discourse sometime need to be translated in the same way that an English 101 teacher might translate terms like “scene” that have a very different connotation outside of an English class.

    It is beyond ridiculous that you and other women have to modulate your tone so as not to be seen as outre in this society. I mean, I find the frank tone to be the best one in general, and hearing the frank and direct tone of the commenters here is so much more engaging than the alternative.

  70. ***My poor attempt at humor follows. Caveat emptor, and cheers.***

    So an asshat wanders into a feminist blog.

    The moderator asks him, “What’ll it be?”

    He replies, “Where is the discussion of my penis to be found in this damned blog?!?!?”

    To which the mod says, “If we cared to locate it with a microscope we might discuss its infinitesimal size, but sadly we can’t spare the time. Bantime for you.”

  71. Is this a community project?

    So an asshat wanders into a feminist blog.

    The moderator asks him, “What’ll it be?”

    He replies, “Where is the discussion of my penis to be found in this damned blog?!?!?”

    To which the mod says, “We don’t serve unproven hypotheticals here.”

  72. My good pal and I are still shaking our heads about our third Sunday lunch buddy of more than a decade. After Dr. Tiller’s murder I did a live spoken word piece at an open mic on what it was like to have an abortion in 1970 when it was barely legal in our state. I had told very few people and this was recorded for podcasting so I felt very brave. I was sharing my pride with the two friends a week later when our third musketeer decided that the abortion had to be the reason I was so depressed lately even though he knew all the details of my recent devastating breakup. Without even hearing the actual story or asking me questions. When my other pal tried to argue politely with him and to point out what effect his snap judgment was having on me he became totally belligerent. All this from a man who was my housemate for years, who’d been kicked around himself for being gay, who’s a counselor.
    The few times we’ve seen him since then he insists the other friend is trying to censor his political opinions or not let him speak, belligerent to the point where we’ve both gotten up and left. I imagine there may be other issues in his life but I’m not feeling very generous and don’t even miss him much.

    So I guess I don’t have any answers

  73. Sean,
    Just a bit of polish. Let’s just hope we don’t get bannihilated for discussing revolution rods here.

  74. It occurs to me that my last several posts weren’t terribly helpful to the discussion at hand. I do hope the joke gets a work-over and becomes a meme, though. :-]

    At any rate, a question just occurred to me: if I, as a man, wanted to educate another man on gender issues, would my approach (tone, wording, pace, etc) need to be different than a woman in the same situation with the same man? Let’s assume this man is equally close to both me and the woman (perhaps we’re siblings and he is our father). While I think I know the answer to this question, I’m not trying to set this up as a straw man. I’m just curious to get other perspectives.

  75. I tend to use a tease where appropriate – with those I love who are just not completely getting it. Like those who characterize curvy women as “real” in the attempt to be an ally; I’ll nudge them and say “Whoooo hoooo! I did not know I was sitting beside the deity in charge of gender assignment and trans-dimensional existence! How do you make your decisions on the reality of women? Is it JUST your penis talking, or do other factors come into play?”

    Course, this is with good friends who will laugh and think about it.

    With less good friends, I’ll use the aforementioned “I” statements.

    Or, if I’m deeply affected then I go out and do almost anything to disprove the stereotype sometimes even though if it runs contrary to my best interests. Like getting a science degree, or working the graveyard alone, or doing a reno my father-in-law talked repeatedly about my husband and the boys doing.

    I’ve had some great adventures disproving sexism, but there are some things I probably should have avoided.

  76. When it’s someone who’s almost there, even farther along than the dude-abstraction SM described in the opening paragraph, but has one or two biggish issues: I pick my battles very, very carefully; I plan them long in advance; and then I fight them full-out in one sitting until I win.

    When it’s someone who’s more like the guy in SM’s description: I snark a lot and hope they listen. I have lots of little arguments that I don’t push too hard – make my point and back off. I only engage deeper than snark on the stuff that hits my personal buttons – we’ve all got our pet issues, obviously. So in my case, I take on anything that links gendered behavior to biology and pretty much anything having to do with female sexuality. I will, however, give …. casual objectification a pass. Obviously, your pet issues will differ.

    My strategies for any guy at any level: Take apart their arguments, and if they haven’t made an argument, talk to them about whatever statement they just threw out until they make one. Never, never make it personal in terms of them – always make sure you abstract away, after making clear why you can do that. (I also bend over backwards to avoid using my life experience, because I don’t think I should have to – I think the arguments stand on their own without any help from me – but YMMV). Never use irrelevant examples (ex. my mom once tried to help my dad understand white privilege by hypothesizing hair color privilege – well-intentioned, but would not have worked). Also, and this is a biggie – do not pursue an issue in which you’re not confident of your comprehension. For example, I feel confident that I will be able to handle every point of a discussion on sexuality. I know the issue inside and out, and since I began thinking and talking about it seriously, I haven’t met an anti-feminist argument that I haven’t been able to eviscerate. But rape culture? No way. I would be very hesitant to engage someone in a discussion on rape culture. I don’t remotely have my own thoughts sorted on it, I can only articulate my feelings around the issue really poorly, and there’s no way that poorly articulated feelings will convince anyone. I’ll lose, and for obvious reasons, it’s important that I win. Basically, and this sounds really arrogant but I argue a lot, and my big piece of advice would be: don’t engage deeply on an issue about which you’re not 99% confident you’ll win. You can have a belief that you can’t articulate well, and you may well be dead on, but if you can’t articulate it well to them, you might just reinforce their beliefs, which could set things back in terms of getting them to be more feminist.

    I hope this is useful. I have had lots of luck with it. Obviously, it’s better suited to some personalities than others. Good luck to you, anonymous Shapeling!!

  77. Emily WK – WATM = “What about the menz”

    Example: a bunch of women are sitting around discussing things such as how they cope with the danger of being raped and beheaded by a date, and then some guy comes in and whines it’s hard for him too, because girls are mean and might laugh at him.

    I didn’t see someone else clarify that: sorry if I’m repeating or it became obvious in context.

  78. Arwen,
    Girls are mean and do laugh at us and we cry inside where we’re soft and fuzzy like newborn puppies, OKAY?

  79. if I, as a man, wanted to educate another man on gender issues, would my approach (tone, wording, pace, etc) need to be different than a woman in the same situation with the same man?

    As a woman, I kind of naturally frame this as, “A man gets to have a different approach when educating another man on gender issues.” Obviously, I’ve never tried to do the edumacating as a man, but from my observer status, it’s a lot less fraught for a guy to say, “Hey, not cool, dude” than it is for a woman; he probably doesn’t really need to focus so much on tone, wording, pace, etc. because he’s already “proven” he’s rational simply by dint of having a penis.

    In other words, I think this is where one can use one’s privilege for the greater good.

    To answer the original question, I think I’ve had the most luck with two strategies, diametrically opposed. One, for the “it’s hipster-ironic to trade in gender/racial stereotypes crowd, to simply and forcefully say, “Do NOT use that word in front of me. You can think it, you can say it in front of other people, but do NOT say it in front of me.” No explanation, no further discussion.

    Two, to just try to take whatever stupid assumption has just been voiced into the most extreme territory possible. “Oh, yes, I love to iron. I live to iron! I can’t imagine a future in which not-ironing was even possible! Because women! We love to iron! We iron ALL THE TIME!!! We get home from dates, we have pillow fights while wearing lingerie, and then WE IRON! OMG! IRONING!!!!!!”

    Or, you know, whatever.

    Actually, a third strategy that popped into mind, when men have told me, “Women like X” when X is something that the guy in question would never stoop to himself, is just asking, “Would *you* be comfortable in that situation?” That is, for example, “Would you be comfortable not making any money yourself, but relying on someone else for support? Then why would you think I would?”

  80. I wanted to add: I do think it’s important to use the strategies I outlined above in the most 101 way possible. Don’t use jargon! Jargon is scary! And also, when people appear to be well-intentioned, I think it’s important to be as kind as possible while still being honest. Remember how threatened you felt/how personally you took it when confronting some of your privileges, and consider how you moved from being threatened and taking things personally to accepting and dealing with your privilege. For me personally, I find remembering how hard dealing with white privilege was for me at first to be a handy guide in addressing male privilege. I also had trouble with some aspects of feminism at first because they were predicated on phenomena that I had never encountered in my lived experience. If that was the case for you too, try to bring that challenge you had to bear on your discussions with dudes.

  81. Arwen,
    Not even a puppy’s entire world is about a bone. Now they have upscale plush toys. Spoiled ass dogs.

  82. And, a fourth: Assume the guy is on your side. When you speak of “feminists,” include him in that category. Educate from a collaborative rather than a combative angle. I think it’s a way of subtly requesting people to step up, of assuming good intent, that can really motivate people to move farther than they would have if you came across as opposing them.

  83. @Sean: If you are a dude talking to another dude, there’s going to be a certain level of credibility there that we as women do not have simply because we live in a culture where there is this widespread perception that anybody who has to deal with anything personally cannot be objective enough about it to make any kind of useful judgment, and that women are overly emotional and sensitive and overreact to every little thing. I can’t speak to how that would/will affect your approach when trying to talk to other guys, but it would/will probably have a profound effect on your level of success.

    Aaaand since I am so late to this party I had better bring something to share, yes? Sadly, no. I have nothing to contribute, for I fail miserably at trying to 101 my husband, father and D&D group. (My DM, memorably, continued in his jokey explanation of why women are like cats and men are like dogs even after I flatly informed him that he was speaking to a radical feminist and might want to shut the fuck up.) I have given up, in fact. I call them out on their bullshit when it gets too much to stomach, and I don’t sugarcoat it either. They don’t like it much. I don’t like having to hear it in the first place.

    But! I should say! The original anonymous Shapeling said, “You can’t just dump your family.” This is factually incorrect. You can. I have done so in the past. It requires a certain level of privilege (mostly economic, in my experience, although there are probably a whole slew of other aspects to it that I’m not seeing because they’re privileges I have) and is not always a permanent thing. My dad came back into my life. I cut him off for two years because he was being an asshat, and he sucked it up and got it together enough that most of the time I can stand to be around him. Sometimes that is what people need, that is the wakeup call they are waiting for, is for you to say, “Fuck you and your bullshit, I am out.” Sometimes that is what will make them change their ways. But you cannot go into it expecting that, because most of the time you will be disappointed; it has to come to a point where you know that you are better off without them than keeping them in your life the way they’re currently acting, and are okay with that within yourself. Most of the time they will not show up on your doorstep and demonstrate that they know what they did wrong and aren’t going to do it anymore. I was lucky.

  84. @Sean – My husband says he tends to go with “Dude, uncool.” or “What the hell?” or “Still single, huh?” or other such one liners. If he knows them well enough. I have also heard him say things re: the sharing of porn or strippers between coworkers as “I don’t like Hefner’s hand on my dick”, or “You know, sitting around getting turned on with a bunch of male friends isn’t my thing: if it was, I wouldn’t involve women.” He’s not Professional Feminist, or anything, but he does tend to push back against dude culture where women are traded as notches or conquests or whatever.

  85. My Dad had a huge sexism fail a few years back, when he visited my home and sulked the rest of the day, and then later sent me a letter in which he whined about how my home was so untidy and my mother taught me better than that and omg I keep my bicycle in a corner of the living room and that’s just not done!

    (Not only is he sexist, he’s passive-aggressive too! So many levels of fail here.)

    Now this may not work with every dude in your life who’s being a sexist prat, in fact it may only work with men who you know will not under any circumstances be willing to lose you, but I seriously went off at him. Raised my voice, told him he was being sexist, pointed out that no in fact my mother did not “teach me better” because she very deliberately didn’t raise me to be the perfect housewife at all, and that in fact she would be very angry with him for talking to me that way because she tried to teach HIM better, asked him why he was directing all his criticism at me and assuming it was my job to tidy up when my husband lives there too, asking if he’d ever considered that the reason my mom obsessively tidied was because she wasn’t allowed to work (we lived in the Middle East and parts of Asia where she had no work visa) and she was bored, asked him where exactly he thought I should keep the bike considering I live in an apartment, why he thought it was any of his goddamn business where I keep my bike. He kept trying to argue with everything I said and finally, when he got all “but your mother and I raised you to be very tidy” I lost my temper completely and went “Hi, have we met? My name is Cassandra and I have been a messy person my entire life. Funny, my Dad used to make jokes about that back in the day, perhaps I should introduce you to him.” At that point he started listening. I also told him that if he EVER talked to me in that sexist, patronising, contemptous tone again he’d have to get used to no longer having a daughter.

    OK, I was being harsh. But it worked. God knows he still has his sexist moments, but he did take on board the “I am not going to accept this from you, if you want a relationship with me you need to stop” message. With fathers, brothers, etc., men who you can be pretty sure won’t just throw up their hands and walk away, sometimes the nuclear option is worth it.

    (Please note, Dad would not have gotten the full nuclear option if he hadn’t been making lesser sexist comments for some time before that. And also if he hadn’t tried to invoke the ghost of my dead mother to shame me into compliance. That was just not cool.)

  86. Oh man, one last thing, sorry my brain keeps adding stuff: I have one more tactic that works really well with my dad in particular. He’s not a feminist exactly, but he believes very very deeply in fairness, which tends to translate nicely into feminism, and he also doesn’t give too much of a crap about a lot of social programming. (The thing that keeps him from really crossing the bridge is that he is a relentlessly small picture person, so the idea of being part of any sort of monolith doesn’t even remotely process for him. On the other hand, it makes him 110% receptive to ideas like “Hey, people are different, so why would we generalize about their experiences/bodies/whatever?”) So when I do choose to engage him, it can be useful to point out the ways in which he is already feminist. It makes him feel good, and it also makes him feel a lot less attacked. My mom does this all the time when he and I are talking, and I am slowly realizing its extreme utility.

    Also, you know what, he’s ridiculous for thinking he gets to have an opinion about the use of “Ms.” – he doesn’t like it and thinks it’s silly – but at the end of the day, he’s a really good guy who tries really hard to be the best guy he can be, and if I told him to call me Ms., he damn well would. He wouldn’t love doing it, but he’d do it. He’s also ridiculous for thinking it’s both okay and “nice” to refer to a couple as “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,” but his marriage with my mom is a true partnership, and that matters a lot more than how he would like him and my mom to be described on wedding invitations. So … in terms of picking one’s battles, I would err on the side of picking the ones that have real-world impact. I hope the above examples make that last sentence clear; if not, I will try to clarify as best I can.

  87. Also LOL about the whole I’m a straight middle class white boy and no one ever opened any doors for me thing. No, sweetie, people open doors for you all the time, it’s just that you’re the societal equivalent of Little Lord Fauntleroy and you’ve had servants running around opening doors for you for your entire like, so now you don’t even notice them any more, not even when you’re walking on their backs as you walk on through the door.

  88. @sara l : Oh, in no way should anyone feel they *have* to share personal anecdotes in order to get their point across. You’re absolutely right, and the arguments should stand for themselves. The only reason that I tend to use personal stories is that it helps my well intentioned (but not quite there yet) male friends really see how it affects someone they know and care about.

  89. Sean: no, not directed at you. ‘Tone argument’ – just shorthand for the ‘if you ladies were just nicer about how you put things, you’d have more allies’ trolls that turn up. I wasn’t reading you as saying anything of the sort.

    Your point about jargon is well taken, actually. The above sentence originally had a Troll Bingo reference in it, which I took out because, 101.

    So a man wanders into a feminist blog, and the moderator says ‘Sorry, we don’t serve your kind in here’.

    (Because, ‘serve’. Get it?)

  90. @Suze: I think it’s great that that works for you! I think it depends on what you’re going for with your approach. I personally believe, to a degree that could charitably be described as extreme, that anyone should be able to be convinced of anything by a well-reasoned argument. With one exception – my dad – I choose not to engage in any sort of argument or debate with people who can’t, because I find them utterly infuriating. I, um, am not the world’s most patient person with people who do not seem willing to use their brains in this way.

    Also, for me it’s a macho thing. “No, I am good enough at arguing to not have to do this. Go away.” It’s the same reason I don’t ask for directions or for help opening jars. Basically what I’m saying is I have three marketable skills, those are them, and I’ll be damned if I throw ANY of them into ANY question =P

  91. There’s a specific subset of men who’re Just Not Getting It where they seem to be under the impression that rules for socially appropriate behavior towards women are totally arbitrary and illogical and why do we have to follow those? We are rebels! We laugh at convention! We are too edgy for your boring rules!

    It seems to be partly an outgrowth of dudebro culture and also oddly common amongst geeks (see -OSBP). With those guys, or at least those of them who aren’t actually trying to be assholes or intractably misogynist, just cluelessly sexist, it helps to personalise instances where they’re doing or saying obnoxious things and explaining why no, the problem here isn’t that they’re breaking an arbritrary social rule, it’s that their actions are hurtful or offensive or alarming to women. Example – former coworker who used to be very grabby with women. Sometimes this was OK, like when it manifested in a tendency to hug female friends when drunk and those friends were OK with being randomly cuddled, or putting his arm around my shoulders when we walked down the street, which was OK because I’m demonstrative too and we were friends. Not so OK when he would walk up behind some random woman in a bar and cuddle her with no warning. Also not OK when he would randomly slap women’s asses at bars and think it was OK because well Female Friend X doesn’t mind, she thinks it’s funny.

    I made several frustrating attempts to address this with him in abstract political terms and no dice. What finally got through was when he was all “well why shouldn’t I hug random women or smack their ass? some people think it’s funny and besides what’s wrong with it? blah stupid social conventions, society is repressed, etc. so why can’t I?”. What finally shut him up was when I said “because the women you’re doing it to don’t like it.” And he went, really? How do you know that? And I went, because some of them have told me so, and other look uncomfortable when you do it, but they don’t seem to feel able to tell you so because you’re kind of pushy and BTW you do realise you’re 6 ft tall and they’re not, right? And he was all…shit. And I never saw him do the random ass-slapping again.

    Where they get this idea that the social rules are random and not based on any logical reason I don’t know, but sometimes pointing out that actually there are reasons for why women in general say “men need to not do X” helps.

  92. @ sara l: I agree that a well-reasoned argument should be able to convince most anyone of anything. I guess another reason that I use personal stories is that when I actually argue points out I get really heated. As in, so angry that I am almost worthless in an argument, because how do people not get it?!. There is a reason my journal so often features exclamation point filled rants!

    It is something I need to work on. Despite studying fundamentals of argument et al I still sometimes allow my emotions to take control. And while yelling at people can be satisfying, it is hardly the right way to convince them of my point of view.

  93. I think that SP itself is a great place to learn to debate properly. Writing out your opinions allows you to analyze them for strengths and weaknesses, and it sometimes clarifies exactly what the hell is bothering you about any given situation. I have long done this in response to Op-Ed articles that piss me off. (These days, I sometimes e-mail my response to the columnists in question, but usually I just trash the finished work. It’s not about edumacating the columnists, it’s about clarifying my own thought.)

    I also think 101 is a terrible place for jargon (avoid “oppression” and “privilege” at all costs! Also “rape culture”!) I wish there were less emotionally-laden terms to use for those ideas within the academic study of social power dynamics, too.

    When talking with men, it’s okay to actually talk about the men as well as the women. You’re a lone voice against a certain behavior against a society that has supported that behavior and said that women love and expect it. So get the men involved by discussing what that behavior implies about the men themselves. Can decent men control themselves instead of doing bad stuff? Does sexual harassment at work mean less opportunities for male subordinates who are not involved with the boss? Go ahead and talk about it. It’s a way to catch attention and then point out that the consequences of bad behavior suck for men–and suck even more for women. This isn’t because men are Bad People who really don’t want to help women unless there’s a payoff. It’s because they need some way to connect to and verify what you’re saying, not through simply inverting the sex roles (“I wish women grabbed my ass! Hur hur!”) but by showing how that decency FAIL actually hurts everyone.

    If this doesn’t work, I generally throw a tantrum.

  94. @secondhandmoon

    “I think the “small doses” strategy sounds like the best approach for men one wants to keep in hir life, because it will be taken as more of a discussion and less of an attack. If you’re a man and your male friend argues respectfully but forcefully with you, do you automatically feel like you’re being attacked?)”

    I never really thought about it. Off the top of my head, I would say communication-style counts for more than gender. As mentioned earlier ‘I statements’ go a long way. ‘You statements’ and especially ‘you SHOULD’ statements cause me to bristle regardless of whether the person saying it is a man or woman.

    “My question is, where do I start? I have this problem with bringing up any social justice issue with someone who I know is starting at sub-101 level; I want so badly to jump ahead to all the stuff that makes perfect sense to me at this point, but I have trouble picking out the pieces of info that are going to be the most effective at making the person think and want to consider/know more. ”

    If I understand you right, it sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting them the right information and putting it in a way they can understand. If that’s the case, it sounds like you’re putting a lot of weight on yourself here. Even if it were possible to “make” someone want to know more, how much of their education is really your responsibility?

    “I also tend to react angrily (usually dismissed as being “oversensitive/defensive”) to ignorant remarks made by such people, and it fuels my anger when I am laughed at, see eyes rolling, or get brushed off with things like, “That’s just the way it is/I didn’t mean it that way/It’s just a joke, chill out.” And the more I’m dismissed, the angrier I get and the more I feel like I shouldn’t HAVE to spell things out for them and maybe if they can’t at least show me respect in the discussion, they’re not worth having in my life, AAARGH!!! …But, some of these men are worth having in my life for various reasons, and so even if it means taking a deep breath and choosing my dainty little words very carefully so as to appear gentle and soothing and make them think that feminism was THEIR idea all along, I would rather do that than have to choose between them and my sanity.”

    So is it that you’re frustrated because on one hand, you care about these guys, but it feels like they aren’t making an effort to understand where you’re coming from or dismissing you? I think it’s normal to feel resentful when we feel people we want in our lives aren’t making an effort to understand us or that we have to tiptoe around and express ourselves differently just so their feelings won’t be hurt. Especially when they don’t seem to be putting much thought into OUR feelings.

    Dan

  95. My current partner is a man of phenomenal sensitivity who is really great at listening to me. That defuses a lot of troubles around here, and is awesome, but when there are troubles I think that I statements are really helpful.

    Also, @Sean and @aleks, I laughed at the Sherman thing but I really hate to see “southern” used as a synonym for “racist” (at least more than “human” is a synonym for “racist” because racism, like sexism, is the culture we all hang out in &etc). As a Southerner (well, transplanted now) working to unpack my white privilege it sort of smarts. Also, if they were really synonyms we’d see more racist fried chicken, right?

  96. CassandraSays says, “Where they get this idea that the social rules are random and not based on any logical reason I don’t know, but sometimes pointing out that actually there are reasons…”

    Because some of those social rules are random, or rather, arbitrary. And a great many of them are not consistent. And they change according to circumstances. Even your example, which to you is clearly straightforward, is remarkably complex. I’ve been randomly hugged by near complete strangers at churches. I’ve been unexpectedly hugged by co-workers. I honestly don’t know when it’s appropriate to start hugging people. I might have a problem with it if I wanted to hug people, which I don’t. I let other people initiate it, and tolerate it, and hope that I’m not led too far off by letting somebody else decide when hugging is right.

    Slapping people on the ass seems more extreme, but evidently there’s some circumstance somewhere where it’s appropriate.

    There used to be a system of rules about a lot of these things that really was clear and was taught, and it wasn’t cool and edgy to ignore it, it was rude. But now my manners are stuffy or even ‘sexist’ and I’m supposed to navigate these things by being ‘sensitive’ and ‘spontaneous’ but I am neither.

  97. @ Grafton – Well, there actually are some informal social rules in your examples. Hugging strangers is considered normal and OK in some churches (this seems to be dependent on denomination to a large extent) – I think it’s that the common event or interest is the roof thing again. Also church is not a sexualised environment like a bar is, so the implications are different (granted I’m an atheist but I’m fairly certain people don’t normally go to church looking for a one night stand, whereas in bars that option is understood to be potentially on the table if both parties express interest). Also, you’re a man, so while random hugging may be unnerving it’s not generally understood to have the same undertones of threat that a man randomly hugging a woman does (see – entire Shrodinger’s Rapist thread). So yeah, different variables yield different social rules.

    Maybe this would make more sense if I added that former coworker’s way of hugging women was pretty clearly sexualised, ie. you would not have found him randomly hugging women he was not attracted to.

  98. “So often the accommodations people need are … simple, and you have to wonder what is going on with people who won’t make them.”

    I quote the above because it bears on my experience with talking feminism to men lo these many years. It was only after I got married and got to know a man down to the bone (stop it) that I realized how much destruction is wrought upon boys in the process of ‘making them into men’ (like they wouldn’t naturally grow up into men without intervention — ?) — I’m not equating it to the female experience, or trying to say that sexist men are ‘handicapped’ in the same way a dyslexic person is; I’m simply saying that I make a lot more headway when I approach the subject from a place of human compassion for the other person, and agree within myself to ‘make accommodation’ for their individual life experience. Yes, even with assholes.

  99. CassandraSays: “So yeah, different variables yield different social rules.”

    I get you. My point is, this is hard. I’m enough social-fail to have a ‘syndrome’ or a ‘disorder’ but the sub-clinically social-fail are out there. Probably including some guy who doesn’t realize that women don’t like it when he randomly hugs them, and needs you to tell him so.

    I’m not saying that your response was anything other than perfectly appropriate, just that it’s quite possible and even likely that he wasn’t thinking, “I’m too edgy for your boring social rules!” but that he really didn’t get those rules because the whole society has become ‘too edgy’ for rules that are explicit.

  100. Appropriate ass-slapping? I’m drawing a blank. The only social situation I can think of in which ass-slapping is okay is when you and the slappee are both members of a football team breaking out of a huddle. I’m pretty sure that cross-gender ass-slapping and ass-slapping strangers are never okay. Anyone else able to think of any exceptions?

    Re: huggy–yeah, there are people out there who are okay with hugging strangers. They’re a little weird, but harmless. It’s when they’re TOLD to cut it out because they make people uncomfortable, and they keep doing it anyway, because everyone knows that Hugs Are Happy Things, that they go from weird and harmless to asshats. Because, hello, boundary FAIL.

    I want to send a memo to every office everywhere in the world, and on the moon, that says, “Touching: if you wouldn’t do it to your mom, to your dad, or to your boss, don’t do it to your coworker or subordinate.” That might end a lot of the plausible deniability sexual touching that gets the I Was Just Being Nice excuse these days. (In the case of GWB, “If you wouldn’t do it to Vladimir Putin, who knows judo, don’t do it to Angela Merkel.”)

    Dan, if I hadn’t said it before, you rock.

  101. @Grafton – That was kind of my point – right now there are all kinds of societal things going on that tell clueless young men that it’s cool and edgy to push women’s boundaries. Lacking strong messages to the contrary, it doesn’t surprise me that so many of them manifest obnoxious behavior. So the question becomes how to get the counter-message that no really, this isn’t edgy, it’s just rude and honestly kind of ridiculous, out to people.

    (Also in the case of former coworker it really does seem to have been a case of I’m too edgy for your old fashioned rules and smacking random women on the ass is the cool thing to do, since that’s what he kept repeating over and over again till I got to the “but the women you’re doing this to don’t like it” part. He wasn’t being an asshole on purpose, I don’t think, but he got the message somewhere that sexual harrassment is hip and makes you a cool dude. He also seemed to be under the impression that the smack-ees would take it as a compliment. It’s worth noting that it wasn’t hard to get him to change the behavior simply by clearly stating that no, in fact, women in general don’t actually like that – if only it was that easy with everyone.)

  102. Actually this leads back into the fact that a lot of men’s behavior towards women is dependent on their peer group, ie the standards are set in a homosocial way. Former coworker learned most of his ideas about how to relate to women in a fraternity, so no surprised that some of those ideas were a bit out of whack. Which again is why we need male allies.

  103. @ Starling – Can we add “this includes shoulder squeezing and offering your coworkers massages” to the memo? I mean hey, I’m pretty touchy feely, but boundaries, people. When boss is coming up to opposite sex subordinate and giving her/him a backrub as they sit at their desk, HR may want to have a word with you about that.

  104. The only social situation I can think of in which ass-slapping is okay is when you and the slappee are both members of a football team breaking out of a huddle. I’m pretty sure that cross-gender ass-slapping and ass-slapping strangers are never okay. Anyone else able to think of any exceptions?

    My marriage. As an exception to the cross-gender rule, not the strangers rule. Although definitely it would be a lot different if my husband were regularly slapping my ass in front of people than when I do it to him, because of the patriarchy.

    Not an exception: my entire life my mom has delighted in slapping or pinching my ass, ostensibly affectionately, except I hate it and find it embarrassing and have repeatedly asked her not to do it anymore but she does it anyway. Rule #1 of touching: if someone asks you to cut it out, cut it out.

  105. CassandraSays:

    You’re right. Same page, different words. He thought that he was doing the edgy mannerless manners right, didn’t know he was being a prick. Big surprise — I understand it is actually cute and fun to not, but almost, push at somebody’s boundaries. But you need a pretty big measure of social adroitness to pull it off. And learning that you need that and don’t have it is a trick, even if you had social-skills training.

    “…how to get the counter-message that no really, this isn’t edgy, it’s just rude and honestly kind of ridiculous, out to people.”

    I don’t know. I am genuinely not warm, but I wonder how much of my not-warmness is because being formally polite is deemed chilly. This problem lessens, and I am not sure if it’s because of my increasing age or because socially people are getting bored of being themselves at the expense of dignity and respect.

  106. “Former coworker learned most of his ideas about how to relate to women in a fraternity, so no surprised that some of those ideas were a bit out of whack. Which again is why we need male allies.”

    Very true. A man cannot learn how to relate to women by watching women relate to each other. For reasons that this blog has recently illuminated. But other males are won’t to set terrible examples. I’m afraid I just had to ask my mother.

  107. aleks: I checked the link you posted, and I have to agree that in that case, the WATM statement was rather unfair. Re: your first comment, though, it’s upsetting to me when anyone, male or female, takes one incident and says, “See? This is why people don’t like feminism!” I think most people who don’t like feminism feel that way because they’re threatened by the idea of a change in the status quo and a corresponding loss of privilege, and they use fringe examples or stereotypes to try to legitimize their position, which is really pretty unfair.

    I did think your subsequent comments/points were quite reasonable.

  108. @Grafton – You know, “ask your mother” is in general not bad advice for men unsure of how to relate to women in any given scenario. It’s likely to yield better results than “ask your frat brothers/drinking buddies”, anyway.

  109. As for the question posed in the post, I’m very lucky to be dating someone who’s very open to learning and trying to understand feminist points of view. He’s also pretty tolerant of my ranting, though I sometimes need to back down and explain that all that anger is not directed at him. Sometimes he calls me out when I become too overbearing, and the mutual respect we share has made it easier for me to simply stop and apologize and attempt to rephrase in a more reasonable way. I knew he was a keeper when he told me that after I’d ranted about the way women are portrayed on TV one day, he’d gone and hung out with his best guy friend and initiated a conversation about unfair female stereotypes on TV. He gets it!

    I definitely have other males in my life who don’t get it, though, and who aren’t going to, no matter how much hand-holding and non-confrontational leading I attempt. Some of them are nonetheless respectful about my point of view and why it’s so important to me, and they respect my feelings and my boundaries (e.g., they may not stop thinking rape jokes are funny, but they’ll at least stop telling them around me). Others aren’t, and I agree with whomever said that it’s sometimes a matter of choosing how important the relationship is, how much that person has the capacity to hurt you, and what you’re willing to put up with. My tolerance has gone down in direct proportion to the raising of my awareness and my sense of self-confidence.

    I also strongly agree with the idea of determining in exactly what ways someone is trustworthy and keeping them within those bounds in your mind. When it comes to someone you can’t just “dump,” sometimes I think that’s all you can do.

  110. I’ve no answers, but would rather spend eternity with a Man Who Doesn’t Quite Get It, quite possibly in a lift (elevator), than five minutes with the sort of Professional Male Feminist who keeps telling me I am doing feminism wrong. (I like ironing, too.) MWDQGI is usually amenable to arguments involving courtesy and fairness, PMF lives in a buzzing mental world of jargon, doublethink and self-congratulation. My Particular Gentleman has been known to make remarks about women drivers; on the other hand, he instinctively understands the self-doubt and “impostor syndrome” among his female colleagues and its source in patriarchy. I can slap him down humorously about the women drivers, but I would find it hard to explain the latter to someone who hadn’t managed to work it out for himself.

  111. I think there is a degree that most modern men will go along with things (in my own partner’s case quite a good degree thankfully), but then after that men can dismiss feminism taken further as militant lesbianism or hysteria. I feel that ultimately a lot of men really DO see us as less intelligent and capable (GGRR!), so “feminism” in their minds is a funny little fad to be indulged and then choked if taken too far. Annoying as hell, but realistically I think there are mountains to climb yet for us because they simply don’t want to admit equality because they feel powerless without a mental “edge” as they perceive it. My feeling on this is that you can’t go through your own life bullying them and arguing into seeing your opinion because they just dial out – win this by being the best you can be in your own role, and taking pleasure and pride in your own actions rather than looking for external approval. If they don’t understand you or “get” what you are about, then tough titty – someone else always will.
    I think too that we are still going to be battling the issue of beauty for eternity. By this I mean that it still seems as though so many men sum women up in the following terms: Beautiful= worth having, worth loving, worth marrying. Unattractive = No function unless a blood relative. There are men I know well (not my partner thank christ) who feel this way and I think short of brain surgery they will never change. I have to fight the urge to perform the brain surgery myself, with a table leg.

  112. I am currently talking myself into addressing a feminist-fail. And it is really scary to me, but -i still want to do it.

    I am taking private classes to prepare for the big fucking scary exam of doom, because my university kind of failed at preparing me for it, especially thanks to a really bad reoccurence of my depression over the last year.

    Yesterday, we had a general meeting of everyone taking the classes, and one of the teachers laked to us about why getting the really good grads is so important. Among other things, he talked about the changing demographic in our field. Apparently, we have gone from 10% female students 30 years ago to 51% percent female students today.

    My (silent) reaction: yay! That’s almost perfect equality at least in numbers!
    The teachers comment: If it keeps going like that, we will need protection for the men! Especially because the female students today are also really attractive as well. (he went on to compliment our self-assuredness and well-spokenness, which granted, is important when it comes to law)
    The other students reaction: Laughter. (and mine, too, though in my case I know it was uncomfortable “I can’t believe he’s saying this”-laughter)

    The thing is, he is my teacher. And a really good one. And I don’t think he conciously thinks that female students should be pretty as well as qualified if they want to get as far as the male students. I even believe, because t was at least hinted at, that he knows equal numbers of students does not necessarily mean equal numbers of females in high, well-paying areas of work. But I was still really bothered by what he said. And the fact that he apparently thought this was a good way tomotivate everyone. So I want to address it.

    I mentioned that he is my teacher, right? Who I have to take classes from for another sic months? Classes that arre very important?

    I am scared. But I still really want to do it.

  113. minervakoenig: “…how much destruction is wrought upon boys in the process of ‘making them into men’…”

    Yeah. My biggest single leap on the whole awareness front was when a girl I was attempting to start a relationship with told me that she didn’t actually need or expect me to play the role I was trying to play. Feeling… allowed to drop the role of “the boyfriend” was mind-blowing, and changed the whole dynamic overnight.

    So something that can benefit everyone is to try and subtly challenge the ‘masculine’ assumptions as well as the ‘feminine’ ones – the two reinforce each other. Giving a dude permission to do things that he might feel embarrassed about because of sexist overtones, or just asking him to help with tasks he considers ‘women’s work’ are ways to start shifting his mindset.

    And seriously, for the more punchy put-downs of sexism-deniers, all you need is one piece of data and the ability to back it up. I called a friend on a bit of rape-minimising the other day, and was able to drown him in stats gleaned from the Schrödinger’s thread, and he said “oh wow, I didn’t realise how bad it was,” then stayed pretty quiet for a long time after. Helps if your data is related to the topic, obviously, but if you can pull out the objective-and-solid-stats hammer it’ll take you a long way.

  114. I was terrorized all day by stuff that other people decided didn’t matter, and I am guessing that this is what happens to women all the time. And then, like me, you’re just being whiney and demanding if you want it to stop so you can please god just function.

    Repeated for emphasis, because exactly that.

    CassandraSays, I have been laughing on and off about your dad since I read that first paragraph. He came to your house and huffed all day because it was untidy? And then he wrote you an admonitory letter? There is something hilarious about that.

    (Your response was awesome, btw.)

    but then after that men can dismiss feminism taken further as militant lesbianism or hysteria.

    Heh. I just realised I am the “Okay, I can see what you’re saying, but the [REALLY REALLY fat people/militant lesbians] are just taking it too far” of feminism. How had I never got that before?

  115. Speaking as a man who’s had his eyes opened quite a bit just since he started reading this blog, three points come to mind when educating the unwitting sexist:

    1. ‘The small stuff leads to the big stuff': Approaching a strage woman in the street and telling her to smile or flirting with a woman who’s made it clear she’s not interested *is* contributing to rape culture. Making jokes about women’s financial acumen/organisation/work ethic helps to perpetuate a culture that pays women less than men for the same job.

    2. ‘This affects all women whether it’s happened to them personally or not': A woman who’s never been raped still has to worry about the possibility in a way that no man (or very, very few men) ever does. A woman who’s actually getting equal pay still worries about having to live up to an arbitrarily higher standard.

    3. ‘This is not something that only happens to ‘other’ women': Your mother/sister/aunt/girlfriend/wife is NOT the only woman in the world who doesn’t have to worry about this stuff. These issues affect her as much as they do any woman.

    I write these as realizations I personally have come to (or had reinforced) recently. I don’t know how broadly applicable they are among all men.

    Also, if there’s a man you know who doesn’t get it and he has a sense of humour, get him to read this book:

  116. Thank you for discussing this!!! I’ve been having the worst fight w/my brother this past few months… and I just now, after reading this, have begun to realize what’s at the heart of it. It’s really not about me at all.

    I had sent him an e-mail, after they visited this summer, about how frustrated I was with our family, and how I didn’t really want to be a part of it anymore. I may have been angry, and snarky, and even inappropriate or critical of him personally.

    But I was not prepared for his response… a series of e-mails attacking me for everything about who I am! Things like this:
    *You take too long to return phone calls
    *You don’t invite people to your house enough
    *You don’t show enough interest in my children
    *You don’t keep your daughter on the right kind of schedule
    *You don’t eat the things other people make for you at family get-togethers
    *You are selfish and full of yourself
    *How dare you attack fundamentalist Christianity when you spent 28 years of your life in it! You have no right to say how you feel about things you have experienced!
    *You eat out too much for someone who is “poor”. You should make more meals.
    *Comments about my husband having a disability and “I’m sure he’s one of those who*deserves* public assistance, but…”
    *You should really cut your cable, get rid of cell phones, and do XYZ to save money, so that you won’t say you can’t afford Christmas gifts for the entire extended family, like you did last year.

    And the always lovely….
    *You don’t even know what feminism is!! To which I respond… “Yes, actually I do. I have a small library of books on the topic and would be glad to lend you any of them anytime you are interested.”

    His words tore me apart, made me question myself, and think that I was a horrible person. I have only very recently noticed that these are all expectations of what a woman should do, and I was not doing them adequately enough (not to mention classist and ableist sentiments!). How dare I mess with his experience of women behaving as he expects! How dare I not smile, nod, speak softly, and be very hospitable, mothering, and organize my household correctly!!

    I am happy to say that I no longer care how he responds to this. I can try to mend bridges (and I have) but have made it clear that I will not change myself or my way of living. The whole entire thing was about me not having the right to get angry, loud, and in his face. And it felt very nice to do so. :o)

  117. There are awesome men out there, but one reason I’m mainly gay rather than more bisexual is that there simply aren’t enough around for me to want to pursue. I don’t want to spend an entire relationship “educating” someone on the basics of respect (no matter your gender/whatever); I appreciate most women have a lot more invested in men in general than I do, or are perhaps more tolerant and willing to educate than I am.

    As for the other remark about dropping one’s family, I effectively have. I get on with them because I spend a few hours a year with them and that’s fine. They’re far from “bad”, but the frustrations are severe enough that I am not going to spend energy trying to conform to the standard subtle and not-so-subtle (in terms of racism) types of discrimination they practice, or bother arguing with attitudes that are fairly entrenched. I don’t find “battle of the sexes” jokes funny. I do think my mother should be bloody grateful for feminists fighting for the right to have her own bank account and mortgage. I am not going to think that my sister getting married is the culmination of her entire life.

    But it’s “easier” for me to throw in the towel and bow out when I have the option. However, I do small things: I don’t tolerate stupid sexist remarks from my all-male team. I demand respect. I highlight areas where things should be better in my professional environment. I encourage all the efforts the guys make to get it right. Maybe it’s partly because my professional life is almost all men (and the queer thing) that I don’t want to deal with it in my private life.

  118. I had an issue with my mother and aunts, everytime they wanted help moving they asked if my male friends could help. I am stronger than my male friends and I kept explaining that to them but still, male friends, male friends, male friends….
    I was able to get the point across for a short period of time by asking if they intended to have my friends carry it by penis, because that was they only thing that I would be unable to do.

    My current boyfriend has moments that cross into stereotypes, he is usually pretty good if I point it out to him. We game and he was talking about playing a character that has a curse and changes sex, which would be awesome until he started talking about losing strength and other attributes as the female half. I told him that if he planned on that only because it was female he needs to remember his very female girlfriend is bigger, stronger and faster than him. If he and the other players wanted to go that route I would gladly arm wrestle them or have them try to keep up with me in the gym. :P He agreed, eventually.

  119. I always turn it around on them and wait until they bring certain things up. For example, I work with a guy that I would describe as a total meathead. One day, he told me that he was ashamed to answer the phone, because it is a “woman’s job”, and he wanted to know if I agreed.

    My answer? “Well, women are generally forced to take jobs that are unfulfilling and won’t offer any room for advancement, so technically, I guess you’re right.”

    That’s “not what he meant”. Except it IS exactly what he meant.

    I also waited until he pointed out how it made him feel when he’d walk into a room where people were talkign about political theories or things he didn’t “get”, and how he HATED when people would change the subject to something he didn’t know. I pointed out that I always felt like crap when he would walk into a room and change the subject to sports and would interrupt my conversations for it. He honestly didn’t see it as the same right up until then.

    I’ve recently been working with him to show him how he’s treated better by our clients by virtue of being male, like how he doesn’t get yelled at for doing things that the women in the office WILL get yelled at for, like answering a phone incorrectly for a client.

  120. I have a couple of situations in my life where inter-gender ass slapping is ok for me. Mostly, it’s ok for my best friend, who happens to be a gay guy, to do it. I’m not sure why the dynamic is that way – if it’s because he’s gay, if it’s because we’ve known each other since we were 12 years old, if it’s because we were theater geeks in high school and therefore became accustomed to seeing each other in various states of undress that were decidedly non-sexual… For my boyfriend, it’s ok too, even in certain public settings. I really wish I could tell you why this is the case. Maybe because in both situations, I am completely confident of the fact that there is mutual respect between us, and that the ass slapping isn’t objectifying or mean-spirited. Additionally, I know these two would never do it to another female unless the dynamics of the relationship were the same or similar to ours.

    But yes, social situations are UBER difficult to navigate. I’ve worked exclusively with Chassids for about a year and a half now, and in that time, my tolerance for being touched has really changed. At other jobs I’ve had, the better I get to know my coworkers, the more appropriate it becomes for them to put a hand on my shoulder or nudge me or whatever. But no one EVER touches me at work now, because it’s extremely taboo. In response, I’ve gotten kinda edgy about ANYONE I don’t know touching me, even inadvertently, which makes public transit kind of a terrifying situation for me these days.

    So touch is a really tenuous issue, and like most rules of social etiquette, it is really dependent upon the dynamics of a relationship. Goes to show you what complex creatures human beings are, especially when it comes to communication. In most situations, it’s just understood that touching is or isn’t ok, and fuck if we know how we know it when we know it. And when in doubt – HANDS OFF.

    I think the Shroedingers Rapist example is one I’m going to have bring up with my boyfriend. I think most men who honestly care about us are going to sit up and listen when we’re talking about real, legitimate danger or fear, because I guess reasoning goes – if you care about someone, you don’t want them to get hurt or feel scared. Maybe rape culture is a good place to start when trying to get someone to 101. Use the Dubya Bush tactic, and get them to listen to you by scaring the crap out of them? In any case, I think that discussions about threat and fear have more immediacy than discussions about why this particular joke about women is sexist for these particular reasons.

  121. Trix, “Maybe it’s partly because my professional life is almost all men (and the queer thing) that I don’t want to deal with it in my private life.”

    I’ve made the same remark myself, except for the part that I’m stuck on the really-het end of the spectrum. Women leave the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in droves after having started in them, and a real part of it is that you can only take just so much of this stuff. If a woman is more heavily invested in her relationships with men in her personal life, she may well dump the STEM career to gain some relief from the omnipresent onslaught.

    My method has been to not allow male privilege crap in my home, and keep the career. So far that has meant not letting men live in my home. (The whining on that gets really funny, btw. The endless chorus of “but you’d be so awesome to be married to!” as though that’s the only issue.)

  122. @Kitling: Yes, I too have had exasperating encounters with the Professional Male Feminist. Namely, the co-worker who makes fun of the fact that I wear feminine shoes/clothes and that I took my husband’s name when we got married.

  123. This is one of my favorite threads ever on the blog, and I wish I’d tuned in last night when SM told me there was an episode of Funny Dude Theater going on. That is all.

  124. I just realized there’s a pretty big element of projection to those who threw around the “living in fear” buzzphrase in response to the Schrodinger’s Rapist concept. All of them that I’ve seen seem to be saying, “Your challenging of my worldview is making me feel fear and anxiety; stop,” more than anything.

  125. @Dan – it sounds like you’re putting a lot of weight on yourself here. Even if it were possible to “make” someone want to know more, how much of their education is really your responsibility?
    That’s a good point, and of course I can’t make anyone change their mind or consider something they just refuse to. I’m not sure why I get so invested in “enlightening” my male friends who are still knee-deep in privilege and sexism. Maybe because I don’t want to have to make the decision of whether their persistent sexism outweighs their good qualities. But as you said, is their education really my responsibility? No. And it won’t be my fault if I have to set some serious boundaries or terminate a relationship because of that. (Just…hope I can remember that when the time comes.)

    So is it that you’re frustrated because on one hand, you care about these guys, but it feels like they aren’t making an effort to understand where you’re coming from or dismissing you? I think it’s normal to feel resentful when we feel people we want in our lives aren’t making an effort to understand us or that we have to tiptoe around and express ourselves differently just so their feelings won’t be hurt. Especially when they don’t seem to be putting much thought into OUR feelings.
    Yep, you’ve nailed it. Though in my case, it’s not a fear of hurting their feelings so much as not wanting to get into an argument and be reminded that they simply don’t think my opinions or experiences matter as much as their desire to do/say what they want without consequence. This might be outside the parameters of the original post, though, because the men in question aren’t even halfway to feminism; more like 1/8 of the way, maybe. They believe women should have the same opportunities as men (in a generalized way), and they oppose rape and violence against women, but that’s as far as it goes. They don’t see how their own behaviors can negatively affect women; they deny the power of words (insisting that the word “slut” can have a meaning completely unrelated to actual women, for instance); they harbor beliefs about women’s capabilities in certain areas even though they would be pissed if a woman they cared about were denied entry to those areas. Some other commenters have mentioned men in their lives who just can’t/won’t connect the dots between their own behavior and the bigger picture of misogyny, and that is true of the men I’m talking about.

    I’d like to point out that there are only a couple of men like this in my life (besides extended family or others who I don’t deal with often). My husband is probably up to Feminism 504b at this point, and a good (male) friend of ours has passed at least 300-level. So I consider myself lucky in general.

  126. I am extremely lucky in that my husband was raised by a mom who was a charter subscriber to Ms. He gets it.

    We currently live at a boys’ school, and there would be lots of opportunities for me to do a little consciousness-raising if I looked for them, which I haven’t, because I am almost pathologically non-confrontational. I am going to WORK on that, dammit. *vows*

    I’ve been thinking through the ass-slapping (or any other grabbiness) of strangers this morning, and I think I’ve come up with something which might get the attention of a guy who’s basically well-meaning. (It is kind of framed as “let’s look at how the woman might misinterpret your friendly behavior!” which you wouldn’t want to bother with if the guy is NOT basically well meaning. You might find it problematic even if he IS; ymmv.) Anyway, I think even with my “conflict makes my stomach hurt” personality I might be able to say this:

    “Any woman you don’t know is Schrodinger’s rapee. There is an ‘X–quote current statistics here’ chance that any adult woman you meet has been sexually abused, raped, beaten by a guy or guys. Now, I know you mean the ass-grabbing to be funny. But still, it means your first interaction with this woman is demonstrating that you think you have a right to touch her and you have no interest in whether she’s consented or not, and how do you think she’s going to take that if she spent her entire childhood being sexually abused by her father? How do you think she’s going to take that if she got gang-raped last week?”

  127. Another SP thread hits it out of the park!

    (What? Me? Watch baseball? That wouldn’t be very feminine would it?) /snark

  128. I haven’t had the chance to read the entire thread, so my apologies if this comment is repetitive.

    My husband use to be very conservative and into the whole, “wife should be submissive” bit. However, his beliefs were not reflected in his actions, as he was very supportive of me going to grad school and loved that I spoke my mind. I think that he thought that, given that he identified himself as a Christian, he should think that way about the submission piece. Over time, however, he has come to espouse feminist beliefs and sometimes notices sexism before I do. What I’ve done is kept at it almost daily over the years. When a sexist comment comes up on TV or in a movie, I mentioned it. I’ve also called him on sexist (and racist, for that matter) statement. He has gotten angry at me from time to time, but I have held my ground, and now, after 9 years of marriage and 11 years of being together, he finally gets it. Whoo-hoo!

  129. The original question seems to imply that this only happens during interactions with men. But I have experienced some extremely sexist women (consciously or not), and I wonder if the same advice as in the thread above applies or if one’s response might be adapted somehow. I find it particularly infuriating when encountering women who spout sexist bullshit (about both women and men) and/or who try to guilt me into conforming to their vision of “womanhood.” (There are actually books on the subject! Of how to be a “good woman.”! Mostly consisting of “gentle, quiet, submit to men, wife, mother, turn off individualism/independent thought/opinions, doormat.”)

  130. Even before he was my boyfriend, my boyfriend had feminist leanings. And he is very much into open communication – loves to talk things out and find out why I’m upset about this or that, etc. So the raw material there is pretty good.

    He still has his moments, though. Like he thinks Bill Maher is hilarious and Huffington Post is the only source for news. And he says things like, “oh, you women and your ____” or “that’s so like a woman!” He thinks he’s being funny or ironic or something and we’ve had a number of conversations where I try to explain to him that it isn’t funny and I don’t appreciate being reduced to a sitcom stereotype. He’s learning. Slowly but surely, he is learning.

    My Dad on the other hand…never in my 24 years have I once heard him say something anti-woman, even to be funny, or laugh at a sexist joke or put up with any of that from other people.

  131. I tend to go for humor and reducing it all down to biological essentialism. Like, “My ovaries didn’t come with magical cooking lessons or anything. I’m not any better at this than you are, so quit putting it all off on me.” Or when a guy at a similar peon-level is excused from lunch-receptionist duty, “What, your testicles make you unable to answer a telephone? I’ve talked to you on the phone before, and you were certainly capable.” This is more of a baby-step, though, because it doesn’t cover why most of the peon-level office jobs are held by women in the first place, or the fact that most women are socialized into cooking and cleaning (and I just happen to be a crappy cook).

    Also, I make parallels to other types of discrimination or privilege. This can be dangerous, because it can lead to “well, I’m discriminated against, too!” but it can be helpful at times. For instance, my husband’s dad and sister both have terrible ADD that has really affected their lives as adults. He and I have talked about how lucky he is that he didn’t inherit it, and how much easier his life has been because of that simple fact. It’s not hard from there to think about how gender, race, class have also made his life easier, or how all these things affect other people.

  132. I recently (2008) came to feminism — I was classically “Backlash” trained in the 90’s, and didn’t get my eyes really opened until Shakesville ran the “Hillary Sexism Watch” during the campaign. My husband, who AT THAT POINT knew more about it intellectually, told me it was “cute I was discovering feminism.” 6 months later I kicked his ass for that one. But he IS aware of rape culture, and of teh patriarchy, and that sexism exists, and he’s willing to engage and at least skim what I send him to read (he has a thing about long blog posts, just won’t read them).

    We two white people recently moved to a predominantly black area, and he is struggling right now with his internalized racism — it’s making him very uncomfortable. I’m able to talk it through with him (we recently ran through the stereotypes conversation, until he GOT IT) and then apply it back to sexism. Which is easier on me, because I can remain emotionally distant from racism (white!) in a way I can from sexism (female!).

    Anyway, his willingness to READ is a big help — I selected 3 essays from “Transforming a Rape Culture” and he read all three.

  133. @Cate, I also can’t get my husband off of Bill Maher. His answer to “but he makes SO MANY SEXIST JOKES” is “well, he’s not very funny, so he takes the cheap shots,” as if that were a perfectly acceptable thing to do. (He likes the rest of the show).

  134. The original question seems to imply that this only happens during interactions with men.

    No, that’s just what it’s asking about. it doesn’t imply that’s the only thing that exists.

    But he IS aware of rape culture, and of teh patriarchy, and that sexism exists, and he’s willing to engage and at least skim what I send him to read (he has a thing about long blog posts, just won’t read them).

    This drives me nuts! I’ve had a lot of people refuse to read things I have asked them to (like, exes or good friends, on topics we were arguing about) because 2 pages of text is too long. Sometimes they’ll just skim the first paragraph or something, and clearly don’t get it because they didn’t bother to read and just decided to assume it said whatever straw argument they expected it to. It’s so dismissive.

  135. Ooh, this is hard, hard stuff. I often fail at doing good 101 with my family but, hypocritically, am going to offer some suggestions anyways.

    I agree with a few of the other folks who’ve said using “I” statements can be helpful. Just for me, personally, I’ve had some good success using that approach when discussing transphobia and homophobia. “Here are things that have happened to me, and here is how I experience the world.” I still remember the one college classmate who was absolutely shocked when I very matter-of-factly explained that cars of young men would yell anti-gay slurs at me at night when I’d wait at the campus bus stops. It’s just not something that she’d ever known about before.

    Also, I pick my battles when it comes to people I interact with regularly or care about a lot. For me, that means I actually tend to take on instances of sexism, racism, etc., more so than I do homphobia and transphobia, because I feel I have more of a moral duty as a privileged person to do my part to fight these -isms than I do as a disprivileged person to fight homophobia and transphobia.

  136. @K – Oh, god, the “That’s women’s work” thing. I heard it once at a job while I was doing some niggly cleaning task. “Why?” I asked. “Oh, well.” He said, “Men are just no good at paying attention to the details.”

    So I listed all the other jobs with attention to details that would therefore be women’s work: brain surgery, accounting, engineering, avionics …

  137. This drives me nuts! I’ve had a lot of people refuse to read things I have asked them to (like, exes or good friends, on topics we were arguing about) because 2 pages of text is too long. Sometimes they’ll just skim the first paragraph or something, and clearly don’t get it because they didn’t bother to read and just decided to assume it said whatever straw argument they expected it to. It’s so dismissive.

    In his defense, he doesn’t read ANYTHING that’s 2 pages long. Unless it’s in a book.

  138. I’m sorry I couldn’t wait till an open thread for this, but my husband just lost his job.

    We were completely dependent on his minimum wage income to survive, and we need to raise at least one months rent pronto to cover ourselves while he looks for new employment. We are hopeful that the fast food joint that offered him a job honors their offer to hire him next week, but with more than one previous employer blackballing him we’re used to having potential employers back out of the hiring process once they check his references.

    I have a PayPal link up at my blog if you are interested in helping. Right now we are just looking to raise $550 to pay November’s rent.

    Listen, I know I’m not a nice person, I’ve bitten almost every hand out there at least once. I could explain why I’m a nasty cantankerous bitch but it seems kind of hollow at the moment. I have no right to expect anyone to help me. I’m awful at asking for help even when things are going rotten because I know that there’s this expectation people have that help will turn my life around and it doesn’t, it just gets my little family through immediate patches of danger. This is one such patch, this right now is my husband and I staring into the face of homelessness, and I’m terrified.

    If my husband can’t find employment within a week he will attempt to contact my estranged family, but there’s no guarantee that they can or will help us. My husband’s family is dirt poor and absolutely cannot help us even though they love him very much.

    I know this is a terrible time to ask anyone for monetary help. If those of you who believe in God could pray for us, my husband and I are not offended by such things, he’s a Baptist and would appreciate it very much.

  139. I can relate to a lot of the men and women you are talking about. There are things about feminism I understand and agree with. There are parts where I understand and don’t necessarily agree. There are also places I can’t agree or disagree because I can’t wrap my head around what’s being talked about.

    I’m find with all those things.

    What troubles me more are the places where I don’t WANT to understand because it makes me uncomfortable.

    It kind of reminds me this Onion article: http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/if_god_had_wanted_me_to_be or something a Buddhist monk named Jiyu-Kennett said in her memoir about being the only white woman studying in a Japanese temple in Post-war Japan: “The truth is SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable.”

    As a side note, the topic of jokes is near and dear to my heart as one of the hats I wear is as a stand-up comic. I’ve seen a lot of sexist jokes. I’ve even written and performed a few of them myself.

    At the risk of being “What about the Comedianz”, assuming there hasn’t been a thread on them already that I’ve missed, I’d love to be a part of such a discussion in the future.

    Dan

  140. Ah, Arwen, that’s excellent. Yay! (Coworker: “I meant boring details.”)

    I do like talking about privilege and oppression as concepts using a neutral example first. I like the cop example–a badge conveys privilege in the sense we use that word, but that doesn’t make cops bad horrible people. It gives them the opportunity to do certain things with impunity, which leads to some cops abusing their power. It also results in a level of wariness and accommodation from non-badged people, not because the cop necessarily demands kow-towing, but because people are rightly cautious about those who wield power over them. Talking about the difference between good and bad cops, and the way that the cops’ personal decency is irrelevant to their privilege, is a good way to ease into the discussion.

  141. @GodlessHeathen: I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s job and the uproar to your lives. Bosses suck. I just sent a little something your way…it isn’t much but I hope it helps!

  142. I am SO glad for this discussion. Sadly, I am going through this with my husband. I know, right? We are having a huge battle right now, whereby I asked that if he wants to view porn, could he please view porn made by women and from which women benefit monetarily. You cannot even imagine the reaction I got. I am super depressed about the whole thing, and I am sure he is bothered, too, because I *used* to be willing to go to strip clubs, be ok with porn, etc. And now I am not, or rather, I haven’t been for a while (thanks FA and feminism!) but only recently got the guts to talk to him about it. But here is one of his choicest comments (which he told me, in his email, to “go post to blogs if I want”, so I take that as permission). There is so much fail in it and his other arguments that I don’t know what to do.

    “The difference here, as I have argued before, is that when it comes to consensual sex, women are in control. They decide when and how to have sex. They decide what is appropriate. Seeing a naked man is no big deal because they can see one whenever they want. Not so for men, who must first be charming, interesting, well-mannered and/or rich, or at least have something more going for them than a dick.”

  143. kristin, I know it’s not helpful to say, “Whaaa?” But, I mean, seriously? Women can just snap their fingers and all the men in the world will disrobe and enthusiastically get it on?

    I suppose he thinks of all the women in the world as looking like you and Angelina Jolie, but . . . dude. Maybe point out that there are just scads of women out there who don’t have the Helen-of-Troy thing going for them, and they’re women, too?

  144. Kristin, this is just a thought and I’m not sure it’s a good one, but I might start by conceding what he’s saying in that quote. Which is not to say it’s true. But it is to say that it’s irrelevant. It has nothing to do with whether women are forced and coerced into seeing/having sex with naked men whether they want to or not. Which seems like the more core issue here.

  145. Re: Long blog posts, I often find myself unable to read them, unless they are written very engagingly and/or they cover a topic I am already interested in. Because of my ADHD, I simply cannot focus long enough to finish reading something that doesn’t go out of its way to grab and hold my attention. For other people, it might be because of poor literacy; people who can read, but not very well (which is a larger percentage of Americans than one might think), have trouble reading long chunks of text, and when they manage it, might not understand a lot of the nuances of what they have read. It is difficult to grasp complicated concepts one encounters in writing if one has never been taught to read for comprehension, which American public schools at least (I cannot speak for other countries) fail pretty hard at.

  146. Starling, LilahMorgan – Both of your points are good ones, and not one’s I’d thought of. My response was basically, “Dude, you’re TOTALLY PROVING MY POINT.” Women are vaginas to a lot of men and thus need not have any actual personhood for men to have sex with them, and men are people to women and we must find them engaging to want something to do with them.

    Thanks for more to think about. I’m really having a terrible time with this.

  147. All the tips in the comments are great; I’ve always been utter crap at 101, so it’s much appreciated!

    GodlessHeathen, I looked at your blog and seem to remember from a while back that we might be in the same geographic area, and thus I may have some…possibly useful thoughts on certain things? (Trying to maintain internets anonymity is so much fun.) You’re welcome to email me at my username up there ^ at yahoo, if you’d like.

  148. I usually find it more productive to focus on an individual sexist/privileged remark or argument rather than trying to persuade someone that their entire framework is sexist.

    For one thing, the attack upon someone’s framework is just too big: they simply cannot see what you’re complaining about, because it’s all of a piece to them. For another, I don’t CARE what that person IS deep down in their heart of hearts; I care how that person’s outward expressions and practices affect others.

    Jay Smooth has a short video on a similar topic: How to tell people they sound racist. Here, distinguishes between the “what they said” conversation and the “what they are” conversation: the first focuses on the person’s words and actions; the second uses the words and actions to draw conclusions about what kind of person they are.

    Trying to define another person’s internal motives and intentions only clouds the conversation and gives them a chance to claim greater knowledge of their pure an unsullied soul.

    In a conversation about privilege, I don’t care much about the privileged person’s intent; I care about how their words and actions look from a different perspective, and how they may be unintentionally reiterating institutionalized ideas about The Other.

  149. JSTG,

    Also, I pick my battles when it comes to people I interact with regularly or care about a lot. For me, that means I actually tend to take on instances of sexism, racism, etc., more so than I do homphobia and transphobia, because I feel I have more of a moral duty as a privileged person to do my part to fight these -isms than I do as a disprivileged person to fight homophobia and transphobia.

    No kidding right? Not to mention, when it’s something that affects you personally it’s just so tiring to have to combat it 24/7.
    Last year I was sleeping with a guy and I let his sexism slide about half the time, but I always called him out on his racist assumptions and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he referred to Isis from ANTM as “it”.

  150. kristin–Another fun thing to bat around is the social expectations for women vis à vis sex: is it really okay for women to express a desire for sex? Can women express sexual desire to a specific man without having that taken as an invitation for sex? How are women who seek sex portrayed by the media? (Cougars. Sluts. Wild-eyed sorority girls.) How does society talk about sexually-experienced women? How does it talk about women who desire non-standard sexual experiences? Is there a difference in what is connoted by oral sex, depending on who’s doing what? Is a woman’s behavior in bed sometimes constrained by her need not to be more lascivious, more kinky, or more experienced than her partner?

    Really, the idea that women are the ones in control during consensual sex is absurd. (Socially speaking, you understand. What individual women do with their partners is thankfully much less restrictive than what society encourages.) Women may have the socially-sanctioned privilege to decide what’s inappropriate, but there’s a big difference between being the brake and being the engine.

    Sorry for the little derail here, but I’ve been messing around with this topic for a few days and so I thought I’d throw these discussion questions out there for you.

  151. Elsa, I <3 Jay Smooth, and he's so good at what he does that it strikes me that another tool in the 101 battle is to send the person of interest a link to him.

  152. I don’t have much to add to the awesomeness here. The folks I hang with are all allies of some stripe, but on the rare occasion someone says something from out of their hat, I prefer to mock quickly and move on. The Spouse loves a good debate, and will cling tighter to his amusingly outrageous position just for fun if one attempts to reason with him. But he admires nothing so much as a good joke, so that’s the route I take.

  153. “What’s wrong with being sexy?”

    -Nigel Tufnel

    thanks for this post and all the helpful comments.

    this has been an issue for me and my husband for a while. if I bring it up, he insists he is not being sexist just “old-fashioned”, which somehow is supposed to make it ok I guess.

  154. I was just realizing that part of what my aunt was trying to get across to me, that it took me years to understand, is not to confuse conversations with boundary-setting.

    There’s endless conditioning in the popular culture that men should ignore the complaints of women as meaningless noise. If your boundary is; when my male partner or family member does X, I will complain in some fashion, what you’re very likely to get is that he will accept some meaningless noise to tune out as a consequence he is perfectly willing to live with. Never try to substitute complaints for boundaries. It won’t work.

    Worse, investing a lot of time and energy in trying to convince someone that you are human is really, really, really bad for your emotional health.

  155. I will take this moment to object to the use of ‘phobia’ to mean ‘bigotry’ (as in ‘transphobia’ and ‘homophobia’) as it elevates bigotry to the (isn’t, but ought to be) protected status of a mental illness and belittles people with actual anxiety disorders.

    (I actually know a guy who takes mad anti-anxiety meds for a genuine phobia of gay men. He’s not a bigot. He’ll never argue that this feeling is right. He hates it.)

    I’m sure it’s not necessary to comment on this here.

  156. @Starling

    I’m pretty sure that cross-gender ass-slapping and ass-slapping strangers are never okay. Anyone else able to think of any exceptions?

    I don’t know about ass-slapping, but my odd little group of close friends is in the habit of the odd ass-grab-and-squeeze, where normal people might hug. This includes my boyfriend, my sister, two straight female friends, one straight male friend, and one lesbian friend (though the boys do not grab-ass each other, nor would they hug). It probably has something to do with having known each other so long and having lived in such close quarters that we are edging into near-family relationships.

    In contrast, I got the ass-grab from a hand behind me at a crowded bar once, and when I turned around three men were leering at me. (I believe he thought I had cut in front of him and was trying to frighten and humiliate me, FWIW). I then returned to my friends in a nearly incoherent fearful rage, and almost murdered my boyfriend when he said, “You should have punched him in the balls,” as if that would have been entirely safe and effective.

  157. I should clarify that I do not believe the two men grab only the women and not each other because they believe they should have access to women’s bodies or because the contact is sexual. I believe that it has to do with the cultural homophobia that causes all man-to-man physical affection to be viewed as sexual.

  158. Aestas

    aleks: I checked the link you posted, and I have to agree that in that case, the WATM statement was rather unfair. Re: your first comment, though, it’s upsetting to me when anyone, male or female, takes one incident and says, “See? This is why people don’t like feminism!” I think most people who don’t like feminism feel that way because they’re threatened by the idea of a change in the status quo and a corresponding loss of privilege, and they use fringe examples or stereotypes to try to legitimize their position, which is really pretty unfair.

    Aestas,
    That was my first foray into web-feminism, back in December, and I’d probably not have phrased it the same way now.

  159. Having just read Grafton’s comment, I edit my above comment to “the cultural bigotry against homosexual men that causes all man-to-man physical affection to be viewed as both bad and sexual”.

  160. What should one say when a female friend tells you a guy just grabbed her ass? I vacillate between apologizing and macho posturing (all scrawny bespectacled 5’6 of me) about kicking his ass, and obviously these are not helpful.

  161. Okay, volcanista. My assumptions about the OP may be wrong, but my question stands. Is the way that one confronts another WOMAN about her sexism different than the way one might confront a man? Or is it pretty much the same “pebble,” use I statements, set boundaries thing? Because, honestly, in my experience it can be very difficult to get through to anti-feminist women who have bought into the inferiority complex, and I’d love some advice.

  162. Grafton permalink
    I will take this moment to object to the use of ‘phobia’ to mean ‘bigotry’ (as in ‘transphobia’ and ‘homophobia’) as it elevates bigotry to the (isn’t, but ought to be) protected status of a mental illness and belittles people with actual anxiety disorders.
    (I actually know a guy who takes mad anti-anxiety meds for a genuine phobia of gay men. He’s not a bigot. He’ll never argue that this feeling is right. He hates it.)
    I’m sure it’s not necessary to comment on this here.

    For my illumination, if no one else’s, it was necessary and I thank you for it.

  163. Grafton, that is a very interesting point.

    Anxiety disorders and phobic disorders may share qualities, but they are not necessarily interchangeable. The latter may is typically fixed on a single focus, e.g. arachnaphobia, ophidiophobia, agoraphobia. My understanding is that a phobia is not necessarily a mental health issue unless or until it inhibits or interferes with a person’s ability to do usual daily activities (self care, avoid self harm, have normal relationships, be able to work a job).

    In this sense, I believe that transphobia and homophobia are appropriate descriptors of both our culture at large, and of many specific individuals. Bigotry does not seem to adequately cover the irrational fear, hatred and violence aimed at non-cis, not-het people. Transphobia and homophobia help frame that what we talking about is behaviors – individual and cultural -that keep non-cis/het people not just marginalized, but in actual fear for their health, safety, and welfare.

    YMMV, of course, and I am certainly going to think about this point a lot more, and thank you for bringing it up.

  164. Jay Smooth explaining the difference between a What You Said Conversation and a What You Are Conversation. Dealing with race, but it should be the same for sexist comments. “I don’t care what you are, I care about what you did.”

  165. So I have just started teaching at a new university, which is super gender imbalanced (at least 2 men to every 1 woman). This is not helped by the fact that there is a pervasive attitude which, if not overtly hostile to women, is certainly not affirming and empowering. In teaching a recent class on old-timey times, it was apparent that my students were completely clueless about how misogyny, anti-Semitism, etc. worked outside of overt and self-evidently violent episodes. (Their attitude: ‘but it wasn’t the Holocaust, it was just a series of law codes'; me: ‘wtf….’).

    All of this is not totally unexpected, given that they are newbies and college is for teh learningz; what WAS unexpected was my faculty supervisor/mentor/boss’s reaction when I told him about it. I said, oh, this is what happened, we are really going to hit this stuff harder later in the term so they start to understand it…

    And Prof. X says, ‘I’d warn you against getting too political in class, because the students will really resist that.’

    Bear in mind, please, that the business I was teaching was at least eight centuries old. Ugh. Apparently any discussion of privilege and power is inherently threatening.

    That, combined with a variety of comments about other faculty (‘oh, Prof. Y is our resident feminist’ followed by a story about how he feels that she over-reacted to something) have demonstrated in short order just how Prof. X feels about laydees voicing opinions.

    It has had the side benefit, however, of getting my father on my side when I told him a story about how appalling this all is; he ended up agreeing with me completely which is very gratifying given that he occasionally, despite being a lovely person, backslides into an unfortunate sexist comment.

    Which is all a really long story confirming that the good cop/bad cop method of getting someone on your side by relating how messed up a third party is, can work.

  166. @ Starling

    “Really, the idea that women are the ones in control during consensual sex is absurd. (Socially speaking, you understand. What individual women do with their partners is thankfully much less restrictive than what society encourages.) Women may have the socially-sanctioned privilege to decide what’s inappropriate, but there’s a big difference between being the brake and being the engine.”

    It’s possible I’m misunderstanding something here, but I’m getting the impression you’re saying being the brake gives you less control or is somehow “worse” than being the engine.

    In my romantic experience, when it comes to different facets of a relationship you need one person to set the direction (the engine) and someone to set the pace (the brake). You can’t have two engines or the relationship is all over the place; you can’t have two brakes or nothing happens. And you can’t have one or both people trying to be both the engine and the brake at the same time on the same issue.

    The traditional view is that the woman is the commitment “engine” and the sexual “brake”. I don’t agree with this being institutionalized as the best and only way of doing things, but I don’t see the people who stick to convention as being ‘bad.’ Ultimately, it comes down to what works for the relationship and the personalities in it. If they’re in a happy place, it’s nobody else’s business how they got there.

    I wouldn’t normally jump on this except that I often get the impression that some people look down on the ‘brake’ role as somehow being inferior or weaker, which makes me sad. Sometimes it requires just as much if not more strength to say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ than it does to be the one pushing forward.

    Dan

  167. What should one say when a female friend tells you a guy just grabbed her ass? I vacillate between apologizing and macho posturing (all scrawny bespectacled 5′6 of me) about kicking his ass, and obviously these are not helpful.

    In case it wasn’t clear, the reason I was upset with my boyfriend for his reaction was that, although it recognized that it was Not Okay for the strange man to grab my ass, he did not recognize that I could have been injured, raped, stalked, further harassed, or possibly arrested (three testimonies against one) for physically fighting back.

    I think that what you “should” say would depend on the woman. “That’s messed up. Is there anything I can do to help?” would probably be a good default.

  168. What should one say when a female friend tells you a guy just grabbed her ass?

    To quote the man who became my husband, from back in our punk club days: ‘Fuck, what a jerk. Want to head on out to [that place] up the street? Fewer assholes and it’s got a good jukebox.’

  169. My apologies, Rachel, I didn’t mean my question as a response to your situation. It’s something I’d been meaning to ask for some time.

  170. Transphobia and homophobia help frame that what we talking about is behaviors – individual and cultural -that keep non-cis/het people not just marginalized, but in actual fear for their health, safety, and welfare.

    But the thing is, normally “X-phobia” means “someone is afraid of X”, not “someone makes X afraid”. Phobias of anything else are usually seen as somewhere between a personality quirk and a serious mental health problem, depending on the target and severity. They are also generally more or less entirely disconnected with how the person feels intellectually about the object they are phobic about.

  171. aleks, what Eucritta and Rachel said, and perhaps offer to buy her a drink and tell her it’s because of that kind of shit that she had deal with (probably not for the first time).

  172. But the thing is, normally “X-phobia” means “someone is afraid of X”, not “someone makes X afraid”.

    I think many people would argue that transphobia and homophobia are systems of bigotry that perpetuate and exploit given individuals’ fears of being identified as trans or queer.

    But I think that this topic, interesting as it is, is a bit of a threadjack here (as is the ass-slapping, frankly).

  173. grogette,

    “No kidding right? Not to mention, when it’s something that affects you personally it’s just so tiring to have to combat it 24/7.
    Last year I was sleeping with a guy and I let his sexism slide about half the time, but I always called him out on his racist assumptions and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he referred to Isis from ANTM as ‘it.'”

    Yeah, this too! Fighting back against those -isms that aren’t directed towards me just doesn’t tire me out the way that dealing with jerks who make anti-gay or anti-trans comments tires me out.

    Also, anyone who refers to trans people as “it”? Is scum. Argh, that’s so infuriating.

    Grafton,

    I’m not sure how to edit comments, or even if I have that capability (are there registered users here?), but I’m happy to use the terms cissexism and heterosexism.

  174. @Grafton: I am not sure if this is going to result in my sticking my foot down my esophagus, but would your friend have this extreme, irrational fear of gay men if gay men were not stigmatized in some way? I may be forgetting some Psych 101, but aren’t clinical phobias often directed at stigmatized objects or objects that are perceived as dangerous (spiders, snakes, heights, enclosed spaces, etc.) but in which the perceived threat is totally out of proportion to the actual danger? I’m in perfect sympathy with the idea that we can have extreme emotional and physiological reactions to perceived threats that we intellectually know are quite small or not real, but isn’t the perception of that threat culturally embedded in some way? Would he be as likely to have this extreme phobia if he didn’t live in a culture in which gay men are so frequently treated as predators?

    Someone recently told me about a friend they have who literally starts screaming if she sees a little person because of such a clinical phobia. I understand that she maybe can’t really help it (and is perhaps very ashamed of the fact) with out some pharmacological assistance and intense therapy, but I’m not sure that makes a ton of difference to the little person in her presence, especially since little people are so frequently treated as inhuman or as scary, freakish or weird in some way.

  175. Sort of in response to Aleks’ question, but also a moment of 101 for *me* – and I don’t think I posted this already, although I thought of it in & after the “Crickets” thread.

    I had a coworker once stick his fingers in a new rip in my jeans, pull hard so that the leg ripped up from knee to thigh, and then promise to educate me on rough sex if I went to his house that night; my boss laughed as if this was a good time (but believe told the guy to pay me for the pants.)

    I went home and told two male friends. One of whom proceeded to rant that he’d go down and rip the guy’s head off, yaddayadda. Which felt good, believe me; the outrage felt good because I was having a hard time figuring out if my outrage was appropriate, because everyone *else* seemed to think the guy had paid me a compliment.

    Anyway, my second male friend told the first one to hold up. Said something like – If she needs the help, *we’ll* go rip his head off. But I’m pretty sure she’s capable of telling him wear to go, and she’ll need to set a boundary not only with the coworker but with the boss. She’s a big girl, she doesn’t need us taking care of her; she just needs us to be there if she needs witnesses, or maybe brawn.

    That blew my mind.

  176. @SM – Actually, that boss owned the place, but later did a turn in jail for “sexual touching” of a minor in his employ. It was a horrifying place to work.

  177. What should one say when a female friend tells you a guy just grabbed her ass? I vacillate between apologizing and macho posturing (all scrawny bespectacled 5′6 of me) about kicking his ass, and obviously these are not helpful.

    Aleks: Anecdote time. My boyfriend is not afraid to get in people’s faces when they’ve invaded his space and his privacy. His preferred solution is to just walk away, but when that doesn’t work, he harbors no qualms about escalating the situation if the invader will not back down. I, on the other hand, vastly prefer ignoring the person, walking away or, if necessary, yelling at the person and then walking away. Whether or not I agree with his methods and his belief in their necessity in theory is neither here nor there; what matters is that in practice, his methods will cause me to have a full-scale meltdown. We faced this exact situation recently, when a stranger harassed us in a movie theatre. I yelled at him (fed the troll, basically), and he just took that as enticement to harass us more. This – the fact that the guy explicitly ignored my clear request to fuck off and die – was the point at which my boyfriend became very, very angry, and started talking back to the troll in really nasty, obnoxious fashion. (Not that he was wrong to do so, just that I knew where it was leading.) Within about thirty seconds, he was in the troll’s face, screaming, and the guy was doing all he could to back the fuck down and get out of there to avoid what was very clearly a forthcoming getting-the-shit-kicked-out-of-him. I had spent that thirty seconds trying to get my boy to stop talking to the guy, walk away, anything, because while I feel comfortable dealing with assholes myself, having the person I’m with engage them aggressively causes me serious, serious issues. After this was over and we walked out of the theatre, my boy was wound up sky-high with rage, but I was shaking and crying. I proceeded to sob at levels ranging from socially-appropriate-whimpers to chest-heaving-hysteria for about an hour and a half. Because, for whatever reason, that’s the response I have to harassment + aggression. (Yes, this is a counterproductive response. Luckily, I’ve only been in this situation three times in my life.)

    Now, how does this relate to your question? I will tell you. The guy was harassing both of us, but his comments (I’m told; I genuinely wasn’t listening) were directed at me. Also, I was clearly more upset by his invasion of our space than my boy way. So, in my anecdote, I’m the girl whose ass has been grabbed. My boy wanted to beat the crap out of this guy, and I don’t necessarily think he’d have been wrong to do so – but in the moment, in reality, I’d have completely fucking lost it well beyond a two-hour crying jag if he had. And he knew that. So he looked at our situation, realized that my needs were more pressing than his, and walked the fuck away. And did his damnedest to be a comfort to me in the ways I needed even though it took him probably about an hour to be even remotely close to comfortable with doing them – he did them anyway.

    So. If one of your female friends is telling you she’s being harassed in any way, and she seems rattled, your job is to figure out what would make her feel best and do it. If she wants to get out of there, you get her out. If she wants you to talk to the guy and you are comfortable talking to the guy, you do it. If she feels the need to bitch about “men,” you listen. I have found that my feelings when I’ve been harassed (which, incidentally, has always been when I’m out with a man) are entirely unpredictable, are not what I’d expect from myself, are not necessarily what I want to be feeling, and aren’t at all fun. So if your friend is rattled and is telling you about it, understand that her brain is probably in fifteen different places and she just needs you to be there.

    This advice is probably more applicable to situations of slightly greater magnitude than “A dude grabbed my ass,” but then again, one never knows what sort of invasion of space will send one into the stratosphere. I hope it’s useful to you.

  178. aleks, any kind of sexual assault, including ass-grabbing without permission, is a form of taking control of a person’s own body away. The key to offering support to someone who has been targeted in that fashion is to respect their choices, no matter what they are.

    If you’re willing to punch the guy, ask her first, and go with what she says she prefers. If you’re willing to go with her to the police, ask her, and accept whatever answer she gives. Whatever you do, do not tell her what her reaction should be. You can say what your reaction is (OMG I’m furious!), but don’t take action on her behalf unless it’s what she wants.

  179. That’s fine, sara l! I am okay with having this discussion if it’s talking about how guys can be an ally — which is germane to the original post — but I am not interested in hosting a “here’s when it’s okay to grab ass” conversation.

  180. SM: Sorry, I posed the ass-grab question originally, and it was kind of intended to be a rhetorical “Who the hell does this to a stranger?” sort of thing.

    Dan: I’m trying not to threadjack on this one as well, but it seems to me that both partners should be allowed either to be engines or brakes, depending on their feelings about what’s happening. The man should be able to say, “This is going too fast for me,” without fearing it’ll reflect on his masculinity. The woman should be free to express desires without fearing that she’s stepping out of her place. No, being the brake isn’t the easy way out; it’s a damned difficult way that ignores the reality of female sexual desire. Couples whose relationship naturally mirrors the social norm (she’s pushing for commitment, he wants sex more than she does) aren’t wrong, but ones in which the social norm is substituted for what the partners actually want, feel and need–that’s a problem.

  181. Alrighty then…aleks, this is supplementary to what everyone else said about respecting her wishes, of course: when I’ve been grabbed/harassed somewhere in public but need to stay in that area, I’ve generally wanted someone to stick close to me for a while for both support and douche-repellent, but sometimes that is, for me at least, a bit hard to ask for. So depending on the situation, proactively offering to keep her company for as long as she wants could be a nice thing to do. This is based on my feelings and YMMV, of course. :)

  182. “The difference here, as I have argued before, is that when it comes to consensual sex, women are in control. They decide when and how to have sex. They decide what is appropriate. Seeing a naked man is no big deal because they can see one whenever they want. Not so for men, who must first be charming, interesting, well-mannered and/or rich, or at least have something more going for them than a dick.”

    Oy.

  183. Thanks, Some Trans Guy, re: Cissexism, Heterosexism. Much better words. I can answer the other questions about the nature of phobias/anxiety disorders and how the people waiting at the mental health center feel about the language on the Ning site if somebody cares enough to put a thread there.

    I’d like to hear other ways men can interfere with harassment. When the victim is a child I don’t worry about turning the Evil Librarian Voice on and telling somebody to leave her the hell alone, but when it comes to adult women I fear my assistance will be unwelcome. It might, from somebody’s point of view, pressuppose that she cannot defend herself.

    Heh. Maybe that’s yet another topic. It’s right to attempt to protect the oppressed, but sometimes when you do that, the oppressed will think that you are by your actions calling them weak and keeping them down.

  184. Robyn:
    Your comment made me realize that I am much harder on women who collude with the patriarchy than I am with men. I’m not sure if it’s right, and I will start to examine it now that I realize what I’ve been doing.

    Dan:
    It would be more correct to say that society expects men to be the “driver” of sexual relations and for women to be the “brake.” Men are given the agency to decide what direction they would like their sexual expression to proceed, when women attempt to make the same decisions they are often scorned, shamed, or silenced. When, I’m sure you will agree, we should all be able to make decisions and control of our own sexual expression.

  185. kristin, I’ve been trying to think of what to say, and it all keeps coming back to concepts that’ll sound like Warnings of Doom and Gloom.

    What’s worrying me about what your husband said is the level of underlying long-festering anger that goes with that kind of rationale. He’s claiming “women” have unfair power over him, and that it’s okay to try to get back at them as he chooses. It may seem like something you can deal with so long it’s directed at the amorphous “women” construct in his head, but the thing is, you will never be entirely disconnected from that construct in his mind.

    Since he’s essentially put himself into a rigorous program of mentally training himself to foster that resentment and rationale for vengeful control-taking, that mental pattern is going to become more and more dominant in his mind the more he puts into it.

    And at some point he might decide you have unfair control over him.

  186. @Starling:

    I think that SP itself is a great place to learn to debate properly.

    I disagree! I’m right! You’re wrong! I win everything forever!

    Okay, seriously, no, your comment’s spot on, especially this…

    I also think 101 is a terrible place for jargon (avoid “oppression” and “privilege” at all costs! Also “rape culture”!) I wish there were less emotionally-laden terms to use for those ideas within the academic study of social power dynamics, too.

    I put “Patriarchy” at the top of the list of words not to be used in a 101 prep course without prior definition and a lot of ground work, because when you say it to many people they think you’re talking about a lot of cigar-smoking Captains of Industry types meeting in a suitably phallic giant marble edifice somewhere, rather than the edifice itself… something that uplifts, glorifies, shelters, and supports them.

    “Unpacking” is another one. If someone’s either not conversant with the term by itself or familiar with the extended metaphor behind it, it sounds… well, it’s going to be worse than meaningless.

    It seems better to start with the concepts and then introduce the terminology we hang on them. Once somebody understands how pernicious and harmful the problem is, having a useful label for it might seem more important than “but that’s not what patriarchy means to me!”

  187. because when you say it to many people they think you’re talking about a lot of cigar-smoking Captains of Industry types meeting in a suitably phallic giant marble edifice somewhere

    Wait, that’s NOT what we’re talking about? KATE YOU HAVE MISLED ME

  188. What!!? Then who has been getting all of my X-mas letters? And more importantly, will I ever get that pony?!!?!!?

  189. Helen Huntington – I have doom and gloom feelings, believe me. I was just hoping some of the suggestions here might work. I sent him the link to Liss’s terrible bargain post suggested upthread, and his response was “I don’t need to read anything more from the Feminist Nation.” This is a guy who really considers himself progressive. Matters probably aren’t helped by my being a prof (i.e. he still brings up that he does more housework even though I work way more hours). It’s constant power struggle around here.

    Anyway, SM, I hope this isn’t hijacking too terribly. It’s in keeping with the theme of the post, and I am truly struggling right now.

  190. kristen: Please ignore me if this is counterproductive, but . . .

    Dude Nation and I have been thinking a lot about each other these past two weeks. They aren’t really keen on me, and I have to admit that I’m not so keen on them, either. But it occurred to me today that the most virulent Men’s Rights Dudes are angry about things that make me angry, too. They are angry about unequal parental rights after divorce. They’re angry at the constant struggle for economic stability. They’re angry about being demonized. They’re angry about feeling isolated and frustrated and unwanted and unable to connect. They choose to direct this anger at feminists (and liberals and illegal immigrants, too, I’ve noticed), but that misdirection doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of reason to be angry.

    I too am angry at a world that makes alimony necessary, because women are generally paid less and promoted less, and because the society expects a gender divide of responsibilities. I too am angry at an outmoded family law system that uses gender roles instead of reality to define what’s best for children and parents. I too am angry about the way that so many of us are one serious illness or one terrible accident away from penury. I too am angry about a world in which I am constantly wary of strange men instead of open to interacting with the smart and interesting people who walk past me daily.

    Maybe what’s eating your guy is legitimate anger that he’s directing against the wrong things? I’m not going to go hold the hands of Dude Nation (who knows where those hands have been, amirite?) and lead them to More Enlightened Thinking. When it’s someone you love and care about, though, it can be worth it to dig down to the underlying issues and reaffirm that you’re both coming from the same place. Exploring common ground with antagonists is often a powerful way to get everyone to put down the knives and start listening again.

    I don’t know if you’re precisely at this point, but it did sound as if your husband is starting to tune out feminist stuff because it feels like an attack. I’m so sorry you’re struggling, and I hope things get better.

  191. My aunt’s answer was, “Never trust someone who is untrustworthy.” She then repeated it about 20 times. And to all my, “But –”’s, she repeated it again.

    She’s right.

    She’s a fucking genius. <3 <3 <3

    That sums up the place I've arrived at as well. I don't have the patience to sugar-coat the fact that I am human so it's more appealing for some dude who doesn't want to swallow it. I don't do 101 (except with children). I don't give anyone cookies for treating me like a person.

    I have enough to do as it is, trying to survive in a world where half the population hates me for having way too many X chromosomes.

    What I do is I assert and patrol my boundaries, and I don't permit offensive shit to be done around me without challenging it. If there's a person with whom challenging it regularly gets me a metric shit-ton of whining or a stabby pain over my left eye, then I know what I'm dealing with and I refuse to interact any more with that person than I absolutely, positively have to. On the flip side, if there's a person with whom challenging it leads to a respectful response, I also know what I'm dealing with, and I just might trust and value that person in my life.

  192. I think that when you are trying to get men to accept bits of feminism that they are resistant to, sometimes it helps to have a discussion about their gender identity and how they come by it. Then, empathy and encouragement in the personal work of dealing with his personal issues. Sometimes it seems better to either keep things in the realm of hypothetical, or else to bring it into terms of personal experience. I had a close friend who went from “Feminism is just man-bashing” to “I am the best feminist ever and all you women don’t know what you are talking about”, and it was really hard to get through to him. Any discussion of generalities just turned way defensive.
    So it turned out that the men in his life had been amazingly negative influences, and that he was raised by a mother who had nothing good to say about men and pretty much considered him as the latest in a string of men who ruined her life. He felt like that his privelage as a part of the patriarchy validated all his negative feelings about himself, and irrevocably conflated him with men that as well as harming the women he cared for, ruined his life. Accepting it, meant agreeing with his mother that he was a bad and worthless person.

    Luckily, with some therapy, he got over a lot of that stuff… and was able to accept some of the stuff he had been doing, as harmful to others in his life.

  193. I think that when you are trying to get men to accept bits of feminism that they are resistant to, sometimes it helps to have a discussion about their gender identity and how they come by it.

    Meliora, that is a really great suggestion. Privilege is invisible to those who have it, but that doesn’t mean gender/race/etc are invisible — we’re just taught to think of them that way. I remember my mind being really blown when I first heard “white” being referred to as a race, because as a white person I had been trained to think of myself as default or racially transparent. That mental shift really helped me think of racism more systemically. I hasten to add, I’m not trying to conflate racism and sexism here — just thinking through my own privilege 101 moments.

  194. Wow, finally caught up on the thread. I’m going to let several posts that were directed at me go without a response since the conversation has moved along. I hope that isn’t taken as a sign of disrespect. But I have to say, rainne, you totally win the joke competition with that meaningful brevity. :-]

    I’ve been doing some googling around, just taking a sort of random walk through conversations about educating men on feminism and I’ve noted a common thread where men ask, “But what’s in it for me?” Yes, this is WATM, but as I’ve read more I think there’s an angle here that can be played-up in early conversations when trying to educate men on issues of privilege.

    I’m thinking back to the times in my life where the occasional sexist remark escaped my lips. If my significant other had asked me, “That hurts my feelings that you would say that, why did you?” I’m not sure I could have answered the question on the spot. Why did I say that? For humor? Not likely, I know plenty of good jokes that can pass muster. As an attack of some sort? Again, probably not, since I’m disinclined towards confrontation. Perhaps it was a reaction to something inside me that I wanted to dismiss? Ah, now I think I’m getting somewhere.

    What was that thing inside that I needed to dismiss so crudely and without thought? That I didn’t want to see in my mind’s eye?

    I find there’s a current of envy present in the times when I’ve said things I later came to regret. Because of our privileged status, men feel they have this heavy load to bear that women don’t. So, it occurs to me to point out all the ways that feminism is entirely about creating a system for the equal distribution of the burdens we humans carry, and to use that, along with personal references, as a neutral starting point before wading into the (for men) harder-to-grasp territory of rape culture.

    The common ground of what feminism does to make life better for everyone seems to me to be a good place from which to embark. I’m not sure if I’ve expressed myself well, but it’s been helpful to talk aloud and I hope my meaning comes through.

  195. Because of our privileged status, men feel they have this heavy load to bear that women don’t.

    Yes, I’m quoting myself in order to hasten to add that there is a huge irony inherent in this sentence. That irony was intended. ;-]

  196. @Helen Huntingdon, you said, regarding my list of “guys who get it”:

    Holy shit, you have a list? My list would have zero entries.

    well, there were exactly two guys on the list when I started, and one of them came from the 10 years I spent discussing on usenet. There’s three on the list, now. The third one is there because he used one of the first two as a role model.

    I don’t know how you’d jumpstart the process with an empty list, though.

  197. Aaah, you’re out of the house a day and it’s so hard to catch up on the comments!!! So compulsive am I about needing to keep up with SP that I have figured out how to get on the site on my slightly-too-old-for-easy-web-browsing-phone!!

    @Dan — I’d echo the other commenters who have suggested in a relationship, ideally both people are operating the engine and brakes… I couldn’t make the analogy work in my head with a car, so instead I’m trying out stretch one with a fantasy steam engine situation where driver and engineer (coal-shovelling-into-fire person) swap places as necessary and do the jobs together as necessary — they can both do both and they can both do both simultaneously in some situations — but importantly if either of them need to pull the brake at any time for any reason, the train *stops*… Ok so from my overthunk analogy work recently it is clear I am probably not cut out to be a poet or any kind of writer, but still! :-)

    @Kristen — Wow, that sounds so hard and I’m sending a huge (non-boundary overstepping, virtual) internet ((((hug)))). I don’t think it was as hard for me to talk about it with my boyfriend as it is for you with your husband, but I have some idea of what you’re going through. In previous relationships, the issue of porn was one that I felt I ‘had to’ try to come to terms with (esp one very chauvinistic pro-porn anti-feminist guy I still can’t understand why I went out with!), but it *never* sat right with me, even though I knew (&know) women who are fine with it, or at least profess to be fine with it, and I know there are many who enjoy porn of all kinds themselves. For the longest time I thought it was a problem with *me* because my psyche was ‘broken’ or something — this, I might add, was an idea that got strengthened by The Exes In Question.

    But my boyfriend now is generally at something like Feminism Level 5, and so it came as a huge shock when we had the Porn Conversation and I discovered he watched it, and declared he didn’t think there were ethical issues in the way that is ‘often made out’. I was still upset, and it made me really uncomfortable… off the back of that I went wading about the net and came across the ‘anti-porn’ resources at One Angry Girl … Not all of it was directly or instantly helpful, but I found engaging with this and other sources helped me to articulate to myself a lot of the reasons why I personally was horribly uncomfortable to be in a relationship where the other person enjoyed porn — and specific kinds of porn (I think I would be *better* about it if I knew the women in question *for sure* weren’t being exploited as a large part of my problem is that I don’t see how you can know — the films don’t seem to come with ‘Fair Trade’ stamps! — Although I would probably *personally* still have issues about it which are to do with my own history as well as my general take on feminist issues).

    It came in useful when one day I arrived earlier than planned at his house, and got to the ‘wrong’ website when the autofill function filled in the last site visited — cue me trying very hard to ask about if it was what I thought, trying not to react, and failing, and furthermore, cue him getting upset and defensive — and massive eruption of upset and me locking myself in the bathroom — you get the picture. Eventually I was able to explain a lot of my position to him, and once he realised that I wasn’t trying to attack him but had a genuine underlying distress over the issue, we had a bit more progress. I discussed some of the ideas that the internetz (esp OneAngryGirl) had helped me to identify and describe with him, and a lot of the specific examples really helped. He agreed to spend some time looking at the anti-porn section of the site (which comes at the issue from a stance of ‘education over censorship’) and eventually had a major shift. I don’t know if this will be any use to you at all, but at least the resources at 1AG are a collection of different things, usually short snippet-style, which are arranged by the type of pro-porn argument it’s addressing? Sometimes, when the stakes are really high and I have such strong emotional (and rational!) reactions to something, having dissected ideas and having snippet-y bullet points to refer to and fall back upon have saved me from screaming meltdowns.

    I really hope you can work the situation out to whatever will make you most happy –*crosses fingers and toes, sends more virtual hugs*

    @Godless Heathen — So sorry to hear about your situation. My parents are suddenly in that situation too, and I know it’s really frightening. Am sending what I can, though it will be a funny amount as it’ll be in GBP!

  198. I should have said that his ‘major shift’ was something that we think in retrospect had been building up — like others have suggested, my bf felt he was being attacked because he got turned on by it. When we got to the stage of Bathroom Lockage Meltdown we had already had some uncomfortable discussions and some lower level arguments — it was only when I actually saw the screen shot at the start (before play is pressed — like you get a pic with embedded Youtube clips, etc) that the whole thing became too real for me to cope with, and all the issues came tumbling out… Similarly seeing me as upset as I was made it all very real for him too. I know my situ won’t have been the same at all, not least because we’re not married/cohabiting/similar (although we mean a *lot* to each other), so I’m really sorry if my post came over as me sticking my framework onto your experience (it wasn’t meant like that… *worries*).

  199. No worries, Zenoodle. Thank you for the link, and your experience.

    Starling, thank you for your thoughts, too. I am thinking :)

  200. What should one say when a female friend tells you a guy just grabbed her ass? I vacillate between apologizing and macho posturing (all scrawny bespectacled 5′6 of me) about kicking his ass, and obviously these are not helpful.

    As we have seen: ask a different woman, you’ll get a different answer. Here is what I would want to hear in this situation:

    “My god, that sucks! What an asshole! Are you okay? What do you want to do? Is there anything you want me to do?”

  201. @ Caitlin – Isn’t it hilarious, though? An actual letter, written on paper. It was like getting written up at work. My dad, half HR manager, half concern troll. And did I mention he sulked so badly that he didn’t even enjoy dinner out? Even though we were having Indian food, which he loves?

    About the whole women control sex thing…I’m curious. Even if one were to agree with that, what does it have to do with porn? That that’s supposedly the only way for het men to see naked women? Even when said het men have girlfriends, since that’s who they’re whining at? By that logic, if it’s OK for him to watch porn it should be OK for the girlfriend to go out and use her magical vagina powers to make random men get naked for her. I’d be tempted to come back with that as an anwer, actually.

  202. aleks:
    That was my first foray into web-feminism, back in December, and I’d probably not have phrased it the same way now.

    Fair enough. I’m still learning all this stuff myself.

  203. “By that logic, if it’s OK for him to watch porn it should be OK for the girlfriend to go out and use her magical vagina powers to make random men get naked for her.”

    That seems perfectly reasonable. It probably won’t help. It’d be more reasonable to point out to him that, no, seriously, his sex life is really, honestly, NOT ruled by women bullying him about via the argumentum tripodium, and WTF is that about anyway, this business of men claiming that women are in charge of sex.

  204. You know the “women are in charge of sex” argument has always really creeped me out, because it’s always said in a resentful tone, as if it’s oh so terribly unfair that women get to put on the brakes. The underlying thought is pretty clearly that women shouldn’t be able to have any control over where and how sex happens, that it’s unfair that we do have the ability to say yes or no, that this is a societal problem.

    The whole framing is remarkably rapey. Every time I see a man say that I’m all, backing away slowly now, because if the idea that you don’t just get to do whatever you want to my body, I get a say too, deeply offends you…yeah, that’s a problem.

  205. The resentful “women are the controlling gatekeepers” to sex thing comes from a really bizarre view of sexuality that young guys literally beat into each other. “Sex”, or what they call by that name, isn’t mutual pleasure between two people, but one type of dominance token guys are supposed to acquire to show off to each other. If you have enough dominance tokens to flash, the other guys don’t beat you up that day. But dominance tokens have really short half-lives, and don’t last long. So you always have to be on the hunt for new ones. Because if you don’t have enough at a given moment, the other guys will stomp you, literally, financially, or in some other way.

    So “women” are collectively sitting on the Fort Knox of dominance tokens, in these guys’ minds. “Women” have an unlimited supply in their keeping. And the stingy bitches aren’t handing them out. And the pissed off guy is sitting there thinking that the whole world is coming down on him, and she’s not sharing her limitless supply because he wasn’t nice enough to her. Some little piddly thing like treating her as a human being she takes as an excuse to keep all that supply for herself and leave him hanging out there to get stomped on. Bitch.

    There’s nothing you can do for these guys except run like hell far, far away.

  206. CassandraSays, exactly. Any time a guy expresses any kind of resentment about women getting to say no, backing away slowly and then running like hell are in order.

  207. It’s constant power struggle around here. Oh shit.

    That plus his comment quote above = GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE.

  208. Helen Huntingdon, that’s a very interesting analysis regarding the ‘dominance tokens.’ It’d explain my failure to resent people for not wanting to have sex with me — I am not playing the dominance game. Heck, I attract resentment and violence myself because I ought to be on the bottom of the pecking order but don’t act the part.

    It’s not just the ‘I resent women for saying no’ thing that’s creepy, it’s the idea that women’s ability to say no to sex makes them equally powerful so they shouldn’t be equal anyplace else. Is this sex-is-a-power-club thing some form of projection.

  209. With men who’re clearly immersed in that paradigm I sometimes wonder if they really enjoy sex at all. I mean it doesn’t seem like much fun, walking into it like it’s a battlefield and no prisoners will be taken.

    Personally I’m totally OK with men who’re cheerfully lecherous most of the time, it’s the ones who’re playing the dominance, women they’ve fucked as proof of their manliness game that creep me out.

    It’s funny though, because when you argue with those men they always insist that there’s no way women can possibly read ill intent in an attempted pickup, but in fact it’s often crystal clear which men are working with the “sex as a fun thing 2 or more people do together” paradigm and which are working with the creepy dominance tokens paradigm.

  210. @AnotherMatt — you’re welcome. I came across it by accident but found it really useful, esp as mentioned, to help myself articulate to myself why I was finding it hard to brush off. I still don’t think I’m great at explaining my feelings/reactions about porn, particularly to women who are very pro-porn (not that I have participated in many major discussions about it ‘on purpose’ — I think it’s the area ‘wot is to do with feminism’ that I get most worried/nervous of discussing –not just because of the reactions I’m afraid of getting but also because I get a bit confused by all the references to loads of academic work on it (that I would find interesting I’m sure, but it’s not my field and it boggles my head because of the clashing with the gut feelings, and – just – argh!)… *hides under blanket, peeps out carefully*

  211. Hmmm I’m going to keep submitting different emails until I get a truly glorious monster. (SP, if the reason some of my posts aren’t going through are that I’m Carlos Bantana, please say so I will stop circumventing the bannihilation.)

  212. Although I have even more issues with Lechy Mansplainer-Academics who think they are the World’s Greatest Analytic Minds and Lady Rogering Machines All Rolled Into One… a description which fits over ~60% of the men in my particular department. Oddly enough, deploying rational arguments has the opposite effect to the expected one, and yet the times I’ve still tried, and failed, and got supremely frustrated…

  213. Aleks, I can’t believe you’re doing down your cute purple pine tree monster. How do you think he feels, especially now he’s heard you say things that will make him doubt he’s Truly Glorious — shame on you!! Fickle!!

  214. Well to be fair how OK I am with it is directly related to how attractive I find them…which is another entitled dude ragey rant thing to watch out for. Men who go on about how unfair it is that women respond positively to some men and negatively to others? Hey there creepy guy, guess what? Women are allowed to have preferences.

  215. Well to be fair how OK I am with it is directly related to how attractive I find them
    In that case I cheerfully withdraw my sleazy come-on.

  216. Zenoodle,
    1. These monsters don’t speak English. Awfully entitled of you to assume the privilege of communicating with any and all in your tongue, doncha think?
    2. Easy for you to say, sittin’ pretty on that gorgeous yellow specimen with those sharp expressive eyes, majestic bat wings and so smart the brain is literally uncontainable.

  217. I wonder if it makes the attractive ones more attractive.

    Sheesh, Aleks. I’ve a very boring monster, and you’re not contented with that tentacle-nosed purple tree one?

  218. Grafton, I liked the sneezleappogus pretty well, but it won’t let me post using that email. Since SP seems to prefer public banecutions to covert bansassinations I assume it’s a technical hiccup so I’m using a different email and getting a different monster.

  219. Cassandra, vampires aren’t scary any more they’re sexy. Which makes the whole thing seem pretty boring to me but you said if I were a woman. (And BTW I’d be a hell of a lot better at it than Beyonce.)

  220. Men who go on about how unfair it is that women respond positively to some men and negatively to others? Hey there creepy guy, guess what? Women are allowed to have preferences.

    CassandraSays, this times a million. I am actually totally open to being hit on by dudes pretty much any time any where, but guess what? I WILL BONE THE ONES I FIND ATTRACTIVE. I will not bone the ones I do not find attractive. Funny, I’m pretty sure this type of selection is exactly what dudes do….

  221. If I were a woman I’d be in line for the midnight showing of the new Twilight movie right about now

    And be out after dark? Surely you jest. We all live in fear here, after all.

    vampires aren’t scary any more they’re sexy. Which makes the whole thing seem pretty boring to me but you said if I were a woman.(And BTW I’d be a hell of a lot better at it than Beyonce.)

    Guys? Not cool.

    DRST

  222. Funny, I’m pretty sure this type of selection is exactly what dudes do….

    Other way ’round for us. Boneable => attractive.

  223. “Although I have even more issues with Lechy Mansplainer-Academics who think they are the World’s Greatest Analytic Minds and Lady Rogering Machines All Rolled Into One… a description which fits over ~60% of the men in my particular department. Oddly enough, deploying rational arguments has the opposite effect to the expected one, and yet the times I’ve still tried, and failed, and got supremely frustrated…”

    Zenoodle, THANK YOU. So much. I was so excited to read this, because it made me feel less alone. It’s literally as if I wrote it.

  224. CassandraSays permalink

    Sexy vampires are perfectly appropriate. Baseball playing vampires, on the other hand, are totally unacceptable.

    I respectfully but entirely disagree. Although with the Metrodome out of business it might be hard to find a shady field to play on.

  225. [Mods – this is totally a threadjack, feel free to delete it if you don’t think it’s appropriate]

    Helen Huntingdon, a few threads ago you made a throwaway reference to quantum teleportation… is that something you’ve actually worked on? Is there any chance we work in the same field? I’d be interested in talking to you about it if that’s the case!

  226. Wow. What happened? I’m not getting the joke, really. The boneable=attractive comments, in particular. Part of the whole thing I was complaining about earlier, actually.

  227. CS was pointing out that women have the right to choose who they want to have sex with on the basis of whom they’re sexually attracted to.

  228. sara l – We seem to be back to the idea that women don’t have desires (or thoughts, or individual personalities, etc) again, but exist to fulfill men’s desires. Which is why it’s creepy when men do that how-dare-you-have-preferences-that’s-unfair thing. It’s revealing of the underlying mindset.

  229. Grafton,
    Logic, not Math. X => Y means “If X, then Y.” You can’t have X but not Y, although you could have Y and not X. means if and only if, meaning you can’t have one without the other.

  230. Thanks for clarifying CassandraSays — it’s super late (or early, depending how you look at it) here and I’ve been catching up on SP for like, um maybe, 7 hours or something now, and very tired and confusable and not getting where the vampires fit in, or indeed where Logic With Symbols came in, which is something I think I have an actual allergy to…

  231. I’ll rubber stamp it. Autistic people get free memberships on the logic board when we donate for the upkeep of the orbital mind control lasers.

  232. I think one of the most visceral ways to get people up to 101 status is to have something happen in their presence (nothing really bad, of course, but since most of us deal with subtle or overt sexism almost every day…). For instance, here’s an anecdote for you. When I went to Germany in 2007, I fully expected to get some backlash from Germans for being a typical fat American (nevermind that the majority of my bloodline is Swedish and English and has remained almost entirely so after the various ancestors migrated to America). However, upon one instance where I was oinked at while walking in the street, the other girls (all much skinnier than me, although various sizes) were absolutely shocked and appalled by it. I basically shrugged, although I was slightly hurt, and said “yeah, that’s a fairly regular occurrence for me, in America too.” This was an instance where they suddenly got a really strong insight into my world, what it was like to be fat all the time, and I think it really got some of them thinking about that. I sort of regret that I wasn’t in the FA movement back then, because I really could’ve personalized it even more, but it was still a good moment for them to learn something.

    Similarly, if you’re comfortable doing so, if something like this happens to you while in the presence of one of these pre-101 males, if you’re reasonably emotionally capable of doing so, try to turn it into a teaching moment. Don’t just make it about you, make it about all women. Say “yeah, you may be mad about that asshole doing that to me, but what about the other 500 women who’ll endure that same assholish behavior today? What about the times you may have either encouraged or participated in that kind of behavior?” Hopefully, you can then get into a discussion about certain things that men do (not even necessarily him, but things he might not’ve curbed in other men) and teach him a bit more about it.

    That’s my little contribution, but I think all the comments are awesome. And I must say, I really like most of the male regular commentators here, because it’s great to talk with guys who seem really high up there in “getting it” and are so respectful and intelligent to boot. Y’all rock. <3

  233. Zenoodle – Apologies, I’m not sure how the vampire derail happened either, I think I have sleep fail. My point was that that’s something I see a lot from men, this wierd anger at the idea that women have physical preferences which affect who they choose to date. You always see it in threads about why women don’t want to talk to men in public, some guy always comes in all “well I bet if he looked like George Clooney you’d talk to him”. Which is basically dodging the real issue, but there is this underlying thing where it’s considered OK for men to have physical preferences but if women have them they’re being evil and superficial and they need to be more open minded. Double standards, as usual.

  234. I just had to comment and say that I used the foot race metaphor in a conversation today about racism and sexism, and it was totally helpful. It felt really great! :)

  235. CassandraSays: And what about those of us who admire George Clooney as a person but are utterly turned off by him physically? 9.9 And even if a man looked like Johnny Depp/Christian Bale (two actors off the top of my head who I am attracted to), if he had a repulsive personality I’d still say no to him. Because hello, I have the right to not sleep with men, even gorgeous men, if I don’t want to.

    And what’s worse is that, as fat girls/women, we’d get even more flak for that. Because not only are women not allowed to have preferences, fat girls should accept any attention they get because goodness knows no one else is lining up to date them !

  236. Oh, good, Sweet Machine. That would help enormously. There was a time when I used to try to communicate in logical notation, and it really was a pity that it failed so badly.

    CassandraSays, I wonder. Possibly it’s just that men are ‘allowed’ to have outwardly-directed pissed-offness if people don’t find them attractive, while women are expected to just descend into self-hatred and be angry with themselves and their own bodies instead?

  237. @CassandraSays, it is especially weird when they go right for “How come only the good-looking guys get hot chicks?”

    Dude, listen to yourself!

  238. Is that an issue, HiddenTohru? Guys who think they’re attractive figuring they should get to sleep with anybody? I’m quite pleasing to look at but people still don’t want to have sex with me much, and I never thought that was odd of them. My behavior is ‘off.’

  239. HiddenTohru, I totally agree, although sometimes it’s hard to have the energy to turn crummy incidents into teaching moments I guess, for all of us! However, sometimes (if lucky!) I think that very tiredness can work for you too… Recently, I reposted the Schroedinger’s Rapist post to my FB, and got a lot of incoming fire from FB friends… A really good male friend of mine read it too and got all fidgety because he knew I was upset by a lot of the FB comments it got, but he also started off thinking that SR was patronisey to men, etc. I was trying to explain that what he was saying, and the he was reacting, was to jump to a WATM-y position (I didn’t use that terminology) and instantly diverted attention from the point of the post… The point being about how to not make situations like being on a train (etc) worse for women who in many cases are frightened, or at least annoyed by having to consider certain safety issues, etc etc. Except I (and this took me by surprise!) broke down crying in the middle of my ‘if you had been hassled so many times, followed, stalked, boxed in by scary men on a train, followed by a car, etc etc since the age of 11, you would feel differently’. Being already a sweet guy (probably above 101 level — maybe even level 3 or 4 in many areas) he was aghast at the turn of events (the crying), and then (initially unbeknownst to me) went off to read it again. About maybe an hour later he was firing off FB comments to the effect of he had reacted badly to SR at first, but after thinking about it from the point of view of someone with a very different experience that he couldn’t even completely understand, it had become more powerful, even more explanatorily helpful to him. After having got upset by the other comments on my profile posts (and vowing not to post more) and also having caused a disagreement between my parents when I sent it to my mum, and having cried about it by accident, this turnaround — brought on by my friend’s willingness to give it a rethink, and another ‘go’ — oh I can’t even tell you how much better it made me feel, and I think he was really pleased (and intrigued at what had happened in his mind re the post!) too.

  240. Hidden Tohru – This is why the conflation of “attractive” and “fuckable” is so stupid. I think my MIL is attractive, and that does not mean I want to have sex with her. Also I dunno if this is just me, but there are plenty of people I’ve found attractive at first sight and then changed my mind as soon as they opened their mouths and various kinds of awfulness came flying out. Most people actually do factor personality into attractiveness, even if it’s not consciously.

    @Grafton – The question is, WHY does anyone think being pissed off is a reasonable reaction to someone not being attracted to them? Not that the self loathing option is good either, but anger in response to “you’re just not my type, sorry” is completely uncalled for.

    Rape culture, again.

  241. Argh I cannot keep up with the commenting speed…. I was replying to the first of HT’s most recent posts, I think…

  242. Grafton: I can’t say from my own experience, because I’ve never had an absolutely gorgeous man express interest in me. XD But I’m speaking from a place of, if a really gorgeous man (by my estimation and by the estimation of many of the people in the area) were to hit on me, and I were to turn him down, I would not only face backlash from him, I’d face backlash from most of the men and women in the area, because how dare a woman (and a fat one to boot) turn down such an attractive person? Now, one could argue that a man turning down a stunningly lovely woman might get backlash as well, but it likely wouldn’t be nearly as violent or threatening. This is based mostly on second-hand experience, not my own, however. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so.

  243. Grafton – Oddly enough in my experience men who’re generally considered attractive by most people have been less likely to be pushy and presumptuous with women. The most “totally gets it” man I’ve ever known was a model.

  244. Rachel:
    @CassandraSays, it is especially weird when they go right for “How come only the good-looking guys get hot chicks?”

    Dude, listen to yourself!

    I have also seen/heard a lot of ‘but I’m attractive and/or appealing because I do XYZ I make an effort and still so-and-so doesn’t want to shag me/date me/other interaction — why do the hot chicks go for losers/badboys/rich men/insert other’… I always translated that into ‘it’s not fair, I want her and she doesn’t want meeeeeee’… and then I’m put in mind of all the hideousness of the Pittsburgh gym shooting. It’s not that I think all whiny-self-entitled-ers would do something that bad, but it is all — I think at least — related to rape culture ideas that abound or go unchecked.

    I’m not sure about how would be best to challenge the belief’s of a guy who has it so ingrained in him that Men Who Are XYZ get women ergo Men Must Do XYZ-making things that he gets angry when it turns out not to be true — especially as men who are really vehement on that subject pretty much terrify me when they get going on it.

  245. CassandraSays — I have found that to be true sometimes but I’ve also met my fair share of ‘good lookings’ who have acted as though they are doing me a favour by just even speaking to me. And now I’ve got to thinking about all the sodding PUA seminars and workshops, etc, and am depressed about the world again. Sleep now, methinks…

  246. @Zenoodle – It’s possible that my perceptions are a little skewed by the fact that my personal tastes don’t align all that well with what mainsteam America thinks is hot in a man. I am generally able to note “oh, this guy would be considered attractive, even though he’s doing nothing for me, wouldn’t he?”, but sometimes I run into men who’re awfully full of themselves and it takes someone else pointing out that it’s because they think they’re super hot for me to register them as anything other than “really annoying person who won’t go away”.

  247. CassandraSays
    Grafton – Oddly enough in my experience men who’re generally considered attractive by most people have been less likely to be pushy and presumptuous with women. The most “totally gets it” man I’ve ever known was a model.

    Well I’m ugly as sin and if I’d ever thought I was entitled to women time would have demonstrated that I was wrong.

  248. CassandraSays: “WHY does anyone think being pissed off is a reasonable reaction to someone not being attracted to them?”

    I suppose that the why is that frustration is not reasonable. I have been pissed off that somebody dislikes or snubs me in spite of my best efforts to be pleasant or even ‘normal.’ Of course, this happened in contexts where it was essentially vital that I ‘make friends.’ In the practical sense — knowing that being socially ostracised would leave me more vulnerable to violence, less able to perform in the dumbass psuedo-academic setting ‘working in groups’ in High School, and first on the chopping block at a job where everyone is supposed to contribute to ‘making this a fun place to work.’

    Perhaps your average NT guy feels a similar sort of pressure about sex? Quick, gents, does not getting any make you feel vulnerable?

    HiddenToru, that is really creepy. I have turned down women who are considered very beautiful and nothing happened except her being mad, but by that time it was easy to have nothing happen — I was privileged to ignore public opinion in that particular social circle. The only time I remember getting crap from the wider world I was sixteen or so and the girl widely considered ‘ugly but great personality’ and therefor the proper match for ‘good looking, but a socially intolerable evil robot.’

  249. Cassandra: Oh yes, attractiveness is very much tied up in personality. There’s a guy at work that I find reasonably attractive only because he’s such a sweet guy most of the time (too young for me to actually date, but nice to have around), and he’s not that attractive physically. Likewise, I’ve known people who I thought were very attractive physically, but as I got to know them, they appeared less and less so because I found their opinions/personalities so off-putting. There are also women who I find very attractive, but I wouldn’t want to sleep with them (and I am attracted to women, so it’s not just that). Unfortunately, I find that telling people you find them attractive usually makes them think you want to sleep with them. Which, again, goes back to the “attractive=fuckable” fallacy (speaking of logic).

  250. Ugh, I fail. I meant that I’m sexually interested in women, so finding them attractive isn’t merely aesthetic as it would be for a straight woman. However, there are still women I find aesthetically attractive who I wouldn’t want to have sex with. Kinda like how there are men I might find physically attractive but wouldn’t want to have sex with. XD What an idea!

  251. On the women talking differently to men thing, I think it’s a result of male socialization imposed by the patriarchy.

    Two of the comparatively few “professions” that the patriarchy deems unambiguously suitable for women are SAHM and teacher (especially at the elementary level, since there’s less complex math and science stuff that’s too hard for feminine minds). So until a fairly typical boy in this society reaches puberty, the vast majority of individuals passing meaningful judgements on him are women (in my case, the only male teacher I had before sixth grade was in kindergarten), with comparatively few males passing meaningful judgements. This essentially means that a given comment from a male (e.g. “at least some of your success in life is due to you being a man”) is less likely to be taken as a judgement of worth and will have less effect on self-esteem and less chance of resulting in stonewalling. I’m struggling to think of a man whose disapproval would automatically mean that my self-worth would take a hit. OTOH, disapproval from a woman whom I have an important relationship with is pretty much a blow to the core.

    Obviously this confers no obligation on you to argue with that in mind, but it sometimes works well to tailor one’s argument presentation to the audience.

    And that preponderance of women in positions of direct power over boys as a result of the occupations of SAH parent and elementary school teacher being so gender-correlated probably has a number of other bad effects (e.g. it may well predispose men to not see themselves as notably more powerful relative to women) with regards to reinforcement of patriarchy. And in turn the rape culture and consequential SR* defenses that result from patriarchy reinforce the gender-correlations (having to prove oneself not to be a rapist (specifically a child rapist) adds just enough work to the process of justifying being a SAHD or elementary school teacher that it almost certainly dissuades some men from going down that road). Aren’t Gordian knots of self-reinforcing phenomena fun?!

    I don’t mean this to be a WATM post or to be justifying anything… if anything it’s an example of how the patriarchy screws men over to at least some extent.


    Probably not even at a 101 level yet…

    *: and I’m writing as someone who was going to post a rebuttal to the SR post when I first found this blog… and somewhere in the comments had the epiphany that, well, there wasn’t a rebuttal that carried any water. This blog is on a very short list of publications that have really just tattooed my brain.

  252. Grafton permalink

    CassandraSays: “WHY does anyone think being pissed off is a reasonable reaction to someone not being attracted to them?”

    I suppose that the why is that frustration is not reasonable. I have been pissed off that somebody dislikes or snubs me in spite of my best efforts to be pleasant or even ‘normal.’ Of course, this happened in contexts where it was essentially vital that I ‘make friends.’ In the practical sense — knowing that being socially ostracised would leave me more vulnerable to violence, less able to perform in the dumbass psuedo-academic setting ‘working in groups’ in High School, and first on the chopping block at a job where everyone is supposed to contribute to ‘making this a fun place to work.’
    Perhaps your average NT guy feels a similar sort of pressure about sex? Quick, gents, does not getting any make you feel vulnerable?

    I don’t think my involuntary chastity hurts me very much socially (it did, obviously, in highschool). It just sucks for the straightforward reason that I want romance and sex. No woman is of course obligated to help me out with this, but yes it’s frustrating that none want to. (Veering dangerously into What About The Mez territory to answer that question, will drop it now.)

  253. I guess I’ll have to look for the Heartless Bitches. I don’t believe it. Okay, what I think is hot isn’t what I’m supposed to think is hot (I like fat women, I like older women) but I did once date a woman who was by every convention very hot. Her other boyfriends/girlfriends were not assholes, so even if I am one she disproves the rule.

  254. @HiddenTohru – For me it’s wierd – an unpleasant personality will put me off someone who I would have otherwise found attractive, but a great personality won’t make me (sexually) attracted to someone who isn’t my physical type. So it’s more like the initial bar men have to pass actually is looks based, but after that a crappy personality (or not being very bright) can still disqualify even the most perfectly my physical type man. (Or woman, though I’m a lot more flexible in terms of what I find attractive with women, not sure why)

    BTW OT but I’ve been meaning to ask, did you get your screename from Fruits Basket?

  255. CassandraSays: “WHY does anyone think being pissed off is a reasonable reaction to someone not being attracted to them?”

    Pissed off at women? Totes unreasonable. Women don’t owe me attraction. Pissed off at myself? Unhelpful, but pretty reasonable.

  256. Grafton – Communication fail on my part there. The Heartless Bitches are debunking the idea, not agreeing with it. Their whole site is all about poking holes in Nice Guy logic.

    (Aformentioned totally gets it male model was referred to by a Nice Guy mutual acquaintance as an “asshole”. Amusingly enough, when pressed as to why exactly pretty boy was supposedly an asshole all Nice Guy could come up with was that he was outgoing and he did yoga. Yoga is clearly a super secret sign that he kills kittens, or something.)

  257. It’s an annoying backdrop of the topic of sexism to me that the girl from the Metallica concert never reappeared leading me to presume from news story experience that nothing but bad things have happened to her. It’s all fun and games to discuss the fairness of the genders, but I simply do not hear about hot college boys being kidnapped. I don’t hear of any sore bottom male Haliburton employees suing. It kind of makes me wish I could send every woman through basic training and issue her a rifle. That’s not gonna happen. The least I can do is not generalize women’s tendancies in an era where they are only just beginning to have a friggin choice in the matter.

    And also shapely ladies, shapely has its own virtues. I’ve run the body type spectrum and I’ve got nothing but love for the thicker frame provided I’ve got a consenting person I’m into on the other side. Why is it so complicated for some dudes? The shuttle bay still feels great and the relationship is based on the person not the bone structure. I’m not single by the way, I’m just saying. I’ve been married to a woman that had trouble weighing more than 100 lbs and I’m madly in love with a woman who weighs twice that much and the weight is as irrelevant as it should be.

    I get wanting some “good stuff” and not having any. But I don’t get wanting it so much I need a law passed that says women can’t run away from me f or any such assist. I’ll reel them in honestly and they’ll suffer the consequences of their own actions same as me and hopefully create fond memories along the way.

    Not that I’m all equality and stuff. But it counts as more points on the scorecard if it’s voluntary… and since I’m a dude, you know it’s all about the high score :D

    The Sethmeister has spoken. BTW SP, you’re comment chains are the best reason to read your posts these days.

  258. Seth, I hardly think the comment threads would be this good if the posts weren’t also usually so fabulous — though I guess the comments also spark ideas for the posts, but still. I’m always looking forward to seeing what new posts there are to read and spark debate, although recently I despair that I may have to give up having certain aspects of my RL, so much time do I spend here and on other fatosphere blogs reading — especially here!

  259. Mods, please please delete this if it is out of line, but –

    Seth, your ‘shuttle bay’ comment really make me go, ick. Maybe you could refrain from expanding on that line of commentary. (I originally prefaced this with, ‘I’m sorry, but’ and then deleted it, because, hell, it DID make me audibly express my discomfort and I’m not actually sorry.)

  260. KC, thank you for deleting that “I’m sorry, but” preface because I personally detest that rhetorical gimmick.

  261. The original question seems to imply that this only happens during interactions with men.

    Not to get all “what about teh womens!” here (??!) but I have some issues like that with being a big sister. My younger sisters know that I’m a total feminist, and they both are to some degree as well, but the middle one at least just doesn’t have the same academic/blog-reading background I do. She is more likely to say stuff is “retarded” or believe that she *has* to have a boyfriend or she’ll be an old maid, and whatnot. I try to gently push her in certain directions, and model good behavior, but she is technically a grown woman and can make her own decisions, and also I don’t want to act all sanctimonious about it either (I want her to think I’m cool! :p)

    So I try to do some of the same behaviors that were described in the beginning of the thread; use personal experience, point out particular events when they happen, etc. It’s easier than helping out a younger brother, I imagine, because some of the experiences of sexism I can talk about are her own experiences, but it still requires a little finesse. I want my bebbie sisteren to be good feminists but I want to have a good relationship with them more. (And it’s not like she’ll disown me for blathering on about the patriarchy or anything, but I don’t want her to think that any conversation with me will inevitably end in her eyes glazing over!)

    But this is operating under the assumption that my sister has a basic goodwill about all this (which she does.) I think that similar tactics would still be helpful for people who are pretty adamantly against feminism but there would have to be even more pussy-footing around the terminology used.

  262. For me it’s wierd – an unpleasant personality will put me off someone who I would have otherwise found attractive, but a great personality won’t make me (sexually) attracted to someone who isn’t my physical type. So it’s more like the initial bar men have to pass actually is looks based, but after that a crappy personality (or not being very bright) can still disqualify even the most perfectly my physical type man.

    It’s not weird at all! This is something I’m thinking about a lot, at the moment. There is a very nice guy (not the TM kind!) I’ve gone out with a bit lately, and he’s the whole package — except that I don’t find him physically attractive at all. So I’m going to have to find a way to give him the “friends” talk soon, without coming across as “shallow” or “bitchy” and, most importantly, without being insulting about his appearance. And, preferably, actually stay friends with him!

    (Guys who whine about getting the “friends” talk piss me off, by the way. You think it’s a piece of cake to *give* that talk? The two times I’ve done it I’ve agonized over how to do it as gently as possible! And I’m basically bright red and breathless with nerves the entire time I give it! And it’s never an appreciate audience. Hell, one time I gave it *preemptively* ’cause I was pretty sure the guy liked me, and I didn’t want to embarrass him by making him ask me out and get rejected!)

    Nonetheless, the discomfort of breaking it off is worth it to find someone really, really sexy to me. If I’m going to sleep with a guy I’m going to wait until I find one I just can’t keep my hands off of, not just one who fails to be an asshole personality-wise. If I can’t be “selfish” and picky about who I date/sleep with, what can I be selfish and picky about? :p

  263. Lol at Grafton!

    She wouldn’t believe me anyways; she knows I’m a total women’s-college-alumnae-nerdy-old-maid and don’t know a *thing* about hot boys. ;p

    She has been accepting my advice re a certain male not-quite-a-boyfriend-yet of hers, however, even if my advice is a little more “girl power!” and a little less “dismantle hierarchies of privilege and male entitlement!” than I’m used to. So that’s nice. ^^ (Even the least feminist woman doesn’t usually have a problem being told “you’re too good for him!” and my sister is certain not the least feminist woman I know!) I’m trying to be down to earth about it, and be feminist without specifically saying it’s “feminist”; I tell her, sure, go ahead and sleep with him just for fun if you want (and because he’s pretty hot), just be sure that you are cool with no-strings sex if you’re going to get some. Don’t sleep with him ’cause you think it’ll make him like you, or start a relationship with you, but definitely sleep with him if you’re just interested in knocking boots. Tap that. :D

  264. Maybe this has already essentially been said, but maybe the reason some people have found more attractive guys to be more open to feminism is that they have had more experience with women. I went to an all girls school and the day I realized at like 18 that men have feelings just like mine was kind of a revelation.

  265. Levi:

    Hey, are you active in the men’s rights movement? Everything MRA I’ve seen reads like the very early 2nd wave of feminism. I like what the 2nd wave of accomplished, so I’ve been looking foward to the movement coming into it’s own. Your comments are some of the clearest I’ve ever seen on the issues faced by men. If you do self-identify here, would you mind hipping me to what you are reading, either blogs or books?

    Thanks.

  266. Levi–That’s really lovely to hear. Thank you so much, and thanks for your insight about teachers/mothers carrying the early disciplinary authority.

    I do think that the reason fewer men are SAHP and elementary school teachers is also tied to social expectations of masculine behavior and worth. It seems to me that my male friends and relatives feel much more emotionally defined by their jobs and income than I do. I look at my James Bond-esque work history as a kind of entertaining thing I do–the fact that it hasn’t paid that well and that my work has been primarily blue-collar doesn’t disturb me at all. It doesn’t shake or displace my Educated Upper Middle Class privilege. But maybe it does, a little, for men? Or at least it has social implications that go far beyond the implications I’ve experienced as a woman? Your point about the SR phenomenon is absolutely correct, though, and it’s socially-accepted thinking about men who choose to associate with pre-teen children.

    Bella–That’s an interesting point. I’ve been thinking, “These MRA guys are angry at the status quo of gender relations–which is good–but their POV is freaking me out, even though I think that the underlying aims of feminism and the MRAs are not dissimilar.” I didn’t draw the line to second-wave feminism. I’ve been meaning to go take a look at MRA, but the two sites I’ve seen are really scary-bad, so I too would appreciate a link or two to the thoughtful masculinity guys.

  267. @bagelsan – See, I was trying not to go down the “attractive men have more experience with women” route because it can so easily sound like the classic dude dismissal of feminism as lol you just can’t find a man. I do think, thought, that there may be an element of, have different experiences with women, in there. I mean generally the most intractably awful woman-hating types spend an awful lot of time complaining about their lack of female companionship, yes? (I’m trying to be uncharacteristically delicate here) I’m thinking of Sodini’s rants, or the trolls on Broadstreet. Whereas the men I’ve met who’ve been very conventionally attractive and pretty open to feminism or just generally less prone to stewing with rage at women all the time, they have very little negative history with women. I mean everyone has had a few shitty relationships, the psycho ex seems to be standard for both sexes, but it seems like men who’ve always been considered attractive don’t have the same pent up rage partly because dating has been fairly easy for them.

    The complicating factor here is obviously social skills. Looking at Grafton’s comments it seems like good looking + problems with social interactions = not dating too much, partly because society is set up so men are expected to be the ones doing the asking, which is obviously excruciating for the shy or uncomfortable with socialising ones. But good looking + comfortable with people in general seems to often produce men who aren’t as resentful of women just because their overall experiences have been positive.

    Which doesn’t mean all good looking men will be woman-friendly, obviously. I know one very good looking guy who, though he’s not quite at Sodini level yet…well, he’s young still, and he’s already saying things like “once a man has fucked a woman he owns her” and generally being creepy and sexist. The rage that characterises the Sodini types is notably absent, though – he’s just a sexist, entitled prick.

  268. Starling, I know what you mean.

    If they had just been mad at women, I probably wouldn’t have made the connection, because who isn’t mad at women, amirite?

    But they also are weirdly upset about Valerie Solinas and the SCUM manifesto. I thought, either they are rabid Warhol fans or they don’t want people to associate them with radical sexual freedom movements of the recent past.

  269. I WOULD JUST LIKE TO STATE FOR THE RECORD THAT I HATE TWILIGHT AND EVERYTHING IT FUCKING STANDS FOR. I HATE THE MISOGYNY AND THE HETEROSEXISM AND THE CREEPERY AND THE FACT THAT MY 11-YEAR-OLD COUSIN NAMES EDWARD CULLEN AS HER IDEAL MAN, NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT ANYONE IS ASKING MY BABY COUSIN QUESTIONS ABOUT HER IDEAL MAN IN THE FIRST PLACE. THE ONLY HALF-DECENT THING TWILIGHT HAS GIVEN THE WORLD IS MORE ROBERT PATTINSON, KING OF TROLLS, AND EVEN THAT VALUE IS DEBATEABLE WHEN HIS TROLLERY USUALLY EXTENDS TO THINKING STEPHENIE MYER NEEDS TO GET LAID. AND THIS DESPITE HAVING A VAGINA! GO FIGURE!

    Ahem. Sorry for that outburst, except for how I’m not. MAYBE I’M ON THE RAG OR SOMETHING. *checks vag* Really, mostly I am dealing with the fallout of last night’s dinner with a mansplaining male relative (really, Uncle Fucker, there is a thing called government contractors? And some of them hire people? YOU DON’T SAY. Sure, I’ve already sent my resume to about 18 of them, but I’ll just retroactively credit you with that idea. Thanks in hindsight!). At one point I went off on a mini-rant about women being stuffed into limited roles in the workforce because they are considered cheap and expendable labor and I think, from his later comments to my mother, that he took this to mean that I am a butthurt victim who thinks I can’t get a job because I’m a woman. He is a total sexism denier, too (“What are you talking about, sexism doesn’t exist! Women are allowed to do what they want! Like DIVORCE ME AND TAKE MY STUFF”). I feel horribly guilty for not forcing the issue more but, on the other hand, I saw how he made my little sister cry when she dared to contradict his Pronouncements about politics with intelligence and, you know, FACTS, and there is really only so much one can take in an evening, plus he’d also smeared his smarmy diet talk all over the evening, so.

  270. In terms of MRAs and the SCUM manifesto couldn’t it be as simple as men who grew up being told that they were entitled to women’s positive regard being totally gobsmacked that there are in fact women who don’t think highly of men at all? Plus honestly I think their dragging that out all the time is often a cynical attempt to rally the troops and convince the masses of how evil feminism is. It’s propaganda.

  271. . . . it’s socially-accepted thinking about men who choose to associate with pre-teen children . . .

    Which, I will hasten to say, is bad for both men and children, and something for which we can indict rape culture. We treat men as if they’re all just a short step away from pedophilia, which results in many men who actually commit pedophilia being shielded and protected by their organizations–at the same time that innocent and decent men are stonewalled out of interactions with children. Solution for pedophilia: keep children away from men! Solution for rape: have women protect themselves from men! Both are problematic and innately disrespectful to the idea that men’s sexuality is subordinate to men’s moral agency.

    The ultimate solution is for society to be serious in its prosecution of sex crimes instead of “normalizing” them as part of men’s sexual appetites (teh biology.) I think we’re doing better at this vis à vis child sexual abuse than rape of women or teenagers, but there’s a LOT of work to be done.

    And I don’t think it’s inconsistent to discuss the validity of the SR phenomenon at the same time as believing its underlying mechanism is blight on society that should ultimately be eradicated. I may repair broken glasses with duct tape, but it’s not that I like duct tape. Duct tape is an ugly temporary fix, and what I ultimately want are new frames.

    Bella: Ooooh, cool. Thanks! [wandering off to do some insomnia-fueled research]

  272. Wow, another great thread and I’m going to delurk because this actually fits an idea I’ve been noodling on for a while! (Afraid to hit reload first ’cause I’m sure there’s another hundred comments and I must go to sleep.)
    Well, my perspective is that my people are mostly conservative Christian. I am fighting the urge to add a long explanation there, but suffice to say that overall very sincere believers who tend to see the world in black and white terms and reject things out of hand that sound like the wrong “side.”

    It took me forever reading here and elsewhere to get the 101 terms down and it was very mind-blowing along the way. Approaching my family with “privilege” and “patriarchy” would never go anywhere because privilege as used here takes a while to get and in that subculture “Patriarch” is not something *completely* different, but has connotations of “leader,” “respect,” “headship,” blah, and “oppression” would just get a knee-jerk.

    But here’s the thing: Christians (and probably other religions, but I can only speak for this) totally and completely get “blessed.” And they will say “blessed” in a way that is very much like “privileged” – “I have status I didn’t bring on myself.” They will pray and thank God for all the “blessings” He provided, without which they never would have gotten this far. I have started to use “blessed” as an in for general privilege discussions. (And I am reminded of hearing, not sure if this is a Old Testament thing or an Orthodox thing, but wasn’t it traditional for men to start prayers with something like “thank you Lord that I am NOT A WOMAN” – hmm, maybe google in the morning)

    Specifically to sexism and other women: Not to derail on the merits of this person, but the election and the whole Sarah Palin pile on was a HUGE light bulb for my very conservative mother. It was like I could actually hear the ideas clicking into place: “Ooh. This is sexism. This is what sexism looks like.” And it was like she wasn’t able to see it until it happened to one of her own. Then I was able to say things like, “You know those things that you would unquestioningly accept or laugh along with when they were said about Hillary Clinton? See what they have in common with this? You don’t have to like her or vote for her, but see what they were doing there? ” Since then I’ve been able to openly talk “feminist” with no knee-jerks (well, fewer knee-jerks anyway).

    So, translating terms has been working a bit for me.

  273. CassandraSays:

    I’m not saying that it’s not propaganda. All I’m saying is; if it was 1962 and all I could think to give my husband to make him understand my frustrations was, I don’t know, Mary Wollstonecraft and Simone de Beauvoir, I would want him to be willing to do the work.

    I mean, I don’t have time to fight for men’s rights at this exact moment, but I want them to get the benefits of doing it for themselves. If they take steps to cross the aisle, I want to be the kind of ally that I would want for myself.

  274. This is way up-thread I know, but I was wondering about this comment by – I think it was Sean?

    “I’m thinking back to the times in my life where the occasional sexist remark escaped my lips. If my significant other had asked me, “That hurts my feelings that you would say that, why did you?” I’m not sure I could have answered the question on the spot. Why did I say that? For humor? Not likely, I know plenty of good jokes that can pass muster. As an attack of some sort? Again, probably not, since I’m disinclined towards confrontation. Perhaps it was a reaction to something inside me that I wanted to dismiss? Ah, now I think I’m getting somewhere.”

    I’ve had this discussion with my boyfriend several times, each time hoping to cause the thought process described above. He makes a sexist joke/statement, I say, “it hurts me when you say that, why did you say it?” but instead of thinking about it and responding thoughtfully, it’s as though he puts up a brick wall. The conversation progresses like this:
    Him: “It’s just a joke.”
    Me: “Well, I don’t think it was funny.”
    Him: “I thought it was funny. I’m not going to censor myself around you, and it’s unfair for you to expect me to do so.”

    So all of a sudden, we’ve gone from me saying, “can you please examine your motives for saying that?” to him hearing, “you aren’t allowed to speak freely because I will be judging you at every turn.” It is unbelievably frustrating. I mean, what can I possibly say next that doesn’t make me progress from “joke police” to “castrating feminazi” in his mind? I don’t want to him to make that jump, because if he does I’ve lost my chance to make things better. (It’s like trying to have a “that thing you said was racist” conversation when the other person thinks you’re trying to have a “you’re racist” conversation.)

    I’m normally pretty good at introducing 101 stuff to people, even the dudebro-iest dudebros, but I’m really struggling with my boyfriend. I think partly because he’s very intelligent and well educated, and he’s often right on when it comes to issues that are important to me. (Although he IS one of those douchebags who is “not going to be PC” because people are just “overreacting.” Says the university-educated upper-middle class cis-gendered straight white man.)

  275. After reading the “Schrodinger’s Rapist” post, I talked to my husband about it, and asked him, out of interest, if he ever considered the fact that women might be assessing his threat level or that they might be made anxious by him. He was honestly shocked at the thought- he’s very sweet-natured and rather shy, and had clearly never considered that a woman might be threatened by him just because he’s male.

    I pointed out that it’s worth remembering, and then in situations where he might be worrying someone, he could bear that in mind- for example, if he’s walking behind a woman on a dark street, he could cross over to the other side, to signify he’s not a threat. He agreed.

    A couple of nights ago, he came home quite indignant and told me that he had been walking behind a woman, remembered our conversation, and crossed over the road. He was feeling pleased with himself, until another man came walking along, towards the woman, and she stopped the man and hassled him for a cigarette! That made me laugh. Well, clearly that woman wasn’t feeling too threatened by strange men, but I think it’s still a good general rule!

  276. Him: “I thought it was funny. I’m not going to censor myself around you, and it’s unfair for you to expect me to do so.”

    My first thought in response was “I’m not going to put up with you voluntarily hurting/upsetting me, and it’s unfair for you to expect me to do so. And I can’t believe you think you get to get pissed at *me* in response.”

    I’d also probably say something about, aren’t my feelings more important to him than the 10 seconds it would take him to decide not to say that/find something else to say? And if not, why not?

  277. Well, clearly that woman wasn’t feeling too threatened by strange men, but I think it’s still a good general rule!

    Heh. Definitely. It might be worth mentioning that even for that woman there might be other circumstances where his actions would have made the difference between her feeling threatened and not. Maybe she didn’t think it was too late at night, maybe she knew the neighbourhood and felt comfortable, maybe she was on her way to meet someone and felt safer because of that, maybe she just really needed a cigarette! That same woman, in a different area or at a different time or in another set of circumstances, might feel really relieved when the guy walking behind her crossed the road. You just don’t know, which is why it’s always nice to do the nice thing.

  278. @aleks:

    You wrote:

    Pissed off at women? Totes unreasonable. Women don’t owe me attraction. Pissed off at myself? Unhelpful, but pretty reasonable.

    The first part is really true, and for the purposes of being a good ally it’s all you really need to know– women don’t owe you sex, if they don’t give it to you, don’t get pissed at them.

    But I think you should extend yourself some compassion and courtesy. Unless you behave like an asshole to women you meet or on dates you have nothing to be pissed off at yourself for. To paraphrase, it’s loneliness, not genocide.

    Kate’s essay, Dumb Luck, bears relinking. You shouldn’t be mad at yourself for having not struck it lucky yet, though I’m not going to tell you not to be frustrated, because that would be rude.

    (The main reason I’m responding is that I feel qualified to do so, since I spend a lot of time being mad at myself for being prickly and difficult to love, and I always wish someone would remind me of these things, just so you don’t think I’m speaking from Smug-Love City.)

  279. I’m up to the eyeballs in this, profoundly depressed, and totally unsure what to do after having dealt with a lover who I thought was close to getting it but whom, in the past few weeks, has both gone through some carefully constructed explanation about how women should know what they’re getting into and how men will view and treat them if they dress in too little clothing, and then who sent me a bunch of “naughty” jokes in an email yesterday and among them was a rape joke. And I threw a fit, with the result of me getting a passive-aggressive, half-hearted apology (“Sorry I guess I’m just too insensitive and unenlightened” *flounce*) followed by a bunch of anger/whining about how I was attacking him and I was making him suffer for things other men do and how attacked and put upon he feels and how as a male he can do nothing right, cue the tiny violins.
    Why did he send me a list of jokes with a rape joke RIGHT AT THE TOP? “Oh I’m sorry I didn’t notice it – but the rest are funny!” Finally he admitted he should have but I was apparently too combative at expressing how I felt about it, so he’s still mad at me.
    Because when I’ve been triggered into flashbacks by being shown that abusing me and destroying my personal bodily autonomy is something to laugh at and be dismissed or is simply unworthy of notice, I suppose I’m still supposed to act like a lady and not offend his male ego in expressing my anger.

  280. @ CassandraSays: (way upthread, I know)

    I also agree that even the nicest/sweetest guy doesn’t necessarily get to get in my pants just because he’s nice. I actually had that happen to me several months ago, I went on a date with a guy I met online (he lives about 45 mins away), and while he was very nice and interesting, I wasn’t physically attracted to him at all. I felt bad because it was the first time I ever had to give the “friends” speech (it was about the fourth date I’ve been on in my entire life), and he was really crushed because he really liked me. *Shrug* But he didn’t argue, or tell me he was entitled to date me, just accepted it sadly. It was a real learning experience for me, as someone who has almost none with dating.

    Also, I get that question a lot, and I didn’t. XD Tohru is a character of mine that a friend and I co-wrote in high school/college, she’s the lead singer in a band called Hidden Faces. Thus, HiddenTohru.

  281. Ugh, that was supposed to read “a character of mine from a story my best friend and I co-wrote”. She didn’t help me write Tohru, Tohru is a diva based on my own diva-ness. XD

  282. Katy, it also occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, that woman actually KNEW the guy she was asking for a cigarette, and thus wasn’t just “hassling some guy” but asking an acquaintance for a favor? Because there’s often a huge difference in comfort level between a guy you know from wherever, and some random dude following you. It’s entirely possible to be comfortable bumming a cig off someone you know AT THE SAME TIME as being creeped out by some dude you don’t.

    Bast

  283. bluedancer, no, I haven’t worked on quantum teleportation myself, but I do know more about it than I ever really wanted to, enough to fake a dissertation abstract and write a dozen pages with equations and figures. And maybe work in my collection of jokes on Banach space.

  284. I’m still catching up on this thread, but I wanted to note I had a successful pebble-dropping moment yesterday, in which my entire manner was warm-happy-cheerful isn’t-it-funny-the-world-is-this-way, and after dropping my pebble I cheerfully went back to what I was doing. I glanced over my shoulder and the guy who got the pebble was still contemplating the ripples.

    One more to keep in my toolbox.

  285. Annie, good gods that conversation sounds familiar. I have a friend who I’ve tried to have that sort of discussion with and that’s pretty much how it always goes down. I’ve even tried to push the issue by pointing out that I’m not trying to change who he is, I’m asking him to show me respect by keeping sexist and heterosexist comments to himself around me, because he knows they hurt me. His response to that? I’m overreacting and shouldn’t feel hurt, because everyone says things like that and it’s just part of culture.

    I just want to beat him over the head with a bat embossed with “WORDS MEAN THINGS!!” Metaphorically, of course, because the words I choose have nothing to do with what I actually believe or am willing to do, amirite? [/sarcasm]

  286. Those of you dealing with men who are stuck in the “but I’m a nice guy/I bought her flowers/I hold open doors/I’m attractive therefore she owes me sex” mindset may want to point them to Alex Raymond’s Women Aren’t Vending Machines essay. It’s about video games and how they perpetuate the commodity model of sex, so it may seem irrelevant. But I had a digital media class read it (largely because the class is 19 year old male college freshmen) the week we talked about gaming and it seemed to spur a number of them to think at least for a few minutes about how men approach sex as if it was just a combination lock or, as one of them said, “You can’t just put a dollar into a girl and get what you want out of her.” Hopefully it opened their eyes a little.

    (Alex’s blog is btw a fairly good example of a white hetero male being a good ally to a lot of people, IMNSHO)

    DRST

  287. Annie Mcfly, spending time and effort to change your boyfriend on that matter is just going to be time and energy thrown away. There isn’t going to be some magical way of putting it that will get to him if you can just find it.

    He has been repeatedly, explicitly clear on how he intends to behave. It’s probably time for you to respect that he’s telling the truth. The attitude that he’d change his behavior if he just listened to what you’re telling him is extremely disrespectful in the context of a romantic relationship. Respect that you’ve told him, he listened, he made his decision about what he will do, and he’s told you very clearly what that is.

  288. Helen Huntingdon – Hmm. “Respect that you’ve told him, he listened, he made his decision about what he will do, and he’s told you very clearly what that is.”

    I really never thought of it that way. But you’re totally right.

  289. I’ve started about four comments to this thread and then erased them. You see the man in my life that I’m struggling with is my husband of more than 20 years. I married him and had children and we swam in the ocean that is rape culture and my father had taught me that the men who love you don’t actually want to know what you think about stuff, etc. and so here I am.

    And what do I do now that I’ve taken the (blue or red) pill? Do I say that I can’t be married to someone who hasn’t?

    I just erased about four paragraphs and I’m going to just let the question stand alone.

  290. kristin, how is it going? I’ve been hoping for an update. The whole thing sounds terribly painful.

  291. Helen, that’s an honest way to look at it. I would add that it’s now up to Annie to decide whether she’s willing to accept his choice to continue saying what he wants to say regardless of how she feels about it. You can accept that he has chosen a way to behave; that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.

    Which is not to say that I have all the info on your relationship or that I have any right to judge whatever decisions you make about it, Annie. I know this sort of thing is easy to evaluate from the outside and almost never easy to address from the inside. (Note that I am, as of yet, still friends with the guy who continues to put me in a similar situation, much as it discomforts me. I’m not saying I have any right answers.)

  292. And what do I do now that I’ve taken the (blue or red) pill? Do I say that I can’t be married to someone who hasn’t?

    OlderThanDirt, you’re not alone, if that helps. I’ve met quite a few women who faced the same situation after the same kind of history.

    It’s really up to you to decide how you want to live your life. The women I know who decided they no longer want to have to live with that kind of thing in their homes with them have been enormously happy once they got rid of it. I’ve seen getting rid of it take several forms — in one couple, the husband permanently removed to the vacation home and they pursued separate lives without divorce. In others, divorce.

    Deciding you want to continue as you are and tolerate it is certainly an option you’re free to choose. You’re the only one who can accurately weight the costs and benefits of doing so.

  293. Yup, the follow-on to “Respect that he heard you, he made his decision, and he told you what it is,” is that now you decide what you want to do.

    And that’s not: What you want to do if you could just get him to change his behavior. It’s not: What you want to do is for him to listen — because “him listening” is not something *you* do. “What you want to do” is what you choose among the options you have, and changing other people to suit you isn’t one of them.

    You can choose to remove him from your life entirely. You can also choose from any number of options including some form of continued contact, but it’s not reasonable to choose any of those forms of continued contact if you’re going to feel resentment when he behaves the way he’s told you he will behave. Boundaries are about creating situations where you feel no resentment and refusing to participate in situations where you know you will feel resentment.

  294. OlderThanDirt – I am in a similar situation re: having taken the red pill and the husband won’t. I just wanted to let you know I sympathize. It’s a really difficult place to be. If you want to, you can email me at erthlvr78 at yahoo.

    Helen – Thank you for thinking about it, and all of your comments. It seemed like we made headway with the porn/women are so sexually empowerfulized discussion last night, and then today back to the struggle. As in, my women family members have been planning since July to come up here for a Stitch and Bitch weekend, and his Dad and Uncle decided last weekend to come up to go fishing. Fine, no problem, as long as they don’t come to our Women Only Weekend. And today he’s mad because I don’t want them to come over for dinner tomorrow. I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO BE FUCKING ACCOMODATING. I HAVE HAD THESE PLANS FOR MONTHS.

    Sorry, not yelling at you guys. Just needed to yell out at something, I guess.

  295. Oh, yell away when you need to vent on something like that — if it’s not allowed here, we can email and you can type in caps at me.

    So what did you tell him about his invasion of your plans? Did you tell him to go stick it?

  296. I did tell him to go stick it, basically. And he did call and apologize and say it isn’t worth fighting over, even though he still disagrees. I was on my way to teach, so I couldn’t talk about it then. I guess I’m just sick and tired of having to explain every fucking little thing.

    I’m so glad for SP right now, and this outlet.

  297. It might be time to consider stopping explaining, and adopting different strategies instead. It sounds like your weekend might have some good opportunity for rantage and support?

  298. Seth, I waited to give myself a chance to really consider before responding, so here’s my considered response.

    I found the rest of your comment squicky even without the “shuttle bay” bit — it was too much “let me tell you what turns my dudely self on”.

    As for the “shuttle bay” bit, if you ever spoke that way to me or around me in person I would plant an extremely pointy elbow in your midsection and never speak to you again.

  299. I also found the shuttle bay entire comment a bit vommy… and I just figured out I didn’t say so til I saw others do so because I was worried about overreacting, in my safe space… sometimes my brain is not my friend!

  300. Just to make part of what I said more clear: it was too much “let me tell you what turns my dudely self on” when nobody fucking asked you.

  301. @Helen. Yeah. I can see that. I’ve been considering that in the background throughout the day even.

    If I were to more carefully state what I meant to say, acknowledging the fact that I didn’t do a very good job the first time and potentially alienating my fellow reader/writers, I’d say I feel it’s messed up that things are messed up in such an intrinsic way that we’ve got common gender targeted crimes. It’s messed up that some of the subtler aspects include micromanaging what the woman should be in addition to being smaller, legislatively enslaved for longer (which relates to how many and what kind of role models you have), and the physical reproduction houses which takes resources at a threat of loneliness as the implied consequence of deviation. “No one will want you if…” messages are ones that I think I see. So I think the moral choice is to cooperate to avoid judging the women who now have more freedoms while you pick for yourself how that works. I think the image war is myopic and false in my experience. And I appreciate variety even if I don’t always understand the sweeping female perspective. Finally, I am not so sure there would be a female perspective if there wasn’t a systemic oppression because one very big common denominator of what could be called female perspective is going to be the result of the system and it stands to reason that individuals would end up with a wide variety of actual approaches even with common opposition.

    It’s so different thinking in the daytime. Sorry for that last post to which you referred. It kind of offended me today so I’ll have to be more aware of what I’m saying in the future.

  302. Seth, ok, but you might want to invest in a better apology. More than one woman has now said she found your comment stomach-turning — you’re actually making people sick here. It might be worth trying once more on the apology, but dialing up the empathy this time.

  303. Dear SP posters and commentators,

    My comment that offended people was a mistake that I regret. I hope to be less offensive in the future. It was an error on my part and your discomfort is real to me. Feel free to moderate on that post because I can’t or just leave it as an example of how to Alienate Friends and Make Enemies.

  304. @Seth Strong

    I’m sure others will correct me if I’m wrong, but.

    Seth, I believe you went wrong in that a big chunk of your deemed-offensive post was about what you find attractive in women. The implication being that this actually matters to women as a larger group. I’m not sure what you said was even friendly to the Fat Acceptance idea, which on the personal level is probably more about self-contained acceptance and on the social level is about respect, not about changing people’s minds about what’s sexy.

    As males we’re socialized to believe that we’re supposed to make women feel good about themselves by giving them compliments. And are even told that these compliments ought to be about their bodies. I find this creepy. Probably because I’m baffled as to what to do with a comment about my physical form.

    Ladies, I notice by the scleras of your eyeballs that some of your livers are functioning magnificently today. Congratulations on that, and may this comment add to your self-worth.

  305. @Grafton – Oh, it does. Also, I guffawed aloud. And then congratulated my liver for doing such a great job today storing my vitamins and making my urine.

    @Helen – You are wise and I am finding your words about boundaries illuminating and soothing. So thanks for that.

  306. @HiddenTohru – Ha! Your monster is awesome! It’s a bunny, crouched up in a tree, wearing that blue bag as a disguise so she can use her periscope trunk to spy on…other bunnies. Or something. It’s funny in my head, okay?

    Thinking a bit more about it, Mr.Luci is very receptive to any and all discussions about anything, but I tend to get so anxious and panicked about things I read online that it’s difficult for me to talk without freaking the fuck out. It’s very fortunate (read – dumb fucking luck) that we’re both way out of pretty much every loop available when it comes to mainstream things and pop culture, both of us are severely ADD and never diagnosed until adulthood (in my case; he hasn’t bothered because the way it manifests in him works for him professionally) and so grew up way on the peripherals. He had a big family that I think helped him out with learning social cues and such, but my childhood was incredibly isolated and solitary and I don’t make friends or really talk to people at work or school very much, because I.don’t.know.how. I missed all those classes in school where they taught that stuff, is what I tell myself.

    And that’s a really long-winded way to say I just don’t have these conversations, because I don’t get close enough to people. I have a very distant sort of dynamic with my family, also. We’re superclose in one sense (lots of contact) but we’re just so damn POLITE to one another that there’s lots bubbling under the surface that just doesn’t ever get said. But I’m trying to mentally file some of the advice above if I ever find myself in a position to speak up.

  307. Grafton, could you please not try to turn this into an unsafe space for women with inadequate liver function. Try and practice a little Jaundice Acceptance, okay?

  308. Seconded. It’s better to be called out for saying something out of line than not. I’m putting the feedback to work, hopefully. Not all the sides of the pebble that is me are as polished as I’d like them to be.

    If I was in the company of an offended friend, I’d offer to buy a beer or lunch to put things back on the right foot.

  309. Seth, around here it’s traditional to offer baby-flavored donuts, which are appropriate under any circumstances.

  310. Thanks Helen and Kristen, I would have said something earlier but work intervened. I know it’s my call, my question is what’s owed to the man based on the years together. Obviously I don’t send him an e-mail to 101 links as I leave nor do I just pretend I’m still drinking the kool-aid. What I’m trying to work out in my head (where most of you live these days, and sorry I didn’t get around to vacumning) is how many little stones do I drop, how many times to I try to explain?

    A complicating factor is how much I truly LOATHE and FEAR confrontation. So if I decide that 4 times per major concept is the magic number, I’ll be very happy to just leave and not go through the agony of argument number 5. Except so far I haven’t because we have a life and children and family and history and then there’s the dog and the cat and the house payment.

    I keep asking him (in my head) what do you mean when you say you love me if you won’t risk yourself to reach out to understand me and … maybe that’s a question I should ask myself. What do I mean if I say I love him but I won’t take the pain of trying again?

    Back and forth, back and forth.

    Thanks for listening, people. I love you all.

  311. A bit slow on getting in on the convo, but I thought I’d offer on how I’ve personally been won over to a better perspective.

    I’m a woman, but I first stumbled upon SP as a woman who was raised in a Rush Limbaugh listening house. In other words, “feminist” was synonymous with “feminazi”, and since women had the right to vote and get a job, there wasn’t really much left to argue about. My dad and brother treat me and my mom really well. My dad — who is in all other contexts a very patient man — will turn on anyone in an instant if they begin talking badly about / objectifying /otherwise mistreating women. So I grew up very happy and unthreatened, therefore deciding there is no injustice about these issues anymore (because, after all, this is all about me and my experience, right? Oops).

    However, I also stumbled upon SP as an in-betweenie woman who is constantly frustrated by the inordinate laudation of “thin” in our culture. I had not even come close to connecting the dots of FA as a feminist issue, though. I read several posts, amazed and in full agreement, before I actually realized it was a feminist blog.

    All my preconceptions of feminism began flipping out. I was shocked by how much I had just agreed with. Things seemed surprisingly non-manhatey. The complaints seemed very rational and reasonable. I then realized with some chagrin that I had never actually heard feminists talk; I had just heard people talk about feminists and therefore I thought I knew what all feminists were like. That was stereotype #1 biting the dust.

    I kept reading and lurking for months with a fair amount of caution, waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were. It never did. I was seeing more and more stuff that made sense, and was understanding more and more of the feminist position. Actually, reading the comments on the Shrodinger’s Rapist post (yes, every single one of them) was what blew the feminist issue wide open for me, and I finally, actually got it. I can honestly say the phrase “check your privilege” has forever changed how I view interpersonal interaction.

    In summary: Being consistently non-psycho (even when there are plenty of people being psycho at you) is what won me over. Reasonable arguments, with no broad group deified or villified, speaking to clear, identifiable issues in society, and making the societal probelms personal, helped me see that there is still a problem. Admittedly, as a woman, it may be easier for me to see the truth in some of this — I’ve had a lot of the experiences described, but I always just accepted it as “normal” and “okay” — as opposed to a man who hasn’t seen it because it’s never happened to him.

    But yes. Consistent non-psychoticness. Not meaning you’re dispassionate, but meaning you refuse to sink to the level of blind trolling and sweeping stereotypes, even though it’s being done to you.

    This for what it’s worth, from a grateful ex-lurker who has learned a great deal from everyone who writes and comments here. Persuasiveness–u haz it.

  312. Oh, and P.S., I’ve been looking up a lot of the 101 links posted in that last thread. You lot have defenitely gotten me to 101.

  313. @OlderThanDirt, Kristin – I also am in a similar position, with the added wrinkle that my husband initially misrepresented himself as someone who had taken the red pill and has lately become absorbed in dudebro culture to the extent where he makes jaw-droppingly sexist comments all the time, and goes into “omg you’re making me feel like a criminal for having a penis” whines when I complain. In my case, I’m leaving, or rather kicking him out as soon as the finances are sorted enough to do so.

    Granted in my case there are other complicating factors adding to things, but honestly it’s the fact that my supposedly feminist friendly guy is gradually turning into Jon Gosselin that’s the dealbreaker.

  314. Hey OlderThanDirt, there’s nothing quite like the web for working on your fear of confrontation. You get to read what others do and see what works, and try it out for yourself with no consequences because no one knows who you are anyway. Blogs that don’t moderate much can be great for that, because you can find lots of trolls to argue with without being a troll yourself.

    It won’t make the in-person high-stakes confrontations non-scary, but it can take the edge off them by quite a lot.

  315. That just made me remember one poster on a message board I used to be part of. She didn’t post often, but she was a cheerfully mellow granny with brilliant skills at identifying and picking apart logical fallacies. She was also a pretty serious biblical scholar, and could be counted on to completely shred anyone dumb enough to try to use the Christian Bible as an excuse for poor behavior.

    I wonder what she’s up to now.

  316. I accidentally got my girlfriend to 101 recently completely by accident, I think mostly because I continually comment on things society throws at me now with “Ha ha, that’s funny because women aren’t human beings” or “Yeah, because women’s only worth is their fuckability” or whatever’s appropriate at the timeAnd . I kept mentioning Shapely Prose and this thing we were saying on here and that thing, and then I noticed she was starting to read threads here when I left them up, and then this week she was suddenly at 101+ in a way that made her life make more sense to her — like, that moment where blurry incoherent things that have been making you angry for a while but you think the problem’s just you because you can’t figure out why they’re wrong suddenly resolve into a pattern that IS NOT YOUR FAULT, and that you can make sense of, and then you can choose how to react to it. It was awesome. (And *waves* love if you’re reading).

    So yeah, the drip-drip-drip method can work quite well sometimes, if accidentally :).

    Also, Helen Huntingdon is gradually restructuring my brain with “never trust someone who is untrustworthy” and “believe people when they tell you who they are/how they’re going to behave” and especially “Boundaries are about creating situations where you feel no resentment and refusing to participate in situations where you know you will feel resentment.” EEEGHPFPGHPGH. That was the sound of my mind breaking. EEGPH. HOW HELPFUL. THANK YOU.

  317. Hey OlderThanDirt, there’s nothing quite like the web for working on your fear of confrontation. You get to read what others do and see what works, and try it out for yourself with no consequences because no one knows who you are anyway.

    For serious. I find the best way to really figure out how I feel about something is to engage/argue with people who are either trolls or coming-close-to-but-trying and to watch others doing so. That’s when you figure out how you really feel about something, and how to respond to common arguments/derails, and the commentors here and elsewhere can be stunningly insightful.

  318. Kootiepatra, you’ve described my blog-learning-process as well, except it’s been going on longer. I thought I knew all about feminists, but never talked to any in real life until stumbling onto the blogworld and realizing, OMG, they’re right and so many things I thought were normal are actually completely effed up! I especially see the part about how being treated really well as a girl growing up can be a kind of privilege too, because you don’t see why there would be feminism anymore. My father never treated his girls as anything less than intellectual equals and there was so much “honor” given to women in our circles, and a lot of protection against sexual exploitation, that it took a long time in the adult world to see a lot of things as sexism (i.e., father is the ultimate boss of the family – why, that’s just the natural order of things, right?) And so I get why the women in my family still have a hard time seeing the need for feminism – because it’s so safe in here, out there in The World it is horrible for women! (To oversimplify a lot.)

    P.S. in my earlier comment, in calling Christians “they” I didn’t mean to imply that I am not one now, just no longer “conservative.”

  319. Caitlin, you should have seen the shrapnel fly when I first wrapped my mind around those concepts. There’s still a piece of my cerebellum embedded in my living room wall.

  320. Chi–
    I grew up in a Rush-Limbaugh-listening, conservative Christian home, too. Men running things was the natural order for us as well, and the men who ran things tended to be good, kind-hearted, fair people whom I loved and still love. It took a long time to realize that being uncomfortable and unhappy about the system was not an attack on the individual good men who participated in it. (And I still worry that the men in question may perceive my rejection of that system as a personal attack on them.)

    Coming to feminism for me meant understanding that feminism is not an attack on men or a condemnation of men or a dismissal of men. Since the culture is wired to this “battle of the sexes” already–well, it took a lot of exposure to non-men-hating feminists for the message to really sink in. Dismantling the Feminists v Men meme seems to be a priority in successful 101 discussions.

  321. @Annie Mcfly: I’ve been thinking about your post where you are/were struggling with your BF to get him to that “Ah ha!” moment. I’ve been doing some more googling this evening (an unsatisfying habit when the occasional Stormfront result jumps out) and I find myself wondering if perhaps men need to be encouraged to deconstruct their own masculinity first before they can get to a receptive stage for even a gentle 101 course.

    Now, this veers dangerously near WATM territory; there’s a fine line between deconstructing your identity and turning the whole process into one about, “Me, me, me!” But I think it may be necessary to get men to understand the social context around masculinity before they can grok feminism. I know that’s terribly unhelpful from a tactical perspective; I’m still trying to digest this myself. It’s also a very debatable point, and I’m on the fence right now as to whether this random thought holds water. I’d love to hear other points of view on this: is it wildly off-target, ineffectual, a diversion, or does it set the foundation for a further education in feminism?

    @iliadawry: I totally understand how equating “southern” with “racist” is a dangerous thing to do. When I made my comment I didn’t intend, although it reads this way, to imply that there is a correlation there. It’s just that all my southern relatives are racist to varying degrees in ways that shame me. But then, I would like to think I’m not racist…except that I undoubtedly do harbor prejudices against other races…so that makes my whole family racist…except that I’m trying not to be…so it’s complicated…and thus my mind spins on this point. Regardless, it’s clearly a more nuanced issue than “southern = racist”. Thanks for calling me on that one.

  322. Sean – I don’t think you’re terribly off base, actually. I know a guy who is okay, but sometimes says offhand things (usually meant as “jokes”) that read very sexist, bordering on misogyny. I think there are some deep-seeded issues that need to be figured out before I (or anyone really) begins to drop the pebbles of 101.

  323. @Sarah B: yes, I find myself agreeing with this sentiment, but I guess what I’m struggling with is how to get that dude who needs some navel-gazing time to actually, ya know, take the time to do so in a productive manner. My brainstorming so far on tactics to bring that about is very unsatisfying because I find it hard to pinpoint any particular trend or moment that led me to an accepting and agreeable view of feminism. The same holds true for the enlightened men that I know: it was a gradual process for us of having pebbles dropped on our heads until we finally opened appreciably to feminism, and most of us started from a better place than many men in that we were raised, predominantly, in a very liberal environment. I’d like to think there are some shortcuts that could be employed, but perhaps the fact that I’ve spent a couple hours trying to think of some and come up empty means that it’s necessarily an incremental process. I’m still not satisfied that there aren’t some shortcuts that could be employed, though perhaps that’s just my male instinct to “fix, resolve, end the problem,” at work.

  324. …and just to be clear: please continue to drop pebbles on my head Shapelings; I don’t think I’ve reached the end point I’m trying to get to yet.

    *curses the imprecision of English and wishes for C++*

  325. Sean:

    Every feminist here benefits from the legacy of thousands of previous feminists thinking and questioning over the past several centuries; I doubt that anyone would argue that men would not benefit from the same type of inquiry.

    I think it might be more difficult than feminism though, because so much about masculinity is invisible, especially to men. Since man is the measure of all things and all of that.

  326. Sean – That’s a tough one. For this particular guy that I know, he’s very susceptible to peer pressure and probably doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on self-reflection. I do my best to avoid meaningful discussions with him. Actually, there’s a whole group of dudebros at school that I will only small talk. Anything more gives me a case of the splodeybrain.

  327. @Sarah B, bellacoker: Ok, that reinforces one thing I can do: use my privileged position to exert pressure on the men around me. I’d like to end my dance along WATM territory now. :-]

    But it leaves me wondering what women can do when faced with these dudes (which is really just a rephrasing of the OP’s question). I think this thread has explored some workable ways to get men close to you to open their eyes, but it seems so situational as to be mind-numbing. Perhaps I’m just getting a dose of what this effort tastes like…

  328. Sean – actually, I had a conversation today that touches on your question and officially indoctrinates me into hall of “Humorless Feminists!” Which I’m really quite proud of. I was talking to a dude who I don’t know very well, but he’s seemed cool in past transactions so I was a bit shocked to hear that he makes sexist jokes with a mutual female friend of ours just to piss her off. I took a note from this thread and asked him why. He said, “Because I know how much it pisses her off. I don’t really mean it!” I tried to make him see the irony of the situation, but he was extremely resistant and I am an EXPLAINER (*wince*) so I have a hard time not using the taboo words. He wasn’t completely put off, but he wasn’t receptive at all. It seemed as though he was tolerating my talk until I was all talked out. His coolness factor went negative today.

    So what this anecdote was meant to say is I don’t know. I guess I just could have said that in the first place =). I told you I was an explainer.

  329. I think the one thing that is always useful to remember is that everyone is unique, and that mostly what you are trying to do is fit the conversation to the person rather than the conversation to the theory.

    Also, I am a firm believer in showing emotion. Depends on the situation (of course) but I think a lot of times guys get us by us letting them play devils advocate and us curtailing our emotions lest we be labelled weepy women or bitches.

    For example, Sarah B – the guy you are talking about *says* that he does it because it pisses her off and not becuase he believes it, and it’s very tempting to explain to him how completely lacking in logic that statement is. (so, so tempting) But I think it’s much better – especially once you’ve tried the explaining and know it doesn’t work – to just SHOW him how full of crap he is…

    …by actually getting royally! batshit! crazy! screaming! crying! pissed off! Becuase he says he does it because he pisses her off, but I’m guessing he’s completely full of shit on that matter as well. He actually does it becuase he knows it pisses her off AND that she can’t do anything about it and he enjoys watching her be upset but have to still be polite. Or still have to spend time with him. Or forgive him later. Or whatever.

    He would like it a lot less if someone actually made it clear to him how hurtful he is being by letting out all that emotion that he is evoking instead of struggling to keep it all in. He would also feel a lot less in control of the situation too, I’ll bet.

    But that’s kinda scary to do and one doesn’t really look very suave doing it and it isn’t always the safest thing to do in certain situations.

    It does, however, usually get them to shut up. Which doesn’t necessarily lead to them thinking, but one needs to listen in order to consider another person’s pov, and to do that one needs to occassionaly shut the fuck up. So, you’ve at least made them take the first step. The rest of the steps are up the them, as always.

    And it has the added benfit of you not having to listen to their shit anymore. Although, sometimes that is at the expense of your friendship/reputation.

  330. @jennygadget – That’s a really good idea! Unfortunately for me, I only really talk to him in class discussion so it’s hard (and embarassing) to throw an honest to god tantrum in class, but I can bounce it off of the mutual friend and see if she’s up for it. I’m not sure where she stands as far as 101 goes, because while sexist jokes piss her off (apparently) she also exerts a lot of energy getting guys to talk to her so we’ll see. It could go either way.

  331. For those of you who mentioned that a fear of confrontation keeps you from speaking up when you feel violated/offended/angry, there are a couple books that I like that talk about (a) the importance of anger and (b) how to productively confront people when you’re angry. When Anger Scares You by John Lynch gives some great advice about psyching yourself up and talking yourself through a confrontation, and Your Perfect Right: Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships is a little 70s-weird, but also helpful.

    Both books, especially the first one I think, talk about some good techniques for conquering anxiety about speaking up.

  332. RE: Sean permalink

    “@Annie Mcfly: I’ve been thinking about your post where you are/were struggling with your BF to get him to that “Ah ha!” moment. I’ve been doing some more googling this evening (an unsatisfying habit when the occasional Stormfront result jumps out) and I find myself wondering if perhaps men need to be encouraged to deconstruct their own masculinity first before they can get to a receptive stage for even a gentle 101 course.

    Now, this veers dangerously near WATM territory; there’s a fine line between deconstructing your identity and turning the whole process into one about, “Me, me, me!” But I think it may be necessary to get men to understand the social context around masculinity before they can grok feminism. I know that’s terribly unhelpful from a tactical perspective; I’m still trying to digest this myself. It’s also a very debatable point, and I’m on the fence right now as to whether this random thought holds water. I’d love to hear other points of view on this: is it wildly off-target, ineffectual, a diversion, or does it set the foundation for a further education in feminism?”

    That sounds like it could be useful, but in my particular case my fella would never do any of that on his own, and I must admit that I have no idea where to start helping him there. I’m kicking myself now because I found a really great article the other day about defining masculinity (via StumbleUpon), and I really wish I’d saved it.

  333. Sarah B:
    That kind of behavior is exactly how “some” guys act around their friends, a lot of my friends who have been in the military talk about how there is a sort of dominance game they play by saying the things they think will upset the others the most; the winner is the one who came make the other crack their emotional defense, like Your mama, but subtle and kind of predatory. They are like trolls, but in person. It looks a lot like mountain goats running into each other at full speed; the weaker one kind of stumbles away.

    I know that it sounds impossible, but this guy might just not know that you can be friends with someone without taking swipes at them. If you or your friend want this guy around, you might tell him that there is another way to interact with people, one that might make people like you more.

  334. “Women leave the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in droves after having started in them, and a real part of it is that you can only take just so much of this stuff.”

    That is so depressingly true, Helen. I see it around me all the time. And with your being someone on the het side of the fence, I certainly understand why you’d rather have your own space most often rather than contend with a whole other bunch of stuff to negotiate at home.

    Also, having read your incisive and apposite comments on many many entries, when are you starting up your own blog? :-)

  335. [b]kootiepatra[/b], thank you for sharing your foray into feminism/FA.

    I too grew up in a conservative house, and I went to a very conservative Catholic school. In fact, one of my theology textbooks said that “The man the brain of the home, while the woman the heart. While men make decisions in the house, they are expected to consider the opinions of their wives.” Beautiful. Something in me snapped when I read that, and I began my journey toward feminism. I relish the fact that Catholic education turned me into one of those crazy progressives they loathe so much.

    The journey into FA was similarly eye-opening. I started reading FA themes in Shakesville, then came over to SP. Because my life is a cognitive-dissonance-fest, I was vigorously nodding about HAES and intuitive eating whilst suffering from an extreme eating disorder for which I eventually would have to be hospitalized. While I’ve come to believe that people come in every shape and size and should never, ever be made to feel bad about that, and while I’ve come to believe that diets and the BMI are 100% bullshit, I am still struggling with the pesky “This is okay for everyone else but OMG I’m totes disgusting” phase. I trust it will get easier with work.

  336. Alabee, I too am one of those women that the Jesuits taught to be a critical thinker who then turned around and said “wait, using the critical thinking skills you gave me means that I now realize your system is broken and unethical. bye!”

  337. I had kind of a 101 moment with my boyfriend the other night–not on feminism or FA, but on ablism. He was choosing a design to put on something, and one of his favorites was a logo with a quote from a movie he likes. To him, because he knows the context of the quote, it’s just a cool quote. To me, not knowing the context it comes from, it’s speaking derisively about people with a particular disability. I pointed that out to him and at first his stance was “if somebody gets offended, I don’t really care” but at some point during the discussion he realized I wasn’t talking about “offense,” I was talking about someone seeing it and being caused pain. He was a lot more receptive after he understood that.

    Now, if only I could figure out how what I said first was misunderstood and what I said that got my point across better…

  338. @Kristin, I have a friend who has a somewhat similar attitude – not expressing resentment, but claiming that “women can get laid whenever they want.” I found that saying, “And vegetarians can go to an all-you-can-eat steak and shrimp dinner, but they don’t *want* it!” to be a bit helpful. Some women do want casual sex with strangers, but to many of us, it’s completely unappealing.

    @Robyn and @Bagelsan, I’d also appreciate some pointers in that direction. I’ve had a conversation online with a woman who claims to *be* a feminist, but who is spouting really crude, sexist insults. She referred to another woman she disagreed with as “little girl,” said outright that a woman wasn’t raped, even though she said “no” multiple times, since she didn’t fight back physically, and went off on how all cheerleaders are sluts. At the same time, she’s going off on how Title 9 doesn’t go far enough, that it’s unfair that female athletes aren’t paid as much as men are, and so forth. It’s exasperating!

    @Bagelsan and @HiddenTohru, I’ve had to give the “just friends” speiel a few times, and most have been cool about it and actually stayed friends. One friendly acquaintance who I’ve been hanging out with once a week fairly frequently for the past 5 months or so weirded me out when I’d only known him for a month. I’ve known 3 of the other guys who come to the movie night event for 3-6 years, and am pretty close, huggy friends with them. He expressed that he felt rejected because I wasn’t affectionate with him, even though I barely knew him! I was pretty flabbergasted, since it just hadn’t come up on my radar.

    @Caitlin, for me, approaching a man I can see in front of me also has a different “feel” than a man coming up behind me. I can evaluate his body language and get a better idea of whether or not he is a threat. It’s also possible that Mr. Cigarette is someone she already knows – he probably can’t tell from their interaction on the other side of the street.

    @Starling, I find the whole “baby flavored donuts” thing incredibly squicky. When I saw a reference to baby donuts in one of the other threads, I assumed they meant the little tiny “gem” donuts.

  339. Millefolia,
    It sounds like he interpreted your original comments as “Some people are very sensitive and out to censor everyone” and your clarification as “Some people have a legitimate reason to feel hurt by this.”

  340. aleks, I agree–I just wish I knew what it was about my wording that led to each reaction, so I could choose my words better in future discussions.

  341. I know I’m terribly late to comment here, and I confess I haven’t finished reading all the comments, but I’m tight on time and wanted to say somethin’ “very important” before I have to go..

    wait. what was it…

    OH yeah…

    Nouns are the problems.

    Nouns are people, places, and things. That right there is a recipe for disaster. Though people, places things are all nouns, they are not interchangable. Verbs that apply to things do not usually also apply to people. You can pretend they do, but they don’t. Some verbs apply exclusively to objects. This is a law, you can’t change it and expect to get a result that makes sense, or “feels right”

    My guy is a math whiz, and I suck at math (we are walking stereotypes obvs.) – and I gave him the example of how he would get worked into a sputtering rage if I continuously insisted that the difference between “4 and 6″ was small enough to not matter.

    There are rules in language, and they are just as important as the rules of math. You can’t say: “4 is 6 and even if 4 isn’t technically 6 it’s such a tiny difference that it shouldn’t even matter in the end, it’s close enough and you know what I really meant”

    Then I said how men do this alltheallthealltheallthe time with words, switching nouns for nouns and putting verbs where they don’t belong, and then when you call them on it they say “oh it’s close enough you know what I really meant, and you’re kind of a bitch for making a big deal out of it.”

    And luckily, these rules are all written down. Dictionaries tell us what are nouns and which verbs only apply to objects, so you can prove real easy that they have violated a rule of language… if they continue to insist that you are only “making it up”
    You can say, “Hey don’t blame my feminism, I didn’t invent the rules of language”

    Not saying it will make anyone see the light, but it may help them understand it’s not our emotions, it’s their constant mangling of the language.

    whew …. :)

  342. Whisper: I believe that it comes out of the belief that we are Evil Child-Hating Feminist Fatties Who Eat Only Donuts. So, y’know, they’re probably baby-flavored, because we’re so Evil.

    On the other hand, I can barely ever resist nibbling on my little nevvy’s toes and fingers and chubby nevvy knees when I see him, so maybe I am an Evil Child-Nibbling Feminist Fattie.

    If it desquickifies the joke for you, I suspect that baby-flavored would be sweet and milky, with a hint of banana, and–like certain fruit-flavored beverages–would contain 0% real baby.

  343. millefolia,
    I don’t know about that particular conversation, but in general this guy would be a lot more convinced if the objection came with an explanation on why the remarks I thought were harmless were genuinely hurtful to someone, rather than just offensive to someone, because everything is offensive to someone. For example, it’s been explained to me that using “lame” as a pejorative (which I grew up doing and all my friends do) is as hostile as using “gay” (like I’ve always known better than to do). It seems obviously, but it never really occurred to me. Having the explanation helps distinguish that from a frivolous objection “ZOMG the guy impersonating Obama for SNL is too white!”

  344. FW, you’ve hit on another male privilege trick I have little patience with.

    They get this notion that when a man and a woman speak to each other, the entire responsibility for communication is on the woman, so not only is it acceptable for the man to be vague, unclear, and wrong, it is *unmanly* of him to be anything else.

    If anyone objects, they whine about how poor men just aren’t good communicators and quit complaining you nasty big bully — hoping desperately that if they throw a big enough snit, no one will notice that they communicate just fine — with clarity, precision, and accuracy — when they consider doing so “manly”, such as when trying to impress a male boss.

  345. I too have run into the brick wall of “men can’t communicate”.

    Here’s how I respond to it, when I have patience and when I care:

    Guy: Whatever. You knew what I meant. I just can’t say it in your girl-language.

    Me: I didn’t know what you meant, because all I can listen to is what you say. You don’t have to try to explain yourself in ways that you find unfamiliar, but it’d really help if you explain yourself in the clearest way you can.

    Now, the conversation can go two ways from here: I could learn that our conversation is making Mr. Guy uncomfortable because it uses words/concepts he’s never thought of and doesn’t know how to handle [see all the great comments above about The Explainer and using jargon], so I’ll stop myself and explain in language that doesn’t use jargon. That’s generally a good conversation.

    The bad conversation comes up when the person I’m trying to connect with says in response something like “I shouldn’t have to. You should know.” – with whatever venom level. I end up saying, either calmly or angrily, something about how conversations take two people who both understand what the other one is saying, and that obviously this exchange isn’t qualifying.

    I’m not yet sure where to go in the bad conversation from there, but I’ve had more good conversations than bad.

  346. That sounds like it would quite often work. I almost never have the patience for it though.

    My approach is more, “I respect you enough to believe that what you say is exactly what you mean. I’m not going to disrespect you buy second-guessing everything you say and looking for hidden meanings; if there’s more you mean to say, I trust that you’ll say it.”

    One thing that it helps to be readily aware of — as Grafton can tell us all — is how much of human interaction is based on social ritual and some fairly subtle cues that someone is trying to begin a particular ritual. There are a LOT of rituals based on “wounded guy to whom women should rush to apply care”. A great many of those revolve around the notion that if a man gives a very faint hint of anything other than perfect satisfaction at any point, the woman present should rush to gently cajole out of him what’s wrong and what she can do to make him feel better.

    Learning to recognize those ritual and to refuse to engage in them despite societal programming can do a lot to ending this dynamic. Of course, not engaging in the ritual with him means the guy will put on a truly spectacular display of the sulks, but there’s nothing to do but ignore him and stay away from him until he’s done — he’s perfectly capable of using his big-boy words if he chooses.

  347. I came back to this post because I have just had the following conversation with the guy I’m newly dating. He is progressive in every way and even says that though he doesn’t feel comfortable calling himself a feminist, he “isn’t down with sexism” and “tries to call it out” when he sees it.

    So we were involved in a discussion about comics, and I said something to the effect of “Well, I know a lot about comics, but I don’t actually read them, because one of my favorite sites on the internet is/was ‘Girls Read Comics and They’re Pissed’ which I loved because it was some of the finest feminist criticism even if it isn’t a subject that I am particularly interested in.”

    (http://girl-wonder.org/girlsreadcomics –don’t click now though, apparently they’ve had some sort of malware attack)

    He said, “Feminist criticism? It seems to me feminists are always finding things to be critical about.”

    Cue unamused stare from me. I then attempted to explain that criticizing and criticism are two different things, “Like literary criticism?” I said. He nodded, and I dropped it.

    Later, though, it was bugging me, so I sent him this email, which I think gets to the 101 aspect of our discussion:

    I get what you’re saying; you’re saying that you can find something to get mad about in anything, that anyone can and maybe it’s not the healthiest thing. But I think the point of fact is that in terms of misogyny, you CAN find something to get mad about in anything (comics, movies, books, etc.) and that in and of itself is a huge problem because it is directed AT ME. Personally. I live in this female body, and every day living in this body, I am exposed to messaging that in some way tells me I’m less-than. Or that my body is public property (leers from men in the streets; more stories of rape going unpunished, getting called a slut, etc.). Or wrong because I don’t fit the beauty ideal. Men…don’t have to deal with that. It’s just not the same for y’all. There might be other things that you have to deal with in terms of cultural discrimination (class, religion, etc.), but not misogyny. And I dealt with that shit way before I knew what feminism was…it made me sad and scared way before I knew how to deal with it critically and say to myself “this isn’t YOU; this is the dominant CULTURE.” And being aware of that fact doesn’t make me a sad or angry person, or someone likely to be sad or angry for “no good reason”. On the contrary, I’ve found knowing the cultural reasons why I get called “fat bitch” in public on a REGULAR basis to be helpful in mitigating some of pain that comes from the little incidents that make me feel like my body doesn’t entirely belong to me.”

    Let me tell you, he was floor. “How much do you get called ‘fat bitch’?” He asked. “Uh, a lot,” I said.

    “Okay, how much in the past year?”

    “At least six times, or fat cunt, or whatever, some variation of that.”

    “SIX TIMES?”

    “Yes. At least.”

    “SIX?!?”

    “Yes. Though to be fair I do actually walk around being a fat bitch a lot of the time.”

    “THAT’S A LOT. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know that…I get what you’re saying about your body not being your own.”

    I think that was what finally made the little bell go off in his head, you know? Oh, she DOES have a different experience in the world than I do.

    Next step is, I think, explaining the reason he never realized that was that the experience of being male is often substituted for the human experience…but we’re not quite there yet.

  348. Latest Kristin: Thanks for writing that! That gives me ideas for future iterations of this sort of thing.

  349. Kristin, as a guy who has recently learned just how frequent incidents of street harassment can be and who has been shocked and depressed by that discovery, I think that’s definitely fertile ground for talking with your partner, friend, etc.
    A useful and difficult follow-up exercise for the guy is to think about the various reasons _why_ he was unaware of how frequent they are (assuming he was…). Have I genuinely not been around to see very many? Did I miss them because they weren’t directed at me? Did I somehow allow myself to “miss” them because that was easier for me? Have I asked the women in my life about their experiences? If so, and they’ve said they’re rare, are they genuinely rare for them, or are they artificially lowering their estimates? If the latter, what might their motivations be for doing that, and how might my past actions or comments have affected those motivations? And of course, the questions keep coming from there….

  350. I, like Ike, have been shocked and stunned when I see someone harassing a woman in public. The woman in question is usually either amused or furious that I don’t realize it’s an every day thing.

  351. My point in the email was just to say: To you, it may seem like feminists “go looking” for things to be critical about; but your experience is vastly different from mine and I simply do not have to “look” for mysogyny. It’s just there, all around me, and I live it every day. Pointing it out, being aware of it, doesn’t negate it, but it does help me process it.

    I guess when approaching the men in my life with this stuff I always, as a commenter said above, do like to start with the “I.” Misogyny makes ME feel like shit. This is personal to ME. And that’s really one of the fundamental truths about me and feminism and FA for me. I came to the framework of social justice because I became aware that I, personally, was treated differently from men, from skinnier friends, etc. From there it was an easy leap to “Oh, I get it; people who are in oppressed classes are all treated differently.” And “Oh, I get it, I have white/middle class/whatever privilege and sometimes I need to think about that.” That’s not 101 stuff though :)

    In my experience, men who care about me will hear me more clearly when I say “This hurts me, personally, in a profound way that happens all the time, every single day.”

  352. Ike and Aleks: I have a high school friend that I told something similar to, only it was about sexual assault.

    We were having a discussion about feminism and he made some blanket statement about assault and I said “Every single woman I know has been in some way touched or messed with in a way she didn’t invite. Not 1 of 4. Not even 1 of 2. ALL. OF. THEM.”

    That was a huge eye opener for him. I had to explain that when I go out to a club, someone will likely touch my ass or stick a hand on my chest. I have had male friends touch me inappropriately when I was drunk, I have had lovers start doing things I didn’t want done, I’ve been sexually assaulted in a way that more fits the cultural “definition” of assault etc. etc. etc. I think that was a good way to open up a discussion of how women have their bodily autonomy compromised in so many ways that may not necessarily have to do with touching. Start with all the touching we deal with, move on from there.

    But yeah: Street harassment and groping, groping by strangers in clubs. Every single one of my female friends – without exception – has multiple stories. I can think of men who also have stories, but the ratio is not 100%. Not by a longshot.

  353. Kristin, last Halloween a guy grabbed my ass and I nearly broke his hand. It was shocking . . . why would someone think he could do such a thing? When I tell female friends this story they say that if they did that they’d have to do it almost every day.

  354. I don’t mean to be overly reductive, but I’ve never loved anybody who was offensively sexist, or offended by my feminism. They don’t all share the exact same opinions or ideologies as yours truly, but all I ask is that they treat me fairly, and listen when I explain my ideas of fairness. I try my best to do the same for them. This has seemed to work pretty well.

  355. bronislawa,
    I don’t associate with overt racists or sexists either, I’ve never had to. But for some people that would mean giving up everyone they know.

  356. Re : Helen Huntingdon’s point about the cultural scripts about comforting the vaguely discontented man…you know, it’s funny how much rage any given woman can provoke just by refusing to do this. One of the most important pieces of Feminism 101 is “I am not your Mommy”.

    This brings up another situation that comes up a lot and often needs to be addressed. Ever noticed how some men don’t quite grasp the concept that women will behave in different ways towards different men and this is normal? How they get very, very upset if, say, a woman hugs another guy and won’t hug them too? Or is empathic and willing to listen with a man who’s a friend but not so much with a man who isn’t? It’s not uncommon either online or IRL to see this perfectly normal and reasonable behavior described by wounded men as women “sending mixed signals”. How does everyone address that?

    Last time it happened to me (in bar with friends and coworkers, guy friend comes in all upset about something, I hug him and ask him what’s wrong, he ends up lying on the bench next to me with his head and shoulders in my lap and my stroking his hair while he vents), a male acquaintance who we shall refer to as DudeBro Asshole got very upset and went on a rant about how I never hug him when he’s having a bad day, or stroke his hair. He did finally shut up when I looked him right in the eye and said “the difference is that I like (guy friend)”, but really, this kind of thing happens a lot.

    Male commenters, any thoughts about how to explain to the more clueless of your bretheren that women are not in fact going to treat all men in exactly the same way regardless of relationship to them?

  357. CS,
    I think I just slowly figured it out through painful experience. Except that sometimes I still act as if I don’t know it. Sorry, I don’t know any less dramatic way than “I looked him right in the eye and said “the difference is that I like (guy friend)”” to get the point across.

  358. CassandraSays, I don’t have a good answer, because to my mind the much more important issue is realizing what such a man is telling you — he is stating very clearly that in his mind you are defined by your service role to him.

    I don’t think there’s anything better to say than exactly what you said. It’s very important, though, is to listen to what he said, and respect that he has told you very clearly how he views your place below him in the hierarchy of his mind.

    And then draw your boundaries and lines of trust accordingly.

    bronislawa blumschaefter, that’s what I aim for too, but there is an enormous amount of class privilege and other privileges that allow me to structure my life in such a way.

  359. @ HH – Oh, any man who acts like that is indeed making his position remarkably clear, even though he probably doesn’t realise that himself. Drawing boundaries is great and all, I guess I’m just wondering if there’s any way to do it that might actually lead to the man having a moment of realisation. Usually I’m too annoyed to be thinking anything beyond “fuck off and leave me alone, asshole” in the moment, but in terms of 101 maybe there’s something that one could say that might make a more long-term impact?

  360. CassandraSays- For that matter, I have yet to meet a man who grasps the concept that women can sometimes act different with the same man, and it’s perfectly normal- you know, this radical notion that women have different moods the same way that men do. One of my biggest problems in dating lately has been that the men I’m gravitating towards are only attracted to one aspect of me, and if I deviate in any way from what they perceive me to be, it’s finished. The ones that are attracted to the sweet vulnerable part of me get pissed when I’m vocal about my opinions and call them out on shit that is not okay. The ones that are attracted to the aggressive and opinionated part of me are disappointed to find that at times I can actually be sweet and vulnerable. Even if a man thinks he is a feminist because he prefers dominant and outspoken women, I think he fails if he resents them for not being the way he prefers ALL THE TIME.

    But of course, if you say this to anyone, YOU’RE the irrational one. *headdesk*

  361. Well, “X is my friend” generally doesn’t work, because guys like the one you’re talking about will just decide that how you choose your friends is wrong.

    “Because I like X,” has gotten good results for me in the past. So has, “Because you’re an asshole.”

    Trying to make the point that his behavior presumes that men are fungible and he is neither special nor unique won’t work, because he already believes that.

    I can’t help wondering if anyone can come up with a snappy comeback that riffs on the vending machine analogy, since these guys assume that women are service vending machines. I did tell one guy once that an inexpensive teddy bear would give him all the hugs he wanted. He got that “hung fire” expression of not getting it.

  362. Lucy, I hear you. I tend to run into more that they want me to occupy only one intellectual box — they’re theoretically ok with scary-smart in one topic or one closely-related group of topics, but advanced knowledge in multiple areas makes their dicks fall off or something.

  363. Helen you know I love your monster but can we avoid that particular allusion? My knees knocked together so fast they hurt.

  364. aleks, possibly, but it’s so apt, since knee-clenching literally often goes with finding how just how much brainpower I’m packing.

  365. Male commenters, any thoughts about how to explain to the more clueless of your bretheren that women are not in fact going to treat all men in exactly the same way regardless of relationship to them?

    I don’t know if my thoughts are at all helpful. It seems to me that this is easily explained by noting that they themselves don’t treat all men, or all women, the same. Does anybody in the world actually do that in adult relationships? I’m not sure I was even reasonable in being angry that my parents didn’t treat me the same as they did my brother.

    This blog is shocking. I was taught, quite firmly: Other People Have Feelings. Those Feelings Are Real. Those Feelings Matter. They Matter When You Don’t Understand Them. They Matter When They Seem Stupid Or Unfair To You. Deal With It. I was under the impression that this lesson came easily to others, not that they just got to ignore it because they’ve got willies and know what that look in your eyes means. I think I’m having a pissed-off day.

  366. advanced knowledge in multiple areas makes their dicks fall off or something.

    Amend to this “advanced knowledge in multiple obscure/unorthodox/esoteric areas THAT THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT makes their dicks fall off or something.” I’ve also found that there is absolutely nothing more threatening to a man (aside from a woman who’s going to cut his penis off and steal his stuff, of course) than a woman who is totally beyond competent at something he doesn’t have the faintest idea about. Worse still is when he tries to maintain the upper hand by mocking her, but she’s heard everything already and it doesn’t faze her. At which point, instead of admitting he probably doesn’t know as much as he thought and inquiring more, moves on to someone else he perceives as less threatening.

    Seriously, it’s become so tiresome for me to feel like I have to explain and defend myself to every man I might like in the past couple of years that I’m *thisclose* to just telling people I’m in massage school or something.

  367. It’s not that I feel anyone is obligated to react to me the same way she does another guy, it’s that the clues I have about what she likes and doesn’t like come from how I’ve seen her react to me and to others. Our hypothetical She has the right to French kiss everyone else and communicate with me only in icy monosyllables and death stares if she so chooses. It’s more that if I see her as a physically friendly person, I might assume she’ll be okay with casual touching. If I’m smart, I’ll still wait for her to do it. This all seems 001 but it’s taken awhile to piece together.

  368. Lucy, I hear you. I wrote a list of levels of this stuff at one point.

    I have to say, the advanced degrees help to no end with simply saving time — far fewer of those in fear of the giant brainz are able to sustain any kind of fantasy of intellectual dominance, so they’re much more likely to just flee in terror early on instead of later.

  369. Grafton – Welcome to our world, my friend. It kind of sucks, huh?

    The one upside of this is that when women are raised the way you were (as was I) it makes it a lot easier to push back against the dudebro assholes and their assumption that no one else’s feelings matter. See, when men act like that I don’t feel threatened or guilty or whatever, I feel pissed off that they’re refusing to treat me like a human being.

    I do wonder what went wrong during their upbringing, though. I’ve used that in the past though, a disdainful glance followed by “were you raised by wolves?”.

  370. aleks, you still lost me. I have never specifically threatened anyone’s penis. Nor is penis-removal is a common danger in our society.

  371. “Amend to this “advanced knowledge in multiple obscure/unorthodox/esoteric areas THAT THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT makes their dicks fall off or something.” I’ve also found that there is absolutely nothing more threatening to a man (aside from a woman who’s going to cut his penis off and steal his stuff, of course) than a woman who is totally beyond competent at something he doesn’t have the faintest idea about.”

    Oh yeah, I hear you. Lately the soon to be ex has taken to attempting to lecture me about music – how things were produced, what is and isn’t common practise, where ProTools has been used, misc. technical stuff. About all of which he’s wrong, by the way.

    Did I mention that I’m a music journalist? And that I can play 3 instruments, compose and sing? And that he has no formal training or informal experience in any of these area?

    I do think this is almost always an attempt at dominance behavior. Shame it backfires so spectacularly when the dude Mansplaining has no idea what he’s talking about, and is addressing someone who does.

  372. It is a dominance behavior. My current method of dealing with it probably need some updating, since it seems to trigger truly incandescent rage.

    I usually start by assuming this is a conversation, so I start contributing. That gets a lot of body language and facial expressions meant to strongly indicate that my speaking at all is Wrong. Then I try to change the topic a few times, which doesn’t work. By this time the goofball has made such a joke of himself or herself (my sister does this) that I can’t keep it in any more and the laughing starts — I generally manage to try to put it as a joke-between-buds thing and ask if they know what they sound like. I can generally avoid actual guffaws, but by this point there’s no keeping a straight face.

    FOOM. Toddler-style tantrum. I’m thinking I should take video when people do this. I’ll be they don’t know they can turn that many colors.

  373. Grafton – Welcome to our world, my friend. It kind of sucks, huh?

    Yeah. I had long noticed that I do not enjoy the benefits of having people take my feelings seriously even when they don’t understand them, but I guess I thought that was some deal where I have to do all the work even though I’m badly suited for it, because I am the one with the incomprehensibly unusual emotional life.

    I like to listen to people talk about music. I don’t understand it.

  374. Grafton, yeah, I think my post was unclear that they don’t all go that far. But it is very frightening when they do.

    And the incandescent rage is sometimes more funny than frightening, because they’ll try to hide and go for Freudian attacks or something while turning colors at the same time. You know: “You are displeasing me, A Man, therefore it is clear that you hate men and you really need some professional help with your deep-seated anger.” This one always gets me — full blown howls of laughter I can’t keep in. “Really? *That’s* your argument? That you don’t like something I have to say, so I must hate you? And not only you, but anyone with the same genitalia as you? I piss off women all the time, and they don’t go around ranting that it can only be because of some deep seated *gasp* hatred of women.”

  375. I think I’ve had something a bit similar. The one where I must hate someone and be trying to insult them simply by failing to be interested in them at all. Which is a little different from what you’re up to, but equally irrational.

    Sometimes human inconsistency is hilarious, other times, terrifying. I have pills to manipulate it towards the former. Aren’t I lucky?

  376. “You are displeasing me, A Man, therefore it is clear that you hate men and you really need some professional help with your deep-seated anger.”

    Another point here. When it comes to women, men tend to universalise their experiences, so you see things like “men like X” where it really should be “I like X”. Also, they project, so you get “you’re angry” where it should be “I’m angry”.

    Which is why I tend to translate “feminists are angry” as “I’m angry at feminists” and “feminists hate men” as “I hate women”.

  377. Er, the response is equally irrational. Being disinterested in people doesn’t strike me as irrational. Nor does messing up people’s dumb dominance displays.

    CS, the generalisation and projection thing is very creepy.

  378. @Starling, no, it doesn’t really help. I was also really disturbed by “A Modest Proposal.” I didn’t seriously think that he was suggesting cannibalism, but did think that he personally was anti-baby rather than satirising popular attitudes toward them. I’m a new guest here, though, so I don’t expect people to change their humour styles to accommodate me, any more than if I visited the site of a comedian who was known for other sorts of jokes that bother me.

    @Helen Huntingdon, speaking of humour and ways of phrasing things, I believe Aleks’ complaint about “penis-threatening” was about your “dicks falling off” comment, not about your brains!

    @Aleks, as I mentioned in my previous comment, that has happened to me before. Yes, I’m physically affectionate, but with people I already know and am comfortable with. Generally speaking, I think it’s best to let the woman initiate in this area.

    @CassandraSays, in the one case I mentioned, and the other 2 similar situations (one involving another woman, not a man) , pointing out that I know the other person a lot better seemed to make him back off right away. With the woman, it was a bit more complicated, since I usually *was* comfortable with hugging her, but we’d just been having an argument, and I was still irritated/annoyed. I hug people easily, but not when I actively don’t *mean* it.

    I haven’t really run into the technical competence thing. I work with computers for a living, and used to be a tutor, and everyone (male and female) was pretty respectful about it. I’ve encountered plenty of sexism in other areas, just not that particular one.

  379. @Grafton, I don’t generally notice someone not being attracted to/interested in me, people just don’t show up on my radar that way until they do express an interest. I’ve had some random guys flat out tell me that they aren’t attracted to me/won’t date me unless I either gain 40 pounds (one guy) or lose 35 (2 or 3 different guys). I wasn’t interested in them anyway, and certainly had no intention of doing either. I was a bit too flabbergasted the first two times to come up with a good comeback to it – either one would be seriously unhealthy for me and require a major lifestyle change, even if it were physically possible, and there’s no way I would do so for a *chance* to date someone! The third time, I grumbled, “I won’t date you no matter *what* I weigh!” and he acted all hurt/rejected over it. Some people!

  380. Grafton
    Sometimes human inconsistency is hilarious, other times, terrifying. I have pills to manipulate it towards the former. Aren’t I lucky?

    Did you have a good kindergarten teacher, Grafton? By this I mean, are you good at sharing your candy with your friends?

  381. I was taught, quite firmly: Other People Have Feelings. Those Feelings Are Real. Those Feelings Matter. They Matter When You Don’t Understand Them. They Matter When They Seem Stupid Or Unfair To You. Deal With It. I was under the impression that this lesson came easily to others, not that they just got to ignore it because they’ve got willies and know what that look in your eyes means. I think I’m having a pissed-off day.

    That is really interesting. Grafton, I think half the reason you’ve quickly become a beloved commenter around here is that you were taught all that. The reality is, NT people could very much stand to be taught the same things, explicitly and firmly, but it’s assumed that we’ll get a handle on it naturally. Which means we only have to learn the social skills needed to get by in a basically sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, sizeist, etc., society — and the bare minimum is where a ton of people stop — as opposed to being taught compassion and empathy as stand-alone values.

    I mean, I know my parents valued and encouraged those things, but I can only recall that in terms of reinforcement of my emerging social behavior — “It was nice how you shared,” “It was nice how you thought of his feelings,” etc. I don’t think anyone ever sat me down and said, “Listen, kid, as a general principle, you need to consider other people’s feelings, and here’s why and here’s how you make yourself do it even when you’d rather not.” And I think that would be a useful lesson for anyone. (With the caveat, of course, that the corollary there has to be a lesson in standing up for yourself and setting boundaries appropriately, because as it is, girls and women are rewarded socially for putting other people first even if it’s to their own detriment.)

  382. Whisper–We will always have SP chocolate donuts for you, then. Sorry for the squick! (And yeah, I got the feeling that Swift liked neither babies nor the Irish. Nor the rest of humanity, come to think. He respected horses, though.)

    Isn’t it hilarious when someone offers you the privilege of being able to date him, if you’re really good and accommodate yourself to his physical ideal? As if, y’know, you had asked what would put you in the running, or something? Maybe give the guy a good solid top-to-bottom survey and then say, “That’s interesting, but I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do to meet my standards. Thanks for asking!”?

  383. (With the caveat, of course, that the corollary there has to be a lesson in standing up for yourself and setting boundaries appropriately, because as it is, girls and women are rewarded socially for putting other people first even if it’s to their own detriment.)

    As a potentially interesting data point, who many people’s parents actually did this? I know I did get positive reinforcement for setting boundaries as a kid but the wierd thing is I don’t remember and proactive messaging from my parents in that regard, they just sort of congratulated me when they saw it happen. Which is better than not giving positive reinforcement at all, but still kind of half assed.

  384. @ CassandraSays: Regarding the conversation about men being threatened by women with knowledge they don’t possess, I’ve also experienced this about music. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Performance, and I still get men who attempt to lecture me on music theory or history or something, and getting it ALL WRONG. x.x I correct them if I can, but that usually leads to resentment and/or head-patting (“awww wook at the cute widdle woman trying to show off her learnings!”) so most of the time I end up gritting my teeth and dealing with it until I can escape. Also, if I can help it, I’m never going to have a male voice teacher. Thus far they’ve all been female, because the times I’ve worked with a male teacher, he’s always treated me as a child rather than an adult (regardless of my actual age) and spoke of “correcting” my voice (in other words, undoing all the training my female teachers had done so I could fit his vocal ideal). Also, the amount of male teachers with inappropriate relationships with their students is shocking to me (and much higher proportionally than female teachers, even though voice tends to be a female-dominated field). I don’t mean sexual, necessarily (although I can think of one instance where it was), I remember being told by a student of one teacher at my college that he basically spent more than half her lessons using her as a therapist for his issues with his wife. o.O WTF?

    Also, if one more person, male or female, asks me if I’m going to go on American Idol, I will scream at them and rampage all over the area.

    Regarding the data about women putting others before themselves, I know this was knocked into me very strongly from a young age, to the point where I actually believed for a time (late high school through mid-college) that my needs were not relevant to any section of my life. If there was another person involved in any aspect of my life, they were always put first. I can’t say if there was ever any overt training to this effect, but I do remember watching my mother put aside her needs for those of my father and brothers and I for most of my young life. Most especially my father. I ended up doing this until I felt emotionally and physically burnt out, then I finally realized that most of the people I was putting before myself could care less about me or my efforts, and while I still struggle against this conditioning I do a much better job these days of keeping myself for myself.

  385. HiddenTohru, that’s interesting about male voice teachers — with what little training I had, I couldn’t escape the feeling that there was something I couldn’t place that made female teachers a better idea.

    I got to female medical practitioners whenever possible, for two reasons. First, I’ve had a couple of run-ins with male physicians that were a bit squicky. Second, I recently read a study on just how terrifyingly prevalent male patient abuse of female physicians is. Every time I seek a female physician for care, I’m helping fill up her billable hours with someone who won’t try to threaten her.

  386. I think I’ve had something a bit similar. The one where I must hate someone and be trying to insult them simply by failing to be interested in them at all.

    You know all those little social rituals you’ve been so carefully memorizing? As I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed, they change radically from social group to social group. I see this a lot professionally, since within a single company there can be a rather large culture gap between engineers and administrators, for example.

    I’ve been in a lot of engineering groups where considerate and friendly necessarily means an extreme regard for the value of the other person’s time and focus. That means you don’t interrupt them in person unless absolutely necessary (try electronic means first), and when you do, you keep the interaction as brief and focused as possible so they can get back to their high-concentration task.

    The extreme lack of small talk to the point of not using so much as a greeting or farewell seems shockingly rude to quite a lot of people if you forget to shift gears when shifting who you’re speaking to, with the result that a lot of companies’ non-engineering staff think all the engineers are unfriendly snobs. They’re not, since they’re actually practicing their best courtesy and consideration. Oops.

    Similarly, I live in Minneapolis. I know that general affect is dialed up a notch by comparison if I go someplace like Tennessee. Even more extreme is transplanting people from England to someplace like Tennessee; the Brit’s affect will come across as depressed to the point that the person must be recovering from severe illness, and the Tennesseeans’ affect will make the Brit wonder if they’ve wandered into a land of psychotic stalkers.

  387. Me:they’re theoretically ok with scary-smart in one topic or one closely-related group of topics, but advanced knowledge in multiple areas makes their dicks fall off or something.

    aleks:My penis isn’t threatened by your brain, it’s threatened by your penis-threatening.

    Yeah, I know my comment quoted above is what aleks is referring to. I keep pointing out for a purpose that I didn’t say anything remotely related to penis-threatening. I was hoping aleks would grasp the point without extreme hand-holding.

    So, not for aleks, but for the sake of general discussion, and because it’s related to the topic of this thread, here’s my point: Men routinely not only absurdly minimize male violence against women as a silencing rhetorical device, they also routinely invent absurd threats of violence from women against them as a silencing rhetorical device. How many of us have heard “Don’t kill me,” combined with holding their arms in front of them protectively from a dude who wants to say something anti-feminist and get away with it? Men threaten make credible threats of deadly force against women all the time in this culture; it’s omnipresent. But the reverse is not true, and pretending it is is just another manipulation tactic.

    The same happened here. Aleks made up a threat that I neither expressed nor could it be inferred on the grounds that penis removal being a common occurrence in our society. In this case I don’t think his motivation is silencing so much as a request for extreme caretaking of his male self by women. I’m not willing to play along with either. Or if his motivation is something else entirely, I’m still not willing to play along with a rhetorical device men are constantly using to silence the just complaints of women.

  388. My apologies for the grammar mangling. My typing tends to wake up before my vocabulary. I once programmed a black hole that way.

  389. Helen, that’s bad. Do you work at CERN, or was it a different black hole? :-)

    Super-interesting discussion of that verbal tendency, BTW. I’m big in the Words-Mean-Something camp, being a writer and all, but I am constantly surprised by the implications of normal discourse in this language. (Or perhaps the normalization of gender-unequal language.) Being a feminist at the same time as being a romance writer is a huge challenge. There’s so much built into the way we talk about love, and about suspense, and about attraction, that is harmful or at least problematic. Yet there are plenty of fine books that work around those elements without ignoring their presence in the culture, either. I’m fond of Kerry Greenwood’s mystery novels for that reason–she seems super-attentive to those questions. (She’s also one of the really fat-acceptance positive writers, if you check out the Corinne Chapman books.) (Also, those books taught me how to make world-class muffins.) (Okay, and I’m really getting off topic.)

  390. Luckily it was a simulated black hole. I typo’d the wrong exponent on a material property and wound up with a box from which no ray of light could escape.

  391. As a potentially interesting data point, who many people’s parents actually did this?

    Mine. (Raised Quaker, where the only real shared “creed” is to listen really hard with very open ears.)

  392. Starling, what do you think of “attraction” versus “desire”? I’ve been thinking about that one lately. “Attraction” implies that you are being acted upon by an outside force, while “desire” is something you do, that comes from inside you.

    The “attraction” rationale is a huge part of rape culture, both in rape apologism, and in how guys fester rage in themselves against women by the rationale that women are doing something to them merely by existing.

  393. Helen–YES. Exactly. I think that people owning their desires (as opposed to being worked on by attraction) is hugely important. Women in particular aren’t candles, waiting to be lit by someone else’s match. The social implications go far beyond the kind of misogyny you describe, too. They also include a culture that routinely normalizes criminal behaviors (“well, she didn’t LOOK 13″) while making many of us ashamed of our sexuality–women because we aren’t really supposed to have any, and men because their desires are cast as this horrible, destructive and uncontrollable force. (Starling’s Theme of the Month: Rape culture hurts everyone!) It’s all part and parcel of disowning our bodies and our hungers–not so dissimilar from what we’re talking about on the food threads.

    One of the ways to break down the idea of the Male Gaze is to have an equivalent Female Gaze. Not in the squicky Male-Gaze objectification way, but in the acknowledgment that the both parties desire the other, and both are desired by the other. That intimate equality would change this culture in so many good ways.

    I think the Stud/Slut dichotomy comes down to a question of owning desire, too. If the Stud is celebrated for being the most successful at feeding his (presumably infinite) male appetite, the Slut is perceived as simply being indiscriminate in feeding others’ appetites. There’s no sense that she may have any actual appetite or desire of her own.

    I actually think I’m reading this differently than you are–my view is more that our culture dictates infinite desire in men and none in women, and both are acted upon by this mysterious attraction–which causes men to be unable to rein in their desires, and women to succumb to the desire of men.

    I’m still messing around with these ideas, though, so I don’t really know.

  394. Sorry, to pile on aleks, especially since his “woah” indicates thinking is going on, but I thought it was a point that deserved reiterating:

    She isn’t threatening your penis – or anyone’s. As she’s said twice already, she’s simply reporting observed behavior. Observed behavior that, imho, is very on topic.

    And I think it’s a hell of a lot ruder for you to be dishonest about what she is saying – to accuse her of doing something she isn’t – in order to try to get her to stop saying it, than is is for her to say something that makes you uncomfortable. Especially considering the larger context of the conversation and the fact that her observation was very on topic.

    Did you really have to warp “what you said makes me feel threatened” into “you threatened my penis?” Do you really not see how problematic that behavior is – above and beyond anything she may have done – especially on a thread in which we are discussing the avoidance tactics many men take? Especially when such tactics include placing all the responsibilities of caretaking and honest communication onto women?

    Is it really so hard to just say “that makes me feel uncomfortable.” and then follow it up with “yeah, I got that, but it still a little graphic. would you mind toning it down?”

    Or, you know, you could try placing value on what she said – and not just in terms of how it relates to you and makes you feel – and consider what her original statement means in the context of the larger conversation, women’s experiences in trying to communicate their feelings to the men in their lives, and your mission in communicating feminism 101 to the world outside this blog (should you choose to accept it, of course). Feelings are good and all and men learning to communicate them honestly is a step in the right direction, but sometimes you also have to deal with the fact that uncomfortable stuff happens and should be discussed.

  395. (sorry for the repeated posting, but I also just have to add:)

    This particular part of the thread reminds me of the various reactions to Hard Candy. It just completely floors me that the [redacted to prevent spoilers] is [redacted] AND that it’s clear that he had the very least owned child porn, was attempting to have sex with a minor, and had admitted to [redacted] and STILL so many people were focused on how crazy she was and how terrible everything she did was and well, you know, we really aren’t sure what he actually did since they never showed us.

    I mean, I’m not exactly one to celebrate vigilante justice, but if there is ever a vigilante I’m going to sympathize with, it’s going to be a child (who thinks that adults are unable/unwilling to help) going after an adult who preys on other children. Not the adult who tries to hurt a child rather than reporting her to the police, especially when he’s doing it so that he won’t be punished by society for hurting other children.

    And yet for so many people (men?) if they hear any hint of a threat to (their?) balls or penis that means that all other considerations are tossed out the window.

  396. jennygadget, you’re more charitable than I am. To me the “Woah.” translates simply as, “Feel sorry for me,” knowing full well that it is one of the very scripts we’ve just been discussing on this very thread about attempts to initiate rituals where women are supposed to flock to care for the vaguely-unhappy male.

  397. Relevant link: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2007/05/23/q-since-when-is-being-criticized-like-having-your-limbs-blown-off-by-a-landmine-a-since-that-criticism-came-from-someone-with-less-privilege-than-you/

    aleks, that might help you see where Helen is coming from. That said, Helen, this comment seems disingenuous, since you did know what aleks was talking about: what penis-threatening? Other than my existing?

    Enough with the dick-related threaddrift, okay?

  398. “That said, Helen, this comment seems disingenuous, since you did know what aleks was talking about: what penis-threatening? Other than my existing?”

    What are you talking about? I had no idea what he was getting at when he asked that question. That’s why I asked. As closely as I could make out, he was saying my existence was the threat, same as the dudes I was describing. It was only after aleks concurred with Grafton’s explanation that I knew what specifically he was claiming the “threat” to be, and that he was just plain lying.

  399. Okay, Helen. You said “Yeah, I know my comment quoted above is what aleks is referring to” later in the thread, so reading this all at once just now made your comments seem contradictory.

  400. Look, leaving aside the specifics for a minute and going back to the topic here–which is teaching 101–it’s appropriate to call privileged people out on their behavior, even when it’s unconsciously done, since “I didn’t mean it” is a shitty excuse for inappropriate behavior. But it’s also inappropriate for us to assume ill-will in those periodic failures. I think saying Aleks “was just plain lying” is not okay. I’m glad Helen pointed out the fake-threat phenomenon, but assuming Aleks was aware of it and trolling is not in keeping with his previous behavior or his willingness to learn.

    I don’t think we have to be nice. I’m not really into nice. But I think we should make a real effort to be right.

  401. Starling, I’m not following. I know there’s more than one definition of lying; for example, we generally say six-year-olds aren’t lying unless they had admitted intent.

    But when an adult speaks without getting their facts straight even after someone has indicated there’s a problem with what they said, by the standards of everyone I know, that’s lying, not because of intent, but because getting your facts straight is part of the adult definition of being honest. With children we define lying by intent; with adults we define lying by action. Er, “we” meaning everyone I know in real life.

    As for assuming ill-will, I’ve been doing the opposite in this matter — if I haven’t been sure what something meant, I refused to think I knew what it meant until further explanation was given.

  402. @Helen:

    I think your definition of lying is unusual, then. When I say lying I mean that someone is saying something false that they know is false. Anything else, they are misinformed.

  403. @ Hidden Tohru – Now that you mention it, I only had one male music teacher and he was…unpleasant. As in “why bother to learn to play guitar when you can just hook up with a guitarist?” unpleasant. In that case what am I paying you to teach me for, asshole? I had female music teachers who were a bit quirky, sure, but never actively underminey.

    RE Helen’s point about differing social rules in different situations, seconded. I’ve worked in tech, and recognise exactly what you’re saying about engineering groups. Dunno why that particular set of expectations never bothered me, I just figured out quickly that programmers don’t like it when people interrupt them, especially when people interrupt them by touching them to get their attention. Never could figure out why other departments thought the tech people were all ogres who would bite their head off if they asked for anything, but now that you mention that it does sort of make sense – they just weren’t recognising that the rules were different. Which is kind of worrying actually, as sales people in particular need to be better at reading body language than that – it’s part of the job.

  404. CassandraSays: I have to say, guitar is an instrument with a much higher level of douchebaggery than almost any other instrument, and I blame that entirely on the rock culture/singer-songwriter fetishization of our country. I wrote an essay on my personal blog several months ago about how people think guitarists get laid because guitar is a sexy instrument (rock guitars are, solely because the guitarists keep their instruments right on their pelvis), but it has a lot more to do with the dynamic charisma of a person on stage and how they’re basically putting themselves on a pedestal for your enjoyment, saying “I am good enough to be on this stage”, and thus exuding a lot more confidence than the average person really sees. Also, that this phenomenon is not limited to rock music by any means, as I have known many classical musicians who had groupies or fans (and even had a few myself). As a result, almost every male guitarist in existence (whether classical or other musical tradition) thinks that he is a godsend. I can’t even tell you how many douchebags would sit in the (extremely echo-y) main hall of the music building at my college, playing their guitars like everyone wanted to hear them. 9.9

    I find that some male brass teachers/players can be asses as well, but most other instruments have a lower concentration of asshole male teachers/players than guitar and voice do. Oh, the stories I could tell you about one male teacher at my school… The worst I’ve ever had to deal with from female teachers was concern trolling about my weight. Because these days it’s impossible to be a fat female opera singer (apparently, Stephanie Blythe has mysteriously ceased to exist).

  405. Huh? Fat women aren’t allowed now in opera? WTF?

    Yeah, any instruments associated with the rock scene have a higher than average level of assholishness in the people who play them. I’m not even going into why that is and how it gets reinforced because it’s a lovely day and I’d rather not get spitting mad right now. Suffice it to say, the rock music scene as a whole is about on a level with pro football as far as hostility to women is concerned. Homosocial environments almost always reinforce shitty behavior from men and jaw-dropping sexism.

  406. Re: Fat women in opera, the whole “fat valkyrie” ideal went the way of the dodo many decades ago (Maria Callas, anyone?). Mostly the opera world views you in terms of your vocal talent first and your appearance second (as needed to determine what roles you can best play), but in the past five to ten years there’s been a disturbing trend in opera toward the societal convention of beauty, with smaller and smaller women getting chosen over more talented but heavier ones. Renee Fleming is consider practically plus-sized now. *Sigh* However, there are still women who are large and get starring roles, some who were “grandmothered” in (meaning they had long and prestigious careers before this unpleasant swing in ideals and thus no one would dare not hire them), and some, like Stephanie Blythe, who’ve managed to make a name for themselves despite all the opposition they face. It is a little easier as a mezzo than as a soprano, as mezzos get less of the “young pretty ingenue” roles and more of the “auntie/old woman” roles, but there’s still stories about mezzos having weight loss surgery (and there was one tragic instance where a tenor committed suicide because he kept getting negative feedback on his appearance).

    Okay, enough thread-jacking. Just, that whole “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” joke, I’ve always found that really offensive, and not the least of which because I hear it ALL THE DAMN TIME when people find out I’m an opera singer in training. x.x But I accept that you meant it as funny rather than insulting, so no need to apologize.

  407. Question – Wouldn’t weight loss surgery potentially impact someone’s ability to sing, ie. do their job well? It’s such radical surgery that with all the potential complications it seems like it would be especially problematic for a singer.

  408. HiddenTohru,
    I’ll apologize without you asking, because that was foolish of me. I was making fun of a cliche I knew to be unfounded (aren’t most operas Italian or French and valkyrieless?) without thinking about how annoying that must be to people who actually work in the field.

  409. Cassandra: I honestly don’t know, since I don’t know any singers that have undergone weight loss surgery personally. I haven’t heard reports to that effect about the singers that have had it, but it may just be a matter of time. I do know that I read an article years ago about how female singers sing differently when menstruating or pregnant (surprise! hormones fuck with your internal organs, including your vocal cords!), so it’s obvious that even small changes can seriously affect a singer’s voice. My voice teacher, for instance, has a very badly deviated septum, but by the time it was discovered by her doctor, she’d already been working as a professional for several years, and declined to have it fixed lest it change the quality of resonance in her nasal cavity (which is very important to a singer). I imagine that someone who has gone such drastic surgery would have to spend a period after they’ve recovered retraining themselves, basically getting back to a place where they can reproduce the sound that they had before. But that is a guess, at best.

    Aleks: Really, opera is such a varied genre that you can’t say they’re mostly Italian or French, but if you’re really curious to learn more about opera, you can find my email by clicking on my username to get to my blog (the email should be on my profile). XD This is enough thread-jacking! And I appreciate the apology.

  410. Aleks: “Did you have a good kindergarten teacher, Grafton? By this I mean, are you good at sharing your candy with your friends?”

    My kindergarten teacher was, in my opinion, an evil person. It’s illegal for me to share prescription drugs, but if you go and steal one or two I’ll pretend not to notice. They’re in the black wooden box in my office with the girly nose-cone art reproduction on it. Take the lozenge-shaped ones, the round pink ones will just make you ill for weeks before they do any good.

    Kate Harding: “That is really interesting. Grafton, I think half the reason you’ve quickly become a beloved commenter around here is that you were taught all that. The reality is, NT people could very much stand to be taught the same things, explicitly and firmly, but it’s assumed that we’ll get a handle on it naturally.”

    I’m beloved? How pleasing. Thanks.

    I misspoke, in that I know perfectly well that other people don’t always, or even often, get to They Matter When You Don’t Understand Them. They Matter When They Seem Stupid Or Unfair To You. but I did have this idea that amazing neurotypical powers mean that NTs understand the feelings of NTs and don’t find them stupid. People have implied this to me in the course of telling me that my feelings are too incomprehensible to matter. Or that it’s to my benefit for them to disregard my feelings so I’ll learn to have normal ones. This is very irritating. And very sad to see as something widespread.

    I should remark that Other People Have Feelings. Those Feelings Are Real. Those Feelings Matter. They Matter When You Don’t Understand Them. They Matter When They Seem Stupid Or Unfair To You. Deal With It. was my mother being clueful, and not the kind of social-skills stuff I got from the child-psych people, which was forced socialization (and not with other autists, for I am too old for the notion of autism without speech-delay to have been involved in my childhood, but with any sort of socially impaired kids, largely abuse survivors) for ‘practice’ and was unhelpful to me because it lacked explicit instruction.

    My mom, well. Yeah. Compassion is a stand-alone value. (I don’t know what empathy really means.) Likewise respect. I’m pretty well alienated by the notion that there’s a bunch of people who think otherwise. ie: the SR commenters asking “What’s in it for me?” Seems gross, undignified, indecent. Not the attitude of a person who can be respected. I know I believe that (quite forcefully) ‘cause my mother said it. Is that something that can be inculturated into adults?

  411. Empathy is hard. Really really hard. My diagnosis is just run-of-the-mill depression, but it’s still almost impossible for me to tell what people are thinking or predict how they’ll react.

  412. I did have this idea that amazing neurotypical powers mean that NTs understand the feelings of NTs and don’t find them stupid. People have implied this to me in the course of telling me that my feelings are too incomprehensible to matter. Or that it’s to my benefit for them to disregard my feelings so I’ll learn to have normal ones. This is very irritating. And very sad to see as something widespread.

    I think a version of it is widespread — or different versions are. Obviously, the shit you get from assholes who think you need to be more like them is its own thing. But on a different scale, women are constantly told we’re too mysterious to figure out, too emotional and irrational to be taken seriously, for instance. Our feelings are so weird and illogical and drippy, how could any reasonable (i.e., male) person be expected to understand and honor them? I think every marginalized group gets some version of it — you’re too angry, irrational, immature, whatever, so you haven’t earned the right for the dominant culture to take you seriously — and those messages are in fact reinforced through subtle social cues as much as anything else. Maybe more.

  413. Back to 101-education: I don’t feel confident enough of the material (even though I get it inside, it comes out mangled when I talk) but I hope this message was heard at work last week.

    My boss was getting an update on a troublesome/incompetent client representative, who’s a woman. And she’s not good at her job, and that’s causing trouble for me and my colleagues. And he said “I wish I could have her sterilised, so she can’t pass on her really stupid genes.” So I told him that was inappropriate, and to cut it out. He claimed it wasn’t sexist, because men could be sterilised too, and I responded “but women are all too often presented as having motherhood as their principle role, and she’s a woman, and that happens to be the ‘punishment’ you suggested. So, don’t”. I went on to say I recognised he wasn’t trying to offend, but that equating women = mothers was troublesome. And I think he got it. And if he didn’t, the others in the room did.

    Our workplace does have a habit of mock-planning to kidnap/assassinate the clients we have trouble with – not attractive, but not something I’m actually bothered by.

  414. Kate Harding. That is very sad. I have no desire to be more like others and I’m sure as hell not going to learn to do it through various forms of abuse, but at least they’ve got a point in that I really do react oddly to a lot of things. I’m afraid the emotions of women don’t seem any more weird and illogical to me than those of men. I guess they might, as a very broad generalization, be a bit more damp but I believe that’s superior to being violence prone.

    tallyriffic, I don’t know about the sexism in your boss’ remark and have my doubts about that, but eugenics is distasteful at best and I wish people would stop saying shit like that. So thank you.

  415. Re guitars: I was moaning to my boyfriend that with a lot of rock bands, there are either no female guitarists, or if there is, it’s when she’s on bass and then bass is made out to be the ‘easy’ option and the explanation is put about that ‘she’s pretty so they had her just play bass to look good’ (or similar). I think these perceptions stop girls and women being as likely to even go for playing lead and/or rhythm guitar, let alone being seriously considered for it in band auditions. And I don’t even think bass is ‘easy either’ so it’s a Hurts Bassists Too moment. But my boyfriend reminded me how much I love Boris , and how ROCKING the lead guitarist is — a woman called Wata. She gets a lot of respect for her guitar shredding skills and is so fucking cool! He took his housemate along to see them once and all he could talk about for two days was how amazing Wata is on the guitar :-).

    Sidenote: I HATE how people assume I ‘only like rock (esp the heavier and doomy stuff) because my boyfriend does’. He and I both know that I was into it from a much younger age than he — I grew up loving rock from age 0, and he got into it as a tween/teenager!!

  416. P.S. Not saying ‘oh look Wata therefore problem cancelled’, more like, ‘yay Wata!, but how comes not more like her’. Clearly it is NOT because ‘women can’t play shredderific guitar’!! Reminds me of this cartoon … and returning to the 101 theme, it also reminds me of a great ally moment from a teacher of mine in middle school. Mr K, who it turns out was a male feminist, was the science teacher. In response to one of the boys making comments about ‘girls are rubbish at science’ when one girl didn’t get something exactly right, he told the boy off for saying something rude and unfounded, and impressed upon us that to be accepted as doing a great job, a female (in his eg, as a scientist) will usually have had to work at least twice as hard and be at least twice as brilliant before she’ll get the recognition for baseline excellence (which she has usually far exceeded). It could have been depressing (‘what if i can’t be twice as brilliant just to be brilliant, or even just great in order to be ‘ok’) but him saying out loud was a great moment in my education because he addressed the unfairness of it and encouraged us all not to think that way or to hold ourselves (any of us, boys/girls) back by believing such blanket statements. I think I felt encouraged to really push myself even more after this — there seemed a point again — and took even more pride in my science work! I remember the moment pretty often even though it’s years later.

  417. Also, @Helen Huntingdon, re this:

    Similarly, I live in Minneapolis. I know that general affect is dialed up a notch by comparison if I go someplace like Tennessee. Even more extreme is transplanting people from England to someplace like Tennessee; the Brit’s affect will come across as depressed to the point that the person must be recovering from severe illness, and the Tennesseeans’ affect will make the Brit wonder if they’ve wandered into a land of psychotic stalkers.

    I’m interested in this theory. I’m British and English (but not all British people are English!) and have never been to Tennessee, but I’m curious as to why you think I’ll get judged as recovering from a serious illness whilst simultaneously believing people there to be ‘psychotic stalkers’. Really? Will I? Why? Forgive me if it sounds oversensitive, but how on Earth can you make a statement like this which is so sweeping about the affects of people from different places and how they’ll manifest after interaction?

  418. First-time commenter here, though I’ve been following SP on-and-off for months now. I just finished reading all the comments and thought I’d share (and ask a question) about a recent experience with 101-education.

    I’m currently a PhD student in English Lit and have been teaching undergraduate literature and freshman composition classes for ages. And something I often focus on in my classes are issues of gender and sexism. Last Thursday, I had what I thought was a very productive freshman comp class where we discussed the existence, nature and effects of arbitrary gender roles (admittedly I think of all gender roles as more-or-less arbitrary). We discussed sexism, homophobia, trans-issues (my students’ new word for the day was “cisgender”), ableism and a lot of other things which I think it’s important for my students to be aware of and think critically about. It was, I thought, a very productive class.

    But something I was wondering about afterward was if any of my students thought I was force-feeding them subject matter and opinions that they don’t care for or disagree with. These are all freshmen, most of whom (women or men) have a lot of unexplored sexist beliefs. Confronting that can be quite problematical for them and something they would automatically resist. And while I think they should confront it and think critically about it, I’m always a bit leery of coming across as if it’s my way or the high way in the classroom. Something I always strive to do, whether teaching Shakespeare or gender issues, is make students comfortable enough in my classroom to express varied and dissenting opinions. So what do I do if some of those opinions are sexist (or, for that matter, racist, ableist, etc)?

    My personal solution is to be very clear about my personal opinions but also emphasize that these are my opinions and that I don’t expect students to agree with or share them. If they disagree with me, that’s perfectly acceptable, and I encourage them to think carefully and critically about what works or doesn’t about the things I say. But what I do expect, however, is that they should be prepared to engage just as critically with their own opinions as mine. I try to make it clear to my students that they can hold any opinion in my classroom, but it should be an informed and critically-conscious one.

    Thus far I’ve never had any problems with students complaining (verbally or in evaluations) that they feel as if they’re being force-fed ideas, feel uncomfortable or are unable to express their opinions in my classes, so it seems my strategy works. And even though people do say sexist things every so often, I can usually turn them into effective teaching moments.

    So, to make a long story short, I’m curious what other commenters would do in such a situation (or others where you’re the authority figure in a situation). What would you say or do if a student says “Yes, but clearly women should stay at home at first when they have children…” or “I’m not homophobic but gay people are icky!” or “Well, men just want sex, while women…” or “I’m sorry, but I hate fat people”? (And yes, these are all things I’ve heard students say)

  419. @zenoodle:

    I’m curious as to why you think I’ll get judged as recovering from a serious illness whilst simultaneously believing people there to be ‘psychotic stalkers’.

    I’m from the North eastern part of the country (some still consider it south, but it’s far enough north to not have southern manners) and my mother’s family all live in Kentucky (which is close enough to Tennessee for this anecdata to work IMO). I have a hard time socializing with my family, because they are very…effusive? Effervescent? We’ve got the same DNA, but I was raised in a place where we didn’t strike up conversations with strangers and we didn’t know the goings-on of every family in the area, etc. I never witnessed such an occurrence back in my home state, but it happens all the time with Kentuckians. In fact I was able to place a person from Kentucky just from the amount of small talk she made as I checked her out at my old job here in Florida. She was pleasantly surprised about it. I told her she reminded me of my aunt.

    Anyway, the point is, I can see from their perspective that I might have appeared sullen, depressed, etc. While to me, their enthusiasm was frightening.

    I will say that this is a terrible generalization because depression does run in my family (on the Kentucky side) so they’re not ALL like that. My Aunt and Grandmother married into it and don’t have the genetic depression.

  420. Hi SarahB,

    I do get that there are some trends of difference and I guess different ideas of what’s polite etc in different places… but I can’t tell you how much it pisses me off to see English and/or British people more generally assumed to be, I don’t know — ‘reserved’ to the point of rudeness, or that we can’t ‘cope’ with extraverted happy behaviour? :-( The way I read Helen’s comment suggested that ‘Brits’ are assumed to be at an extreme, because “Even more extreme is transplanting people from England to someplace like Tennessee”… And I’m curious about why it’s ‘ok’ to make this kind of sweeping generalisation in a discussion about 101-ness, especially as I reckon I’d (rightly) get shot down if I started making assertions about What Americans Are Like.

    I guess we all have unhelpful stereotypes about various ‘groups’ of people, and that often there is something in the stereotype that might ring true in ways that led it to become one in the first place, but I thought this was the kind of thing that it was a good idea to try to remember to deconstruct. It can be unnecessarily harmful to propagate them anyway… For example, I have a really good friend from Houston who came to study here for a year (I know Texas is not the same as Tennessee, though it looks like about 700 miles from where my friend is from to Nashville in Tennessee so it’s in the geographical ball park at least) and he was told, or rather warned by a lecturer at his old uni to be aware of how cold and standoffish and superciliously polite we all apparently are here. This lecturer and others were all telling him to make sure he toned himself down etc etc, to the point where he was actually kind of dreading coming for a year of interacting with ‘cold fishes’ and nearly didn’t come at all. So imagine his surprise when practically everyone he met greeted him with a massive smile and loads of enthusiasm. I met him at a bus stop in the rain and we got gassing straightaway about music; I don’t even remember how we got onto the subject, but I do remember him saying how he kept having pleasant surprises and what a pleasure it was to meet and chat with me. He loved being here and felt incredibly welcome and now tries to visit back as often as he can afford. We’re really good friends, and when he has come back to visit, my normal greeting is a huge hug with a run up — he gets this reaction from everyone who knows him here pretty much. I mean, I’m sure we have our fair share of meanies here as anywhere, but — the British as the polar opposite of effusive and effervescent? It just doesn’t make sense to me, unless maybe all observations have been based on behaviour in central London at commuter rush hour time in heavy rain and/or boiling hot sun… even then, people can be surprisingly nice sometimes!

    More generally, I think you can put some people in different cultural contexts and they’ll be freaked out and may or may not adapt, and others will thrive on the new context and the experiences it’ll bring — I don’t think nationality or regionality is a helpful marker for figuring out who will have which reaction though.

  421. Zenoodle:

    I totally get where you’re coming from. I don’t remember the original context of Helen’s statement and I agree that we should avoid making sweeping generalizations. I think a lot of those kinds of statements come from people’s personal perceptions (or what they’ve been told about a culture) and that they want to hold on to this image they have (like your friend’s professor). I would disagree with anyone in a heartbeat if they tried to tell me that the British or English (or Scottish or Welsh) were cold because my interactions with any of those people have been so open and friendly. In case you’re wondering I used to work at Walt Disney World. =) And of course if anyone from a foreign country were to stay at Walt Disney World and never venture into the surrounding area or any other part of the country they would go home with a very specific idea in their heads about the Americans.

    I think I would probably agree with Helen more if she had kept her analogy in American contexts, but even that can’t be perfect. Like I said, a LOT of Kentuckians come off that certain way, but none of them belong to my mother’s paternal line. =)

    I’m going to stop here so I don’t start making sweeping generalizations about anyone else.

  422. Zenoodle:

    Not to pour oil on the flames, but I do think it sometimes is helpful to receive some warning about that kind of thing. I’m a kiwi, and we are most definitely more reserved in general than, say, Australians. But I lived in London for 5 years and found it hard work. The fact you have to know someone for years (or be related to them) before you get to socialise with them at home rather than the pub. The fact that the guy at the corner shop didn’t greet me (other than to say “5 pound 67 p” until after literally 4 years of my patronising him every week. The day he said “hello, love”, nearly had me on the floor. And so on.

    Now, I have also spent some time in Texas, and in my terms, those people are in your face. It’s no reflection on them, other than the fact that cultural differences are very real, even if you’re all “anglo” and you speak the same language.

    So, yes, despite the individual differences – and hell, I certainly know out-there extroverted poms! – I do think Brits are more reserved in general, and Southern Americans more, erm, quickly intimate, than my usual defaults.

    It is wrong to apply generalisations to an individual – hello, the other word for that is “prejudice” – but then again, generalisations might sometimes be applicable to populations.

  423. I just have to say that this thread is amazing. I’m attempting to work through the societally-ingrained brainwashing that has me convinced I’m a failure because I’m not married (pressure from my mother doesn’t help), and the depression that comes with that.

    After reading all this (among other places) its become clear that having a relationship means having someone up close and personal with whom you have to fight and negotiate with to be seen as human, or eat the shit sandwich of silence. This is something I’ve seen played out time and time again in the relationships encountered IRL as well.

    maybe I’m better off.

    To clarify: I’m not saying all relationship, or all men, or all people, etc. are “bad”. just maybe not for me after all. I don’t want to have to argue with someone who supposedly loves me about respecting me, my thoughts, my very body.

    P.S. Helen, you are amazing. Thank you.

  424. I emigrated from Ireland to England ten years ago and I find the English lack of reserve startling! But Americans seem friendly *and* reserved, in general.

    My experience is that the English (I cannot speak with confidence about the Scottish or the Welsh as my experience has all been in England) are very *un*reserved about things which I consider rude, and rush to startling levels of intimacy in acquaintanceships, while not actually being terrifically friendly in general.

  425. I complained upthread about my boyfriend making sexist jokes and belittling my negative reactions to them.

    Last weekend he went too far and I broke up with him. We spoke yesterday and he seems to be getting it (or perhaps he’s just good at saying the right thing) but I’m not interested in forgiving him that easily. If at all. So thank you Shapelings! I said one of the things Caitlin posted nearly word for word, and seemed to click.

    (Caitlin’s original post:
    Him: “I thought it was funny. I’m not going to censor myself around you, and it’s unfair for you to expect me to do so.”

    My first thought in response was “I’m not going to put up with you voluntarily hurting/upsetting me, and it’s unfair for you to expect me to do so. And I can’t believe you think you get to get pissed at *me* in response.”

    I’d also probably say something about, aren’t my feelings more important to him than the 10 seconds it would take him to decide not to say that/find something else to say? And if not, why not?)

  426. Annie McFly, I’m really glad if that helped in your conversation. I hope he listens to you and stops doing the things that hurt you. It sounds like you breaking up with him was what he needed to understand that, you know, continually hurting and upsetting you does have consequences. Who knew!

    Good luck.

  427. Annie McFly, I’m seconding Caitlin in being really glad that the conversations upthread helped you — esp as it sounds like you’re feeling a lot better about your situation (and having declared that kind of behaviour’s Not Ok) — yay!

    However, having returned to this thread today after reading about all the fluffies, I am really struggling with how it’s somehow suddenly ok to declare populations ‘unfriendly’, when it’s otherwise accepted that making over-simplified generalisations is not a good thing to do. In fact it smacks a bit of ‘X kinds of people are always so Y! But, oh no, I didn’t mean you, you’re different, er, um…’.

    Trix — London is a massive city… I can’t speak for your experience there, but I certainly have friends who’ve moved to work there from other parts of the UK and had to make major adjustments, not least because of the added tiredness from commuting across the city. Although, London being huge, there’s a massive variety of ‘mini-villages’ with their own vibes there, I’m guessing each with a pretty good mix of personality typed people living in them. I have also heard tell that in many other major cities, there is a good deal of perceived unfriendliness (which often amounts to stressed busy-ness of living and working in a humongous expensive city… dunno, I fainted on a busy commuter train once and was certainly not trampled over, rather I was well looked after). London is not representative of the UK as a whole, or even England as a whole, any more than life in a remote Cornish village would be. Ailibhe — I’m really sorry that’s been your experience. I have found that *some people* can be like that too, and that *some people* are not like that. I expect if I went to Ireland to live I would find some people to be like that and some people to not be like that.

    Sure I agree there are going to be cultural differences between places, and that there will be certain things in a stereotype that come from somewhere, but :-( I’m actually really sad about the undertone of some of the comments in reply to my initial questions about why it’s seen as ‘ok’ to do this if it’s about populations or nations, especially on SP. A lot of people have less than great things to say about ‘populations’ they’re not from, and I tend to think they’re being a little bigoted when they say them in a way that applies generally. I have had a whole variety of experiences of ‘what people can be like’ around the world, and have tended to find that open, warm and friendly people exist all over, as do shy, reserved ones and busy, intimidating, rude ones, etc etc, even though the way those attitudes are manifested in behaviour might vary. There’s a difference about being aware that some customs and interpretations of actions might generally be different somewhere and making assertions about certain personality traits being prevalent in a population, surely? None of us stand for stuff like ‘fat people are generally all lazy and thin people are generally all healthy’ here so why should it be alright to say ‘English/British/French/Greek/American/[Insert Nationality Here] are generally X’?

    Ironically this makes me feel kind of grumpy and I also feel bad about that fact, so I must look frightfully Englishly stand-offish and/or reserved about now :-(

  428. Zenoodle – Thanks for the comment above. I found it disappointing to see such broad, sweeping, and IMNSHO slightly bigoted statements at a place like SP.

  429. Trix: But I lived in London for 5 years and found it hard work. The fact you have to know someone for years (or be related to them) before you get to socialise with them at home rather than the pub. The fact that the guy at the corner shop didn’t greet me (other than to say “5 pound 67 p” until after literally 4 years of my patronising him every week. The day he said “hello, love”, nearly had me on the floor. And so on.

    Just putting this out there, but:
    1) People in London can often live as far away from each other as people in other regions who live in different towns, so it’s often easier to meet somewhere equidistant. Plus rent is horrendous, so maybe the fact a lot of people live in pokey rented accommodation with no room to swing a cat, often in house/flatshares, might play a part. Where I live (in the NE) it’s pretty normal for me to get invited over or to invite people over. Where I used to live (SW) my friends were dispersed all over in little villages so we used to meet more often in one larger town, and maybe would all kip at the house of the friend who lived nearest if it was a night out meetup. I think the geography of a place makes a difference. Plus the whole London — no time thing.
    2) Shops can get busy in cities and have lots of customers. I have worked in busy shops and not always recognised people who consider themselves regulars because I saw so many faces all the time. Also retail pay can be oh-so-crapola and thus is not massively conducive to a welcome full of the joys of spring when you pop in for a pint of milk. It also makes a difference how the way you greet (or not) a shop assistant comes across, and of course whether they’re having other stuff go on in their lives. Just thinking about any recent local shop experiences of mine — there are two farm shops near where I live. I went to one of them after getting a recommendation about the produce, but was really put off by the massively rude lady. My friend said she is always rude but it’s worth it for the quality of the meat there. I went to a different farm shop (about 4 miles away) the following week and the man in there was like the polar opposite of the lady from the first shop. People are different.

  430. Shil — hi, me too. My heart sank a bit, especially in a thread about getting to 101 and tactics for helping others see past generalisations. One of the things I’m trying to do generally (whatever the area I’m trying to reach 101 and above in) is to challenge myself or tell myself off if I catch myself making over-simplistic generalisations — I’ve found it gets easier to catch or even pre-empt those reactions in myself the more I do it, and also the more I read in spaces like SP. For example, I think I used to do it a lot with the ‘oh, men!’ type response if a male friend or boyfriend would react to something I said in a certain way (often the male in question then goes ‘ugh, *women*!’ and there’s a lot of flouncing — the kind of scenario that’s always in a romcom ‘skit’)… and I realised that being like that perpetuates the problem. I mean, sometimes an instant reaction might still be a little bit like that but I’ve got loads better over the years of telling myself off for being sexist and trying to figure out what it was about that behaviour/comment in particular that’s hacked me off rather than essentially making any attempt to get to a better understanding futile by attributing it (and my reaction to it) down to gender.

    In terms of nationality, etc, I’ve always tended to get pissed off at the various stereotypes that get listed if I’m told by someone I’m not ‘a typical English girl’ (I’ve had that in hostels when travelling a fair bit). I would always ask for the definition of a ‘typical English girl’ and the reply would vary loads — no wonder I’m ‘not typical’ as there isn’t even necessarily a typical stereotype! And so when an American friend of mine (she’s been in England 4 years now, she appears to be pretty happy here and to feel welcomed) gets ‘you’re not a typical American’ I understand why she gets pissed off too — it’s like saying ‘you’re not as bad as my oversimplified idea of what Americans Are Like’ (or possibly ‘you’re not as good as…’ — either way, it’s irritating!).

  431. @ Zenoodle – Funny you should say that…I’ve interviewed Boris. Wata is indeed awesome, and it’s interesting to me that she actually does get an unusual level of respect as a musician, though male journalists can’t seem to resist putting “and she’s so pretty too!” comments in every single article. The rock scene in general though really is appallingly sexist, and I too resent the idea that women should play bass because it’s easier on multiple levels – it’s dumb and sexist, bass isn’t actually easier (it’s worth noting how few really great bass players there are), and a band with a shitty rhythm section is almost unlistenable.

    Also RE the whole discussion about Brits, the American South, and mannerisms/reserve…well, I’m Scottish, lived in London for years, and have also lived in Texas, and the most reserved group of people I personally have ever encountered is right here in San Francisco. I found London much friendlier and not reserved so much as polite in the sense that, with so many people all jammed together in such a small space, you have to create space for each other by not being too nosy or intrusive. I found Londoners extremely willing to strike up conversations, friendships etc if and when I made the first move to do so, and older Londoners tended to make that first move with me. My mother’s observation about living in Texas was that people appear to be friendly but it’s essentially superficial – someone can appear to want to be your friend but that doesn’t mean you can rely on them. It’s a different set of social rules, sure, but I don’t think you can say one is unequivocally more reserved or less friendly than the other. And I find the idea of Brits being super reserved in general ridiculous – we’re indviduals with individual personalities, and some parts of the UK tend to be super friendly and sociable, others not so much. Britain isn’t a very homogenous society at all any more, if it ever was.

  432. Zenoodle – Agreed on all counts. Gender-based and race-based generalizations tend to bother me more than most others, but I have issues with broad generalizations in … well, general. And I agree that the more one practices eschewing them, the better one gets at it. As I mentioned in my first post earlier in the thread, I’m a teacher, so I get a lot of practice at calling my students on making unwonted generalizations, which I think substantially helps me avoid them too.

    It’s nice to see, by the way, that while you get irritated when people make generalizations about the English (which I gather you are, unless I read your posts incorrectly), you criticized people doing it elsewhere too. I find it amusing – and a little unfortunate – that many people around me will complain about generalizations which directly affect them, but ignore (or express) ones which refer to groups or categories they don’t fall within. I think I actually have an easier time with stereotypes which may refer to groups that I fall within (being Indian, male, bisexual, etc), since they just seem ludicrous because I have a lot more information about where they fall short. So stereotyping referring to other groups, ironically, possibly bothers me a little more. Not that either of them is a good idea, of course.

  433. Zenoodle: I think you’re right to be calling out the generalizations. I’ve gotten very fed up in the past few years whenever I tell someone I stayed in Germany for a while and they go “oh, Germans are so unfriendly, aren’t they?” Um, no, everyone I met in Germany was at least polite, if not downright friendly. Heck, I’ve met Germans since I moved to Ohio who were very nice, although that might’ve been in part because I was the only person who spoke their language (very rudimentary, but I still remember most of the basic conversation forms). But yeah, generalizing isn’t a good idea. I think it’s a mental tool that can be helpful to prepare oneself for interacting with a population in general, but only in a very limited manner.

    Strictly from a psychological standpoint, generalizations about a group are helpful because it’s a lot easier for us to think of people in terms of large groups rather than individuals (we rarely say “oh I love my Cheryl/Libby/Michael/Miranda/Chester unit”, instead it’s “oh I love my family”). When preparing to interact with a group, such as when traveling, it can be helpful to have a few general ideas about that group just to set a sort of baseline (you wouldn’t necessarily go up to a stranger and hug them on the street, for instance, except in very special situations). The problem comes from using this as a crutch. You start from a place of “oh, English people might be slightly more reserved than Southern US Americans in general, but there’s still lots of variety within the group” and end up at “English people are rude/unfriendly/standoffish” and it’s not exactly a long leap to make. So it’s really something you have to be constantly aware of and be checking about yourself all the time, so you don’t find yourself saying things like “all German/French/English people are rude/unfriendly” and then having to put in qualifiers such as “oh, except my one friend who is German/French/English”. Logically, the second statement invalidates the first, so it’s better not to make the first at all. Certainly I met one or two Germans who weren’t that friendly, just as I’ve met some Ohioans who aren’t that friendly, and North Carolinians that aren’t that friendly. It’s all personal anecdata and can’t be used to form a set of generalizations about any of those groups.

    I will say, however, that there’s a lot of fakery involved in the friendliness I encountered in NC. Meaning, while they may say hello to you when they pass you on the street, and chat with you in a public setting, don’t count on them if your car breaks down on the side of the road or you’re depressed and need a friend. I can count on one hand the number of people I knew in NC who were truly there for me when I needed them. I have a lot fewer acquaintances in Ohio, but all of them are a lot more genuine about helping me when I need it and their circumstances allow. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone in NC is a fair weather friend. That’s just my experience of living there for more than half my life, and a large factor in why I left. My mother reports a very different experience, and we both lived in the same places for most of the time I was there, so there are obviously tons of other factors at work that have nothing to do with geographical location.

  434. Zenoodle: My point was more that we don’t even agree on what we mean by “reserve” when we say that some people do or don’t have it.

    In every office in which I’ve worked in England, it has been considered normal and acceptably polite to remark on someone’s appearance in passing – in Ireland that requires a certain level of intimacy. That level of intimacy is generally easier to attain in England, but the initial friendliness on first contact in non-intimate situations is less effusive, etc. The really startling ones here for me were people discussing personal appearance in the office and personal finances in non-intimate social settings.

    Conversely, the Irish way could seem to be all niceness on the surface with who-knows-what lurking underneath.

    Cultural norms FTW. Guess where I choose to live!

  435. I think it’s probably fairest to say that the rules of acceptable interaction change from place to place (city to small town to rural areas) and from specific culture to specific culture. I agree with Zenoodle that the difference in interaction rules between city and country living are huge–much bigger than the differences between most separate countries.

    But we’re all more or less the same under it all. Some people will adhere exactly to the social standards in order to be polite because they don’t want to get into deeper relationships with casual acquaintances; some people will ignore the rules because they feel like they can; some people will wish for greater or less intimacy and will work within the bounds of socially acceptable interactions to build friendships or barriers. It’s kind of silly to call social standards “friendly” or “unfriendly” when they’re just frameworks and they vary so wildly–and it’s a mistake to confuse form with substance.

  436. I have no idea about friendly or unfriendly, but it’s certainly the case that social standards can be more tolerant or less so. I recall with puzzlement being banished from a discussion for violating a social-standard that I was unaware of, and hearing, on my way out the door, that strict adherence to rules of propriety was the only way to handle a diverse group. (WTF.)

    Socially disabled people sometimes find it helpful to not disabuse people of the notion that they’re foreigners (an assumption people often make about me, because my accent and cadence of speech is, like that of many autistic people, a little odd) or actually move to another country, since people are for some insane reason more tolerant of your failure to meet social-standards if they think you’re from somewhere else. Which is really sort of batshit, since this tolerance will last a lifetime even though an NT immigrant can probably adapt, while the intolerance of socially handicapped locals, who cannot adapt, is unrelenting.

  437. Just wanted to add a hopeful comment illustrating that not all relationships have respect issues. My husband related an incident to me where some guy he was gaming with in college said that “girls can’t game” because one woman they were gaming with was having trouble. (It was Marathon, in case anyone recognizes that; the precursor to Halo.) My husband pointed out that obviously she can game, as she’s using the mouse and keyboard just fine, to which dudebro sputtered, “But she sucks!” My husband replied, “She’s good enough to kick your ass.” And then he offered to help the woman improve her game, which she took him up on.

    On a wider scale, he’s often just as angry as I am about rape culture, to the point where, after relating to him that a woman told another woman that asking for lube while she was being raped “was like consent”, we were both yelling, spit flying, at the sheer ignorance and damage done with that comment.

    I’m not saying he’s perfect, not by a long shot, but he at least gets the big stuff, and got it before we even met. (I must remember this for later!)

  438. Use the Power of Logic. If they accept the same basic premises as you, then you can *reason* them into agreeing with you.

    In some cases, you will also need to use the Power of Evidence.

    If these aren’t working,you’re being blocked by an emotional reaction. Find a more powerful emotional pull and use the Power of Emotion….

  439. SecondhandMoon said:

    I’m overreacting and shouldn’t feel hurt, because everyone says things like that and it’s just part of culture.

    Women getting raped right regular is also a part of culture, but one hopes he wouldn’t use that argument to say that rape is okay, because “it’s just part of culture.”

    Sorry to be flailing over something posted that long ago, but I’ve been catching up for days and GAAAH! The Stupid, it Burns!

  440. Grafton:

    The one where I must hate someone and be trying to insult them simply by failing to be interested in them at all.

    Wow, you’re the first guy I’ve run across who has dealt with that. Er, the first guy I’ve had this sort of conversation with who has, rather. I’ve had the conversation fairly frequently, though, since a lot of guys take it Very Personally when I am not interested, and I have struggled to understand why. With women I’m more likely to have the, “Yes, I stood up for your right to be treated like a human being, but, no, that doesn’t mean I want to be bosom buddies” conversation. Which isn’t the same at all, but I suspect shares the same underlying belief that you only treat people decently if you actively like them.

    Or at least that’s my suspicion why people are wounded by my disinterest. Instead it’s that I only have so much “social energy” to go around, and plenty enough friends who’d appreciate it if I used it on them once in a while. Like or dislike is beside the point – I’m booked up, so that’s not even a consideration. But for some reason saying they should have the right to respect because they’re human, while I should have the right to not be interested in knowing anyone better right now, is a huge insult to many males (I feel way more guilty about it with the women who wanted a friend, but if I’m out and about enough to even be in the position of challenging that sort of stupidity toward someone I’m not already good friends with, generally I’m already on the edge of “Too many people in my life, must make quiet space Most Soonest!”)

    It does seem, though, that with a lot of people, the idea that you treat people decently because they are human is unacceptable, because you can only trust people who like you. Maybe because if you can “get” people to like you, that gives you an element of control?

  441. I suppose I’m talking to myself again, since I’m late to the party as usual, but what always surprises me about Shapely Prose is that, whenever I get come back to catch up after a particularly busy period, there’s always a slightly different group of “regular posters,” yet the new-to-me regulars are all just as brilliant as the ones who were here when I first discovered the site! Unbelievably awesome, that.

    Also, props to the mods for their handling of the October onslaught. Wowsers!

  442. I think Starling and Ailbhe have nailed a crucial distinction. It’s not that Group A is any friendlier than Group B–it’s that social conventions in different places give people different ideas about what it means to be “friendly.” (Similar to what Helen Huntingdon mentioned about engineers keeping social interactions at work quick and minimally interruptive. To someone who’s used to greetings and “face time,” this seems brusque and impersonal, but the intent is respect for other people’s concentration.)

    If I were traveling somewhere with different cultural expectations, I’d want someone who’s been there or who is from there to give me a heads-up about those differences. And I think it’s probably most useful to describe those differences in terms of behavior, rather than making sweeping generalizations about people’s attitudes or personalities.

    Like, “Wow, those Brits are really reserved,” is an unhelpful generalization, but “You know, from what I’ve noticed, in Ireland, people don’t talk about personal appearance in the office over there the way they seem to in England, so when you move over there and start your new job, it might be something to keep in mind.” is a useful heads-up about a social convention that helps someone avoid cramming their foot into their mouth.

    I think the same thing applies to smaller cultural groups too. Every family or group of friends or workplace has its own little idiosyncrasies. But it doesn’t mean that the really huggy family is more loving than the family that’s not big on that kind of PDA, just that they each have their own little mini-culture that expresses things differently.

  443. But it doesn’t mean that the really huggy family is more loving than the family that’s not big on that kind of PDA, just that they each have their own little mini-culture that expresses things differently.

    When a coworker puts her arms around me I wonder if she’s looking for a good place to stick a knife.

  444. I haven’t read all of the rest of the thread so I’m sorry if this is slightly repetitive (and it is out of synch with the directions most recently taken): but I have a specific “getting to 101″ advice question. I had a conversation with a colleague with whom I’m friendly about the healthcare reform bill and the Stupak Amendment. His position was basically “well, but it’s just to get healthcare reform through, you can’t ask people to pay for what they don’t believe in.” I said that it was unacceptable that an essential part of women’s healthcare had become a bargaining chip, and that I paid for many things I didn’t believe in, namely the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said no, it was different “that’s self defense” I continued to disagree, and was backed up by friends from other countries who think the whole debate around abortion is crazy, but he just kept asking “Well, but what if it’s the only way to get universal health care?”
    I have to see him again on this week: how do I act towards someone who doesn’t think universal health care means women’s health care? Will I miss the chance to change a mind if I don’t sit down and write a careful email explaining that 1) Abortion IS women’s health care and 2) this would never, never, never happen to an issue in men’s health, and so his privilege is letting him tell me that I’m being silly and inhibiting reform by holding my position. Or is it OK to decide that I cannot be friends with or exchange any more than the barest pleasantries with someone who believes that universal rights don’t include my rights?

  445. You get to choose who you want to be friends with, period.

    At the same time, if you’re drawing the circle so that everyone who supports the healthcare reform bill even at the price of Stupak is outside, that’s a pretty tight boundary. Speaker Pelosi allowed the vote on Stupak, then pushed the bill through with Stupak attached. I travel in a pretty liberal and pro-choice (and female) crowd, and most of us still support HCR – tens of millions of people including women and children don’t have coverage for diabetes or disabilities or cancer now. Stupak doesn’t ban abortion, it just messes with the funding, and I’d think most of the women who couldn’t afford to pay for an abortion probably don’t have insurance that covers it now.

    Obama’s said that Stupak is unacceptable because it changes the status quo and he’s looking for a bill that neither advances or diminishes abortion availability. Hopefully compromise language can be found that doesn’t strip abortion coverage from private policies that include it now.

  446. Thank you for the response. Maybe I will start educating here, instead. There are 11.5 million women over 20 with diabetes in America. (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/) There are 154.6 million women in America. (http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womencensus1.html) Every one of those women has the risk of an unwanted or nonviable pregnancy. Some of them will need abortions rather than adoption or government or societal support, just as some of the women with diabetes will need medical intervention as well as lifestyle changes. Abortion is an essential part of women’s health care. My principle is that any health care that limits abortion funding is not universal health care.
    I’m not generally in the habit of choosing my friends based solely on my their political positions, and I quite agree with you that I’d be weeding out a lot of people on that particular criterion. But I reject the choice between “Reform with Stupak” and “No reform at all,” because it makes “universal reform” mean “reform for me, and for women who have the money, education, and just plain dumb luck not to end up with an unwanted or nonviable pregnancy.” It was this colleague’s dismissal of that position, his assertion that it was ridiculous even to hold that position, that makes me feel that any further interaction with him would be (in his mind, but unbeknownst to him) an interaction between unequal participants.

  447. Getting mansplainy is such a bafflingly ubiquitous response to Stupak that I think if we don’t give the guys a chance to get educated, we’ll just have to stop hanging out with guys. Kate wrote here about the near-universal tendency for men to explain why women’s health was used as a bargaining chip, instead of ever recognizing that that isn’t actually okay. Even my husband’s first response was to say “well, it needed to pass if reform was going to pass.” It’s incredibly upsetting that everyone shows their colors on this one — that you care more about people’s health than women’s health leads me to draw the obvious conclusion! But in a lot of cases I think it’s sincere human egocentricity rather than irredeemable assheadedness. Someone can be a perfectly okay colleague while still being sincerely egocentric. (Perfectly okay husbands have to step it up, but mine eventually caught on.)

    I don’t think you necessarily want to keep bringing it up — it’s a colleague, not a close friend, so a few ice crystals in your relationship are probably preferable to being seen as haranguing him — but if it comes up again, education is a great route. At the same time I would just keep repeating what you said — “health care that limits abortion is not universal health care,” “women’s health care is also health care” — so he gets that this is not a dick-sizing statistics-matching conversation but a much more fundamental one about who we exclude from something we call “universal.”

  448. H.:

    For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the subject. Unfortunately, one can’t change everyone’s minds on such matters (or any other, of course), even if one presents the most careful and well-framed arguments to them, since many people just totally do not get it. But you also, I think, shouldn’t spend time and energy on people whose attitudes will give you a serious headache.

    So the question to ask is (a) whether his opinion on the subject matters enough to you to affect your friendship, and (b) if it does, whether you’re fine with not having him as a friend. If the answer to (b) is a “yes,” then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not being friends with someone who doesn’t believe that universal rights include your rights. It’s probably not a good idea to expect your friends to agree with you everywhere, but that’s not the case here, it seems.

    That said, I agree with fillyjonk’s comment above about the benefits of educating people, with the caveat that you can’t educate people any more than they’re willing to be educated. And on subjects such as this, there are a lot of people I’ve met who seriously will never get it. Not that I’m not cynical, of course!

  449. I don’t think you necessarily want to keep bringing it up — it’s a colleague, not a close friend, so a few ice crystals in your relationship are probably preferable to being seen as haranguing him — but if it comes up again, education is a great route. At the same time I would just keep repeating what you said — “health care that limits abortion is not universal health care,” “women’s health care is also health care” — so he gets that this is not a dick-sizing statistics-matching conversation but a much more fundamental one about who we exclude from something we call “universal.”

    It seems like we take off our “marginalized person” cap when discussing “intangibles” like health care, when really this is when we should slap the caps on tighter. When talking about fat or race or anything else from an “insider’s” perspective, it’s often clear where the responsibility for education lies. In debates with other issues, it gets fuzzier.

    Long winded way of saying, “I agree with this completely.” At some point one has to step back, if only to maintain a level of sanity.

    @Shil, nothing inherently wrong with cynicism. It has definitely made me a more focused activist. Without it one burns out much quicker.

  450. @snarkysmachine:

    Agreed about the cynicism. I was kidding – and apparently inserting a “not” where it wasn’t needed too (*cries*).

    I like to believe I’m a very optimistic cynic. I believe in the power/possibility of change, as well as the ability to communicate meaningfully and usefully with other people about complex issues such as the ones in this thread. But I also believe that change is difficult and slow, people are often stupid and obtuse, etc. Or, more precisely, I believe in the possibility of change and will work for it, but don’t expect it to be easy. Which, to take it back to what you said, is why I figure one should strive to educate people when possible, but also think that it often won’t happen, when (as you said) one needs to know to step back and preserve one’ sanity.

    Also a long-winded way of saying I agree totally.

  451. It seems like we take off our “marginalized person” cap when discussing “intangibles” like health care, when really this is when we should slap the caps on tighter.

    Yes!

  452. H.–
    You might also want to talk about abortion in a little more detail. It’s kind of an icky discussion (all medicine is icky, which is why I’m not a doctor) but your colleague may be thinking about a $300 to $400 outpatient procedure that’s a huge moral question for a significant portion of US voters. But that’s not the whole picture. Stupak essentially makes a certain medical procedure uninsurable if it is undertaken for any reason except to save the life of the patient. (That, rape, and incest, which is a completely different discussion–what, you have to submit a police report or a DNA test with your insurance paperwork?)

    This is a huge barrier that eliminates medically-necessary (as well as truly elective) abortions, which has the logical result of making all women of child-bearing age purchase rider insurance because none of us can predict when we might need an abortion. Very few anti-abortion-rights people are so completely ideologically focused on the issue to the extent that they would not have an abortion if they found themselves pregnant while undergoing chemo. Or found that their pregnancy was sure to result in a child that would die shortly after birth. Or any of a dozen other tragedies that change a much-wanted pregnancy into a wrenching decision. Fetal viability isn’t a small issue; many women struggle with knowing they can either get an abortion or take a doomed pregnancy to term, knowing that their child’s life will be measured in hours, filled with pain, and end up bankrupting them. This isn’t an easy choice, but it ought to be a choice that is not constrained by a woman’s ability to pay the $5000 to $7000 and make the long trip usually required by a later term abortion.

    This isn’t simply a matter of letting pro-choice folks pay extra for their political position–all women of childbearing age either have to purchase extra insurance, or they have to bear the risk of having to pay out-of-pocket for either the simple outpatient first trimester medical abortion or the very expensive and traumatic second- or third-trimester abortions. Those are a possibility for all women who 1) have sex and 2) potentially could get very sick or have a non-viable fetus. Which is to say, all of us who have sex with men, regardless of political opinions about abortion rights.

    The Stupak Amendment is a tax on women, plain and simple. Not just pro-choice women, all women. It gets the government involved in pricing out medically necessary abortions, another tax on women. It makes a medically-necessary procedures uninsurable, when the consequence of foregoing the procedure is potentially catastrophic not only to the patient but potentially to an infant. Congress ought to be ashamed. (But I’m not holding my breath.)

    I would be unhappy with an amendment that limited only the insurance coverage for elective abortions (those that a doctor does not deem medically necessary.) But Stupak is a bad bill for reasons beyond ideology.

    Stupak essentially not only taxes women, it creates a precedent under which Congressional fiat determines what group of people are or are not entitled to medically-necessary care. If this had happened in 1983, maybe they’d have decided that AIDS patients weren’t entitled to live (those wicked homosexuals!) Perhaps next it will be those bad fat people with Type 2 diabetes. Or Ashkenazi Jews, who are the most likely carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. The possibilities are endless.

    Not that the slippery-slope argument is necessary: Stupak discriminates against people who already suffer from wage discrimination, lack of political representation, and social barriers to high-paying jobs. Isn’t it ironic that we’re also a majority of US voters?

  453. @Starling:

    Such a great explanation. I just get into a sputtery sort of rage at the mansplainers, so it will be useful to have such a calm monologue in my pocket.

  454. Er, not that you have to discuss all that stuff with him. But even if your colleague has religious reasons that make him anti-abortion, he should understand that Stupak is bad law and bad precedent. This is what the Right has been arguing would happen in universal health care–that bad government would overrule doctors and prevent necessary procedures. It’s either ironic or Machiavellian that it’s the Right trying to do it.

  455. @all–Thank you for such in-depth and considered responses on a slightly OT post on a thread that was several weeks old.
    @Snarkysmachine–“It seems like we take off our “marginalized person” cap when discussing “intangibles” like health care, when really this is when we should slap the caps on tighter.”–What a succinct way of putting the problem. This was really helpful, thank you–I can’t just make women’s personhood go away “for the greater good.”
    @ Starling–you’re absolutely right, and I am gradually getting even more information I need to explain why abortion is such essential healthcare. My girlfriend just went to a conference for pro-choice medical students, and the main message was education, education, education. (Yes, I am just about the least likely person in the world to end up with an unplanned pregnancy–though it’s not impossible, nor is it impossible that if I decide to have children that a pregnancy could go wrong. I think I couldn’t stand being legislatively marginalized twice in two weeks [Maine, Stupak] and something just snapped.) May I quote you, verbatim or paraphrased, on places like facebook, or would you prefer not to have your words re-used in a different context?

    If I find myself one-on-one with this person again (likely; post small-group project meetings) and he notices my changed demeanor (not as likely?), I will endeavor to explain both why I was so angry with what seemed to him to be “just a friendly debate” and work on getting a few more ideas into his head!
    Thanks again.

  456. Starling, great point about people’s misconceptions about what abortion means. A good analogy would be refusing to cover plastic surgery — I have an objection to (unnecessary) breast implants and wouldn’t want my money going directly into some starlet’s chest, but if I refuse to let my taxes cover “plastic surgery” I’m also saying that I want people to pay insupportable sums of money for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction, and skin grafts after a burn, and cleft lip surgery, and and and. Dismissing abortion because you think of it as an expensive and unnecessary elective procedure is allowing yourself to be led by the nose by people who deliberately oversimplify and caricature what is often a physically or emotionally crucial procedure. As a mansplainy dude, if he’s not swayed by fact or empathy, maybe he’ll be swayed by not wanting to get manipulated.

  457. H,

    Perhaps it’s just that I think you’re being unnecessarily patronizing (“Maybe I will start educating here, instead.”), but I’m sure you do realize that diabetes was one example out of thousands of ailments that 40 million Americans including women and girls currently have no coverage for. How about breast cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, and non-gendered cancers? The women and girls who will be most disadvantaged by Stupak (least able to pay for abortions out of pocket) generally don’t have insurance coverage for any kind of medicine now, including abortion. I can’t speak for them, but I don’t see how they’re better off with the status quo.
    You are free to reject the choice between Stupak and the no healthcare reform, but Nancy Pelosi wasn’t. Pelosi didn’t think she could get it to the floor without allowing a vote on Stupak, and then she thought it was worth passing with Stupak. Obama says Stupak is unacceptable because it fucks with current coverage, and he wants a bill that upholds the abortion status quo. I hope he gets it, although I’m afraid conservative Democrats will use abortion as an excuse to kill HCR and not have to vote on it.

  458. FJ–That’s a great analogy! Stupak deliberately did not use the “medical necessity” phrasing which usually draws the line between elective and necessary treatment, since there is a perception by the anti-abortion-rights movement that “medical necessity” is used as a catch-all to justify abortion on demand. Which just blows my mind. Since, as you point out, there are plenty of doctors who make their livings off elective surgeries and still don’t seem inclined to get crazy with the rhinoplasty and then submit for insurance reimbursement. Anyone here know any ob/gyns in the real world who say to their pregnant patients, “Hey, have you considered aborting this pregnancy? I can get your insurance to cover it!” Or, indeed, any women who sit around thinking, “Well, I can use the Pill, but abortion only has a $35 copay under my new plan!”

    H–Go to town, use it anywhere. It’s a bit sputtery still, since the indignation tends to get the better of my writing skills, but I’d be delighted to have it spread around.

    Aleks–There ought not be a political climate in which we have to make this choice. It’s appalling that women’s issues and women’s healthcare have become nothing but a bargaining chip for the powerful to throw away. I feel like fucking Czechoslovakia in 1938. Whatever happened to throwing in a bridge or two and a military base to satisfy the reluctant allies?

    If we could only approve a health care plan that excluded people suffering from mental health issues, say, or left out unmarried people, or didn’t provide health care for children born of unwed parents, we might cover a bunch of previously uninsured people but the pragmatic success of the plan would not justify its moral failure. The Stupak Amendment is not okay because it deprives women of necessary medical coverage in order to appease a highly vocal minority of religious extremists. It shouldn’t be okay for Democrats to throw women under the bus just because they can.

  459. Starling,
    I don’t disagree, but we may in fact have such a shitty political climate. I was not trying to convince anyone to support HCR that’s been Stupaked up, but responding to H’s need to begin educating me.

  460. Aleks–
    I do think that the most expensive and the most necessary medical abortions would no longer be covered for women who need them, many of whom may have insurance but still can’t whip out 20% of their yearly income to pay for them. It’s not the Planned Parenthood first-trimester abortions that are financially catastrophic, it’s the ones that are the result of other major medical issues or fetal abnormalities (which get pretty pricey already, even with insurance.) No one thinks about this stuff, at least until you’re expecting and all the sudden you’re hit with the realization of all the horrible things that can go wrong.

    What happens when they do? When you find out at 17 weeks that you need a genetic screening because they saw something funny on the ultrasound? When you wait, hoping against hope, until the 21st or 22nd week, when they can say for sure? And when that news is bad, what then? It’s $7,000 out of pocket to pay one of the few specialists in the US who will do a late-term abortion.

    And even if you can afford to pay $200 a month to your credit card for the next decade, who needs to be confronting the ultrasound that destroys all your dreams of fluffy lambs and nursery decorations, and then realize that the money you thought you were going to put in that baby’s college fund is actually going to pay for the abortion, because goddamned Bart goddamned Stupak thinks that ending this pregnancy will send you to hell, instead of just ending the hell you’ve been living in since you found out?

    I get that this is a politically touchy subject, but there are reasons for that. Everyone’s been ignoring the realities of abortions that really do need to be covered by insurance, but that reality has nothing to do with heartless college kids who can’t be bothered to use condoms.

    Last week, my six-month-old nephew had three hours of surgery to repair a kidney problem they discovered when my sister was in her second trimester. There will be another major surgery within the next six months. And we were lucky. We dodged a bullet there. The kidney can be fixed, and even if it can’t, he’s got another one. But many women don’t have that happy ending.

  461. Aleks,
    My response was the result of feeling that I’d been slapped in the face with the “Don’t you want poor people to have insurance, you selfish bitches? ” argument that Kate Harding explicates in the Salon piece linked by fillyjonk (here it is again, since it’s awhile upthread; don’t know if others share my screen-overload tendencies: http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/feature/2009/11/10/stupak_stupidity). Your response indicated to me that, actually, you are not on the same page and didn’t understand what was an issue to me; if someone contends that your position is the result of not having information, and sees fit to provide that information, calling it education, then I’m not sure what’s patronizing about that. I genuinely have appreciated having a space to hash out my arguments more clearly, and yes, thank you, I am capable of distinguishing between something accorded the status of an example and something taking over an entire argument. I have nothing against preventing and treating diabetes, given that my grandfather died of pancreatic cancer after 10 years of doctors failing to notice that he had diabetes. And yes, further, I become extremely formal when stung and upset, which does tend to happen when someone starts listing medical conditions that I supposedly don’t care about because I just want my silly little rights to be included. I know you didn’t say that; I am trying to explain that that is the logical ending place of your argument.

  462. Yeah, aleks, you’re kind of doing the very type of mansplaining Kate wrote about. Why would you assume that we object to being denied fundamental reproductive rights because we don’t understand that there’s a health care crisis, or because we don’t understand how political expediency works? Why isn’t it possible that we understand politics, understand the health care crisis, and still object to women’s health being sold out in favor of “universal” health care that excludes women? I think you need to evaluate why this is your first response.

  463. Understanding politics and the terrible cost of supporting “good enough” policy is reason enough to question Stupak. There is a long history of accepting policies that were 80% of what folks wanted, only to discover the other 20% is unbearable.

  464. @Aleks: “we may in fact have such a shitty political climate. ”

    We may indeed, but I’m not willing to take a misogynist dominant culture as one of the parameters that we must work within and allow for when we start reforming the healthcare system.

    While there are many pragmatic, measurable issues that healthcare reform is supposed to change — growing costs, growing numbers of uninsured, the near-monopolies some insurance companies have in some markets — there are also the big, “Who are we? What kind of a society do we want to be?” type questions. I don’t think there is any voice in this debate that proceeds without philosophical inflection, without considering fundamental questions of what’s fair and what’s non-negotiable. I can’t even imagine what that conversation would look like, frankly; and I’d distrust anyone who claimed that kind of view from nowhere.

    I mean, look at the case being made for reform: US health care is expensive and inefficient and particularly burdensome to the most vulnerable; so we need to change it to make it affordable, efficient, and less burdensome. Because we don’t want to be a country that screws the poor and sick so that a lot of money can get clogged in a stupid insurance company bureaucracy whose point is making money for a few people who aren’t accountable to the rest of us. The status quo is fucking WRONG. Fine, good, compelling, bravo. Agreed. Yes yes yes.

    What people here are saying is formally similar. Enacting health care reform with the Stupak amendment would be *about* singling out women for special punishment and burden just because we can, because a certain very misogynist camp within America thinks that it’s owed a world in which women ONLY EVER show up as demure speshul-weshul little flowerpots who are ALL TOO HAPPY to give up their lives and die for the sake of babies actual and theoretical and projected. Babies that, by and large, the prolifers themselves don’t care about because… I don’t fucking know, because it’s somehow contrary to family values to give a shit about a baby that doesn’t live in your own house, or something.

    That’s a purpose we’re not willing to get behind, because it’s fucking WRONG. Being a fucking WRONG society hurts everyone eventually. Because what we do right now with health care will form who we become as a country. And yes: I am happy to own that I am not in favor of a bill that is better than the status quo in some respects but is still grievously FUCKING WRONG by singling out one oppressed group for special punishment just because some people feel like they want to and they can.

  465. Ok FJ, I’ll cool it and reevaluate.

    Starling, that’s a very good point about the cost of medically necessitated abortions. I haven’t seen that publicized at all and it should be.

  466. FJ,
    Ok. I do not think that considering Stupak a deal-breaker on HCR is irrational, ignorant or selfish. I did not mean to imply that it was, and as I said I am not trying to persuade anyone to support HCR with Stupak attached. I apologize that I came across as lecturing, I certainly didn’t think I was telling anyone anything they didn’t already know about the medical coverage situation. I respect this blog and the expertise and fairness of the moderators, and if you say I acted like as a mansplainer then I accept that I did.

    My first comment was meant as a narrow response to H, not to the entire chorus of opposition to Stupak. I was trying to defend the friendability of people who take Speaker Pelosi’s position that HCR+Stupak beats the status quo. I certainly did not mean to indicate that to think otherwise was wrong.

  467. Anyone here know any ob/gyns in the real world who say to their pregnant patients, “Hey, have you considered aborting this pregnancy? I can get your insurance to cover it!”

    Weeelll. Actually, I understand that many plans which cover maternity at all do cover abortions that they deem ‘medically necessary.’ And that includes the situation you described, with the genetic screening of the foetus. There is, I understand, enormous pressure placed on women to do prenatal testing, and abort imperfect foetuses, with the result that some ninety-plus percent of prenatal tests that reveal a likelyhood of Down’s Syndrome result in an abortion. Evidently it takes a lot of grit to carry a Down’s baby to term what with all the people urging you to eighty-six it. I hear that a number of forms of dwarfism can also be revealed prenatally, and are often met with the same response. I really have an issue with this, since, hey, current genetic research about autism (and I’m supposed to feel so supported when people say they donate towards it) is about developing a prenatal test so the existance of people like me can be prevented.

    This is only marginally relevant, though — I think eugenic abortion is bad. But I think it should be stopped by stopping ablism and the devaluation of me and people with Down’s syndrom and dwarfism etc, not by telling women what to do with their uteruses.

  468. Grafton–
    That’s the thing about Stupak: at this red hot moment, insurance coverage (including medically-necessary abortion insurance) won’t change. But as insurance carriers rework their policies, or as employers give up the private group policies in favor of offering exchange credits, that insurance will disappear because of the amendment. Insurance companies will eventually design their insurance offerings to match the exchange requirements, because it’s cheaper to standardize. So Stupak will eventually reduce or eliminate insurance coverage for medically-necessary abortions, except in companies interested enough in keeping their talent pool that they offer particularly good private insurance, despite the expense. Those employees are probably not the ones who are most financially at risk.

    The potential parents who would have aborted a Down’s Syndrome child with insurance will probably go ahead and do it without insurance, since the lifetime cost of caring for a disabled child is so much higher than the cost of the procedure. The potential exception will be those people who cannot scrape together the funds, which leaves the poorest as those who are required to bear the financial and time burden of disabled children. This isn’t to say that poor parents won’t or can’t give their disabled children excellent care. But it’s a burden I think that they ought to be able to choose instead of one that is thrust upon them by a collection of sanctimonious lawmakers.

    As far as the bigger question–about aborting fetuses with chronic but not life-threatening disabilities–I don’t know how to address that or where to start. I truly don’t. But I do know that I have no business telling any woman that she must have a disabled child, when I also have no business telling any woman that she must bear a non-disabled child, like it or not. Stupak will essentially take that choice away from a lot of lower-income families, or at least stick them with the kind of financial distress that medical insurance is designed to alleviate. That’s not the way to reduce ableism–it’s the way to make heritable disabilities a marginalized problem of the lower classes.

  469. That’s not the way to reduce ableism–it’s the way to make heritable disabilities a marginalized problem of the lower classes.

    Very astute.

    I suppose that it’s the prenatal testing for these kinds of disabilities that’s the problem. I’m pretty sure it serves no other purpose and the fact that it’s encouraged and pretty well routine is deeply disturbing. I don’t know. What freaks me out is that the one circumstance for abortion (she wanted a baby, but finds out it’s not the right one in there) that I think is really horrible is one of those deemed most acceptable. What a world.

    In any case, I’ve no desire to be uterus-cop in any form, and the class-issues regarding abortion you’ve mentioned are huge. Remember how it was illegal and rich women went to Europe and poor women got the frickin’ coathanger?

  470. @Grafton

    I have neither statistics nor anecdata to back me up, but I have to believe that occasionally expectant parents use information gained from genetic screening to better prepare themselves for caring for a child when it arrives.

  471. Well, supposedly it allows one to have the birth somewhere that’s prepared to offer immediate care. Considering the rate at which pregnancies with prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome are terminated, well, clearly this is not how it’s working out for Down’s.

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