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Ear to the Ground

Note to All Men: Feminism Is About Choices

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Posted on Aug 19, 2013
World Bank Photo Collection (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Two women in Nepal.

In the modern-day discussion about misogyny, women are often accused of “reverse sexism.” This is usually because they apply their arguments about gender bias to “all men” and it hurts some people’s feelings. What if that’s the point?

New Statesman contributing editor Laurie Penny argues that “sexism should be uncomfortable” because being a victim as well as being a bystander of sexist acts is infuriating. And men, all men, need to be aware of how they benefit from misogyny because this forces them to make choices about how they act toward women on a regular basis. Penny explains why it’s necessary to use the word “all” when talking about gender:

This type of semantic squabbling is a very effective way of getting women to shut up. After all, most of us grew up learning that being a good girl was all about putting other people’s feelings ahead of our own. We aren’t supposed to say what we think if there’s a chance it might upset somebody else or, worse, make them angry. So we stifle our speech with apologies, caveats and soothing sounds. We reassure our friends and loved ones that “you’re not one of those men who hate women”.

What we don’t say is: of course not all men hate women. But culture hates women, so men who grow up in a sexist culture have a tendency to do and say sexist things, often without meaning to. We aren’t judging you for who you are but that doesn’t mean we’re not asking you to change your behaviour.

...Saying that “all men are implicated in a culture of sexism” – all men, not just some men –may sound like an accusation. In reality, it’s a challenge.

The key is to create an equal world that everyone can take part in and benefit from—men and women alike. Men have the option to be the kind of person who is up to the challenge. The question Penny poses is “will you be one of them?”

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

 

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