Okay, so I originally wrote what follows in response to a comment made on a friend’s Facebook post. I got some positive feedback and decided to share it here. It’s mostly about Feminism. I know what you’re thinking.
That’s a common reaction. It’s always difficult to talk about gender issues because they are so complex and intersect with so many other, equally sensitive issues. People (no matter the stance) come to the table with preconceptions and assumptions about what “the other side” is thinking. I hate having these discussions. I absolutely loathe it. They tend to get nasty pretty quickly, especially in an anonymous setting like web-land.
But, nevertheless, I wanted to share this as a non-inflammatory explanation of my point of view.
Here’s what sparked the comment. A friend posted this:
At which time the following comments were made:
Person 1: Scared of me? Thanks, I needed a good laugh. I like being thrown into the same boat as perverts and rapists… Yay equality.
Original Poster: Better safe than sorry. A lot of us have learned that from experience.
Person 2: Statistics or it didn’t happen.
Original Poster: Statistics that historically women could never be alone because if they were they were raped, or statistics that —- is clumped in with perverts and rapists?
Person 2: I need to see empirical evidence.
Person 1: I don’t think there is a shortage of evidence that shows men rape women… no need for evidence. I think he means, pics or it didn’t happen, bad form on this subject. But while your side learned that we rape we learned you guys cry wolf and get us locked up. With the exception of 2 other females, I have yet to give rides to anywhere anyone from the opposite sex. I dated one, the other was basically my sister.
Person 2: I understand the logic behind the pic, but it’s a flawed view by a Feminist. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism. So this person claims that ALL men are bad, but that is not the case. So when I read bullshit like this, it worries me that other people will follow suit.
Person 1: This escalated unnecessarily.
Person 2: Naw man, not all men are scary. The person that tweeted this has her views mixed up.
This is a snippet, but the rest isn’t really of significance here. So, there are a couple of things here that bothered me right off the bat. 1) The stronger reaction to this post was not about the trans women at jeopardy, but that men are being stereotyped as being violent. 2) Person 2 read this as a feminist saying all men are bad and lost sight of the bigger message.
I wanted to address these issues for Person 2’s sake, but also as a way to organize my own thoughts about feminism and gender inequality, so I wrote the following in response. I hope you enjoy the read!
First of all, let me acknowledge that tone is very easy to project in written communications, so I’ll start by saying that my tone is friendly and conversational. I’m not here to be condescending or hateful. OKAY. NOW.
I feel like part of your reaction comes from perceiving this as a feminist attack against men. I hear you when you say not all men are to be feared, and I agree with you (more on that later). If we’re going to say #notallmen, then I must insist that we also say #notallfeminists. People tend to have a negative of view of anything perceived as the “feminist agenda” regardless of the actual message. This is partly because of long-lasting misconceptions about what a feminist is. To be sure, there are man-hating, dick-chopping feminazis out there that would love nothing more than to eradicate men from the face of the earth. I personally haven’t met any, but I know they exist. These are radicals. Think Westboro Baptist Church versus your average run-of-the-mill Christian. They do not represent the majority of us. I think this reputation is a hold-over from the 70’s when the movement was more radical, necessarily so, but I’m not getting into THAT at the moment. The point is, feminists as individuals are as different as individual men, individual Christians, individual homosexuals, etc. are from their respective group stereotypes. This is why labels suck. They are convenient, as humans like to categorize things, but we end up squishing a complex human being into an itty bitty framework that really doesn’t fit. Here is a wonderful video about all the different types of feminism: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/video/clips/smnty-barbie-explains-feminist-theories-video/, and also this one about stereotypes feminists face: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/video/clips/smnty-call-me-feminazi-video/. Here’s an article, too: http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2012/03/feminists_strive_to_remove_bar.html
SO- Here is what the majority of modern feminists are after: the same rights and access that men have. This applies to the workplace, educational settings, social spaces, etc. Now most people looking at this from the outside believe that women DO have access to the wider world, and more besides because they get free drinks at bars, amirite? Women can go to school for whatever they want. They can get jobs in construction for Christ’s sake! Women hold public office, and some are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Quityerbitchin. Well, let’s go back to the beginning and really think about this.
‘Merica was founded, settled, and governed by a bunch of protestant white dudes (most often men of means). Some were escaping religious oppression in England, and some were looking for land and riches and all that jazz. This, shall we say “Establishment” or patriarchy (so called because of the maleness) of our society and culture was pale and, well, male, I think we can all agree on that. They constituted the governing body, the upper class professions such as lawyers and physicians and bankers, and they alone attended universities. These dudes set a precedent that all non-white, non-Christian, non-hetero non-men people were inherently excluded from. This was just The Way Things Worked. Pretty much everywhere in the Euro-centric sphere.
This continued to be “the way of things” for a couple hundred years. Now, I think we can also all agree that people don’t like changes to the established social norm; see: Civil War, Civil Rights Movements, Women’s Liberation, Free Love, etc and so on. Yes – eventually those early, radical pioneers of feminism gained access for women to education, voting rights, working outside the home, birth control… However, just as the civil rights movement did NOT create racial equality (and still hasn’t), the various women’s lib movements over the years have not created gender equality. There are many factors to this: kids toys (Girls – bake cookies! Boys- take a rocket to the moon!), media (men doing important things, women being available for sex and childcare (obvs I’m generalizing and this is starting to change, but it’s still SO pervasive, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/women-in-the-media-female_n_2121979.html)), and there are those who won’t hire women because they feel that women are going to leave the workforce to have kids, or take lots of time off for childcare responsibilities, or won’t be able to put in long hours because they have family duties to attend to: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/a-toxic-work-world.html, and the list can go on and on.
Are other groups of people similarly stereotyped? Perhaps even men-people, like those with beards or tattoos? Yes. Absolutely. The establishment that I’ve described as creating barriers for women create the same barriers for minorities, for LGBT people, for Muslims, for immigrants, for people who like to wear green mohawks or biker vests. Anyone who is not part of the socially “normal” middle and upper class male classification starts out in life ten steps behind. Add more steps behind for every category you can add that further distances you from the patriarchy. I know that as a straight, white female I have a lot more privilege and mobility than a Muslim immigrant. Does that mean I should be satisfied with my lot? NO. One person struggling more does negate another person’s experience. It’s not an oppression contest, or at least it shouldn’t be if you’re dealing with rational, humane adults. Here’s the gist of being a feminist: Your success in this life should be not be based on meaningless characteristics, such as what’s in your pants, where you worship, or whether or not your parents raised you in abject poverty (another HUGE barrier to access to resources – for another time).
Now, let me conclude by saying that I don’t think that all rich, straight, white men are actively holding back anyone different from them, nor are they all automatically drafted into the You’ve Got It Made Club. The establishment is not so much a matter of individual people doing intentional things (though some do), it’s a machine that turns of its own accord based on the way things have always been done – it’s a Newton’s Cradle of inequality.
MOVING ON to the issue at hand. Now, what I get from this comment is that the author is directing this statement (we are afraid of you) to the type of men that are saying they’re going to go into bathrooms and kick the shit out of any trans women that go inside them, purportedly because they believe these people want to molest their daughters. Her statement is a reasonable thing to say to someone who has just declared their intent to be violent toward someone based solely on an assumption of what their intentions are. But, I get the point you’re making.
The average man is bigger and stronger than the average woman. We are aware of this. It’s pretty obvious. We don’t walk around thinking that every strange male person is considering violently raping and murdering us, BUT the thought does cross our minds when we find ourselves alone, in the dark, in a strange place, with a strange man approaching. I imagine a man might think the same thing in such a situation. I say that because men are convicted of violent crimes SO MUCH MORE than woman are. Here is an excellent article on the subject, with citations for your further study: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/men-more-violent.htm.
Evolution has gifted men with a body better designed for fighting off bears and marauding strangers than women (http://www.livestrong.com/article/355987-female-male-muscles/). Women bear and nurse children, so we’re kind of designed to be nutritious, which leaves us at the mercy of the village men for protection. This all makes sense. This is also continually pounded into our brains via, again, The Media. Watch a couple hours of Cops, or Law & Order. Dudes be bustin’ caps. We can argue, though, that it’s situational. Drug deals gone bad, bad blood between brothers or partners, shitty men who beat their wives, with the occasional rapist sprinkled in. Does this mean I should be afraid of men? Mmmm. Maybe. Most likely I should avoid drug dealers and wife beaters. Except what if I can’t? What if I live in the ghetto and am closer to violence in general? What if I have no family, no transportation, no resources to get away from a man who beats me (who didn’t start the relationship by punching me in the face and saying “wanna go out?” by the way)? I get it, I’m going off topic. It’s just another perspective to consider. A woman who has been in this situation is more likely to be afraid of Men in general. Here is some information on violence specifically against women: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.
Here’s what’s most interesting about your reaction (to me). I have heard, and I’m sure lots of women out there have also heard their significant other saying, “Babe. It’s not you I’m worried about. I trust you. It’s THEM I’m worried about.” The THEM in question are Strange Men lurking in the night, ready to pounce on your helpless woman. This is often the reason guys give for not wanting their wives/girlfriends to go out at night with the girls to places like bars and clubs. They paint this picture of predators everywhere, waiting to spike our drinks or just club us over the head and throw us over their shoulders. I’m exaggerating a little, but I hope you see the point. If you have never said this to your lady, or even thought it, then I think that’s great and kudos to your enlightened point of view. But look – I don’t even think the point of the post was saying that women feel like all men are dangerous. All men are potentially dangerous, though, to a woman. This is evident from walking down the street and hearing catcalls, then getting called a bitch when you don’t respond. This is evident in men threatening women on the internet, usually with threats of rape: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/12/women-trolled-internet_n_6077234.html.
It’s not that we look at every man and think he’s going to commit violence against us, it’s just that We Don’t Know, and yes, you are capable of it.
Oh, one last thing. Women who lie about sexual assault are appalling human beings. No one should be sent to prison under false accusations, for any reason. It’s pretty uncommon, though. It does get a lot of attention on the news when it DOES happen (likely because we live in a culture of victim blaming and these stories let us point a big finger and say “See, there isn’t really a problem! It was all a Lie! Terrible Lie!”). This idea that most rape allegations are false is really detrimental to women who DO suffer sexual abuse, so the women that actually commit this heinous perjury are hurting everyone when they do it. I wanted to make sure I linked some facts about the struggle: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/barriers-report-sexual-assault/. Here is one by a coalition of men against violence against women: http://web.stanford.edu/group/maan/cgi-bin/?page_id=297. They’re light on citations, but they have a ‘Resources’ page with a lot of helpful links.