Sunday, October 6, 2013

How To Talk Like a Feminist - If You're a Guy

The Shriver Report, a new online nonprofit publication, has published a new essay of mine: How To Talk Like a Feminist (If you're a guy). Here's more about The Shriver Report: They are focused on women's issues, the changing nature of the gender landscape, and want to provide a:
comprehensive, multidisciplinary look at how American families live and work today, giving clear insight into one of the most important social trends of our time: the emergence of women into all areas of society.
So they have some big ambitions and I'm pleased to be part of their inaugural issue. Mostly, I try to let my essays find their own life. This one, though, could use your help - not just for my little piece, but for the whole publication as it seeks to carve out an online niche. If you like the essay, if you don't like the essay, if you have any reaction to any of the pieces on their site - please take a few seconds to share on Facebook, +1 on G+, Tweet, post to a blog, email to a friend, or otherwise help out. I have no financial interest in this; I'd just like it read and for the new site to thrive. THANK YOU!

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As for the essay, it began an irritated set of conversations in the wake of the Hugo Schwyzer mess. For the uninitiated, he was the most prominent male feminist online. He actually had a PhD on medieval church history, but parlayed some clever essays into a professorship, lots of publications, lots of speaking gigs, presumably some good money, all on feminism. He irritated lots of other feminists by becoming famous because he was a guy, even though his ideas were largely drawn from women. He also tried to murder an ex-girlfiend, slept with students, demonstrated both misogyny and racism (and narcisissm), used suicide threats as a form of harassment, and otherwise seems like a fairly despicable person.

And yes, my public position as a male feminist puts me into his orbit. I basically mutter to myself: Don't be that guy.

Speaking of guys not to be like: Multi-millionaire Bryan Goldberg launched a new for-profit site called Bustle. In his launch, he demeaned other feminist publications (because he wants to take their money) and made some sexist comments. He quickly realized the PR disaster, apologized, and tried again. He made millions with a site on sports (men!) so now he wants to make millions with a site on women. That said, if you're reading this Bryan and you want to hire me to write for you, I totally can be bought. I'll even delete this paragraph.

But more broadly, I watched conversations about feminism among men quickly turn into conversations about men's needs, men's problems, how men are the victims. These conversations made me feel I needed to write an essay that made one main point: Dear Men - it's not about you!

So these are my rules.

1. It's not about you - i.e. make sure conversations about feminism and patriarchy focus on women's issues.
2. It is sometimes about you - there are spaces and places in which men do need to speak, such as the ways that patriarchy hurts men (I've written about that on this blog before, and expect to do so at more length in the future). In the essay, though, I focus on rape. Men need to teach men not to rape.
3. It's always about them - This one basically says: Read smart women feminists. Do not mansplain to them. Do not steal their ideas. Direct conversations back to them.
4. Don't expect gratitude - One of my feminist friends replied: Really? Men expect gratitude? Really, some men do. I've seen it happen. I've even felt it in my secret heart of hearts.
5. Do not argue with MRAs as a feminist - I learned this on the Good Men Project. If you use the label feminist, Men's Rights Advocates cannot agree with you. Their worldview depends on not agreeing with feminists. That said, they often agree with feminists, so if you avoid the label you can lead them down the garden path.

What are your rules?



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