On Being and Doing, and How They Relate to #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen

There are two kinds of people in this world, people who divide the world into two kinds of people, and people who don’t. I’m generally the latter, and generally suspicious of binary frames as anything other than analytical tools to be picked up and put aside as they are useful, because in the world of lived actuality things are always more complicated than that. You have to be careful with them, because like many tools they convert easily to weapons. But when handled properly they can be used to adjust one’s perspective in way not dissimilar to the way a wrench adjusts the torque on a bolt.

One pair in tension that has much occupied me in recent months is that between being and doing. One takes as its basis a sort of existential status, the other actions and their result. Both are widely applicable as conceptual frames, and I think their deployment in the #YesAllWomen conversation speaks very clearly to the underlying problem, the thing so many men just don’t seem to get (John Scalzi did this better than I’m likely to, but bear with me).

One needn’t look hard to find the protestations of men aggrieved to be lumped in with the Eliot Rodgers, the Pick Up Artists and their seamy underbelly, or the endless ticker of women in America assaulted, raped, and killed by men over their sexual availability and, more importantly, their exercise of agency over it. Not all men are like that, they say. I am not like that, they say, sometimes explicitly. Indeed, the very existence of the above is the proof of their virtue, because they are not like the bad ones, the ones who hate women and speak and act on that hatred in obvious ways. They are not misogynists. Because they are not misogynists, their actions cannot be misogynistic. So stop judging them. Some of these men even have the gumption to claim some victimhood for themselves.

Either way, by this point we’ve been completely diverted from the discussion of misogyny, rape culture, and the culture of masculine entitlement that makes life for women everywhere so much more difficult and dangerous than it is for men. One suspects this was the unconscious intent of the speaker in the first place. Continue reading “On Being and Doing, and How They Relate to #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen”

A Suggestion for Heterosexual Men

It was in the boys’ locker room of my high school that I learned the true meaning of homophobia. I took a weightlifting class my senior year, and one day after I was standing around talking with a couple of guys I ran cross country with. The subject of homosexuals came up, and one of them said something that’s stuck with me ever since.

“I don’t want some guy looking at me the way that I look at girls.”

Even at the time, I thought that very telling, and have told the story many times in the decades since. A few years ago, reading something online (I wish I remembered well enough to find the link) written by a teacher, a similar story came up. A boy in class declared his homophobia, with the excuse that he didn’t like being looked at that way. The teacher asked the boy if his discomfort arose from being the object of unwanted sexual attention from someone who might physically overpower him and he agreed that yes, that was it precisely. The teacher then asked the class if anyone else had had a similar experience. Every girl’s hand went up.

It’s a tribute to the depth to which masculine privilege is embedded in our society that I missed that part of the lesson for so many years. I’m often a pretty bright fellow, though I felt pretty dim in that moment.

It’s said that though not all men harass women, all women are harassed by men. It can be difficult to grant that validity, or even conceive what it’s like if you haven’t experienced it yourself, which most men frankly haven’t.

There is, however, a corrective available, and I urge all straight men to avail themselves of it. Go spend some time in a gay bar. Have a couple drinks (they’ll be strong), make some new friends, be the object of unwelcome advances. Chances are it’ll make you uncomfortable if not outright ick you out. Stick around, see how long you can stand it. See if you can successfully shut down someone who won’t take no for an answer without resorting to violence or harming his ego so he does. Continue reading “A Suggestion for Heterosexual Men”

#YesAllWomen

The conversation about misogyny, masculine entitlement, and rape culture has been going on for a while now, one of many prejudices embedded in our collective worldview burbling to the surface and into the light. Elliot Rodger’s homicidal rampage and the frustration of sexual entitlement that motivated it has brought that conversation to the forefront of our collective attention, perhaps the only good thing to have come of his altogether despicable acts.

I wrote a little bit about this yesterday, and I wanted to follow up.

The conversation is going to be uncomfortable for men. I said yesterday and continue to maintain that the more uncomfortable it makes you, the more you need to hear it, and I stand by that. That discomfort is going to provoke the urge to interject (it doesn’t matter on what grounds, honestly), to alter the course of the conversation in some way. You’re likely to feel as if you are the target, as if you’re being lumped in with the bad apples. It may strike you as exceedingly unfair. The urge to speak your truth may be virtually irresistible. Continue reading “#YesAllWomen”

A Note to My Fellow Men in the Wake of the UCSB Rampage

I will not do Elliot Rodger the service of reprising his misogynist ranting. Those who doubt that his motivation was rage caused by a frustrated sense of entitlement to women’s bodies need only click here for a sampling of his manifesto. I encourage you to read it. I found it quite educational, myself. Go ahead. I’ll still be here when you get back.

There are a few conversations we need to have as a society in the wake of this abominable act. Sensible gun regulations, how privilege played into the police not stopping him beforehand, what to do when people exhibit the signs Elliot Rodger exhibited that he might do something like this. They’re important conversations, and we all have a part to play in them.

But before we have those conversations, we have to have the conversation about misogyny, rape culture, and the culture of masculine entitlement. And while that conversation is happening, we, as men, need to STFU and just listen. Continue reading “A Note to My Fellow Men in the Wake of the UCSB Rampage”

Browncoats IRL

The whole thing came out of the blue. I was talking with someone I met at a gathering about tv shows and we bonded over Firefly. He started talking about Browncoats and the police state, and next thing you know he’s telling me he’s got friends at the Bundy Ranch and starts alluding to the tragic necessity of some catastrophic/revolutionary upheaval that a better world might emerge from the ashes. What followed was one of the most unpredictable and enlightening conversations I’ve ever had.

I wish I could remember more of it. We touched on so many subjects. He brought up Ron Paul, which I expected, and Che Guevara, which I did not. He held up Cuba as an example, a place where, even if people didn’t have much, and there were some problems, nobody starved and everyone got taken care of, more or less. Of course, there had been that unfortunate necessity of revolution. But good had come of it. When I mentioned places like Scandinavia, where they’d achieved a much better version of the same thing through social democracy, he thought that sounded pretty good. Given our vastly different starting places, we achieved a surprising amount of consensus. Most people are pretty reasonable if you get them one on one.

But the whole thing spun me around pretty good.

Later that night, after we’d driven home, the gf and I decided to unwind with a little tv, and I suggested we watch Firefly.  Suffice to say, my new friend had put a whole new spin on the show for me Continue reading “Browncoats IRL”