Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feminist Men

I love it when men berate me for not being a real feminist. Don't get me wrong, I love feminist men. Three of them brought me up, one of them I'm living with right now, and many of them are my close friends. And, of course, patriarchy hurts both women and men. Still, no man can experience the kind of oppression that women live with on a daily basis. Unless you get paid less because of your gender, feel fear while walking down the street at night, hear demeaning comments "just because" you are of a certain gender, are pawed by your professor, etc. you aren't going to feel what I do. You can understand but you will never feel it as viscerally as I do.

I hate racism but I would never tell an African-American person that their understanding of racism is less profound than mine. I hate ableism with a passion but I would never declare to a disabled person that their vision of ableism is flawed compared to mine. Racism and ableism hurt me too, but not nearly as much as it hurts them.

Just now in a discussion on Hugo Schwyzer's great blog, I had this interesting moment where I got accused of being a victim-blaming proponent of male rights activist agenda. In the fiercely patriarchal society where I was born, I heard this "you-aren't-really-a-woman-you-sound-just-like-a-man" line a lot, so this is nothing new. What's interesting, though, is the reason why Mr. Schwyzer dislikes my kind of feminism. It's because I suggested that the idea that men reject women because of their weight is false. It's what the patriarchal society wants us to believe as part of its fat-shaming agenda. Everybody has heard the statistics that the majority of American women wear size 12 and higher. So what, are we all single? Or is the suggestion here that our partners tolerate us because there aren't enough thin women for everybody? Simple logic tells us that this can't be true.

What I find disturbing is that this condescending stance of "You poor fat chicks, you must feel so rejected by men" is proposed as male feminism. As many times as I repeat that I feel neither poor, nor fat, nor rejected, I get the response that a man knows best and I must be a bad feminist, anyways.

Mr. Schwyzer's post is titled '“More to Love” and the tentative broadening of male heterosexual desire." As a woman, I believe I have more experience with being an object of male heterosexual desire than the author of the post. And I'm sure there are tons of women of my size and bigger whose only problem in this area is attracting too much desire. Sometimes, you want to be able to walk down the street and not be approached by men all the time. Men who worry (with the best possible intentions, of course) about how difficult our love lives are do nothing other than perpetuate this myth of our lack of attraction for men.


Natalee said...

Some men need to believe this crap to the extent where they will even use feminism to excuse their prejudices. You are right, this is both paternalistic and condescending.

Clarissa said...

This is not a specifically male thing, though. It's a certain brand of feminism that prefers to see women as constant victims and doesn't go any further in its analysis.

I have to confess, though, that it is especially annoying coming from a man. :-)

Anonymous said...

This post rocks. I get your blog through LJ's feminist blogs feed and I really like what you've written here.

Just as sometimes, white feminist women act condescendingly toward women of color ("Oh how sad for you to have grown up black!" Is basically how it comes though growing up black is BAD!), feminist men sometimes do the same damn thing. It's annoying.

Furthermore, sometimes I think that some feminist men try to take over the conversation. Like, "No. You're doing feminism wrong. Let me show you the RIGHT WAY!"


Clarissa said...

Thank you! :-)