TW: non-explicit discussion of rape, animated .gifs
So I posted the following link on FB, and it prompted a great discussion. I won’t reproduce it here because people disclosed and shared and otherwise got personal and it’d be hugely skeevy to copy-paste it.
And as a feminist, let me say this: Guys, I understand that bad things happen to you. I understand that you experience rape, harassment, problems related to sexuality and your masculinity. I get that. When I talk about me? It’s not because I’m refusing to talk about you. You’re allowed in. Share your stories, but stop acting like there’s something wrong with me if I don’t talk about yours every single time I talk about mine. Tell us what happened to you and how it made you feel and why you feel that way. Sit down at the proverbial table with us, have a drink, and tell us what makes you sad about the world.
But don’t you dare fucking interrupt me while you do it. This is a conversation, and in a polite conversation you have to listen and wait for your turn.
There are a lot of people who don’t quite grok the problem, though, and so I wanted to add to the proliferation of links to explanations just in case for whatever reason I put it in that special way that works for someone who read the others and thought, “WTF is this shit,” and walked away still not getting it.
After all, not everybody is going to have the patience to sit down and type hundreds of words. A lot of people have had The Derailing Conversation too many times, and are so sick of it that now they may well just say “screw it” and give up on the whole thing. If you’ve ever brought up men’s problems in a discussion about the problems women face and gotten this reaction…
…then you just met them after about the thousandth time this has come up. They are very tired. I am not (today), so here is a thing that I wrote that I thought might help.
I think that the problem with how some men bring this up in a discussion of rape is that they’re not saying, “I have personal experience with this too, and therefore I am in a great position to validate what you are saying, so I will do that now.”
That wouldn’t just be okay; I think it would do a lot of good. Unfortunately it’s not really what tends to happen, which is why it’s a common derailing technique that gets really frustrating.
There is nothing in this link or inherent to feminism or to the idea of woman-centered spaces that says men shouldn’t talk about their experiences with sexual assault. The point of the discussion is not that men who’ve been assaulted should be silent, and I feel like the entry author and everybody talking about it so far has been pretty clear about that. If that’s not the case, then let me emphasize it now.
The problem is that men are often taught a lot of things about how they should relate to women that get in the way of these discussions happening in a productive way that allows support and healing to be accessible for all parties.
I can tell you that it’s obvious to a woman when a man is talking over her because she’s a woman and he’s a man and he’s got a more legitimate right to be heard than she does. How do you think that would feel if the woman were taking a huge emotional risk to speak about things that have happened to her because she’s a woman and a man chose to do that then? “I’m real sorry for you and imma let you finish but–”
This happens a lot in conversations about sexual assault and domestic violence in particular. There is no degree of inclusivity that will prevent someone from getting perplexed or even offended that men aren’t the dominant voices in a discussion, that a male perspective isn’t being put at the center of the discussion. Every time it looks like an isolated instance or just one person being rude or insensitive and every time there’re at least one or two people who are seeing it for the first time and so think that it is.
What it amounts to, though, is that time after time women are only given a short window of time to have their experiences be at the center of basically any discussion before someone says they should be talking about men instead. Not additionally. INSTEAD.
You may not have seen it, and consequently you may not really believe me. That’s okay. I didn’t believe it either, not until it happened enough times that I grudgingly had to admit that it really is impossible to have a conversation about the perspectives of women without someone coming in to remind us that we are part of a culture that doesn’t understand why anybody would want to listen to or talk about us when there are men to be focusing on.
So it’s not that men’s issues that they have specifically because they are men don’t deserve to be discussed. They need it, and badly. Those deserve their own conversations, though, rather than hijacking another conversation that also needs to be happening. It’s not the choice to have a conversation about what men go through that is the problem. It’s the frequent (I’d even say ubiquitous) choice a lot of men make to have that conversation at the expense of someone else’s ability to have theirs.
In conclusion, I know this is not something guys intentionally do to be assholes to women specifically. This is an innocent mistake that gets made because men aren’t thinking about the actual impact of what they’re doing, or because it hasn’t occurred to them what impact this has when it happens every time. I know you don’t mean it.
That’s why I explained it. If I thought that you were deliberately being assholes, I’d just suggest that everybody ban you from everywhere to leave you screaming obscenities into a Word document because you got kicked off the whole internet. You’re probably nice people who don’t want to be doing this shit. So! Here’s the information you need to not do it.
So quit fucking doing it.
P.S. White people, don’t do this to POC either. Straight people or cis people? Don’t do this to LGBT people. Christians, don’t do this to members of minority religions or to atheists. Able-bodied people, don’t do this to disabled people. Financially stable people, don’t do this to poor people. If I didn’t list you, that’s fine because now that you know what this looks like you’ve still got no excuse.
So quit fucking doing it.