Why I’m Not a Feminist

 Nota Bene: Since writing this post, I have reconsidered the position outlined here.  I’ve considered deleting this post, as it is really more an outburst of pained emotionalism than anything else, but have decided to leave it as part of a record of my intellectual development.  See my calmer reassessment here.

 So, I’ve been investigating feminism recently, as my last blog post, at least, shows. After reading quite a bit about it online, and in a couple books I picked up, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a political movement that I can support, and in fact, should oppose.

I don’t say that lightly. As I intimated in my last post, I’ve begun to see how pervasive and institutional sexism is. Even that statement is too simple. The only way I know how to describe my distress over the past couple of days is to compare it to Neo in the (first) Matrix. When Neo, after seeing the truth of the Matrix and his own rule in a system that dehumanizes every person he’d ever known, violently rejects it and begins to vomit, his reaction is a parallel to intense emotional pain I’ve been in for the last couple days. I haven’t been vomiting, but I have been tearing up several times a day. Not quite crying, though; so perhaps I’m not at the vomiting stage yet, but just before.

I presumed that feminists would be eager to help a man through this experience, and help him reconstruct his identity along anti-sexist lines. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Consider this quote from Feminism 101: “What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues.” Surely it’s obvious that that idea promotes gendered thinking? Contrary to feminist rhetoric, it is, in fact, not a movement about ending sexism, but only about ending social barriers to women. And where does that leave a man whose whole identity has been stripped, forced to see how everything that he thought was good and just and true isn’t, if not gasping on the floor, calling for help, and watching the very women who led him into this state of affairs, walk on by, with no comment other than, “How do you like it?”

But the fact that feminism echoes the language of the supposed patriarchy to men by saying, “Be tough and deal with it yourself”, is only the tip of the movement’s sexism. Consider this statement by Tia: “Your opinion, as a man, about the extent and nature of the problem is not valuable when the specific problem pertains to women’s experience.” Experience is the only thing that matters to feminists. And not just experience, but women’s experience. Men literally do not matter. But Tia goes further. She also explains to men that our experiences, even if they did matter, are already known and, presumably, accommodated by women. “When you tell us about the male perspective on the issue…consider that we already understand.” Is it possible that some men also know the female perspective? Not according to feminism. “Simply because minority groups, coming from an insider perspective, are in a position to understand their issues in a way that privileged groups, as outsiders, never can.” This is clearly discrimination, this assumption that gender equals knowledge and insight, but discrimination against men, feminists say, is less important, perhaps even okay. “The same power dynamics that create privilege have created a hierarchy of prejudice so that discrimination against a privileged group is not the same as discrimination against a minority group.” This is, I suspect, the justification for preventing men to sue under anti-discrimination laws; it’s okay for men to be fired because of their sex, because our privilege is what allowed us to get work in the first place. This is a thought articulated by Michael Rosenfield, attempting to defend the injustice of Affirmative Action: “[R]emedial affirmative action does not take away from innocent white males anything that they have rightfully earned or that they should be entitled to keep.” The assumption behind this statement is that no white male could have earned anything without privilege. That is, white men are by nature inferior to women and minorities, and only an unjust social system keeps them from their rightful, subordinate place. Little wonder feminism has spawned a white supremacist backlash.

All of this conspires to create a situation where a woman speaking to a man can never be wrong. If he agrees with her, he’s a model of understanding; if he dares to disagree, she will quickly remind him of his place by saying the familiar refrain: “You’re a white male, and can’t understand.”

But in the real world, among people of genuine goodwill, sexism is sexism, regardless of the subject. In the case of feminist sexism towards men, it leads to post after post along these lines. Note how it is the woman who teaches the man about the nature of things, despite the title. One wonders what she learned from him. Perhaps how to reason a man into obedience to his subservience. Too strong? Consider this line from a pro-feminist paper on engaging men in feminist issues(note that this link is to a Word file):” This work must be done in partnership with, and even be accountable to, women and women’s groups.” Imagine what the reaction would be if we turned that statement around: “Feminism must be done in partnership with, and even be accountable to, men and men’s groups.” The fact that there is no doubt about the tone the reaction would take makes the sexism underlying the original statement clear.

It’s unfortunate that when I sought to reorganize my identity along more anti-sexist lines, feminists turned away. Unfortunate because it didn’t have to be this way; feminists do not have so many male supporters that the loss of one more is a trivial matter. But by being so intentional about hanging a “girls only” sign above the door to gender equality, they have marginalized themselves. This is probably for the best, considering the ways they have betrayed their own stated ideals.

~ by arkhilokhus on March 24, 2008.

4 Responses to “Why I’m Not a Feminist”

  1. It’s great that you are exploring feminism. But I’m a bit put off by your conclusion that because feminists don’t drop everything to help you with your emotional reaction to discovering how sexist our society is, we are man-haters. Consider that women are pummeled by this sexism day in and day out, and then consider whether making men who discover that this happens feel better about it should really be our top priority. We have our own work to do, staying sane in the face of the all-out assault. If you reacted so emotionally to what is going on, consider how intense it must feel to be a woman making that same discovery.

    You complain that your voice and experience are not valued by feminists. We women experience that feeling of being ignored and trivialized every day, in every part of our life. If you truly were an ally, you’d accept that in the tiny corner we feminists have created, you are not an expert, and you should not try to define women’s experiences for them, rather your role is to listen and ask informed questions. Men are the experts on everything in this society, and feminists are a bit sick of it!

    Do you disagree with the statement that “The same power dynamics that create privilege have created a hierarchy of prejudice so that discrimination against a privileged group is not the same as discrimination against a minority group.”? Why?

    You say feminists think that “…white men are by nature inferior to women and minorities, and only an unjust social system keeps them from their rightful, subordinate place.” I don’t believe that, I don’t know any feminists or anti-racists who believe that. I do know people who believe that white men need to give up unearned privilege, which seems to be what you’re complaining about. Again, if you were really an ally and really wanted this messed-up society fixed, you would not complain that loss of privilege is really oppression of men.

  2. Jadewolf,

    Why is the choice always so stark? I don’t agree that feminists need to “drop everything” in order to help men who are legitimately struggling with their role in an unjust system. And even if feminists can’t see me as a human being rather than a man, being a little understanding and offering some helpful guidance to men who are struggling would be in feminists best interests. A little effort could reverse a lot of the negative impression most men have of feminism. So stop with the false alternatives, already.

    As to the statement on which you’ve asked my opinion, I provisionally agree. I say provisionally because it seems to imply that because of that difference discrimination against men really isn’t that bad. My primary contention is that discrimination and sexism is wrong, regardless of the victim. To say otherwise is to suggest that women are more valuable than men. Having said that, yes, the situation is different depending on the particular role in society we occupy.

    And yes, I’m struggling with giving up unearned privilege. I admit that. But I also think that a lot of what is represented as taking away privilege from white men is in fact discrimination. A personal example: I was informed by several of my professors that I shouldn’t bother going to graduate school because, as a white man, I’d never be able to get work. Oppression against women happens, but oppression against men also happens. And I’m not just going to sit by while feminists overreact to their very real injustices by attempting to tell men what “their role is”.

  3. I don’t know where or how you asked for this assistance with processing your revelations, so I don’t know if people were unduly harsh in response. But your statement that feminists need to try “being a little understanding and offering some helpful guidance” sounds like a rephrasing of “stop being so angry, no one wants to listen to an angry woman,” or yet another request that we women help out a man. Sure, it would be nice to do, but we don’t owe you help. Women have spent hundreds of years being men’s unpaid labor, sex toy, and punching bag, and perhaps your request for help is not on our list of things to do today.

    Regarding your “example:” it only proves that your advisor thinks that affirmative action is stopping white men from getting jobs. It is not actual proof of “reverse discrimination.” You have no way of knowing whether you would have gotten a job had you pursued graduate study. Of course, in strict numerical terms, your advisor is right: if there are 300 jobs that used to belong to 290 men and 10 women, all white, and suddenly affirmative action means that qualified women and minorities get positions, fewer white men get those jobs. White men did not have all the jobs in the first place because they were the best at the job, but because minorities were never even considered and women were rarely hired. That is giving up the unearned privilege of dominating the labor market, it is not “reverse discrimination.”

  4. Apparently I’m being unclear. So let me try this again.

    I agree that I am not entitled to receive assistance from anyone, male or female. Any person is perfectly within their rights to refuse assistance to anyone they choose. There is no obligation on the part of women to help any man, ever.

    Now, as to your argument regarding Affirmative Action. You wrote, “You have no way of knowing whether you would have gotten a job had you pursued graduate study. Of course, in strict numerical terms, your advisor is right: if there are 300 jobs that used to belong to 290 men and 10 women, all white, and suddenly affirmative action means that qualified women and minorities get positions, fewer white men get those jobs.” If that were true, I would have no objection. To the contrary, I would welcome a situation where both the quantity and quality of my competition is increased. And I don’t doubt that what you say is true – less white males would succeed in such an environment. But, alas, that’s not the situation. The reality is that because of my sex and the color of my skin, I am not permitted to compete for any of those seats. And that IS sexist, it IS racist, and it IS wrong.

    By all means, open competition. To everybody.

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