Here’s what I don’t enjoy…
Being called “pussy-whipped” by men who accuse me of faking my enthusiasm for gender equality as a cheap way of “attracting chicks”; and, at the same time, being shut down by a ‘mansplaining’ charge by women who disagree with me, as if my gender automatically invalidates everything I write on the subject of feminism. I acknowledge that women have better insight on problems affecting women than men do (duh), but that does not invariably each one of them an expert on the feminist theory. It’s like when my conservative grandmother says she “doesn’t need a lecture from a man”, when I challenge her outdated view that women must always know how to cook.
I acknowledge my male privilege, and the fact that I sometimes get more attention for saying essentially the same thing that female writers have been saying for over a decade. But that is not my fault. I didn’t ask for this bias towards me. I’m trying to use my male privilege to undermine male privilege itself, the best I can.
From the conversations I’ve had with certain female feminists, I’ve come out wondering if I should just delete all that I’ve written on my blog as a (gasp!) ‘male’, and simply replace the text with links to articles of Jessica Valenti or other female feminists. Whenever I find myself in a discussion on women’s issues, I should pretend I’m illiterate, whimper and point my paw at the nearest woman, because fuck me if I have an observation to make as an actual writer.
Several days ago, I got into a Twitter-tussle with Eiynah Nicemangoes, the creator of ‘My Chacha is Gay’, whose work I have much respect for. That respect was somewhat lost when a post appeared on her blog “highlighting the asshole brand of feminism”. Basically, the blog rails out against feminists like myself who objected to the Rosetta scientist’s sexist shirt (#shirtgate) in November 2014. How dare these “asshole” feminists see anything wrong with a shirt with pictures of giant-breasted female archetypes plastered over it, that too while he’s practically representing the scientific team that landed the probe on a comet?
On Facebook, I confronted Eiynah. I challenged her blog, stating that the shirt was indeed sexist. Not “stop-the-planet-and-hang-this-scientist” sexist, but sexist nonetheless as it reinforces the idea of women as sexual objects. Frustratingly, her first line of defense was pointing out my manhood. Turns out, I was ‘mansplaining’ to her. Mic drop. How dare I, a man, challenge her views on feminism?
Admittedly, I once took pride in calling myself a “sex-positive” feminist too, as Eiynah does. My views have since evolved, thanks mostly to radical feminist bloggers like Heather McNammara, and a lot of other wonderful people (mostly female feminists) on social media who patiently put up with my ignorance and rudeness. Unlike Eiynah and several other feminists I’ve met since then, they did not use my gender to devalue or disqualify my views on feminism, but carefully considered the quality of my arguments, and the accuracy of what I said.
More recently, I’ve met feminists who’ve vociferously defended niqab, and implicitly, other self-imposed burdens like breast implants and extreme cosmetic treatment; with a basic argument that I, as a man, am not allowed an opinion on what women do or not do with their bodies. Essentially, what it means is I have no right to identify these behaviors as symptoms of the patriarchal culture/
This false sense of superiority, in my opinion, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of feminism as a battle of the sexes; a Boys vs Girls situation, rather than a larger fight against the patriarchal culture which transverses gender boundaries (so to speak).
Yes, women can have patriarchal mindsets too. Calling yourself a ‘feminist’ while being a woman, does not ipso facto make you right. I can just imagine being in 1917, having a conversation with the group of *women* campaigning against women’s voting rights; and then slighting me for ‘mansplaining’ to them the need for women’s suffrage.
As a gay person, I don’t try to invalidate your speech with a blind “straightsplaining” charge, wherever I disagree with your methods.on fighting homophobia. That word means something; it’s not just there to make me feel superior to a straight opponent, no matter how valid her or his argument may be. Likewise, I expect not to have my participation in the feminist movement to not be devalued simply because of my gender.