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Why I Resigned from The Good Men Project
December 21, 2011 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Why I Resigned from The Good Men Project

"Last week, founder Tom Matlack wrote several pieces which were highly critical of feminism. A series of highly publicized Twitter exchanges took place with a number of well-known progressive women. Tom seemed to harden his position, complaining of being attacked and pelted by angry feminists..."

"...All of this behavior reflects two things: men’s genuine fear of being challenged and confronted, and the persistence of the stereotype of feminists as being aggressive, wrathful, “man-bashers.” The painful thing about all this, of course, is that no man is in any real physical danger on the internet— or even in real life — from feminists. Women are regularly beaten and raped — even on college campuses — but I know of no instance where a man found himself a victim of violence for making a sexist remark in a feminist setting! “Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen, in other words, at least not as a result of arguments over feminism. But that doesn’t stop men from using (in jest or no) their own exaggerated fear of physical violence to make a subtle point about feminists.

There’s a conscious purpose to this sort of behavior. Joking about getting pelted (or putting on the football helmet) sends a message to women in the classroom – and online: “Tone it down. Take care of the men and their feelings. Don’t scare them off, because too much impassioned feminism is scary for guys.” And you know, as exasperating as it is, this kind of silencing language almost always works. Time and again, I’ve seen it work to silence women in the classroom, or at least cause them to worry about how to phrase things “just right” so as to protect the guys and their feelings. It’s a key anti-feminist strategy, even if that isn’t the actual intent of the men doing it — it forces women to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger. It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away."

The Good Men Project, previously on MeFi.
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not "Crazy", previously on MeFi.
posted by flex (98 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Being “manly” is less about traditional machismo than it is about what the Apostle Paul calls the putting away of childish things. And one of those childish things adult men put away is the need to deflect, belittle, or exaggerate women’s anger.

Oh man, this.
posted by beefetish at 4:42 PM on December 21, 2011 [67 favorites]


Was this twitter exchange in conjunction with other exchanges elswhere? Because it seems like if it's a straight back-and-forth then Tom was a bit oversensitive and too hasty to jump to conclusions about what was being said to him.
posted by Hoopo at 4:43 PM on December 21, 2011


That was...weird. I think the problem is that the original essay is kind of really vague. Well, that and the fact that no one in the damn Twitter stream seems to have read the original essay.

But if his thesis is "Men feel women blame them just for being dudes. It's okay to be a dude," then maybe he could provide some examples of that? He provides a "the fear is real" example, citing a friend who won't look at his wife during arguments (?) but nothing to support what he says is the theme of the piece, i.e., that women attack men for what are mere dudely behaviours which should be understood as simply alternative expressions of understanding, etc. I guess maybe he thinks these things are so commonplace he need cite no examples, but I never thought of The King of Queens as all that reflective of actual human life, so if he thinks this is a real thing i think he could do a better job explaining what he means. And the twitter stream is a shitshow -- he tweets this even more vague and leading tweet-description, and then when a bunch of chicks are all Que? What are you on about? he pulls the silenced all my life routine.

In sum: Twitter is dumb, these people are arguing past each other, heat/light ratio of entire controversy is at about "Brown Dwarf Star"
posted by Diablevert at 5:06 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's welcome to join my Bad Man Project.
posted by planet at 5:08 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


"men’s genuine fear of being challenged and confronted"

Lost a ton of credibility right here. You want to talk about equal treatment of men and women, I'm all ears. You want to talk about one group as though all its members shared some (negative) trait? You have missed the point.
posted by ellF at 5:10 PM on December 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Here's a sweeping generalization for you: people who try to debate complex and controversial topics in 140 character chunks are idiots. A medium that forces you to make your point as succinctly as possible is going to open you up--again and again--to the charge of insensitivity, oversimplification, or stereotyping. And a medium that broadcasts responses to particular speakers, including or excluding peripheral interlocutors with a haphazard ampersand will inevitably, as things heat up, give the impression of a pile on.

What a clusterfuck. Every single one of these people should have their iPhones confiscated.
posted by R. Schlock at 5:21 PM on December 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure what the takeaway from this Twitter battle is supposed to be. Yes, the patronizing attitude a lot of men toward women is harmful to everyone, really, and it can be insidious. But yelling at a guy who seems to be trying to improve himself and others around him isn't productive for anyone - it's just a lot of unfocused rage. Maybe he deserves it, I don't know or really care. But this bit about "male-bashing doesn't exist because men aren't physically hurt" is just kind of weird. Because you're arguing that words don't matter, attitudes don't matter, only physical actions matter. You can't argue that point without sounding like you're blinded by anger. I know there's a lot of anger to go around, but anger can't be what feminism is about. It's not just about stopping physical violence to women, it's about improving the mindset and societal acceptance of attitudes that lead to rape, abuse, diminishment, etc.

Being "for" or "against" feminism is pointless semantics in my mind. Make the world better or make it worse, but we are talking about societal norms that need realignment. How we want to realign them is in flux, but that's the goal - change how people think, both men and women. It's not about getting mad or getting even.
posted by lubujackson at 5:22 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every single one of these people should have their iPhones confiscated.

Sorry, I just cannot agree that everyone involved was being unreasonable and I think it's unfair to make that equivalence. Matlack responded to level-headed, uninsulting, and quite frankly rather thorough rebuttals of his assumptions with bizarre defensiveness. He also attributed all of the problems to "females" on Twitter even though one of his primary critics was Hugo Schwyzer, along with several other men. I didn't find it hard to understand or follow at all and I don't blame Twitter for this. I've seen this exact same conversation play out so many times before in other contexts. It's like he was reading from a script.
posted by Danila at 5:26 PM on December 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


I'm not sure what the takeaway from this Twitter battle is supposed to be. Yes, the patronizing attitude a lot of men toward women is harmful to everyone, really, and it can be insidious. But yelling at a guy who seems to be trying to improve himself and others around him isn't productive for anyone - it's just a lot of unfocused rage. Maybe he deserves it, I don't know or really care. But this bit about "male-bashing doesn't exist because men aren't physically hurt" is just kind of weird. Because you're arguing that words don't matter, attitudes don't matter, only physical actions matter. You can't argue that point without sounding like you're blinded by anger. I know there's a lot of anger to go around, but anger can't be what feminism is about. It's not just about stopping physical violence to women, it's about improving the mindset and societal acceptance of attitudes that lead to rape, abuse, diminishment, etc.

I really don't understand what this is in response to at all and I'd really like to understand. Yelling? Rage? Blinded by anger? Where do you see this, in either the feminist twitter responses or the Schwyzer article? Just...where??

And this:

But this bit about "male-bashing doesn't exist because men aren't physically hurt" is just kind of weird.

What are you referring to?
posted by Danila at 5:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm responding to the MeFi post, mostly.

"I know of no instance where a man found himself a victim of violence for making a sexist remark in a feminist setting! “Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen"
posted by lubujackson at 5:37 PM on December 21, 2011


Hugo Schwyzer sometimes irks me with his Nice Christian Guy persona, but good for him for follow up his words with action.

"A short while later, Tom tweeted I really thought the MRA guys were crazy until I engaged the wrath of the feminists. Insane." Christ, what an asshole.
posted by book 'em dano at 5:39 PM on December 21, 2011


This guy's website creeps me out. It's a blog that looks like a corporate website for Initech, and there he is smiling at you all friendly with perfect teeth and hair looking like a stock photo. He's Shattering Gender Myths, trademark copyright patent pending! Which makes me call bullshit on things like this:

Now Jennifer Pozner is a well-known feminist media critic, but she’s hardly in the position to carry out “reprisals” against anyone for speaking out, not that she would if she could.

"Well-known feminist media critic" has got to be a fairly small group of people, which people like Matlack and Schwyzer presumably aspire to be part of. I would think that yes, any of these people are very much in a position to carry out a proverbial "reprisal" by questioning someone's feminist credentials. That said, I think if anyone could be accused of making any reprisals for something, it's Schwyzer and not Pozner, and Matlack is definitely being kinda touchy and weird.
posted by Hoopo at 5:39 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


*following up
posted by book 'em dano at 5:39 PM on December 21, 2011


The head of the GMP apparently tweeted: "I really thought the MRA guys were crazy until I engaged the wrath of the feminists. Insane."

I don't see how anyone who is attempting to have an honest conversation on this topic could ever say that.
posted by R343L at 5:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Btw, I used to read Hugo Schwyzer regularly (long before the Good Men Project). He's a very interesting person and very thoughtful who has actually gone thru a lot of change and self-examination. Sometimes those kinds of people make us uncomfortable because they are very intense. He's a good guy and very open to criticism and discussion. Don't let the strange website design creep you out.
posted by R343L at 5:43 PM on December 21, 2011


“Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen"

Well it's hard to figure out what "male-bashing" is meant to refer to when the term is applied so casually all the time! Where was the male-bashing here? I think that's really the whole point of Schwyzer's article. Simple disagreement and arguing with this man's premises becomes "blind rage" and male-bashing. There was nothing irrational or "blind" about the arguments against Matlack's article. There was no violent lashing out.
posted by Danila at 5:55 PM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Forgive me, but I basically do not understand any of this. I've read everything; the original piece, the Twitter conversation, and Schwyzer's response.

Is the main contention of the feminist writers on Twitter that the original piece by the GMP guy shouldn't have been written in gendered terms? If that's the argument, I have a hard time mustering sympathy; those same people (I'm thinking of Marcotte in particular) really very often write things like "men, stop doing this".

Also, what's an MRA?
posted by downing street memo at 5:56 PM on December 21, 2011


Also, what's an MRA?

Given the context, I'm assuming it is a "Men's Right Advocate."
posted by asnider at 5:59 PM on December 21, 2011


"Men's Right Advocate."

Ah, okay. That is absurd.
posted by downing street memo at 6:00 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having simultaneously incurred the wrath of both MRAs and feminists on another forum, I just have one thing to say to the whole lot of them: get a room.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:05 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cannot wait to hurl 'gaslighting' at people in a new, better context now.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:05 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole thing is absurd. I spent my college years engaged in (often heated) argument about feminism, both in theory and practice. I largely avoid the topic online now, because it's not about theory and practice, it's about ego and buzzwords. Reducing the scope to tweets exacerbates the problem.
posted by ellF at 6:05 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Having simultaneously incurred the wrath of both MRAs and feminists on another forum, I just have one thing to say to the whole lot of them: get a room.

... as I post that just after this. Damn my lack of previewing!
posted by Slackermagee at 6:06 PM on December 21, 2011


So one thing that I think may be causing some confusion is this line from the post:
“Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen, in other words, at least not as a result of arguments over feminism.

Here's the thing: That lost some crucial formatting that was present in the original, which italicized "bashing," like so:
“Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen, in other words, at least not as a result of arguments over feminism.
In other words, it's not a statement that men are never criticized qua being men; it's simply a statement that men are not literally bashed, literally being used here in its "correct" sense - that they are not at risk of violence from feminists, whereas it is not without precedent for a woman to be threatened with violence.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:07 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


One day, Kevin came to class with a duffle bag. I thought little of it, until – in the midst of a discussion about men and feminism – he reached into the duffle and pulled out a football helmet. “I know I’m gonna get killed for what I’m about to say”, he announced dramatically; “I brought some protection.” Kevin then strapped the helmet on as his classmates and I stared in shock. I told him to cut out the cheap theatrics, but not before he’d made a powerful point, though I’m confident it wasn’t the one he intended to make.

Kevin’s gag with the football helmet was designed to send a signal about women and anger. The message he wanted to send was, as he told me later, that “feminists take things too seriously and get too aggressive.” The message he actually sent was that men will go to great lengths to try and short-circuit women’s attempts at serious conversation. The helmet was an effort to label those attempts as “male-bashing” or “man-hating.” The hope was that it would shame uppity feminists into biting back their anger; of course, Kevin only ended up inflaming the situation. In less dramatic ways, I’ve seen men use this same tactic again and again.
Oh come on, that's fucking ridiculous. It's a stupid stunt, but at the same time why would you assume he wouldn't pull the same stunt if he was about to piss of a ton of dudes. Why is it implied he's referencing "Woman's anger" instead of "Human anger" People get mad when you disagree with them about something they care about. In fact, I would say men are more likely to be physically confrontational then women, but that doesn't mean women don't get mad.
posted by delmoi at 6:08 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, what's an MRA?
behold
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kevin’s gag with the football helmet was designed to send a signal about [his level of maturity].
posted by asnider at 6:16 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Forgive me, but I basically do not understand any of this.

Me either. This seems like one of those things where the people involved are super involved with each other, speaking the same jargon, hair-splitting (or bean-plating, as is said here) over theory, and leaving everyone outside of the conversation puzzled at best, and more likely uninterested.
posted by Forktine at 6:26 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The MRA movement is to modern feminism what the John Birch Society is to Soviet communism. May they all die childless and alone.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:35 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I support anyone's right to have any emotional response to anything they want as long as they support my right to have no emotional response at all. The flip side to the accusation that women are overemotional is the accusation that many men are unemotional. I support the proposition that all peoples emotional responses are a-ok with the understanding they don't hurt anyone else.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:38 PM on December 21, 2011


My take away is that I'm truly sad to see the GMP come to this. I was really a fan of their mission, although I admit I hadn't bothered to keep up.
posted by Edgewise at 6:39 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kevin’s gag with the football helmet was designed to send a signal about [his level of maturity].
Was it immature and stupid? Obviously. But how was it sexist?
posted by delmoi at 6:41 PM on December 21, 2011


"I'm being persecuted because I'm a man!"

"Treating masculinity and femininity as a binary is kind of silly."

"See??? This is exactly what I'm talking about! Persecuted!"
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:45 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why does stuff like The Good Men ProjectTM always make me want to run in the other direction?

All of these people seem like shrill, self-satisfied, and insufferable.
posted by jayder at 6:46 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh come on, that's fucking ridiculous. It's a stupid stunt, but at the same time why would you assume he wouldn't pull the same stunt if he was about to piss of a ton of dudes.

You know, i was thinking about that, and I feel like you could kind of make a case either way; I'm not sure which way I lean. If you pull the same stunt in a room full of jocks, then the joke is kind of self-deprecating "I am weak, don't hurt me." If you pull the stunt in a room full of chicks, it shades into absurdity, because the cultural presumption is that he has no need to physically fear a woman. If I raise my hand at a board of selectman's meeting and say, "Okay, I'm gonna put on my nerf helmet before I say this, but what if we cancel the Christmas pagent this year?" there's an element of defusing authentic tension. But if you make the same gesture in a context where it's patently absurd, it takes on an edge of contempt. I think I'd have to actually be in the room with your man Kevin to say which I thought it was in his case.

But here's something we can all agree on: Kevin is a douchebag.
posted by Diablevert at 6:50 PM on December 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Okay, well now people are saying this is all incomprehensible to them (and thus must be worthless) so here's how I understand it:

Matlack writes an article, "Being a dude is a good thing". In this article he argues that men are constantly blamed for everything and that women are too hard on men. His theory as to why this happens: "Men and women are different. Quite different in fact. But women would really like men to be more like them." Women pressuring men to be more like women is what causes so many men to feel oppressed and blamed for everything, like they can't be ever be good and since his is the "good men project" he wants women to back off on these attempts to make men into women. He says that while men understand that women are "different", women can't seem to understand this about men. He questions why there are so many female commenters on his website as this is another example of women dominating the discussion. He points out some male differences, that men can be "knuckle-draggers" looking for sex and food and not sharing feelings. But they shouldn't be blamed just for being men.

On his twitter he links to the article with the question, "Is a good man more like a woman or more truly masculine?"

Now Marcotte, Pozner, and the other feminists mainly react to the assumptions underlying the question he tweeted to them, namely that there is a way to be a man that is "truly masculine" which is opposed to being "like a woman". Marcotte specifically points out that she loves to have sex and drink beer too, yet she is a woman. They argue that this is gender essentialism and as such is dangerous to people who don't conform to the stereotypes. Matlack responds basically defending his reputation against this attack, and Pozner reassures him that he does good work she just doesn't agree with his assumptions.

Then they start arguing about the article itself and, as Kate Harding puts it, "I've liked The Good Men Project in the past, but come on. "Women, who are basically all the same, need to learn to see men as individuals!"" The feminists see the article as basically saying men are henpecked into submission and women need to back off, but this henpecking woman stereotype is a noxious one. And yes, it is telling that from all of this Matlack concludes that he is being henpecked and beaten by a bunch of male-bashing females.

Was it immature and stupid? Obviously. But how was it sexist?

Schwyzer's article is a response to the (in my opinion, slanderous) characterization of the argument as an "attack" or any kind of violence or aggression. As he argued five years ago in this article, "words are not fists" (which also uses the Kevin anecdote), Hugo believes there is a pattern where many men respond to women's justifiable anger or even just debate by characterizing these things as violent, whereas with other men it is vigorous debate and discussion. Schwyzer believes this characterization is over-the-top and an unjustified attempt to minimize whatever issues the women wanted to discuss.
posted by Danila at 6:59 PM on December 21, 2011 [38 favorites]


Wait I just realized Roseanne (Barr? Arnold?) was involved in all this somehow and she was the one to write off all men, she said "men have little or no empathy 4 the plight of the world's women."

The other feminists gave her pushback on this, and at her demand provide examples of men who do care. Anyway all this came after Matlack declared himself to have received a "beating" at the hands of "dominate" females.
posted by Danila at 7:15 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Schwyzer's article is a response to the (in my opinion, slanderous) characterization of the argument as an "attack" or any kind of violence or aggression. As he argued five years ago in this article, "words are not fists" (which also uses the Kevin anecdote), Hugo believes there is a pattern where many men respond to women's justifiable anger or even just debate by characterizing these things as violent, whereas with other men it is vigorous debate and discussion. Schwyzer believes this characterization is over-the-top and an unjustified attempt to minimize whatever issues the women wanted to discuss.

If this idea is still unclear, you have to understand how heavily women are socialized to be nice and to take care of others, especially men. Lots of women, are, of course, actually nice people or like to think of themselves as such, which is why accusing them with trembling lip of being mean to men is an effective debate weapon. Women are not supposed to be mean; we are supposed to be Cinderella, who is loved and rewarded for endlesly putting up with other people's shit and looking hot at the same time. To accuse a woman of being mean or nasty is often followed by accusations of lesbianism, ugliness, fatness, etc., because in essence she is being accused of not being a proper woman, of stepping out of her role and becoming some sort of disgendered horror. A woman who doesn't care about men's feelings?? It's the fucking apocalypse to some dudes.
posted by emjaybee at 7:17 PM on December 21, 2011 [58 favorites]


They argue that this is gender essentialism and as such is dangerous to people who don't conform to the stereotypes. Matlack responds basically defending his reputation against this attack,

Doesn't he actually concede the point, on Twitter?

tmatlack @AmandaMarcotte I didn't say that. I said that is the stereotype of men in Bud Light commercials et al.

And, to be fair, an awful lot of guys - you hesitate to say "majority", but there's a reason these ads the are the way they are - do in fact occasionally want to act out the stereotype. Nowhere in Matlack's piece does he suggest that women don't want the same things, but only that men do.

Reading through the Twitter-log again, it does feel as though Marcotte is being awfully...fight-y.

Oh, and I wasn't trying to make the point that the conversation was worthless. There was just a lot of in-group language and prior knowledge assumptions and I truthfully didn't understand.
posted by downing street memo at 7:18 PM on December 21, 2011


he wants women to back off on these attempts to make men into women

Well, I guess that's my problem with this whole thing --- this is a controversial idea, and he doesn't really give any details about exactly what he means by this. I'm familiar, for example, with the stereotype of "dudes are slobs, chicks are neat freaks, women are always bitching at men to clean up the house" --- you know, the Coupling pillows rant --- but I'm not sure if that's the type of thing he means with his "women are trying to turn men into women" thesis. If it is, I can think of a number of things I'd find problematic with that argument, but he seems to be alluding to some bigger, more serious cultural dynamic. Maybe he has a point, maybe he doesn't --- I don't fucking know. It didn't seem like the people in the twitter stream really knew it either --- it was a lot of people going "Ah-hah! You're talking about THIS! Well, here's why that's wrong," and him taking it as an attack on his whole life's work and making himself look like a jackass in the process. So in terms of the metafilter thread, it just didn't seem like there was that much there to pivot off of.

As for your man Mr. Toothy, the quit in a snit fit guy, his whole side tangent seemed like something I might agree with in general, but it didn't seem to really fit well this this particular argument --- at least, inasmuch as I read Capt. GoodMan to be making himself look like a petulant tosspot as more of a comment on him personally than the male species.
posted by Diablevert at 7:23 PM on December 21, 2011


many men respond to women's justifiable anger or even just debate by characterizing these things as violent


This phenomena is so pronounced that in a study looking over choices of language in journalistic reporting of political debates in Canada shows a strong tendency to use hockey metaphors (shooting, scoring, slap shot, hattrick, etc...) to male politicians and describe female politicians in terms of brawling, punching, scrapping and other implied violence.

Another study took various pieces of writing and ascribed them to male and female authors. The alleged female authors were rated as more aggressive than alleged male ones. As a woman this makes me very sad, but would go a long way to explain the bitchy female boss/assertive and plain talking male boss stereotype.
posted by Phalene at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


Diablevert, I too don't really understand what he meant by "women want men to be like women". I, along with the other feminists, would still argue with any construction that assumes this attitude to be true of "women" as a group, including the assertion that "women" don't understand that men are different from them. Still, the article was strangely devoid of any specifics. It seems like a heartwritten plea for understanding...something.

As for Matlack's reaction, I have to agree with Schwyzer that it fits into a pretty obvious pattern, one that comes up again and again, and, as is usually the case, doesn't make any sense in the individual context. It's hard for me to attribute to just this one individual guy, but I've seen it a lot. It is a social script, stemming from what emjaybee said.".
posted by Danila at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, meant to say on preview - Matlack characterizes the "female" response to him as an "attack" and as a "beating". This is in line with the studies Phalene points out, it's just a very common thing.
posted by Danila at 7:32 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


the cultural presumption is that he has no need to physically fear a woman

I've been to roller derby, I know better.
posted by waraw at 7:45 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had the Good Men Project in my RSS feed awhile back, I think because I discovered it here and was refreshed to see a publication about manhood that was non-hetero-friendly and set aside the usual condescending "guy's guide to X" articles, but the more I read, the more false humility I sensed from the articles and Matlack in particular.

It was a kind of "aw, shucks, I'm just doing what I think is right, no big deal" kind of tone that left me with mixed feelings: happy that there was something resembling a grown-up discussion about 21st century masculinity, but also smelling privilege and a very subtle kind of self-congratulation I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps I'm projecting, but I found myself experiencing a kind of smarm-averse reaction to that feed, though I can't point to anything overtly smarmy about it.

None of which is to condemn Matlack or the site, really. I think they're honestly trying to do good, and Matlack's come up against a gender issue he doesn't quite comprehend and is falling back on the kind of gender defenses that I caught myself being guilty of earlier today, to my embarrassment.

Still, the article was strangely devoid of any specifics. It seems like a heartwritten plea for understanding...something.

Yeah, thanks for articulating that for me, because I'd had the same sense from other pieces in the past as well.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:06 PM on December 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I didn't follow the original argument, and it sounds like too much of a clusterfuck for me to want to wade through, but I read Hugo's piece and really like it, especially this:

Here’s the basic axiom: power conceals itself from those who possess it. And the corollary is that privilege is revealed more clearly to those who don’t have it.
posted by marsha56 at 8:08 PM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't generally advocate inflammatory debating tactics, but if you're using it against that guy, well, fair play.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:19 PM on December 21, 2011


When PWP (People With Privilege) complain about their status as victims, inane websites become their platform for their viewpoints. (White people can't get jobs!)

Men complaining about the effects of feminism generally fall into this category.

I can't be bothered to follow the controversy here.

However, I do have to say that I feel some sympathy with fathers who feel discrimination on the basis of their gender in custody cases. There are some dads who are better parents than some moms, and they are discriminated against in court, in my opinion.
posted by kozad at 8:31 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Was it immature and stupid? Obviously. But how was it sexist?

I'm not saying that it was. Actually, I was (mostly) agreeing with you. However, on preview, I'm with Diablevert on this point.
posted by asnider at 8:47 PM on December 21, 2011


fuck masculinity
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:54 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The female view is the right view. The male view just gets you into trouble. Okay, I'm sorry, that is just a ludicrous depiction of reality/ real people/ the status quo.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:00 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Feminism is not an attack on males. Why do I need to say this? Well: comments above. Pleasant dreams.
posted by kozad at 9:04 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why can't a woman be more like a man?
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:10 PM on December 21, 2011


Hugo believes there is a pattern where many men respond to women's justifiable anger or even just debate by characterizing these things as violent, whereas with other men it is vigorous debate and discussion. Schwyzer believes this characterization is over-the-top and an unjustified attempt to minimize whatever issues the women wanted to discuss.
But see, that just seems completely ridiculous. Men say that they are being "attacked" by other men who disagree with them all the time. And furthermore hasn't the whole anti-bullying movement been premised on the idea that words can hurt people? If that's not true on the internet, then why the focus on 'cyberbullying'? Or is it that bullying is only something that happens to kids?

Not that I think disagreement is actually bullying. but people use violent terms to describe ordinary conflict all the time. Team a is going to "Kill" or "destroy" another team, a politician is going to 'take out' another one. And people say they are being "attacked" whenever people inveigh against them all the time.

The idea that this is some special man/woman dynamic just seems ridiculous.
you have to understand how heavily women are socialized to be nice and to take care of others, especially men. Lots of women, are, of course, actually nice people or like to think of themselves as such, which is why accusing them with trembling lip of being mean to men is an effective debate weapon. … A woman who doesn't care about men's feelings?? It's the fucking apocalypse to some dudes.
If you are going to argue with people, you can't set the parameters of what they can and can't say. And you certainly can't set the parameters of their emotional response to your words. If someone is upset by what you say, they are going to feel attacked and perhaps say they are. So what? Claiming that they are being "manipulative" and getting offended that they tell you you hurt their feelings is just ridiculous and is no way to actually have an actual discussion.

If you're not willing to hurt people's feelings, then you are just not going to be able to have an honest discussion with people who disagree with you on issues they care deeply about. (Obviously, if they don't have an emotional attachment, it's not going to be an issue)
posted by delmoi at 10:24 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


TBH, the Good Men Project jumped the shark with a somersault for me when they published a guide to wedding rings that looked like a straight rewrite of a deBeers pamphlet. Being "good" isn't the same as conforming. Gah!
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:26 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


the cultural presumption is that he has no need to physically fear a woman

It's just as well there's no cultural presumption it's OK for a woman to smack a man across the face, or a knee to the nuts is seen as lulz.
posted by rodgerd at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2011


>>the cultural presumption is that he has no need to physically fear a woman

>It's just as well there's no cultural presumption it's OK for a woman to smack a man across the face, or a knee to the nuts is seen as lulz.
posted by rodgerd at 7:07 AM on December 22 [+] [!]


rodgerd, isn't that the exact same cultural presumption? It's seen as OK for a woman to smack a man because there's no way she'd be able to hurt him with her tiny, soft little hands.
posted by daisyk at 11:57 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Forgive me, but I basically do not understand any of this. I've read everything; the original piece, the Twitter conversation, and Schwyzer's response.

Is the main contention of the feminist writers on Twitter that the original piece by the GMP guy shouldn't have been written in gendered terms? If that's the argument, I have a hard time mustering sympathy; those same people (I'm thinking of Marcotte in particular) really very often write things like "men, stop doing this".
"

That's not really the main contention, and I'm having trouble seeing how you got there.

The original piece was a bunch of dogwhistle bullshit about how guys can't really be guys because these chicks wanna emasculate them because of something.

It's basically fucking incoherent and his self-promoting tweets got him called out as glib in his assumptions. It's got very little to do with not writing in "gendered" terms and much more to do with pointing out that these are hoary assumptions which don't stand up to any scrutiny and that in the absence of any sort of supporting evidence, there's nothing really to talk about except how it's thin stereotyping and trumped up martyrdom.

It seriously reads like the same victimhood bullshit trotted out by Christians who think that, you know, they're just trying to express themselves by insisting on Santa everywhere or some shit.
posted by klangklangston at 1:00 AM on December 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


"But see, that just seems completely ridiculous. … If you are going to argue with people, you can't set the parameters of what they can and can't say. And you certainly can't set the parameters of their emotional response to your words."

Wait, hol' on, you can't set parameters of what they can and cannot say but you can say that their feelings are ridiculous?

So, first off, you very much can set parameters of what people can and cannot say in an argument. An argument pretty much rests on having common understandings of terms, and defining terms consensually. Even beyond that, you can certainly say that things like mutual respect are necessary to have a conversation or an actual argument (as opposed to trading insults). And treating women like their criticism of masculinist viewpoints is an attack — especially in the absence of any clarifying examples to earn the benefit of the doubt — is a sign that someone doesn't take women's concerns seriously enough to respect them. Which is particularly troubling when casting oneself as a paragon of goodly man virtue.

And something that you're missing is how quickly the conversation turns — here, ironically, from the very outset — away from a discussion of womens' grievances and into a lament over men's feelings. To then blame women for that — that it's because women want men to be more like women — is manipulative horseshit. That's not getting offended and scotching the discussion — it's calling out manipulative horseshit and keeping the conversation honest.

Maybe I'm not understanding you, because you seem close to conceding that point, but seem to want to have it both ways, where feminists can't complain about shitty behavior, but dudes get to whine about getting called on it?
posted by klangklangston at 1:17 AM on December 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Here’s the basic axiom: power conceals itself from those who possess it. And the corollary is that privilege is revealed more clearly to those who don’t have it.

this struck me as dangerously naive - perhaps well-intentioned people with liberal, tolerant viewpoints aren't fully aware of power and privilege and how they might have it, but there are many people who are not only aware of the power and privilege they possess, but are utterly ruthless in using it and keeping it - they're fully conscious of how things are and how it benefits them and they will fight bitterly to keep things that way
posted by pyramid termite at 2:07 AM on December 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Wait, hol' on, you can't set parameters of what they can and cannot say but you can say that their feelings are ridiculous?
Yes? I can say someone is stupid for getting upset, but it's ridiculous for me to demand that they not get upset.
And treating women like their criticism of masculinist viewpoints is an attack — especially in the absence of any clarifying examples to earn the benefit of the doubt — is a sign that someone doesn't take women's concerns seriously enough to respect them.
First of all, that's just complete nonsense. I mean, it just is. People feel attacked when you disagree with them about things they care about. It has nothing to do with people's genders. Making this about gender is just bizarre. Maybe it is a sign that they don't take the concerns of the person they are talking with seriously, but what does that have to do with gender? There are lots of guys who's opinions I don't take seriously.
To then blame women for that — that it's because women want men to be more like women — is manipulative horseshit.
Here's the problem with that logic, in my mind. It sounds like you're putting a restriction on what men are 'allowed' to say when discussing gender. But I don't see any restrictions on what women are allowed to say in response. It's a one-directional restriction. Are there things women shouldn't say?

The other thing, it seems to me here is that there is an implicit view that women are somehow 'weak' and that they can be easily 'manipulated' so women, who are weak and manipulateable need to be protected from certain ideas -- like the idea that what they're saying might hurt mens feelings. And that, to me, seems completely ridiculous.

If a man says something that hurts a woman's feelings, is it acceptable for her to call him out or say she feels attacked?

And beyond that it seems amazingly self serving. Essentially saying "I can say whatever I want, and if I hurt you're feelings you're not allowed to say anything about it because I'm weak and telling me I hurt your feelings is a form of manipulation, which I can't defend against."
Maybe I'm not understanding you, because you seem close to conceding that point, but seem to want to have it both ways, where feminists can't complain about shitty behavior, but dudes get to whine about getting called on it?
No, it seems like what you want is the other way around: Women can complain about men, but men can't complain about complaints. And if they do women should call out the complaints about complaints about the complaints and they're apparently being manipulated.

Beyond that, it just seems like an argument that's got it's head stuck so far up it's own asshole that you're no longer arguing about anything real and thus it's a complete waste of time to even have the argument.

Really, you should be able to replace 'men' and 'women' with X and Y and still have the same 'rules' for what's acceptable in a discussion.

---

To summarize: If you feel it's not acceptable for a man to say he feels attacked, Is it acceptable for a woman to say she feels 'attacked' if a man says something that offends or upsets her?

Are women allowed to say whatever they want, in this context or are there restrictions placed on them as well?

is it correct to say that complaints are OK, and complaints about complaints about complaints are OK, but complaints about complaints are not OK? Or does it depend on the gender of the two participants?

Should there be different rules of debate for men and women?

---
What I would suggest is that you have no control over how people are going to respond to what you say, and attacking them for being offended by it is completely ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 3:24 AM on December 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


It seriously reads like the same victimhood bullshit trotted out by Christians who think that, you know, they're just trying to express themselves by insisting on Santa everywhere or some shit.

As always, I think context is important here.

In isolation, is this particular piece kinda silly and dumb? Sure. But "in isolation" is a bad way to view things, since it'd be easy to cherry-pick similar examples from just about any person or group.

I'm the sort of depraved person who reads through enough stuff to find the occasional good bits promised by Sturgeon's Law, which means I've run into some of these folks (on both sides) before, and to be perfectly honest I think there is a valid point to be made here.

Sure, there are "mens' rights" people who are idiots. There are also well-meaning, well-spoken folks who want to talk about issues like the vast disparity in how sex crimes are handled depending on the gender of the victim, or stereotypes which makes it difficult/dangerous for men to go into certain fields (because the default assumption is they're child molesters) or the gender gap in the unsheltered homeless population or whatever. You know, actual issues that we ought to be talking about.

But when they do, the response they get is -- so commonly that it's become a point of parody -- "oh noes what about teh menz". Or they get told "you're a member of a privileged group, you aren't allowed to complain". Or they get told and accused of much nastier things: sexist, misogynist, rape supporter, etc.

I've watched this type of drama play out enough times in enough different forums that it just makes me sad and exasperated. Which I guess is how someone else feels, too (even if he doesn't happen to be your ideal of a perfect interlocutor), and that makes me feel even more sad and exasperated.
posted by ubernostrum at 4:16 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


manipulateable

It's "manipulable". That will save you keystrokes and leave you with a spare "tea", which might be useful when you're thirsty.
posted by Grangousier at 4:24 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone can complain about whatever complaints they want to. However, it is only appropriate to do so after you have addressed the complaint: either by solving and/or mitigating the problem, or by refusing to, preferably with an explanation. To discuss complaints -- discuss discussion -- while the discussion in question is still ongoing, constitutes a derail, and is highly manipulative.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:50 AM on December 22, 2011


I read Hugo's piece then I read several of the follow-up links. It reminded me so much of something that happened 30 years ago when my mother was raising a teenage son. She talked with some of her other single mom friends and discovered they were going through something similar with their sons. The boys had two ways of responding to attacks from their mothers. First was to swell up like a dominate gorilla-- with angry face, squared shoulders, tense necks-- making themselves appear as big and menacing as possible, slamming doors and punching walls. This was to make the mothers afraid and to remind them that the sons were bigger and stronger. The second way of responding was to tell the moms not to be so hysterical. My brother loved this. In the middle of an argument about grades or drinking or staying out to late he would assume this very calm voice and say, "Just listen to yourself-- you sound hysterical." "Calm down, Mom, you sound crazy." At one point she began to think she really was going crazy and hence the talk with her friends.

The teenage girls, on the other hand, moped, sulked, cried, refused to talk or said "I hate you."

It was remarkable how similar these single moms' experiences were.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:22 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I've never ever been entertained by a grammar nazi before reading this. Well done Grangousier!
posted by Blake at 6:42 AM on December 22, 2011


Anyone can complain about whatever complaints they want to. However, it is only appropriate to do so after you have addressed the complaint: either by solving and/or mitigating the problem, or by refusing to, preferably with an explanation. To discuss complaints -- discuss discussion -- while the discussion in question is still ongoing, constitutes a derail, and is highly manipulative.
Yeah, like I said that's ridiculous and the idea that it's 'manipulative' seems insane. Also, this whole thing seems to be premised on the idea that men are somehow better at manipulating women then women are at manipulating men. Or something.
posted by delmoi at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't feel that derails are manipulative?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the "women are crazy" and "men are stupid" memes aren't more about society maximizing its baby output by forcefully stabilizing relationships.

There are an awful lot of people won't ever end up with someone who is even keeled exactly when they're even keeled, or even as frequently. We'd abandon relationships far faster if we treated all ridiculous behavior as a personal failing.

We have already, as a society, made the conscious choice to abandon relationship tropes that restrict individual freedom or create inequality, even when that means shortening or eliminating marriages, reproducing less, etc. We've vastly too many people now anyways.

I suspect we're moving towards operating on less-impassioned more-objective evaluations of individuals, which might eventually radically reduce the domestic abuse perpetrated by both men and women, and grow to view marriage itself as slavery. There isn't afaik much domestic violence in these modern polyamorous "sex clubs", for-example.

I liked the quote "power conceals itself from those who possess it" btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:12 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whew. I caught up, and I have thoughts!

I thought the original piece was really bad. It's a nasty combination of deliberately provocative and really under-developed. It's ok to argue that the problem with interpersonal relations between men and women is that men and women are fundamentally different and women have all the power and use it to force men to be like women. I mean, it's a little weird, but fine. But you look like a jerk if you argue that and then don't say how or why women and men are fundamentally different, or in what way women have all the power, or what "acting like a woman" means anyway. It's a dumb blog post, and it sort of discredits his blog about thinking critically about masculinity. There's no critical thought there.

I can see how people could look at his response to the twitter criticism and think that he's doing the tone-policing thing where women are accused of being violent and "attacking" whenever they speak forcefully. But I'm not sure that's what is going on. I think it might just be that he feels piled on and isn't dealing with it very gracefully, and he'd do the same thing if he were feeling piled on by men. And I guess that I'm sort of inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on that issue, mostly because I think it's a side issue, and there's so much to unpack in the original, screwy blog post.

And finally, I agree with whoever upthread said that twitter is a particularly lousy place to discuss the original blog post. I think this discussion would be best accomplished as a dialogue, but that's not really something you can do in 140 character spurts.
posted by craichead at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just want to point everyone to Phalene's comment again, for those that are arguing that "feeling attacked" is not a gendered issue. While gender may not be the only factor in whether someone is perceived as improperly aggressive, it certainly is a factor. There's a lot of research on this, will try to dig up cites later if I have time.
posted by lillygog at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I pretty much agree with craichead, and to me it poses and interesting question in that I don’t know what the best way to approach something like that is so as to get people to actually engage with each other. That is to say a) I agree that the dynamic of women objecting to something or disagreeing about something getting treated as irrational/bitchy is a real thing and a problem, though I don’t know that I would agree that it’s just as much of a problem as it might have been thirty years ago. B) on the other hand, I have read metafilter, and I think in about 25 percent of the threads you can find a little one act play for 5-20 performers, which goes a little something like this: 
 
Step 1: X posts heartfelt statement of opinion
Step 2: Q,R, Z and W immediately and strongly contradict said opinion
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 a few times
Step 4: X loses their shit, things get real ugly
 
So while I think Matlack made himself look like a jackass by being all “and now I understand why everybody thinks feminists are big meanies” I also think that the dynamic that played out in the Twitter stream is a pretty understandable if unfortunate one that you see in all kinds of discussion, and that it both sucks and is difficult to deal with without losing your shit if yours is the minority opinion.
 
It’s in circumstances like this that I think the discourse of privilege which Hugo attempts to bring in to the discussion doesn’t really work very well --- to me it comes off as “You know what this is a great example of? Why you, and all people like you, are wrong. Maybe it’s time for you to take off your Rucksack of Wrongness and realize I’m right. And then we can have a productive discussion of this issue.” Because even if, say, Person X is wrong and is blind to the ways in which his/her position tends to make him wrong, that doesn’t mean his/her opinion and perspective any less heartfelt, and I don’t think this approach makes people more willing to consider alternative perspectives, but rather tends to make them feel unheard and hardens their positions.     
 
It occurs to me that in some obscure and bizarre meta-way I may be making Matlack's argument for him, which would be amusing.
posted by Diablevert at 9:16 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because even if, say, Person X is wrong and is blind to the ways in which his/her position tends to make him wrong, that doesn’t mean his/her opinion and perspective any less heartfelt, and I don’t think this approach makes people more willing to consider alternative perspectives, but rather tends to make them feel unheard and hardens their positions.

Oh, absolutely. Feminism would accomplish so much more if feminists just worked on their tone a little, am I right?
posted by Zozo at 9:38 AM on December 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


...a study looking over choices of language in journalistic reporting of political debates in Canada shows a strong tendency to use hockey metaphors (shooting, scoring, slap shot, hattrick, etc...) to male politicians and describe female politicians in terms of brawling, punching, scrapping and other implied violence.

Is there a link to this study somewhere? I don't doubt the conclusions, I just can't recall ever hearing any hockey metaphors applied to political debates...the idea of using such metaphors in that context just seems so corny, but I suppose it's not below the standard TV news politico talking heads.
posted by Hoopo at 10:15 AM on December 22, 2011


Feminism would accomplish so much more if feminists just worked on their tone a little, am I right?

Nah, that's not my point. I think this is broadly true of all discourse. And I think that on a tactical level, the strategies you might use to advance your side on a broad scale a different then the ones that might prove successful in a conversation. As I said, I think that little four step process of disagreement-to-blow up is a dynamic you can witness in a hundred different metafilter threads. And I think that framing the conversation as "your opinion on this is merely an example of why all people like you are wrong about this issue" is as unlikely to be effective whether the people in question are people who like apple products or people who like dogs as it is men or women. I think when you're talking with someone one on one, changing minds is a negotiation, and for a negotiation to work there has to be a presumption of good faith. You've got to have the discussion on the basis that minds can be changed.
posted by Diablevert at 10:19 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"First of all, that's just complete nonsense. I mean, it just is. People feel attacked when you disagree with them about things they care about. It has nothing to do with people's genders. Making this about gender is just bizarre. Maybe it is a sign that they don't take the concerns of the person they are talking with seriously, but what does that have to do with gender? There are lots of guys who's opinions I don't take seriously."

It's not nonsense at all. And declaring that it just is, is bullshit. We're talking about a pretty specific context, where this is a mild criticism, pointing out that the assumptions are wrong, and we're talking about communication between people of different genders which conforms to a larger pattern. Even if we're speaking generally, if I give a mild criticism and you act like I'm putting you in the literal stocks, or literally beating you, it's an attempt to derail the conversation away from that criticism.

So, what it has to do with genders is that this is part of a general pattern where it happens more frequently to women — something that you're either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge, likely because you're not a woman and have never thought about it because, hey, why would you? — and this is a conversation that from the outset was set in gendered terms.

"Here's the problem with that logic, in my mind. It sounds like you're putting a restriction on what men are 'allowed' to say when discussing gender. But I don't see any restrictions on what women are allowed to say in response. It's a one-directional restriction. Are there things women shouldn't say?"

Now, see, when you're looking for ridiculous nonsense, what you're writing here is it. To use a more extreme example for the sake of clarity, it's like complaining that white people can't call black people "nigger" and still expect to be treated like they're having a reasonable discussion. That's a "one-direction" restriction, but it exists for a pretty good reason and complaining about it, as a white person, is generally evidence of unexamined privilege. The analogy isn't exact, but it's similar enough.

"The other thing, it seems to me here is that there is an implicit view that women are somehow 'weak' and that they can be easily 'manipulated' so women, who are weak and manipulateable need to be protected from certain ideas -- like the idea that what they're saying might hurt mens feelings. And that, to me, seems completely ridiculous. "

It is pretty ridiculous. I'm not sure why you invented it for this discussion, because it's got nothing to do with what anyone is saying.

However, women are socialized to care more about other people's feelings. It's not about protecting them from certain ideas, it is about saying that there are manipulative ways to disagree with someone that preclude a fair argument or discussion.

Further, I'm not sure why you keep conflating modes of discussion with ideas themselves. You've done it several times now, and it's nonsense.

"If a man says something that hurts a woman's feelings, is it acceptable for her to call him out or say she feels attacked?

And beyond that it seems amazingly self serving. Essentially saying "I can say whatever I want, and if I hurt you're feelings you're not allowed to say anything about it because I'm weak and telling me I hurt your feelings is a form of manipulation, which I can't defend against."
"

Do you seriously not see the difference between the way that Matlack conducted himself in this specific instance and the generalized statement — open to anyone — of "it hurts my feelings when you say that"? I mean, Christ, talk about self-serving. You can recognize that things that are OK in general, if presented in a genuine context, are manipulative and disingenuous in other contexts, right? Or do we have to move beyond Feminism 101 and into Interpersonal Communication 101?

"No, it seems like what you want is the other way around: Women can complain about men, but men can't complain about complaints. And if they do women should call out the complaints about complaints about the complaints and they're apparently being manipulated. "

That's idiotic and absolutely not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that there are legitimate complaints and illegitimate complaints, and Matlack saying he's being "bashed" is bullshit and manipulative. It takes a dedication to a moronic simplicity to refuse to recognize this context and somehow again turn this into some super-secret power that women have over men. I mean, seriously, Delmoi, what the hell? Is this some personal issue of yours that you're having trouble with and that's why you're still trying to look for some way to weasel this into being about big bad women picking on poor men?

"Beyond that, it just seems like an argument that's got it's head stuck so far up it's own asshole that you're no longer arguing about anything real and thus it's a complete waste of time to even have the argument.

Really, you should be able to replace 'men' and 'women' with X and Y and still have the same 'rules' for what's acceptable in a discussion.
"

No, and that's idiotic again, and you should be bright enough to have realized that before you typed it out. For every inter-group communication, there are different norms than intra-group communication. There are things your friends can say that if a stranger said to you, you'd be really offended. There are things that black people can say about black people that are wicked racist if white people say them. Coming up with some sort of axiomatic swap is so amazingly socially inept that it's really you that's not arguing from real life. It's both a privileged view (coming from normative privilege) and just astoundingly stupid if put into practice. It's exactly the "Why can't white people call black people niggers if black people can call black people niggers it's not fair" bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 AM on December 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


"But when they do, the response they get is -- so commonly that it's become a point of parody -- "oh noes what about teh menz". Or they get told "you're a member of a privileged group, you aren't allowed to complain". Or they get told and accused of much nastier things: sexist, misogynist, rape supporter, etc.

I've watched this type of drama play out enough times in enough different forums that it just makes me sad and exasperated. Which I guess is how someone else feels, too (even if he doesn't happen to be your ideal of a perfect interlocutor), and that makes me feel even more sad and exasperated.
"

Literally the only time I have ever seen that come up — or ever used it myself — is when the discussion is about a woman's issue — for example, the prevalence of sexual assault against women — and men insist on airing their grievances too, especially when they are implying a false equivalency in the concerns.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


My takeaways:

I wish he had written something coherent about the hope for a post-patriarchal male identity. I'd of hoped that this whole project-thing was about that, but I guess not so much.

Given that people will always be assholes, men need a post-patriarchal vision of not only how to be nice, but how to be self-centered jerkwads. Despite my jocular phrasing, I think this is a real problem. Utopian conviviality is not a workable solution, and this incident shows how easy it is for men to immediately seek refuge in patriarchal power in any conflict.
posted by mobunited at 10:46 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lord, this is a lot of bluster. Doesn't it really all boil down to speaking and listening with empathy and kindness?

Look, a basic competency of adulthood is learning to express emotions, especially frustration, in a constructive and civil manner. I expect this of men and women I talk to. If my conversation partner or I are too emotional to maintain basic civility, it's time for a break.

That said, there are some basic biological reasons for the gender differences in the way men and women process each others' anger (read How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. Gender mysteries will fall like scales from your eyes.) When I stay and listen to my obviously frustrated and angry wife instead of withdrawing or deflecting her anger, I am working against my own biology. When she makes an effort to cool down and not use the pointy sharp conversational weapons she wields with terrifying precision, she works to a certain extent against her own biology too. After 24 years of marriage (anniversary in a few weeks) one of the things I am proudest of is that we can argue effectively and still stay on the same team by not being the rawest versions of ourselves, by resisting our biology a little bit.

But that's the stuff of healthy relationships and civil society, this resistance. I work against my biology when I resist temptation, when I refuse to let my reptilian brain take the wheel. I work against my own biology when I look away from that 19-year-old's boobs despite her best efforts to show them to me with her choice of attire. It takes quite a bit of practice but our society gives us many opportunities to hone our skills.

My wife does not want to make me into a woman. She's happy to let me "be a man." But she rightfully expects me to be a gentleman about it. I want my daughters to expect the same thing from their men as well.

Seems that all this snippity squabbling about who can expect what from whom is missing the point. We all should expect more from ourselves.
posted by cross_impact at 11:43 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


why not just stop talking to people and instead dick around with old aircraft parts, alone
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:26 PM on December 22, 2011


Literally the only time I have ever seen that come up — or ever used it myself — is when the discussion is about a woman's issue — for example, the prevalence of sexual assault against women — and men insist on airing their grievances too, especially when they are implying a false equivalency in the concerns.

Read the new NISVS that just came out; the numbers it reports for the past twelve months: There may be a reason why people are saying this is a problem that deserves attention, and that reason may not be what you suspect at first. In the past few years, either the gender gaps for various types of sexual assault and domestic violence have been dramatically shrinking, or a lot of people who previously wouldn't report it suddenly started reporting it.


[*] Disclaimer: the NISVS has been rightly criticized for its strange definition of what counts as rape -- for example, a woman forced to perform oral sex on a man counts as a rape victim for its purposes, but not a man forced to perform oral sex on a woman -- and so the columns directly labeled "rape" don't line up so well and you have to dig a bit.
posted by ubernostrum at 3:03 PM on December 22, 2011


I was genuinely curious about those numbers ubernostrum; I think you may be stretching a bit to find equivalence.

From the executive summary at the start of the full report - nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the US have been raped at some point in their lives. 1 in 21 men reported they were made to penetrate someone else in their lifetime.

In the lifetime table for men, it's 1.58 million estimated victims of rape; in the lifetime table for women it's 21.84 million estimated victims of rape. There are no numbers for the 12 month period for men being raped, whereas it's 1.27 million for women - i.e. almost as many women are raped in a single year as the entire number of men raped over their lifetime*.

For sexual violence other than forcible penetration (sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact sexual experiences) it's 53 million women, or 44.6 - i.e. 1 in 2 women will be subjected to unwanted sexual events/assault in their lives. For men, it's 25 million lifetime sexual violence, or somewhat over 1 in 5.

The breakdowns are dis-similar also; over the 12 month period, 1.1% of all men in one year made to sexually penetrate someone, 1.5% sexual coercion, 2.3% unwanted sexual contact and 2.7% unwanted sexual contact. For women, it's 2.0% sexual coercion, 2.2% unwanted sexual contact and 3.0% non-contact unwanted sexual experience.

*I'll also note that for the lifetime figures for rape for men, 27.8% of those were first completed before the age of 10, vs 12% for women. More than 3/4 of female rapes occur before the age of 25 however.

While rape and sexual assault against children is indeed a serious problem that indeed needs addressing, especially given that it's almost entirely caused by intimate family or acquaintances, I'm not convinced that it is useful to conflate that with rapes commited against adults.

Also; 98% of rapes against women were committed by males; 92.5% of sexual violence other than rape was by males. For males, 93% of rapes were solely male perpetrators; sexual contact was 53% male; non-contact sexual experience was 49% male, and forced to penetrate was 20% male.

When it comes to multiple perpetrators for rape and sexual violence, 16% of women raped had been raped by two different attackers; 12% had been raped by 3 or more different attackers, and 30.8% of women who'd suffered sexual violence had done so from 3 or more attackers. I don't see similar statistics for men.

Look, I'm not trying to downplay or minimise rape, sexual assault or domestic violence against men. It is a problem, and it's far too common. A large part of that is committed by men against other men, or men against boys.

However, the numbers of women subjected to rape, sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence are utterly horrifying, and almost entirely men against women.

To try and draw an equivalence between women attacking men and the numbers of men attacking women is simply false.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:28 PM on December 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hence my disclaimer about the definitions. Like I said, they've been criticized for the fact that it's very hard to figure out what the real picture is, because in many cases gender-equivalent acts were classed as rape if the victim is female but not if the victim is male. This in itself has been a talking point with respect to implied sexism in how we view sex crimes (another very large topic with some worthwhile points to be made).

As for domestic violence... again, worth looking at the data, because historically studies have shown that women are at least as violent as men, and the trend has turned toward more violence. For example, this article discusses a CDCstudy with results that don't fit the traditional narrative (by which I mean "mostly/only men commit domestic violence, mostly/only women are victims"). I don't have a link in front of me, but a similar and slightly more recent study by the University of Florida found essentially the same thing: for America's young (under-30) adults, traditional ideas about which gender commits domestic violence simply no longer hold, and found similar results for stalking, harassment and emotional abuse.

Also, the fact that belief in the traditional narratives is so strongly ingrained at this point that even well-meaning people dismissively refuse to look at the data is one of the reasons why I generally don't get into this debate with people. Yet another sad/exasperated moment.
posted by ubernostrum at 5:20 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, how did this become a discussion about the "good points" MRAs make? Men raped as often as women but no one cares....women as violent as men but no one cares....None of that is even close to any of the topics raised in any of the FPP links but if I were to identify this type of derail as fitting a pattern, you know, "what about the"...no that might be abusive.
posted by Danila at 6:23 PM on December 22, 2011


Any comment on the claim that domestic violence is more prevalent among gay men, ubernostrum?

I'm wondering if there is a rigorous argument that "abuse" must be evenly divided among the sexes, vaguely like Fisher's principle, but for a suitably abstract notion of "abuse" that ignores the difference between violence and emotional abuse (and which might not pertain at all to what individuals perceive as abuse).
posted by jeffburdges at 6:37 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, how did this become a discussion about the "good points" MRAs make?

It was pretty simple, to be honest. A lot of comments were wanting to go on about how men feeling "attacked" by the responses they get for speaking their minds are really just engaging in some sort of sexist characterization designed to demean their female interlocutors.

I left a comment pointing out that, while this may not be the greatest example, the sorts of dismissive (or worse) reactions a lot of sites like GMP get are, well, real, and worth talking about. Then someone replied to me, seemingly implying that such responses are deserved for daring to claim that men face any sorts of problems which can be considered on par with those faced by women.

I did what seemed natural from there. If you'd like to dismiss all of that with a convenient prepackaged stereotype, feel free, since that's your right and as I said in my last comment, I'm being reminded why I don't get into these discussions.
posted by ubernostrum at 10:59 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Then someone replied to me, seemingly implying that such responses are deserved for daring to claim that men face any sorts of problems which can be considered on par with those faced by women."

Actually, that's not at all what happened. I said that the only time I've seen the "whut abut menz" is when the context is something happening to women and men bringing up a false equivalency.

Then you commented with pretty much a textbook "what about the men" comment, in that this issue has absolutely zero to do with the prevalence of male victims of sexual abuse. You then pretended that was what the broader discussion was about, did not bother to engage in the conversation that led us there, and wanted to further derail about the semantics in national surveys.

To cap that off with misrepresenting what I said — using loaded language like "daring to claim" and "any sorts of problems" — in order to somehow buttress the underlying complaint about male derailment, which you brought up, is pretty ballsy (if you'll pardon the metaphor).

And that's leaving aside the (intentional?) conflation you make between the very clear and factual statement that quantitatively men don't deal with sexual abuse on the scale that women do with the qualitative equivalency you want to draw, where the effects are often just as bad.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 PM on December 22, 2011


Here is the comment that started it all. Pretty simple, on its face, pointing out that there may actually be a pattern of behavior worth discussing. That was what set the whole thing in motion.

What I did not anticipate was that it would happen right here, too, and that was my fault. I'm going to go be quietly sad and exasperated now, and then sleep and have a holiday.
posted by ubernostrum at 12:18 AM on December 23, 2011


"Here is the comment that started it all. Pretty simple, on its face, pointing out that there may actually be a pattern of behavior worth discussing. That was what set the whole thing in motion."

Uh, that was a reply to my comment, so it can't really be what started it all.

And no, it was a comment that brought in irrelevant — non sequitor — complaints over men's issues under the rubric that because they're important and should be discussed, any tangential connection makes them appropriate to discuss.

What I did not anticipate was that it would happen right here, too, and that was my fault. I'm going to go be quietly sad and exasperated now, and then sleep and have a holiday.

I don't understand what you mean to write here — what, exactly, do you think is happening here? Your points are irrelevant not because men's issues are unimportant qualitatively, but rather that they're afield from discussing what happened in the beginning exchange. And they're further frustrating because you seem to think that it's your interlocutors' fault that your arguments are incoherent.
posted by klangklangston at 1:03 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


'Whut about the menz' is a handy way to describe how any thread about women, women's issues, or violence against women will end up being a discussion about how it discriminates against non-rapist men, usually shortly followed by a further derail about how men also have sexual violence committed against them and are more likely to be victims of non-sexual assault.

And yes, that is true, but that wasn't what the thread was about. It happens in EVERY thread about women. All of them. It's exasperating, and I'm a bloke. This is because women don't really talk about it to men, because there is this real and common truth that when women do try and talk about what they have personally experienced in mixed company, they either get dismissed, belittled or ignored, and many men always want to talk about what men in general have to face.


(I don't consider that this thread to be one of them per-se, as it was actually about how men perceive feminists in the first place, so it was pretty much a mixed thread from the get go)

No-one would mind a man sharing his own experience of sexual assault in a thread where women are sharing their panful and personal stories with us; when I have seen it, people have been universally supportive. But that's not what happens; women tell us about things that happened to them directly, and some man always leaps in to 'counter' that with general stats about assault against men in some weird kind of attempt to find balance, or talk about the forgotten men or somesuch. It's weird and frustrating, because as a hopefully decent man, I don't get to hear from women much about their side of the story. Because others of my gender shut them down every time they try and talk about it.


Also, the fact that belief in the traditional narratives is so strongly ingrained at this point that even well-meaning people dismissively refuse to look at the data is one of the reasons why I generally don't get into this debate with people.


I spent two hours last night reading the statistics you alluded to, so I'm not going to accept that I reflexively dismissed it. I understand the point you're trying to make - that sexual assault against men is more common than generally believed - and I agree with it. I do disagree though that penetrative assault is not different from other types of assault though. Speaking as a man, I'd rather be forced to give a handjob rather than a blowjob or take it from behind. There's a particular horror of having your body integrity violated by force whether man or woman, and it's almost universally commited by men, regardless of the gender of the victim.

I understand that you're arguing in good faith here, and do agree with you on many points. However I think you're wrong if you're saying that men, in general, suffer anything like the same level of sexual assault as women; the numbers simply don't support it. That is even more true when you narrow it down to sexual violence committed by women against men, vs men against women. Roughly 50% of the sexual assaults against men reported were by other men, and a significant percentage where when the men were children, whereas women suffer the same experiences well into adulthood.

There is also the issue of under-reporting. From previous threads, it's clear that shame, fear of being accused of being complicit in their own assault and simple experience of not being believed when trying to talk about their own assaults means women drastically under-report what they experience. In addition, many incidences of really nasty behaviour is not even worth reporting because it is simply so common for women to experience.

From other threads, where women talk about what they've discussed amonst themselves, I think a figure of 1 in 5 women being raped is far too low. If you included non-penetrative serious sexual assault, I think again /that 1 in 2 is far too low.

Women's experiences of sexual violence are quantitively different, whether you look at the official statistics, or just listen to what they tell us in the rare spaces they're given to do so before being shut down for fear of hurting the feelings of men.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:07 AM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am working against my own biology

I assume by this you mean "instinct"?

The problem with this is the broadly general range of behaviour provided by these instincts. for example we both are pre-wired to notice child cries, but also have a natural capacity for infanticide. We have the capacity to punch out someone, but also to curl in a small ball crying.

My biology gave me some things, such as the ability to pick up language by osmosis or a sucking reflex. One the other hand my upbringing was one where people smiled and made eye contact with me significantly more than an equivalent infant male, while assuming less physical competence, even before sex differences asserted themselves. Nothing in my biology gave me a wardrobe of clothing designed to fall apart under hard play or piles of nurturing toys. Whether I'm a baby eater or a baby soother, a selfish douche or a gullible sucker is a bit more than biology, and I'm more than just my gender's stereotype.
posted by Phalene at 7:36 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just a few links for people, this effect is pretty well-established in the literature and it's pretty easy to find stuff through Google Scholar if you want more. The last one may be my favorite.

Sex and Aggression: The Influence of Gender Label on the Perception of Aggression in Children

Evaluations of Aggressive Women: The Effects of Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Level of Aggression

Players’ Gender and Male Referees’ Decisions About Aggression in French Soccer: A Preliminary Study
posted by lillygog at 12:25 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, typing too fast: by "this effect" I meant that the perception of appropriate levels of aggression is often highly influenced by gender.
posted by lillygog at 12:29 PM on December 23, 2011


Now, see, when you're looking for ridiculous nonsense, what you're writing here is it. To use a more extreme example for the sake of clarity, it's like complaining that white people can't call black people "nigger" and still expect to be treated like they're having a reasonable discussion. That's a "one-direction" restriction, but it exists for a pretty good reason and complaining about it, as a white person, is generally evidence of unexamined privilege. The analogy isn't exact, but it's similar enough.
No, it's easy to generalize that rule. You simply say that you're not allowed to use racial slurs that apply to your opponents but not yourself.

Are you really saying that a man claiming to have had his feelings hurt by a woman is as offensive to women as a white person calling a black person the n-word?

the argument actually reminds me of when people who make racist comments gets outraged if they're called out. In their mind, you being offended by them is somehow a greater offense then whatever it is they said. It's a pretty common thing for people to claim, and of course, it's absurd in that case too.

It has the same structure:

X makes comment Y
Y says they're offended/feel attacked
X is outraged that he would claim to be offended/attacked.

So yeah, basically I disagree with this. Any rules you want to lay down for debate should be generalized. Otherwise, why would the other side want to get involved in a discussion at all? If they feel the discussion itself is unfair, they'll just write you off.

Of course, it's not like you really need to discuss things with people you don't like. I don't have any real interest in 'debating' racists. So, if someone is freely using the N-Word, I'm not going to actually try having a real discussion with him. In my mind, such a person just doesn't matter in the real world anymore. They're not worth my time or anyone else.

So, if people only want to have discussions with people who will never get offended or feel attacked by what they say, obviously they can do that, and probably have fun or blow of steam or whatever.

So I guess what matters is the end goal people are trying to achieve.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 PM on December 23, 2011


"Are you really saying that a man claiming to have had his feelings hurt by a woman is as offensive to women as a white person calling a black person the n-word?"

My good Christ, when I say "To use a more extreme example for the sake of clarity," which you quoted, I expect you to be able to comprehend that. I mean, with "the argument actually reminds me of when people who make racist comments gets outraged if they're called out. In their mind, you being offended by them is somehow a greater offense then whatever it is they said. It's a pretty common thing for people to claim, and of course, it's absurd in that case too," are you saying that complaining about manipulative rhetorical techniques is the same as being defensive about racist comments?

"It has the same structure:

X makes comment Y
Y says they're offended/feel attacked
X is outraged that he would claim to be offended/attacked.
"

Why, if only we had a way to evaluate premises so that we weren't bound by syllogistic fallacies!

Socrates died.
All cats die.
Socrates is a cat!

Couldn't we say that there are times when people are legitimately offended over the way they've been attacked as well as times when that "offense" is really just defensiveness and disingenuousness? If we can say that there are two different events which both fit that structure you laid out (ignoring the "outraged" bullshit, where you're trying to load the terms again), then we can say that comparing the two purely on the superficial similarity is simplistic and unproductive.

"So yeah, basically I disagree with this. Any rules you want to lay down for debate should be generalized. Otherwise, why would the other side want to get involved in a discussion at all? If they feel the discussion itself is unfair, they'll just write you off. "

Fine, though I think this is idiotic legalism. You're not allowed to use any rhetorical techniques that, due to socialization, disproportionately impact one gender over another.

Further, that has nothing to do with whether or not people feel the discussion is fair, nor whether that subjective feeling is a good proxy for whether the conversation is fair, nor whether people will continue to engage in an unfair discussion (depends on the stakes).

"Of course, it's not like you really need to discuss things with people you don't like. I don't have any real interest in 'debating' racists. So, if someone is freely using the N-Word, I'm not going to actually try having a real discussion with him. In my mind, such a person just doesn't matter in the real world anymore. They're not worth my time or anyone else. "

That's probably because it's rare that you run into an open racist who has power over you. Sexism's a lot more prevalent, and a lot more likely to involve a power differential. Further, whether or not you personally would continue talking isn't a good guide for conversations in general.
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 PM on December 23, 2011


My good Christ, when I say "To use a more extreme example for the sake of clarity," which you quoted, I expect you to be able to comprehend that.
It's not 'clarity', it's just shock value. And either way the two are not structurally equivalent because one can be expressed as a general rule.
Why, if only we had a way to evaluate premises so that we weren't bound by syllogistic fallacies!

Socrates died/All cats die/Socrates is a cat!
Huh? Did you think I was trying to write a logical syllogism? Because I obviously wasn't. If you're trying to argue that your little syllogism is somehow isomorphic to what I said by mapping 'dead' to 'has this structure' and the two groups to Socrates and a cat then you're mistaken. I never claimed that the two were identical, or that one was a subset of the other. The point is that they are similar, in the same way cats and humans are similar in that they are both mammals.

Logically, two things that are 99.9999% similar are no more 'the same' then two things that share nothing in common. But it would be a misuse of logic to somehow try to claim that 'not identical' different from 'not similar'
Couldn't we say that there are times when people are legitimately offended over the way they've been attacked as well as times when that "offense" is really just defensiveness and disingenuousness?
Are you saying that you think people are actually lying about feeling offended? Like that they feel fine and are just claiming they're offended in order to manipulate people?

I don't believe that. And in my view 'offense' is an emotion. If you think someone is incorrect of feel offended, you can trying explain why they should not be, why they have nothing to worry about, whatever. But simply raging about it won't actually accomplish anything at all.

It seems like your view is that some kinds of offense are 'legitimate' and others are not, so you could generalize the rule to 'don't say you are offended if your offense is not legitimate'.

(I dont doubt that racists really do feel offended when people point out that they are offensive, I just think they're idiots.)
Further, that has nothing to do with whether or not people feel the discussion is fair, nor whether that subjective feeling is a good proxy for whether the conversation is fair, nor whether people will continue to engage in an unfair discussion (depends on the stakes).
Yeah, I think this is ridiculous. Furthermore, it actually seems really sexist to me.

So, let me ask you a question. Are there rhetorical techniques that disproportionately affect men? If so, what are they?

Because, if there are no techniques that affect men more then women, then you would have to be saying that women are actually intellectually weaker.
whether or not you personally would continue talking isn't a good guide for conversations in general.
Well, what is the point of these conversations? Is there some goal or is it just people arguing because they like arguing? If it's the latter then you do get to pick who you talk too. If it's someone you have to talk too, and there's some goal you want to achieve, then you can't set down any ground rules they don't agree too.

I agree sexism is more common, but I don't think that men saying they are offended by what women say is an intentional lie calculated to manipulate people, and telling anyone they are having the 'wrong' emotional response is just going to piss them off.
posted by delmoi at 10:48 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


waraw: "the cultural presumption is that he has no need to physically fear a woman

I've been to roller derby, I know better.
"

My favorite, Gefilte Fists.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:09 AM on December 27, 2011


delmoi: "Here's the problem with that logic, in my mind. It sounds like you're putting a restriction on what men are 'allowed' to say when discussing gender. But I don't see any restrictions on what women are allowed to say in response. It's a one-directional restriction."

I don't see that. I mean, clearly there are restrictions on what women are allowed to say, in the sense that as soon as they say something unpalatable it seems that many people will start making the discussion about them or the way they're making their statement, rather than on the content of their arguments.

If I said something, and it upset some women, and they responded to it in a way that seemed forceful to me, and I said something like, "Look, I realize you have this issue with what I've said. I also feel like maybe this conversation could go better." that's miles better than what happened here.

Basically I think that the ideal response is to recognize their points, make it clear you understand what they are, and then, if really necessary, you can talk about tone. But don't make it about tone first, and try not to think you're being attacked. It isn't easy; I fall into defensive mode all the time myself.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:24 AM on December 27, 2011


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