Shut The Fuck Up
December 5, 2001 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Shut The Fuck Up is an "open letter to men in the movement" written by activist Dan Spalding about the sexist behavior of men in left-leaning groups. They say "When the left forms a firing squad they form it in a circle," but I think this is nurturing constructive criticism, a far cry from the venom that often accompanies such discourse.
posted by djacobs (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Looks like Dan is trying to get laid.

posted by malphigian at 9:58 AM on December 5, 2001

And yet, after figuring all of this out, Mr. Spalding takes the typical male role of speaking first and loudest about it. Does anyone else see a little bit of hypocrisy here?
posted by phalkin at 10:05 AM on December 5, 2001

Maybe just a wee bit, phalkin. I think the point he was trying to make is that men wouldn't -- and generally don't -- take that kind of criticism from women. If the challenge to change comes from a man (another authority figure), other men are more likely to sit up and listen.

At least, that's what I got from the essay.
posted by likorish at 10:20 AM on December 5, 2001

Speaking "first and loudest" via HTML? First of all, I don't think he's the "first" man to write about sexism. Look up Men Against Sexism or Men Can Stop Rape. As for "loudest," I posted it - not him, so how is that loud?

I definitely think it's the responsibility of oppressive communities to police and improve themselves, and I think this a great example of that. I exhibited a TON of sexist behavior when I was a "college activist," and if someone had handed me that document before my first year, college would have been a lot better for a lot of people.
posted by djacobs at 10:20 AM on December 5, 2001

...a far cry from the venom that often accompanies such discourse

"Shut the Fuck Up" != venom? Nurturing? I'm curious to see the kinds of words that accompany the venomous discourses. I'll shut the fuck up now.
posted by gazingus at 10:38 AM on December 5, 2001

This guy is a simpering, self-hating pussy. Not only is he not following his own advice, and not only does he refuse to acknowledge the differences in how men and women interact with people, but there are plenty of females who exhibit all the same flaws he's talking about, or the female equivalents thereof. This guy has the character of a piece of dust. I wish I could spit in his no-doubt jittery, wincing, faux-sensitive face.
posted by bingo at 10:40 AM on December 5, 2001

Looks like Dan is trying to get laid.

This reminds me of a story an old friend told me of his 60s daze on a lefty commune. The leader was this good looking, charismatic and heavy handed guy who eventually got busted by all the women on premises for his sexist pig ways. They all kept creeping into his tent every night after that marathon criticism/self-criticism session, anyway. Human nature, go figure...
posted by y2karl at 10:40 AM on December 5, 2001

Perhaqps he ought to stop going to meetings and become an anarchist, ie, Henry D. Thoreau. Men talk more than women in college classes too. What we do in my house: we have what is called a Talking Stick. (a piece of wood). When you want to talk, you reach for the stick and hold it aloft. All others remain silent till you finish. The next person wanting to speak picks it up etc. Trouble: my wife says: I will decide who gets the stick and when. I hit her with it when I grab for it.
posted by Postroad at 10:45 AM on December 5, 2001

I don't get equating respect for women and the sharing of responsibility and authority with self-hatred? And bingo, be advised that slurs like 'pussy' are unwelcome.
posted by sudama at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2001

I can't speak for the corporate world, since I've never had a 'real world' job or meetings, but I didn't really find much of this to be true. In all the meetings I've had, the people who need to "Shut the Fuck Up" are the loud obnoxious ones who don't have anything to add to the conversation, and just want to hear themselves talk. Especially in class discussion sections. There are men and women like that, and I don't find it specific to men at all.
posted by gramcracker at 10:55 AM on December 5, 2001

the differences in how men and women interact with people

What are these differences? Where do they come from? Can they not be resisted?
posted by rodii at 11:08 AM on December 5, 2001

(And then there's the leftist guy who tells a woman to "shut the fuck up".)
posted by mw at 11:13 AM on December 5, 2001

Rodii, I think they can be resisted, and one way is by articles like this that point them out.

Gramcracker, I have worked in academic, non-profit and corporate environments, and although I've known outspoken women, I definitely think the behavior described by Dan is much more typical of men.
posted by djacobs at 11:15 AM on December 5, 2001

I really don't buy this sort of thing anymore. Spalding is half right in that one should stick to process, but telling people to be silent is counter-productive in a supposedly democratic environment. People should be told to be assertive, not to shut up.
posted by tranquileye at 11:22 AM on December 5, 2001

I don't get equating respect for women and the sharing of responsibility and authority with self-hatred? And bingo, be advised that slurs like 'pussy' are unwelcome.

Sorry if I offended anyone; I just couldn't think of a more accurate description. Also, it's not a random word I plucked from the ether to hurt someone's feelings; I think it has direct relevance to the topic. Are we not allowed to say that on MeFi?

I don't think that his rant is really about respect for women and the sharing of responsibility and authority. It's about a man trying really, really hard to convince himself and others that he isn't really a man. The truth is that he is trying to weasel himself into an exception for a broad anti-male movement that is no doubt doing much more damage to the Left, and to society in general, than simps like himself are doing to activist meetings. This insidious and dangerous movement uses self-flagellating weasels like this guy to further its cause. It would be flattering this guy to even call him a pseudo-intellectual. He's nothing. It sickens me to know he's out there.
posted by bingo at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2001

Rodii, I think they can be resisted, and one way is by articles like this that point them out.

I agree. I'm taking issue with the essentialist "men are different from women, and that's that" idea that's floated from time to time.
posted by rodii at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2001

In my mind, I see John Cleese trying to run a meeting of the People's Front of Judaea.
posted by gimonca at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2001

Rodii, I think they can be resisted, and one way is by articles like this that point them out.

I agree that they probably can be resisted, but I'm not sure that they should.

I'm taking issue with the essentialist "men are different from women, and that's that" idea that's floated from time to time.

ummm. men ARE different from women.
posted by jbelshaw at 11:38 AM on December 5, 2001

Having been through twenty years of the whole tedious leftist meeting thing, my advice is this: Get out of the left. There are several reasons why everything that takes place at a leftist meetings is eventually annoying. First, the left attracts people who are bossy and self-righteous to begin with. Second, the issues that are being dealt with are inherently fatuous, or at least being addressed with fatuous solutions. Third, everyone at the meeting is enveloped in the leftist pipe dream; there is no touchstone of reality, no measure of success, no reason for gathering than for the expression of ego and the demonstration of one's goodness in the exercise of idealism.
This essay is a classic example of the traditional strategy of outflanking one's one's intramural radical opponent on the left. This man is annoyed by a lot of big mouths at his radical meeting, but he can't attack them for simply being assholes (which they probably are). So he attacks them for being insufficiently feminist, i.e., not as feminist as he himself is. If you're a leftist, there is no answer for this, except self-condemnation. The whole history of the left is this endless circle of recrimination, self-recrimination, accusation and counter accusation. It's an unwholesome psychological morass. I would suggest these people go home, hug their families, start a business, sell antiques over ebay, watch wrestling, do something simple, acquisitive and wholesome, and get off of the leftist wheel of strife.
posted by Faze at 11:49 AM on December 5, 2001

The essay has some good points, most of which have been hashed over ad nauseum in the activist groups I've been a part of. Different groups and issues require different ground rules. Many activist groups specifically have women-only meetings, which I personally find as insulting to women as slow-pitch softball.

In my experience, women, especially lefty women, can be as domineering and shrill as any man, depending on the makeup of a given group, plus many lefty women have that added "the world owes me something because I'm so oppressed" thing going, which is just pathetic when it comes from a middle-class American women.

Overall, it is better to listen hard and speak carefully; I learned this from "The Godfather."

Postroad, please don't insult Thoreau by implying that he was an anarchist.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:51 AM on December 5, 2001

I'm not saying "men are different from women, and that's that." But this guy, Dan Spalding, is at the other end of the spectrum, effectively saying "Men are inferior to women. What are we few, enlightened, self-aware bad men going to do about it?"

Spalding creates a paradox (one he more or less acknowledges at the end) by using the same "shut the fuck up" strategy that he's trying to condemn. In other words, he feels trapped by the constraints of his counter-productive masculinity. I weep buckets for him.

Spaldings refusal/inability to step outside the very methods he condemns suggests to me that, as much as he dislikes men and loves women, he really hasn't tried to understand more feminine modes of interaction at all. And this presents a problem, both because he limits his own ability to solve the problem he's concerned about, and because it suggests that he has made no effort (or is unable) to ascertain the ways that a woman can be disruptive to a meeting without acting like a man.

Women, in general, are more indirect than men. In general, women are "assertive" rather than "agressive." I am not complaining about these feminine tendencies. In fact, I like them. What I'm saying is that women, just like men, have the ability to dominate a meeting unfairly. In fact, to say otherwise is to say that women are weaker creatures who need protective males like Spalding to make sure they get their say.

When a group of people meet, some of them may try to dominate the interaction in ways that are not productive. Men can do it, and so can women. The male methods of disruption are implicitly more obvious, but that doesn't mean they are the only ones to be concerned about, and it certainly doesn't mean that masculinity itself is a significant problem...which is, I maintain, largely what this essayist is trying to say.
posted by bingo at 11:59 AM on December 5, 2001

Um... what Faze said.

Spalding mislables as sexism the annoying, dominating, self-righteous behaviors that are exhibited by many humans (regardless of sex, age, income, blah, blah) in any number of different social settings. I went to a women's college, and there were a few women in the club I led who would do all the things Spalding speaks of.

The role of a good leader (or group of leaders) is to monitor and control those behaviors in him or herself and others so that the group doesn't disintegrate into a resentful, catty, and ultimately inefficient organization.
posted by tlong at 12:10 PM on December 5, 2001

Roberts Rules of Order.

That should solve most of the problem.
posted by bunnyfire at 12:13 PM on December 5, 2001

It's funny how an essay like this about bad habits can broadly target "men" as the culprit's... but no similar essay about generic flaws in "women" would be given any credence.

As always, most activism shows itself not to be FOR anything - but simply a rally against white males who happen to be successful.

If you say it about a woman, you're scum - if you bash a white male then your pointing out cultural reality.

Umm... bulls**t
posted by soulhuntre at 12:17 PM on December 5, 2001

If you say it about a woman, you're scum - if you bash a white male then your pointing out cultural reality.

Umm... bulls**t

Shrug: insert random group of choice here. Women bash each other all the time (think: Camille Paglia and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese on feminists, Daphne Patai on women's studies groupthink, etc., etc., etc.). Anyone who criticizes the Roman Catholic Church and isn't Catholic is anti-Catholic; anyone who criticizes Jews and/or Israelis and isn't Jewish is anti-Semitic; etc., etc., ad nauseam, yawn.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:22 PM on December 5, 2001

ummm. men ARE different from women.

On a gross anatomical level, no doubt. But psychologically, the differences within the population of men (or women) swamp the differences between the two populations. If you have any evidence besides anecdotal, I'd love to hear it. Conventional wisdom doesn't count. (Yes, I'm aware of studies that have show minor differences in brain development--remember the point about populations above.)
posted by rodii at 12:26 PM on December 5, 2001

Roberts Rules of Order.
That should solve most of the problem.

While creating the entirely different problems that
(a) you spend all your time doing useless busywork, and
(b) nobody knows what the fuck is going on.
posted by rodii at 12:29 PM on December 5, 2001

I second bunnyfire's motion.
posted by mrbula at 12:35 PM on December 5, 2001

posted by rusty at 12:38 PM on December 5, 2001

ummm. men ARE different from women.
Well, that was vague. Examples, please?
posted by holloway at 12:43 PM on December 5, 2001

when I was a teenager, the citywide Youth Council i was a member of used it.

We are talking teenagers here-so I think adults could get the hang of it......
posted by bunnyfire at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2001

The radical movements have always been plagued by people who were attracted to it because they wanted to be some sort of demagogue. These people are often, but not always, men. I find that women and men frequently behave differently in mixed-gender group situations, but that neither side would be though of as acting "badly" if they were in a same-sex grouping doing the same things. It's being able to adapt to your community which is important in terms of not being seen as a jerk, male or female. A few other good essays on being a chick in what is often thought of as a macho movement:

Make Your Own Tea: Women's Realm and other Recipes and Patterns
What it is to Be a Girl in an Anarchist Boy's Club

> please don't insult Thoreau by implying that he was an anarchist

Many radical thinkers believe that he was, not because we'd like him to be our patron saint, but because of some of the things he wrote about. This was true as far back at the twenties.

"Thoreau, who is an important voice in the canon of American political thought, 'was an anarchist in that he believed in the sovereignty of the individual and voluntary cooperation,' writes Schuster....She then presents us with the quote from Thoreau that 'government is best which governs not at all. And when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.'"

The quotation she is referring to is this one: "I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow men. "

So, um, please don't insult anarchists by implying that he was not.
posted by jessamyn at 1:09 PM on December 5, 2001

Thoreau was not an anarchist. He was Thoreau. You, too, Jessamyn: Be yourself.
posted by Faze at 1:21 PM on December 5, 2001

I call the question.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:44 PM on December 5, 2001

I work for a gang of corporate thugs downtown. Our office is 90% women. I am the only man within 100 yards of my desk. My bosses are women, the other department heads are women, my assistant is a woman. Some are great, some are not. Most of our meetings are crap, some are not. But this guy is dead wrong if he thinks that women are incapable of being just as tough, rigid, assholey or obstructive as men - or that they are incapable of being just as efficient, effective, smart and aggressive as men. Or that men can't be passive, quiet, or pushed around.

That said, in a general sense, I believe women managers try to build consensus more often than men, where male managers are more comfortable with a top-down, I-give-orders-you-carry-them-out style. It is not the rule; it is a general observation, and there are numerous exceptions and variations on the spectrum, even within a single manager.

This Dan guy sounds like he needs to shut the fuck up once in a while. I'd also LOVE to see him say "hey, shut the fuck up!" to his boss or a coworker during a meeting. Barring wisecracks, I generally only speak when I have something to add. If he told me to shut the fuck up, I'd have one of my pals from IT delete his fucking Favorites and replace them with a selection of the foulest porn sites I could dig up. Then I'd drop an anonymous tip on Legal. Then I'd sit back and watch the fireworks.

But hey, that's just me, I'm the passive-aggressive type :)
posted by UncleFes at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2001

Point of order! I thought this was Spalding Gray. Who the fuck is Dan Spalding?

(Yes, men capitalizing on discussions in consensus-based environments is, by far, the biggest waste of time in them. We had to institute the 2-minute rule. No one gets to jaw for longer than two minutes, as time dwindles, no one gets to talk for longer than 30 seconds.)

Thoreau was a naturalist and an anarchist (i.e. old hippie). Faze is a post-structural individualist.
posted by raaka at 4:02 PM on December 5, 2001

---"So, um, please don't insult anarchists by implying that he (Thoreau) was not."

I'm not trying to insult anarchists, I'm just saying Thoreau would probably have found them all boorish, sanctimonious, smelly, and poorly dressed.

It's tempting, however innapropriate, to project current understandings and categories onto historical figures we admire. Anyone familiar with Thoreau's work should know that he would strenuously reject any such categorization.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:09 PM on December 5, 2001

Anyone familiar with Thoreau's work should know that he would strenuously reject any such categorization.

This is an illustration of speaking with too much authority, one of the conversational methods he is seeking to minimize, right?
posted by modofo at 4:23 PM on December 5, 2001

Why anyone would want to fight over Thoreau is beyond me.

</male authoritative voice>
posted by solistrato at 4:33 PM on December 5, 2001

I remember going to some basement show/ punk rock house party when I was in highschool. Nearby, a conversation was going on about several accusations of rape that had been leveled at a guy who'd recently moved out of town. One woman in the group of self proclaimed 'riot grrrls' started shouting loudly about how any man who has been accused of rape is automatically guitly, because no woman would ever be capable of making a false accusation, and that the accusation should be enough to put a man in prison without a chance to defend himself. When I questioned her theory, politely at first, she became agitated and pedantic, saying that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was a man. When I explained that a girl who I met and kissed only once in my entire life began spreading rumors that I'd locked her in my car and groped her, so I did know, the woman all but called me a rapist or potential rapist, berating me so badly that it was all I could do not to start sobbing on the spot.
I wish that I could say that this was an isolated incident, but my involvement in various leftist groups and "radical" circles over the years exposed me to so many confused, frightened, and guilt ridden men. Its like Stockholm Syndrome, men on the left endure a constant barrage of spite and rage, endless diatribes on how the facts of anatomy and biology predisposed men to every manner of brutality and atrocity, that masculinity was a disease to be purged constantly, that any man who refused to apologize for his basic nature was the embodiment of oppresion. For all of the anarchist lip service about liberation, freedom, self-expression and self-realization, and the eventual end of all internal and external systems that serve to erode human strength and will, it seems that many would be 'radicals' are preaching the same old bullshit: the elevation of some at the expense of others.
I finally realized that accepting myself and my basic nature unconditionally was more important than living in fear of being labeled as a rapist or a misogynist. The insults of the radical chic jetset are infinitely less hurtful than self-hatred or self-denial.
posted by hipstertrash at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2001

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