Benjamin2004-07-05
Rant

The issue of privilege has a long history in the field of civil struggle. For example, the activist community was split in the early 1800's over whether the suffragist movement could coexist with the anti-slavery movement. Everyone involved knew that women were being treated as second-class citizens, but did they really have the right to complain about it while others were still enslaved? Wouldn't a secondary campaign for women's rights take away support for the abolitionists?

Sojourner Truth, having lived her early life as a slave, ultimately decided that the rights of women -- of all ethnicities -- were too important to be put on a back burner. This lead to a series of disagreements with Fredick Douglas and to Truth largely dropping out of the abolitionist movement. Her point, though, is valid. True, male slaves in the 1800's were treated much worse than free women, but even still free women were not receiving their due.

This is something I've been thinking about, from time to time, as a man and a feminist. Is it possible to fight for women's rights while, at the same time, standing up for my own chosen gender? This was brought to mind yesterday by a sticker that my friend had on her car: 'Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them.'.



I thought nothing of it. Then I thought about thinking nothing of it. Would I have been so cavalier if my male friend had a 'Hit women with clubs' sticker? And there's a whole bunch of anti-male propaganda if you look for it, usually cutsified in a little-girl lisp: 'Boys Suck' or 'Boys Lie'. Make bigotry as cute as you want, I'll still be offended.

If I notice, that is. I'm so conditioned to respond to misogyny (that's a good condition to have) that I instinctively turn a blind eye to... well, we don't even have a word for it. That says something right there. Misandrony, perhaps?

I've also noticed a reluctance to speak up when my friends make offensive statements. I notice that I'm very defensive about my cooking because of the number of times I've heard that, as a man, I can't cook. Unless it's over a grill. And these are sensitive, intelligent people who say this. People that would leap to their feet if they heard someone say that a woman couldn't drive, ready to fight.

Moreover, don't they realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot? How can you say 'Boys just can't cook.' without also saying that 'Girls all know how to cook?'.

I'm in love with a woman, and she suffers from many of these same prejudices. Often she can recognize them, and sometimes even laugh at them. Sometimes, she takes them as truth, and that can really hurt. Hey, I know that no one will pay me a lower salary because I'm a man, nor will anyone whistle at me when I cross the street, or expect me to fail at sports. I'm privileged, it's true. That doesn't mean that I don't want to be treated fairly, too.

Well, that's it for tonight. I promise to be more active in asserting myself and starting dialogue whenever my chosen gender is demeaned. As a member of a dominant class I feel petty for insisting, but as a champion of equality perhaps it is my duty to do so. --
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