Punching Down, Feminism, Men and Reinforcing Masculine Gender Norms

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Post by Mel on Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:38 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:
So you not saying those things is not an option you like*, and me constantly plugging my ears is not an option I like, but presumably neither of us is particularly thrilled that the outcome otherwise is that we all just keep taking our lumps when we're already covered in 'em.

I tend to think of it as, the "lumps" relating to any given issue should be distributed based on who (individually when a private issue between individuals and across groups when a societal issue) experiences the most and the most damaging harm from their respective lumps. For example, I think most of us can agree that women being sexually harassed at work is more damaging to them on average than guys feeling nervous about talking to women because of sexual harassment education is damaging to them (both based on percentage of the group likely to be affected and by the average severity of the harm done). On the flip side, I live near a halfway home for former non-violent male inmates. Sometimes I feel a little nervous passing the place when some of the men are hanging out by the front door. I would rather not feel nervous when walkin around my neighborhood. But I recognize that refusing to help inmates reintegrate into society would be a lot more harmful to them than their presence and occasional odd but not overly imposing behavior harms me.

And I don't actually feel bothered by having those "lumps", most of the time, because knowing I live in a society that is attempting to do right by those men feels better to me than never feeling nervous (except on the occasional especially bad day when I keep such feelings to myself Razz ).

This of course isn't an all or nothing thing--I think the balance of harm in gender issues makes it reasonable, for example, to say to feminists, "Can you please not use language that directly perpetuates problematic male stereotypes, like 'Man up'?" while accepting to interpret non-direct language as non-problematic unless there's some other direct reason to do so. It would be reasonable for me to ask that the former inmates receive closer supervision or some such if they started verbally harassing me when I walk by.

I also think it depends on who's doing the talking. I think it's reasonable to be more critical of how men talk about women's issues (i.e., gender issues that primarily hurt women) than how women talk about women's issues, because the men aren't directly affected (at least, not as much) and so don't face as much harm if they're restricted from expressing themselves as freely. (Not sure if I've explained that properly... I mainly mean that the people who are hurting benefit from being able to vent to some extent without being expected to cater to others' needs, which doesn't apply to men speaking up for women.)

I'm curious: do you not find that having it explained to you why certain dialogues aren't actually implying what you perceived alleviates those "lumps" to some extent? I've generally found I'm less bothered by things that gave me a kneejerk defensive reaction once they're better explained to me, and better able to perceive them as non-harmful in future.
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Wed Jan 14, 2015 5:38 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:This may be less relevant to the topic than I think, but...

Yesterday I stayed completely away from dating advice related stuff. For some reason that was the first time in a long while I consciously decided to go twenty-four full hours without reading anything about how everybody likes different things, mental health issues are supposedly more malleable or minds are more resilient as opposed to "physical" problems (seems like a silly argument to Rational Me given that our mental state is as physical as anything else in the body given that it influences and is influenced by various configurations of chemicals and electrons), that so-and-so thought he was bad with women until he tried asking people out, and so on and so forth.

I don't think I would say that I feel or felt better. But I did notice that I didn't feel like I felt worse. (If that sounds vague, then my point is getting across, because I am incredibly uncertain how to compare my mental state "now" vs. my mental state any length of time in the past.)

And maybe part of that is that even though I disconnected for a (very) short time, obviously a lot of things still stuck with me, and I could not stop myself from occasionally pondering things.


I think that's very relevant given that the OP specifically said he is receiving most of these messages from the internet. To me, the post reads as being not so much about gender messages,their content, and delivery but how those things leave the poster feeling personally.

Is there something specific about the internet that makes these messages different? Do we communicate differently online? Many people talk differently on line than they do in real life--is it possible we also HEAR things differently? What causes us to react so strongly to people we can't hear or see or know anything about their lives or in many cases even put a name to? How realistic is it to expect the Internet to accommodate our personal feelings/standards/needs and what do we do when it doesn't? Why do we keep coming back to reading and/or posting on sites/Twitter feeds that leave us feeling ambivalent, angry, frustrated, hopeless or dissatisfied?

These aren't rhetorical questions. I'd love to hear thoughts and experiences.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Jan 14, 2015 5:48 pm

Mel wrote:I'm curious: do you not find that having it explained to you why certain dialogues aren't actually implying what you perceived alleviates those "lumps" to some extent? I've generally found I'm less bothered by things that gave me a kneejerk defensive reaction once they're better explained to me, and better able to perceive them as non-harmful in future.

It depends very heavily on what the thing is. I don't entirely trust my own judgment, especially when it comes to self-assessments; it is often difficult for me to defend myself against myself when I am exploring my own memories, personality traits, etc. It is similar to the issue I have heard women cite when clueless men ask them to clarify why they sensed a person was "creepy". Human memories include what we thought and what we felt; they do not necessarily contain perfect facts. But we are the only ones who might know enough to advocate for ourselves. It is always an awkward position to be in.

If I may, I would like to particularly highlight the two specific troublesome messages I mentioned earlier:

Women are individuals, each with their own preferences. This means the range of "things women like" is broad and diverse.
This is, of course, entirely true. It is generally intended as an encouraging statement: there are so many different things a woman could potentially like, surely there's one who likes what you have to offer.
But my response is always: well, but they don't like me. At least not in ways beyond what I can offer them in Platonic contexts. Enter reminder that I have nothing to offer and I'm not worthy of love, therefore carry less worth than other humans. Exeunt rational thought, remaining shreds of self-respect. If keeping in mind that intended audience is not me, use same thought pattern but include notion that intended audience is worthy of love and just doesn't know it yet, whereas I'm all but confirmed Broken anyway.

It's all in your head / blah blah self-limiting beliefs.
Again, true enough for enough people that I'd readily wager the number of people who will eventually benefit greatly from repeated exposure to this point is larger than the number of other people who experience some harm. The problem for me is that I can neither say for certain that I am not being held back by whatever wrong notions nor identify what beliefs those might be. There is abstract vexation at the fact that we're all inevitably going to go around in circles arguing over whether it's really so simple to alter one's own perspective on life absent external stimuli or evidence in favor of the proposed new belief actually being true (never mind that perceived evidence against is usually responsible for the existing "belief" in the first place). Usually tacked on to this is the fact that whoever is expressing this form of advice offers an anecdote along the lines of "I thought of myself as bad with women too, then one day I asked one out, she said yes, then I was happy." Just further drives home the point that...well, you know.

Both of these points are necessary. Both of them bother me in ways that have at least as much to do with their actual content as their presentation. I cannot conceive a way to restate those claims that would not hurt me, but I also cannot justify asking people to stop saying those things because they need to be said.

When it comes to topics that more directly relate to toxic masculinity, the vicious cycle looks only slightly different from the self-limiting beliefs thing. I don't know for sure if I'm remembering right, but I think it was Azazel(?) who mentioned on Paging that when we do understand the nature of Privilege, if someone else claims we have a Privilege, we're sometimes caught between wanting to argue that no, actually, that aspect of my life fucking sucks and wondering if maybe we just aren't remembering things correctly after all or overlooked something. The self-doubt is good, in a way, but it quickly turns self-destructive, and then other-destructive, when we discover that there's no way to actually check.

Dan_Brodribb wrote:I think that's very relevant given that the OP specifically said he is receiving most of these messages from the internet.

Is there something specific about the internet that makes these messages different? Do we communicate differently online? Many people talk differently on line than they do in real life--is it possible we also HEAR things differently? What causes us to react so strongly to people we can't hear or see or know anything about their lives or in many cases even put a name to? How realistic is it to expect the Internet to accommodate our personal feelings/standards/needs and what do we do when it doesn't? Why do we keep coming back to reading and/or posting on sites/Twitter feeds that leave us feeling ambivalent, angry, frustrated, hopeless or dissatisfied?

These aren't rhetorical questions. I'd love to hear thoughts.

All I can think of is that when someone complains to me offline about something a vaguely-defined group of people did, I can generally take for granted that they don't consider me to belong to that group of people, unless I have reason to believe they're trying to passive-aggressively point out some kind of wrong I've recently committed against them. When someone complains to everyone on the Internet about something a vaguely-defined group of people did, and explains how it's entirely possible for people to do that thing and not even realize it, I don't have a clue where that leaves me.
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Post by reboot on Wed Jan 14, 2015 5:49 pm

This might be generational, but I take things I see online far less seriously and take them less to heart than if I hear them face to face. However, the sheer volume of information and the number of voices online might make things seem more widespread and might make things seem overwhelming

One other difference is the propensity to talk with strangers whose motivations, backgrounds, experiences, etc. are not familiar about sensitive topics may make things hit harder, since the number of strangers that might comment online is a lot bigger than the number of people we would talk about these issues with IRL. We also would already know the IRL person better than the online person and might cut more slack if they say things because we know they are not ill intentioned.
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Post by The Wisp on Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:50 pm

Dan_Brodribb wrote: Is there something specific about the internet that makes these messages different? Do we communicate differently online? Many people talk differently on line than they do in real life--is it possible we also HEAR things differently? What causes us to react so strongly to people we can't hear or see or know anything about their lives or in many cases even put a name to? How realistic is it to expect the Internet to accommodate our personal feelings/standards/needs and what do we do when it doesn't? Why do we keep coming back to reading and/or posting on sites/Twitter feeds that leave us feeling ambivalent, angry, frustrated, hopeless or dissatisfied?

Well, I deleted the Twitter app from my phone last week, and that has reduced stress in my life.

I think people do talk differently online. I think people often have the kinds of conversations online that they also have when they're with close friends, or only like-minded people. These conversations are more emotional, more focused on catharsis than communication, less concerned with how others outside your little group will see it, and so on. The difference is, the online conversations are public, sometimes very public. You sometimes get the feeling reading feminist blogs online, even well trafficked ones, that the writers and commenters just don't seem to even consider that people other than them and their group are reading the blog. As if a public blog that is linked to all over the internet is somehow a private "safe space" for people of a certain group or certain belief systems and few if any people from other groups or belief systems will read it.

What this means is that people are going to be less nice and diplomatic online, and perhaps less concerned with being empathetic with the outgroups, than they would be in real life when in mixed company.

I don't know why I was drawn to things that made me angry and feel invisible for so long. I've stopped reading such things, largely, but it took years to do that. I think part of it is that feminism was the closest I found to talking about the issues I had in mind, compared to the alternatives anyway (MRA, random traditionalist stuff, etc.).

nearly_takuan wrote:Women are individuals, each with their own preferences. This means the range of "things women like" is broad and diverse.

I also find this to be intimidating rather than comforting. Yes, it's more likely there's a woman out there for me, but it's also more likely I'll offend somebody or creep them out even if I'm trying my best.

reboot wrote:This might be generational, but I take things I see online far less seriously and take them less to heart than if I hear them face to face.  However, the sheer volume of information and the number of voices online might make things seem more widespread and might make things seem overwhelming

Well, if you are a romantically/sexually inexperienced guy and you are socially isolated, or not but don't have many/any female friends, at least, then online messages are all you have which magnifies them.

I do think younger people take online stuff more seriously, but still when I have non-online experiences or interactions on a topic, that definitely tends to supersede the online stuff.

reboot wrote:One other difference is the propensity to talk with strangers whose motivations, backgrounds, experiences, etc. are not familiar about sensitive topics may make things hit harder, since the number of strangers that might comment online is a lot bigger than the number of people we would talk about these issues with IRL. We also would already know the IRL person better than the online person and might cut more slack if they say things because we know they are not ill intentioned.

I think this is spot on. Also, it's easier to project your beliefs about what a person who says x is like onto them online without the context and nonverbal communication you see in real life.
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Post by kath on Wed Jan 14, 2015 8:39 pm

Given that those two messages mentioned by Nearly were, as he said, necessary messages ... is there a request there? Is it more about learning how to read those things that make you feel bad (without beating yourself for it being something that you don't just automatically do), and working on being able to process them as is useful for you in moderating your own behavior, and not worrying about the parts that are not your trouble spots? (I also struggle with overscrupulosity)

nearly_takuan wrote:
When someone complains to everyone on the Internet about something a vaguely-defined group of people did, and explains how it's entirely possible for people to do that thing and not even realize it, I don't have a clue where that leaves me.

This is fascinating, because I think being able to tell where this leaves you is actually a key thing to have sorted out for participating in public discussion of any sort (because people talk about social problems in which one is implicated offline as well as online, and one is still implicated in them, and that can still be uncomfortable). Does anyone have strategies for figuring that out? I think that's what Mel was talking about when she says "I know if I'm doing that thing" - it sounds like others do not.
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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:08 pm

The Wisp wrote:
Dan_Brodribb wrote: Is there something specific about the internet that makes these messages different? Do we communicate differently online? Many people talk differently on line than they do in real life--is it possible we also HEAR things differently? What causes us to react so strongly to people we can't hear or see or know anything about their lives or in many cases even put a name to? How realistic is it to expect the Internet to accommodate our personal feelings/standards/needs and what do we do when it doesn't? Why do we keep coming back to reading and/or posting on sites/Twitter feeds that leave us feeling ambivalent, angry, frustrated, hopeless or dissatisfied?

Well, I deleted the Twitter app from my phone last week, and that has reduced stress in my life.

I think people do talk differently online. I think people often have the kinds of conversations online that they also have when they're with close friends, or only like-minded people. These conversations are more emotional, more focused on catharsis than communication, less concerned with how others outside your little group will see it, and so on. The difference is, the online conversations are public, sometimes very public. You sometimes get the feeling reading feminist blogs online, even well trafficked ones, that the writers and commenters just don't seem to even consider that people other than them and their group are reading the blog. As if a public blog that is linked to all over the internet is somehow a private "safe space" for people of a certain group or certain belief systems and few if any people from other groups or belief systems will read it.

What this means is that people are going to be less nice and diplomatic online, and perhaps less concerned with being empathetic with the outgroups, than they would be in real life when in mixed company.

I don't know why I was drawn to things that made me angry and feel invisible for so long. I've stopped reading such things, largely, but it took years to do that. I think part of it is that feminism was the closest I found to talking about the issues I had in mind, compared to the alternatives anyway (MRA, random traditionalist stuff, etc.).

There's a very strange culture to do with textual communication on the internet. For one, the amount of people that refer to in-person communication as 'real life' within the context of internet communication is disturbing. It gives me the impression that a lot of people actually consider the implications of what they do online at all - what they say and do online is not 'real life' by this strange division floating around so it isn't taken as seriously. Hence being less kind.

Not to mention that, no matter how much empathy you have, I don't think most people have truly grown to understand that the text appearing on Twitter, Facebook, forums etc. is actually coming directly from another person. They are another person. You may not see them, but they are human. However, because we only see what they write down through a computer monitor, it obfuscates this fact. You don't meet their eyes, you don't see their body language. It's worse than communication over the phone, however, because you lack even tone of voice. You can attempt to emulate that with italics, bolding, underlines etc. but it will never compare. We 'see' only an abstraction of this person, and only what they choose to share at that. This will be biased in any number of ways and it can skew reality for all involved.

This has dire implications for those that cannot communicate well (especially in text) as it leaves the internet a cold place where you may be able to absorb other's thoughts but not properly express your own. If men truly have an empathy problem and if men truly have issues with feeling like they must repress many of their emotions, then I think the internet can be harmful for them. This isn't helped by any perceived notion that the internet itself, even in 'safe spaces' is not welcome to them doing so.

I need to research this all a lot more to hammer it into my head, so this is probably a little muddled. Sorry.

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Post by The Wisp on Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:17 pm

Yeah, keep in mind that is speculation based on my experiences, so others may have differing views, but I think I'm at least partially right.
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Post by Enail on Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:07 pm

I've lost track a bit of which topics are part of which threads here, so hopefully this is the one it makes more sense in: This article about the Aaronson thing has some links to sources for what they describe as "affirmative resources that help men and others conduct their sexual/romantic lives ethically without shaming them," that I thought might interest some folks here.

Be warned that they include DNL among them, which some folks here find overly harsh and shaming, so her definition of affirmative may not match everyone's, and also that the article itself is probably not good reading for anyone who's stressed out by or sick of critiques of Aaronson's post, so you might want to just scroll to the links without reading (if you scroll to the bullet-points at the end of her article, and then scroll up a few paragraphs, you'll see a short paragraph with multiple links in it, that's the one).
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Post by celette482 on Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:42 pm

I thoroughly agree with her larger point, that *sometimes* men's reactions to feminist literature is essentially them expecting women to be their professional therapists. and a lot of the going back and forth and pain that comes out of these discussions boils down to "That isn't my job nor is it my training and you should see a pro about that. Recommending someone see a therapist is the exact opposite of being dismissive. It's saying "I believe you that you think this way and that it is hurting you as much as you say it is. I don't think you're just making up stuff to be a jackass." But it's also saying "I'm not going to prioritize your pain at hearing about my world over my pain at living it." When I told my husband about being stalked and assaulted as a teen, I'm sure he had feelings about that. He worked those out with a therapist, rather than telling me to never mention it again. When faced with sexual harassment in the workplace, the proper response is to work out your feelings on your own time, not insist that there be no more training.

There's a general misunderstanding among new-to-liberal thinking people (men and women) that once you learn that feelings are a valid thing, you get into this spiral of "Well, I have feelings about YOUR feelings, so whose are more important?!?!?!?!" I've seen this in couples when they start fighting about how one partner's expression of pain is painful to the other. The best solution I've come up with, when it comes to people in established relationships, is one feeling at a time, per conversation.

Let's say your girlfriend comes home late (like, real late and you're pondering calling the cops to see if her car was in an accident) and she walks in the door and all that anxiety and fear come out in one HUGE explosion and you yell at her and call her inconsiderate, that she said she'd be home 2 hours ago and you've been wearing a hole in the carpet pacing. Well, she takes offense at this, no one likes being yelled at. You are past your initial PANICFEELS reaction and can more calmly apologize for yelling, but you still wanna discuss the whole "You texted me you'd be home and then you weren't" issue. Well, she wants to talk about how you were yelling. In my solution, you table the yelling thing for a different time. Your feelings came first and (once you've apologized for being yelly) your feelings should be addressed first. Then, as a respectful partner, the next day you might discuss how better to control outbursts when you're in the grip of emotions. There's no talking past each other, everyone's feelings are valid, and you don't let the mode distort the message or vice versa.

Or even better, you sit your girlfriend down one day and say "Honeybunches of Oats (you were hungry too), I'd like to slow down on the physical side of our relationship because things are going faster than I'm comfortable with?" And then she bursts into tears and sobs that you're calling her a bad girlfriend and now she feels guilty and SHOULDN'T YOU STOP MAKING SUCH DEMANDS. You're taken aback because you thought you were just making a request, but it hit some button in her and has caused a FEELING EMOTION OVERLOAD. But she doesn't get to use her FEELINGSEMOTIONCRISIS to overlook the fact that you've made a pretty solid boundary request that should be respected. She's allowed to have those feelings, and if she wants, she can call up her girlfriends and sob, or even decide that things aren't going to work out between you and break-up, but she can't try to tear you into doing things you aren't comfortable with.

Discussing feminist issues with men can be like this. Women are yelling, and some of what they say causes men real discomfort. And not just that "I see myself too closely in this and I can't handle the idea that I'm doing bad things" discomfort that is highly unsympathetic. Guys with social anxiety are being given one more reason to worry about social interaction. But. That doesn't mean that women's feelings should be subsumed or silenced or ignored.

Who's pain is more real? Well, I suggest that, when it comes to societal action, pain caused by someone else's actions should be given more consideration than pain that arises from inside. Mental health and even just having rough emotions (you can want to process things with a therapist without having an official diagnosis) is completely legitimate, but I can't see asking society to hush about pain that is caused by other people to spare internal pain.
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Post by Guest on Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:57 pm

celette482 wrote:The best solution I've come up with, when it comes to people in established relationships, is one feeling at a time, per conversation.

Let's say your girlfriend comes home late (like, real late and you're pondering calling the cops to see if her car was in an accident) and she walks in the door and all that anxiety and fear come out in one HUGE explosion and you yell at her and call her inconsiderate, that she said she'd be home 2 hours ago and you've been wearing a hole in the carpet pacing. Well, she takes offense at this, no one likes being yelled at. You are past your initial PANICFEELS reaction and can more calmly apologize for yelling, but you still wanna discuss the whole "You texted me you'd be home and then you weren't" issue. Well, she wants to talk about how you were yelling. In my solution, you table the yelling thing for a different time. Your feelings came first and (once you've apologized for being yelly) your feelings should be addressed first. Then, as a respectful partner, the next day you might discuss how better to control outbursts when you're in the grip of emotions. There's no talking past each other, everyone's feelings are valid, and you don't let the mode distort the message or vice versa.

Have you ever read the book "Thanks for the Feedback," by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone? This is a concept they are really big on, and they call it... argh. Can't remember. But basically, two people are having two different conversations and not noticing it. The example they give is that Bob stops to get roses for Amy on the way home, and she basically ignores the gesture. He complains that she never appreciates the gestures he makes, and she responds that she's told him 6 times that she doesn't LIKE roses, and now they are having different conversations -- his is about how she doesn't recognize that he's trying to make romantic gestures, and hers is about how he never listens to her, and since each of them is hearing the argument as if it was part of a totally different conversation, they can't understand how the other partner doesn't see that they're right.

And they ARE both right. About different things. Which is why it's so complicated.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:32 pm

kath wrote:
nearly_takuan wrote:
When someone complains to everyone on the Internet about something a vaguely-defined group of people did, and explains how it's entirely possible for people to do that thing and not even realize it, I don't have a clue where that leaves me.

This is fascinating, because I think being able to tell where this leaves you is actually a key thing to have sorted out for participating in public discussion of any sort (because people talk about social problems in which one is implicated offline as well as online, and one is still implicated in them, and that can still be uncomfortable). Does anyone have strategies for figuring that out? I think that's what Mel was talking about when she says "I know if I'm doing that thing" - it sounds like others do not.

I know a few facts about a few kinds of things I have and have not done. For example, I know I have not yelled at strangers, stood in front of and facing a person who had their back to a corner, or initiated a conversation with a stranger in an elevator.

But I also have known conscientious liberal-minded people who said or did things I perceived as racist or culturally-insensitive without realizing it. Some of those people even start and lead their own conversations about cultural sensitivity. Which is to say it's entirely possible for a person to honestly believe themselves to be inoffensive, to be actively consciously trying to be inoffensive, and still occasionally do something outrageously offensive.

I don't start conversations in elevators. But I do ask women out. And I never get to know for sure if a particular woman feels as trapped by the surrounding strangers in a bookstore as another might by the walls of an elevator, or as I do by the presence of my own friends or classmates.

Offline, I an usually with people who know me at least a little any time there is such a discussion. I can infer from lack of meaningful glances in my direction, others' body language, etc. that they are not thinking of anyone present as an outstanding example of bad behavior.

Online, who knows what others are thinking.
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Post by InkAndComb on Thu Jan 15, 2015 3:29 pm

[/quote]

But I also have known conscientious liberal-minded people who said or did things I perceived as racist or culturally-insensitive without realizing it. Some of those people even start and lead their own conversations about cultural sensitivity. Which is to say it's entirely possible for a person to honestly believe themselves to be inoffensive, to be actively consciously trying to be inoffensive, and still occasionally do something outrageously offensive.

Online, who knows what others are thinking.[/quote]

This is something I've been chewing on a lot recently. I think it's a failure between spoken-and-perceived stances on an issue, and realizing the shades of grey of an issue when applied to day-to-day life. Like, most people I know are pro-GLBTQA rights IN THEORY, but across the spectrum I've heard offensive comments from them all (with, I hope, no ill intention). It's like vestiges of old bigotry that rears its ugly head, or just parroted comments they've never reflected on. I'm not sure why this is exactly; I mean, people aren't simple, they are full of contradictions, but I'd still like to understand HOW and WHY.
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Post by Mel on Thu Jan 15, 2015 4:46 pm

kath wrote:
This is fascinating, because I think being able to tell where this leaves you is actually a key thing to have sorted out for participating in public discussion of any sort (because people talk about social problems in which one is implicated offline as well as online, and one is still implicated in them, and that can still be uncomfortable). Does anyone have strategies for figuring that out? I think that's what Mel was talking about when she says "I know if I'm doing that thing" - it sounds like others do not.

Since my comment was referenced here, I'll expand a little. I was talking mainly about broad discussions/articles aimed at a large group of people and problematic things they may do. I've found those pretty much always include specific examples of the problematic things. To use scenarios relevant to me:

-I've read lots of commentary on writing characters of color, which include sentiments like "comparing skin color to food is offensive" and "only mentioning race when it's not white reinforces the idea of white as default".

-After the Ferguson verdict I read a few articles talking about frustration with responses from white people, e.g., white folks congratulating themselves for unfriending people who said racist things in relation to the trial on Facebook.

When I read someing like that, one of my first thoughts will be, Have I done that?, in regards to the concrete examples. Sometimes I have, and I feel embarrassed, and make a mental note not to do that in future. Often (thankfully) I haven't, and wouldn't be inclined to anyway, and I feel reassured and make a mental note just in case.

Of course I recognize that there are a broader range of behaviors that are problematic in those veins that are not referenced specifically and that I may be doing without realizing. I think the reason I don't generally feel especially anxious about that is a) I assume the examples are of the most problematic behaviors, so at least I know I'm doing somewhat all right of I'm avoiding those, b) I know that I am a well meaning person and that I'm doing my best not to hurt others by educating myself and paying attention to reactions, so I'm probably not doing very many other problematic things, c) I recognize that it's impossible to know every sensitivity and POV of everyone around you, and to completely rid oneself of unconscious societal biases, and thus impossible to never make someone inadvertently uncomfortable, and I assume most other people recognize that too, so I think it's likely that on the occasions I do misstep, most people will recognize this isn't a deliberate attack, and d) I'm reading this on the internet while not interacting with anyone, which gives me some distance from the idea. Obviously I don't like the idea of adding to the overall uncomfortable atmosphere many people live in, but there are a lot of things I don't like the idea of but are nonetheless inevitable no matter what I do, and I've learned to accept those things and keep doing my best.

I definitely get anxious about actual specific interactions with actual people--there have been many times when I've agonized over whether something I said came across wrong or had a meaning I didn't realize or whathaveyou, and I'm not sure whether I did anything wrong or not. But that's because those are actual people I've had a direct specific impact on, not a person I've never met talking about other people I've never met in a general way.

So it's hard for me to relate to feeling paralyzed by reading general discussions where the person hasn't done any of the concrete problematic behaviors being called out. But even if I can't relate to it, I still recognize others can feel that way--it's just hard for me to give advice.

Re: well meaning people saying problematic things, I'd assume it's mostly unconscious or automatic, things the person isn't consciously thinking through the connotations of, because if they did they'd be aware enough to realize the problem.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jan 15, 2015 5:58 pm

Right, I also think it's unconscious/automatic. And I think that when we aren't consciously thinking about something, we don't necessarily remember whether it happened or not. Because unless you can always remember verbatim what you said, when your memory is "I said something about how good he looked," his memory might be "he criticized my outfit".

If later "he" mentions something about the microaggressions he's experienced and the privilege others have with... whatever, can you say for sure that you've never been part of the problem, or that you're going to be successful in avoiding that behavior in the future?

ETA: Er, that's exactly what you were saying, too. I guess what's stumping me is why you're able to prevent that from happening when it's a public discussion dealing with groups of people instead of individual chats with individuals.
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Post by Mel on Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:23 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:ETA: Er, that's exactly what you were saying, too. I guess what's stumping me is why you're able to prevent that from happening when it's a public discussion dealing with groups of people instead of individual chats with individuals.

I guess it might have to do with the type of thing being of concern?  I mean, I know for a fact I wasn't congratulating myself on FB for unfriending people over Ferguson... because that would be kind of a difficult thing to do unconsciously and I haven't done anything even remotely like it (I hadn't posted anything about Ferguson at all there, and where I had posted about Ferguson it was retweets/blogs of other people's informative posts in support of them without adding my own voice). And with writing it's pretty easy for me to check, if I'm not sure, whether I've written things a certain way or not. (Also, the writing world being what it is, if you've written something offensive in a published book it's highly unlikely no one will have pointed it out to you.) Whereas I can see that maybe some of the things pointed out to guys re: interactions with women may be more easy to forget. Can you think of specific examples of things pointed to in advice columns that you would have trouble realizing you were doing? (I assume you can notice if you're about to, say, hit on someone on public transit, or interrupt someone intently reading their book, etc., but maybe I'm not remembering examples given that are more subtle than that.)

There's also the factor that I alluded to about recognizing that it's impossible never to accidentally add to the microaggressions or however any given person thinks of it that anyone around you is experiencing, and so it being a case of "doing my best" rather than "being perfect." I'm able to forgive myself for not being perfect in the abstract. (I have more trouble with it when considering specific real life scenarios I was directly involved in... but I'd imagine it's normal to find those more intensely affecting?)

Edit: I should probably emphasize that I'm less forgiving specifically of myself in personal real life situations. I'm pretty forgiving of others regardless. If a guy who seems generally well meaning does one small thing that bothers me, I'm almost certainly going to assume it was accidental and not malicious, and not feel he's a bad person for it. Which also means it doesn't make me feel anywhere near as hurt as if I thought he was consciously expressing harmful beliefs. In the abstract, I'm able to believe most people I encounter will think similarly of my missteps; in the specific, it's hard for me not to worry that they haven't, because of the immediacy and intensity and direct individual involvement and all that.
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:02 pm

Enail wrote:I've lost track a bit of which topics are part of which threads here, so hopefully this is the one it makes more sense in: This article about the Aaronson thing has some links to sources for what they describe as "affirmative resources that help men and others conduct their sexual/romantic lives ethically without shaming them," that I thought might interest some folks here.

Be warned that they include DNL among them, which some folks here find overly harsh and shaming, so her definition of affirmative may not match everyone's, and also that the article itself is probably not good reading for anyone who's stressed out by or sick of critiques of Aaronson's post, so you might want to just scroll to the links without reading (if you scroll to the bullet-points at the end of her article, and then scroll up a few paragraphs, you'll see a short paragraph with multiple links in it, that's the one).

That was an interesting article. I agree with her that feminists are not therapists and that maybe they're being expected to be.

I have read all the people she linked and none have been exactly what I was looking for. I did find the yes means yes blog link odd, given that the guy who writes it can be aggressive with those he disagrees and because the subject matter is almost entirely about stopping men from assaulting women. Even if the alternative advice is sound and supportive and reasonable, the general environment isn't exactly what I'd call supportive.

Also, she said feminists are more focused on men's issues now, but where? I've never seen them. At least, they're not focused on the issues I care about. Similarly she said feminists advocate for better mental health care and less mental health stigma. But do they really, aside from maybe abuse and rape survivors? I'm sure they support these things in theory, but it doesn't seem like they're putting much effort into advocating for those things. Not that they have to, just I thought that bit of the article was a bit misleading (also goes into my pet peeve of feminists claiming every good kind of advocacy as feminist, even if the people doing it aren't primarily self-identified as feminists and even if it is orthogonal to gender issues).

Celette, I have mixed feelings about what you say about therapy. On the one hand, yes it's not necessarily dismissive to tell somebody to seek therapy, and yes it's not other's job to be your therapist. I will especially agree in the case of your husband reacting to what you told him by ETA: NOT pouring his feelings out to you was absolutely the right move. On the other hand, I do feel like sometimes it's just a lesser form of mental health stigma from some people, i.e. "Your feelings are legitimate, but go talk about them with a therapist, and never bring them up again outside a therapist's office. This is so that we can all pretend you're a normal person and I nor anybody else has to acknowledge, reckon with, and put any effort into sympathizing with or helping you out with what you're experiencing". What is stigma but talking about a subject frankly being looked down upon by others? Therapists are great, but they can't provide certain kinds of support that others can.


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Post by Guest on Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:45 pm

The Wisp wrote:Also, she said feminists are more focused on men's issues now, but where? I've never seen them. At least, they're not focused on the issues I care about. Similarly she said feminists advocate for better mental health care and less mental health stigma. But do they really, aside from maybe abuse and rape survivors? I'm sure they support these things in theory, but it doesn't seem like they're putting much effort into advocating for those things. Not that they have to, just I thought that bit of the article was a bit misleading (also goes into my pet peeve of feminists claiming every good kind of advocacy as feminist, even if the people doing it aren't primarily self-identified as feminists and even if it is orthogonal to gender issues).

Can you be specific about what kinds of men's issues you think are being overlooked?

I ask because a lot of the things we've seen discussed here -- toxic masculinity, the emotional isolation men sometimes face, the difficulty with being taken seriously as parents, etc -- are issues I have seen discussed a lot in feminist spaces. A lot of that is by feminist men, admittedly, but I assumed that was because women didn't have firsthand experience with issues like male relationships with other male friends, as an example.

Your reference to mental health issues makes me wonder if you're possibly doing something like what Aaronson did, in a much less toxic way -- taking an issue you are dealing with, and which is choosing gender as a lever to play with inside your head, and then calling that a "men's issue," when it is not really universal to men or objectively linked to gender at all.

I think there is some truth to what you're saying about how feminists can sometimes fold all advocacy under their umbrella. I think on the internet, this is particularly common -- feminism is a "gateway cause" for a lot of us, and we then go on to other things, so we look at "enlightened people" as meaning "feminist".

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Post by The Wisp on Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:23 pm

Your reference to mental health issues makes me wonder if you're possibly doing something like what Aaronson did, in a much less toxic way -- taking an issue you are dealing with, and which is choosing gender as a lever to play with inside your head, and then calling that a "men's issue," when it is not really universal to men or objectively linked to gender at all.

Yes, I have had those doubts myself for a long time now. I feel something is missing in the gender discussion, and that the way society thinks about my gender held me back. I feel like, though the MRA and PUAs are toxic and I was repulsed by them, some of the underlying emotions there are at least pointing at a real thing beyond the pain of losing privilege or entitlement.

But, it may well all be just an illusion. Maybe I'm really just angry at how my father was a bad role model in certain ways that interacted poorly with my temperament (he was good in other ways, though), and am terrified to enter into the kind of relationship he has with my mother (even though it seems to work fine for them), and generalized that to all men and relationships. Maybe it feels like I suffered because of my gender because my primary axes of suffering (social skills, mental health, social anxiety) were symbolized most strongly by inability to have a conversation with my intense crush that wasn't so awkward that I never tried to speak to her again. Maybe the way the feminists I read as a teenager talked about things was upsetting not because what they wrote was objectively problematic in some way but instead felt that way due to my unique neuroses and experiences. Maybe my emotions about gender and women are sui generis, and what the MRAs and PUAs feel is completely different, but I merely project my emotions onto them. Maybe my emotions about gender say nothing about the external world.

I say all that just to say that I have thought about that, and I'm really not sure which is the truth.

Can you be specific about what kinds of men's issues you think are being overlooked?

I ask because a lot of the things we've seen discussed here -- toxic masculinity, the emotional isolation men sometimes face, the difficulty with being taken seriously as parents, etc -- are issues I have seen discussed a lot in feminist spaces.  A lot of that is by feminist men, admittedly, but I assumed that  was because women didn't have firsthand experience with issues like male relationships with other male friends, as an example.

I had in mind exactly those first two you listed (the third is a good one), plus the lack of physical affection from other men and less acceptance of vulnerability or expression of emotions other than happiness or anger, and the unique difficulties and pains of growing up with and having a (straight) male sexuality in this culture that don't necessarily fit into the feminist paradigm.

They may be discussed sometimes, but I don't like the way they're discussed. This isn't a tone argument entirely, though the tone matters, but also I think the way they're talked about hinders advancement on these issues. One, they often feel like the writers think of them as side issues, or personal issues, to be talked about when you have nothing more important to write about but then to forget. How many of those male feminists (besides DNL) write mostly about and to (straight) men and their issues? There's no sense of urgency or injustice or passion that you get on women's issues that I'd like to see there. Two, I feel like these are often talked about and viewed as relevant by their writers as important mostly in as much as they lead to men treating women badly, or reinforcing the patriarchy. I'd like to see men's issues viewed as their own things, deserving of primary attention from others. I'd also want them to acknowledge that the broad strokes of feminism are correct, but not be afraid to move beyond or orthogonally to feminism, i.e. not having which issues are viewed as most important, how certain things should be talked about, the terminology used, etc. be determined through a feminist lens. Also not be afraid to be critical of specific feminists or feminist positions, though again still pro-feminist overall. Maybe that's too vague? That's my feelings on it (though, as I said above, maybe it's illusory).
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Post by reboot on Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:52 pm

Not for nothing, Wisp, but there are a hell of a lot of feminist women focusing as much as we can and to our ability on this forum.
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:13 pm

reboot wrote:Not for nothing, Wisp, but there are a hell of a lot of feminist women focusing as much as we can and to our ability on this forum.

Totally, and I'm really grateful for it! I'm sorry if I disappeared you guys.

What I had more in mind was writers with well-trafficked blogs, academics, stuff that gets into the wider public debate, etc.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:20 pm

The thing is I could start a blog, write like an academic, and try to get more of this stuff into a public debate. I have hubris enough to believe said blog could eventually even become well-trafficked.

I don't.

I think the same things are probably true of you, probably for the same reasons.
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:34 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:The thing is I could start a blog, write like an academic, and try to get more of this stuff into a public debate. I have hubris enough to believe said blog could eventually even become well-trafficked.

I don't.

I think the same things are probably true of you, probably for the same reasons.

I also have the hubris to think I could do it. So yeah I think we're similar in that respect. I'm genuinely curious as to what your reasons are for not acting, are you willing to lay them out?

Mine are:

  • General anxiety about putting my writing out there (full pieces I put a lot of effort into, as opposed to the more casual forum/comment postings)

  • Fear I'd be lumped into with the MRAs/PUAs and/or draw such crowd, and thus be attacked

  • Uncertainty about whether the issues and perspectives I have actually amount to more than just personal neuroses

  • Wondering if I'm underqualified because I'm young and inexperienced in the world, even for somebody my age
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:31 pm

I'd have to be rather more thoughtful than I am here. More personal. More truthful. More...correct, I suppose, to begin with.

I would have to reserve time for it. I have that time now, obviously, but will I always?

I would have to prepare for questions and comments. I would have to prepare for being "outed" in my offline life as That Guy Who Writes Those Things. For every friend I have, I also have at least one thought that they don't want to hear; at least some will inevitably be alienated. And of course there are significant chunks of my family and friend-groups that I would prefer didn't know I was atheist, asexual, or unhappy.

I would have to prepare for work-related consequences. It is not at all to my benefit if a prospective employer can find more information about my thoughts and personality than what I give them, not because of anything I've done wrong but because my online persona is not detail-oriented, data-driven, outcome-focused, ambitious, successful, or any of the other things employers say they want. I don't think I'm necessarily not those things, but I think I wouldn't project those traits, and thus my "first impression" to Boss would not be an ideal one—especially not if he disagrees with what I say on Blog.

I would inevitably piss off feminists. That's a thing I tend to do.

I would inevitably piss off anti-feminists more, if responses to the small amount of well-intentioned participation I've offered the "moderate" Facebook page "I don't need Feminism" are any indication. (It is certainly a good indication of how much crap I draw from feminist friends with the same comment that others say is pussy-whipped white-knighting.)

I would inevitably be wrong at least once. While I don't think I'd end up actually pulling the average noise level of whatever discourse is going on toward an overall worse point, and I generally think of myself as open to correction, I'm still not thrilled about the idea of saying or doing something really really wrong.

So...yeah. Same reasons. Wink
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:47 pm

Ha!

Well, I think you can manage to remain anonymous online and have a following if you put an effort into it. Clarisse Thorn did for many years. The conservative blogger Allahpundit has as well. That said, I totally understand the fear of being outed and having people be pissed off at you!

(It is certainly a good indication of how much crap I draw from feminist friends with the same comment that others say is pussy-whipped white-knighting.)

I know this is utterly cliche, but the fact that both sides got mad at you means you must be on to something! Wink
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