Hi, how are you doing? You’re probably doing well, you’re probably doing some good things out there. Fighting the good fight. Good on you.
I know why you’ve reached out to me. You probably do believe I’m a good friend and I do think that you’d like to see me as your equal. You’re all for fighting for gender equality anyway- teaching boys that they can have emotions, teaching them not to call women sluts (in public). I’ve seen you participating in numerous feminist discussions and brazenly announcing yourself as feminist in the right public setting (the RIGHT one, mind you).
However, my friend, we both know that there are a few reasons at the core of why you may have contacted me today:
- Validation. You want your feminist efforts to go noticed. You want to comment on how ‘terrible’ that guy was who commented on my status (because he had blatantly sexist views as well as hidden, learned behaviours). You want to tell me about all of the micro-aggressions you stopped happening today by being the macho man and stepping in for us. You want to send me a feminist article and say ‘thought you might like this’ (an hour later I see you tag your friend in a racist meme). Tell me about all the good things you’ve done for us poor women so that I can pour that well earned validation on you.
- Emotional Labour. After I’ve validated your brave efforts to keep the patriarchy at bay while simultaneously benefitting from it (thank you again), I’ll listen to you talk about all the issues you can’t discuss with ‘the boys’. I’m like a bottomless jar for your shit talk apparently, and I have no emotions or interests or life of my own. Fill ‘er up bud!
- Pity. You’re such a nice guy, why are bad things happening to you? Why aren’t you getting laid? Why is work so shit? Why aren’t you getting that promotion you deserve? Why didn’t she text you back? Why did she go home with Brad and not you??? Well, I could break down the fact that women aren’t actually here to repay your kindness (basic human decency…) with sex (why else would you try and be nice to a woman right? they’re not actually fun to talk to) but… the friend-zone myth it is.
- To subconsciously remind me that I’m inferior to you. Your dreams are bigger, your aspirations matter more, you take up more space in the world, you know more than me about well, let’s face it, everything! But, of course, women should get as many opportunities as they can- as long as it’s under the system that still allows you all of your privileges. We’ll have a peaceful integration of equality… mostly for white women… upper/middle class white women… upper/middle class white women that you find fuck-able.
- So that you can eventually fuck me (my personal favourite). Ooooh the ol’ does he actually care about women or does he just wanna get laid conundrum. I can see right through you and I know what you’re doing. Stop it.
Despite our interactions pretty much constantly following the same patterns, I would like to (actually, sincerely) thank you. I know that as a cis-gendered, able-bodied, white woman, I can be a fucking irritating cis-gendered, able-bodied, white woman. I have been really irritatingly privileged in a lot of settings, particularly social media, and I know I’ve pissed people off- even if they haven’t said anything. Thinking about interactions with my friends who are liberal, feminist men and reflecting on how angry they make me- not because they’re being outwardly sexist but because they’re almost patronisingly, subconsciously holding up the patriarchy- reminds me that I need to work on how I do this every day. How I hold up my own privilege and how, when we think we’ve learned it all and we’re the perfect allies, we’re not. Perfect ally-ship does not exist, just like perfect humanity does not exist. Being an ally is not a flashy badge that you should carry around, it’s helping to effectively shift foundations without a welling of your own ego. It’s about hurting your ego. Deflating it. We need to listen and shut up more. I need to listen and shut up more.
And you- my liberal, feminist friends who are men- I love you. I appreciate what you’re doing. You have a role in this fight but this is not about you. Also, you don’t plateau in this struggle. You keep learning. You listen. You de-centralise yourself.
It’s been nice talking to you, bud.