Note – ‘the menz’ are basically the men who like/benefit/don’t see much wrong with the patriarchy. It’s intentionally incredibly patronising, and I use it to differentiate between men as a gender identity and those who are misogynist patriarchy loving dicks. Not all men are ‘the menz’, because I would have very little hope in humanity if this were the case.
So today I was able to attend the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin due to being offered a free student ticket by a femmo friend/blogger (check him out, he’s fab). Lots of notes were taken and I’ll do proper posts on them during the week, but there was one massively depressing point during the day. The amazing Elida Radig was speaking and saying how we need to come together as sisters and not back down when we’re told we’re too loud etc. During the questions for that session, a young woman fangirled on behalf of all of us and made the point that we, as secular feminists, shouldn’t have to *ask* feminist men to help us – if they are going to call themselves feminists, they need to be proactive about it, they need to work hard to, we shouldn’t have to *ask* to be treated with equality and respect.
And then a man got up and said ‘not all men are like that, most of the misogyny *I* see is women being misogynistic against other women’. Classic ‘what about the menz??’ and I feel this picture is very appropriate (see also feminazi stole my ice cream).
When someone says but ‘not all [men/white people/straight people/dominant group known for oppression others] are like that’, they effectively prove that they do not get the point being made. All they heard was their group being attacked, and instead of admitting that there’s a problem, they turn on defensive mode and shift the blame. In this situation, a man attending an empowering women conference shifted the blame from men to women. Like really, why are you even here?
After the questions were over and we had a little break, I went up to the woman who had made the comment to tell her that she’s a ledge and to give her a cuterus I had drawn for her. We were mid conversation when an older woman who had been sitting in front of me came up and berated us for believing that we shouldn’t have to *ask* men who call themselves feminists to actually act like feminists. Apparently, we need to make feminism accessible for the menz so they’ll come to our side – we need to show them how the patriarchy is bad for men. I made the point that the ways the patriarchy harms men is often attributed to feminisim, a point she immediately dismissed. Basically, not only should men who call themselves feminists *not* call out their guy friends when they contribute to rape culture/lad culture/general sexism, they shouldn’t be expected to be involved in feminism unless it directly impacts them as men. They shouldn’t want to be a feminist because the patriarchy adversely affects other human beings, if they don’t know that it’s bad for them, they’ll never be involved.
Not only was this incredibly offensive, but it was shocking too. To hear this from a woman who, I presume, identifies as a feminist, at what is a feminist and secular conference, was the last thing I had anticipated. Again, I was wondering why she was there, not because she shouldn’t be there, but because she holds views which are at such odds with feminism. She essentially told me and another young woman that our belief that male feminists should be feminists for the good of all people, not just their own gender, was wrong. That our belief that young men who are feminist and feminist allies should be active, regardless of whether that activism is directly impacting their lives as men, is wrong. That we, as secular feminists, need to make room in feminism for men. And despite the truly wonderful day and all the amazing, inspirational speakers, I left the conference slightly more disillusioned than when I walked in that morning.