All right. We’re nearly through. This is part three of three of my response to this here Lawsonry article concerning male feminists and “fauxminism.” Parts one and two are here and here (respectively). This run-down goes through the original article’s arguments chronologically, so you might want to read the first two parts before jumping in here.
Let’s carry on, hearts filled with hope and heads high:
I had a great time agreeing with this person for once. It’s really weird feeling like you have no common ground with people on the same side of the issues as you. Let’s see if we can’t keep up that tre-
He feels entitled to the trust of the women he works with in feminist activism circles.
I’m going to navigate this as best I can, but it’s tricky as hell and I’m not thrilled about it:
Okay, so, Milanese says: “The thing about feminists that guys like this don’t seem to get is that a lot of time men have done really awful things to us or other women we know,” and that those women’s experiences are valid. Therefore: “Even if a man doesn’t think it’s valid, he has no right to tell a woman that her distrusting attitude toward men irrational [sic].”
So, first of all, can we agree that these women are being sexist when they generalize their bad experiences with men to distrust of all men? I think that they are, and I’d love to see a world without sexism. That’s why I’m the feminist I am. Having said that, I understand that trauma is hard to deal with. This might be my massive trauma-free privilege speaking, but I think it’s the responsibility (the unfair, unasked-for, terrible responsibility) of the traumatized to deal with their trauma and do their best not to let it affect their lives. This includes recognizing that your distrust of men in general is in fact, irrational by definition, and trying not to allow it to affect yourself or others.
Just because you’re a member of a class that “is disproportionately affected by harassment, violence and degradation” and they’re “a member of the class that most often perpetrates that degradation” does not mean that you have any right not to treat them like a human. To say anything different is merely to defend prejudice.
This is not to say that you have no right to feel frightened, distrustful, or triggered. Of course not and you don’t need me to tell you that. It’s just your responsibility to deal with those feelings in the best manner you can.
Milanese continues: “when men claim that feminists have no reason not to trust them, they are erasing lived experiences and realities as well as the fact that in some regard they benefit from the privilege that this systematic degradation perpetuates.”
Privilege is not men’s fault in the same way that “degradation” is not women’s. I feel it is my duty to treat people as though privilege did not exist. That means being willing to trust men, even though they’re men. Furthermore, I think that these men are less “erasing lived experiences” and are more struggling against sexism that other feminists are leveling against them, trying to differentiate themselves from a distrusted group. There’s a huge difference between “you have no reason to trust men,” which seems to be what Milanese thinks these men are saying, and “you have no reason to trust me,” which I imagine is what they’re actually saying.
She goes on to say that when these women fail to trust men “it’s not personal, so taking it that way is ridiculous and privilege-denying.” This clashes with the way that people think. If it’s directed at my person, it’s obviously personal. Also, for reals: If it’s not personal, it is sexist. If we’re willing to claim that victims of everything from rape and abuse to “cat-calling and slut-shaming” are entitled to sexism, I guess all I can do is stare in horror. I think it’s a step backwards to allow anyone a free pass at sexism, no matter who they are or what’s happened to them.
Having said that, I mean, of course no one should be automatically granted the trust of another. That’s absurd. Trust grows and should grow. The embrace of this weird sexist subsystem that shifts responsibility onto totally innocent people is what I take issue with. There’s nothing wrong with the notion that women aren’t obligated to trust men automatically. No one is obligated to trust anyone.
He will not hold other self-proclaimed male-identified feminists accountable.
I want to agree with this. Sort of. Milanese’s choice to pretty consistently use words like “self-proclaimed” is and always has been problematic and undermining. This section is particularly rife with phrases like “he is undeserving of the title,” and I can’t read that without cringing. She also, once again, places a heavy burden on men for speaking out, but remains silent about whether this is a burden on feminists or merely a burden on men alone.
She claims that: “A feminist man shouldn’t have to risk life and limb to tell another dude that his rape joke wasn’t funny, but if all he’s got to risk is his pride or social status then he needs to go for it,” seeming to ignore how titanically important social status is. Pride may be one thing. Embarrassment may be one thing. But social status is huge and, unless something extremely serious is going on, I don’t think anyone should be under pressure to speak if it means losing that status.
Having said that, I happen to belong to the school of, “call people out whenever you can,” (more or less). I think it’s a solid way to make people think about what they’re saying and possibly effect change on a personal level. Rake, however, doesn’t belong to this school. He doesn’t like to call people out in public or start scenes. Though I disagree with him, I’m forced to agree that this does not make him a “fauxminist.” We merely disagree about methodology. He’s still a good feminist and so am I.
Notable, as well, is the fact that Milanese’s title, once again, barely connects with her argument. The section does not describe feminist men dealing with other feminist men, but merely with men.
He uses the tone argument on you.
I think that “tone argument” is a whole ‘nother post in and of itself, so I’ll keep this brief: Milanese claims that women are not socialized to get angry and, so, when men use the “tone argument” on them, “they are essentially relying on patriarchal gender constructs to help them win an argument and to undermine that woman’s message. They are using their privilege to their advantage to silence women, and there will never ever be anything feminist about that.” I think that Milanese’s wording here suggests that use of the “tone argument” by men is a deliberate leveraging of their privilege, which I think is a heinous assumption of bad faith. However, you don’t have to be aware of what you’re doing to use sexist socialization to your advantage, so I can’t simply claim that she’s making a wild assumption here.
What I can and do claim is that she’s treating the “tone argument” unfairly. People get their feelings hurt in arguments. Whenever I’ve seen it happen, it’s pretty much always been because of tone. Few folks seem to get wounded over a calm, well-stated argument. And, while I don’t think that anybody should have their anger silenced, I do think that everybody has the right to say that their feelings are being hurt and they don’t really want to talk if it’s going to hurt them.
Milanese also defines “tone argument” as “’I’m more right because you weren’t nice about my being wrong’” which is actually a) not a definition of “tone argument” I’ve ever heard and b) a hideously straw man-erecting definition that I am forced to reject out of hand.
Lastly (worstly): He is pissed off by this article.
I’m particularly angry about the way that this last segment means that, unless you’re a man who agrees with Milanese on every point, you pretty much get to be a “fauxminist.” I’m angry about how it makes her opinions about what a feminist is hegemonic. I’m angry about the way it would seem to force male feminists to not want to defend themselves or to feel angry about the way Milanese consistently undermines their identities and ideologies, assumes they’re terrible, and talks down to them. I think that this section is the most objectionable of the bunch and it makes me real mad.
Having said that, I’m actually going to leave this section at large to Rake because both of us were so ticked off by this article that we felt that each of us deserved a chance to respond and to pick it apart and he’s the person being labeled a “fauxminist” here.
So, take it away, Rake.
P.S. Count the ways in which ladies can become “fauxminists” by this metric. Quiz Monday.