Feminists have tried, persistently, to kill the stereotype of the angry feminist, because angry women, like angry people of color, and especially angry women of color, are in a word, terrifying. It’s tempting to rebel against the idea that women have to play the role of accommodating peacemakers all the time, even when someone is supporting an idea that sets our rights back 50 years. Bikini Kill’s lyrics from “White Boy” come to mind:
“I’m really sorry if I’m alienating some of you. Your whole fucking culture alienates me.”
This is how a lot of feminists, including myself, often feel. Why should I attempt to make you feel comfortable? Our whole lives we’ve had to empathize with a male point of view and envision our lives through the male characters we watch on television and read about. So yeah, we’re sick of empathy.
But as tired as I am of tolerating misogyny in my friends, family and acquaintances, I can’t simply yell at them and hope they retain the message. I know that a lot of feminists can agree with the fact that men are also victims of gender roles. Admittedly, they live in them far more comfortably than we do because the culture has been constructed to fit their worldview, especially if those men are white, and men continue to make more money and hold more positions of power.
They don’t “have it all,” however. The American workforce demands that men spend less time with their families in order to succeed, which is an equal part of the problem. A society that values motherhood more than fatherhood minimizes the impact a father can have on his child’s life and discourages his involvement in it. Little boys are told there is one acceptable model of manhood they are allowed to follow.
Now we’re coming to a point where some men are voicing their frustration with women on feminist blogs, calling themselves Men’s Rights Activists. Some of them are extreme and call us selfish sluts for asking for more than they think we’re entitled to. I think others are just confused. Imagine being raised to believe there is a correct way to be a man and suddenly the ceiling comes crashing down on you. You have to adjust. But no one has told you what you should do to adjust. Angry people are yelling at you for being a misogynist and yet, this is all you knew about being a man.
I’ve noticed that feminist bloggers and commenters on Jezebel and Feministing, either call these men ignorant buffoons or patiently attempt to explain why the ideas they’re expressing are outdated. The first reaction is exactly what an MRA wants. He wants to believe there is a war of the sexes and you are validating his worldview that women attain a better quality of life at the expense of men. Take the conflict away from him and he becomes disoriented. It’s human nature to disengage when no one is engaging you.
In a different vein, feminists often speak to men who express confusion because they don’t know what feminism is, or call women names without thinking about what those names mean. Take a deep breath first. We often argue that women who sit comfortably in their gender roles aren’t to blame because it’s what we were raised with. Unfortunately it’s all men know too, so try to be patient first. If that doesn’t work, abandon the mission. At least you tried.