Friday, 3 May 2013

Men are not the subject of this conversation

[CN: rape, sexual violence, victim-blaming]

TL;DR I support male survivors even when the conversation isn't about them.

There are many ways to derail a feminist discussion. Some, like the Exceptional WomanObjectivity/RationalismTone ArgumentDevil's Advocate, and the ever-popular Oppression Olympics are fairly easy to ignore. I can simply roll my eyes and dismiss such statements, because the people who say things like "You're too shrill to be taken seriously" are either trolls or ignorant. Possibly both.

There is another all-time classic, however: without fail, someone will always bring up men's experiences. They will cry "Men deal with this, too!", as if they expect me to have no idea that men are also raped and harassed, also suffer as a result of the patriarchy and our society's fucked up masculine/feminine dichotomy. 

I know all this. In fact, I probably know more about it than the people I speak to, thanks to the simple fact that feminism advocates complete gender equality, supports all survivors of sexual violence, and acknowledges everyone's lived experiences.*

Moreover, I am just as willing to combat myths about male survivors as female ones. They tend to be very similar, in any case. If a man has an erection, he must want sex- so it's not rape. If a woman is wearing a short skirt, she's asking for it- so it's not rape. Most men are raped by other (homosexual) men. Most women are raped by strangers. Et cetera.

Here's the thing. The majority of my conversations about feminism begin as a result of something female-related, whether it's a misogynist joke or a sexist advertisement. The implicit understanding is that the discussion will revolve around women and their experiences. I want to tell you why I, as a woman, have feelings about this thing we're talking about, and you want to understand why I feel the way I do (hopefully, anyway). It doesn't get much more female-oriented than that. This is especially true if I am talking with (heterosexual, cisgender) men, who may not have otherwise thought about how different our lives are. 

So if we agree that we are talking about women, bringing the focus back onto men is both rude and silencing. 

It's rude because, hey, I was speaking first. Despite having taken the red pill** a while ago, I still find it difficult to interrupt people - even when they do it to me - and I have to pep-talk myself into raising my voice to be heard.

Furthermore, it silences me by dismissing my lived experiences as irrelevant and making men (again) the sole arbiters of what's normal. The implication is that if men didn't experience [rape/sexual harassment/stalking/domestic violence/oppressive standards of masculinity], then it wouldn't matter whether women did. 

And finally, bringing male survivors of sexual violence into the conversation this way implies that I don't care about them, because if I did, I would mention them myself without your prompting. 

Basically, insisting that I constantly reiterate my support for male survivors is on par with forcing me to repeat over and over again that not all men are sexist, and not all men are rapists, and not all men objectify women.

Some things really only need to be said once. Sometimes a conversation really isn't about men, nor does it have to be. 

Expecting me to assuage your guilt or what-have-you by repeating platitudes is stifling, annoying, and completely useless. 

Resources for male survivors of sexual violence (and their families, friends, or anyone simply looking to learn more) [CN for the links: graphic descriptions of rape and sexual violence]:

*Obviously, this only applies if the person I am speaking with is not a survivor of sexual violence hirself. Additionally, some feminists do dismiss certain groups of survivors (men and trans people are the most commonly affected). I am not one of them, I do not speak for them, and it is not my responsibility to apologize for them or explain why they do it (I suspect these feminists have not quite caught on to the idea of intersectionality. But that's a topic for another post).

** ETA2: I know "red pill" is a term commonly used by the reactionary, misogynistic and masculinity-enforcing Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) movement. I don't care. 

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