“I’m a man interested in learning about feminism – now what?”

After the fallout from the #YesAllWomen hashtag, I had a number of men come up to me wanting to talk about feminism. Specifically, they wanted to know how to get involved, or what they could do day-to-day.

After having a good, long think about it – and doing a tonne of Google searching – I’ve come up with a list of things. As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that anyone is capable of a good Google search, but I’ve selected the material that I’ve posted here because I feel that it comes from reasonably reputable feminist sources (and not, say, WikiAsk.com).

It’s also worth pointing out to all men that the term “male feminist” can be reasonably controversial. Some women will not accept you as a feminist. Some women will say you are an “ally”. Some women will welcome you with open arms. You’re going to get mixed reactions – and that’s okay! The point is not to argue, but to listen. If a woman doesn’t accept you as a feminist, it’s your job to understand why (and not necessarily by asking her, because heck, she might’ve just had 27 other guys ask her the same thing. Do some research for yourself).

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get on with my list of Things To Know:

Articles on the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen hashtags (and why the ‘Not All Men’ claim needs to stop):

A woman’s perspective on #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen:

While there is no conspiracy, no organised mission to shut down the feminist front, there is still unchecked sexism at play. A knee-jerk defense mechanism to shut down discussion before anyone has to face the fact every single person lives with the dreadful impact that is sexual and physical violence against women.

Via Amy Gray

A man’s perspective on #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen (with a women’s input):

Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them.

Via Phil Plait

A guide to mansplaining (and why women don’t need to be told that it’s “not all men”):

Women are tired of having subjects that they are highly educated in explained to them like they’re children, and they sometimes react in emotional ways. If you’re having a reasoned, intelligent debate with a woman and all of a sudden she throws her hands up and says “OK! Stop talking to me like I’m an idiot,” you’re likely a mansplainer.

Via Amy McCarthy

On male privilege:

Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class. While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being read as male by society, benefits from male privilege.

Via Finally Feminism 101

Now that you’ve learnt a little bit about male privilege and mansplaining, let’s talk about men’s roles within feminism. There’s an excellent page over here called “Can men be feminists” that provides links to further views (both for and against). Head over there and follow some of the links.

The place of men in feminism:

Where we try to jump into women’s groups and work with women we often have problems. Most men have a lot to work out within ourselves related to our masculinity and how we relate to women as well as other men. When we try to work out our issues within women’s groups we repeat the pattern of women needing to educate men about our feelings and many other related issues.

Via Feminist Allies

And another takes on men’s roles in feminism and how men can ‘help’:

For a lot of people just starting to come to a feminist identification, listening may be a lot more productive and clarifying. “Listening” might mean attending talks or lectures, or it might mean reading blog comment sections or Twitter hashtags without feeling like you have to contribute. Everyone, no matter where they are in their feminist life, can benefit from listening, so I heartily encourage this activity. It’s not only a great way to learn the shorthand and memes and key phrases and all that, but it’s a good way to find people—especially other men—whom you might want to reach out to in your own future conversations.

Via Bitch Magazine

In terms of what you, as man interested in feminism, can actually do (and this is by far one the best articles I’ve found):

You probably have a lot of insights that you want to share. You want to tell us why men act the way they do and how you think we can change that behavior. And there’s room for that in feminism… to an extent. But for the most part, what we need men to do is just to listen.

I want you to think about all the women who are denied a chance to speak by men around the world — women who are barred from obtaining an education, women who are subjected to genital mutilation, women who aren’t allowed to work, women who are survivors of sexual abuse, women of color, trans and queer women, sex workers. Don’t they deserve a chance to be heard? Wouldn’t you like to be the person to give them that chance?

Via Aaminah Khan

And finally, my own set of suggestions:

  • Get to reading! There’s a tonne of amazing feminist books out there – read some of them! The Bitch magazine article I linked to above provided a pretty substantial list.
  • Show up at pro choice rallies (just make sure that men are welcome first)
  • Show up at events like Slut Walk (again, just make sure that it’s male inclusive first)
  • Speak up when you hear someone misusing the term “rape”, or spot other forms of sexism in action (and be prepared to get shot down for it)
  • Get involved in your local femmo scene. Here in Melbourne we have a pretty awesome set of events – things like Cher Chez La FemmeWomen’s Melbourne Network, and Melbourne Feminist Action. These groups aren’t going to invite you along – you have to hunt them down yourself.
  • Do some further research yourself. It took me about an hour to put this post together – imagine what you could find out yourself in that time. Women don’t always have the time or inclination to do your research. So, do some for yourself (and be prepared for a very wide variety of views! Feminism is not unanimous on a lot of issues).

#YesAllWomen, and men’s reactions

By now, I’m sure that many of you have read the story of the young man in California who took the lives six people, and himself, over the weekend. He claimed, among many other reasons, that he did this because he wanted to punish all the young women that rejected him. He also said that, at 22, he had never been kissed and was still a virgin – and that this was the fault of women.

After reading portions of this man’s manifesto, I have felt alternately like laughing, vomiting, and weeping. Laughing, because the entire manifesto seems so contrived. Vomiting, because what person would ever condemn women to a concentration camp? And weeping, because of the results and consequences of this “manifesto”.

There are so many underlying issues at work here, it’s hard to follow the thread of just one. Gun violence and accessibility. Women’s bodies as a form of property. Male entitlement to women. MRMs and MRAs. The harmful notion of “virginity”. White male violence. Misogyny and patriarchal power systems.

However, the one I wanted to address was how I found myself comforting a number of men the day after the shooting.

I had been participating in the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter, and had been tweeting some home truths about my life. As a brief background, my life is relatively privileged. I’m white, middle class, straight, cis, and am doing my PhD in Melbourne – one of the world’s “most liveable” cities. So when I stood up on Twitter and said the following, it hit some of my male acquaintances hard:

And how did I spend the rest of my afternoon and evening after tweeting these things? Comforting some of the men in my life. Talking to my male acquaintances about how they felt about this mass shooting. Discussing their reactions, and how they could do things to help. And you know what? I didn’t have an answer. Sure, I said some things to them about helping through “listening more” and “talking less” (both very important things), but it felt to me like a cop out.

You know what I wanted to say? I wanted to say, “don’t worry, you will feel better. Give it a week, or a month, or a year. You’ll forget. It’ll probably pass.”

I wanted to say, “Sure, it could have been your mother, or your sister, or your girlfriend, but the chances are that it still wouldn’t have been you.” And then I wanted to say, “Does it even matter if she was or wasn’t known by you? Because it shouldn’t.”

I wanted to say, “Why am I comforting you?”

The truth is, good men of this world, it might not get any better. Now you’ve awoken to the potential threat of violence that women in your life endure every day, you have a choice. You can choose to continue listening and helping – or you can go back to ignoring it. You can pretend that I, along with many other women, don’t have an “escape plan” for our own homes. You can ignore the fact that we won’t go for a run by ourselves after dark, or open to door for an unknown delivery man. Or you can take some action. You can listen, and you can learn.

But this is one of those cases in which your somewhat discomfiting awakening to these truths is still nothing – nothing - compared to what women live with day to day. Let me be clear: I am not attempting a form of oneupmanship here – I’m simply stating a fact. Your pain is nothing compared to ours. The very fact that you needed a moment of “awakening” is evidence enough that for years you have been divorced from the day to day lives of women around you.

Thoughts on unpaid overtime

Unpaid overtime is a problem that faces a growing number of workers – and it’s something that Australians in particular struggle with. However, it was only recently that I realised why the notion of unpaid overtime really bothered me, particularly when it came to industries that have a “culture” of overtime (for example, most STEM fields).

Typically, what this “culture” equates to is an entire industry working “until the job is done” – regardless of whether they are being paid or not. Whether it be fixing a virus or marking exam papers out of hours, people within these roles will stay at work until the problem is fixed. It could be that they feel pressured to stay because everyone else is doing so, or it could be because they want to create a good impression within the company.

Technically, these hours are seen as voluntary. I say “technically”, because you can usually bet that if one of these workers kicked up a stink about working unpaid overtime, they would be out on their butts come the next hiring period. At the very least, they would be viewed as not chipping in to the same extent as their overtime-working colleagues. So, overtime may not be mandatory – but it can definitely be expected of workers.

The problem I have with this expectation lies within the individual worker’s ability to then meet these expectations. If you want to take a feminist’s viewpoint on the issue, then you can consider the following example:

A young, unattached, white, straight, single male works within a STEM-style field – let’s call him Alex. Alex has been at the company for a few years, and is slowly working his way up the corporate ladder. He occasionally does overtime, and says that he doesn’t mind because it’s “his choice”, and it’s “expected of him” (which, by the way, are two separate things. If Alex had a “choice” to go home at 5:00pm without any consequences, you can bet he’d do so). Alex has no one else dependent upon him, and so has the luxury of working overtime and picking up take out on his way back to his apartment.

Alex, although he may not realise it (and would probably disagree with you if you pointed it out to him) is drenched in privilege. He’s white (tick), straight (tick), young (tick), man (tick, tick, tick) in a traditionally male-dominated field. He puts in the extra hours and surprise, surprise, sooner or later he’s given a promotion.

Now, our next example: a single woman who has three children, working within the same STEM-style field – let’s call her Juliet. She’s been at the company for the same amount of time , except, of course, she has three children (cross), and is single (not necessarily a cross, but definitely difficult). Now, it’s 5:00pm, and Alex and Juliet are both asked to work overtime. Alex turn around and say “sure thing, boss!” – because he has no one dependent on him. Juliet, on the other hand, needs to be home to cook dinner and help her kids with their homework. so, what can she do? Well, she can either go home (which then creates the impression that she’s not working hard enough), or she stays (which then potentially creates the impression that she’s a “bad mother”). Either way, she loses out. Juliet’s already working in a traditionally male-dominated field – so how to you think it looks when she doesn’t put in the extra hours?

Do you see how this “culture of overtime” really only benefits a select few – and those select few are those with the fewest number of “consequences” for not staying behind? There are people who we work side by side with – mothers, carers, people of different abilities – who cannot work overtime. They simply can’t afford to do so. And the rest of us who do work overtime for free? We simply reinforce this culture. By not standing up to it, we say that it’s okay to judge us on the amount of “extra effort” we put in outside of work hours – when it’s not.

Boobs, boobs, boobs

Bonds Australia have recently launched an ingenious advertising campaign. And by “ingenious”, I really mean “somewhat uninspired and completely insipid”.

bonds_boobs

We get it. Bonds sells bras. Bras = boobs. Therefore, popping the word “boobs” on giant billboards around the countries somehow equates to an ingenious marketing campaign, yes?

Unfortunately, no. But to make matters even more interesting, Bonds have launched an entire range of bras to accompany their “advertisements”. This range of bras veers towards the “Spice Girl” approach to product creation – there’s a bra for “sporty” boobs, a bra for “mama” boobs, and a bra for “super” boobs (and no, I have no idea what “super” boobs do either. I assume that they give you magical powers, a la Wonder Woman).

bonds boobs

If Bonds are going to attempt to venture down this particular path, I would make one small suggestion to them. And that suggestion is a little thing I would call “realism”. Let’s all take a moment to collectively ponder whether we would be caught dead buying a “wow” bra. Because if you’re anything like me, you probably can’t stomach that particular thought (if, however, you are inclined to purchase a “wow” bra, you can now feel more fully informed! You go, Glen Coco!).

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce to you my brand of Realistic Bras (TM):

“Sunday morning hangover” bra

You got home at 3:00am and fell into bed completely dressed – only to wake 8 hours later with your make up smeared across several sheets and pillow cases, and your cat licking your hair (or is that just me?). To make matters worse, you forgot to take your bra off – so your torso feels like you’ve just emerged from a particularly gruesome medieval torture device. What your boobs need in their current hung over state is something starchy and carby – sorry, I mean stretchy and comfy. This line would come in a set of neutral colours, of course. You don’t want to make that head ache any worse by staring at brightly coloured tropical prints on your bra, right?

“My eyes are up here” bra

Haven’t we all had this particular moment? You know, the one where you’re attempting to have a conversation with a person, only for them to stare, rigidly, at your breasts. That’s when you need the “my eyes are up here” bra.

Ideally, this bra would shoot bullets from it, a la the Fembots from Austin Powers:

article-2289836-18813034000005DC-870_634x475

However, short of this, I’m happy to settle for it to simply dole out abuse to every single unsuspecting pervert who can’t make consistent eye contact with me. Insults along the line of “Yo, fuckwad, my face is 30cm north of your current gaze” would be broadcast at the press of a button. How convenient!

“Sore boobs” bra

Again, this is a common problem that bras could endeavour to fix – if they weren’t too busy trying to make my breasts look “wow” or “super”. Whether it be PMS-style soreness, or “I played mixed netball last night and got elbowed in the norks five times”- soreness, we’ve all had tender boobs. Hell, one time, I couldn’t walk down some stairs because the bouncing was too much for my sore breasts. What I’m saying is, I feel your pain.

The “sore boobs” bra would come with three layers of cushioned padding, and another layer of steel-styled armour – just in case someone else tries to elbow you. The bra would hold you snug, enabling you to conquer any form of “bouncing activity” without pain!

“I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly” bra

You know when you need this bra. You’re feeling bootylicious (probably as a result of having just listened to three hours solid of Destiny’s Child AND Beyonce). You’re ready to go out and conquer the world, one wheel of brie at a time. So, what do you do? You throw on your “single ladies” bra.

This bra would have every single accessory known to mankind attached to it. It would magically boost, plump, and sparkle-ise your breasts. It would also come with that immensely annoying accessory – the cleavage jewellery. You know, that little dangly sparkly thing that comes attached to the centre of bra, right between the two cups? There’s literally no point to that bit of sparkle – except in the case of this bra. In this bra, the sparkly dangly jewellery thing enhances your breasts, and everyone who views them will leave feeling both astounded and enlightened. Who knew that cleavage jewellery held so much power?

There’s so much potential in this “realistic” bra line. If only Bonds had bothered to survey some actual human beings before they launched their “wow” bras, they may have realised this. Instead, I am left feeling distinctly underwhelmed, and longing for a “sore boobs” bra.