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Feminism Friday: Occasionally Conversations with my Man Are Instructive

This is a republication of a post originally published at the author’s blog that I had linked to in the FAQs. That blog is no longer a general readership blog, but the author has given permission to repost this article here.

Author: Ilyka Damen


He came home from the store this afternoon and asked, “So, what’s new with the thread that never ends?”

“Oh, that’s dead finally,” I told him. “Turns out all I hadda do to kill it was talk about the topic in great wonky and laborious detail. I wish I’d realized that 600 comments ago.”

“I thought the topic was how mean you all are.”

“That’s what they say . . . hey, there has been one new development: Pinko Punko dropped a link to I Blame the Patriarchy at Sadly, No!”

“Oh dear God.”

“Pretty much, man, pretty much.”

So later I had him read the thread at Twisty’s, and he said, “I have a question.”

“Shoot.”

“Okay . . . I get that there’s a culture on feminist blogs, and you read them all the time, you understand that culture, most of the time I’m even okay with it, but then sometimes . . . do you guys not realize how you sound?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, if someone who’d never really read Feministe just went over and all they read was that post of piny’s–well, no, not so much that post, or even Feministe necessarily, but like, I can see how some of these guys get the idea that you all hate men. Because you’re talking to the regulars, and the regulars know you don’t hate men, but some new guy reading some of this stuff, he’s going to be all, wait, what did I do? I didn’t rape anybody, I never beat up a transsexual–”

“No, I get that,” I interrupted him. “That’s a lot like–like, I used to have the same reaction reading blogs by people of color. I’d see something like ‘white people sure suck sometimes,’ and I’d be all, ‘Hey! Wait! Not all of us! Not me!’ Even though I probably do suck as a white person sometimes–but I mean, I’d take it too personally.”

“It’s hard not to take it personally.”

“It’s not as hard if you move yourself out of the center of everything, though. That’s what I finally got through my thick skull. It’s not ABOUT me, always. And even if it is about me, so what? I’m not perfect. Why shouldn’t I have to take some shit once in awhile? Heaven knows I dish enough out in a day. Would it kill me to get an attitude adjustment? Would it kill me to listen to someone unlike me for five minutes?”

“But if you aren’t the problem,” he argued, “It sucks to be treated like you’re the problem. It’s like being accused of something you didn’t do.”

“If I’m not the problem,” I explained, “then why should I get invested in identifying with the problem? If the problem is some particular batch of white people, doing or saying shit I’d never in a million years do myself, why should I feel the need to put myself in their shoes? Just because they’re white and I’m white? That’s stupid. Like all the idiot white dudes who identify with the Duke lacrosse players–they don’t even comprehend that unless they’re just as wealthy and elite, which you know 95% of them aren’t, the fucking lacrosse players would SPIT on them. They’re ID-ing with the players, but I guarantee you the players aren’t ID-ing with them.”

“A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would never do.”

“Then don’t identify with them. It’s not about you! You stand to pee, they stand to pee, beyond that, what’s the commonality?”

“That’s why the argument you guys make that I like the best is that patriarchy screws men too.”

“Well, it does,” I agreed with him, “but I think why you like that argument so much is because then it’s about you again. All’s right with the universe. Man the sun, woman the earth.”

“No, I’ve figured out that you guys don’t like that, and I’m trying not to do that, I swear, but the way you express things sometimes, isn’t it just making it easier for men to get defensive?”

“No,” I said firmly, “What we aren’t doing is taking care of them. Nurturing them. Putting their feelings first. Looking out for them, making things safe for them. We aren’t making them the center. We’re talking just the way we’d talk, the way we do talk, when y’all aren’t around.”

“And you know sometimes that gets ugly,” I continued, “but the thing to do then is to remember: Everything else IS centered around y’all. Everything else–you guys got the talk radio to take care of you, the ESPN, the CNN, the New York Times, the advertising industry–you can’t bask in all that adoration day in and day out and then pitch a fit because a handful of blogs on the internet don’t recognize your awesomeness. Or I mean, you can pitch a fit, go right ahead, but it’s not going to end with me bringing you your binky and kissing your forehead. It’s going to end with my foot in your ass.”

“But for a new guy–”

“For a new guy the best policy is to lurk, read, get a feel for the place, and just keep chanting: ‘It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It is not about me.’ Twisty even has an FAQ to help people out, but does anyone ever read it? Not the guys. They figure they already know everything important and no spinster aunt is going to tell THEM.”

“I don’t think I Blame the Patriarchy is where they should start out.”

“Word. It says ‘for advanced blamers only’ on it for a reason. Twisty has the S.C.U.M. manifesto posted there, for crying out loud. I don’t know what Pinko was thinking.”

“You should have a beginner’s blog.”

“Periodically someone says as much, but that’s a lot of work and boring to slog through if you already have some idea. I used to think a feminism 101 blog would be great, but anymore I’m like, ‘No, you can take your ass to the library. Or take a women’s studies class.’ But you say that last one, it’s like you suggested the dude go castrate himself.”

“That’s what I think I figured out–I shouldn’t expect one of you to walk me through everything.”

“Right. You don’t get a tour guide. That costs extra.”

“So now you know: This is why I mostly read sports blogs. I’m lazy, and I have enough homework as it is.”

“To be honest with you,” I confessed to him, “There are days I think sports blogs might be the way to go myself.”

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

20 comments on “Feminism Friday: Occasionally Conversations with my Man Are Instructive

  1. [...] post: Occasionally conversations with my man are instructive is instructive here. “A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would [...]

  2. Love ya, tigtog. Thanks!

  3. You know…as an introduction to femenist blogs? This little conversation works pretty well. I’m not even a complete newbie, and I enjoyed the overall clarity on the subject espoused in this conversation.

    Thanks. :)

  4. [...] Damen (Ilyka Damen): Occasionally Conversations with my Man Are Instructive [reprinted on this [...]

  5. why such a patronising title?

  6. The title strikes me as playful, but then I’m familiar with Ilyka’s style.

    Even so, what do you find patronising about Ilyka and her partner having a mutually instructive conversation?

  7. I guess it seems to imply that normally conversations with “my man” are a waste of time, or that normally he is the one being “instructed.” The conversation itself was indeed mutually instructive, but the title seemd to imply that such a thing was a uncommon. It seems strange to say such things of your partner, but then again, I doubt he would be bothered.
    It doesn’t matter, really- i guess i’m just one of those irritating “but what about the men!?” posters.

  8. I guess it seems to imply that normally conversations with “my man” are a waste of time, or that normally he is the one being “instructed.”

    Surely you don’t find all conversations that aren’t “instructive” a waste of time? What about conversations that are amusing? Or simply discursive chit-chat that are simply a way of engaging with other people in a pleasant fashion that makes you feel good about each other?

    As for your inference that Ilyka meant that her partner was the one being instructed, I can only say that I inferred the exact opposite, and that perhaps our different responses do point to personal biases. We could use that as a jumping off point for better understanding of each other, if you like.

    • To me, there’s an easy way to analyze this sort of statement to conclude how sexist it is. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it can be, as the OP says, Instructive. ;-) If you invert the gender in the statement, does the statement become sexist?

      “Occasionally Conversations With my Woman are Instructive.”

      Even taking into account the wry tone of the OP, on a scale of “maybe a little sexist accidentally” to “super duper sexist” I would put on that statement closer to the “super duper sexist” end of the scale. It definitely implies that instructive conversations are the exception, not the rule, and the fact that the OP is referring to her Significant Other as “My Man” is a little shifty to begin with. I doubt her intentions were nefarious… but I suspect there is a little unintentional sexism creeping in there.

      • Like you say there, it is useful but not foolproof.

        The example that immediately popped into my head was here.

        The sexism isn’t super-obvious unless you’re familiar with the cultural “women are always talking GOD WHY WON’T THEY SHUT UP” meme. There isn’t a similar meme about men, so it wouldn’t necessarily come across as sexist with the genders reversed.

        I think if you read the title of this post with emphasis on “occasionally”, the sentiment is in the same vein as the sitcoms that portray men as incompetent at anything seen as a traditional Mom task.

  9. Ah- this is somewhat funny. I read the sentence centering on the word ‘occasionally,’ and you (seemed to) read it centering on ‘instructive,’ which I probably never would have on my own. That does indeed point to personal biases, and is a remarkable indicator of how ambiguous the english language can be. The sentence is perfectly able to mean either, it just depends on who’s reading

  10. [...] Ilyka Damen at Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog: “Feminism Friday: Occasionally Conversations With My Man Are Instructive. A conversation that proceeds, step-by-step, through an explanation of why feminism is not all about the men and why men should step up and educate their own damned selves. An answer to the self-defensive, “A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would never do.” [...]

  11. I have a problem with, or at least a question about, “if it’s not about you, it’s not about you”: how does one take into account self deception? When I read “men eat their own feces,” can I tell myself “it’s not about me so it’s not about me” as I take a big bite of my shitburger? The whole thing seems to discourage introspection–which I realize isn’t what feminist blogs are for–among male readers.

    • I have a problem with…

      Then don’t read it. Nobody put a gun to your head and forced you to click the link.

      I have a problem with Rush Limbaugh…. so I don’t listen to his radio show. Pretty simple.

  12. The problem are the words “men”, “man” and “male”.

    I’m with Hershele. When you say “men” I hear “men”, “Men” is not synonymous with “exploitative men”, nor “abusive men”, nor “rapist men”.

    Ilyka joke about how he identifies with the criticized group because of the way they pee is as funny as… well… most discriminating jokes when they cater to your prejudices… but it’s wrong.

    When feminists talk bad about “men”, about what “men” do, what “men” think, the only thing that “men” can assume is that you are talking about “men” and that includes them.

    It’s 2009! the year of the meme! Why don’t you come up with a word that actually refers to the group you are criticicing?

    The irony is that male-feminists are a minority (despite being men), they are the minority inside your minority, you had a chance to lead by example and show the world how to treat a minority and your basic stance is STFU.

    • you had a chance to lead by example and show the world how to treat a minority and your basic stance is STFU

      Why is it always a woman’s duty to lead by example? Why are men allowed to be as rotten & vile as they care to be, but we must remain “good girls”? Why are women held to a higher standard of behavior? We’re human too, ya know. We get pissed off & disgusted with the world too, ya know.

      As for the “STFU stance”… yeah? So? And? Plenty of mainstream websites take that exact same stance against women. How bout we talk about 4chan, with their notorious “show tits or GTFO” stance?

      Next.

      • Because the women in question are part of a movement which promotes the belief that men and women don’t need to engage in a massive power struggle in which one sex can only win by subjugating the other?
        Feminists are held to a higher standard of behaviour gender-wise because they are themselves pushing for higher standards. 4chan, on the other hand, is a gross-out message board in which everyone tries to be as offensive as possible, no?

  13. When feminists make blanket statement about men, they have right to take it personally, becuase you use the gendered language and complain about how men abuse women and never seem to aknowlege that men are abused by women all the time.

    • A major aspect of feminism is encouraging women to stand up against abuse committed against them, to state clearly that nobody deserves to be abused.

      Of course men who have been abused have a right to stand up against that as well. However, abuse is never justified by the abuser having also been abused, so when we’re talking about one kind of abuse it is derailing to switch it to discussing another form of abuse.

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