I read this article tonight from a few years back and a lot of what I read struck a chord with me. Especially this paragraph.
“There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil’s advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women’s Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.”
This is part of the reason why I tried as hard as I could to bury my feminism while I was dating my ex. I would talk to him about things that were important to me and he would always bring up ways that it could potentially come back to hurt him as a man. Like when he would bring up “all” the women who would falsely accuse men of rape just to hurt them while I’m talking to him about yet another story that I heard where a woman wasn’t taken seriously and/or was treated horribly/blamed while trying to go to the police to report being raped. He would bring up the “false accusations” as if it were just as prevalent and equal of a problem as what women go through after actually having been raped. As if it was an epidemic.
It was like he thought that his thoughts and opinions were always needed, and there was always a “but men need to be protected too” whenever feminism was brought up in any form.
Usually his playing devils advocate would end our conversations because I just didn’t have the strength or the confidence to tell him that he was being an ass. I never had the guts to tell him that there are some things that he just doesn’t get to have an opinion on because women being treated fairly is not a subject that is up for debate.
“There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is not considered more relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of men who make a pastime of informal observation, like womanhood is an exotic locale which provides magnificent fodder for the amateur ethnographer. And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn’t make one more objective; it merely provides a different perspective.”
He used to say “Feminism is fine with me… as long as it’s fair.” At the very end of our relationship I pointed out to him “If it isn’t fair to both women and men, it’s not feminism.” I also went on to say “Men have really got to stop feeling like feminism is a potential threat to them. The point is not to dominate men, it’s to get men to stop feeling they have the right to dominate women. It’s not a competition in anyway. It’s just expecting to be treated fairly, and with respect. It’s about the right of women to live their lives however they choose and not feel like they have to apologize for it or explain it. It’s about protecting women, and if men feel threatened by that then maybe they need to examine their behavior…” He then said that what he had said was a poor choice of words, despite the fact that he spent our entire relationship acting like he was in danger of losing the “right” to do things or behave in a certain way because of feminism.
And he never seemed to understand that perhaps he wasn’t in a position to decide what was “fair”.
“There is the unwillingness to listen, a ferociously stubborn not getting it on so many things, so many important things. And the obdurate refusal to believe, to internalize, that my outrage is not manufactured and my injure not make-believe—an inflexible rejection of the possibility that my pain is authentic, in favor of the consolatory belief that I am angry because I’m a feminist (rather than the truth: that I’m a feminist because I’m angry).”