Skip to main content

View Diary: How to be a Male Ally (59 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  I'm kind of curious... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    as to how you'd recommend that I deal with a certain conversation.  And you can respond in a post or PM if you'd prefer.

    Background: My boyfriend (or former boyfriend, it's complicated) was always making fun of feminism and feminists.  Even though he knew I'm a feminist.  I had tried several times to talk about it, pointing out that what he was opposed to was a straw-man image of feminism and that there are real problems that need to be addressed that can't just be brushed aside with "but women aren't perfect either"-type arguments.  But he didn't want to hear it, and it never went anywhere.  Eventually after he could tell that his jokes about feminists were annoying me he agreed to stop, and we didn't discuss the issue again.

    However, things in our relationship kept going downhill.  He had a drinking problem, and whenever he'd drink, he'd go happy to attention-sick to violent to suicidal, in that order.  After one particularly bad event which I won't go into, he agreed to stop drinking, but all sorts of other problems remained - most notably, depression, and he'd regularly get really angry and yell at me for little things - then calm down, apologize, and I'd say it's okay, and pretend that everything was fine.  Only, at long last, one day I told him, I can't just keep saying that everything's fine - it's not.  You can't treat me like that.  And I left.

    And he broke down and drove off to go kill himself.

    But instead of doing it, he had a change of heart.  He checked himself into rehab - a guy who's terrified of doctors, checking himself into a medical facility.  A guy who's terrified of public spaces and talking about his feelings, checking himself into a place where he'd have to lead groups talking about them.  And when his week there ended, he checked himself into a month-long program out in the middle of nowhere to try to learn how to control his emotions and in general be a better person.  He's actually thanked me several times for leaving him, for giving him that trigger to give him to try to pull his life together.

    I've never seen such a radical transformation in a person in my life.  I'm moving cautiously, as I have no way to know what's permanent, but he's really like an entirely different person in every regard.  He no longer has any apparent social anxiety.  He actually smiles.  He talks about his life and his feelings.  And on and on.  He even totally changed his appearance.

    And in the middle of one call, out of the blue, he told me... by the way... is there any way you could talk to me about feminism some time?

    And I really honestly believe he does want to learn.  He'd earlier mentioned in his conversations how it was troubling him hearing how some of the other guys there talked about women, or how some didn't want their girlfriends to visit because they couldn't have sex there so there was no point, and so forth.  I think he actually has an open mind on the issue now.

    How would you recommend I go about it?

    I was thinking about something like this (I wrote up an outline, I'm thinking it'd be about a half-hour talk):

    I'd begin by giving him a printout of horribly sexist quotes from a popular local celebrity named Gillz (I live in Iceland) on the subject of women at a certain festival, and then pointing out that he was invited to host that very event this year.  Telling him that I'm not giving these quotes because they're extraordinary, but precisely because they're not, because we both know how common these sorts of attitudes are.  Just ignoring that the guy was once charged with rape - the comments repeatedly refer to women as "kellingar" (literally like "old hag", but figuratively used like "bitches") and "ílát" (literally, container... yes, the reference is as crude as you're thinking), he cracks jokes about rape and plays it off as a normal part of going to a festival, etc.  I'd show all the support he got when he was criticized, how his TV show is the most popular download on a local P2P site, etc, and then point out that basically it all sums up to, he, and far, far too many men out there, view women as another species.  As something - not even someone - that exists just to f**.  And that feminism is the antithesis of this - that women are not some other species, not some thing to simply f*.

    I was then thinking about switching gears to talking about my experience in the auto industry.  About finding out that the execs I was meeting (we're talking top execs of the Big Three) with were disappointed that they couldn't do their business meetings at the normal places, which were apparently strip clubs.  About what it felt like going into the detroit auto show and knowing more about electric vehicles than 99% of the people there, but being confronted immediately by the sight of "Booth Babes" everywhere whose job it was to smile at and touch and pose with the guys who looked at the cars, and how much it makes you feel like a "thing" in such an environment, rather than a peer.  I was thinking about mentioning the subsidiary that got started up where the (all male) board appointed one of their wives, who had no interest nor background in cars, to run the company because they were getting complaints about not having enough women in the top positions.  There was no shortage of women in these companies at the lower levels - I'd know, I worked with them.  But the attitude was totally, "meh, we need a woman, this one will do".  Like she's a *thing.  And how ironic it is that people blame stuff like that on feminism, when to a feminist that's a major symptom of the problem.

    I was thinking I'd then talk the standard argument, "but women do it too", and point out that while it's only understandable a person would want to defend "their side", and to make an equivalence, the reality is, there really is no equivalence here.  That this objectification, this making people out to be "things", really is predominantly among men - even when other men are the targets.  For example, strip clups - there has to be 20 strip clubs where women strip for men for every one where men strip for women.  And even when women go to such places, it's not generally the sort of staring at men like a wolf at a piece of meat - it's often in an imitation of men!  Along the lines of, "Hey, men are always objectifying us - let's objectify them for a change!"  And nonetheless, it's rare enough that there's probably nearly as much male stripping targetted at gay men as straight women, despite the fact that women are 20 times more common.

    Or rape, one of the ultimate examples of treating another person as an object to use for your enjoyment.  In the US, 92% of reported rapes were with a male perpetrator and female victim, 7% with a male perpetrator and male victim, 0.8% with a female perpetrator and female victim, and 0.2% with a female perpetrator and male victim.  Now, it's quite possible that that reporting rates are lower for men - I wouldn't be surprised at all.  But the trend is clear.  Women are easily the most likely to be the victims of rape.  But even when the victim is male, the odds are still overwhelmingly high that the perpetrator is male.  Whether the reporter is male or female, 99% of the time, the perpetrator is male.

    I was thinking then about giving him this article.  It's in English, but his English is fine.  I think it's a pretty powerful summing up of the latter point.

    I was thinking about then summing up with trying to get an acknowledgement that the problem is real, that there's a culture that exists among a portion of men - not all, just a portion - wherein women are seen as little more than things, like another species.  But all too commonly, a large portion of men who don't necessarily share these beliefs are all too willing to look the other way.  And that I know that speaking out can have negative consequences, that the culture that treats women like this isn't too kind to men who don't agree with it.  I'd mention that the husband of one of my friends is part of a male feminist allies organization, and he and several others went to said music fest (which I led off with) to talk to men and try to get an understanding from them that they need to get consent.  They were literally physically attacked, injured, and chased off by a group of guys for doing so.  So I know that it's not easy.  But all that I'd ask for is to recognize the problem where it exists and support where you feel comfortable doing so.

    So yeah... that's my rough outline.  Do you think that's good?  What would you change?  Any tips on delivery?  Icelandic isn't my first language, so it'll be a bit rough (which is kind of why I wrote an outline, to help).

    Já þýðir já. Nei þýðir nei. Hvað er svona erfitt við það?

    by Rei on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 08:57:54 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site