A Gentleman’s Approach to Feminism is a weekly column from Journalist Walter Yeates. This column will mostly focus on women’s rights and other news which affect women around the world.
This is an important conversation to have, and not many are willing to have it. However, it’s important to not be condescending when having a conversation about reversing the public perception of a damaging social construct like sexism.
Recently the opinion section of the reputable United Kingdom based outlet Independent published a somewhat troubling article on males and sexism in their opinion section dubbed Voices. Here are several excerpts from the article which raise an eyebrow:
First of all, if you are more upset about being told that you are being sexist than actually thinking about the problem that has been raised, it means that you are more upset about defending your own ego than validating the experience of the woman in front of you. Sounds a lot like sexism, right?
If a woman is saying you are being sexist, you definitely have to listen, because you’ve never lived life as a woman and don’t know what it is like to face sexism every single waking hour of your life. It is so tedious. While sexism is theoretical to you, it is oh so very real to us, so at least listen to what we have to say. Be thankful that the women around you don’t think of you as a lost cause because “behind every woke man is an exhausted feminist you need to thank.”
Let’s talk about these issues in a constructive manner.
Reacting To Accusations
The idea that every accusation made towards an individual is correct is a dangerous place to begin any discussion. It also encourages limiting the conversation, as do terms like “mansplain” or “whitesplain” as they are often used to immediately disarm someone without listening to their point of view or argument.
While there are cases of each, simply using such terms in a conversation before listening, will limit the message and cause many of which who would be allies to tune out. The same concept holds true for statements of sexism. For example, during the last Democratic primary for President of the United States, Bernie Sanders received criticism for being a sexist despite being a lifelong advocate for women’s rights.
It’s also important to remember the context of every situation. If accusations of sexism are lobbied by someone like Tomi Lahren, claiming she is being told how to think after a male uses evidence to show that women are paid less for equal work – should he sit back and think, “Maybe I am being sexist?”
Absolutely not, as the term is being applied as a tool to win an argument, not an actual experience or social dynamic. It’s actually less sexist to be more upset at the accusation in this scenario, as it insults actual cases of sexism that women have to endure.
Is Sexism Theoretical For Feminist Men?
While that is the simple answer, the in-depth reasoning is also easy to digest. Male feminists have women in their lives they care deeply about whether that is their mothers, sisters, wives, or friends. Male feminists want to see those women he cares about (and women in general) have an equal opportunity for success in society.
Sexism is by no means theoretical for a male feminist. It’s quite easy to digest that women are often paid less for the same work, must deal with a huge gap in pay, and must deal with alarming rates of sexual harassment. These numbers are proven and backed by numerous of studies.
It’s real and nowhere near a theory and male feminists understand that. Being a willing and enthusiastic listener to a woman when she opens up about sexism is important, yet if a man has to have an exhausted woman behind him to make him see the inequality, then he is not really a feminist.
There is no denying that women deserve and should be heard when they are speaking about issues of sexism. Our society currently focuses on the patriarchy and we have to begin to actualize an equal society that many will argue already exists. That requires male feminists must play a role in speaking out about the importance of women having a fair and safe working environment where they are compensated equally for their work.
However, male feminists should be able to defend their role in the feminist movement while under attack. Unfortunately, there are women who will use the term sexism as a way to defect from their actual argument.
I am a male feminist and have had to endure arguments of sexism from a woman who voted for Donald Trump. The basis of her argument was, “I’m a woman, if my rights were infringed on then I’d be aware. The entire march was dumb,” in reference to the Women’s March held the day after President Trump’s inauguration.
Was I being a sexist for using facts against her? No. Is there a bit of irony that I was being deemed a sexist after she cast a vote for Donald Trump? Yes.
Read the previous Gentleman’s Approach To Feminism here.