Some white knighting may be in order

I just discovered the amazing #YesAllWomen thread on Twitter.  See also this.  I’ve been following this whole online misogyny thing since Anita Sarkeesian‘s Tropes Kickstarter drew my attention to it.  It’s train-wreck fascinating to me because I always assumed people who behaved like that were just an occasional psycho, or little kids trying to stir up any kind of attention.  I’ve been trying to understand how so many extreme throwbacks can exist.

Here’s the chain of thought the Twitter thread led me to, which is the reason for this post:

I know that I sometimes say things or make jokes or tease too much in ways that may be offensive to women.  I usually realize when I’ve done one of these things anywhere from seconds to weeks later, and I feel bad about it when I realize what I’ve done.  Feeling bad about it leads me to try to correct that behavior in future.  Problem solved – not immediately, but as rapidly as my self-awareness permits.

But maybe I have some unconscious misogynistic behaviors that I’m not aware of.  I can’t fix those if I don’t feel bad about them, and I can’t feel bad about them if I don’t even know they exist.

Therefore, sometimes someone has to tell you that you’re being an ass, and just as importantly why it’s a bad thing.

On top of that, it seems from reading this Twitter thread that not only are many women afraid to tell men when they’re being asses, but they might actually be justified in being afraid.

And maybe these troglodytes that are responsible for both that fear and this climate of misogyny aren’t actually aware they’re in the wrong or maybe they don’t feel bad about it because they don’t know why it’s wrong.  This is a disturbing thought for me – maybe they’re not just shit-disturbers, but somehow actually believe the crap they spout.

It seems like getting more men on board with correcting other mens’ behavior is required.  I’m on board, though I’m not sure I know how to do this effectively.

3 Comments

  • Mike says:

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea of white knighting this kind of thing, for the simple reason that it’s a fine (and difficult to see) line between rescuing, supporting, and continuing to marginalize other people. Women don’t need us to stick up for them so much as they need us to make sure they can stand up for themselves, if you get the difference. It’s structural versus individual stuff. Go too far, be too aggressive about it, and you can unintentionally further silence another person’s voice. Being an ally is hard, and it’s not always going to go perfectly, but the struggle is what matters, so long as we keep trying to do better which each iteration.

    I think the thing is to try and recognize those environments where your voice is privileged and others are not, and to then use your voice to try and empower the underprivileged. Remember that guy who was calling out RMS for his sexist comments during his talks? That’s the sort of thing I mean — it’s not about defending specific women so much as it is ensuring that someone with equal standing in the community is explaining why a particular behavior is unacceptable, and demanding that the behavior change. This isn’t always going to work well; human interaction is messy, after all, but it’s a good start, and the important thing is to keep trying, keep learning, keep listening, and keep checking your own privilege to see whether what you’re doing is effective or not.

    This might be a good place to start. It’s an excellent article about becoming an ally. I re-visit it every few years.

    • Soleil says:

      Thanks, Mike. Several things there I hadn’t thought of, and this space seems to be littered with the sort of fine lines I’m typically blind to.