Please stop saying “I am ashamed of my gender”

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I’m not ashamed of my gender, or any of the subsets within it. There have been plenty of women whose behaviour has horrified me – the obvious example being Thatcher (and I apologise, because mentioning her name has become something like a feminist Godwin’s Law). But of my gender as a whole, I’m not ashamed.

If I were to say I was, I’d probably be told I was letting down the sisterhood. Someone would sigh, shake their head, and repeat that old saying: “women: beware women.” Criticising women as a woman is seen as a poisonous thing, and is subsequently painted as exactly the kind of thing a woman would do: those backstabbing bitches who’ll claw through their sisters to make their way to the top.

I’m not ashamed of women.

However, one of the most common things I hear from guys when I talk about some men’s appalling behaviour is this:

“I am ashamed of my gender.”

I hate it, and I want to explain why…

It’s not always phrased like that – sometimes it’s “I’m embarrassed to be a man sometimes” or “God I hate my half of the species.”

It comes from a well-meaning place. The guy in question wants to offer sympathy and support, and understands that whatever I’m talking about (guys being skeezy on the night bus, or this time a bloke in a pub said a pathetic, sexist thing to me) without writing it off as ‘not all men.’

Not all men are ashamed of my gender!

The guy who says ‘I’m ashamed’ is usually a decent bloke. He often says he’s embarrassed purely because he needs to say something. To acknowledge pain, frustration, rage, or hurt, without being the man who says: “not ALL men, though!”

That’s a laudable aim. But I think it’s equally damaging, and I want to explain why.

  • The ‘not all men’ guy hears a statement, assumes it’s a generalisation, and leaps instantly to defend himself.
  • The ‘I’m ashamed’ guy hears a statement, assumes it’s a generalisation, and leaps to condemn other men.

The reaction – whether it’s to be defensive or ashamed – is understandable to a point, but they’re equally frustrating if you’re the woman on one end who’s made the original statement. In sharing a story about sexism we’re rarely on a simple hunt for a hero: that one guy who bravely distances himself from other men by saying ‘not me though!’ or ‘aren’t those OTHER guys appalling!’

These things are rarely actually helpful: the first guy isn’t revealing shiny new info in telling us not all guys do this. The second guy is often giving us more work – to comfort and reassure him that it’s not as widespread as his personal shame would suggest.

The key problem is the assumption in the middle: that whenever an individual woman shares her experiences of sexism (or other things), we’re always laying the blame with ‘men’ as a whole. That the word ‘patriarchy’ means ‘men deliberately choosing to do mean things to women’ or that sexism happens because ‘men’ are all part of a secret reddit forum which instructs them on when to wolf-whistle as we walk down the street.

The assumption that individual critique represents ‘man-bashing’ as a whole is common to both of the reactions. It may be hard to spot it if you’re one of the guys who says ‘not me!’ or ‘I’m ashamed!’ I hate to break it to you, because if you follow me then you almost certainly mean well when you say it. So I’m sorry, but yeah – they’re almost identical. I can tell, because I find myself replying in similar ways whenever I bat back these responses.

Me: Some twat in a pub told me my pint wasn’t ‘ladylike.’ What a macho bellend.

Guy1: Some men like it when women order pints. [Translation: not all men, with a side-order of ‘your behaviour is OK if I personally like it’]

Me: I didn’t say all men would do this.

___

Me: Some twat in a pub told me my pint wasn’t ‘ladylike.’ What a macho bellend.

Guy2: God, I’m embarrassed to be a man right now.

Me: I didn’t say all men would do this.

See?

Who spreads the myth that ‘all men are bastards’?

Onto my main point, and you can probably guess it by now, right? I don’t think all men are bastards, or even that most men are bastards. Few people do.

But in saying ‘not all men’ or ‘I’m ashamed of my gender’ you prop up the idea that that is exactly what I’m saying. As I laboriously reply to guys who say ‘not all’ by saying ‘I didn’t mean all’, it becomes infinitely harder if I have a bunch of other blokes simultaneously telling me they’re ashamed. A crowd of people clamouring that they’re different only supports the misguided assumption that I was condemning a whole crowd in the first place.

Do you see? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s my main point here, and if you get it then I love you. But for extra fun…

Let’s bring back Thatcher

GOD NO NOT LIKE THAT.

I mean: let’s bring back the Thatcher example.

For some reason women are expected to be more aware of the sisterhood than dudes are of the brotherhood. My criticism of an individual woman (or a specific feminist movement, or the behaviour of a subset of women, etc etc) is seen as significant or political in a way that guys’ critique is not. We’re being asked at the moment how we feel about Hillary Clinton – not just as a politician, but as a woman. I suspect, for her whole life, Hillary will be assessed not just by how she does in politics but how she does as a woman: how she measures up to a nebulous idea of ‘womanhood’, or how she bonds with women, and whether she does it better than a man. She’ll be compared, and we’ll be expected to compare her too.

If we criticise her, it’s seen as shocking. Far more of a shock for me to criticise Hillary than for a guy to criticise Bernie. On top of whatever I think about her policies, I’ll be expected to justify why I feel the way I do about her as a woman. If I’m pro, it’s maybe in part because I feel sisterly solidarity. If I’m anti then it’s because, well, ‘women: beware women’ – we’re always crueller to other women, aren’t we? Don’t women hold other women to much higher standards?

If you hear someone talking about men – whether it’s behaviour that they’ve found common or an individual instance of something – I can see why it’s tempting to reply by setting yourself apart. By standing up and saying ‘not me!’ or professing that you’re ashamed. You want to stand out from the crowd – explain that these other men have let you down. I get it, I really do.

But next time you’re tempted to say it, think of Thatcher. Consider that a guy could criticise her freely, without his critique being tied to his gender, whereas my critique of Thatcher will never be something I can distance from the fact that I’m a woman. While men have other issues they can’t distance themselves from (a black guy who voted Obama, for instance, will almost certainly be asked what part race played in his choice), when it comes to gender by and large you’re free to criticise.

Even if what you’re criticising is your entire gender.

Even as you say ‘I’m ashamed of men’ and I reply ‘I don’t mean all men’, still your critique won’t be taken as a damning indictment of how men treat men. I will have to fight to clarify the assumption you’ve made, even as you get clean away with making it.

You may get called a ‘beta male’ or accused of trying to suck up to feminists, but by and large your criticism is free from judgment about ‘backstabbing’ men.

You will probably never be told “men: beware men.”

 

33 Comments

  • RB says:

    This is a very important read – whether intended or not I read ‘God, I’m ashamed of my gender’ as ‘I’m trying to insidiously steer the conversation from you to me.’

    • James says:

      It’s definitely that. I always read it heavily laden with “and please notice I’m not like this”, even more explicitly than not-all-men.

      (Also it’s a bit weird that one guy wants to take responsibility for an entire gender.)

      • Girl on the net says:

        Ah yeah – I think 99% of the time it’s meant well though, but you’re right regardless of how it’s meant it can be totally derailing.

        • bg says:

          Although I see how the aforementioned statement is potentially drawing attention away from the issue and towards the guy saying it, as you describe, I think it’s not always the case.

          For example I could imagine it being stated as a form of solidarity, in a slightly offhand way, without the intention, conscious or otherwise, of seeking affirmation of the speaker’s superiority.

          But it’s a very interesting point that you raise, one that I’ve never considered myself, although I am uncomfortable with the statement. But that’s because I always found it OTT.

          Re your point about Hillary and Bernie, the same would go for a black person and Obama, so I think it’s just a product of the fact that a minority/historically oppressed group is burdened with the politicisation of their private views.

          • Girl on the net says:

            Hi bg – yeah, you’re right about the Obama example (I used it towards the end of the blog post too).

            “it’s just a product of the fact that a minority/historically oppressed group is burdened with the politicisation of their private views.”

            Agree completely, and that’s a succinct way of putting it – think the only thing I disagree with is ‘just’ – it’s a burden that has impact on so many other areas.

          • Poo says:

            I’m unable to respond to you, gotn, so I’m responding to my own comment (sad wanker!).

            Sorry, I was lazy and missed the Obama point. Great minds!

            Also, it’s a deficiency of the English language, I didn’t mean “just” as diminishing, but as emphasis. Thought about using “merely” but that’s even bloody worse!

  • ValeryNorth says:

    The example of the pint, my instinctive reaction would be “God, what a knobcheese” (choice of insult based on the colourful vocabulary of a female friend elsewhere online). Either keep the focus on the bad guy, echo the emotion expressed, or both?

    Which may sound like I’m doing a subtle (or not-so-subtle) version of the “not me!” construction, but since the piece above observes, “He often says he’s embarrassed purely because he needs to say something. To acknowledge pain, frustration, rage, or hurt, without being the man who says: ‘not ALL men, though!'” it seems like offering a suggestion of what to say instead would help.

    I think a lot of men struggle with this and get confused when they aren’t given a playbook to follow. (Lord knows, it’s taken me long enough to work this stuff out).

    • ValeryNorth says:

      I should also add, in online spaces where I’m perceived as a woman (or at least it’s understood that my genderfluidity is expressed in feminine aspect only) I have encountered guys saying “I’m ashamed of my gender” and it always felt off to me but I couldn’t clearly express why, but the OP I think certainly captures a lot of what bothered me about it.

      • Girl on the net says:

        I think you’re right – keep focus on bad guy/echo the emotion etc. Although of course it’ll depend on individual circumstances. I do find it very odd how many people want to be given a script to follow, but then I guess there is a lot of this stuff that I’m just working out, and in some situations if you’re already in a privileged position it can be tricky to work out why certain things might be problematic.

  • GK says:

    Wow that was way too long to read. My answer is I no longer care what women think except to mock them, it’s much easier than trying to decipher this gobbledygook.

  • Bumface says:

    I don’t think you’re quite right about what motivates saying this sort of thing. Haven’t you ever looked at the news, seen reports about the refugee crisis or welfare cuts, and thought ‘I’m ashamed to be British?’ Being ashamed of people you have some kind of connection with is totally natural, and doesn’t require the kind of assumptions you suggest. If I say ‘I’m ashamed to be a man’, it may well just be because I see men being dicks, and people talking about men being dicks, constantly, and I actually really do feel a bit ashamed to be associated with them.

    That doesn’t mean that it’s in any way a good or useful thing to say, of course, and I don’t mean it as a criticism of your broader point – it just seems like a minor failure of empathy, and I think those usually worth pointing out because empathy is TIP TOP.

    • Alex says:

      In your post, the “I’m ashamed to be British” example isn’t equitable for a few reasons. I’m gonna number them simply because it’s how I’m organizing my thoughts on this, but I know that can feel pedantic, and for that I already apologize. Additionally, I acknowledge that nonbinaries who identify as agendered or gender-queer navigate a different gender politic and therefore are left out of discussions of gender politic involving “men” as an identifiable group. Agendered or GQ folx are defined as such by a different relationship to gender than men and women; I don’t pretend to be talking about them in this response.

      1) The British actions in those cases are well out of the control of the individuals of the British nation. Being British is a subjective identity, not an objective one; you can leave, disown your country, find that the Britain you loved is long gone. I’m not arguing for a “birther” argument here, I promise, but those who are gendered as men aren’t men because of their beliefs or location but because of their identity. In the current sexual politic, we discuss gender as an innate quality with an identity and performance aspect, and one that can be misaligned with sex or the gender binary. Being British is a societal quality; it involves political alignment, home nation, and a choice regarding the effort to take action as a British citizen.

      2) The British are being discussed, in this case, as a collective. When the news reports that the British have made welfare cuts, it may refer to the “British nation,” or the “British government.” Even if the report specifies a specific branch of the government, that branch is either composed of or appointed by government officials, which, in Britain, is an electorate and representative group. The frustration with the actions of the British government is organizational, not specific; this article specifically distinguishes itself as discussing men in specific contexts versus men in generalization; “I didn’t say all men would do this.” Being frustrated that your participation in the government has been overturned by those who stand against you is a different angst than the guy at the bar being crappy because you didn’t vote for that guy to represent men, nor could you even vote against him.

      3) Because the British government is an electorate, the implication is that the British government should be different, not that Britain is unsalvageable. Nations survive actual death in the form of complete revolution; the boundaries, the demographics of the population, the communities generally stay the same. Gradual change in the form of an undercurrent of dissatisfaction is perceptible in political discussion; the implication is not “the Brits are all bastards,” and it does not lead to people assuming the British, in general, are monstrous, but more likely that a monstrous force has overtaken the country and that good people are being overwhelmed. Again, just to quote the article, “I don’t think all men are bastards, or even that most men are bastards. Few people do But in saying ‘not all men’ or ‘I’m ashamed of my gender’ you prop up the idea that that is exactly what I’m saying. As I laboriously reply to guys who say ‘not all’ by saying ‘I didn’t mean all’, it becomes infinitely harder if I have a bunch of other blokes simultaneously telling me they’re ashamed. A crowd of people clamouring that they’re different only supports the misguided assumption that I was condemning a whole crowd in the first place.”

      4) Being ashamed to be British because of an action of an electorate is not relatable to the individual, and therefore isn’t a refusal to reflect on the actions of the self. Here’s a couple examples: let’s say someone says “Men only care about looks, even in friends.” I might say “Not me!,” either by saying “not all men” or by saying “yo, MEN, right?,” and I’d be distancing myself from the conversation. But in doing so, I’d be ignoring the fact that I really do tend to try to date from my group of friends and that I tend to try to make friends first with more attractive women. (I tend to first try to make friends with attractive men, too, but that’s beside the point.) The British government exhibiting a behavior you initially disagree with is probably not something you subconsciously believe is correct; as a man, you can perform equitable behaviors in different situations due to something in the subconscious, societal construction of your gender that you’ve picked up.

      5) When you say to yourself, “I’m ashamed of being British,” you refer to an identity that can actually be distanced. Again, as mentioned above, you can stop being British, or take direct action to alter the definition of the British by participating in the government, either through simple voting, activism, or direct membership through election. When you try to distance yourself from being male, you take advantage of a power dynamic that allows men to briefly step out of being men, something not afforded to women even when they’re criticizing specific women rather than women in general. This is the Thatcher example. When men criticize “men” as a group, they’re “Better Than Men.” When women criticize “women” as a group OR women as individuals, they’re slapped with a tag that says “Women: Beware Women.”

      This is a long response (that gets longer as I write this outro, sheesh,) and I hope it doesn’t come off as aggressive, but your question really got me thinking, as did this article, about why that same response has less efficacy in the context of gender. I feel similarly about its use in race discourse; when white people say, “I’m ashamed of white people,” they similarly dismiss opportunity to reflect and take advantage of a dynamic that allows them to be “better than white people” rather than “white people traitors” in most circles, a privilege not afforded to other races.

      • Girl on the net says:

        Hi Alex – wow, thanks so much for your comment, it’s really got me thinking. When I read Bumface’s Britishness comment (and sorry Bumface, it sort of sounds like I’m being rude to you b/c of your username!) I don’t think I’d initially have been able to distinguish apart from the ‘choice’ aspect – i.e. one can renounce one’s Britishness. But you’re absolutely right, there are lots of other distinctions. I don’t have anything else to add, other than thanks =)

        • Bumface says:

          I go by Bumface mainly as a reminder that my opinions aren’t particularly important (and because bums are funny), so if it sounds like you’re being rude to me that’s no bad thing.

          I should also have thanked Alex in my reply to their comment. Sorry for the oversight, Alex, and thanks for such a thorough and thoughtful reply.

      • Bumface says:

        Not agressive at all! I am going to reply to your points in turn, which feels even more pedantic but is much easier. Quick summary in case you can’t be arsed with everything that follows (which would be totally reasonable): I think that you are making a lot of shaky assumptions about why people feel male, why people feel British, and why they might be ashamed of either.

        1. The actions of sexist men are at least as much out of my control as the actions of the British government. More importantly, your description of Britishness doesn’t fit my experience of being British. I was born in Britain and have lived and worked here all my life, and I don’t feel like I can stop being British by leaving or saying I hate Britain or being sad that it’s changed.

        Your description of maleness doesn’t fit my experience either. I think I’m male because everyone has always said I was, and because I have physical characteristics that society tells me are male. It’s profoundly societal. I don’t really identify with maleness beyond that, and I don’t think that’s uncommon for men or women. (Other people, trans or cis, do have this strong sense of identification with a gender, and I don’t consider my feelings about gender any more valid than theirs – this is just how I feel.)

        I think that different people feel British or Male (or Swiss and female, or genderqueer and Somalian) for lots of different reasons, and trying to pin it down like this is very risky.

        2) Those are simply not the only times when someone might say ‘I am ashamed to be British’, though I realise the examples I picked weren’t the best for making this point. People say ‘I’m ashamed to be British’ when they see Britain First posting bile on Facebook, or boozed up tourists behaving badly. People feel shame when people they are associated with do bad things. That is normal.

        It’s also not the case that stories about the actions of the British government describe the British as a collective. The news in Britain doesn’t report that the ‘British nation’ has made welfare cuts. I think you’re really overestimating the extent to which the average British person identifies with the current government. And I also think that if I’m drinking in the same bar as a terrible man I probably have at least as much power to influence him as I have over the actions of the UK government, practically speaking.

        The post does distinguish discussing specific men from men in general, but it’s specifically the suggestion that being ashamed of men requires a generalization that I contend.

        3) This seems like a restatement of exactly the point I disagree with. I do not think that saying ‘I am ashamed of my gender’ has to imply that anyone thinks all men are bastards. If I say ‘I’m ashamed to be a man’, I can be saying ‘men should be different’ rather than ‘men are unsalvageable’. I really don’t see the justification for the distinction you’re making here.

        4) Being ashamed to be British because of an action of an electorate is not relatable to the individual, and therefore isn’t a refusal to reflect on the actions of the self. Here’s a couple examples: let’s say someone says “Men only care about looks, even in friends.” I might say “Not me!,” either by saying “not all men” or by saying “yo, MEN, right?,” and I’d be distancing myself from the conversation. But in doing so, I’d be ignoring the fact that I really do tend to try to date from my group of friends and that I tend to try to make friends first with more attractive women. (I tend to first try to make friends with attractive men, too, but that’s beside the point.) The British government exhibiting a behavior you initially disagree with is probably not something you subconsciously believe is correct; as a man, you can perform equitable behaviors in different situations due to something in the subconscious, societal construction of your gender that you’ve picked up.

        I totally agree that I might, as a man, behave in ways that are similar to the sexist bar guy. I also think that, as a Brit, I might behave in ways that are similar to people who make me ashamed to be British (such as treating British people more favourably, or thinking that Britain has some inalienable right to international siginificance). That’s part of what makes me sympathetic to the ‘I’m ashamed’ crowd – I kind of do feel ashamed to be a man, and to be British, because I can recognise the potential for that kind of dickishness in myself and I’m ashamed of it. As I should be.

        5) Again, as mentioned above, I don’t think I can stop being British. And I can take action to make men better through activism just as much as I can Britain.

        But my main problem is with this: “When you try to distance yourself from being male”. I don’t think people who say they are ashamed to be male are always doing this. I think many of them are very specifically trying not to do this. Saying ‘I’m ashamed to be male’ would be a really weird way to distance yourself from being male, since it implies both that the speaker is male and that maleness is important to the bad behaviour under discussion.

        To be totally clear, I think that both ‘I’m ashamed of my country’ and ‘I’m ashamed of my gender’ are essentially worthless and often outright harmful contributions to discourse. I just don’t think GotN’s claims about what the ‘I’m ashamed guy’ is thinking are accurate. And I think I’m probably in a better position than GotN to speculate about why a man might say they are ashamed to be a man, because even though I don’t say it, I often feel it.

        • orathaic says:

          @”People feel shame when people they are associated with do bad things. That is normal.”

          I was going to add a clarifying thought, but you kinda hit on it at the end.

          Still, you could distinguish between ‘normal’ and ‘good’/healthy.

          Maybe GOTN’s whole posts was ‘it is normal for men to do X, but it is not good’ – for which i applaud her. I’m definitely guilty of male-shame, though i can’t think of the context right now….

          But you go on to say how you don’t think this ‘normal’ is a good thing… So i’m not adding much.

  • Chee says:

    I could write a few sentences to express how much I agree with you and how I find every word you wrote spot on, but instead I’ll be the guy who just shuts up for once, and simply say:
    I love everything you write, this post not least of all.

  • Joshua says:

    When I have said that line, it is because of two different thoughts. The first is about how awful that other person was for what was done or said and the second is I want assurance that someone doesn’t think I’m that type of person because we share the same gender/race/nationality.

    I realize now how selfish it is to say that. Instead of trying to empathize with the other person, I’m just pulling the focus of the situation onto myself.

    Thank you for this insight.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hey – thanks so much Joshua! I struggled quite a bit to articulate what I wanted to say, so glad you found it helpful!

  • M says:

    Please never *ever* use the phrase “Let’s bring back Thatcher”, even in jest, again in the future

  • Alex says:

    I’m in agreement on this one and am gonna work to improve my conversation in this way.

    I do wanna ask (anyone with a response,) because this piece has hit on a swell approach for individual critique; I have non-man friends (of varying identities) who do actually make direct references to “men,” as a generalized group, to me and my more familiar guy friends. Partly, I know it’s because of their involvement in online spaces where rhetoric referring to “men” is a commonality. Intellectually, I understand that they mean it as a generalization, not as an actual indictment of all who profess masculine identity. But it’s hard to know how to respond emotionally. While writing this, I came to the conclusion that it’s worth looking into myself and considering the criticism because often the “not me!” response is a denial mechanism refusing to acknowledge that, “yeah, actually, kinda me.”

    Is “I’ll have to think about that” a good enough response in that situation? What are some good responses people have had in those conversations?

    • sarah says:

      seeing as you’ve asked for responses, here are my thoughts

      whenever a person finds themselves thinking or wanting to say “not all ____!” or “not me!” it’s definitely a defense instinct to protect your self/identity. it’s a perfectly valid emotional response as we all want to believe we are good people, i think, and for us to continue to believe we are we need to actively distance ourselves from behaviour we find abhorrent. but finding yourself having such a “not me” response should raise red flags for us to search ourselves and see if we truly are free from what we want to be. it requires a lot of honesty and truthfulness with yourself, and if you find that there are problems in your behaviour or thinking, it takes a commitment to altering those, which is often not an easy option. but if you really want to be able to say to yourself with all honesty that “not me” is true then that’s what you have to do. (it doesn’t mean that you then get to vocalise that “not me!” later though!)

      as for your last question, i’m a little uncertain as i’m not sure about the situation. you gave the example of being around people complaining about male behaviour. are they complaining in a way just to vent and let off steam (for example, “men can be so x!”) or are they doing it in a way which you feel requires you to defend yourself against a specific accusation? (for example, “men can be so x, don’t you think you do that sometimes?”) for the first, i would say the appropriate response would be “yup, it sucks” as suggested by gotn, as a question has not been asked and so “i’ll think about that” isn’t appropriate. however if there’s a direct accusation then i’d be inclined to say “that’s a good question, i’ll have to consider it” if you actually feel you don’t do the thing and haven’t previously examined yourself about it. but the important thing here that i tried to point out above is that you actually do have to do what you say and consider it, and make changes if you realise you are guilty of that behaviour. otherwise it’s just sidestepping and evasion in the interests of protecting your ego. only say you’ll do something if you actually intend to do it.

      that turned out a bit longer than i intended it to be. i hope it’s comprehensible, i find it hard sometimes to articulate my thoughts in ways which make sense to other people. i also hope i managed to grasp what you were actually asking and haven’t gone off on an irrelevant tangent…

      • Girl on the net says:

        Totally agree with you Sarah, and yeah I think ‘that sucks’ (or similar) isn’t used enough – there’s often a temptation to contribute more to a conversation – ‘yes, and [insert own story]’ or ‘yes but [insert denial]’ etc. But actually sometimes all that’s needed is a ‘yes.’ I’ve also been searching for a long time for a way to say ‘I’m sorry’ which doesn’t imply I’m trying to take blame for something – like ‘I’m sorry that happened, that’s awful’ etc. But I always knee-jerk to ‘sorry’ and I don’t think the word is good enough to express ‘that sucks’ adequately. Sorry, waffling. But yeah.

        In the latter example, where people may be actually asking if you do something, I think I’d probably ask more questions. Like ‘do I?’ or try to talk through a few examples, in a way that acknowledges that – yeah, I really might. Or if it’s something they’re bringing up more broadly, but not directly saying ‘you do this’ I’d probably go with listening hard, saying not much, then trying to think on it later.

  • John M says:

    Funny, I was thinking things along these while reading a blog by a former sex worker not ten minutes ago. She was writing a little about how she views people who watch her past work, because a lot of readers have been apologising or feeling guilty. She goes on to say that it’s only a very specific type of customer that disgusts her, and she certainly wouldn’t lump all guys she meets as one of them without evidence.

    In my experience, a lot of then misconception that it’s “all men are horrible” comes from tumblr and how only the examples that are horrible are really visible. Normal conversations tend to happen in a quieter, more private context, and I’d guess that’s the case pretty much anywhere that this is a thing.

  • John says:

    You: Some twat in a pub told me my pint wasn’t ‘ladylike.’ What a macho bellend.

    Me: Geez, what a dick.

  • Toria Lyons says:

    I’m a cyclist, and you’ve no idea how many people believe the behaviour of one person on a bike is supposed to reflect others. Drives me fucking bonkers sometimes.
    And no, I don’t jump red lights.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    This reminds me of my university years, when I became aware of ‘social justice’ issues, and then spent some time feeling wracked with liberal guilt for being a relatively affluent straight white cisman living in one of the world’s richest countries. It took me a while to come round to realising there’s no point in feeling guilty for something that you didn’t choose. You can be ashamed of something you’ve done, but you shouldn’t be ashamed of something you *are*. Shame-by-association can be productive if it spurs a person into action to address some injustice, but mere guilt by itself is useless.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said this attitude comes from thinking that ‘patriarchy’ means ‘men deliberately choosing to do mean things to women’. Which admittedly is one aspect of patriarchy, and in a sense it arises out of the choices we make… but more broadly of course, it’s a system which permeates our society and affects all of us, and we all unconsciously uphold it every day with our thoughts, actions and inactions without meaning to. ‘The Patriarchy’ isn’t ‘a thing men do to women’; it’s the house we all live in, or the land the house is built on.

    Anyway, these days I don’t feel ashamed of my gender. I do still sometimes feel bad for women for the shit you have to put up with from us straight guys, though…

  • Lacrymology says:

    Damn.. I’ve used that a couple of times.. I’ve meant it to convey sympathy, but you’re right about the defensiveness being there. As usual, you make me think. Thank you.

    THOUGH, and I’d like to hear any thoughts anyone has about this, my normal responses go along these lines:

    1) “I seriously don’t understand people who do that kind of shit” (last used on a girl-date who was relieved I wasn’t disgusted by her liking porn)

    2) “what? do people really say that kind of thing/like that better than this?” (last used on a genderfluid-femme presenting girl who sent me two photos, one on her comfy house clothes and one on a night dress and was happy of my liking the baggy T-shirt better).

    3) “Yeah, men have a big tendency to suck. Sorry that happened to you”.

    I’m wondering.. they all do seem to be othering myself from the problematic guys, but I’m quite honest about them. I’m genuinely surprised there’s guys who’d prefer a girl in a fancy dress than in comfortable clothes (which is not the same as appreciating when they wear a dress and look great), and how any men could NOT like that a woman watches porn, and slut-shame her because of that is honestly beyond me (though I know it’s pretty normal).

  • Thumbsbanks says:

    I completely get it with men though. (speaking incredibly broadly). Otherwise you’d have to willfully ignore all subjugation of women that seems to transcend religion, culture and society and remains a constant feature throughout all of human history.

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