Monday, January 30, 2006

It's the Message, Not the Tone.

Happy news first: I have been added to the "churlish feminist list" for taking issues with the Self-Appointed Captain in Charge of the Monitor and Correction of Feminism's Tone's tone. God, that feels good. Thanks to all the believers, and especially to Happy Feminist and Redneck Mother for sending folks my way to witness my arrant ceorliscnes for themselves.

Less Happy Non-News:
With all the kerfuffle(love that word) surrounding feminism's tone and its negative effect on feminism's efficacy, etc., there has been little talk of the message the various feminisms are sending. Those of us who are churlish :-) have already recognized that our tone is completely bloody irrelevant when dealing with people who don't wish to hear our views. Our views are inconvenient; our facts are inconvenient. You can't believe yourself to be a pro-feminist man while knowing that your wife works 60 hours a week outside the home, then comes home to make dinner and do the laundry while you read the paper and continue doing nothing about it. Feminism is a pain in the ass when it forces you to see how you benefit from, or are taken advantage of by, rather arbitrary sexist roles and beliefs. I could tie that information up in a little pink bow, and it would still be unpalatable.

An example from real life:
Last week in a cross-listed Women's studies and Rhetoric class here at Microburg U., a young man who considers himself pro-feminist presented an argument he considered a defense of an early feminist writer, and based on his assumption that the patriarchy is now dead. The remainder of the class listened to his argument respectfully, as is appropriate in a classroom setting, then very calmly told him that the patriarchy may not be as open as it once was, but in fact lives on. The others provided the young man with unemotional examples of how sex differences and prejudice still inform some aspects of our everyday lives. Because he and I had spoken several times in the past, he looked at me for affirmation of his argument, which in this case I couldn't give him. I did give him the rueful look/nod combination that is standard for telling someone you'd like to help, but in this case you can't. His argument was based on a fallacy, and was therefore false. As far as I was concerned, we were a group of academics sharing information to better our understanding. Flash forward to today. The young man has quit the class because he "doesn't need to listen to rabid feminism." There was no rabidity. As men were not mentioned, there was none of the "man-bashing" that is the standard cry against feminism. The information was simply inconvenient to this young man.

Flash back several years:
An undergrad sociology class I took. The professor set up the class so that we would look at one social issue from every possible angle for the entire course. The first half of the course we read men sociologists, and for the second half of the semester we read women sociologists. The women attended class throughout the course, but the men simply stopped attending when it was time to read women sociologists, because "they didn't need to listen to rabid feminism." Hm.

Aside from the fact that I would still be in fifth grade if I left class everytime an idea that was insulting to women came up, these men are not responding to the tone of the women speaking. The tone in both these classes was information sharing among equals. The information is the problem. Hearing a viewpoint that doesn't, like every other thing in the world, validate you more than everybody else is more than these young men decided to handle. Tone had nothing to do with it.

4 comments:

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Congrats on making the official "churl girl" list, Heo!

While we're speaking of "tone," I'm astonished by avowed "pro-feminists" (male or female) who still manage to use the term "rabid" in reference to feminist analysis they don't like. Do they not realize how fully they've internalized the language of anti-feminism? Doesn't that make them wonder a little about the depth of their avowed "pro-feminism"?

Not to mention the profoundly condescending tone Mr. Ames is broadcasting: "Really, I'm only saying this for your own good, ladies. People are just gonna ignore you if you don't make yourselves more media-friendly."

What part of "these truths are held to be unpalatable" doesn't he understand? Even if it were our job to make the rest of society feel comforted and loved while explaining how our culture is unjust and needs fixing yesterday, it really isn't possible. The message itself is disquieting, and no sugar-coating will change that.

Holly said...

This was an extremely measured and even presentation of a profound and serious problem, but I am just waiting for someone to come along and call it "rabid."

HeoCwaeth said...

AW, thanks :-) I kind of think that declaring oneself 'pro-feminist' is a way for people to say 'I'm not actively looking to put women down. If women want to be equal, and it doesn't affect me in any way, I'm all for it.' I can be pro-environment while drinking from a styrofoam cup, assuming that the environmentalists proper will handle the big, bad companies that make styrofoam cups,right? I mean, hey, it's not *my problem* that I actually encourage styrofoam cupmakers by buying their product. They just happen to be the only cups available at my favorite coffee-house. Geez!

As for Ames, there's no way I can believe that he truly wants to be helpful. He may think that's what he wants, but I strongly doubt even that. He made a choice to frame his discussion of feminism with "the off-putting tone" some feminists use. I read that as his saying "hey, I'm going to be a nice guy about this and show you why you should shut up already. No offense."

Holly - Thanks. I have remarkably few trolls, though. Besides, those trolls that do come probably stopped reading at "Women's Studies."

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen women have way more power today than men. First of all, it's so easy for a women to get a guy charged for rape. But almost impossible to do the opposite. Another thing I noticed in your article is that you say you don't bash men, and yet the whole time all you did was point out that guys are biased. I feel that to achieve equality we have to get rid of all of these feminist groups, all they do is point out the difference between men and women. If the world were at a point where men and women were equal would they still have groups like this?