This isn’t a “poor men” rant!
Earlier this year a disturbing discussion took place on The Talk.
Sharon Osborne and other hosts mocked a man who had his penis chopped off and put into a blender, and asked what he “did to deserve it” and talked about how “fabulous” and amusing it was. Apparently what he did to deserve it was ask for a divorce. It is painful to watch. You can watch it here.
This is what some people think feminism is; it’s not.
It resulted in some angry public responses, which makes sense. But one of the responses caught my attention. In particular, this angry rant. The response is problematic in a number of ways, but the main thing it does is attacks feminists (yes, all of us) because apparently we are unilaterally responsible for the actions of Sharon Osborne and cohorts. It’s a bit nonsensical, and contains some heavy language. It contains a lot of logical fallacies, but it does help solidify a point:
Emotional violence toward others is not feminism, so feminism can’t be blamed. Anyone who thinks that is what feminism is about, does not get it.
I think most feminists would agree that female liberation shouldn’t be reduced to an opportunity for tit-for-tat, as it would be a waste of an opportunity.
Yes, there are liberties women need as denied by patriarchy, for example, the right to behave in a slutty manner without taking on disdain. But our charge isn’t to send bad behaviour back toward the sexist oppressors of this world in a gleeful haze of equalising girl power, because that legitimises their actions. Our charge is to re-evaluate the scenario, to do away with the problematic behaviour, and to do better.
I would say this is a fairly typical feminist viewpoint.
Another example is the Robin Thicke creep-fest “blurred lines” video and subsequent so-called feminist parody. I didn’t feel comfortable with the famed response. I could talk about both things at length, but similarly I don’t think a straight gender-flip really says what we want. It fails. Fetishising female power is fine if you’re into it, sexually, but it’s a distraction. It almost feels like a derail and seems to support the old-school binaries and concept that men and women are – and always will be – at odds in an eternal “battle of the sexes” that is good for a bit of light amusement, but is ultimately indefatigable.
The point is an entire gender doesn’t, by default, occupy the space at another’s feet, and that ‘no’ means ‘NO’, no matter what gender you happen to be. The point is that gender isn’t a binary, but a spectrum, so lets not reduce it to those terms, and let’s recognise that anyone can be sexually submissive, or gentle, or powerful, or vulnerable and that’s OK. Let’s know that being sexually submissive doesn’t inherently mean one is less worthy of respect, or is automatically begging for all the members of one gender to ignore their boundaries. The point is that some things are just wrong, namely laughing at the genital mutilation of another human being.
These concepts sit easily within the broader framework of female equality. So I’d like us to move forward understanding that feminism doesn’t condone these things, and that by thinking critically about equality, we all have the opportunity to do better, by men, women and others.