The Face (And Regency Dress) Of Male Feminism

Hello, class. Today’s filmstrip is called Scalzi Owns The Dudebros.

 (The too-long-didn’t-read is that some Dudebros — or, rather, Douchebros, as I like to call them — thought to make the Scalzi-in-a-dress charity photo a meme about what feminism looks like in much the same way they made a meme out of Kelly Martin Broderick, who had her picture stolen and used for the same toxic anti-feminist meme.)

Scalzi’s post has been linked over at Metafilter, with accompanying commentary that is occasionally reasonable and witty, and is just as occasionally toxic or (perhaps overly) critical.

I don’t know that I’d call myself a feminist. I mean, I like to hope that I am and that I support those ideas and those goals — I just figure I’m probably not very good at it. I try. I do! I believe that the scales are way fucking imbalanced in favor of all the shiny happy money-having white straight gender-normative dudes and I think it takes effort and agency to balance those scales back toward an under-served and often oppressed population. I just worry about calling myself a feminist because, well, the world is home to real feminists walking the walk and talking the talk. I feel like I’m amateur hour karaoke. Not yet ready for adult swim.

*waggles arm floaties*

Just the same, I’ve seen actual commentary — fair, understandable commentary — that says, “Oh, guys like John Scalzi, Jim Hines and Chuck Wendig get to be heroes for calling this stuff out but soon as a woman says it she’s labeled a troublemaker or a slut or she gets rape and death threats.” And that’s true. And that sucks. And I say that with no sarcasm. That genuinely dulls the knife-blade that I call a heart. That’s fucked up and it isn’t the way I want things to be.

I think it’s important for us guys having our party on Heteronormative White Dude Mountain to acknowledge that privilege. It’s there. Big and shiny and practically bulletproof.

But I also think it’s important for us to hopefully use that privilege, such as it is, to do good things instead of bad. (It’s like, “By the vagaries of fate I was born rich and my parents gave me this sweet Maserati despite the fact I did nothing to deserve it. So let’s drive it fast and use it give food to the homeless! VROOMY-VROOM VROOM, PRIVILEGE AT THE WHEEL!”)

We can take the criticism and slings and arrows for being male feminists — flawed as we may be — but I do hope you’ll see us as allies in this fight. As boosters and mouthpieces — not heroes, not white knights, but as friends. And we have to accept that, in being male feminists (or whatever we call ourselves or are called by others), we won’t get rape threats or death threats.

I see that a lot of folks don’t believe in privilege or they think it’s somehow attempting to diminish them instead of increase the rights of others. Here’s privilege: the criticism that we get will never match the criticism you get. Men get to be sexually adventurous and it’s boys will be boys. Women do it and they’re slut-shamed or viewed as tarts and targets instead of as having agency and choice. A guy can get on the VMAs and be as batshit as he wants and nobody will call him out for his male traits — but Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga does it and all you can hear about the next day is how trashy they were, how they were dressed, how “oversexualized” they were. Scalzi — or I — can say what we’re going to say and we’ll never catch the kind of shitty, vile, bilestorm that splashes on the heads of someone like Anita Sarkeesian or Caroline Criado-Perez. This world is home to countries where a girl will literally get acid splashed in her face or get her stoned or get her killed just for showing some skin or having an opinion. I know of no present country or culture where a matriarchy will do the same to men for getting uppity with his ideas or daring to flash a patch of scrotum. That is privilege. And it is woefully real.

We’re not equal in what we make in our pay.

We’re not equal in what we get to do.

We’re damn sure not equal in the criticism leveled our way.

And we dudes have to acknowledge that. That’s what our privilege is. Ours is the privilege to do what we want to do — hell, to have the excuses to do what we want to do — and not be judged.

Privilege is real and hopefully we can do something good with it instead of something bad.

80 comments

  • Chuck, as ever, I love that you open up this for conversation and commentary. You are using your platform to bring light to fucked up shit. And that’s awesome.

  • Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s one we don’t hear enough. I identify as a feminist, but I recognize that a middle-class white able-bodied cis American male calling himself a feminist is a far cry from the experience a lot of feminists have.

    When I walk down the street, unless I say something or I’m wearing a shiny button or otherwise “out” myself, no one knows. I don’t make a statement just by my being me. I don’t have to answer questions that begin “as a woman in [whatever].” I can put on and take off my feminist tag whenever I want and no one’s going to call me on it, because no one will notice.

    The young black girl working on her Master’s in mechanical engineering? The old lady pushing a mop at the motel? The women in Congo or Dubai or Appalachia? They don’t get to pick their battles. They don’t get to take a night off. Feminism isn’t a hobby for them, or even a calling. It’s who they are. It’s their lives.

    Everyone supporting and working for the goal is a “real” feminist, but that can mean a lot of different things. Recognizing that not everyone has the same experience is the foundation of intersectionality and the foundation of real community, real progress, and real change.

    • What a wonderful affirmation of a wonderful post about a wonderful … I am using a pale word because there isn’t any other one real enough to express how I feel. I must just say “Thank you” to all three of you guys and all the others here who express approval. So.

      Thank you all. I really can’t imagine what a world full of real men like you all would be like. Heaven?

  • Well said, but I partially wish that I hadn’t read it, because now I have the phrase “Heteronormative White Dude Mountain” going through my head to the tune of “Big Rock Candy Mountain”.

  • Heteronormative White Dudes do get to do a lot of things that they want to do without being judged, but it’s not carte blanche. Try being a HWD who wants to do something that is “typically” feminine, say, wear a dress, work as a primary school teacher or a nurse, or be a stay-at-home dad, and you’ll be judged to pieces. Championing feminism doesn’t just benefit women.

    • Yep. I was Mr. Mom for 18 years, raising two sons. A contractor came to the house once to give us a quote on installing a new furnace. He was derisive the whole time. When he left, he picked up the newspaper from out front porch and handed it to me (standing there with one son in a diaper in the crook of my arm), saying, “Here sweetie, something to read while you eat your bon bons.” I nearly hit him. And I installed the furnace myself.

      The insulting attitudes and inequality are appalling, and so is the pathetic pace of real change.

  • I agree with a lot of the points you’re making here–all of them, in fact, although it’s important to obey all traffic signals and not use your Maserati of Privilege to run down or drown out women who are speaking about their own issues.

    I just wanted to comment on your use of “Douchebros,” and to break down the term a little bit. The reason that the word “douche” is such a popular insult is because a douche is a product associated with the reproductive gear of people with vaginas (or, reductively, women, although of course not all women have vaginas, and not all people with vaginas are women). So the fact that “douche” is perceived as an insult is rooted in misogyny, because ew, who wants to be associated with anything having to do with a vagina? I’d like to ask you to consider if that’s really the message you want to be sending.

    PS: Your Pigeon reference warms my librarian heart. Thank you for that.

    • Well, one could make the argument that douches were invented by a man who thought that ladies needed to wash out their lady-smelling vaginas, because natural feminine odor = *gross*, amirite men?

      One could also argue that, in addition to reinforcing the notion that female genitals are by nature dirty and must be made as inoffensive as possible for (male) society, douching actually does much more harm than good by interfering with the vagina’s self-cleaning process and even putting women at risk for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Endometritis, Cervical Cancer and sexually transmitted infections.

      I think calling people like the dude in the above story a word indicative of vagina-shaming and being actively bad for a woman’s health is pretty darn apropos.

      • To be fair, there are plenty of insulting terms associated with male genitalia. It seems like genital insult words of all sorts are more often levied against males these days (women seem to get stuck with the b word and all manner of insults related to actual sexual behavior or appearance).

        In the all-too-distant days of my youth, douche was more often used as an insult for women, as in such and such teacher or politician or other female authority figure is an “old douchebag.” Ditto for the c word.

        Language changes, I guess. I sure wish misogyny would. The hardest thing for me is explaining to the men in my life (who are not sexist themselves) why it hurts. This usually leads to a “what do you care what a bunch of knuckle-dragging jerks think?” and “We all have to deal with people who hate us for one reason or another” kinds of conversations.

    • Your comment about “douche” as an insult is worth looking at, no doubt — I do know that men can douche, too (and as to the below comment, anal douching can interfere with normal bodily processes same as vaginal douching can).

      I’ve cut “bitch” out of my parlance (and “pussy,” to, as it regards referring to someone who’s weak). But the trick is, most profanity has some sideeye shame reference built into it, right? “Fuck” shames the sex act. “Shit” shames the act of taking out the bodily garbage that we all do. ‘Motherfucker’ is — what? Someone who fucks a mother? Is that even a meaningful definition?

      Interesting stuff to think about, thanks.

      – c.

    • While I understand why you would see “douche” as a misogynist insult, it really is the best insult to use against misogynists.

      Douching is unnecessary, and can actually cause harm to women* as it removes liquids that keep the vaginal area clean. It was conceived because men thought women weren’t clean enough, and wanted a tool that would bring them up to male standards of female cleanliness.

      What are misogynists?
      -Unnecessary
      -Harmful to women
      -Exist to make women feel horrible about themselves

      Ergo, “douche” is probably the most appropriate insult out there. It has nothing to do with not wanted to be associated with the vagina, but rather what douching itself symbolizes.

      And I just realized someone else already told you this. Ah well…

      • Yes but most people who use the term “douche” as an insult don’t know any of that. To them, it’s simply a term referring to a vagina. Or what comes out of the vagina in the process of douching. Used against a man, it’s an insult plus a suggestion that they are feminine, therefore “inferior.”

        Sure there are just as many insults making use of male genitalia, but would you ever say, “She’s such a dick.” or “She’s such a dickwad.” Nope.

        If the sex of the insult doesn’t match the sex of the victim, there’s something else at play there, and most of the time it’s misogyny.

        • “Sure there are just as many insults making use of male genitalia, but would you ever say, “She’s such a dick.” or “She’s such a dickwad.” Nope.”

          Yes, actually, I would. Because some women have dicks, and it’s not oppressive to be called male genitalia. It’s a false equivalence to compare the two.

          And I’m not going to stop using a term because dudebros don’t know the significance of it. I’ll waste my time explaining it to them only to be called an uptight c-word who needs to get laid.

          • Some women do have ‘em but that’s irrelevant. A penis is a symbol of masculinity in our culture. A vagina is a symbol of femininity.

            To me, calling a man a “douche” is misogynist, plain and simple. So is shaming a boy for “crying like a girl.” These things get tossed around in everyday speech and no one thinks twice, yet the misogyny is there, under the surface, polluting our culture. But that’s me. Maybe *I* need to get laid.

    • August 27, 2013 at 12:44 PM // Reply

      You might wish to read this post: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/11/16/in-defense-of-douchebag/ It actually goes into why “douche” and its variants can be considered. I’d explain myself but after nearly 24hrs awake, I don’t think I have the mental clarity. I had mixed feelings about the word myself until I read a couple posts like this, and it really got me thinking. The target of the insult is not women, but a product or person who is harmful to women. Doesn’t seem that out of place to me.

  • Nice post. Go ahead and call yourself a feminist. Words have power and that word needs all the destigmatization it can get. It’s a statement of belief in equality regardless of gender, not a badge reflecting personal struggle that needs to be earned. Go on, say it.

  • Utterly worthy read this evening, Wendig. You rock. Reading your blog is one of my favorite things to do online.

  • You would have to actually sell the Maserati to sail on that ship. I like your blog. I like your style. Not to be spammy but I tagged you in my blog tonight. I would enjoy dialogue but I am sure you don’t want it here.

    I commented earlier, but it went astray.

  • Clothes or lack there of does not make women equal to men. Feminists seem to want their cake and eat it, too. I’ll flash my boobs but you’re not allowed to think sexual thoughts because that’s sexism. Bull crap.

    You’ll notice Robin Thicke was fully dressed on stage with Miley Cyrus. The double standard is still there it’s just that now we’re being told that it’s ok for women to flash boob and puss because that makes women the same as men. And equal. Again, bull crap.

    Most men do keep their clothes on, Richard Gere and Alexander Skarsgard notwithstanding. Men as a rule do not flash their scrotums. There’s a reason for that. It’s called self-respect.

    And honestly? I don’t want to see it from men or women. I watched Hanna Montana with my daughters and I know she wanted to break away from that sugary little girl’s image. I get that. However there’s a difference between proving you’re an adult or equal and giving a porn show.

    I want women to be equal, too. I don’t want my daughter’s rights diminished either. I want them to have the same opportunities men do in the workplace. I’m sick of reading about little girls aborted because they’re little girls, killed by their family or husband’s family for financial reasons, or being sold into prostitution by the very people they should trust. I’ve had the back of my neck licked and erections pressed against my backside, I could go on and on but the point is I don’t want that crap for my girls or any other woman or girl.

    You’re fighting the wrong battle here. Flashing privates is not a matter of equality, it’s a question of morality.

    • Imposition of one person’s “morals” over another’s is a different kind of privilege if you really think about it. Whose morals get to be the ones that trump everyone else’s? How are those morals formed? What belief system do they stem from?

      • Exactly. At the moment, as far as I can tell, Hollywood has set our moral standards and they keep lowering all the time. At what point do we as a society say enough? When a twenty year old girl gets up in front of thousands and simulates sex? Or how about a sixteen year old? Fourteen? Oh. right. They have. Not much was said and now look where we are. I shudder to think where we’ll be in twenty years.

        Hollywood and those people who live there don’t care that several years down the road Miley Cyrus is going to be a burned out mess. What she is right now is a commodity. The minute they deem her used up she’ll be dumped on her ass pretty much like Lindsey Lohan or even Britney Spears who’s never fully recovered from her meltdown.

        It’s a debate worth having, one we need to have instead of passively letting a group of people who care for nothing but power and money set our morals for us. Oh sure they mouth they want equality even as they’re yanking the clothes off women, the younger the better, to sell their product. Men don’t take their clothes off because they got self-respect and because they don’t want to see ‘that’. Now who’s got the power?

        It still isn’t women.Yanking off our clothes and masturbating on stage with a foam finger sure as hell is not going to change that either.

        • Weelll, that’s not quite what I was getting at, but I see your point. MTV, Hollywood and youth culture aside, from where I’m standing, I would not want someone who is, say, part of a modesty-oriented culture to impose their morality on me. What is “moral” is open to interpretation, and always has been since the beginning of time. So I guess what I got hung up on was specifically your comment: “Flashing privates is not a matter of equality, it’s a question of morality.”

          Because ours are not the same.

          • No they’re not. But it’s a two way street because yours aren’t mine either. There’s always going to be different viewpoints/opinions but when there is a question of harm or injury then we all have to take action. That’s why debate is necessary to decide exactly what that is and what should be done if anything. Like what we’re doing right now. It’s great.

    • YES. Thank you, Angela.

      Young women performing simulated sex acts on TV for entertainment is not going to help men see women as equals. It IS trashy. It IS oversexualized.

      And it only adds to the objectification of women. Which I’m very, very sick of. Men use sex as a weapon against women and now women are using it as a weapon on themselves.

      It’s a hard enough battle with women on our side, but when women betray us? It’s just sad.

      • “Betray us”? It’s not a personalized attack.
        Part of what equality is (not just talking feminism here) is the ability to choose what kind of life someone wants to live on an individual level, and not be judged and attacked for it.
        One person’s action is not that of a whole. That’s part of what equality is. Not everyone being the same, not everyone having the same rules, but everyone having equal opportunities and respect.

        • Yes that’s what I mean above. Because imposing rules on how someone does their feministing, well, it seems to be undermining the whole point. And it compels me to echo Chuck’s sentiments that there is always this concern that “I’m doing feminism wrong”. Because there seems to always be someone there to tell you that you’re “doing it wrong” even if others suggest you’re “doing it right”. It can make one want to just back away and be silent about it, rather than be berated by the people who are supposedly on your side in these matters.

      • You’re welcome. I think we all agree here that we want to respect for women, to be treated equal and to not be harassed when we dress a certain way. The disagreement comes in what equality means. I don’t happen to think it means it’s ok for clothes to be taken off to sell themselves.

        A debate is needed as to what exactly equality means. With no judgements or accusations from either side. I really think it’s important because our society depends on it. For too long it has been two sided between Hollywood/feminists/liberals and so called “Christians/Conservatives.”

        I think the rest of us should share our opinions because neither group is entirely right or wrong. Chances are good it’s somewhere in between where I am and I suspect you are. We just need to find that balance.

    • “Clothes or lack there of does not make women equal to men.”

      You seem to have missed the point of both Chuck’s and Scalzi’s essays.

      “Feminists seem to want their cake and eat it, too. I’ll flash my boobs but you’re not allowed to think sexual thoughts because that’s sexism. Bull crap.”

      No. Feminists think that a woman can show some skin without it being taken as implied consent for touching and without it being used as a justification for sexual assault. People can think whatever, as long as they keep their hands to themselves.

      “You’ll notice Robin Thicke was fully dressed on stage with Miley Cyrus. The double standard is still there it’s just that now we’re being told that it’s ok for women to flash boob and puss because that makes women the same as men. And equal. Again, bull crap.

      Most men do keep their clothes on, Richard Gere and Alexander Skarsgard notwithstanding. Men as a rule do not flash their scrotums. There’s a reason for that. It’s called self-respect.”

      Actually, it’s called cultural reinforcement of the male gaze.

      Why did Miley Cyrus performed nearly naked? Because she/her handlers/the organizers of the VMA’s knew that it would get male attention. Why didn’t Robin Thicke perform nearly naked? Because it would actively avert male attention. The most desired demographic in television viewership is males ages 18-34. You do the math.

      Women in the entertainment industry are told that they must disrobe to get any meaningful (here, meaningful means $$$) attention. That they must be young and fit and naked – younger and fitter and much more naked than their male counterparts – to be a success. And, sadly, our society bears this observation out. Mary Lambert sang her heart out at the VMAs, and no one cared. Probably not even you. But then, she was a larger woman in a modestly cut dress. Not exactly the type of performance that gets male approval…or male-dictated female approval.

      And men don’t always keep their clothes on. Plenty of female singers have scantily clad male backup dancers – because their audience is mostly female, and they are trying to attract the female gaze.

      I appreciate the fact that you want equality for women and for your daughters. Pro-tip: slut-shaming and encouraging a society in which women are thought of as less moral, less deserving of respect, and less deserving of protection from sexual assault because of how they dress is NOT going to get us there.

      When your daughter is full grown and choosing how she dresses, and she wears something low-cut or with a high hemline, do you want men to think that her clothing choices mean that they can disrespect her, dehumanize her, reduce her to her “boobs and puss”? Do you want men to think that she is immoral and lacks self-respect – and that therefore she can be harassed and assaulted with impunity?

      Do you want other women to judge her the way you’re judging women?

      Yeah. I didn’t think so.

      • Hey, Charlotte. I didn’t miss their point at all; I just have a different view/point. I was going to say you missed my point and rather spectacularly at that. However I don’t think you did. I think we agree on some things but we just don’t agree what equality means and how to get it. Hint: it is not by women taking off their clothes or masturbating on stage.

        No. Feminists think that a woman can show some skin without it being taken as implied consent for touching and without it being used as a justification for sexual assault. People can think whatever, as long as they keep their hands to themselves.

        *I actually think that, too. However we aren’t talking about ‘some skin’ here. We’re talking a young woman who was displayed as a sex object, plain and simple. Morph Robin Thicke into Katy Perry wearing that ridiculous suit and Miley Cyrus still comes off as a sex object because that was the point.

        Actually, it’s called cultural reinforcement of the male gaze.

        *Lol. What hooey. We are sexual beings and as such we are going to have sex. In order to do that we are going to be looking over the opposite sex for what attracts. That’s natural. What is unnatural is when you have someone saying I’m going to all but shove my sex parts in your face but you’re not allowed to think of them as sex parts.
        That’s denying who we are as sexual beings. There should be a time and place for when we show so much skin or take off our clothes to entice a partner. It is not when a small group of people, probably men, can make a boat load of money off a woman stripping to the minimum and simulating sex for the masses.

        Why did Miley Cyrus performed nearly naked? Because she/her handlers/the organizers of the VMA’s knew that it would get male attention. Why didn’t Robin Thicke perform nearly naked? Because it would actively avert male attention. The most desired demographic in television viewership is males ages 18-34. You do the math.
        Women in the entertainment industry are told that they must disrobe to get any meaningful (here, meaningful means $$$) attention. That they must be young and fit and naked – younger and fitter and much more naked than their male counterparts – to be a success. And, sadly, our society bears this observation out. Mary Lambert sang her heart out at the VMAs, and no one cared. Probably not even you. But then, she was a larger woman in a modestly cut dress. Not exactly the type of performance that gets male approval…or male-dictated female approval.
        And men don’t always keep their clothes on. Plenty of female singers have scantily clad male backup dancers – because their audience is mostly female, and they are trying to attract the female gaze.

        *We agree here. I feel sorry as hell for Miley Cyrus. I have a niece just like her. The only difference is when the consequences come due Miley Cyrus will have a shitload of money to fall back on and more than likely her father.
        My niece? Not so much. And that’s another point. There are unintended consequences when rich women get up there doing what Miley did to young girls who don’t have the same resources. That’s why it’s a question of morals as opposed to equality.

        I appreciate the fact that you want equality for women and for your daughters. Pro-tip: slut-shaming and encouraging a society in which women are thought of as less moral, less deserving of respect, and less deserving of protection from sexual assault because of how they dress is NOT going to get us there.

        *You didn’t hear me call Miley a slut or anything else. Actually you did. I simply stated that women taking off their clothes is not the same as being equal because it’s not. Clothing is power, plain and simple. Ask any salesperson, any CEO, any lawyer why they wear a suit and they’ll tell you it’s because it puts them into a position of authority, of power. Do not try to tell me a woman’s lack of clothing means nothing because it sure as hell does.

        When your daughter is full grown and choosing how she dresses, and she wears something low-cut or with a high hemline, do you want men to think that her clothing choices mean that they can disrespect her, dehumanize her, reduce her to her “boobs and puss”? Do you want men to think that she is immoral and lacks self-respect – and that therefore she can be harassed and assaulted with impunity?

        *And now you’ve gone too far. I think I’ve made it clear I do not. You know nothing about me, what I’ve been through, what my mother has been through or what her mother before her has gone through. You are the one making judgments.

        It’s never ok for a woman to be harassed sexually for any reason regardless of her dress. The selling of sex through clothing and actions is a different matter. That is exactly what Hollywood does and there’s not one equal thing about it.

        Oh and I did not watch the VMA awards. I have no idea who sang what or anything else. I have all but stopped watching TV and movies because I have better things to do with my time. I do love good music though so maybe I’ll look up your Mary Lambert and listen to her music. Thanks for the tip.

        • I don’t think anyone is arguing that Miley Cyrus is a poster child for feminism.

          I believe Chuck was just using her as an example (one that is clearly present in everyone’s minds) of the double standard that exists.

          • Oh, I got his point exactly and he’s right. There is a double standard in how people now view Robin Thicke as compared to Miley Cyrus. But there was also a double standard in how they were selling themselves on that stage.

            That’s my point. One was selling his voice and music. The other was selling not only her voice and music but her body and sex as well. Because why? You tell me. Why was her voice and her music not enough? Yet they weren’t when they should have been. That’s all I’m saying in a round about way.

        • “I think we agree on some things but we just don’t agree what equality means and how to get it. Hint: it is not by women taking off their clothes or masturbating on stage.”

          I never said that it was. If you think that’s what I was arguing, then I’m afraid you’ve deeply misunderstood the point I was trying to make.

          “The disagreement comes in what equality means. I don’t happen to think it means it’s ok for clothes to be taken off to sell themselves.”

          I don’t know of any feminist who would argue that it *is* okay.

          “Lol. What hooey. We are sexual beings and as such we are going to have sex. In order to do that we are going to be looking over the opposite sex for what attracts. That’s natural.”

          Are you familiar with the “male gaze theory”? Because that’s what I was referring to. If you’re not, the I would advise that you look it up before dismissing it as “hooey.”

          No one here, least of all me, is arguing that people are not allowed to view each other as sexual prospects. Some people here, however, seem to think that presenting oneself as a sexual prospect is immoral. Seems a bit of a double standard.

          “What is unnatural is when you have someone saying I’m going to all but shove my sex parts in your face but you’re not allowed to think of them as sex parts.”

          And no one here, least of all me, is arguing that you’re not allowed to think of the proffered sex parts as anything more or less than sex parts. I certainly don’t think the women doing the proffering want you to think anything else.

          What we *are* saying is that all but shoving one’s sex parts in another’s face is not an invitation to sexual assault and harassment. Something you claim to agree with.

          I admit I’m a bit mystified as to what the disagreement is here.

          “It is not when a small group of people, probably men, can make a boat load of money off a woman stripping to the minimum and simulating sex for the masses.”

          I agree. I also wonder why you don’t reserve your anger for the “probably men” making money off of such exploitation, and instead focus your criticism on the woman herself. I’m not saying that she isn’t culpable, but to acknowledge that you feel sorry for her and to acknowledge the way women within the entertainment industry are used and then to turn around and level moralistic, misogynistic invective at those women seems…off. Again, a bit of a double standard.

          You seem to understand the pressure women face, both within and outside of the entertainment industry, to present themselves as sexual commodities. You understand that so long as women are presented as sexual commodities, that men and women will never achieve equality. I agree with those views.

          But you also seem much more willing to condemn the women who bow to the industrial or societal pressure to present themselves as sexual commodities, rather than the people doing the pressuring. You judge the sexualized, but not the sexualizers. You shift the blame onto women even as you acknowledge the real root of the problem.

          And *that* I can’t agree with.

          “And now you’ve gone too far. I think I’ve made it clear I do not. You know nothing about me, what I’ve been through, what my mother has been through or what her mother before her has gone through. You are the one making judgments.”

          Re judgements: bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

          And in fairness, you know nothing about me or what I’ve been through. Or Miley Cyrus and what she’s been through. Or any of the other women you dismiss as nothing more than “boobs and puss;” whom you view as immoral.

          I really, honestly don’t think that you believe the way a woman dresses justifies her abuse or assault. But you have to recognize that plenty of others do. And when you use judgmental, dehumanizing language to describe women, when you say that women who dress you deem to be “immodestly” lack self-agency, self-esteem, and moral principles, when you blame women for their own exploitation, then you are contributing to that way of thinking. When you tell women that if they display their assets then they should accept others sexualizing them against their wishes, you are using the same rhetoric and rationalization that sexual predators use. You are providing justification for the abuse of women. Even if you did not intend for your original post to be taken as such, there will still be people who read it and think “Yeah, sluts! How dare you think you deserve respect for you bodily integrity? If you didn’t want to be dehumanized, then you’d get some dignity and cover the Hell up!” Sad, but true. I’ve seen it all before.

          And that’s the point I was trying go make. Honestly, I think we agree more than we disagree. But I also think that you should examine the way in which you talk about women.

          Because the biggest impediment to equality is women willing to tear other women down.

          • Hey, Charlotte. I will concede it is all too easy to misinterpret what someone is trying to say in writing, whether it’s in email or on the net. Without meaning to we can end up sounding dismissive, dehumanizing, accusatory and condescending (and any other adjective you care to use) to one another’s opinions or beliefs when that isn’t the intent at all. Giving the benefit of the doubt allows us to talk and debate to clear up those misconceptions.

            I feel we may have been talking about two different things. One of them we agree on, I think. Miley Cyrus should not be trashed for her clothes or actions because if that’s the case then so should Robin Thicke.

            Whether we as a society should debate and question both of their morals is another question; I happen to think we should. True, as Luna stated earlier, my morals aren’t hers but as I pointed out hers aren’t mine either.

            Debating morality is not a judgment on anyone or at least it shouldn’t be. There’s no one I know who can throw stones without the danger of their own glass house being shattered. I believe it’s healthy to debate what our moral standards should be in our society or if we should have any at all. How do we grow otherwise?

            The second item I was originally talking about had nothing to do with Miley personally. I got exactly what Chuck was saying. I was simply adding to what he said because I felt it should be pointed out there was a double standard in how Robin Thicke presented himself and how Miley Cyrus presented herself.

            So Chuck was absolutely right. There is a double standard in how people now view Robin Thicke as compared to Miley Cyrus. But there was also a double standard in how they were selling themselves on that stage.

            One was selling his voice and music. The other was selling her voice and music with her body and sex as well. Her voice and her music weren’t enough when they should have been. Yet they weren’t. To me that is worth a discussion.

  • Great post. But viewing maleness as only privilege is problematic: machismo teaches males to stomp out a part of their soul, and then to aggressively (literally with violence) police the males around them to do the same. It’s true that women have the short end of the gender stereotype stick, but I feel it’s important to acknowledge there is reason for men to be interested in feminism and gender roles beyond simply being allies. Understanding how this stuff works helps us *all* achieve greater personal freedom.

  • Chuck, I think you’re more than entitled to call yourself a feminist, but I understand why you don’t. I know quite a few people who both actively and passively support gender and sexual equality, but wouldn’t dare call themselves a feminist because “it’s not like I’m an activist or anything.”

    I think people get way too caught up in who can and can’t call themselves a feminist. It all seems pretty silly to me. Do you support legal, social, and professional equality between men and women? BAM. You’re a feminist.

    I understand that my definition may not be considered valid legal tender. (BUT IT SHOULD BE. Ahem.)

    I admit, I also wish you and my aforementioned friends would call themselves feminists for a purely selfish reason: I’m tired of getting side-eyed whenever I claim I’m a feminist.

    And of having this conversation:

    “I’m a feminist.”
    “But doesn’t that mean, like, that you’re militant and think women are superior to men?”
    “No, it means I think men and women are equal.”
    “Oh! Why didn’t you say?”
    “I did. I said I’m a feminist.”
    “That’s not feminism. That’s equalism.”
    “They’re pretty much the same.”
    “Noooo, they’re not. I’m an equalist but not a feminist because I’m a man/I don’t hate men/I think men can be discriminated against, too.”
    “But men can be feminists! And feminists don’t hate men! And feminists recognize that a lot of the social issues facing women negatively affect men too – and they want to help men!”
    *uncomprehending stare*

    *sigh* All the goddamned time.

    • I agree. I enjoy your posts, Chuck, and as far as I’m concerned, you’re a feminist. There are too many people of both genders who are unwilling to use that label for themselves. I think we need to accept that different groups of women will have had different experiences with sexism and that they’ll have different priorities, depending on those experiences. And I think that we can accept that males have a stake in this too, not as the dashing knights who ride in to make it all better, but as allies who accept that we’re all human and we’re all in this together. I understand your sense of awkwardness, though.

    • OMG, I just had a duh moment that is decades late! It’s the word “Feminism” that’s the problem, for some people. It was a bad pick. If a man identified himself as a “Masculinist,” what would we assume that meant?

      From now on, I’m an “Equalist.” I tell everyone — and will continue to tell everyone — that that’s what “feminist” means, anyway. Now I get why they don’t believe it.

      Duh.

  • Being a feminist is not a noddy badge of “I suffer every day for my beliefs” and it annoys me that there are women out there who say you’re not a feminist unless you suffer the same slings and arrows as they do. Does that mean that I’m not a feminist just because I have somehow luckily escaped most of the worst misogyny out there that I’ve seen other women experiencing?
    No.
    If you believe women and men should be equal, recognise the symptoms of it and try your best to live what you believe, then you are a feminist. Your position of privilege has nothing to do with your being a feminist. It just means that it is slightly easier for you to say something about it and for that I say “Yes please! We need everyone to do their bit to help!”

    “Privilege” has unfortunately become a buzzword that some people like to throw around and use to criticise some other people who really don’t deserve it and are only trying to help. It’s not an issue of whether you have privilege or not, it’s what you choose to do with your life and how you choose to behave that matters. I have seen people with no white-male privilege take feminism back several steps with a single statement and *that* makes me crazy.

  • Thank you for this. I know many men who feel the same way; they just aren’t as articulate about it. BTW, I just (finally) joined Twitter an hour ago, and this is my first retweet. Not just first retweet — first tweet.

    When I saw what they were saying about Miley Cyrus, I couldn’t help singing in defiance: “She twerks hard for the money, so you better tweet her right…”

  • I just like the fact that you are trying, and I that alone goes above and beyond. Trying to treat everyone as equal… well, PEOPLE should be important to everyone. Love this.

    Also make sure your arm floaties are all the way up to your arm pits so they don’t slide off in the kiddie pool. You seem better at this feminism thing than most chicks I know. Keep writing the good write (words?)… Ack. (That was horrible, but I hope you get the idea.)

  • Chuck, whether you call yourself a feminist or whether you don’t, as long as we have the privilege of calling you and the lovely guys like you a friend you are always welcome in our club :^)

    In my past I’ve had some horrible experiences at the hands of men who clearly hated women, which have left me scarred to this day. I’m not sure if you know how wonderful it is to not only read blogs like yours, but to know that there are other men who feel the same way you do. Believe me, it gives me and other women who’ve been through some awful stuff a great deal of hope. To know that we don’t have to be secretly just a little bit scared and guarded around EVERY single man on the planet, that there really ARE some men out there who truly would NEVER want to harm us… That’s a gift. Thank you.

    I really, really hope there are lots more like you out there. It doesn’t seem that way sometimes, but as long as guys like you are speaking out – whether you give yourselves a special name or not – there’s hope.

  • It occurs to me in part that what I’m feeling (as regards calling myself “feminist”) is a kind of imposter syndrome, like, I’m going to get it wrong somehow? Like I don’t belong by dint of — what? I dunno. Not really logical, but there you go. I do think of myself a feminist, to be clear.

  • I saw the picture this morning with the words “This is what a Feminist looks like”, and I assumed it was straight up. It never occurred to me that it was supposed to be an insult. Also, “feminist” means “someone who believes in equality between the sexes,” so feminist it up, Wendig.

    • I think it had just come out of Mary Robinette Kowal’s suitcase before he put it on. Scalzi’s post on this subject got a lot of comments about the color not being right for him, but this is the first I’ve seen about the wrinkles. But now that you mention it…

  • Chuck, you soothe my old feminist bones. All we endured [and never passively]for the past decades of struggle produced a few stout-hearted men with sensibilities like yours. Keep waving the flag…and go hug your Mom. She did good.

  • “I think it’s important for us guys having our party on Heteronormative White Dude Mountain to acknowledge that privilege. It’s there. Big and shiny and practically bulletproof.”

    Bulletproof? Really? What shot have you – as a man – taken of late?

    I think that’s said by a guy who doesn’t really interact with society in a real way. Like going to a job every day sort of way. Like not involved in academia sort of way.

    If you think that the large percentage of women who are literary agents – just grabbing an example from the ether here – doesn’t have deliterious effect on men, you are thinking with the male-guilt portion of your brain and you should cut off your testes and hurl them with what remains of your manhood against a tree like the druids of old used to do.

    Shit.

    The shine on being a white male – as evidenced by this post – has loooong ago lost it’s bright, shiny, new car smell.

  • Some tangentially related thoughts :

    0) Here’s the test:
    A man and his son are out driving
    They are in a terrible car crash, and the father is killed. The child is rushed to the ER surgeon
    The surgeon takes one look at the kid and says “I can’t operate on this child, this is my son!”
    HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

    1) Thank Yous to Chuck and the men like him! They make women feel *heard.*

    2) I want to earn equal pay but I still appreciate it when you hold the door for me.

    3) Women need to help *each other* As Mentors in the workplace. As fellow authors. Get over the deeply held idea that there are only so many slots available to women and start seeking, and helping, each other out.

    4) As a chemist I have long worked in male dominated fields, yet have only been mis-treated to the point of offense on a handful of occasions. At which point I had to resort to the scant recourse available (I.e. HR)

    5) Women are very quietly making strides in many areas that matter immensely. Sometimes it seems that the way to get ahead is NOT to make a big deal and just do it…. Here is a thoughtful piece, which among other things notes that the FB page I Fucking Love Science is run by a woman. Surprised?

    http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2013/08/26/guest-post-oh-i-thought-you-were-a-guy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheLastWordOnNothing+%28The+Last+Word+On+Nothing%29

  • Me, I’m the old white dude allies’ biggest fan. Not so much the white dudes who rape-and-death threatened me for calling on white women to ally with Black men and boys after the Zimmerman acquittal, though.

    Sigh.

    BTW, I think you should call yourself a feminist. We need all the people willing to use that word we can get. In my dictionary, it just means “belief that women are human.”

  • Thanks, Chuck. I really needed this. All these so-called “men’s rights activists” (who, strangely, are less activists and more people who whine about how nobody’s paying any attention to THEIR needs) have been really getting me down lately. It’s not that feminists don’t acknowledge that men can be affected by stereotypes too, and that men can suffer from domestic abuse and rape and all of those less than pleasant things, but that’s really not the point. Is it so difficult for these guys to get off their pulpit for two seconds and focus on someone else’s problems?

    I think that, in a way, this all relates back to the growing trend of self-absorption in our culture. So many people (not just men, but women, whites, blacks, and everyone in between) can’t possibly imagine the struggles of anyone who isn’t like them, and if a problem doesn’t relate to them, then it either isn’t important or just plain doesn’t exist.

    As a non-white person, I acknowledge that white people can be discriminated against. I know that white people can be victims of hate crimes and racism, just like anyone else. But just because I don’t go out and protest for the rights of all those poor white people who are being discriminated against doesn’t make me a racist, nor does it mean that I’m ignoring their problems. But seriously, it’s better to help patch up the gaping wound in someone else’s side before you start bitching about your paper cut. Life isn’t about who’s the bigger victim or who has more to bitch about.

    Everywhere I look, people are competing to see who’s more oppressed or who has had a more difficult life, just so they can play the victim card and blame all of their problems on their suffering. Last time I checked, the goal is to have an easy life and nothing to complain about, not the other way around.

    So please, stop pretending like men have anywhere near as much to complain about as women, and stop complaining that nobody is trying to fix your problems for you while you yourself sit around on the computer and whine all day long about how much you’re being oppressed. If you feel oppressed, then go build a shelter for battered men. Spread awareness about male stereotyping in the media and domestic abuse against males. And quit blaming your problems on women. It just makes you sound like a douche.

    I’m really glad to finally see a man saying reasonable, non-horrible things about feminists. Thank you, Chuck. You’ve really made my day.

  • Chuck, it strikes me that your feelings about calling yourself a feminist when “the world is home to real feminists walking the walk and talking the talk” are similar to those of many unpublished writers who look at published authors and decide that they, themselves, aren’t real writers.

    Now, someone said something about that the other day along the lines of “If you write, you’re a writer”. Who was that again? Let me think…

    The principle holds.

  • You’re entitled to call yourself a feminist. Anyone policing the term is quite possibly missing the point. On the flip side, if you want to do a better job, you might look hard at the metaphors you use — not in this post, that’s been discussed sufficiently in the comments. Last night, I was reading 250 Things You Should Know About Writing and ran across this: “I’ve heard this said about large breasts and we’ll reiterate it here for description: anything more than a mouthful is a waste.”

    Ouch. Yes, you were talking about description, but repeating something that says women’s breasts only exist for others’ pleasure and dismisses millions of women as not fitting the appropriate criteria is pretty harsh.

  • I have a very small beef with the term feminist, only because it implies pro-female which by extension is often interpreted as anti-male (which of course it is not). Personally, therefore, I prefer the term humanist: we should all be non-assholy humans–female, male, or whatever gender we identify with–with equal rights and equal opportunities for all.

  • I’ve often wondered what is so wrong with equality that seemingly no one’s ever tried it. Yes, I’m aware of the various thisses and thats, but honestly…. Is it because the idea of true social equality fills too many heads with the ugliest pictures we’ve seen of communism? Is it because too many people think, “But that would mean I wouldn’t get to be better than anybody” while too few people think, “Hell yeah, that would mean nobody would be better than me?”

    When I was in my early 20s I learned almost everything I needed to know about equality from being in a band. Someone needed to play drums, someone needed to play guitar, someone needed to play bass and someone needed to sing. The band worked when the four of us moved the right muscles in the right ways to make the right sounds at the right times. And the relevant part? Neither gender, age, race nor sexual habits were in any way relevant to making that happen. The music got everything it needed from the four of us in order to exist and be awesome. I’m sure the metaphor here is obvious enough.

    In the end our guitarist was egomaniacal and neurotic (aren’t they all?) and he pretty much initiated the band’s self-destruct sequence. We were all equal, doing our equal part for the music, but the guitarist needed to be above everybody. He needed to be singled out as the best of the four and the rest of us couldn’t survive inside that vacuum.

    I’ve always wondered why. Now one little rock band seems to be a pretty different species from the entire citizenry of a nation or humanity in its entirety, but I think it merely scales it down a bit. What is wrong with those of us that need to be better than other people so badly that we’re willing to fuck up the whole party for everybody else just to keep that option on the table? I’ve heard all the easy answers, but they’re just not satisfying.

  • I love your blog, but this post made me cringe for one very specific reason:

    You used the word meme incorrectly.

    The word meme has roots in anthropology and computer science. Though I’m not sure what it means in computer science, in the anthropological (and internet) sense the word meme means a repeated idea. Emphasis on *repeated*. A single picture with amusing text on it is not a meme. It is an amusing picture. Now, if that text (or the picture it’s attached to) follows a previously established theme, /that/ is a meme. The set of “this is what a feminist looks like” pictures IS a meme, but the single picture with the caption, “Pretty much what I expected,” is not.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds