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.