In Which I Learn To Talk Less And Listen More

I am a creature of enormous privilege.

Like, it’s pretty big? I get that. I’m not just a white dude, I’m a white dude with a pretty big social media footprint. And sometimes I think I can use my privilege and my social media to do Good Things™ and instead I’m like Wreck-It-Ralph who just breaks the building and shits up the cake instead and then nobody can have the cake or the building. Or something. Think Godzilla stomping on a city not because he hates the city but because he was trying to help someone who dropped their phone on the sidewalk —

“HERE I WILL GET THAT FOR YOU OH GOD I JUST CRUSHED A BUS FULL OF CHILDREN.”

Today I peeled back the Internet curtain and looked into that #AskELJames hashtag and thought, “Well, there’s some ugly stuff going on there and it’s against a woman,” and, man, I dunno, I thought I’d speak truth to power but I think I actually am the power? And maybe EL James is the power, too? Some folks pointed out that I was punching down and ignoring a lot of the really awful things James has done and it became increasingly clear that I am speaking from a place of ignorance and that runs the risk of doing more harm than good. Like, my goal is not to use my privilege to take over conversations that aren’t mine. I’m not here to police people. Particularly women. I think of myself as feminist, but maybe I’m not a particularly good one.

And it feels like if I want to be a better one, then it’s more appropriate for me to take a backseat instead of clumsily pawing at the steering wheel and driving us all into Mansplain Gulch.

In other words, I’m going to stop talking about stuff like this because I don’t own this space, I don’t own this place, and I’m reminded of that somewhat regularly. There are better, smarter people who can talk about this stuff, and I’ll signal boost them, instead. Far better than than me being all like I’LL FIX THAT FOR YOU WITH MY LILY WHITE MANSTICK HERE JUST LET ME EXPLAIN SOME THINGS LITTLE LADIES. I hate to think I’ve been that guy.

Instead, I’ll focus more on the whole writing-advicey, pop-culturey, kid-havingy stuff. I’ll cop to that some of this is also a little self-care-related. Like, I know I’m out there pissing people off — I foolishly vanity-search myself on social media, so I see that folks think I’m sea-lioning and mansplaining and all the things I hope I’m not doing but, shit, maybe I am? It’s not my intention, but again: see earlier reference to Godzilla. Some folks think I get some kind of special mileage out of this (sales, maybe, or attention, or cookies or whatever the slang is), but mostly, I think I’m just stressing people out, and then that stresses me out because I feel like I’m not achieving my goals. I’m trying to be a good ally, whatever that means, but I fear it’s making me a worse one, instead. A fellow author exhorted me to “butt out, dude,” so —

This is me, butting out.

163 comments

  • If a man wants to say his piece, I think he should go for it. Here’s the thing: no one is forcing me to listen. If I think a particular opinion doesn’t add to my personal exploration of an issue, I can ignore it. But I don’t believe it is my place to tell someone not to voice their opinion. Nor is it my place to tell other people they shouldn’t find value in an opinion I don’t value.

    In short, I don’t believe it is my place to tell other people what to write or what to read. I am an adult. I can choose for myself what I want to spend my time on.

    For me, feminism is not a tool for silencing others, and one thing I have found terribly discouraging is the number of times I see feminists on the web tell other people to sit down and shut up. Well, they are entitled to say it. And I’m entitled to say, “Hey, I’m a feminist, too, and I believe in respecting the right of everyone to be part of the conversation.”

    And this is so crucial to my opinion, I want to restate it: I hate to see some writers in the name of feminism shame others into being silent. Just because some feminists don’t find the opinion of a man valuable in a given time or place doesn’t mean other readers, feminist or not, can’t find value in that opinion. I think it is wrong to shame people into silence. But one of the other results of that shaming is diversity of opinion and richness of opinion is diminished. My choices are diminished.

    You know, when I was a child, my mother never restricted my reading. I could read whatever I could get my hands on. (It was a long time ago so there weren’t really that many racy options available). So, honestly, if my mother could trust that at ten years old I could decide for myself what to read, I certainly don’t at this stage of my life need somebody else policing what gets put on the shelf for me.

  • Wow man, come on. Stop flagellating yourself. If people are using your gender and race to silence you, tell them to fuck off. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment.

    A SHITTON of that hashtag was just slut-shaming, body-shaming, asking her why she was such a cunt etc. You were doing a GOOD thing. Don’t give up just because you’re catching flak for being “born wrong”, or whatever people are saying to you. Sticking your head in the sand is just sad man.

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