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For the oppression of women to be taken seriously and addressed by the mainstream and majority, it has to be packaged so as not to hurt the feelings and/or egos of men.
Emma Watson’s speech was brilliant, and she’s incredibly brave for standing up for human rights, just the same as Beyonce with her recent feminist activities, and countless others.
But it was still rather… tame.
It isn’t radical enough for me. I’m not talking radical in terms of the fictionalised straw man (or woman) ‘crazy’ (hate that ableist word) ‘feminazi’ (hate that word too) let’s-march-through-the-streets-and-stick-men-on-leads fantasy that so many people, mostly men, let’s be honest, have created in order to see themselves as the fair and just middle ground between men and women in a system that is ‘equally unfair on both of the genders’. (In quotation marks because as you all probably know, there are more than two genders).
There’s still this element of:
I don’t want to make men feel bad or guilty about the shitty things they say or do that oppress and hurt women, because they’ve been conditioned into it by the patriarchy and the traditional male gender role.
But even more worryingly than this attitude that puts the concern about men feeling a bit guilty before, you know, women getting killed, there’s this mentality too, underlying it all, a mentality that feels super uncomfortable and scary to address:
If we’re not nice/appealing/non-threatening/sweet/attractive/apologetic/polite enough, they’re going to keep on hurting us deliberately, and say it’s our own fault for not convincing them to treat us with basic human respect. They’re going to use their power against us. We’re going to get hurt.
And even if we do make our message palatable to men, the way Emma Watson did, they’re stlll going to punish us for daring to speak out or have an opinion they disagree with. They’ll punish us by destroying our privacy and our body autonomy. They will find some way to violate us. To make us feel unsafe. To let the next generation of little girls watching know that if they don’t play nice and keep their mouths shut then they’ll suffer the same.
They’re using psychological terror as a weapon. Using the power this system gives them so unjustly, to frighten women into silence.
We’re pleading with the men at this point. Pleading for a scrap of decency or compassion. Pleading with them to listen to our stories and believe our experiences.
And I’m not here for that at all.
At least, I don’t want to be. I hate myself every time I have to talk in a YouTube video about the fact there are ‘good men’ out there. That ‘not all men’ are hurting us. That we don’t hate them. Not personally.
I do it because if I don’t, then I am bombarded my messages by the so called ‘good men’ reassuring me that they aren’t all like that, lightly chastising me for insulting them, and hurting their feelings. After all, they’re just trying to help, and I’m not doing myself any favours by making enemies of them, right? They could easily swap sides, and the next time I step out of line, they might do just that.
I hate that I hate myself for this. But there’s no other way.
We’re stuck in a trap right now, a vicious circle, in which everything, even our own liberation and human rights, are dependent on male approval, dependent on male compassion, dependent on male mercy.
What sort of a foul, unbalanced, unjust system do we exist within, when we must go begging for compassion from the group that oppresses and harms us in order to perhaps be considered as human beings?
I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
But I can’t see a way out of it right now.
And that’s patriarchy for you. That’s what sexism looks like. If you can’t see it then you are not looking hard enough. Or perhaps you are a man.
(Not taking that one back. Not playing that game today.)
"…even our own liberation and human rights, are dependent on male approval, dependent on male compassion, dependent on male mercy.”
I definitely feel that HeforShe has good intentions but it has some problematic implications that should be addressed and are absolutely worth having a discussion about because I don’t believe there is a clear black and white answer.
We couldn’t agree more.