Oftentimes, the best course of action when faced with a topic that explodes in social or traditional media circles is to step back and examine it from afar. This has become difficult in the era of the ‘hot take,’ where the desire for instant gratification and analysis informs nearly every aspect of life, particularly media cycles. As such, the initial opinion formed — however incorrect — forms a lasting impression which becomes nearly impossible to avoid.
Given that preamble, you may believe that Eliot Rodger’s murderous rampage in Isla Vista was borne from a systematic, even institutionalized, male hatred of women. Never mind the fact that most of Rodger’s victims were members of his own gender; the image seared into our collective conscious is that of a highly disturbed individual espousing a deep-seated hatred of women, ensconced in his privileged mentality and repeated sexual rejection.
But to assess Rodger’s ramblings as an astute dissection of human nature and pan-male behaviour is to afford it way too much credit — this is an oversimplification as damaging to gender discussions as Rodger’s own arguments.
Rodger was not a scholar of gender theory; nor was he a worldly, educated person immersed in a wide range of cultural viewpoints. He was a freewheeling sociopath, whose central thesis was qualitatively obtuse and inconsistent with his actions. But that same thesis grated on the edges of a bundle of raw nerves, and was seized upon to build a strawman argument while the families of his victims wept on the six o’clock news.
What has become apparent is that most feminists are unwilling to be inclusive.
It was easy, especially at first, to get caught up in the stunning tide of the #YesAllWomen discussion. As a heterosexual male, I have no idea what it is like to be a woman. I have no idea of what it is like to be gratuitously objectified or made to feel uncomfortable or cornered in society’s fringes. I cannot truly empathize because I cannot truly relate, and I do not want to sympathize because that approach is, to me, belittling and patronizing.
However, I believe that it is important to be inclusive in terms of discussion, as communication and education are powerful tools. Opening one’s mind to learn and appreciate and understand is a constructive pathway that facilitates resolution. But what has become apparent is that most women — at least those who advocate feminist theory — are unwilling to be inclusive.
No, I do not think that “all feminists hate men,” an oft-repeated yet utterly idiotic argument seized upon by many Men’s Rights Activists. But I do think that too many feminists are unwilling to engage men in their discussions.
Perhaps the most egregiously false assumption made by numerous feminists is that ‘\”sexism” — a loaded gun catch-all accusation — flows unidirectionally from men towards women. This assumption undermines the efforts of women’s rights groups, and acts deconstructively to reinforce barriers within a gendered society; it is a flashpoint us-or-them argument that debilitates open discussion and is, frankly, pretty smug.
#YesAllWomen was borne from the same well-intentioned wellspring as #NotAllMen, before the latter was hijacked by MRA zealots. No, Not All Men are psychopathic deviants who enact sexual violence on women. No, Not All Men have their heads buried in the sand over the progression of gender norms. No, Not All Men harbour a hatred of women that leads them to murder.
Not All Men are Elliot Rodger, just as Not All Men are Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer.
It is clearly illustrated by the stories of women whose tales of abuse and violence and fear were shared through the Yes All Women hashtag that, while Not All Men are psychopaths hiding under a cloak of benign behaviour, some are. But to automatically qualify all men as a ‘potential threat’ is patently ridiculous.
If this were reversed, then Yes All Men should feel terrified of leaving their wives or girlfriends home with their children, because they might drown them in bathtub à la Andrea Yates. It is a leap of logic so strenuous that you would need serious stretching in advance to prevent blowing a hamstring.
According to the blog Finally, A Feminism 101, men are incapable of being discriminated against. Similarly, feminist ideas of sexism and patriarchy repeatedly refute the idea of reverse sexism, i.e. sexism directed towards men. In this view, men cannot experience sexism because, ancestrally and historically, we have enjoyed nothing but power.
This is ridiculous. In essence, feminists have labeled being born a heterosexual cis-male a crime — a crime of existence. I cannot choose who I am, nor what I am, any more so than I can choose what freedoms and benefits my ancestors enjoyed. I cannot speak for them, and I am not responsible for their decisions or reasoning. I am me, in the present day, and I want to talk.
The gross assumption that all men are predators and therefore cannot play a part in the revolution is absurd. The civil rights movement was abetted by whites who championed those causes. The same can be said, in part, of the gay rights movement.
Yes, all women struggle with a patriarchal society that establishes certain behaviours as norms. But the term “women” is generally inclusive of all women, irrespective of sexual preference or race or upbringing. This broad scope facilitates inclusion. The same broad scope when turned towards men, however, only facilitates conflict.
As Courtney Enlow of Pajiba.com tweeted in response to a #YesAllPeople counter-trend, “We don’t have to try so hard to make ourselves male-friendly or male-inclusive. It’s OK for us to focus on the us part of equality.” Hers is a lovely sentiment. But how can we be expected, as cis-males blinded by our apparent privilege, to become better educated or aid in change when we are greeted with a “No Boys Allowed” sign on the clubhouse door?
This is not about agitation, or labelling feminists sexist. It is about the process of reconciliation and healing. All too often, there is a strict yes or no mentality when it comes to diplomacy, which only sends us deeper down the rabbit hole. Feminists: Stop. Engage. You just might be surprised.
[Editor’s note: see a letter responding to this article here: http://18.104.22.168/2014/08/re-no-notallmen/]