So, for those of you don't know, I'm on Reddit, and I post occasionally in the comments over at reddit.com/r/feminism. There's a thread over there that's led to some interesting discussion. You can probably figure out who I am.
It discussed the now defunct "Nice Guys of OKCupid" blog. You can find an archive of that blog here.
Pretty much the discussion point is this: is "shaming" misogynist men an effective tactic? Is it feminist? Is it something we, as feminists, should promote? I'm torn, but not that much. From the comment thread, a lot of people (I'm going to presume men) take offense to the blog because it's shaming men. A couple comments have pointed out that it's like slut-shaming.
My responses have mostly been that I think shaming can be an effective tactic to get men to change their behavior. It shouldn't be your only tactic, but it can definitely be one of them. Different men will respond to different thing. As I've written before, I think one of the most effective tactics is for people in the misogynist's life to call them out on it. Tell them that their statements are hurtful towards women, towards specific women (maybe you! maybe your mother, sister, daughter, significant other, friend). But I recognize that not everyone feels comfortable (for physical, emotional, other reasons) calling men out like that. But what do we have? The anonymity of the internet. Certainly not as effective, but it can reach more people.
So we have to move on to other tactics. I certainly support education, and I think reaching out to men and trying to educate them about feminism is worthwhile. But I don't think that tactic is going to reach all men. Some men are going to respond to shaming. Some men will respond to shaming because they might be genuinely surprised or come to a realization that their behavior hurts women, and they might engage in the kind of careful self-examination that most (if not all) male feminists eventually have to go through. I think, however, that of the ones who stop their behavior because of the shaming, most of them will do it simply because they don't want to risk society's disapproval.
Will this embitter some men and make them angrier towards women? Undoubtedly yes. But were these men you were going to reach through other means? I don't know. I'm all for bringing feminism to as many men as possible, and I've tried to write a lot about tactics to reach men. I think that at this stage in the feminist movement, and in the movement to bring bem into feminism, we need to try to get the low-hanging fruit. We need to find the men who are sympathetic to our ideas but aren't quite there yet, and bring them in. And then bring in the next most-sympathetic group, and so on. I don't know that we can afford to tailor our messages to the lowest common denominator, with the goal of not further embittering men we were never going to reach in the first place.
Thoughts on this? I'm going to post this on the reddit/r/feminism section, and see if any redditors and my normal commentariat can get a discussion going. (If there's any normal commentariat left, given the lack of posting on this blog).
To: Boners Everywhere
Re: You & Feminism
Hey there Boners. How you doing? I couldn't help but notice that Feministe has a blog post called "Feminism Makes Boners Sad," about an article by Doctors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam in Psychology Today called "Why Feminism is the Anti-Viagra." I was concerned that you might be sad and getting misinformed by Psychology Today, so I wanted to give you a bit of straight talk:
Now, Boners, I get it: a Boner is a pretty self-centered thing. I can't say that I have a whole lot of intellectual control over my own. Sometimes it happens when I want it to; sometimes it doesn't when I do. I bring up that you're selfish to make this simple point: I understand Boners aren't intrinsically feminist. I'm pretty sure I can safely say that you don't ascribe to any ideology. So the Boner doesn't care if something that turns it on is feminist, or misogynist, or anything else. The Boner is undiscriminating. It takes all comers. It is an equal opportunity employer. I've written before about how I think feminism for men means that the sex will be better, but I've never really addressed my points to you specifically.
With that said, let us begin, Boners:
Anyone who got any semblance of sexual assault education probably knows this statistic: one in four women who attends college have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. So, Boners, I understand you're self-centered and well, unfeeling (emotionally speaking), so I'm going to talk to your baser instincts. Having sex with people who have been victims can be very hard. People often need a lot of help and support, professional and otherwise, to be comfortable with themselves sexually again. You know who you have to thank for that? Feminism.
I'm gong to shoot straight with you Boners, a lot of people in this country get some pretty effed up sexual education, where they end up ashamed of their sexuality, afraid to engage in their own pleasure, unwilling to try anything but the most vanilla things with the most vanilla frequently, and well, Boners, that kind of sucks (and not in the good way). But there's people out there Boners who want everyone to be comfortable with their sexuality, to do what turns them on safely and consensually, and well, give dudes Boners. That's Feminism there for you.
Now Boners, I don't mean to be a downer or deflate the otherwise happy note of this conversation, but as we all know, not every Boner has a happy ending. We all know that sometimes Boners can get all sorts of diseases from all sorts of places and things, but luckily, there's way to prevent that with prophylactics that can prevent the spread of STIs and HIV. You know who's out there spreading the word, distributing contraceptives to low-income people, and pushing for more progressive policies on family planning? Feminists.
Even though we all came from a Boner some time or another, from every Boner, a child is not made. But despite our best efforts, sometimes we have unplanned pregnancies, or planned pregnancies that don't progress the way they should. And the only reason that abortion is an option for women who need them is because of, well, you know who, Feminists.
Now, I know that the average lifespan of a Boner isn't very long, but if we can stretch our minds back a bit, we can probably remember times when we couldn't even talk about sex openly, when sex education was non-existent, or even to times when people believed that sexual activity for non-procreative purposes was sinful. I mean, I didn't count back then, but I think there were a lot fewer Boners in those days. It really sounds pretty shitty (and not the kind of shitty that's sometimes the byproduct of well ... a certain former Senator from Pennsylvania).
So Boners, I hope I've been able to get my point across. Feminism has done an awful lot of awesome stuff to gives lots of dudes Boners. And If really at the end of the day, you need some good ol' Victorian misogyny to get the blood flowing, well, there's all sorts of roleplay for that, which you know, is only really acceptable due to a lot of work by, well ... you know who.
Jeff & His Boner
Okay, so you're a feminist, or at least you think that's where you're going.
You might be thinking that now's the time to jump in! Go to a feminist discussion, a book group, see some speakers, read some books, comments on some feminist blogs!
It's good to be eager, but as a beginning feminist, it's best to be a passive consumer of feminism when you're first going into feminist safe spaces.
Now that might be a new phrase for you, "safe space." What is it? Well, it's one of those things that men generally don't have to worry about -- a place where everyone who is present feels safe and comfortable expressing themselves about whatever topic they might want: feminism, queer theory, racial issues, etc., etc. The mainstream man can always talk about just about whatever he wants. (On the other hand, the queer man, the feminist man, the man of color, they can't, but remember, we're talking about "majority men" right now).
Sometimes, when a male feminist newly becomes interested in feminism, they want to join a group, maybe on a college campus, maybe a local book club, or just start commenting on blogs and forums, and begin discussing feminist issues! It's great to be eager, but remember, you're going into someone else's established safe space, knowing a lot less than they do. People aren't interested, generally, in spending a lot of time going off topic of whatever it was they wanted to talk about to educate you about what feminism is. If you really feel a need to go to a group like that and can't hold yourself: be a passive consumer. Listen.
Before you go out and participate, try to make sure you've done as much educating of yourself as reasonably possible. Be familiar with Feminism 101, read some FAQs, learn a bit of jargon, and then when you have at least a basic vocabulary of self-expression, along with the wisdom to know that it's not all about you in these types of groups, then go to a group and talk about issues.
But always remember, most women have years if not decades of experience acknowledging, discussing and experiencing first-hand a real-world system and a philosophy of ideas that we've only just been introduced to. That's not to say men can't make substantial contributions to feminism (indeed, we do), but I doubt a female feminist ever came out of a feminist group having met a man and thought, "That guy was too humble and timid." It isn't feminists' responsibility to tolerate us coming in and messing up their stuff; we need to self-educate ourselves as best as we can before we participate in the movement.
There's already been a lot of really excellent posts about the Yale DKE Chapter that marched around the Yale Women's Center shouting, "No means yes! Yes means anal!" Some of the posts have analyzed how the Chapter apologized. Salon had an interview with a DKE member. Hugo Schwyzer told the story of his legacy at DKE. Readadultsex has a great post analyzing how men are gendered to need to "win" women, absent the possibility that women could have sexual desires.
Now there's a lot to be said about this issue, and most people have said it far better than I have.
But there's definitely a certain voice that I haven't heard much, and though I am by no means connected to every blog on the Internet, I can't say I've seen anything written (outside the DKE Chapter) by other fraternities condemning this.
So, as a former frat boy, let me add my voice to those who have condemned what DKE did, and let me also say: this isn't an isolated incident. There are many, many fraternities out there that ascribe to the same ethos as the Yale DKR Chapter clearly did. That being said, there are plenty of fraternities that are somewhat more enlightened, and that would have never in a million years pulled off this stunt.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how do we move fraternities from the mindset of DKE to a feminist or pro-feminist mindset? Now, although others certainly disagree, I am opposed to simply abolishing the fraternities system, as many schools have done. I think that there can be benefits to these kinds of societies, from the somewhat altruistic ones, like brother/sisterhood, community service, to more practical ones such as throwing a good party.
Well, I can think of a few ways certainly: firstly, make education on sexual assault mandatory for all members. If you enforce the policy and make the program good and effective, most will go. Perhaps only few will leave taking away something substantive and positive, but that's a few more than you had before. Secondly, force each Greek organization to have membership in some sort of cross-campus violence prevention program or organization. Even making one or two members of each chapter more aware of these issues, their effects on the community, and more importantly, their effects on their house can do worlds of good. Thirdly: have serious consequences when incidents like this happen. I don't know what's happening at Yale in regards to any discipline that might be happening to this Greek Chapter, but even if nothing is happening, this Chapter clearly has some image cleaning up to do and is working to do it. So even if not a one member believes in any anti-sexual-violence messages or principles, having clear consequences for their actions will make them clean up their act and stop doing these kinds of things. Fraternities are notoriously effective at damage control, from dealing with neighbors who are pissed at parties to keeping the police off of their backs -- if you make sure there's damage when they commit pro-rape acts, they will control it, and they know that the most effective control policy is prevention.
On of the off chance that someone reads this and is in a fraternity or a sorority who knows someone who is, let me tell you what you can do: go submit an opinion piece in the student newspaper. Talk about the DKE incident and how it relates to how things are on your campus, and make it clear that it's okay. One of the most important things in this kind of work is for people to stand up and let their voices be heard. As male feminists, and as fraternity members as well, we need to stand up in our communities, on campus, off campus, in our chapters, as alum or current members, and speak out against this kind of behavior and work towards making our own communities safer for everyone.