Mansplaining Poetry

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a poem written by her best friend. I read it. It was about god and religion, and it seemed to be separating god from any specific religion. It said god wasn’t Jewish in a temple, Muslim in a mosque, etc. Not very long. All well and good. So I said it was nice but seemed more deist to me than atheist. (Sure, I’m an atheist, but I made no value judgement about that). I thought this was an innocent observation. After my friend and I exchanged a couple comments (she disagreed with me, based on knowing her friend’s intentions, but people don’t necessarily write what they intend or say what they mean), her best friend chimed in, “I see the mansplainers are up early this morning!” This was apropos of nothing. I made what I thought were innocuous rational statements about the poem, and now the poet was suddenly attacking me personally. Without making any effort to address the content. As is my habit when this happens, I questioned why she was answering substantive analysis with a personal attack. No answer. I then noted that it seemed to be my reward for trying to be nice to her. A few weeks ago, I’d sent her a friend request and emailed her an apology for a scuffle we got in a few years ago (unrelated to sexism). No response, but of course no good deed goes unpunished. Both of these women had planned to come to Seattle last month for a Bernie Sanders rally I was attending, and I’d been looking forward to seeing my friend and finally meeting her best friend, but they didn’t make it.

Now: the salt in the wound–I did a lot of feminist activism in college. I was the most prominent male feminist at my college. I was an officer in NARAL, served on the Women’s Task Force and Committee on the Status of Women where I helped write a stronger sexual assault policy, I minored in Women’s Studies when no other male was in the department, and I was the first guy invited to live in the Women’s House (I stupidly declined). It seemed pretty clear that I wasn’t doing all this for my own social benefit, because I not only didn’t have a girlfriend or dates; I think I only asked out one of the women I knew from feminist activism in 4 years. If anything, the prevailing assumption was that I was gay; people were surprised when they found out I was straight. There’s even evidence to suggest feminism hurts straight men in dating as sexism is still the norm and very much in demand–which deeply disillusions me.

I continued some of this work in DC. My boss was a congressional leader on domestic violence. My last job in DC was at a women’s organization, where I was the first man ever to work for them in DC and lobby for them. I worked on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, marshalling similar groups to mobilize in support of it. I also worked on pay inequity, abortion rights, birth control access, child care, paid family/medical leave, poverty, Social Security…various issues that disproportionately affect women, which was the whole reason we got involved in them.

So I actually have more of a history in feminism than most men AND women, except that I’ve regrettably never been a woman, and I definitely feel like I pay the price for it without getting appreciated or whatever. (People seem to think I’m crazy, but if one goal is to get men to be more egalitarian, wouldn’t it make sense for women to favor feminist men over sexist ones, all else being equal? That doesn’t mean entitled to dates or sex or whatever nonsense people want to accuse me of saying, just that it’s often wise to reward what you want and punish what you don’t.) But none of that matters. Its total value is 0. Make one substantive point about one poem that the author doesn’t like, and BAM!–they can just throw an easy charge like mansplaining at you on the sole basis of…gender. Apparently the more strident/less informed feminists have come full circle; their mothers worked hard to refute the notion that biology is destiny, only to have our generation resurrect it with gusto. It’s enough to make you give up on working for just ideals and just be selfish. As a 12th grade friend said once, if you’re going to be punished for the crime anyway, why not commit it? 😦 People suck.

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