“Guidelines for avoiding actively irritating women who are discussing feminist concerns”

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These are contained in “An Uncongenial Post” by Tia at Unfogged:

1) Understand that if lots of women say something is important, it is. Your opinion, as a man, about the extent and nature of the problem is not valuable when the specific problem pertains to women’s experience. Naturally, women, including feminist women, disagree. In fact, they disagree often. So especially on occasions when you get a basically uniform chorus saying they experience some aspect of society as harmful, and your response is that it is not important, you’re wrong, and you’re being a dick. If you think it might be a little important, but not quite as important as we say it is, you’re still wrong.

2) Always consider the distinction between a class and individual members of a class. If you don’t care about this, and when conversations about class-based oppression you come up with examples of weaker members of the dominant class and more powerful members of the subordinate class, you look an awful lot like someone who doesn’t care about justice. Michael Jordan is better off than me. This indicates precisely nothing about the importance of racism in our society. I can even come up with examples of working class people who are better off than some rich people; healthier, less mentally ill, say. This indicates nothing about the importance of class in our society.

Someone can be in a weaker position than a member of a class subordinate to him and use his dominant class membership against that person. This does not mean that an injustice is not being perpetrated against the member of the subordinate class, or that other members of the subordinate class, witnessing it, don’t experience it as threat or harm. No matter how much it looks to you like someone is a “loser,” if he is a member of a dominant class and using the methods of that class to hurt, threaten, or control a member of the subordinate class, it is, to some extent, effective. Even when someone I know could only dream of a sexual chance with me says to me, “Wipe the butter off your face, you fat pig. It’s dripping,” it still hurts me and threatens me. He is speaking with all the power of his class behind him, and on some level, maybe explicit, maybe not, he knows it. Even 15-year-old boys adopt stances characteristic of a dominant class.

3) When you tell us about the male perspective on the issue (“Men don’t intend it this way!”“Men feel weak in relation to women!”) consider that we already understand. And then consider that the reason it looks to you like the male perspective is being excluded or misunderstood is that we’re actually talking about ourselves, and the effect your actions have on us. Further, you function as part of a larger system, and your introspection about your intent doesn’t tell you much about how.


5) Do not draw up a bunch of hierarchies about which form of oppression is worse than which other. When you do this, you’re not responding to a claim that what we experience is the worst thing ever; you just show up and start talking about why what the women say they experience is not as big of a deal as X, Y, or Z. Sometimes, you make statements as absurdly wrong as

Women vs. men is a tragic inequality at a society level, but it is so dominated by all other inequalities that I can think of at any finer demographic analysis.

How shall I put this? No. In so many ways, no. Being a woman, no matter what demographic you come from, is an overwhelmingly structuring and determining aspect of your life. In some ways it functions differently depending on your demographic, and in other ways there are striking commonalities, but in no sense is it dominated by other inequalities. Being a woman magnifies the effects of all those inequalities. For example, women are more likely to be poor than men. Single parenthood is a huge cause of poverty and women, maybe you’ve heard, are much more likely to be single parents. If you’re a woman you’re also more likely to get shunted off into a low paying service industry job instead of a manufacturing job. All of these things, race, class, gender, multiply each other when they combine. They don’t trump one another.


No, but judging from the experiences of my male friends versus my female friends, my smart friends versus my dumb friends, my black/hispanic friends versus my white/asian friends, and my poorer friends versus my rich friends, sexism is one of my lesser concerns. I think that class, intellect, connections and looks have much greater effects on one’s prospects than gender.

This must depend on a comically narrow definition of the word “prospects”; Your gender rather affects your prospects of being raped, your prospects of being a single parent, your prospects of being sexually harassed, your prospects of having an eating disorder–oh I could go on–in ways that cannot be numerically compared to or ranked among the way these other categories affect your “prospects.”


8) Remember that the fact that you can construe your position as “moderate” because other people are bigger assholes than you, or because you know women who don’t put much stock in this feminism malarkey, or who identify as feminist but just don’t seem as upset as us about issue X, does not argue in favor of the legitimacy of your opinion. There are powerful and profound rewards in our society for women who don’t call men on their bullshit. Just because there are other women out there who are not calling you on your bullshit doesn’t mean it isn’t there, or even that they don’t see it.

This really excellent point by LizardBreath deserves further emphasis:

[ogged (referring to B)] I didn’t, in fact, call you a humorless bitch, and I don’t think you are, but you are more sensitive to this stuff than most of the women I know.

Or more willing to take the shit you get for bringing it up?

What’s so hilariously wrong about what ogged said is that B is easily at the far right end of the tail on the graph of self-confidence about her body. For that matter I think B is better than the average woman at playing with the boys, at tolerating the way men talk about women. That she is more likely to bring up a problem does not mean she is more stung by it. I’m pretty confident that B is in fact less sensitive to this shit than most of the women ogged knows; ogged just doesn’t know the women he knows as well as he thinks he knows them. …

That is just a few excerpts from a terrific post, you can (and should!) read the entire thing here.

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