I am so incredibly sick of people who think that textbook definitions of concepts like "sexism" and "equality" are relevant to nuanced discussions of kyriarchy.
Specifically, I'm talking about the frequent messages I receive that say things like "You aren't for real equality, you're for special treatment!" or "It goes both ways!" or "Why do you put men down? I thought feminism was about equality!" (Side note, I don't even ever put men down...so what?)
And then there is the very verbal crowd of MRAs out there who bemoan "misandry" without understanding that every single piece of evidence they site to "prove" it actually comes from and is perpetuated by other men.
Anyway, my main point today is how I am just baffled at the willful ignorance of people who think a dictionary is more relevant that people's lived experiences. They stick to such a literal interpretation of "equality" that they ignore the wider social context in which we all operate--one which is completely inseparable from daily life. They ignore the long lasting effects of oppression on groups of people. They ignore structural disparities. They ignore that some groups hold disproportionate amounts of power.
They simply open the dictionary to a word (like sexism, racism, equality, etc.) and read off what it "means" and think that should be the deciding factor in how everyone approaches life and debate. Perhaps what's even more infuriating is that they think this method makes their view substantiated as if the dictionary is good as a peer reviewed study or something.
For example, I recently published a picture of a "feminist bake sale" which charged men more to make a point about the wage gap. Some people got much, much more offended about the idea of having to pay 25 cents more at a bake sale (that they will never actually attend) than they ever would about real life economic injustice...because charging people different prices for cupcakes is wrong and NOT EQUAL.
Cue head explosion.
I tried to share this image to explain what the bake sale was aimed at illustrating, but I'm not sure they cared.
Sticking to the dictionary definition of equality was much more important to them and ever examining the full context.
Relatedly, here's another great example. If you click through, you'll see what I suspect is an MRA complaining that one of the submitted posts on Facebook Sexism contained someone saying men are "inconsiderate jerks" and I didn't address that "blanket judgement." As I said in my response, if someone could have arrived at a blog that has THOUSANDS of examples of men making threats of violence and rape against women and mocking literally every aspect of their very being but they cry about how in one post one time someone was a meanie against men and I didn’t talk about it, they ARE an inconsiderate jerk.
And it doesn't make "it go both ways" or prove "reverse sexism" or "misandry."
One point that these dictionary bearing folks get stuck on is that there are some women who have embraced "misandry." One of my favorite blogs on Tumblr, Misandry Mermaid, explains why "misandry" is not a social ill with real consequences and why it is nevertheless embraced by some feminists in one of her master posts:
- It’s a tongue-in-cheek joke among some feminists, mainly on the internet, which for the most part began as a reaction to men pushing back against our discussion of obtaining equality.
- It’s a defense mechanism by women who have, exclusively at the hands of men, suffered myriad forms of aggression, micro-aggression, violence, pain, violation, and dehumanization. It seems that a high number of women who identify online as misandrist are in fact survivors. For a person to have experienced systemic and personal discrimination and based on their gender, by a person of a different gender, a hatred of the oppressor is an valid and understandable reaction to have.
- It is used by women to get a rise out of men who, for so many centuries, have used sexist, anti-woman humor to reinforce women’s societal role as second class citizens. We grow up hearing men tell countless jokes about domestic violence, rape, reinforcement of gender roles, and the mocking of female bodies and body types. Because of this, it can be highly entertaining to witness a man throw a tantrum upon hearing a single joke in which HIS gender is mocked and mistreated. For him, a joke at his expense is a rare and shocking occurrence. For women, it is a part of every day conversation.
- It is a continuation of feminism and fills in the areas where feminism leaves off or lacks aggression against the oppression we face. As quoted from an earlier post in which I define my personal reason for identifying with misandry: “Men have a lot of privileges that NO ONE should have, not even oppressed groups. Being able to sexually assault people and not be held accountable or punished, being glorified for taking advantage of others, using power and privilege to hurt and mock those that lack power to defend themselves, being treated like you’re immune to criticism and fault, etc. Saying women should have equality potentially implies women should have the right to do all those things too.
- Misandry is not a hatred of every individual man but a hatred of patriarchy, the male-dominated system that allows sexism to permeate every aspect of our lives without challenge. Misandry means hatred of a system in which the masculine is glorified and the feminine is deprecated.
As I've mentioned numerous times both here and on Tumblr, the mocking/angry reaction of an oppressed group is not the same as the original oppression. It should be understood as REACTIONARY within the socio political landscape it springs from which privileges some over others (in this case men.) It is because I possess the ability to critically analyze culture that I'm not going to waste time getting mad that people of color often make "white tears" jokes. Why would I be offended by the mocking of white people who belly ache about "reverse racism" when I could concern myself with unlearning actual racism.
So in case it needs to be said any further--if you're going to engage in a discussion of social justice and societal constructs, etc...just leave your damn dictionary at home. That's sub-101 level stuff. Get it together.
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