Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mansplaining: A Case Study

Well, well, well. It seems something has pissed me off enough to actually write.

In the 6 years that I've been writing here, I've long strayed from the "misandry!!1!" "men are scum" side of things. In fact, I've probably gone WAY too far out of my way to be inclusive to men. What can I say? This blog has been with me a long time time and covered my evolution of theory and learnings.

Anyway, a professional experience on Friday left me so fucking pissed off that all I could think for about an hour after was "I hate men I hate men I hate men I hate men I hate men I hate men I hate men I hate men."

I ranted briefly over on my personal Tumblr with the short version of the story:
I went to a training about girls in the juvenile justice system today for work and it was great and thought provoking. Then the first “Q” during the Q&A was some mother fucking mansplainer who told the presenter that the “”“”“”“REAL”“”“”“ problem is that we don’t have traditional families and that all ”“”“”“THOSE”“”“”“ people don’t have mothers at home and dads who "lay down the law when they get home.”
He seriously ate up like 75% of the discussion time undoing everything the presenter had laid out. Invalidating her RESEARCH to tell all about his BIASES presented as fact. Luckily the host eventually shut him down, but like fuck dude.
Needless to say, I was pissed and in a very misandric mood, which continues as I think about it again now.

Ok, before I go on let me stop here and say, if you're a dude, you have 2 choices right now.

1. Get your itty bitty boy feewings hurt and storm out of here with all kinds of, "NOT ALL MEN." thoughts clouding your judgement OR

2. Not take this as an affront to you but rather an opportunity to actually listen and learn WHY this situation was so upsetting for me. Then try to notice how gender dynamics play a role in the next professional setting you are in and how you can positively contribute to things and never, EVER be the guy I'm talking about.

[Image text, "Male opinions" gif]
Did you stick with me? Great.

Anyway, to expand on this situation and my resulting rage, let me back up a bit. This is the event I attended. As you can see from the Eventbrite page, this is the gist of what the it all was about:
In this presentation, Dr. Goodkind will demonstrate how societal responses to girls' behavior have changed to account for these trends and then discuss how a system originally designed with boys in mind can best meet the needs of girls. She will consider how we can take gender, race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, ability, and age into account when we design and implement programs for girls, both within and outside of the juvenile justice system, and offer suggestions for meeting girls' needs sooner and in less punitive contexts, so that we do not have increasing numbers of girls involved in juvenile justice.
Right. So being someone who works for an organization that serves girls (many of whom come to us from juvenile courts) this was definitely something I was interested in. Dr. Goodkind was pretty awesome and clearly knew her stuff and the research. She talked a TON about how her own research indicated that even progressive and feminist "gender based" programming sometimes reaffirmed traditional gender roles and expectations and how that can undermine the program and girls' success.

Really fascinating stuff. But that's not important right now, let me get to why this guy's comments were so insidious to me.

1) He made a snide comment about feminism at the start of his "question" (which was not a question, it was actually him just trying to teach Dr. Goodkind a thing or 2, I swear.) If you disagree with someone's theoretical framework, that's fine, but when you open with a dismissive, rude comment about it, you've set yourself up as an asshole from the start and created unnecessary tension for everyone.

2) He clearly did not actually listen to her presentation. His comment, as I referenced above, literally advocated for traditional gender roles, which Dr. Goodkind had already explained was problematic for the girls involved, using both research and their own words.

3) He wasn't willing to learn. Obviously, he came in with a specific mindset (the ills of society are all caused by the break down in the traditional family) and because the presentation didn't include this, and in fact challenged it, he just came back at her with his same preexisting mindset. It was a very knee jerk reaction instead of sitting with the information he had said. And ok, like you don't agree with the perspective shared, but you don't have to a) ignore her presented research and b) TRY TO 'EDUCATE' HER ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK IS THE TRUTH IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE ROOM, which leads me to...

4) He wasn't willing to respect the presenter. His actions demonstrated as much. Even when I have deeply disagreed with a speaker (and trust me, I have!) I don't try to drag them, out of respect. But as a pretty clearly raging misogynist, he didn't care. Which reminds me...

5) His comment actually put all the problems with society ON women. I didn't explain this well enough on Tumblr in that comment from before, but what he really said was something like, "The real issue we have is that women are choosing men who don't become good fathers..." "Women can't lead a household alone," blah blah blah...(and let me not be remiss to note he was being extremely heterosexist and a thinly veiled racist too.)

6) He went on and on and on. He had NO concept of time/place appropriateness or how he was dominating things or his conveyed lack of respect or ANYTHING. All he seemed to think was, "I am so important. I need to say these things. I need to make sure I am heard."

Let me make this perfectly clear, this guy is NOT AN ISOLATED CASE, but rather a clear example of a pervasive theme. If you're a woman who has ever navigated any space with men, pretty much ever, then you probably already know this, but let me offer this very comprehensive link for anyone who doubts this.

Of course, in my day to day professional life, I interact with mostly women, so it was a little jarring to have this happen. (Jarring yes, but not surprising.) It's just especially absurd when the presentation is actively ABOUT sexism and then a douche like this rears his ugly head.

In conclusion, once more, don't be that guy.

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