One of the few things a geek feminist fears more than say, wiping on Deathwing 15 minutes into the fight, is probably fan mail. Feminism is one of those incredibly polaring topics to some people, and a lot of people (okay, well, men) get fairly defensive and odd about having stuff like privilege called out. A lot of things I have to say make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, even if most of the time I’m discussing pandas and armor. It’s not nice to have someone point out that you possibly have a benefit they don’t, especially if you weren’t even aware you had this benefit. So when I get a long e-mail or comment from someone, I tend to flinch a tiny bit. A lot of feminists I know tend to have to go through the same process over and over with regards to a lot of geeky men in their lives (if not any men in their lives who are aware of their latent social justice views) trying to unpack a lot of the concepts us feminists are so entrenched in every day. It does get tiring. So, in that vein, is pretty amazing when not only do I get an e-mail that feels like it is just going to go down the same road of demanding education and then getting wildly defensive when it actually occurs and doesn’t. It is even more amazing when you feel like you’ve really helped open someone’s eyes, and they thank you for the pleasure of it.
I asked this person if I could repost what exactly was said (more or less) just so you guys can get a sense of what goes through my mind when I have men asking me to educate them. My comments as they went through my head are in bold.
I recently came across your blog when googling about the Chuck Norris wow commercial. I found your post about it to be very interesting, and agreed with you on a lot of things. Although I did question whether or not you saw the wow commercial with the girl from parks and recreation.
Oh boy. I can sense a wind up here already. “I did question” also sounds like he is suspicious of my WoW commercial watching for critical analysis, despite the fact that I did indeed write a blog post about Aubrey Plaza’s as well as Chuck Norris. He must think I’m just some manhater.
I then went on to read a lot of your other posts, and they were mostly controversial, which was fine.
Controversial is such weird word to me. I never feel like discussing things that affect me personally in video games as radical notions. Treating people decently is…not a groundbreaking opinion nor do I think it should be controversial.
Many of your blogs have to do with rape, feminism, etc. which is why I am emailing you. I don’t know feminists very well and I would like to get inside the mind of one.
It’s at this point that I started to get a touch hesitant. Treating feminists as a singular entity when we all have wildly different ideologies, area of study and opinions on everything under the sun usually goes bad places.
As a heterosexual white male who has always been overly sensitive, I have often misunderstood feminism for many things and been offended by it. As I have grown over the years I have learned that a lot of what I thought feminism was, was actually incorrect. However I am still very confused and hope, since you are a nerd like me, that maybe you could help me understand.
Starting off a sentence with “as a heterosexual white male” means whatever comes after is usually not relevant to a discussion a feminist is having as your opinions are represented in every conversation on the Internet, no matter what. You never need to qualify what you say with that. It makes me sad though to think that overly sensitive has been turned into somewhat of a slur. Being sensitive or having emotions isn’t a bad thing. “Help me understand” is one of those phrases that often comes right before a derail, so I kept reading with caution.
Judging by how the articles dealing with men are negative 99% of the time, I assume that feminists don’t like men in any way shape or form. They always talk about how horrible a certain man is or how something needs to change, but never seem to talk about anything positive involving men. They may say they don’t dislike men as a whole, but I feel that, secretly, they can’t possibly like men at all.
Oh boy. Now we get to the basement-level heart of the letter. It is about being scared the feminists hate all men without really thinking as to why things like that would be said.
You don’t seem to be this way, but you call yourself a feminist, so I Thought hopefully you could tell me your perspective.
“You’re not like those OTHER feminists” is something I hear often. It usually implies, “I have these erroneous ideas about what feminists are and I want to compliment you for not being that way, despite the fact that I’m actually insulting you without realizing it.”
I have read some of your posts very carefully and realize that you are a lot like me. When a confrontation happens your hands get shaky and you get nervous. We share a similar trait. You and I are also alike in that we don’t tolerate sexism or racism. As the leader of a guild with 2 female co-gms as we call them, I have always cringed at the numerous ignorant ppl plaguing wow. I realize that I am a minority among the wow population as a male who hates ignorance and trolls. I have been called a white knight many times ;). I have even stopped raids I lead for racist comments in vent.
This paragraph is what twisted my cold, bitter black heart a bit. I know what it’s like to confront people who are being shitty to others. It’s hard. It’s really hard. I can empathize with a dude just trying to make sure his guild is a healthy one. For all my intense cynicism prior to this, I felt like maybe this guy would take a reply a little better than most.
I guess the point of this whole rant is, how do you see the guys like me who are bleeding hearts that listen to the arguments that women put forth, and take them seriously. Because honestly, I feel very invisible.
Thank you very much for reading this all the way through. And for being understanding.
Here’s where I got to sit down and really think about what I wanted to say. Do I put a lot of effort into it, potentially alienating the guy and having him get up in my face about it? Or do I get very glib, toss out some links and call it a day? Considering how good a mood I was in yesterday (it was warm and sunny, damnit!), I felt like maybe going the extra mile to talk to this guy wouldn’t be a waste. This is definitely something I have to deal with on a regular basis though. It is super hard to go through all the work and trouble of trying to explain something to a dude and just have him shut down and get defensive. It’s why many feminists see it coming and choose to avoid it. It feels, sometimes, like a lot of well-meaning but ultimately ignorant dudes read off the same script when confronted with concepts like rape culture or privilege. With that in mind, I took a deep breath, and wrote a response.
Dear *Name Redacted*:
I just wanted to thank you for your e-mail. I did, however want to preface what I’m about to say with a couple things:
1.) I’m answering this at length because I have the emotional wearwithal today and I’m in a good mood
2.) Because I don’t think you’re a bad dude and your heart is in the right place.
First off: It’s generally not a good idea to expect that a feminist is going to sit you down and teach you things. It is nice if they do, especially if they are your friend or someone close to you, but feminists on the internet generally are wary of random dudes coming up to them because it often goes “Well I’m not gonna learn if you don’t teach me!!!” and that generally means they weren’t really interested in learning in the first place. (See: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#educate)
I did actually write an additional blog post on the Aubrey Plaza commercial if you hadn’t noticed. Wondering aloud whether or not I saw something tends to read a little weird/condescending, but I suspect that wasn’t your intent.
Keep in mind that if you want to get inside MY head, that I do not speak for all feminists, or all women, or anyone but myself. Feminists, like any other group, are not monolithic entities, and given that sociological concepts vary wildly between person to person and opinion to opinion, it’d be unfair to expect otherwise. I can give you my personal insight, but my opinions are not to be bandied about like “Well a feminist said this, so I can ____” or “Well a feminist said this, so this proves that ALL feminists __________.” Get my drift?
It sounds like you are on the long path to grasping what kinds of privileges you have as a white hetero dude and how many benefits you may have access to or been the beneficiary of in your time on earth. It’s a hard task to unpack the things that loom unseen and color our worldview, especially when they give you the wind at your back. If you don’t know what privilege is, there’s some really helpful links in my “Read Before Commenting” section if you so choose. It is a term that a lot of social justice-type people use to describe the potential societal leverage that certain groups have. Sometimes you have a lot of them: see heterosexual white men, sometimes you don’t have any, etc. Nerds are most often a strange group in that they benefit so much from privilege (in that so many of them are white straight dudes, etc.) and yet a lot of us have been bullied or whatnot, so while it FEELS like we have no privileges at all, a lot of nerds have a lot of things to learn, especially in contrast to those of us who are not white straight dudes.
Some feminists don’t like men at all. Some do! Most do, I’d even wager. I think you’re conflating being frustrated or angry at some very understandable societal-level sexism and awful things that men do on a regular basis to women with “hating all men.” You can even say you “hate all men” and not really feel it in your heart. Hate is a pretty strong emotion. But would you really begrudge a woman (especially after reading some of the stuff I’ve written about) feeling like that? If someone did something shitty to you every day and was allowed to by the virtue of being societally acceptable, would you not be mad? But for the most part, most feminists don’t hate all men. It’s unrealistic. A lot of us have fathers, brothers, boyfriends, friends, loved ones, mentors, who are all male. We have feminist allies who are men. We have people that we care about who are male. I often find men who think that have a lot of mistaken ideas about feminists or feel threatened by the anger presented rather than thinking about WHY a feminist would be angry at men.
My perspective falls roughly along those lines. There’s a lot of men I love, but men as a whole in society are given great rights to constantly abuse, harass and generally be shits to women. If you aren’t one, grats! Awesome, but that’s how it SHOULD be. It’s called being a decent human being. A lot of men don’t think about how they treat women. Or a lot of other people for that matter. Because they don’t have to. (Privilege 101 right there.)
It seems like you are a pretty decent guy but being a decent guy is what you should do. That’s what I do. Being empathetic and understanding how other people might feel differently from you is part of this whole unpacking process of grokking feminism. You’re not going to get a pat on the back for being a decent human being, nor should you expect it. It’s good you’re looking out for your guild though. That’s good leadership. Just keep in mind that sexism or racism is more subtle, more pervasive sometimes than just slurs. It’s hidden in our basic thoughts a lot of times, so always be critically thinking, especially when confronted with new “contraversial” ideas. I see guys like you as part of the solution, hopefully, rather than part of the problem. But you aren’t invisible. However, it’s not really ABOUT you. It’s about women struggling. It’s wonderful if more men wake up to these things, but the real problem still falls on our shoulders to deal with, so in that fact, yes you will be invisible. I hope that doesn’t deter you from doing the right thing. Doing the right thing should be its own reward.
Hope you have a nice night, and hope this cleared some stuff for you.
Read it, learn it, love it.
Apple Cider Mage
Then I waited. Was he going to ignore me? Was he going to get angry? The latter would have probably made me knock something over in annoyance, but I decided to just wait out. Not 10 minutes later, I get a reply. And I was genuinely surprised.
I wanted to thank you for responding to my message. I now see that I have been immature, and I want you to know you have helped me grow out of that state.
First, I apologize for any condescending tone I may have had in my email. It was not my intent. And I also realize that asking you to teach me was asinine.It was an email that was written based on emotion rather than logic. However I could not ask a friend or anyone close to me as I do not know any feminists :(. While this may have come off as incredibly weird to you, I am happy you told me your perspective regardless.
Believe it or not, you have opened my mind in many ways. I see that feminism is not about me, it is about women. And it is selfish of me to want feminists to focus on decent men. You are right, as a white heterosexual male, I don’t see things the way you do. Not until today at least. I do have a lot of privileges and opportunities that you do not have. And I feel terrible about that.
I also want to say that I do get your drift. Reading my email now I feel stupid. I implied that all feminists were some form of hive mind that all confirmed to one idea. Thank you telling me even though I may have insulted you (sorry again).
Still, you have taught me a lot. I have never had a feminist talk to me before and you have answered any and all questions I have. Something I have been wanting to happen for years.
I do not feel threatened by feminism, although I have read a few bumper stickers that claim I do. I do misunderstand it however, or I should say misunderstood. I am now on board. I realize there are many forms of it, some radical, some not. And to answer your question, no I would not begrudge you for hating men, but I would beg you not too (I read that you don’t and thank you :)) I realize my gender offends you daily. I hate it. I hate that they do it, and yea more selfishly I hate that I am associated with them because I do not rape/ insult/ or mistreat women in any way. I am in college. I have studied gender roles and the issues associated with them. I know it’s more complex than rape/violence/ and slurs. It can be subtle implications.
You are a very intelligent woman. I think you are very brave to write a blog that is so controversial and allow ppl to view your email when you, like me, tend to get anxiety problems when reading controversial things against you.
Finally I would like to apologize for this weird experience you have endured. You have helped me in a large way and I wish there was some way I could return the favor. Also, you have reminded me why I like wow. Some very interesting and amazing people play the game and I wish more vocal ppl like you were on my server. Have an amazing night Ms. Cider, enjoy your over powered Mage ;), and please continue to voice your opinions.