With All Dude Respect: Why Men Should Teach Themselves About Feminism
Don't be an Al Bundy.
Last Saturday night as I was winding down and getting ready for bed at a cool 9:45 p.m., I received a frantic phone call. Maybe I just assumed it was frantic; at 34, I suspect any call after 9 p.m. is someone in need, not someone asking me if I want to go out. But the phone call was neither; it was one of my dude friends and he had a question. About feminism.
He didn't explicitly express that it was regarding feminism, but the essence of the whole conversation was about that. He called me because wanted to know if the catcall he had come up with was "appropriate." To answer the question quickly, I said that ultimately no, whatever the contents of the catcall, unless he was already in a consensual relationship with the woman in question, there was no appropriate catcall.
If you're not familiar with catcalling -- the feminist world calls it "street harassment," but catcalling is more palatable for the mainstream, I guess -- it is when a man verbally assaults a female-identified person in public. This is hard for many people to understand, I guess, because of the weird and vastly accepted misunderstanding that female-identified folks "like" what are often misconstrued by perpetrators as "compliments." But the truth is, even if you think what is rolling off of your tongue is a compliment, it isn't.
A few weeks ago, Playboy of all places published an excellent flowchart that anyone could use to test out whether or not their catcall was appropriate. To sum it up for those of you who don't have time to look at a flow chart, basically, unless the female-identified person is actually a feline or you don't already have a clearly established consensual relationship with her that sanctions screaming things at her in public, your catcall is not appropriate. I did appreciate that he even called to ask me before hollering at a woman. Whether or not our conversation actually stopped my friend from using his catcall, I'm not sure.
Like most "feminist" issues, catcalling has been a topic relegated to feminist corners of the Internet. But the weird part? It isn't a "feminist" problem; it's an everyone problem. Everyone wandering the earth, right now, should be concerned about the treatment of female-identified people -- because we are all people. In my dream world, everyone would be feminists -- but that's just not how it is. So why not?
I get that feminism can be a big, scary word. I won't go into the stereotypes about who feminists are or what they look like, because you already know them, but my question is, why don't more dudes get on this train to equality and help us out? I see it all the time -- conversations about female-identified people's right to be human, only being discussed by other female-identified people. But in order to get to this level playing field we're looking for, we need everyone involved in the conversation.
Recently, artist Elizabeth Simins developed "Ask a Womanplainer," a service she offers in which, for starting at $20, she will answer a question for you about feminism. Womansplainer is a take on the term "mansplainer" which is a man who belittles a female-identified person by explaining something to her about herself or about a topic she is well-versed in, in order to negate her opinion/existence. From what I've noticed, many men aren't aware that they are mansplaining most of the time, but unchecked privilege will do that to a person.
While I enjoyed the joke behind "Ask A Womansplainer" (I'm irritated I didn't come up with it first,) there was a big wave of disappointment that came over me when I realized that it wasn't merely a humorous endeavor. It was a real thing that would probably be utilized by a lot of dudes if they didn't have to pay for it. But what was even funnier was that all Simins was offering to do was google your question for you.
While I am happy that my dude friend called to ask my opinion on a situation because I am a "known feminist" and I am delighted to discuss feminism and equality with anyone, I would like to take this moment to put the power in your hands, dudes. If you want to know about feminism, read about it. It is everywhere. You can google "feminism" and get a whole bunch of great resources at your fingertips in a matter of seconds. The thing about feminism is, most of us that already consider ourselves feminists came to know what we know about it in the exact same way -- by reading.
I started the search for you, if that helps: 15 Books To Spark Your Feminist Awakening, 10 Essential Feminist Texts That Everyone Should Read, 10 Life-Changing Books Every 20-Something Feminist Needs to Read are just three lists of books I found when I googled "best feminist texts."
You don't have to be a female-identified person to be interested in equality for all. Besides, existing in a vacuum of privilege is not only boring, it's dangerous.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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