An Open Letter to my Father: What I Never Bother Saying 

dear-dad

Image Description: the words, “Dear Dad” written in the bisexual colors of pink, purple, and blue on a dirty piece of white lined paper.

[TW: references to emotional abuse and queerphobia]

A few months ago I finally told my father and mother I am bisexual. Not surprisingly, their responses have less than decent. I’ve known for years there is no hope for my mother. I could explain how I know this but that would take far too long, so I’ll save that for another post. Just believe that I know my mother better than you, and I know she’ll never accept any of her children, least of all her queer, bisexual child. However, I allowed myself to hope my father might one day come around. I didn’t think he would go with me to bi pride events or buy himself a bi flag t-shirt that reads, “proud parent,” but I hoped he would get used to who I am and develop a “live and let live” approach at some point. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly obvious that will never happen.

Upon first breaking the news to my father, he was clearly displeased and asked several inappropriate questions. His actions proceeded to go downhill from there. Most recently, he sent me some unsolicited opinions on what he does and does not find disappointing about me. He wanted to let me know that while he is not disappointed in me per se, he is disappointed in my “lifestyle choices.” However, he reassured me that he does love me in spite of the whole bi thing, and that I could see how much he loves me if only I stopped focusing on the negatives in our relationship and focused instead on the positives. After his other recent stunts that I don’t particularly want to get into right now, I’m done. I’m over him. He’s just not worth my time anymore. He doesn’t get it and never will, so I won’t bother explaining to him how offensive and problematic his comments were.

But if I thought he would listen to me for once, I would say: Telling your child you love them despite not liking, accepting, or even tolerating a significant part of who they are is not love. That’s called emotional abuse. And if that’s the only form of “love” you’re capable of giving, I’m really not interested. There are much better people in my life who actually love me and who are worth my time. So, excuse me, but I’m not exactly heartbroken over not having a close relationship with you. You, the father who abused my mother and sister in front of me when I was little. The father who has regularly made sexist and queerphobic comments within earshot my entire life. The father who yelled at me, blamed my mother, and refused to get me professional help when you found me trying to down a Costco-sized bottle of benadryl at 13. The father who slammed me into walls. The father who literally laughed in my face when I confronted you about your abusive behavior. The father who still continues to gaslight me. In fact, I am a much healthier person for not really having you in my life.

And please believe me when I say I’m not going to suddenly run home one day and tell you I forgive you and know that you always loved me. There’s nothing to forgive because you won’t change or apologize. Forgiveness requires some sort of reconciliation. To be honest, you seem to lack the ability to perform any sort of meaningful self-reflection that is required for mutual acts of reconciliation. Instead, I am moving on with my life and surrounding myself with decent people who love me for me; people who love all of me. (That’s how real love works, FYI.) And based on your behavior toward me, how exactly am I supposed to know that you love me? I’m sure you think you love me, but that doesn’t mean anything. Love has to be given in a way that can be received. Metaphorically throwing your self-centered version of love at people and assuming it will stick is not an effective or equitable method of conveying love. I would even believe you “love” me as much as you are capable,  but again, that doesn’t mean much to me when that “love” is twisted, selfish, abusive, and manipulative.

Your queerphobia, hatred, and inability to convey healthy love to your children are your own problems, not mine. It isn’t my job to justify your bigotry, ease your conscience, or make you feel like you’re loving me appropriately. I don’t owe you my love or understanding when you believe I, your own child, shouldn’t exist because of who I happen to be attracted to. I don’t owe you my time or affection simply because you gave me half my DNA. I don’t even owe you an explanation for why I don’t want to be around you. I don’t owe you shit. And I’m not going to sacrifice my emotional well-being to make you feel better about yourself.

If you ever decide to work through these issues, great. Professional therapy is a wonderful tool that I utilize myself. But I’m not interested in having a relationship with you. I’m not bitter; I’m simply done. If we need to conduct any sort of business together, I will be superficial, yet civil. But I will not listen to your excuses, nor your sad little pity parties about how I don’t acknowledge your shitty version of love.

Coming Out as Bi: How do I explain bisexuality to vehemently anti-gay parents? 

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Image Description: a bisexual pride flag: pink top stripe, purple middle stripe, and blue bottom stripe. With pink text overlaid that reads “keep calm I’m bisexual.”

I’m having dinner with my dad tonight, and I’m a bit anxious. We don’t really get along; he wasn’t a very good father. I don’t particularly want to elaborate, but there was some definite abuse in my house growing up. I know that’s why I can never feel close to my dad. I even tried confronting him about it, but… he was abusive then too.

I don’t want to come off as bitter. My dad isn’t all bad; I get my sense of humor and my intelligence from him. But it’s difficult to get close to someone who has repeatedly hurt you so deeply – especially when that person is supposed to protect and care for you. However, there’s another reason I can never have a close relationship with my dad: He doesn’t know I’m bi… But that’s about to change.

Pretty much everyone in my life (a least everyone important) already knows, except for my parents. I never really came out, I just never bothered hiding it once I got to college. (I didn’t really hide it as a kid either because I didn’t figure out I was bi until college. Hell, I didn’t even know the term “bisexual” before college.) Unfortunately, my parents have always been openly and aggressively homophobic. They believe gays and lesbians are godless perverts who are going straight to hell. They opposed same-sex marriage and advocate for legalized discrimination of gay and lesbian people. They’re those people who think God sends natural disasters to punish America for allowing gay people to simply exist. So, you can imagine why, as a queer bisexual, I might feel just a tad bit alienated by my parents. It’s impossible to feel loved by, or build any semblance of a meaningful relationship with, parents like mine.

But I think it’s time to buck up and come out to the parents. I’ve moved in with my girlfriend, and we keep talking about the future. We go on vacation together. We’re planning on flying back to the Midwest to spend the holidays with her family. And anyone who knows me understands how huge this is for me. I’m a major commitment-phobe, which is one reason why I’ve never felt the need to come out to my parents. I don’t bring dates home for dinner, and I don’t want to spend holidays with whoever I’m seeing at the moment… Well, I never used to. If I’m serious about my girlfriend, if we’re living together, traveling together, and spending all our holidays together, my parents are going to find out sooner or later. And I figure they should probably find out from me because that way I’ll get to decide how it happens.

My problem, however, is how the hell do I explain bisexuality to people who can’t even grasp that it’s perfectly normal and lovely for someone to be gay? (And I don’t think I can begin to explain that I’m gender-queer.) I can’t just say that I have a girlfriend because they’ll assume I’m lesbian. If I tell them I’m bisexual and am currently dating a girl they’ll think I’m “going through a phase” (probably just to spite them). If I correct them and say, “no, I really love this girl, this is serious,” they’ll go back to assuming I’m lesbian. My friends are trying to be optimistic and supportive, but I know there’s no chance of my parents understanding bisexuality, let along accepting it. And I just don’t see a way to convey how committed my girlfriend and I are to each other while still respecting myself and honoring my bisexuality.

My plan of attack is to divide and conquer, come out to my dad first, and then later, my mom. But I have absolutely no idea how to do this. I guess I’m just going to have to suck it up and get through dinner tonight, and then probably consume a lot of alcohol.

 

We can all be a Little Bill O’Reilly-ish Sometimes – Here’s how Not to Be

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Image of First Lady Michelle Obama, a Black woman with long dark brown hair, wearing a short sleeve blue dress and speaking into a microphone.

[CN: Discussion of slavery by a white person (me), please feel free to call me out if anything I am saying is racist or otherwise problematic.]

Bill O’Reilly recently said something racist, and in other breaking news, the sun is hot (click here to watch the video; TW for racism, discussion of slavery, and all around dumbfuckery). However, I would still like to take a moment to address his comments. Sure, O’Reilly might be an uninformed, self -important blowhard who will probably never bother to act like a decent person, but he still should not be allowed to espouse racist shit without consequence. We [white people] need to start holding fellow whites accountable for our racism rather than placing the burden solely on Black folx and other PoC to call out racism.

Additionally, while O’Reilly’s comments may have been overtly racist, the basic themes and misconceptions behind them are commonly held views of [us] white folx in general. All white people have the capacity to be racist, and we all say racist things. Just because the average white person is only subtly racist does not mean our racism is excusable.

There were many problems with what O’Reilly said, but I’ve identified a few racist behaviors that all of us white folx participate in sometimes. I think we [white people] need to learn to recognize these behaviors in ourselves and others so we can minimize our racist contributions to the world.

[In case you didn’t watch the video, Bill O’Reilly basically said the Black slaves who built the Whitehouse didn’t have have it so bad. This was said in Response to comments made by First Lady, Michelle Obama, about how she spent eight years living in a house built by slaves.]

1. Bill displayed a spectacular mix of white- and man- splaining when he affirmed Michelle Obama was “technically correct” about slaves building the Whitehouse. Of course, by “technically correct” he meant “wrong.” Thankfully, white-man Bill O’Reilly corrected Michelle Obama by saying that it wasn’t only slaves who built the Whitehouse. According to O’Reilly “free Blacks, whites, and immigrants” also helped build the Whitehouse.

I’m sure the “free Blacks” were treated just as well as the “whites.” And needing to distinguish between free and enslaved Black folx hardly indicates there might be a problem. Besides, where would we be if white men didn’t go around correcting Black woman about their own history?

PSA: [We] White people don’t get to comment on, or whitesplaine, the lived experiences of Black folx or their history!

2. Bill tried to preemptively defend his comments by explaining that he’s a history buff and can’t help talking about American history when the topic comes up. He even created a fun little quiz his viewers can take to text their knowledge. If I get 100% will I receive a free subscription to Bill O’Reilly’s latest magazine/newspaper/blog/whatever, Why White People Really Do Know More Than Everyone Else?

You know what else is a fun fact? Black slaves were raped, whipped, beaten, and tortured in ways I don’t feel particularly comfortable or qualified discussing as a white person. Slavery isn’t a fun little history factoid [we] white people get to sit around in our privilege chairs and talk about. Slavery was real and it was horrific. It’s effects are still felt by Black Americans, and we’ve done very little as a nation to make reparations.

3. When Bill so helpfully pointed out that it wasn’t only slaves who built the Whitehouse, he gave a shout out to the immigrants who also helped build the Whitehouse. He said there were “no illegal immigrants” back then because “if you could make it here you could stay.”

Putting aside the fact that the U.S. isn’t exactly known for our history of treating immigrants well who were employed for manual labor (see the history of Chinese immigrants), we were the illegal immigrants, moron! Euro-Americans were the immigrants (really, we still are) and we certainly didn’t ask the folx already living here for permission to live here, occupy the land, consume resources, and completely control the entire economy and political structure.

White Americans need to stop acting like we have a inalienable right to whatever lands, resources, etc. we stumble across. We need to acknowledge that our ancestors were invaders, not pioneers, and that we continue to maintain and benefit from imperialism. 

4. Finally, STOP trying to make slavery okay! Seriously! Knock it off! Like, wtf is wrong with you?! Of all the things people disagree on, the immorality of slavery shouldn’t be one of them.

 

A Shit List of Male Entitlement

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Image Description: an outstretched hand, with palm up,  of a white person on a black background

Dear men,

I am tired of your shit. I am especially tired of your male entitlement. You are not entitled to the things you think/act like you are. Frankly, I don’t care why you think you’re entitled to so much from so many, and I don’t want to explain why you’re not so entitled. Here is simply a shit list of things you are not entitled to:

1. You are not entitled to my body

No one owes you sex of any kind. Not women, not gender nonconforming folx, not sex workers, not your significant other(s), no one. Nor do you ever deserve sex. No one ever deserves sex; sex is not a right. You can live without sex. In fact, some people are quite happy to live without sex. So, stop acting like the world owes you an orgasm. Understand this also includes unsolicited sexual advances and molestation.

But male entitlement to the bodies of others doesn’t stop with sex. It includes things like, when my father would force me to hug and kiss him even though I didn’t want to. Or when he would hit me, pin me down, or slam me into walls in order to get me to do what he wanted. Domestic and intimate partner violence have long been tools used by men to bend their spouses and children to their will. Historically men have showed little regard for the bodily autonomy of anyone who wasn’t socially or culturally considered to be a man.

2. You are not entitled to my time or my attention

I can’t count the number of times a male relative, significant other, or close friend expected me to drop whatever I was doing and do something with or for them. From the college boyfriend who expected me to sacrifice studying so we could fool around, to the friend who only spent time with me when it was convenient for him, their time and their schedule was most important. Screw my job, my homework, and my personal obligations, the men come first.

However, this also includes brief encounters. Random women and feminine of center folx you pass on the street are not required to give you the time of day. If someone wants to ignore you they are free to do so. Yes, it might sting a little, but they probably have their reasons. And even if you think those reasons are ridiculous, it’s still their right to choose not to engage with you. It is not your right to force anyone to engage with you.

3. You are not entitled to my emotional labor

This one is a doozy. Men expect women and feminine of center folx to be their mothers and/or therapists. Numerous exes expected me to clean up after them, remind them about important dates and deadlines, and do all the planning anytime we wanted to go anywhere or do anything.

Having to parent an adult man isn’t sexy, but I think being someone’s unpaid, on-call therapist is even worse. Women and feminine of center folx bear the brunt of men’s emotional needs. We are the people you call at 10 pm to go on and on about the train wreck that is your love life. We are the people you ask to take care of you when you’re sick. We are the people you dump on if you’re struggling with mental health issues because going to a professional therapist who’s actually trained to deal with these problems is “un-masculine.” We are the people you emotionally drain. But we are not the people you want to go to the movies or laser tag with. No, you have your dudebros for the fun stuff. But when we need emotional support we certainly can’t call you, because you wouldn’t know how to perform emotional labor even if you were willing to try.

4. You are not entitled to my good opinion

I’ve gotten this one mainly from male relatives, professors, and bosses. Sure, female or feminine of center relatives, professors, and bosses expect to be afforded a certain degree of courtesy, but they rarely demand to be treated with love or respect for simply existing. While I’m sure you men think very highly of yourselves, you don’t automatically deserve my good opinion just because I’m related to you, learn from you, or work for you. If you’re an asshole I’m going to think you’re an asshole. I might be civil toward you depending on the situation, but you aren’t automatically entitled to the good opinions of others. you have to earn good opinions via your conduct toward others, just like everyone else.

5. You are not entitled a girlfriend/significant other

The friendzone does not exist. Friendship isn’t a toll you pay in order to get a date or sex. Female and feminine of center friends are not back-up plans in case your current significant other doesn’t work out. The world doesn’t owe you a significant other simply because you are man. And rejection is not a personal slight against you nor evidence of ‘misandry’ (which doesn’t exist, by the way). Everyone deals with rejection, it’s part of life. So, grow up, get used to it, and get over yourself.

6. You are not entitled to be listened to

This is especially common among self-proclaimed “male feminists.” You burst into every feminist discussion, every dialog between women and feminine of center folx, and every other conversation that you aren’t invited into or that isn’t about you. From a woman’s Facebook post about not shaving her legs to political dialog about abortion services, there will always be at least one of you forcefully inserting your ill-informed opinion on topics that have nothing to do with you as if it were fact. Where oh where would us poor women and feminine of center folx be without men telling us what they think about our body hair, our medical choices, and our feminist theory. Never mind the fact it’s my body, my medical choice, and my graduate thesis. No, the men, no matter how ignorant, must be heard.

There are, of course, other instances of men demanding to be heard. For instance, I regularly witness men demand recognition, even appreciation, from women and feminine-presenting folx after catcalling them – as if men do us some great favor by showering us with disgustingly graphic and unsolicited sexual propositions every time we leave our houses.

Note: Most of these are derived from my experiences with cis men, but that is not to say trans men do not participate in, or to a lesser degree benefit from, sexism and patriarchy.

A Note on Saying What You Mean:

We [humans] often use inaccurate euphemisms, circumlocutions, or other substitutes in our conversations. Sometimes, we [humans] just find it really difficult to say what we mean. But I’d like to point out how problematic that can be when talking about specific groups of marginalized people and their struggles.

Using vague substitutes to describe a particular social group or problem can cause more harm than good because it invalidates or erases unique identities and/or struggles. For example, using the term “people of colour” to refer specifically to Black folx is problematic because it leads to the assumption that all PoC are Black, OR that all people of colour face the same issues. This ends up erasing the unique identity and unique struggles suffered by Black folx.

So, please just say what you mean. If you’re talking about Black folx, say so. If you’re talking about women, don’t say “people with vaginas,” because some trans men have vaginas. Instead, just say women. And so on. Thank you.

8 Types of “Male Feminists” who are Actually Misogynists

In mainstream feminism (by “mainstream feminism” I mean white, western, able-body, and cisgender -centric feminism) there is substantial discourse on whether or not men can be feminists, and on the ways feminism benefits men in addition to women. It should be noted this discourse, like mainstream feminism, speaks from the gender binary. I am not promoting binary feminism, and I fully recognize one of the many problems with mainstream feminism is the exclusion of trans woman, non-binary trans folx, and other gender nonconforming people.

Another problem with mainstream feminism, and the one I’ll be focusing on here, is that it often hides, or even enables, sexism in various ways. One such way is that it allows [cis] men to proclaim themselves “male feminists” without acknowledging how they benefit from, and contribution to, patriarchal systems of oppression. There are numerous types of self-described “male feminists” who use the problematic nature of this mainstream feminism to hide and/or justify their misogyny. Below is a non-exhaustive list:

1. Captain Feminism

This guy is ready to smash all the patriarchy!

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Image Description: masculine-presenting superhero wearing a black and blue suit with red cape kicks feminine-presenting superhero wearing red and yellow suit while taking off in flight toward the sky

He swoops uninvited into the daily goings on of women and feminine of center folx in order to rescue them from the horrors of the patriarchy. Are you a sex worker? Captain Feminism will save you from your terrible life of being sexually exploited by getting you an honest job at McDonald’s that pays a whopping $8.25 an hour, where you’ll be treated like crap by customers and managers alike. Having a conversation with a man who says something sexist? Fear not! Before you have the chance to speak up for yourself, Captain Feminism will verbally bitch slap that sexist pig with his snarky feminist comeback he got from an internet meme or an episode of Inside Amy Schumer. Going on a date? Captain Feminism will stop you from shaving your legs and succumbing to the patriarchy just in the nick of time! (Phew! That was close.)

With his sexism-deflecting shield and his patriarchy-smashing hammer, Captain Feminism is ready for whatever is thrown his way… Unless, of course, he’s asked to take a step back so women and feminine of center folx can take the lead in feminist movements, to give them space to speak for themselves, or to be quiet and let women and feminine of center folx decide for themselves what’s in their best interests.

This is a form of benevolent sexism (more on what benevolent sexism is here), where Captain Feminism reinforces stereotypical gender rolls by assuming women are weak and need saving, rather than understanding women and feminine of center folx have simply been held down by patriarchal systems of oppression, and just need some supportive male allies to hold other men accountable for their sexist actions. He also can’t imagine how his bulldozing methods of combating sexism might actually cause more harm that good.

2. Mr. Helpful

This guy loves giving every woman and feminine-presenting person he meets little tips on how to be good feminists or how to deal with the patriarchal nightmare that is our society. Wondering if something you said was unfeminst? No need to ask a community of well-informed feminists, Mr. Helpful will be more than happy to answer that for you. Worried about being sexually assaulted? Mr. Helpful will gladly recommend a specific brand of pepper spray or sagely advise purchasing a pair of anti-rape underwear (yes, that’s actually a thing, click here to see the commercial).

While Mr. Helpful has genuinely good intentions, he’s too wrapped up in those good intentions (or in defending those good intentions whenever confronted about his own problematic behavior) to think about underlying patriarchal systems of oppression that, for example, have created a society where anti-rape underwear are necessary. Like Captain Feminism, Mr. Helpful is also prone to benevolent sexism, always thinking women and feminine of center folx are unable to figure out how to feminism themselves, and are thus in need of his help… In other words, he’s patronizing as fuck.

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Image Description: a white feminine-presenting person in red apron standing in a kitchen looking confused. Text Reads: “how do I feminism? If only I had a man around to tell me”

3. Cookie Monster

(copyright 1969; intellectual property of Double Fine Productions, Sesame Workshop, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)

This guy totally thinks women should be treated equal to men, and that women get a raw deal… from other guys. That’s why he never contributes to sexism, and he just wants to make sure everyone knows that. He also expects recognition from feminists for his marginal human decency. That is to say, he wants cookies. He wants cookies for not beating his girlfriend, raping his sister, or for abstaining from some other, albeit monstrous, but rather stereotypical form of overt sexism. And he wants cookies for being a “male feminist” – something he believes he is simply because he’s never beat his girlfriend, raped his sister, or engaged in any other stereotypical violently misogynist behavior.

He typically trolls online feminist spaces and butts into discussions that have nothing to do with him in order to reassure everyone he’s never done, said, or thought X.
Example: *someone posts a very personal story about their experience as a rape victim and survivor*
*Cookie Monster comments, “that’s so terrible, I would never do that!”*
Sorry, Cookie Monster, but no one’s giving you a cookie for that. Trust me, the rape survivor already knows rape is terrible. And kudos on the not raping anyone thing, but you don’t really get an award for “Never Sexually Assaulted a Person” anymore than you get one for “Never Killed Someone With an Ax.”

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Image Description: gold hand giving thumbs up trophy with a plaque that says, “not a total shit.”

Cookie Monster might seem innocent enough, after all, he’s made it very clear he’s not a rapist or murderer. But when women and feminine of center feminists refuse to give him his cookies and suck his dick in appreciation of his “male feminism” splendor, he can become verbally abusive, and sometimes a little scary. His comments will basically devolve into “not all men,” and “I’m not a sexist, but…” He will accuse feminists of being “misandrists” and “feminazis” for “overgeneralizing” and “lumping all men into the same category” (i.e., the category of sexist). He will tell feminists they’ll never acomplish anything if they push away all the “rational” people, and what he really means is they’ll never accomplish anything without him so they better give him his damn cookie. He might even aggressively harass and cyber stalk women and feminine of center folx in order to (a) convince them he’s really a nice guy, and (b) calmly explain how they’re total bitches for not acknowledging that.

4. The Femin-izer

This guy is a little different from the rest because he doesn’t actually believe he’s a “male feminist.” The femin-izer simply pretends to be a “male feminist” in order to pick up [primarily] women. He’ll use feminist buzzwords – such as “wage gap” and “patriarchy” – as conversation starters, but will have absolutely no understanding of those concepts. Then, he’ll namedrop – Sheryl Sandberg and Beyoncé (that’s it, those are literally the only powerful women he knows) – to make himself seem more impressive. He thinks feminism is stupid, but he also feels entitled to use it as his ticket to ride.

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Image Description: a white masculine-presenting person with blond hair crying. Text Reads: “said I was a feminist but she still wouldn’t sleep with me”

Frankly, I don’t know which group has it worse – the people who call his bluff and reject him, or the people he successfully deceives. The former won’t get their hearts broken or be trapped in an unhealthy relationship with him, but they might get beat up or raped if they reject the wrong femin-izer. The latter, on the other hand, are at risk for becoming emotionally invested with a guy who isn’t what he claims to be, and is actually a raging asshole.

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Image Description: I white masculine-presenting person in red sweater with a look of dread. Text Reads: “I’ve made a huge mistake”

5. Ryan Gosling

(for legal purposes note I am not referring to Ryan Gosling the 35 year old actor; any resemblance to Ryan Gosling the actor is purely coincidental)

This is the guy who’s either featured in, and/or the creator of, the “Hey Girl” memes. He thinks every personal and social crisis can be solved with an inspirational quote or funny cat video. And while his thoughtfulness is genuine, being a “male feminist” is more of a hobby for him. After all, Ryan Goslings are typically white, middle to upper class, straight, cis, Christian-raised men – i.e., the epitome of privilege. He can’t imagine being a feminist because his very life depends on it. He can’t imagine working in an economy that systemically devalues his labor on the basis of his gender, facing regular threat of sexual assault, or the intersectional struggles of WoC, trans women, and women with mental or physical impairments.

Because of his immense, largely unacknowledged, privilege Ryan Gosling often thinks feminists overreact to, or even imagine, instances of discrimination and oppression. He thus trivializes the lived experiences of women and feminine of center folx, who deal with very real interpersonal and systemic patriarchal oppression on a daily basis.

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Image Description: a white masculine-presenting person with blond hair and glasses looking very sincere. Text Reads: “Hey girl, I know 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted, but here’s a cute cat video”

6. Professor Feminism (aka: The Mansplainer)

This guy goes around “educating” women and feminine of center folx on what does and does not oppress them, what is and is not sexist, and what they should and should not find offensive. If they fail to find something oppressive, sexist, and/or offensive that they should (according to Professor Feminism) he will kindly explain – or mansplain – to all the women and feminine-presenting folx within earshot why that thing is oppressive, sexist, and/or offensive. Conversely, if someone finds something oppressive, sexist, and/or offensive that isn’t (according to Professor Feminism) oppressive, sexist, and/or offensive he’ll happily mansplain that to everyone, as well.

His other favourite activities include mansplaining what feminism is, mansplaining what the best form of feminism is, mansplaining how women and feminine of center folx can be better feminists, and mansplaining why any problematic behavior of his is not an instance of sexism, but rather a shining example of feminist excellence.

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Image Description: a white masculine-presenting person with long dark hair and a mustache. Text Reads: “Let me mansplain. No, there is too much. Let me mansumup.”

Now, one might think because he is a man, it isn’t really Professor Feminism’s place to be “educating” women and feminine of center feminists on what sexism and feminism are. After all, we all have a pretty good first hand understanding of both. But surprisingly being a man makes him uniquely qualified to “educate” women and feminine of center feminists on feminist issues because he’s “been on the other side.” He may not have experienced sexism, but he’s dished it out so he knows how it is.

Since leaving the dark side and joining the Feminist Force, he’s in the perfect position to become Professor Feminism, because he understands “both sides of the issue.” He’s the one who can be “objective,” “rational,” and “unbiased.” He won’t say as much, but this means he thinks women and feminine of center folx are incapable of being objective thinkers who fully comprehend the complex dynamics of gender power relations and patriarchal systems of oppression. We’re “too close to the issue…” We’re irrational… We’re hysterical?

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Image Description: black and white photo of a white feminine-presenting person talking on an old phone. Text Reads: “The 1950s are calling they want their outdated opinions back”

7. Free Pass Frank

Free Pass Frank is a lot like The Femin-izer, except he really believes himself to be a “male feminist.” However, he uses his self-perceived status as a “male feminist” to excuse his blatant sexism and misogyny like a get out of jail free card.

Get-out-of-jail-free

Image Description: a masculine-presenting person in a striped prison suite being kicked in the butt by a boot. Text Reads: “Chance: This card may be kept until needed or sold. Get out of jail free”

Free Pass Frank will make sexist comments, laugh at rape jokes made by his dudebros, objectify women and feminine-presenting folx, and treat women and feminine of center folx with covert, misogynistic disdain. Yet he’ll express his acceptance of abortion and maybe donate to women’s organizations to ease his conscience and prove his “male feminism.”

Other men – since they have the good fortune of never actually experiencing sexism and misogyny, and therefore can’t recognize sexist and misogynistic behavior unless it’s glaringly obvious – will think Free Pass Frank is a good guy. These other men, especially Professor Feminism, will be quick to mansplain away any concerns women and feminine of center feminists have about Free Pass Frank’s behavior. After all, he’s totally fine with women having careers (so long as they aren’t his boss). It doesn’t bother him if some women aren’t sexually interested in him (because those women are obviously all lesbians). He’s not even bigoted toward trans women or otherwise queer feminine of center folx (he’s just understandably terrified of accidentally having sex with a “man” because he’s not a “f*ggot”), and those people need to take all the support they can get.

Because men’s opinions are the only ones that matter, Free Pass Frank is secure in the knowledge he’s not sexist or misogynistic. How could he be? He’s a “male feminist,” which is, by definition, the opposite of being a sexist/misogynist.

8. White Cis Gay Men
why-are-some-gay-guys-so-misogynist-1447196106

Image Description: a white masculine-presenting person with blond hair, wearing a pink shirt with a yellow equal sign on it, and holding a sign that says, “vaginas are disgusting.”

It’s not clever, but the name is pretty self-explanatory. There are a large number of white cis gay men who are extremely misogynistic, transphobic, and racist. They regularly comment on and invade women’s and feminine-presenting folx’s bodies, make transmisogynist “ewww! vaginas!” jokes, appropriate queer culture and history, exclude queer men of colour from their community, and actively reinforce the gender binary and patriarchal gender rolls. For a more in-depth discussion of gay men’s misogyny click here.

Cis gay men can be some of the harshest judges of feminine bodies. Their male entitlement affords them the freedom to make rude and disgusting comments about women and feminine-presenting folx, and their sexuality excuses them because they’re not doing it in a sexual way. They’ll shame bodies that have “female” traits and think it’s acceptable just because they don’t personally find those traits sexually appealing. Some cis gay men will even go so far as to grope women and feminine-presenting folx, but “it’s okay because I’m gay.” While the assault my not be sexual, it’s still a display of dominance. These men are saying, “even though I’d never fuck you because female bodies are sexually repulsive, I can still do whatever I want to you because I’m a man. But it’s fine because I’d never actually rape you… because you’re gross.”

[I’d like to quickly point out not only is this disgust with “female” bodies misogynistic, it’s also incredibly transphobic. Many trans men have so-called “female” body parts (to be clear, trans men are men, so their bodies are really men’s bodies), plenty of whom are gay themselves.]

White cis gay men also have a bad track record of appropriating queer culture and history. The best recent example is the movie, Stonewall, where white cis gay men are painted as the heroes of the 1969 Stonewall riots and the early LGBTQ+ rights movement. In reality, it was two trans women of colour, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who lead the Stonewall riots and many of the early LGBTQ+ liberation movements.

White cis gay men think because they’re not heterosexual they don’t reek of privilege. They think the one marginalized aspect of their identity negates the need to check their cis, white, or male privilege. They will appeal to their sexuality as justification for actively contributing to and reaping the rewards of patriarchal systems of oppression. They also have this weird conception of diversity where they think they are diversity. In other words, that one marginalized part of their identity makes them, as an individual, diverse. Therefore, white cis gay men can check off the “diversity box” all by themselves; no need to include women, trans folx, people with mental or physical impairments, or Black guys.

real diversity

Two photos: On Left: four light skinned, masculine-presenting people standing behind rainbow coloured balloons. Text Reads: “What gay men think diversity looks like.” On Right: a group of feminine-presenting folx standing on a stage in front of a microphone, some are PoC, some are people of size, some are trans women. Text Reads: “This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity. -Laura Prepon” 

 

In Conclusion…

One thing all these “male feminists” have in common (with perhaps the exception of The Femin-izer) is the perception that sexism is something men, specifically other men, do, instead of a system of gender-based disadvantage and oppression which functions on an institutional level, and from which these “male feminists” are always benefiting. In other words, they all recognize sexism is bad, but believe it’s only something other guys, bad guys, participate in. He’s not a bad guy, in fact, he wants to help end sexism, so he can’t possibly be sexist. This rationalization – along with his half-assed allyship – enables the “male feminist” to distance himself from the complex social problem that is Sexism. He can thus remain blissfully ignorant about his own male privilege, and reassure himself he isn’t part of the problem while still benefiting from, and even participating in, patriarchal oppression (i.e., he still is part of the problem).

So, he lashes out when women and feminine of center folx point out his own male privilege and his own sexist behaviors and attitudes. Suddenly someone’s challenging his overly rosy view of himself and suggesting that he might actually benefit from institutional sexism. That for all his good intentions he might be part of the problem, and that he – *gasp* – might even be a SEXIST!

Thanksgiving Dinner with my Abusers 

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), "Freedom From Want," 1943

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom From Want,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” March 6, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

As I sit in the corner of my parents living room this Thanksgiving my hands are shaking and I’m fighting back tears.  For some people the holidays are a wonderful, family-oriented season, but for others, like me, the holidays are an especially difficult time of year. It’s the time of year when some of us are forced into confined spaces with our abusers, and we have to pretend to be happy.

Of course, the holidays aren’t the time to discuss the fact my parents are abusive. They’re the time for forgiveness, “letting go of the past,” and loving your family no matter what they’ve done… At least that’s what my sister tells me. After all, let’s not ruin our Thanksgiving family dinner with the truth. Maybe she doesn’t want to be reminded of the abuse she suffered. And that’s totally fine, no one should force her to relive their abuse. But it’s really invalidating to be told that I need to “move on,” to stop “dwelling in the past,” or that I’m just being bitter and resentful whenever I mention my parent’s abuse.

The anxiety I experience whenever I’m around the individuals who abused me (and still abuse me to a lesser extent) is a valid response to past emotional and physical trauma. Needing to express my feelings is not the same as being “bitter” or “dwelling in the past.” It’s not like I sit around in a dark room every day thinking up ways to hurt my abusers. Nor do I talk about the abuse I experienced to every person I know. In fact, I tend to suppress my emotions more than most people.

Invalidating my response to abuse is itself a form of abuse. But honestly, I’m used to my entire family doing this. From my siblings, who were also abused growing up, telling me to “get over it,” to my parents telling me I’m crazy and imagining their abuse, invalidation is par for the course around here.

Invalidating comments from family aside, holidays can still be incredibly traumatic for those of us who were abused by relatives (or anyone else who regularly shows up to familial holiday functions). Having to smile at your abuser(s), fake affection for them, refrain from making any negative comments, and bottling up my emotions are also forms of abuse. I am forced to quietly relive past harms, and I must pretend everything is fine and dandy – including the fact these people are abusers.

The neighborhood pedophile is even having dinner with us because my mother is having an affair with him (everyone knows this, including my father, but we don’t say anything). It doesn’t matter he used to come into our yard and look in the windows at me any time I was home alone as a young teenager. And it doesn’t matter he used to tell me to “come give daddy a hug” and force himself on me. No, it would be rude to bring that up. Instead, I hold his hand while someone says a prayer.

Some people might wonder why I go along with family Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it me easier to say “fuck all of you?” Why don’t I just go somewhere else for Thanksgiving? Well aside from the fact I don’t really celebrate U.S. colonization and theft of Native lands, no, it wouldn’t be easier to just remove myself from family functions. My family would hold that against me for years. They would try to guilt-trip me, or berate me for being a bad daughter and a bad sister. They would say I’m stuck in the past, I’m an angry person, and that all my hate toward them will make me ugly. They would punish me for years by any means available, including putting down the family pets (I’m not kidding, my mother did it once before), withholding financial help if I need it, and being emotionally abusive every time we interact. People who are abused repeatedly often go into survival mode because it’s the only thing we can do. We comply with the abuse because we know fighting it won’t make it stop, it will just make things more painful.

So, what’s the point of this? Where’s the happy ending? Unfortunately, there isn’t one.  I have done things with my life and grown as a person. I’ve traveled, I’ve gotten a college degree, I have friends, etc. I even went to therapy. But holidays will never be easy.