There is a guy who walks around Tuesday evening Cruise Night handing out flyers for the car show he runs, Cruizin’ For A Cure. I went to it the first year it was held, and it wasn’t for me. Mostly American cars, where I’m a British car guy, and the judging of the foreign cars (one class for all) wasn’t very good. So I passed after that.
The problem was that the car show wasn’t just for the sake of having a car show, but as the name suggests, it was charity-focused: he was raising money for prostate cancer. You see, he was a prostate cancer survivor, and wanted to do something to help. Great cause and I respect his efforts. But when he asked me if I would come, I told him no. I explained why, but he got angry with me. Didn’t I realize how serious prostate cancer is? Didn’t I want to help with the cure? Didn’t I appreciate his cause?
Well, in fact I did. I had nothing against his cause at all. It just wasn’t my cause. I have a charity to which I provide a great deal of support. He doesn’t contribute to my cause, but I understand why. Yet, he couldn’t understand why I didn’t back his cause, because his was so worthy.
Lawprof Nancy Leong wrote about the cause of ending misogyny, following the #yesallwomen and #notallmen memes that were hot for a few days on Twitter. Unlike many of the people who twit with this hashtag, Nancy’s post offers both deeper, and less antagonistic, thought on the role of males and empathy toward women’s concerns.
Men who speak out on these issues deserve credit for their willingness to stand up for something that they haven’t directly experienced and that doesn’t directly benefit them. (I say not directly because I believe that a society in which men and women are equal is a better society for everyone, but that benefit is not an immediate one.) My point isn’t that men deserve special praise for vocally supporting gender equality. Everyone should support gender equality as a matter of principle.
My point is a somewhat different one: that empathy is difficult no matter who you are and with whom you’re empathizing. It’s hard to understand what it’s like to be a woman if you’re not a woman. It’s hard to understand what it’s like to be gay if you’re not gay. It’s hard to understand what it’s like to have a particular disability if you don’t have that disability. Empathy is hard work, and men who undertake that work — and then undertake the further work of speaking out against sexism and misogyny — should be commended.
There is nothing to disagree with here, and yet I can’t climb aboard. There are two primary reasons (plus some emanations and penumbras, but those are for another day): First, while I can understand why women, whether some, most or all, take this perspective, this isn’t at the top of my list of causes. Heck, I want to know why all women aren’t using their every effort in the fight against overcriminalization and in favor of substantive due process, but my hashtag, #NotAllLaws, has yet to catch fire among feminists.
Second, while this has been framed as a dialogue, it seems to be anything but. If words are used that are inconsistent with the approved feminist lexicon, the response is swift and brutal: you are a misogynist (or worse)!!! It would appear that Ad Hominem Path is a one-way street, and any male who uses the language of the patriarchy is tarred as a rapist. I’ve been there.
Then the rules of engagement, the terms and conditions of the dialogue, are dictated by one side of this dialogue, and it’s not mine. When a guy doesn’t play by the feminist rules, it’s not because they have questions or issues, but attributed to hurt feelings, stupidity and mansplaining, and thus ridiculed and dismissed. This isn’t how I understand dialogue to work. It sounds an awful lot to me like a lecture, at best, and a scolding, at worst.
My friend Nino tried to ask a question of a twitterer the other day, who was busy with some particularly harsh twits about males. He politely asked her a question and she responded by ripping him a new one for the audacity to expect her to waste her precious time catering to his fragile male ego. Nino remained civil. I would not have, but that’s me. If these are the rules of engagement, then this isn’t a dialogue.
And finally, if there is to be a dialogue, then both sides have the right to disagree. But that’s not how this appears to be working. Not only is disagreement cause to be branded a misogynist, but mere acquiescence is still deemed proof of demonstrable misogyny.
It had been my understanding that misogyny meant hatred of women, but that doesn’t seem to suffice as a definition anymore. I don’t hate women. I rather like them, but just these words provide definitive proof in this dialogue of my misogyny. And by writing this, I exacerbate my crime by being unrepentant about it. In the hole of neo-feminism, I’ve dug myself in so deep I can never come out.
Yet, I’m okay with this. I don’t seek anyone’s approval, and I’m not looking for feminist validation. I am who I am, and I’m good with that. Like the agnostic who behaves in the ways the Church would demand, but won’t take the Eucharist, I have no fear of going to hell. If there is a god, then he knows what I do. And if not, no harm done.
My time and effort are spent working on some causes I deem pretty damn worthy, and I have no regret about doing so. They’re just not about feminism or supporting the end of misogyny, whatever that may be. But I find it offensive, and more, that women get to attack me, and others who see things as I do, not because of anything we’ve done, but because we aren’t adherent to their religion. And when their religion demands a blood sacrifice, I will fight it.
I have tried to discuss much of this, but haven’t had a great deal of success. Part of that may be because I won’t play by the rules. But then, I fail to see how there can be any dialogue if it starts with me being the misogynist. There’s just not much more to talk about after that.
Ironically, these efforts to raise consciousness seem to have driven the wedge deeper between genders, forcing those men and women (#yesallwomen do not want to be part of this cause) farther away with their overt hostility, pervasive victimhood, grand hyperbole and fortune cookie arguments.
That’s why I asked Nancy if she was interested in a dialogue, and why I begin here. There is plenty to discuss, but the first question is whether there can be a dialogue at all. If anyone can engage in a dialogue, I’m betting it’s Nancy. Am I right?
Update: 6/3/14. I am sorry to inform you that the dialogue with Nancy Leong has been called on account of delay of dialogue. Three days in internet time is an eternity.
I asked Nancy today what happened to our dialogue. She responded:
I said in my comment on your blog that I would write a post this week & I will. Remember we are being leisurely.
It’s unclear where the “we” came from, but engaging in a dialogue where days, maybe more, elapse doesn’t strike me as a useful dialogue. My idea is more the ordinary back and forth. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and even if Nancy does write something eventually, a lot of water will have flowed under the bridge.
To say I’m deeply disappointed is an understatement. I hoped this dialogue would happen, be substantive and be productive. That was a couple of days ago. I held my breath until now. It’s time for me to exhale.