Facebook feminism
June 20, 2013 9:29 PM   Subscribe

A male friend just posted: "[Insert College Name Here] is a school of feminists who don't know how to be feminists. (Ladies: communicate. Gents: don't be jerks.)" It rubbed me the wrong way. Am I overreacting? If I'm not overreacting, are there resources you would recommend for explaining why statements like these are not the best way to sound like an enlightened feminist?

Yes, I know I am probably overthinking this. I spent too much time on Metafilter today. Thanks in advance.
posted by topoisomerase to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"Statements like these are not the best way to sound like an enlightened feminist" is actually a pretty decent way to frame it.

There's no bullshit, there's no debating.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:34 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Would you be able to explain in your own words what he might mean? I wouldn't. I guess that is what would rub me the wrong way - that he isn't very clear.
posted by Namlit at 9:35 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what he's getting at with his statement. It's vaguely worded. "Feminist" has lots of different connotations. People are always spouting off on FB. I wouldn't get too worked up about it.
posted by sunnychef88 at 9:36 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Or you could just hide the post and forget about it in 24 hours. It is pretty vague.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'd ignore it unless there's some specific thing this is referencing (like if he's implying a sexual assault was a matter of miscommunication). I think it'd be an overreaction to post a response. It's a dumb post that doesn't even really make sense (assuming no particular context). Responding seriously is likely to backfire, make him defensive, and damage your friendship. Personally, I don't know what he's trying to say, but I appreciate that he assumes feminism is a given. I'd let this go.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Either ask him what he meant, or explain in your own words the problem you have with what he said. Or ignore it.
posted by John Cohen at 9:41 PM on June 20, 2013

"Oh hey, thanks for mansplaining feminism for us ladies!"

or just ignore it.
posted by Joh at 9:48 PM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

On second thought: I would note that he's given two very bland pieces of advice: "communicate" and "don't be jerks." It's easy to say that to anyone. After all, everyone should communicate well, and by definition you shouldn't be a jerk. But by addressing one thing to one whole gender and another thing to another gender, he's implying that he divides up the world into "the problem with women" and "the problem with men." And that's an oversimplistic way to look at things. Because it's oversimplistic and harsh, it puts people on the defensive, which can lead to tension. As other commenters have said, one problem is that he's being incredibly vague. It would be more constructive to say that one person said/did a specific thing which was uncommunicative or jerky. Casting aspersions on a whole gender might be a fun way to let off steam, but it isn't ultimately helpful to anyone. And it's literally childish.
posted by John Cohen at 9:50 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

it sounds like textbook trolling, the more I think about it. I'd ignore it
posted by thelonius at 9:51 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Generally any time a dude issues a blanket judgment that X Huge Group Of Women are Doing It Wrong, that's not super feminist.

Or maybe it's just shit logic and shit internet behavior in general. Either way, I agree, unless you really like shit-stirring on Facebook, just ignore it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Trust me: No good can come from responding on Facebook! EVER. TO ANYTHING. Other than to like, make jokes or say congratulations or recommend soft cheeses or something. Debates? "Discussions"? Run away. I'm am totally with you — that statement is hella obnoxious and ignorant — but Facebook is a truly terrible medium for making one's case.
posted by Charity Garfein at 10:07 PM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]

"The first rule of feminism is ... wait, I really wouldn't want to essentialize."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:28 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

"[Insert College Name Here] is a school of feminists who don't know how to be feminists.

Please, mansplain feminism to me, o 21 year old undergraduate dude who doesn't know jack shit about anything.

It's yet another guy thinking that he just knows better than a given group of women - some with 5, 10, or 20 years or more on him of experience or study. It's yet another guy whose instinct is not to be humble towards the greater experience and knowledge of women, but rather, the instinct is to make pronouncements to them on what they should do,or even to issue commands to them on what they should do. Because after all, despite his lack of experience and lack of understanding, and lack of knowledge of so many things, he's obviously right. Cuz he's A Logical Guy. And these are women. So they must need him to tell their ladybrains What's Logical.

It's that age-old problem that young guys with swelled heads get off on telling other people how they are wrong and how the young guy in question knows best even when he has no idea. It's always obnoxious, it just becomes ironic when the young man in question is talking about feminism. Where it's particularly important for men to show humility in the sense that they're not privileging their male perspectives and opinions and steamrolling over what women say.
posted by cairdeas at 10:34 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to be clear, I wasn't going to respond. I know it's just a Facebook post. I was just having trouble articulating (to myself) why it made me uncomfortable, because Facebook posts rarely do. This is a "give me perspective and help me be more articulate in my own head!" post, not a "help me start an Internet fight!" post.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:25 PM on June 20, 2013

In that case...well I can tell you why it makes me uncomfortable*: because it's bullshit. Pardon my language but your friend knows fuck-all about any of this. Let the eye-rolling commence.

To give the answer a little more detail here are some reasons why it's a shitty thing to say:

1. It starts from the premise that he knows more about "how to be feminist" than an ENTIRE SCHOOL OF FEMINISTS (another presumption which is in itself an absurdity. I mean really, everybody at the school is a feminist and they are exactly the same kind of feminist? Please.).

2. The cutesy "Ladies: communicate, Gents: don't be jerks" bit is just so mind-numblingly simplistic and condescending (mansplaining, if you will). It (again) presumes that everyone else is just SO STUPID and SILLY and they need to LISTEN to this MAN'S COMMON SENSE I mean COME ON SHEEPLE AMIRITE

3. It's a Facebook post, which seems to invite lots of folks (regardless of gender) to bloviate endlessly and egregiously, as if the the world has simply been waiting to read their precious precious thoughts. The same thoughts which, it turns out, happen to be as boring and stupid an wrong as ever.

*Full disclosure: I am a cisgendered male. Also I quit Facebook last year for similar reasons (on a different topic) and my life has been vastly improved since I dropped that particular social cesspool. Spending too much time on Facebook is like poking yourself in the eye with a rusty fork over. and over. and over.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:43 PM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm a man. I'm going to be honest here: I don't have a fucking clue first hand what it's like to be a woman, and neither does that male friend of yours. And you have no idea first hand what it's like to be a man. I'm guessing you know that. No worries though. You're not expected to know. The mistake is that your friend assumed he knows more that he does - more, in fact, than he possibly could.

He's wrong.
Write it off.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:44 PM on June 20, 2013

This is a "give me perspective and help me be more articulate in my own head!" post, not a "help me start an Internet fight!" post.

I am a feminist who is a guy, and the reason it bugs me is because it's so reductionist and dismissive. Reductionist of the many competing feminist philosophies that are certainly being discussed at [College], dismissive of how difficult it is to communicate past a power imbalance, how difficult it is for guys not to be jerks when the culture they're immersed in is telling them that they never were.

And underlying those problems, it bugs me because he's speaking as if he were an authority on the subject, whereas if he actually were he'd certainly have recognized both of those problems. He's speaking from privilege, in a word.

And underlying even that, it bugs me because there was a time when I was much like him, and I wish I could smack 20-year-old me. Maybe he'll outgrow it, too, though.
posted by solotoro at 2:09 AM on June 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

One good way to articulate for yourself why it's chapping your ass may be that he's doing that thing some guys do where they assume that all women think alike and that there is only One True Way for women to be alike, so even though he thinks he's being a feminist he Still Doesn't Get It.

There is no one right way to "be a feminist". He's saying there is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:54 AM on June 21, 2013

This is textbook Dunning-Kruger effect to the Nth degree. Hell, it's exponential Dunning-Kruger.
posted by fikri at 5:18 AM on June 21, 2013

In addition, the implied back story to this comment: Some one at [school] called this guy on something sexist he said or did, bruising his ego, and he is taking the 'no really I'm a feminist' tack on facebook. "Ladies: communicate" is because if women didn't want him to do [sexist thing] they should have personally informed him before he did it. He added the Gents part in a moment of self-perception (perhaps due to earlier calling out) as to how much of a jerk he sounds. So maybe there's hope?
posted by velebita at 5:33 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Condescending pronouncements on how everyone should behave are super annoying. No one needs his approval on how to be feminist. That's what would irk me - the statement reads like he's the one to judge what is/is not appropriately feminist behavior. And it's addressed to his friends - he feels it's important to tell all the "ladies" and "gents" he knows that they're doing it wrong. Ugh.

I know Facebook seems to lend itself to making passive-aggressive pronouncements on the behavior of random people, society in general, etc., and they're not actually directed at those of us who are friends with people who make these comments. We just get to be annoyed by them. It's like - go tell that person directly if you have a problem! Don't tell me, I didn't ask to hear it.
posted by citron at 6:32 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

To me, feminism is about equal pay for equal work, the right to walk down the street without people yelling at me, being in a position where decisions about my health are between me and my doctor, knowing that my goddaughter has the same opportunities as she would have if she was my godson, having people ask my husband why he didn't change his last name when we got married, and so much more. Sure, people yelling at me when I walk down the street are men being jerks and I could ask for a raise if I don't feel that I am being compensated adequately, but I don't think that's what the guy on Facebook meant.

It sounds like the statement in question relates specifically to sexual violence. Feminism is about more than that. That's one reason why he's wrong.
posted by kat518 at 7:34 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

What I find problematic about his statement is that when he tells "ladies" to "communicate" he's essentially referencing the stereotype that women are poor communicators who obfuscate, exaggerate, or else stew silently and refuse to communicate altogether. It's like "why won't those ladies just SAY what they MEAN like us gents do." This stereotype is especially troubling because it's often used to dismiss or downplay sexual violence - she probably didn't actually SAY no, she's probably exaggerating, etc.

Also, he's leaning on the gender binary pretty hard.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 10:03 PM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

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