I really really should know better.
I posted something about feminism earlier today, and had a spirited debate with a good friend of mine, that ended with us mutually agreeing on several things. The whole thing was non-hostile, intellectual, etc.
But then here comes King Asshole with this: "As a man, I’d be all for "feminism" if it had anything to do with real issues like the fact that a woman driving a car in Saudi Arabia is considered a terrorist, or the law they tried to pass in Iraq stating that women had no right to deny sex to their husbands (basically legalizing rape) and trying to legalize marrying 9-year-olds, or the stoning of women in Afghanistan, or genital mutilation in African countries. But instead, Beyoncé and Jane Lynch want to ban the word "bossy" and are too busy calling Wikipedia "too masculine." I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to respect feminism."
So I countered with: "There are all kinds of ways to dismantle the patriarchy. Language is incredibly gendered, and it is never a bad thing to call attention to that double standard. We’re not going to get into the wormhole that is "FGM," because there’s an entire historical experience tied up in parts of that. It is absolutely important that we are actively working to resolve human rights issues in developing nations, however feminism isn’t magic. Feminism can’t erase historical experience (i.e. issues regarding colonialism). Yes, we as a global community can voice our displeasure, but what else are we supposed to do besides physically going into those countries, finding every person who commits these atrocities, and smacking them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and screaming "NO" in their faces? That’s colonialism. That being said, all the "little" things that this monolithic "feminism" you’re talking about has done are actually relevant to global human rights issues. Actively discussing rape culture and patriarchy and privilege, actively working against gendered language, making people THINK before they speak or act, all of that is pretty revolutionary. Postcolonial feminism looks at these issues from the perspective of the "other," and if you read any of it, that would give you a better picture of those issues. Chandra Mohanty, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Amal Al-Malki, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, bell hooks, etc."
He proceeded to comment about Beyonce and some kind of “list” feminists are supposed to have of things to take care of? Also a lot of bullshit on “policing language” and how anyone could be “oppressed.”
I proceeded to give him the verbal equivalent of an eye roll.
He countered with more bullshit, so finally I said: "Language is itself oppressive. When a woman exercises her right to be uncomfortable with certain language, that is not oppressive. You cannot oppress an oppressor. I am not concerned with how privileged white men "feel" about this development. I am interested in establishing a dialogue wherein privileged white men do not make it seem like their opinions are more valid than that of women, do not dismiss issues that women feel strongly about (no matter how trivial they may seem to those men), and do not try to talk over or invalidate women who are speaking about something that is important to them. The thing is I DON’T CARE what you think about Beyonce or feminism or women’s reproductive rights (ESPECIALLY THAT) because you so obviously don’t care what I think about any of those things. You are part of a system that doesn’t listen because you are too busy speaking. I don’t believe in "policing language," I believe in calling attention to language that is problematic. What you’re saying is that you believe in a system that seeks to shame, suppress, and silence women. If your feminism involves ripping head scarves off of women while screaming I AM LIBERATING YOU FROM YOUR OPPRESSION, if it involves storming an abortion clinic and screaming in a woman’s face I AM LIBERATING YOU FROM OPPRESSING YOURSELF, if it involves shushing a woman while she’s explaining something important or not taking the time to listen and understand anything she’s saying because you are ~offended by her perspective, if your feminism involves dichotomizing "real" women and apparently "imaginary" (?) women or "real" issues and apparently whatever just really grinds my gears, then I don’t want any part of your feminism or your perspective."
Which really opened up a can of worms. He responds: "Feminism used to be about women having equal rights to men. Now it is about attacking men and oppressing people who don’t agree with "feminist" ideals. Let’s be clear, everyone has a right to express their discomfort with the way others use language, not just women. One perfect example is that you attack me with the word "privileged" without knowing a single thing about my background. In this case, you would be considered the oppressor. I never once claimed that my opinion was more valid than yours. But you did. I never made accusations about your character or accused you of doing (or wanting to do) things you never would do. But you did. The fact is that you don’t care about my opinion because of my gender and race, whereas I do care about others’ opinions regardless of gender and race. I consider myself anti-feminism because I am for equal rights for women where they are oppressed. You can complain about a guy who hits on you all you want, and that is valid. But it has nothing to do with women’s rights."
I just countered with: "Anything that has to do with women is a women’s rights issue. And I’m not making assumptions. You are white, you are male, you come from a position of relative privilege. When I say privilege, I mean you are educated, you are employed, you are heterosexual, you are not afraid when you walk out of your house. That is all privilege. I also come from a position of relative privilege. It’s not aspersions on your character. It is what it is. I’m not "oppressing" you, I’m just not listening to you, which is the same courtesy you have afforded me. It has nothing to do with your gender or your race, it has to do with your ignorance and the fact that I find you to be close-minded and looking for a fight. I am a feminist because I believe women should be afforded the same courtesy and privilege and respect as men. We don’t discuss "men’s rights" because every right is apparently a man’s right. I don’t consider men oppressed (especially white men) because our whole system was put in place by white men, our whole language comes from white men, our whole history was written by white men. "History is a commentary and continuing incapabilities of men," to quote The History Boys. When you say I "oppress" you, you’re saying that you’re upset because I don’t agree with you."
So now I’m just waiting, tired and annoyed, for him to respond or for this to be over.