Suffering Under The Burden Of Patriarchal Responsibility? Read This!

Hey! So you’ve realised that, probably as a MAB guy, and probably as a white, straight, middle-class one, you’re associated with a lot of shit… War, corporate greed, the destruction of indigenous cultures, rape and sexual exploitation, factory farming, the demolition of entire eco-systems, and the money-work system. Multisoz, I know this is a painful thing to realise. As a white, middle-class, cis-gendered woman I also share a significant slice in the world’s evil. I can see you are getting flustered. No one wants to accept that this is their continuing lineage on the planet. Luckily theories of privilege and power not only help us understand our role in perpetuating oppression, but have also been used  in the perennial quest to circumvent all that responsibility associated with privilege. Just like the Lady GaGa song, we can all at some point down the line claim that we were ‘born this way’. Just as Prince Charles was born into royalty, the  privileges we were ‘saddled ‘ with at birth  are often seemingly inescapable. That is, alas, our ‘cross to bear’.

>>So. You’re a MAB man, most probably white, most probably straight, most probably middle-class. It has been alerted to you that you might have a role to play in the formation and continuation of the system of patriarchy. You don’t know how you feel about this. I mean, you don’t *buy* porn and you’ve never had sex with a girl who was too drunk to walk, so you feel a bit uncomfortable with being labelled a ‘patriarch’. What gives? I mean, you try and try, you’re always polite, willing to engage in conversation, you’ve even read The Second Sex. Why should YOU be labelled an active member of the patriarchy? Some of your friends are women ffs. You’re accepted into Cambridge University. Omg you are so frickin’ clever I can’t even. Wow. I can’t imagine how your opinions could be wrong? Pretty much blows everything else out of the water, doesn’t it? You feel more assured in your discomfort around your role as an oppressor. You resolve to meet with like-minded people in Michaelmas and discuss these issues. Finally, a platform from which I can discuss the way these theories of patriarchy are affecting me! For so long I have felt so…. alienated! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS (Warning: extreme mansplaining, normative sexist language, general bullshit) ***

Harry Peto (member of Cambridge University Men’s Feminist Discussion Group):
Does anyone else feel, man or woman, that the gender equality campaign is shockingly dominated by the question of whether a woman is losing out in some form or another?
Does anyone want to found a Cambridge gender equality group? Our constitution will include never implying someone’s views is because they’re a woman or because they’re a man
Either we offer support and are sexist, or stay silent- and are sexist.
Hmmm. This is a difficult one.
I find the word mansplaining sexist
Jiameng Gao (member of the same group):
I see that I’ve forced one person out of the conversation and the group, I’m not sure why you have to keep on bringing up the point that she is a woman. In fact you’re doing so in a way that suggests that women are more vulnerable than men
don’t even get me started on how wrong the presumption that a man’s voice is louder than a female voice in a men’s FEMINIST group is, Alex is completely without fault, since the fault, should the male voice somehow came out “louder”, lies with the listener
Why exactly does an opinion (and clearly not on a leadership level) become worthless because of the gender of the speaker? Why isn’t THAT gender discrimination?
Gareth Erskine (member of same group):
You do the men in this group a disservice if you think that we conform to the ideas of Patriarchy, only pay attention to men’s comments and will only take a woman’s comment seriously if a man has agreed with her
types of feminist militancy such as not being able to agree with women I believe only damage the feminist cause rather than progress it. Men will be reluctant to call themselves feminists or associate with feminism if such alienation continues
I don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman but I think is paranoia. You do not represent all feminists or all feminist opinions. If anything you are calling on administrators to try and oppress the views of people that don’t agree with you, and you say you want equality? It just sounds like you hate men.
“shame, scare, bully and force us into silence” you do love hyperbole don’t you. Please elaborate on how I have done all of the above please. I’ve only left a few Facebook comments, perhaps you need to grow a thicker skin.
putting words in people’s mouths and once again playing the victim, this is getting old.
There are many battles for feminism to take on. Men agreeing with women is not one of them. Stop wasting your time with such petty arguments!!
you’re a separatist?
I don’t go on blogs written by radical extremists!
So a woman thinking that when a man agrees with her he is acc undermining and opressjng her…?? If that’s not paranoid I don’t know what is.
I’M A MAN!! A MAN!! Possibly the question should be what’s right with me?
the censorship of opposing opinions begins…
Someone agreeing with her made her feel like her comment was less important..? She sounds a bit insecure to me. (cue “you’re not a woman so you wouldn’t understand” argument)
I am going to assume that readers of this article won’t need me to explain why the above is a crock.
Instead, I’m going to offer a list of ways that men who are GENUINELY INTERESTED IN FEMINISM can go about supporting and aiding the dismantling of patriarchy, and the liberation of women.
1. In the pursuit of feminist aims, do not – as men – use your time to discuss, ponder, and process the ways that you are affected by patriarchy. If you really must do this, limit it to an annual conference.
2. Instead, use your ‘feminist’ time to do the things that women are having to do that is stopping them from being able to discuss, organise, consciousness-raise. Find out where your local women’s centre is, or your local feminist consciousness-raising group is. Work out if there’s anyone who can’t come because of childcare reasons, or because they are having to work nights. Offer to do domestic work/childcare so that women can organise and meet. OFFER. Don’t impose.
3. If this isn’t your ‘bag’, have weekly cooking sessions. Cook meals for women whose kids need to be fed on a particular night when they want to meet with other women and process/discuss. Or just cook for those meetings. But don’t come to them. Make sure you do all the washing up.
4. Before you consider talking about ‘patriarchy’, read a about it, or talk to your feminist (women) friends. Explain that you would like to know more. Listen and do not argue. There are plenty of books on the subject. I would recommend Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, Kate Millett, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich. Do not read feminist theory that has been written by men.
5. When the women picket, protest, demonstrate, ask tentatively if they would like a solidarity demo. For example, in defending the Women’s Library, or in Reclaim The Night etc. If they say no respect that.
6. Don’t watch commercial pornography, so as to limit the normalisation of the degradation of women in your mind.
7. Don’t talk over women or interrupt them or explain to them why they’re wrong, particularly in discussions about oppression, politics, or academic subjects.
8. Don’t walk around with your shirt off. Women don’t have that privilege because of patriarchal constraints. If you are really, really hot, ask every single woman in the room if she feels comfortable with it.
9. Express agreement and praise in the same way you would express it to someone you respect.  Compliments, assent and praise are often mechanisms of power. For example, in a supervision, if I say something vaguely coherent and Professor X tells me I have made an ‘interesting point’, it implies that what I have said has pleased him, and that I should then feel gratitude or embarrassment. This experience is common to many conversational interactions between men and women, particularly within the confines of places like  Cambridge University. Women do not need to be complimented on the things that they say, we are not seeking your approval, and we’re not automatically delighted when we hear you say ‘well done’ or ‘interesting point’.
10. In a ‘men’s feminist discussion group’, don’t use words like ‘victim’, ‘hyperbole’, ‘paranoid’, ‘extremists’ (unless you’re supporting them), ‘oversensitive’
11. Don’t treat being a ‘feminist man’ as a gateway to flexing your intellectual muscles. At the same time, don’t treat being a ‘feminist man’ as a gateway to chatting about your or women’s ‘lived experience’. Ultimately you don’t experience patriarchy as an oppressed group so neither of these things are available to you.
12. Treat the women in your life with respect. Don’t expect sex from your girlfriend. Don’t expect your mother to do your laundry. Don’t make comments about your sister’s sex life or her dress sense. Don’t use words like ‘bitch’, ‘ho’, ‘slut’, ‘slag’, ‘tease’, ‘dyke’, ‘frigid’. Even in ‘jest’.
13. An elaboration on the former: don’t just wait for consent from sexual partners. Assume that it is very likely you do not have consent. For any sexual contact – not just penetrative intercourse.
14. Do not ever make personal comments about women’s appearance, to your friends or to women. Regardless of whether they are ‘compliments’.
15. Don’t expect any praise from doing all the things listed above. They are the TIP of the iceberg in being an active ally to feminists.
In conclusion, ‘feminist men’ of Cambridge University, a pretty basic rule of thumb is this: privilege does not equal oppression. Yes it can be uncomfortable to suddenly realise your role in perpetuating patriarchal oppression. If that discomfort could then lead you to see more clearly the real and brutal violence of misogyny in society, that would be great. But hitherto it has not. It has led you to try and carve a space out for yourselves in the box labelled ‘oppressed by patriarchy (read: women)’. If this is really your jam, then I suggest you look at groups such a ‘Fathers4Justice’, or ‘Justice for DSK’. If you are REALLY, TRUTHFULLY willing to be an ally for feminists, consider how you can fit in around the work that is already being done, and how you can start to begin damage-control without privileging your own voices.


  1. It must be frustrating to have to write this stuff, when it’s already available all over the internet if people bothered to read it before posting shit. I don’t disagree with any of it, and I understand as a man that to be a serious feminist I have to take my lead from women. But there’s a few things I want to comment about it.

    “probably as a MAB guy, and probably as a white, straight, middle-class one, you’re associated with a lot of shit… War, corporate greed, the destruction of indigenous cultures, rape and sexual exploitation, factory farming, the demolition of entire eco-systems, and the money-work system.”
    I’m middle class in that I go to Cambridge Uni, but my background is a shitty, poor one. That is quite significant; although I can deal with it well and have the confidence to speak openly (although I do not have that confidence to speak when surrounded by activist types e.g. at Defend Education meetings), friends at my college from council estate backgrounds don’t feel entitled to have an opinion on anything, and explicitly have said to me they feel more inhibited by their class background than by their gender (they’re women) in the context of Cambridge Uni. As bell hooks etc. have taught me, how it is to be a woman is not universal and is instead hugely dependent on your class and race. There’s got to be a worry at a place like Cambridge – a place which to an unparalleled extent makes poor students feel unconfident and inadequate – feminism will reflect an extremely privileged section of women.

    I also really object (and think the claim is either a misguided part of privilege theory, or reflects the authors own class privilege?) to the idea my ‘continued lineage’ on the planet is “War, corporate greed, the destruction of indigenous cultures, rape and sexual exploitation, factory farming, the demolition of entire eco-systems, and the money-work system”. No, like almost everyone of every sex and gender, the story of my ancestors is one of being brutalised, exploited, oppressed and – to some extent – fighting back. Only a tiny section of the British population has those destructive things you list as their continued lineage. I don’t know whether you’re failing to make the distinction between ruling and working class, or whether you assume everyone reading is stooped in the most ridiculous privilege imaginable. Either way to me it reflects class privilege, I know none of my friends back home would think like that!

    This leads on to a concern that has bugged me about all activism in general. I think it is incapable of communicating with ordinary people. Partly cos of the privilege of activists, partly cos of the subcultural element of activists, partly cos in their subcultures – including online – they speak in language games that operate in parallel to how most people communicate. I am really sad about this state of affairs, obviously, cos as a pro-feminist and a communist I share some common goals with many activists. The weird subculture of activists has probably a few thousand people in the whole of the UK in it. Maybe there are tens of thousands of feminists like the authors of articles on Gender Agenda. A hugely disproportionate number of them probably live in Cambridge… Sadly, Gareth and that lot are probably more advanced in terms of feminism than 99.5% of the population. Their reaction to being told they were mansplaining from writing a comment agreeing with the woman commenting before him was also probably more progressive than a similar proportion of the population. I am not saying the way they responded was unproblematic, my general stance is nearly (not quite) whatever feminist women say is problematic or oppressive, is problematic and/or offensive. But for me politics isn’t about having the perfect politics, and behaving in a politically correct way; politics if it is to work must be about building relationships. That’s how people change, and how people change their ideas. Obviously if a woman is being mansplained or similar they have no obligation whatsoever to respond kindly or anything, and can be as pissed off as they want. But it’s not gonna achieve anything, and will alienate almost every person – male or female tbh – who isn’t from an extremely privileged and academic background.

    • Hi Jon

      It’s obviously good that you contextualise the nature of gender in race, sex etc, although Faith at this point was writing for a specific audience of Cambridge students – as are we. I’m not responding to your comment in its entirety, I just wanted to pick up on one thing. It is something that I quite often notice some people from the political Cambridge university community doing, and that I worry and wonder about. You say that ‘only a tiny section of the British population’ is powerfully responsible for sexual exploitation, environmental damage etc (which is questionable, but I will leave that for someone else to chat about), but you also talk about an equally small ‘weird’ subculture of activists which you assume is largely Cambridge based and elite. And you assume that because of Gareth etc’s involvement in gender agenda and the fact that they are at Cambridge makes them ‘more advanced in terms of feminism’ than 99.5% of the population.

      But isn’t it SO important not to conflate privilege with political radicalism?

      There are MASSES of activists in Britain, and they are certainly not all privileged, and most do not live in Cambridge. They are striking for better wages, working in care services and victim support, exposing police oppression, speaking out in local council meetings, they are many of the rioters of last summer who afterwards gave highly political testimonies on police oppression, social exclusion and poverty, they are many many sixth form and college students who protested against getting their EMA cut, they are local high street shop owners campaigning against tesco…

      AND specifically if we’re talking about feminist activism, your assumptions just don’t ring true with my own experience meeting and working with a range of feminist women, and I’m sure that of lots of others; there are masses and masses of women from all classes (but PARTICULARLY less privileged classes, because not only do less economically privileged people do more un-paid care and voluntary work but they also give vast amounts more to activist-related causes in proportion to their income than richer people) running refuges and helplines, volunteering on support centres, campaigning against cuts to legal aid and for changes to the legal, political and educational systems… I could go on and on. To suggest that criticising mansplaining is limited to people with privilege is a really massive assumption – are you saying that unprivileged women don’t have the feminist strength to tell men off for telling them what to do?

      And in extension, and linked to Faith’s article, that less privileged women wouldn’t benefit from a man doing their washing up just the once so they could organise…and…you can probably continue for me by now. I can tell that you probably didn’t mean to make these assumptions, and your issue is with the language used within a particular forum etc, but I still think my comment here is important.

      • Cheers for the reply l789, I appreciate it. When I talk about ‘activists’ I mean quite a specific group/subculture of people. I understand why that isn’t that helpful if I don’t explain it, sorry! Increasingly, I think ‘activism’ is a bit of a dead end. And actually I think activists as I define them, who Are undeniably more privileged than is the norm in our society, aren’t that politically radical – regardless of whatever ideologies they might have. So I’m definitely not conflating privileged activists with political radicalism, almost the opposite actually. I am not from a privileged class background at all, so I would not make that conflation, and have basically contempt for most middle-class activists who think they’re so great fighting the world and its evils when no-one else will… I relate with, and think more radical and better politically, the strikers, rioters, volunteers, etc. (other than local high street owners – they can f off in my eyes and I love Tesco cos I love cheap stuff, but that’s a separate discussion :) ) you talk about than those I consider ‘activists’.

        The ‘activists’ you talk about in your third paragraph I don’t think of as ‘activists’. They would on the whole not consider themselves as activists. Instead they’re ordinary people fighting for themselves and others’ interests. I was a college student dependent on EMA fighting to stop that being cut when all that shit was going off. I would imagine most feminists (definitely as judged by their actions, but I’d guess probably self-defined feminists as well) probably aren’t feminists who have an extensive range of academic literature to hand, and aren’t politically correct. When I talk about activists I mean “people [who] think of themselves primarily as activists and as belonging to some wider community of activists. The activist identifies with what they do and thinks of it as their role in life, like a job or career. In the same way some people will identify with their job as a doctor or a teacher, and instead of it being something they just happen to be doing, it becomes an essential part of their self-image.” ( These are the people I see as existing – and I used to be part of it – as part of this ineffective subculture, incapable of communicating with ordinary people. So when I said – in a clunky, stupid and basically wrong way, sorry – that Gareth and that lot were likely ‘more advanced in terms of feminism’ than 99% of people, that’s what I meant. That Gareth etc. were probably more familiar with the basic feminist concepts like mansplaining than most people, and were probably responding more tolerantly than most people would.

        “To suggest that criticising mansplaining is limited to people with privilege is a really massive assumption – are you saying that unprivileged women don’t have the feminist strength to tell men off for telling them what to do?” I didn’t intend to make that assumption and can’t really see where I have, although I suppose I can see how you could get that impression. I very definitively think women from poorer backgrounds can and do regularly criticise men for mansplaining (although overwhelmingly they would not call it that, which is significant) – and on the whole I think they have more success doing so, cos of the language they speak.

        I’m aware I’ve written bare on this page now, sorry, so I won’t write anymore.

  2. FML

  3. ok sorry if that was an ignorant thing to write. can you send me in the way of some literature that could maybe tell me why it is? thanks

  4. Faith

    September 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Hey Jon! To access this bibliography, I went to ‘Google’, and typed in ‘feminist theory bibliography’. This came up as one of the links! The internet is so cool!!!

    Anthony, Susan B. “On Women’s Right To Vote.” U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. June 1873.

    Beauvior, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Vintage Press. 1953.

    Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture. New York: Charton Co. 1911.

    Mill, John S. The Subjection of Women. 1869. .

    Sanger, Margaret. “Morality and Birth Control.” Margaret Sanger Papers Project. Feb 1918. New York University. 10 Jun 2009. .

    Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. Eighty Years And More: Reminiscences. New York: T. Fisher Unwin. 1898.

    Truth, Sojourner. “Ain’t I a Woman?” Women’s Convention, Akron. 1851. 11 June 2009. .

    Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. 1792.>.

    Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. London: Hogarth Press. 1929.

    Second Wave

    Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. New York: Bantam. 1975.

    Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1978.

    Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology: Metaethics of Radical Feminism. New York: Women’s Press Ltd. 1979.

    Dworkin, Andrea. Woman Hating. New York: E. P. Dutton. 1972.

    Estrich, Susan. Sex and Power. New York: Putnam. 2000.

    Firestone, Shulasmith. The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. New York: Morrow, 1970.

    Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: Norton. 1963.

    Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. New Jersey: Doubleday and Company. 1970.

    Shreve, Anita. Women Together, Women Alone: the Legacy of the Consciousness-Raising Movement. New York, NY: Viking. 1989.

    Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: New American Library. 1983.

    Third Wave

    Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishers. 1991.

    Cornell, Drucilla. At the Heart of Freedom: Feminism, Sex, and Equality. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1989.

    Findlen, Barbara ed. Listen Up: Voices of the Next Generation. Seattle: Seal Press. 1995.

    Gamble, Sarah. Routledge Critical Dictionary of Feminism and Postfeminism. New York: Routledge. 2000.

    Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1982.

    Heywood, L., and J. Drake. eds. Third Wave Agenda: Being feminist, doing feminism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1997.

    Richards, Amy, and Jennifer Baumgardner. Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 2000.

    Walker, Rebecca ed. To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism. New York: Anchor Books. 2005.

    Wolf, Naomi. Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century. New York: Random House. 1993.

    Feminism & Postmodernism

    Agger, Ben.Gender, Culture, and Power: Toward a feminist postmodern critical theory. Praeger, Westpoint. 1993.

    Butler, Judith. “Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism.'” Feminists Theorize the Political. New York: Routledge. 1992.

    Hekman, Susan. Gender and Knowledge: Elements of a Postmodern Feminism. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 1992.

    Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. London: Routledge. 1985.

    Feminine Ecriture

    Cixous, Hélène, and Catherine Clément. The Newly Born Woman. Trans. Betsy Wing. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 1986.

    Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1985.

    Kristeva, Julia. The Kristeva Reader. Ed. Toril Moi. New York: Columbia UP. 1986.

    Race/International/Multicultural Feminism

    Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute. 1987.

    Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race, and Class. New York: Vintage Books. 1983.

    hooks, bell. Ain’t I a Woman? Boston: South End Press. 1981.

    hooks, bell. Feminist Theory From Margin to Center. Boston: South End Press. 1984.

    Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press. 1984.

    Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. ” Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Eds. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988: 271-313.

    Other Feminist Theory

    Alaimo, S. & Hekman, S. Material Feminism. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 2008.

    Bourdieu, Pierre. Masculine Domination. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2001.

    Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1993.

    Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Men and Women New York: Basic Books Inc. 1992.

    Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge. 1991.

    Harding, Sandra. Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking from Women’s Lives. Ithaca: Cornell UP. 1991.

    Jaggar, Alison M. Feminist Politics and Human Nature. Totowa: Rowman and Allanheld. 1983.

    Keller, Evelyn Fox. Reflections on Gender and Science. New Haven: Yale UP. 1986.

    Kipnis, Laura. Ecstasy Unlimited: On Sex, Capital, Gender, and Aesthetics. Univ. Minnesota Press. 1993.

    Landry, Donna and Gerald MacLean, ed. The Spivak Reader: Selected Works of Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak. New York: Routledge. 1996.

    Feminist Backlash-Anti-Feminism

    Denfeld, Rene. New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order. New York: Warner Books. 1995.

    Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth.Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life: How Today’s Feminist Elite Has Lost Touch with the Real Concerns of Women. London: Doubleday. 1996.

    Hoff-Sommers, Christina. Who Stole Feminism: How Women have Betrayed Women. New York: Touchstone. 1994.

    McElroy, Wendy. A Woman s Right To Pornography. New York: St. Martin Press. 1995.

    Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New York: Vintage. 1991.

    Roiphe, Katie. The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism. London: Hamish Hamilton. 1993.

    Sommers, Christina Hoff. The War Against Boys: How misguided feminism is harming our young men. New York: Touchstone. 2000.

  5. Yeah I thought I might get a response like that. I have read quite a lot of feminist writing and have read only that for the last few months, and I wasn’t looking for general feminist stuff. I was asking for something which might explain why my comment, which wasn’t a criticism of anything any feminists did or a defence of the stuff people said on FB, but instead was trying to open a discussion about how to bridge cultural and class boundaries in feminism, was so shitty and offensive. I’m really sorry it was, understand why your being sarky, and will try and think on it and relate stuff I’ve read and am reading to it. But for now I still can’t see it. Also a lot of the books that come under bibliographies aren’t that relevant to a discussion like this, maybe blog articles and stuff are more likely to be more relevant. But anyway, forget it, I would have deleted my comment but I can’t see how to?

  6. It’s very unfair to post only one side of a conversation, especially if you are going give names rather than merely use it as an instructive example. I am sure if I scoured anyone’s conversations and omitted what they were resopnding to, I could show them up as sexist, racist, homophobic, warmongering, communist, capitalist, extremist and or any other ‘-ist’ I chose. The media do this when they quote politicians (and feminists, for that matter) all the time.

    As it happens, I watched this conversation with great interest as it occurred. The men you mention have something to answer for. But they also had significant provocation, which you are omitting. Most of us do things we later regret when provoked. I leave this comment not because I expect you to respond, but as a warning to anyone reading this thinking ‘what horrible people’. You are by definition getting one side of a story when you only get one side of a conversation.

    • Alice B. Reckless

      September 25, 2012 at 3:18 am

      You’ve got a pseudo, I’ve got a pseudo. Good, now we can duke this out equally.

      BTW I *actually am an identifying woman*, to clarify, as men who use female pseudos for political discussions are manipulative scumbags.

      (That’s not aimed at you, AG.)

      What IS aimed at you is the following: this is a super super mansplain-y comment! You sound hella authoritarian! “Here’s what actually happened, kids; this is how it went down, listen to my calm man voice making sure that nothing gets twisted”: I take you in good faith and I don’t think you meant to, but this reads to me like you think there’s some over-emotional conspiracy to twist representations of the truth, and that you’re a rational enough, separate enough individual (one who I note “watched the discussion with interest”, but didn’t get involved in it) that your voice can be SUPER RATIONAL and set the records straight.

      That makes you really really hard to engage with here when that idea of rational > emotional, “mansplaining” as a social default to be challenged wherever encountered, is exactly the one at stake.

      We know that the men we mention have something to answer for! That’s why we called them on it! We don’t need you to rubber stamp that, and we don’t need your guiding hand to reign us back and temper us! Not in a feminist space. Y’all have the rest of The Patriarchy to rule in.

      • Hi Alice. I don’t think there’s some ‘over-emotional conspiracy’, as you put it. I think people do stupid things when they are provoked. I think the author of this article felt provoked.

        I am sorry if you don’t like the calm authoritative tone I am trying to take; you called me out correctly in that I am trying to take it. That’s because I think it is more constructive to ‘duking it out’ that saying what I’m actually feeling with full emotion.

        Normally, people respond better to the calm tone. Is the point you’re making?; that patriachy means that we overvalue ‘calm’ ‘authoritative’ (i.e. male) voices and dismiss other voices (i.e. female voices) as over-emotional and disregardable, and this is ‘the default to be challenged’? I couldn’t quite work out that bit of your comment. If so, what tone would you prefer?

        As for ‘the men have something to answer for’, I wanted to avoid a barrage of ‘but they’re still being sexist’ responses. Yes, they are. I wanted to make it clear that I agree that they are. I know that *you* know that they’re being sexist, but do you know that *I* know they’re being sexist unless I add that line? I thought that if I omitted that line, you’d assume I thought that they’d done nothing wrong.

        • Oh, and I should have said thank you for taking me in good faith, Alice. The feeling of gratitude was genuinely there when I read your comment, but the ‘be calm’ instinct smothered it 😉

  7. On a more constructive note, and the real reason I decided to create an account:

    Could anyone point me in the direction of anything focused on explaining the logic behind point 7, and how to practise it? I query it because discussing things with women is and will continue to be a necessary part of my job, and indeed I suspect of most people’s jobs. Disagreements will occur naturally in the course of said discussions. I do not wish to disagree in a way that could cause discomfort, suppression or offence, but the point as currently stated feels too ‘blanket’ a rule, since it denies me any way to disagree at all. It’s also possible that you didn’t quite mean what you wrote; if so, could you clarify?

    • I’ve decided to stop spending time trying to improve arrogant, mansplaining patriarchs and now limit myself to two minutes a day. For venting. Today, I am using my time to say to you and all men who read this great article, and any other article on feminism by a woman


      Anyway – times up! Have a good one fellas!

      That’s all for today – have a good one!

      • It’s because I think the women here know more that I’m asking the question here. If I thought I were your intellectual equal in this subject, I wouldn’t need to ask any questions of you, because I’d know exactly what you meant and wouldn’t be sitting here getting very confused. That confusion strongly suggests to me that you know more than I do. I want to learn more, particularly on point 7, which I’m sure I have been guilty of on a number of occasions. How do I do it? I don’t know.

        That’s why I’m asking; it’s because I know nothing about this. I know so little that I don’t know where to start. So I’m starting here. Sorry if you think it’s the wrong place.

  8. Faith

    September 25, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Hey Ag! The examples of comments I listed above were chosen because they specifically employed sexist language or language that exemplified a reactionary engagement with feminist ideas/women. And I wasn’t ‘scouring anyone’s conversations’, I, too, was watching it unfold on the ‘Cambridge University Feminist Men’s Discussion Group’ – but, unlike you, I was reading it as a feminist woman who had asked to join the group but hitherto had not had her request accepted. Shucks, thought I, I guess the only way I can give my two cents is to write an article about it. I would also like to proffer that I wrote this before the discussions were deleted on FB. However, even if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sorry, because I don’t see anything wrong with calling out sexism and the co-option of oppression. So… yeah. This isn’t exactly the first time I’ve done this… I’m glad it’s shaming.

    I’m sorry you feel that Gareth, Harry, and Jiameng have been treated unfairly. I can only hope your solidarity and good wishes will help them through these coming days. As for point 7 – well, Jiminy Cricket, the proof is in the puddin’! (That’s code for, you answered your own question by writing a ream of supercilious platitudes about being constructive and clarifying and teaching me about the media – for which I must thank you because under the rock I have been living since kindergarten I had no idea such a thing existed!)

    • Fair enough if you did it before the trail was deleted.

      If you’re trying to say I violated point 7, I may well have done. I apologise. However that doesn’t answer my question, given my question was how *not* to violate it.

  9. Hi, I’m one of the people you’ve quoted from the discussion on Facebook. I’m somewhat concerned that you’ve selected my quotes to present my arguments (all of which were in massive undigestable paragraphs) in selective view. I believe that it does a great disservice to me, as well as the readers of this post, to not present the entirety of this argument. Almost all of my responses were in reply to comments which were directly abusive to me, as well as other people. Many of the responses I had written, and ones which you quoted here, were written out of distress of the fact that one member of the group was insistent on accusing me as the reason for a member’s departure from the group, and the said person later changed his opinion on the matter.

    I am not here to continue arguing the same conversation, but it would be incredible if you could either take my comments down (Jiameng Gao), or present the entire argument to this forum.

    Thank you very much

    • I would also like to make clear that I do not fully understand this form of feminism you’re working towards, this could be a problem which lies with me. I will make it clear here that I did not fully comprehend the rules of that group before I commented and argued against other members, and I have since left the mentioned Facebook group since my comments within it clearly were not welcome there, almost definitely to other’s joy, or so I hope.

      Nonetheless, I do genuinely agree with most of your directories regarding action on feminism, it’s evident we do not have the same interpretations of the points you’ve made, and I will give you as well as other concerned readers my apology for any offense caused during the argument/debated mentioned in the blog.

      A response would be wonderfully appreciated.


      • Faith

        January 21, 2013 at 7:54 pm

        Hi Jiameng. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I have just rediscovered this article and thought you had probably welcomed the long period of silence on the above. For this reason I have decided to respond with this message, in the hope that you will receive an email about it in your inbox, and then feel the jarring sensation of knowledge that there are people out there who still remember what you wrote online and still think it sucks. Your apology has been noted and is undergoing review. FT

  10. As a woman (admittedly also white, middle class, straight and cis gendered), I personally would be thoroughly annoyed if all the men I know behaved like this! For example:

    I am perfectly happy to discuss the patriarchy with a man even if he hasn’t done any preparatory reading.

    Men are allowed to explain why they think I am wrong, just as I am allowed to explain why they are wrong.

    My boyfriend is allowed to initiate sexual contact with me, just as I am allowed to initiate sexual contact with him without explicitly seeking consent (we trust eachother to say if we don’t want it).

    Men are allowed to tell me I have made an interesting point, just as I would tell someone (regardless of gender) they had made an interesting point. This does not mean I do not respect them, it literally means I think they’ve made an interesting point!

    Male friends are allowed to compliment my appearance, just as I compliment their appearance.

    I guess this might seem hopelessly nieve – I assure you I have experienced sexism from ‘friends’, a then boyfriend, family members, colleagues etc. I understand it is *everywhere*. What I really want is for everyone I interact with to basically ignore my gender – to not make *any* assumptions about me based on gender and to not alter their behaviour as a result of my gender. I don’t think this will happen if they are constantly worried about offending me.

  11. Faith

    March 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Hey. I totally understand that it seems like farfetched and daunting, if not completely unrealistic, to have such expectations. I’ve also had experiences of men complimenting me, calling me out, discussing patriarchy with me, that haven’t made me want to punch a wall/his face. The problem is that the power structures that frame the way that men interact with women is that such interactions or exchanges are very often not benign. It is likely that men will exert power over women in these small, every-day linguistic incidences, indeed without being at all aware of it. An example from my own life is that very often every time I have played a show, at least one guy afterwards will say ‘I actually thought that was quite good’; always a guy, always a way of giving me praise while implying that I should be grateful as inherently lesser.

    I’m not asking men to feel anxiety every time they have to engage with a woman (though i seriously doubt many of them do, at least where their privilege is concerned); I’m saying it’s not unreasonable to expect that men should be aware of the ways that they exert power over women. The male undergraduate sharing a supervision with a woman undergrad should think about the implications of both interrupting her AND the way he chooses to either agree with or praise her. If a guy friend wants to make a compliment about a woman’s appearance, he should be aware that comments about women’s bodies go a long way in a patriarchal system. Men should be aware that when they ‘initiate sexual contact’ with women, regardless of whether they are their partners, there shouldn’t be a steadfast expectation of intercourse, which might then lead to them vocalising disgruntlement or irritation, all forms of pressure/duress.

    I don’t believe that reverse oppression is a thing, though, so maybe this should be the starting point? Anyway, hope this was a good enough response for now x

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