« Saying goodbye to the All Saints seniors | Main | Friday Random Ten: Beneath the Valley of the Random »

May 25, 2006

Comments

Dr E

I'm finding that Hugo's original post may act as a good indicator of his general attitudes. They seem to be "Treat men and boys like criminals and treat girls and women like children in need of protection." Guess what? The men and boys are not criminals and the girls and women don't need your protection. They are strong and capable and will handle dissention such as described with ease on their own without you having to protect them. In fact if you protect them it robs them of the opportunity to practice taking care of themselves.

moderate_man

As you've noticed, feminism can feel threatening to many men (and indeed to many women) simply because it requires them to reconsider their worldview.

Most non-feminists/'neutrals' don't need their worldview challenging because they're already challenged by the media, the criminal courts and especially the family courts about the finer details of feminist thinking.

I've already stated a more compelling reason why many men are fearful of questioning feminism - the sheer grief they will get for it from feminists for daring to question their ideology. It raises hackles - debates get emotional, the "misogynist" labelling, the accusations of being "uncaring" - all the shaming tactics come out. Many people (women included) simply don't want that kind of grief.

Challenging a feminist's worldview is when the fireworks start. I've experienced this on many feminist messageboards over the last 5 years.

mythago

the sheer grief they will get for it from feminists for daring to question their ideology

Now, now, where are our resident MRAs to lecture us about the risibility of feminist arguments about 'silencing' and how any good ideology ought to stand up to vigorous debate?

Hugo, I assume you make it clear in your classes that personal attacks and shouting people down are not to be tolerated. Seems to me that when one of these guys makes a ha-ha-shut-up-ladies sort of comment, the best response would be to blandly say "Tyler, as you know, I don't permit personal attacks or incivility in my class--so why don't you go ahead and say what you were going to say."

Another Jeff

There's some serious reframing and diversion going on here.

The original point, as I read it, was that prefacing one's remarks with a statement like "I know I'm going to catch hell for this" puts the respondent on the defensive - as Emily H said, the respondent has to show that he or she isn't intolerant/man-hating/whatever the speaker implied they were.

And what are the responses to this? Mostly that they're not doing this on purpose.

This, I believe, is usually true. From childhood, we learn that responding to authority, especially female authority figures (mothers, female teachers, etc.) in this way - with a "please don't get mad at me" preface - is likely to avoid a negative response. We may even see this as a form of compromise.

The telling point, I think, is how people react when they are informed of the effects of this tactic. At that point, the "unintended consequences" defense doesn't hold water; they know what their "disclaimer" does. Do they stop?

Technocracygirl

Anyway, at the risk of being flip, I will be succint: Not that I don't feel for you, or don't congratulate you for overcoming your block, it's a very ancedotal story.

I don't take your comments as flip. I thought you were quite polite.

And I'm glad you agree that it is an anecdotal story. So are your "far too many women" who physically get into men's faces. You say you're counseling men who deal with women like this, so yes, you're going to have more anecdotes about those sorts of women. My mum teaches austic kids, and so have a secondhand impression that there are a lot more families with autistic kids running around than there actually are for the general population.

Maybe I'm wrong, and the sort of women you're talking about are more of the general population than the sort of women I'm talking about. Based on my experiences, I don't think so, but then I'm not living in your head and you're not living in mine.

Hugo

p>Beppie asks:

I'm curious-- you have in the past, I think, referred to female students of yours who do not come from a feminist perspective-- do these women pre-fix any of their comments in a similar way?

Not in the same way.  I do have conservative, anti-feminist women students who will say things like "I know this is unpopular, but..." or "I know this will sound very un-feminist..."  but I've never seen one pretend to bolt for the door or tease about expecting to be beaten!

Please understand that I want very badly to increase male participation in my women's studies class.  I'm not trying to run some sort of perverse classroom environment where all the women get to talk, a male professor runs the show, and male students are silenced!  As I think about approaches to this, I like Mythago's -- and will likely use it.  She suggests:

Seems to me that when one of these guys makes a ha-ha-shut-up-ladies sort of comment, the best response would be to blandly say "Tyler, as you know, I don't permit personal attacks or incivility in my class--so why don't you go ahead and say what you were going to say."

That ought to stop the "disarming", but also remind everyone, male and female alike, of the basic ground rules that keep folks safe.

Toy Soldier

The original point, as I read it, was that prefacing one's remarks with a statement like "I know I'm going to catch hell for this" puts the respondent on the defensive - as Emily H said, the respondent has to show that he or she isn't intolerant/man-hating/whatever the speaker implied they were.

Well, I do not think the preface necessarily implies that the respondent is intolerant or biased, just that the comment made may likely be taken the wrong way because of who the speaker is. As Gonz said, it is more likely that people use such prefaces because they have been shot down for making similar comments in the past. I saw a lot of that in many of my classes, even classes where open discussion was encouraged. Certain topics, because of the liberal nature of the school, always had such prefaces. Few students openly criticized liberal policies, openly supported religion (particularly Christianity) or voiced concern about the blatant racism against white students on campus without saying, “I know I’m going to get my ass bit for this.”

I would say such prefaces are in and of themselves defensive. I have to object to Hugo’s use of the word “challenge” in his comment, “…and I know, (oh, how I know) how difficult it is to sit and listen to someone challenge you on your most basic beliefs about your identity, your sexuality, your behavior, and your beliefs about gender.” Attack would be more accurate because there is no real way for young men to respond negatively to any of those assertions, particularly since the point of the comments are to deconstruct (i.e. destroy) male identity. In that context, the assumption that they will be attacked for disagreeing is not inaccurate.

And in a way, Hugo’s post validates that assumption. His male student’s comments are being perceived as a loosely veiled attack on women instead genuine concern that they cannot openly disagree. Those concerns are at least not being taken as seriously as non/anti-feminist women who also use such prefaces. I think this is partially because males tend to make light of themselves when making those comments by pretending to go for the door. It basically becomes a joke. However, I think it has more to do with their criticisms not carrying the same value because they are male in a feminist setting.

Jendi

I also like Mythago's suggestion, and I can identify with the fears that Glitch and the Gonzman raised about being punished for non-PC views - that was certainly my experience as a conservative woman in college in the 1990s. What's ironic is that both sides on this discussion thread are partly right: in the real world, women are at greater risk of physical intimidation from men than vice versa, so the guys in Hugo's class sound disingenuous. However, in academia, men (and women) with non-feminist views are at greater risk of suffering retaliation, career-wise, than the reverse, so at least some of Hugo's guys are probably genuinely concerned about whether his classroom is a safe environment for dissent. Given the high cost of college and the uncertain job market, the danger faced by a dissenter is more than hurt feelings, it's losing your future before it even begins. From what I've seen on this blog, Hugo's class probably is safer than most, but that is unusual (and not just in women's studies classes). Hugo's talked a lot about "male privilege" and recognizing that even though he has good pro-feminist intentions, his very maleness may be intimidating or disempowering to some women because they exist in a broader context of patriarchy. Within the university, if not in the real world, I think there can be a "feminist privilege" that may be equally threatening to some men (and conservative women), so I encourage Hugo to find ways to put those guys at ease. As one of the commenters said, it should be pretty obvious who is genuinely exploring new ideas and who is just being a jerk. And besides, aren't there students who take feminist and PC positions in order to be a jerk, to intimidate others? Why is it only the guys who are acting in bad faith? Though pretending to put on a football helmet is not the most helpful way to start a conversation....

craichead

Hugo said,
"All of this behavior reflects two things: men's genuine fear of being challenged and confronted, and the persistence of the stereotype of feminists as being aggressive "man-bashers." "

Most people --whether male or female -- wriggle anxiously when their beliefs are threatened with meaningful challenge, just as a child wriggles anxiously when he's finally made to stop sucking his thumb. I think you may be right when you cite the "man-bashing" comments as a way to stop dialogue when it may be getting too close for comfort. On the other hand, as a man who talks a lot about gender issues with friends, I find that women tend to lay charges of moral inferiority on the men or accuse them of simply being frightened by "strong women" in order to shut them up. Pretty much when any discussion veers from the ideas at hand to characterizations of the personalities of the conversants, it's a ploy to stop discussion.

moderate_man

Within the university, if not in the real world, I think there can be a "feminist privilege" that may be equally threatening to some men (and conservative women), so I encourage Hugo to find ways to put those guys at ease.

There is female privelege in the real world also : within the workplace, within the media, within the criminal court, within the family court.


craichead

Hugo said:
"After all, one of the pernicious aspects of the "myth of male weakness" is that men can't handle being confronted with women's anger. We either run away literally or figuratively, disconnecting with the television, the bottle, the computer screen. But we're not little boys who will physically lash out in rage when challenged, nor can we be so fearful that we dodge and defuse and check out. That's not what an adult does in the face of the very real emotion of another human being."

I disagree with this perspective.

I think for a lot of men the escape is not an escape in response to challenge nor an escape in response to the emotion of another human being. One thing you'll find is that if a man is in emotional need and reaches out to his male friends, those male friends don't seek escape from his "very real emotion." They help out as best they can. That's been my experience anyway.

I think when faced with the "very real emotion" of women in their lives most men seek to escape because the virtual obscurity of men's emotions when in relation to women's emotions results in them becoming overwhelmed.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when a man's emotional experience tends to be nearly completely disregarded by women, he eventually disengages since it then has become a repeated affirmation that his feelings don't matter.

bmmg39

"Not in the same way. I do have conservative, anti-feminist women students who will say things like 'I know this is unpopular, but...' or 'I know this will sound very un-feminist...' but I've never seen one pretend to bolt for the door or tease about expecting to be beaten!"

Some years ago, I was with a "co-ed" group of friends watching a Super Bowl. I made a joke about the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then immediately went into the fetal position, as there were many Steelers fans there. People took it for what it was -- a joke -- not some sort of attempt to stifle them or keep them from rooting for the Steelers in the future.

I see the "please don't kill me" preface as one of pleading and admitted weakness (even if in a jocose manner) -- quite the opposite of one intended to silence your "opponents."

Q Grrl

Hugo:

I'm not so sure this is only behavior that happens in this particular setting. I see it more of a tendancy in human behavior to make onesself submissive when stepping into uncharted territory and asking questions/making statements that may or may not be offensive. It's a form of social ingratiation that we all do, at some time or another, in order to fit in and not be cast out of. We do it when we join a new club, start a new hobby, move to a new community. It's a way of saying "I know I'm gonna sound stupid or offensive, but I really need to learn this from you, so be patient."

Another Jeff

Some years ago, I was with a "co-ed" group of friends watching a Super Bowl. I made a joke about the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then immediately went into the fetal position, as there were many Steelers fans there. People took it for what it was -- a joke -- not some sort of attempt to stifle them or keep them from rooting for the Steelers in the future.

I don't think this is the same dynamic, because (a) you were among friends; (b) you were joking rather than trying to make a serious point; and (c) football fans haven't been socialized to avoid conflict - in fact, "trash talking" and cheering louder than the other team's fans is expected behavior.

In contrast, the preemptive defense is used in discussions with people who may not be one's friends; it's used to disarm criticism to serious statements; and it's used against people who have been socialized to be the ones to avoid conflict and "make peace".

Antigone

Dang, I've said this before, and odds are I'll say it again:

Where the HELL are all these "liberal colleges"? I go to UND: this college is conservative by ANYBODY's standards.

I actually can relate to Gonz and others saying they are in the minority of classes, because I AM in the minority in my classes, and the one that gives the opposing viewpoint. I'm the one that catches hell when I say anything liberal or feminist. BUT I'm willing to put up with it because a) the teachers have never held being different from their political persuasion against me and b) because I try not to think about the dangers of irritating someone (the worst I've ever got was this guy who followed me across campus yelling "hairy-leg, hairy-leg"). That, and my major is fairly non-political: in commercial aviation the only "minority" political oppinion is that the FAA is glorious and noble.

Vacula

Only one leg is hairy? lol...

Rainbow

Insightful post.

shannon

Another dynamic that I've noticed is that privilege insulates you from criticism. So when women say stuff like "I don't think it's ok for us to be raped" men who haven't taken a good hard look at themselves hear "Let's kill all the men". Because they aren't used to ever hearing any criticism of their views. Of course, I think of college as a truce zone, sort of. You can freely exchange your views about the lack of worth of women, or how people of color shouldn't dare to exist in a small space at the same time someplace else. College is for learning. I can learn not to be offensive without having to have someone else take valuable time teaching me, and also, if I offend someone, I can take it.

I think that people should examine themselves. Why are people supposed not to be offended when you're rude? If you preface your statement, you know somewhere that you're being rude, so why not think for a few seconds about whether it's worth being rude and offensive? I am a mix of alpha and beta. I'm alpha if I have to defend something important and beta the rest of the time. But I am able to use discernment, and common sense. The idea that not everyone should think before they speak is pretty sad.

Antigone

I think going "hairy-legged" was too many syllables.

mythago

That ought to stop the "disarming", but also remind everyone, male and female alike, of the basic ground rules that keep folks safe.

Exactly--because as you've pointed out the silliness of joking about violence, you've also reminded everyone of the standards of behavior you expect from them, so that if there were a female student who wanted to respond with a personal attack, you've just given her notice that's inappropriate.

And besides, aren't there students who take feminist and PC positions in order to be a jerk, to intimidate others?

Sure. There are also students who take a "politically incorrect" label as a pre-emptive strike: you can't call them on their BS, see, because then you'd be "PC" and they'd be the poor, oppressed truth-speaker.

Tara

I think it's funny that so many men assume that the women in these classes are seasoned feminists, with years of experience, knowledge, and theory behind them, and the men are bright, maverick thinkers who will come up with some kernel of brilliance kernel of knowledge that will stump them!

It seems more likely to me that these people are all still figuring things out, and, to be honest, it seems extremely unlikely to me that m(any) of these men, studying feminism for the first time, would come up with anything that would stump a feminist scholar. They're having a conversation and hopefully learning from the teacher and each other, and implying (according to Hugo) completely untruthfully that your comments will incite your classmates to violence does not actually contribute to an environment of learning and mutual

Tara

mutual respect, darn it.

Beppie

Not in the same way. I do have conservative, anti-feminist women students who will say things like "I know this is unpopular, but..." or "I know this will sound very un-feminist..." but I've never seen one pretend to bolt for the door or tease about expecting to be beaten!

Just some speculation here-- could it be that men are culturally conditioned to see physical violence as more of a viable option for conflict resolution (even insofar as men are encouraged to play violent sports far more than women), so that even if they don't expect violence (indeed, even if they personally don't use physical violence), that is the way that these men in your class are processing the conflict between their own beliefs and the alternatives, even though there is no threat of actual physical violence?

Some people have suggested that you are unfairly treating the men and the women in your class differently in this circumstance; from what you have said, you seem to simply be responding to different behaviours. I think asking your students to analyse WHY those different behaviours occur along gendered lines with your class would be more effective than simply starting with the premise that it's being done for "motive a." Of course, you're probably already doing something similar. I don't see that this is treating males and females any differently, however, since you have not indicated that you'll be excluding anyone from the discussion.

bmmg39

"In contrast, the preemptive defense is used in discussions with people who may not be one's friends; it's used to disarm criticism to serious statements; and it's used against people who have been socialized to be the ones to avoid conflict and 'make peace'."

I don't disagree with any of these; I'd just like to know why the "don't kill me for this" is being characterized here as an exclusively male preface, and, further, why the "clairvoyant" suggestion is that it's done to discourage women from speaking.

bmmg39

"Another dynamic that I've noticed is that privilege insulates you from criticism. So when women say stuff like 'I don't think it's ok for us to be raped' men who haven't taken a good hard look at themselves hear 'Let's kill all the men'. Because they aren't used to ever hearing any criticism of their views."

Time out a minute.

Are these really the sample sentences you want you use? You don't think you've selected an extreme example here?

"Of course, I think of college as a truce zone, sort of. You can freely exchange your views about the lack of worth of women, or how people of color shouldn't dare to exist in a small space at the same time someplace else."

Are you SURE you're not hyperbolizing here, just a tad?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004