I’ve been wondering for years now how I’ve been able to make some pretty sweeping generalizations about women (and men) in my videos—even going so far as to outline why I believe some stereotypically negative “female” behaviors are actually innate to women’s biology—without receiving the kind of negative response from non-feminist women that many men receive when making similar comments.
I’ve also long wondered why, as a woman, I don’t take generalizations about women personally, which is what I think is going on most of the time when people rant about misogyny whenever a man says anything remotely critical of women as a class, or even a single woman if the criticism resembles a common stereotype.
I’m starting to think that part of my imperviousness to defensiveness when some MRAs say things like “Women are like this” or “Women do that” comes from me not identifying as a woman in the same way that other women seem to.
Yes, I am a woman, but I don’t tend to think of myself in those terms. In fact, when I talk about women, I usually say “they” and “them,” not “we” and “us.” I do not feel like there is a collective identity to which I belong based on some abstract, shared vagina. I do not believe that I, as many feminists will contend, understand more about what it is like for a woman in, say, the Congo than her son or brother or husband does simply because my genitals are an “innie” like hers.
I am a woman, but I am not Woman. I base my self-identity on my actions, not on the actions of other women, or most women, or even all women, and when someone gives an opinion of women, or most women, or even all women, even if that opinion is blistering, and even if I recognize a little of myself in there, I don’t take it as a personal attack.
In fact, if I do recognize myself in someone’s scathing opinion of women in general, that’s when I sit up and listen. If it makes me feel uncomfortable, then that is my problem and my discomfort and does not invalidate the accuracy of what was said. It definitely does not mean that that opinion should be silenced. In fact, it means the opposite. It means that it is a part of myself that I need to examine, and in order to examine it I have to talk about it and hear what others have to say about it.
One of my favorite MRAs once said, “Generalities exist. A bigot thinks there are no exceptions. An idiot thinks everyone is an exception. I am neither.”
I can’t state this clearly enough: It is impossible to talk about gender issues, or society, or culture, or biology without using generalities. That sometimes means saying “Women are like this” and “Men are like that” because it is the only possible way to discuss and examine problems that are systemic and rooted in the different ways men and women think, feel, and behave and the way men and women are perceived in society. This simply cannot be done on a case-by-case basis.
I’ve been trending away from the loaded, hostile, blame-laden language of the gender debate recently because not only are terms like privilege and oppression accusatory, but they’re also kindergarten-level simplistic. That’s true no matter which direction they’re applied in. I would much rather explore the actual problem all the way to its roots (even if that’s essentialist of me) than assign blame to one side or the other.
At the same time, as women we are simply going to have to understand that other women (and men) have made a mess of the relationship between men and women. The mess has marginalized men in such a way that amends will be difficult, if not impossible, to make, and some men simply will not be able to trust women anymore for a variety of reasons: some of which are institutional and systemic (family court, domestic violence policy), and some of which involve the behavior of women themselves (no woman is forced to take advantage of the ways systems and institutions favor her over men, yet many do).
You encounter a man who makes it clear he does not trust women? Get over it. This is not about you in that way. He does not have to trust women. He doesn’t even have to like women. He doesn’t have to spare your feelings. He doesn’t have to be genteel. He doesn’t have to not swear. He’s allowed to be angry. And he’s allowed to have doubts about how ultimately helpful women in general will be to the Men’s Rights Movement, about women’s motives, and to worry about the changes women in this movement will almost certainly begin to demand, the way they do pretty much everywhere they go.
After all, feminists have been claiming to speak for all women since the mid-1800s, and the majority of women have allowed them to. Female protests over women’s suffrage involved objections to the potential assigning of male responsibility onto women—once it was clear that there would be no such imposition of responsibility, the majority of women went along with women’s fight for equal rights. Nary a woman spoke up about the absurdly unequal distribution of marital property brought about by early feminists in the 1800s and early 1900s—not until the inability to acquire loans and mortgages in their own names convinced them that the grossly unbalanced distribution of female entitlement and male responsibility was more harm to women than benefit.
The few fair-minded women who spoke out on principle against the injustice of those laws were drowned out by the majority of women who knew a good deal when they saw it—the majority who rationalized that something for nothing is always a good thing, and besides, I would never take advantage of those laws. I’m not like that. If I were allowed to victimize someone and then have my victim put in jail for it, I wouldn’t do it, so what’s the harm?
This is the MRM, ladies. And even if you’re going to carve out a women’s space within it (like the Honey Badger Brigade), it’s a woman’s room in a man’s house. If you want to be a part of this movement, a thick skin is required, as is the ability not to take every single slight against the general Woman as a slight against you. And crying, “You’re injuring me!” or “You’re threatening me!” is nothing more than a manipulative silencing tactic that is simply not going to work with a man who has rejected women’s power to control his behavior. And whether or not you recognize Not All Feminists Are Like That (NAFALT) as standard female “fainting flower” behavior, that’s what it is. Everyone knows that not all women are like that because not all anyone is like anything. Invoking NAFALT is declaring your besmirched honor “as a woman,” and no one here is going to be interested in picking up a lance and defending it. While AFALT is a false paradigm, NAFALT is nothing but a deflection.
Are you like that? If you are, try to do better. If you aren’t, no one was talking about you anyway.
And one more thing: A generalization is not a personal attack. This is a personal attack: my very own GirlHatesWhat tumblr fan. And I’ve wasted about 1/100th as much energy thinking about it as countless women (and white knight men) have spent worrying about some intemperate comments about women found within various men’s movement circles, including not just MRAs but also some MGTOW and PUA spaces.
My advice if you’re offended by someone who’s using harsh tones to make a point? Abandon the collective vagina, if you can manage it. Stop thinking of yourselves first as Woman. If you’re going to be at all effective in the men’s movement, you need to identify primarily by your actions, thoughts, and intentions, not your gender. Transcend it or you’ll spend all your time feeling attacked, even when you’re not being attacked.
Note: This article is a modified/updated version of something I wrote on a mostly dead subreddit a couple of years ago. I think it’s as relevant if not more relevant than ever as we see an increase in mainstream media coverage of the Men’s Rights Movement and so much hysterical hand-wringing over the “angry” and “bitter” men and the supposedly mean things about girls we sometimes say.