Oh Facebook. The land where radical feminists live next to redneck farmers, miles apart from each other in every way, but still neighbors on my status feed.
I love the diverse opinions it brings. I love the dialogue and chances for learning we all get from this electronic town square.
But sometimes, those learning opportunities just turn into fights where both sides end up hitting their heads against bricks, unable to progress forward.
Today, it wasn’t my diverse feed that was all uppity, it was Simone’s.
And it started with this post.
Here’s the tumblr quote she references. (Go there and give it some Tumblr love).
Of course, as is usual with conversations about race, misogyny, ableism, heteronormativity, cis-privilege, etc., a straight white male chimed in, stating he does indeed like women without makeup and how dare they claim men who say that are misogynistic.
Then all hell broke loose.
Then it kept breaking lose because he kept insisting they were wrong. He fought so damn hard to prove he wasn’t a misogynist and didn’t seem to get the irony in it all.
But the women did. And they didn’t back down. Some made snarky comments, some threw feminist confetti (where can I get this stuff?!), but most made highly intelligent arguments.
I’m not including his name or his comments because I don’t bring this up to attack him. I bring this up to point out a valuable lesson that so many people don’t learn, and that is if you want to be an ally, you have to listen to the people that are actually affected by the injustices you’re claiming to fight.
It all reminded me of the whole Guy Kawasaki speaking at BlogHer incident. Instead of taking a moment to be a better ally, both these men spent their time and energy insisting the women were wrong, they really are great guys.
I wasn’t in the trenches of this fight, but was asked to comment when it was close to over. Here’s my response:
I think it’s amazing that S—— wants to be a feminist, but the first rule to learn when you’re a privileged ally is to listen to the oppressed class. I wouldn’t go and tell a person of color that their point is invalid when they talk about racism because valid and invalid are not things I get to decide in that realm. Instead, I need to listen to their stories and concerns and work within their experiences, because they’re the ones experiencing the oppression. When someone says I did something racist, I don’t prove anything by yelling at them for calling me that. I can only help the situation by asking them what I did to come across as racist and what I could do better next time to not be racist. Then, if I really want to call myself an ally, I have to listen to them and absorb what they say. Same goes for men who want to call themselves feminists. You have to sit back and listen to women and trust that we know more than you do about misogyny because we live it and you do not.
Reading it all as a bystander, here’s what happened: You commented on a post Simone put up about the self-righteousness of men who say that they prefer women without makeup by saying the exact thing she was complaining about. Then when they pointed that out, you got pissed off. Your point was very valid, you’re not a misogynist for preferring women without makeup, but you were so busy trying to point out your case that you weren’t paying attention to the overall message this conversation is trying to convey. You were calling yourself a feminist without listening to the women with whom you’re attempting to be an ally.
The conversation is not about makeup and whether or not you like to see women in it, the conversation is about two things: 1. the social phenomenon of men who want to see themselves as feminists in theory but don’t want to do the work that it takes to be a feminist in practice (in this case they say they like women without makeup but they wouldn’t ever really date a woman who wasn’t actively keeping with a beauty regimen). 2. the comments made that come across as in support of women but are really still about the male perspective/gaze/opinion (“I like you better without makeup” is still about the male’s preference, not whether or not the woman wants to wear makeup or not, it’s still a statement that says that her looks have to be validated by a man to be ok).
When you took this conversation that is trying to have more depth back to a shallow level and expect a pat on the back for being a good guy who likes his women au natural, you are proving the exact point of the arguments made by the feminists here.
Also, cheers to the conversations about male bodied people being able to wear makeup.
I’m sharing it here because 1. I’m proud of it, 2. I like to share things with you all, and 3. I think there’s a lesson to be learned from this situation and the multitude of ones like it that happen daily. If you want to be an ally, stop talking and listen.
Also, this was shared during that Facebook conversation and I love what it says about our perceptions of beauty as a society, loved how perfectly it fit into this idea of makeup and what people see as natural, so I’m adding it here at the end.