Aug 262009

As perhaps you’ve noticed in the past, some weeks seem to have a theme on this blog.  Apparently this week’s theme is Melissa MCEwan‘s astute observations.  Earlier in the week I quoted her very on-target observations about the NYT special section on women and today she has a brilliant piece in the Guardian (UK) about being labeled a man-hater if you are a feminist.  What she says about not, in fact, hating men but rather having a mistrust of men  that is not just political but also very personal resonates deeply with me, here are some excerpts:

My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the violent acts done on my body, nor the vicious humiliations done to my dignity. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man: the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, the careless demonising of the feminine in everyday conversation, the accusations of overreaction, the eye rolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language (“humankind”).

Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.

There is the unwillingness to listen, a ferociously stubborn not getting it on so many things, so many important things. And the obdurate refusal to believe, to internalise, that my outrage is not manufactured and my injury not make-believe – an inflexible rejection of the possibility that my pain is authentic, in favour of the consolatory belief that I am angry because I’m a feminist (rather than the truth: that I’m a feminist because I’m angry).

And there is the denial about engaging in misogyny, even when it’s evident, even when it’s pointed out gently, softly, indulgently, carefully, with goodwill and the presumption that it was not intentional. There is the firm, fixed, unyielding denial – because it is better and easier to imply that I’m stupid or crazy or hysterical, that I have imagined being insulted by someone about whom I care (just for the fun of it!), than it is to just admit a bloody mistake and say, simply: I’m sorry.

That last bit, the ability to say ‘I’m sorrry’–I hear those words far more frequently from women, often when there is nothing to be sorry about even, but so rarely from men.  I cannot count the times when I’ve lectured myself that politics are well and good but hey girlfriend, if you want a social life that involves men, you can’t jump all over them every time they  say something that hurts or offends.  And then of course they say something, and at first I bite my tongue, try to make nice, but they aren’t listening and then sooner or later I just call it out for what it is and then well, I’m harsh, a ball-buster, whatever.  Don’t tell me you haven’t  been there.

And that’s the crux of it–misogyny hurts us in our personal lives.  We can talk about how to address it on a global or national or institutional basis, but until we can address it in our personal lives, it will remain the toxin that it is. As McEwan says,

It’s not about “misogyny”, but about how misogyny functions in intimate and familiar relationships. In wanted relationships.

There is a lot more to this essay and it is a must read in its entirety.

 August 26, 2009  Posted by on August 26, 2009

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