Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Mansplainer Argument I'm Most Tired of Hearing

           I can rehearse statistics on rape or explain why feminism is not a zero sum game, listing how its ideals benefit men, or deconstruct why something is sexist but all of these well-reasoned arguments, all of these facts and experiences mean absolutely nothing the minute the guy in front of me says:

         "Oh, come on."

         In three words, everything I said has been destroyed, obliterated; become null and void. Those words are death in any argument about feminism despite the fact that they mean absolutely nothing. There isn't a single rational argument in those words, and yet, it works. It works the way that "calm down" and "chill out" does. It makes the person you're arguing against angry as hell, but also confused as to why they don't know what to say next. They don't know why they are speechless and yet, they just can't put together any words in defense.

         It's one of the greatest Jedi mind tricks a sexist can ever play against a feminist, especially if the feminist is a woman.

        Woman are used to doubting themselves. We have been socialized to make other people comfortable, which as feminists, leads us to wonder if we have gone too far in expressing our point of view. In the past, when I have countered something a male friend of mine has said about feminism and or assumptions about women, even when he has patiently listened and may be receptive to what I've said, I may still knee-jerk apologize after I've said it. "What are you apologizing for?" he might say. I'll say I don't know. But I do know. In the back of my head I'm always wondering if my point of view is distasteful to others, which is a feeling I'm not sure MRAs (men's rights activists) are accustomed to. Feminists tend to wonder if they're alienating men from the conversation, which can be a legitimate concern as we need to rally men to our cause, but too much concern neuters the meaning of what we're doing. A Bikini Kill lyric also comes to mind:

       "I'm so sorry if I'm alienating some of you. Your whole fucking culture alienates me."

        "Oh come on" looks like a form of gaslighting as well. If you're not familiar with the term, gaslighting refers to the movie, "Gaslight," where a woman's husband presents false information to convince her that what she perceives to be true is actually incorrect, disorienting her and causing her to question her own sanity. Obviously this is a more subtle form of it, but those three words are meant to shake a woman  and say, "Snap out of it! This is just so ludicrous. Can't you see that?" But the words don't actually form an argument to tell her why. It just makes her question her perception and wonder if it is exaggerated. Maybe she's getting worked up over nothing; a common assertion made by mansplainers when they don't have real facts and arguments to combat what a feminist is saying.

        The next time someone says "Oh, come on," simply tell them, "I don't hear an argument in there." or "How does 'Oh, come on" address what I've said about rape culture?" How does it address the fact, that despite women's educational progress, they still make less money than men and represent such a small minority of business leaders and politicians? How does "Oh, come on" counter the fact that a) What you just said about women not being suited to race car driving is sexist b) That women are still not starting their careers and personal lives from a place that is equal to men c) That the problems men face with child custody are a result of the patriarchy, not feminism?

        Don't let those three little words let you lose confidence.

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