Yes, friends, a dude. A dude who specifically wished to speak about this post, which is about dudes who excuse themselves for not getting involved in changing sexism, because they are dudes! This was a learning experience for me: a sign, if you will, that I need to do more outreach to the dude community.
As you may be aware, I myself have privilege, of the white-straight-suburban-middle-class variety, and therefore can unfairly Take Up Space depending on the conversations I find myself in. Having fucked up enough (and heard enough about it) to have learned a bit about it, I will now share with you three common dick moves related to Space.
#1: STOP! A MAN HAS BEEN OFFENDED!
This is what happens when somebody challenges your privilege, and you decide that they are mean, and then you require everyone to stop the conversation they are having and instead have a conversation about how your feelings have been hurt. (OR, how they’ve made you mad: this is maybe more common for dudes, since you all are not really allowed to admit that you have feelings other than “anger” and “horny.” Poor victims of the patriarchy. I’ve had over five feelings in the last half-hour alone.) As I have mentioned, I myself am privileged, and have even had this reaction in the past – when somebody says something about straightness, or whiteness, or middle-classness, I get the urge to mount a defense of my bullshit, which goes along the lines of “but I’m trying, and why would you say I am doing this on purpose, and anyway my privilege doesn’t really benefit me to the extent that you say it does, and you are lumping me in with hateful people, and also, wahhhhhh.” I have learned a lot from others about why it is obnoxious! Renee at Womanist Musings writes about it, and you should read that, because she is very, very good.
#2: WHY CAN’T I TELL A JOKE, DARN IT?
This is the flip-side to the Stop Everything tactic, wherein you say something that is actually offensive to a less privileged person and then insist that they have no right to object to what you said. This is typically because you are “joking,” and/or they need to “lighten up,” and/or they are attempting “censorship” or “being too P.C.” or (a dude once actually said this to me) “accusing you of Thought Crime.” As folks my age all know, from watching TV in the ’90s, there is nothing worse than being too P.C.
Except, as it turns out, being a fucking douchebag! Also, using your privilege to once again center your own voice and insist that it be heard, while defining what is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” within the conversation to align magically with what does and does not make you comfortable! Those are both worse. As we have seen, privileged people get to derail entire conversations when their feelings are hurt; yet, in a whimsical little twist, when they hurt someone else’s feelings they reserve the right to insist that feelings are inappropriate, irrelevant, or wrong. This is not about your “freedom of speech,” it’s about the fact that your speech is privileged, and that you have more freedom than anyone else does to speak up, and to make people uncomfortable with no repercussions while never leaving your own comfort zone. See also: Rape Is Hilarious, an ongoing series by the incomparable Melissa McEwan.
SOLUTION: Here are two tactics you can use to avoid this form of assiness. The first is our good friend Shutting the Fuck Up. Listen to the people around you until you lose the urge to be defensive; learn from them, because they are actually doing you a favor. Secondly, after you have Shut the Fuck Up for a while, you might want to try a little thing called “apologizing.” Ask your folks about this, as they should have taught you how to do it in kindergarten.
#3: RUN ALONG, THIS IS MAN TALK