Antifeminists tend to be very hung up on blame. According to antifeminists, feminists blame men for all their problems, and feminist men are masochists who enjoy guilt.
My personal experience of feminism ain’t at all like that. I’ve met a handful of feminists who blame men for everything; but the vast majority of feminists I’ve met don’t waste their time with that. Which makes perfect sense. Blaming men would be unproductive for feminism, for several reasons:
- It makes some women and many men who might otherwise be indifferent to feminism – or even willing to listen to feminism – defensive and angry. In this way, blame creates enemies and reduces potential converts.
- It wastes time by paralyzing many pro-feminist men in a useless mire of defensiveness and guilt (trust me, there’s nothing as boring as an hour spent with a guilt-ridden feminist man).
- It blurs the distinction between the Alan Johnsons and the Jerry Fawells of the world (not to mention between the Anita Bryants and the Susan Faludis), by assigning people blame according to their genitalia rather than their actions.
- It deflects attention from the real powers-that-be. If we’re going to blame anyone, I think it makes the most sense to blame the real rulers – CEOs, high political mucky-mucks, Network executives. People who have real power to change society. Remember, although the vast majority of society’s ruling class are male, the vast majority of men aren’t in the ruling class.
That isn’t to say that men shouldn’t be blamed for the ways in which they personally perpetuate male dominance (by not treating daughters and sons equally, by abusing wives/lovers, by holding a female coworker to unfairly high standards, by refusing to do a fair share of housework, by telling sexist jokes, etc…). And it’s true that men do these things far more than women do. Still, some individual women do some of the same things, and some individual men do none of them. Any blame cast should be a matter of individual’s actions and not their genitalia.
If we do make blame a matter of genitalia rather than individual action, that significantly reduces the motivation for individual men to reform or change their actions. If they’re equally at fault no matter what they do, what’s the point?
Judging individuals based on their genitalia, rather than their actions, is not just wrong; it’s antifeminist. It would be like beating people up for pacifism.
I don’t feel guilty for being male. What would be the point? My guilt wouldn’t improve anything. Although I’ve benefited from being male in a male-dominated society, that’s not my fault. The system was in place a hundred generations before my birth; how could I be to blame?
So if we don’t have blame, what’s left? I would say, responsibility.
Although not all men perpetuate sexism, virtually all men benefit from sexism. Virtually all men have in some way gotten gains that we don’t deserve, at the expense of women. And that means that even though we’re not to blame, all men have a special responsibility to support feminism and fight sexism – because we owe women for our unjust gains.
(Ditto, by the way, for White people and anti-racism).
Blame is silly and counterproductive: it gets hung up asking “who made this mess?” Responsibility is productive: it says, “time to clean up this mess.”
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