“I’m scared to talk about what’s bothering me,” he said.
“I’m scared to walk back to the dorm at night alone,” she said.
A few months ago, I locked myself in my college’s library to study for final exams. While
procrastinating focusing on Social Psychology, I overheard a conversation between a boy and a girl studying in the cubicles to my right.
He shuffled some of his books around. “It’s not a big deal anyway. Every time I try to talk about it with her, I feel weird-,”
“Yeah, well, you should see me every time I go out.” She sighed, either from the stress of finals or the minutiae of her friend’s problem. “If you think you have it bad, try imagining every guy in the room thinking you want it just because you’re wearing a short dress.”
The aspiring therapist inside of me wanted to reach out and console both of them about their issues, but instead, I shook my head, turned up my music, and saved their conversation as material for a future blog post.
I identify as male, so I will not pretend to know what it feels like to be catcalled, paid less for equal performance, or judged just based on my appearance. But, as someone who identifies as gay, I think I can relate to minorities who have faced oppression, inaccurate stereotypes, and inappropriate jokes. As I read more about feminism this summer, I cannot help but notice the amount of social media that castigates men – either from radical feminists who think that men deserve misandry so they can get a taste of their own medicine, or from well-intentioned people who hurt men in subtle ways, such as by suggesting that all men are complicit in rape culture.
Though hating on men, whites, and straight people might alleviate negative anxiety through catharsis, I doubt that it actually contributes to equality. Studies show that people from the majority group might express more prejudice when interacting with minorities just because they feel judged or labeled because of their majority status. Instead of attacking people who have it better than us, we should strive to create room for conversation. In terms of feminism, gender roles hurt men too, and striving for mutual understanding will aid in working toward a common goal. It makes sense that we listen to those who listen to us first, and if all parties listen before trying to talk, then everyone can get on the same page and make progress together – which sounds a lot better than a game of “who has it worse?” or “you don’t understand and you never will.”
In terms of activism, a call to action does much more than a simple criticism. It takes little effort to say “you’re a homophobic idiot” or “wow, you’re just a sexist pig, go kill yourself.” It requires more motivation and time to suggest watching a movie with gay themes, like The Normal Heart, and discussing it afterward, or even saying “hey, I don’t appreciate your use of gender stereotypes, and if you want to learn more, read The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti.” Instead of denouncing people for their ignorance and burning bridges, we should aim to educate and build bonds, even if the latter requires loads of patience and a little bit of love.
I probably will never 100% understand the trials and tribulations my female friends go through on a daily basis, just as my straight best friends might never really get what it feels like to be a gay guy in a still largely heteronormative society. But, unlike the friends I mentioned at the beginning of the post, we try our best to communicate, to understand, and to empathize – we’re willing to take the first steps toward making a difference.
What do you guys think? Agree or disagree that we should try to understand each other instead of just calling each other out? Have you noticed any of the behavior I refer to in this post either online or in real life? If you wish, you can check out my reviews of Something Like Summer by Jay Bell and The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti here and here, respectively. Hope you all have a fabulous Sunday!
20 responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Hate Straight White Men”
Great post Thomas! You are right in saying that we will never completely understand the trials another person is facing, but you are also right in saying that it’s better to empathize and to communicate than to make premature assumptions. Thanks for the eye-opening post, Thomas!
P.S. “…saved their conversation as material for a future blog post.” Aha story of my life. 😛
You’re welcome Grace, and thank you for reading and commenting! Glad we can connect on using other people’s conversations for our own writing purposes. (:
Loved this post. I have always felt this way, and considered writing a post about it myself, but worried about the potential backlash from my female readers…I’m glad someone wrote it, and furthermore, I’m glad it was written so astutely and thoughtfully…thank you
Even if it draws backlash, I think we can all use that initial ire to form productive communication. I’m glad you found my writing astute and thoughtful, and thank you for reading and commenting!
“Instead of denouncing people for their ignorance and burning bridges, we should aim to educate and build bonds, even if the latter requires loads of patience and a little bit of love.”
You’re assuming that it’s the job of the people who are oppressed to educate everyone who’s oppressing them. It’s mentally exhausting and emotionally draining to constantly be trying to politely educate people. It doesn’t only require “patience and a little bit of love”. It also requires a ton of time, it requires them to be willing to listen in the first place, it requires having a conversation (or multiple conversations) that’s stressful/time consuming/mentally exhausting. I think there’s a disturbing amount of victim blaming going on in what you’ve written because it sounds like you’re saying that if an oppressed person fails to “properly/nicely” educate someone, then they’re complicit in their own oppression. If being nice to our oppressors was a good way to end oppression, then racism/sexism/homophobia would’ve ended a long time ago. “Of course you don’t fight fire with fire, but you do fight it by suffocating it, drowning it, or stomping it out. You don’t stop fire by just standing there and asking it nicely “please don’t burn my neighborhood down”.
“Does anyone see how this post actually contributes to equality? Because I don’t.” Okay but do you actually think that the point of any such posts is to contribute to equality? It’s called venting, and like you pointed out, it’s actually really helpful. But what you’re saying is that oppressed people aren’t allowed to vent about their oppression?? I’m white, and posts that make fun of white people and/or generalize white people don’t offend me at all.
Also studies have shown that despite the stereotype of feminists being man haters, feminists actually have more positive attitudes about men than non-feminists. So stop making ridiculous generalizations about an entire social movement based off of a couple of articles on the internet.
Hi Aleeza. First, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comment.
I am in no way saying that those who don’t educate others are “complicit in their own oppression.” Yes, we should call people out who are racist/homophobic/bigoted, but we should do more than that, even if it requires additional effort. I’m not saying that it’s ONLY the responsibility of the oppressed to educate others – obviously the desire to improve needs to come from both parties, especially the oppressors – but people cannot just yell at each other or deride one another and expect a meaningful change. This argument makes me think of the prison system in the US – instead of just throwing people in jail and letting them rot, we should strive to reform them and make them better people. I’m not saying that oppressors haven’t done wrong; of course they have. But we should aim to motivate everyone to improve themselves for their own sake as well as for the general welfare of those around them.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to vent. I think it is helpful, but venting is just the first step to making change. If the goal isn’t to make change, that’s fine, and I agree that catharsis has its merits to an extent. But if change is the goal, we can’t just expect everyone to improve by talking at them instead of with them. I could rant about how the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through as a gay guy, which would be fine, sure, but if I wanted to I could take it further and strike up conversations with people in order to hopefully ameliorate their mindsets.
I never said that feminists don’t have positive attitudes toward men. I identify as a feminist, and I can see the merits of that belief – I think we also shouldn’t generalize how all feminists think, because they are a varied bunch. I’m interested, though, could you please link me to one of those studies? Not that I don’t believe you, I just think it’d be interesting to read.
Hope this comment clarifies my argument, and I’d love to read more about your opinions.
Thanks for your reply! After your clarifications here, I do agree with most of what you said except I still don’t see anything wrong with online posts that vent about oppression. I think that giving people a gentle nudge in the right direction is not that difficult to do, but from there it’s (mostly) up to them to do their own research and educate themselves. There have been people in my life who have changed their oppressive opinions, and I was therefore glad that I didn’t immediately cut them off. However there are also other people who refuse to even have a conversation in the first place and who say problematic things all the time and won’t listen at all when they’re called out on it. For people like that, I feel no sense of obligation at all to continue to try to change them, and it’s better for my mental wellbeing to cut them off. How people choose to respond to oppression is an extremely personal thing. Personally, I’m 110% willing to have an open discussion with my close friends and family about their problematic views, but I’m not about to extend the same courtesy to everyone I met online or in person because it’s exhausting. But that’s just me. It’s great if other people feel like they have the emotional strength to have conversations with everyone, but I don’t and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not going around yelling at people to change their opinions, but if I want to vent about it online or with friends then I don’t see anything wrong with that.
I think it’s a very situational thing, and it varies person to person. It’s not right to be like “most people aren’t capable of changing so I’m not even going to bother” but it’s just as problematic to be like “everyone’s capable of change and it’s our job to persuade them with calm explanations and love”. I think that both ends of the spectrum here are wrong, and before you kindly clarified it for me, your article seemed to come across as being the latter.
As for the studies on feminists attitudes towards men, here you go!
“Despite the popular belief that feminists dislike men, few studies have actually examined the empirical accuracy of this stereotype. The present study examined self-identified feminists’ and nonfeminists’ attitudes toward men. An ethnically diverse sample (N = 488) of college students responded to statements from the Ambivalence toward Men Inventory (AMI; Glick & Fiske, 1999). Contrary to popular beliefs, feminists reported lower levels of hostility toward men than did nonfeminists. The persistence of the myth of the man-hating feminist is explored.”
Aleeza, I agree with your thoughts on communication, opinions, and how it’s a situational thing that depends on the person. However, the intent of my post was that we should not hate straight white men (or any majority figure). I’m not saying that we have to go out of our way to educate them if we don’t want to, but I have seen disturbing things online. For example, one of my best friends sent me a video of anti-abortion protestors getting their legs run over by cars. In the comments, pro-choice people seemed gleeful that this was happening, and they rejoiced over the fact that these pro-lifers got hurt. I also read another tumblr post with several notes that stated that men who are convicted of rape should be raped several times in prison so they can know what it feels like. I’m aware that not everyone has these angry, violent beliefs, but I don’t think that we should condone that type of aggression by saying that it’s “venting.” Once again, I want to reiterate that venting is good and helpful and cathartic under a lot of circumstances, but when that self-expression turns into hate speech (not just again men, but against any group of people, again any HUMAN person) we need to examine why we’re saying what we’re saying and if it’s really helping.
Still, I think you’re absolutely correct that not everyone has to be willing to engage in conversation if they don’t want to. It aids, but is not a requirement. Thank you for sharing the study!
Most of the feminist sites I hang out on are about change that is good for both women and men as men are as hurt by the current sexist culture as women are. Most of those sites also have links to feminist 101 information and newbies to the site are encouraged to go read up on feminism before participating on discussions so women don’t have to be constantly derailed. Many men find that offensive – that we won’t stop our conversations to do teaching of basics. But in our spaces that’s not our job. The men walk away convinced we hate men because we would not educate them. We are frustrated because they could not be bothered to follow provided links to become educated. Sometimes we aren’t polite by the third or fourth time we are told by said man that we should drop everything to personally educate him.
Also #YesAllWomen #NotAllMen. It’s really important to be able to hear what’s being said and set aside feels of being attacked because your a man or feeling the need to jump in and state the obvious. It’s also important to understand that 1:5 women will be raped. It would be nice if we didn’t have to be suspicious and worried about which man might be a rapist. As a therapist you either know, or will learn, that there is no easy way to know which of my family, friends, co-workers, teachers will be my rapist. Stranger rape is the least frequent. So understanding that our fears comes from a very likely reality is important.
When I’m listening to POC I have to remind myself #NotAllWhitePeople. They know that. When they are talking about their issues they are not necessarily talking about me. If really, really feel the need to jump in and #NotMe I need to take some time to look at my behavior because maybe I am resembling the problem they are talking about or friends of mine do & that’s why it has me so anxious. Or I may just want cookies because “I’m generally not very racist”. In these situations I need to STFU. I need to remember that their lives are frequently much scarier than mine.
It’s on the part of those in the oppressor group to educate themselves, to learn to STFU, to listen without getting defensive, to understand the speakers already know “not all…”, and over time they will be able to offer appropriate support, take appropriate action, and be able to have respectful conversations.
Tasha, I agree with several of your points here, especially about how we should strive to listen instead of getting defensive. However, I do think that we should allow everyone to speak, and we shouldn’t put anyone down who gives an honest attempt. A conversation comes from two people, not one, and I’m saying that not just in regard to men v. women but in terms of any human interaction. We all have to support one another and I believe that one of the best ways to do that is to build empathy – it’s not just one person or group’s responsibility to foster that compassion, but everyone should do their best to create an environment conducive for greater overall societal movement and change. Once again, though, I love the passion you use to put forth your statements and opinions, and it’s great that the websites you frequent have information for everyone to read. Thank you for reading and commenting!
Ugh, I love this post. It sums up my exact thoughts on this enormous issue!
Glad you agree! Thank you for reading and commenting.
I agree with you on every point, Thomas! “Instead of attacking people who have it better than us, we should strive to create room for conversation.” THIS especially.
I’m female but I’m not PoC or LGBT so I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, not having it as “good” as others(men?), but also not having it as “bad” as some others, or something like that.. And I while can relate, I think I’m still one of the “luckier” ones, like I don’t remember anyone saying I can’t do something or shouldn’t want something because I was a girl.. and, tbqh, being a woman has its perks (same as being a man). So yeah, it’s a difficult and very sensitive topic but I think you handled it well in your post 🙂
Thank you for agreeing and sharing your views, Cayce! I think it’s important to keep in mind the advantages of every part of your identity, even while delving into the ways that certain constructs such as gender or sexuality can act as detriments in society. You’re a great person for giving me the reassurance that I didn’t mess too much up with this post; it’s controversial but I hope I handled it well enough.
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You’re absolutely right. While I admit to making the occasional scoff at “straight while male problems” I do know that being a male isn’t a cake-walk, because being a human isn’t a cake-walk.
Since I got pregnant, my parents have been really mean to my boyfriend. They always complain that he should get a job to support me, and he’s applied to over 10 and hasn’t had any callbacks. My parents call him lazy and say things like, “How can he ever support a family if he can’t even get a part-time summer job?” And I always point out that I can’t get a job either even though I’ve applied to just as many as he has, but they shake it off and say something along the lines of, “Well you’re the girl, that’s not your problem.”
I could go on and on talking to him about the problems I face being a pregnant teenager and having this negative stigma follow me everywhere because of my protruding stomach, but that won’t accomplish anything. It won’t make him feel any better about my parents disliking him, it won’t make him feel better knowing I’m in pain, and I won’t feel any better knowing I made him upset.
I just think everyone’s got their problems, and it doesn’t help yelling at every person that says something you don’t agree with, even though that’s how I used to be.
Love the self-awareness and compassion in this comment! Even though our immediate emotions can get the best of us sometimes, it’s important to take a step back and reevaluate what is really helping either ourselves or those around us. It’s wonderful that you recognize behaviors that you might have exhibited in the past and how you can improve upon them – I’m also really sorry that your parents are lampooning your boyfriend. I hope he finds work soon. Thanks for reading and commenting, as always. (:
I found your blog post while searching for this issue on Google. I am a straight white male who is currently feeling frustrated by the seemingly new and strong wave of misandry spreading across the Internet. Funny enough, this seems to be the only place I’m really seeing this. At school, work, and in public, I see nothing like this. I consider myself to be quite open minded with rather progressive views. I am entirely in favor of women’s rights and equality for all, regardless of their genetic information. However, I can’t help but feel as if a line has been drawn in the sand by those who criticize “straight white males”. I cannot control any of these, and I feel as if those who have been oppressed would be most careful to make others feel this way. I suppose that I must separate those who are ignorant and prejudiced, from those willing to work. However, it does make it difficult for me to advocate alongside those who treat me as an enemy. Thanks again for your well written post.
So only the “misandry” part gets to you, but the “reverse racism” or “straightphobia” (?) doesn’t, or gets but not as much? Why?
When PoC talk about being mistreated by whites or LGBT people about being mistreated by cic straight people that is still okay “enough”, but when women vent about being mistreated by men that bothers you the most? Hmm, I’ve heard other straight white males saying the same… could you tell us why does that happen?
I am sorry to say this because it seems like you did put some work in to this article … however, it has been proven time and time again that the gender pay gap is utter bullshit. When you compare the pay of a nail tech to a brain surgeon surly you will find discrepancy. I really wish people would take a little more responsibility and initiative to stop spreading this vile bullshit!