Feminists are not responsible for educating men

As a vocal feminist with many intelligent, lovely male friends, I’m often met with indignance when I choose not to engage with them about feminism. Surely if I really cared about changing our culture of discrimination and inequality, I should be trying to educate men? Isn’t that an activist’s job? Shouldn’t feminists be grateful when men want to bounce questions off us, because it shows that they are at least trying to understand?

It’s both exhausting and diversionary being expected to hash out the basics with men who haven’t bothered to think about their own privilege before. Men are not entitled to expect feminists to educate them. Real change will only happen when men accept that the burden of education is on them, not on women.

Credit: Tatsuya Ishida

Recently, I politely declined to debate with one such baffled male friend, who followed up by sending me some well-intentioned advice on how I could be a more effective feminist. Having never thought much about feminism before, he said, he just didn’t find my social media posts appealing. Too shouty and academic. What I needed was to explain things in a way that appealed to men.

Considering himself as the sort of bloke who “could be part of the solution”, he helpfully sent me a link to a twelve-minute TED talk which contained, in his words, “a basic yes/no test” for misogyny together with proposed steps to solve the problem. In an impressive gesture of hubris, he suggested the next time I was asked to educate a man who was genuinely trying to learn about feminism, I forward this snappy sound-byte resource he had just found for me.

It’s astonishing that 50% of the population are so regularly asked to make a sales pitch for liberation from structural disadvantage and systemic violence.

Here’s the thing about being expected to hold the hand of each individual man as he grapples with the possibility that despite his self-perceived good nature and honest intentions, he is a beneficiary of the structural oppression of women. It actually hurts. Patriarchy hurts women on a daily basis. But even though it can be traumatic to discuss rape culture, for example, we live in hope that by showing men how it hurts us they will begin to understand and become our allies. When men appear to take an interest in feminist discourse it tugs at this yearning. While they can play devil’s advocate and toss around hypotheticals that are utterly disconnected from their reality and then opt out at the end, for women these discussions require revelation and vulnerabillity; they are a sharing of our actual lived experience.

The most common argument is: If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn. This is how it usually plays out. Self-described Nice Guy interjects discussion with earnest appeals for feminists to engage with his personal opinions. Having pushed past his bristling discomfort at feminists being bitter, resentful and combative (but not before pointing out this sacrifice), Nice Guy is bewildered not to have his theories discussed immediately and in a reasonable, non-angry way. Despite the hundreds of resources on the subject which he could, like the rest of us, go off and read, Nice Guy expects women to stop what they are doing, and instead share their experiences of oppression and answer his questions. In an ironic twist, Nice Guy is unaware that by demanding women divert their energies to immediately gratifying his whims, he reinforces the power dynamics he is supposedly seeking to understand.

In this gem, I was informed that having learned to speak about my own disadvantage was in fact, an advantage.

It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with having basic questions about feminism. Unpacking something as complex and insidious as patriarchy, particularly when it requires an examination of your own privilege, isn’t easy. Where it becomes problematic is when you are so confident that your questions are SUPER! IMPORTANT! that you try and co-opt feminist discussions to have them heard.

To borrow the analogy of another woman:

It’s as if you have walked into a postgraduate mathematics seminar, yelling: “Hey, how can you even use imaginary numbers anyway if they’re not real?” When someone rather distractedly points you to a first-year text-book in the corner, you leaf through the first couple of pages half-heartedly for a few seconds and say:  “I don’t agree with some of the definitions in here – and anyway you haven’t answered my question. Doesn’t anyone want to have a discussion with me?!!”

This incredulity is usually delivered with a sound telling-off for being sarcastic, unreasonable, illogical, ungrateful and bitter. Now, as a woman raised under patriarchy I am socialized to respond to men’s praise and approval. Having suffered the consequences of men’s disapproval, conflict is counter-intuitive to me. It’s tempting to give in to the desire to be recognized as a “good” feminist who takes the time to explain things in a polite, fun, sassy way. But here’s the kicker: polite feminism not only doesn’t work, it is actually self-defeating.

Spending time and energy nurturing men through their journey of self-discovery is not only incredibly dull, it actually serves to reinforce existing power dynamics and keeps us from collectivizing as women and enacting real change.

My advice to men who genuinely wish to learn about feminism is this: read and listen to the voices of women when they explain what misogyny feels like and how it operates. Never ask women to find resources for you; seriously, get a library card. Or the internet. Don’t interrupt to disagree or derail by using individual examples of women in positions of power or instances of what you see as “reverse sexism” (here’s a hot tip: “misandry” isn’t a real thing.)

To paraphrase Audre Lorde:

When people of colour are expected to educate white people as to their humanity, when women are expected to educate men, lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world, the oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions.

If you are in a group that has the structural advantage of wages, safety, health and education – when you’ve basically already won the life lottery just by showing up – it is your responsibility to educate yourself. And really, don’t tell women to be nice. We’re angry. We have every reason to be. Frankly, you should be too.


This post is reprinted with permission from the author. Cecilia Winterfox is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • http://therearesomanythingswrongwiththis.com Miep

    I’m a woman and I have learned a great deal about feminism by reading feminist blogs. This took some time. Little is written that has not been written many times. Men use the internet at least as much as women. They apparently know how to read. The whole spoon-feeding thing is Because Women Must Always Be Tending To Men. The worst thing in the world is if we leave them to fend for themselves. Great post, thanks.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Agreed! I understand that men may not be able to exactly relate to women’s experiences but, as you point, out that’s what blogs are for. We all had to learn about all this feminism stuff somehow as well… I find it endlessly frustrating that *some* men want the same 101 stuff repeated to them over and over again, patiently, without actually exhibiting any of the frustration or anger that comes from repeating oneself over and over again…

      • MB

        I’m cynical about the motivations of many of these men – they’re seeking attention, or approval, or simply entertainment. And those who become committedly pro-feminist ALL seem to have a deep yearning to be approved of by women. But I think there are men who have integrity, and who genuinely want to address inequality and suffering. But these men don’t usually feel any particular need to seek the approval of feminists.

    • Ted Johansson

      This could of course be the case of a man demanding a woman explain it to him. It could also be a person seeking an intellectual conversation with another person.

      Forcing things through our feministic lens can sometimes make things look like something they are not, and we need to be aware of that as well.

      Education is the fundamental instrument of change. Everyone carry an equal responsibility for making a better world.

  • Ben

    I’ve been that guy!
    The worst was in I think 1991, when I remarked to a female friend on the unfairness of men being unwelcome in the Take back The Night walk.


    I’m still amazed at the restraint of her response in which she pointed out that there are many OTHER venues and ways to support women and feminism, and perhaps I could find out them.
    Being stupid isn’t a crime, but choosing to stay stupid – maybe that should be criminal…
    And while being that stupid wasn’t painful, it was a bit uncomfortable being made a bit less stupid (more specifically it sucks to realize you’re a big part of the problem), and I’m grateful for it.

  • Felicity

    A great piece Winterfox, you’re bang on the money.

  • Jeanne

    Thank you, Winterfox. That’s clear and to the point.

  • sporenda

    “Nice Guy is unaware that by demanding women divert their energies to immediately gratifying his whims, he reinforces the power dynamics he is supposedly seeking to understand.”

    Well said.
    Explaining feminism to men–over and over, til you drop–could even be part of patriarchy’s grand plan:
    engage feminists on all fronts, constantly, relentlessly, make them waste their energy in countless, pointless discussions and skirmiches, until they are burn out: death by a thousand cuts.

    A number of my feminists friends not just refuse to spoonfeed men “eager to learn” who post on their blogs, they even refuse to participate in Tv/media debates supposed to educate people when they feel somehow it’s rigged.

    A friend of mine just refused a 3 MINUTES exchange on a radio with a “sex workers union” advocate about prostitution.
    Seriously, what points can you make in 3 minutes? It has booby trap written all over it.
    Also, I have major problems with these debates supposed to be fair and “equal opportunity” where equal treatment and equal time are given (for instance) to a “recovered” violent husband and an abused wife, like both are equally ethically and socially acceptable.

    If you want to last in feminim, chose your battles carefully.

  • stephen m

    Vicariously I share some of your angst. The men you speak of can be endlessly frustrating. The common media treatment and rebranding of feminism is also very frustrating.

    Unfortunately without some guidance the men you refer to here are likely to terminate their search for feminism at the feminist porn sites and watching feminist burlesque. They can then call themselves supporters of feminism.

    Is it time to ignore these people who ask the same uneducated questions over and over so the more important issues can be dealt with?

    One of the things that I have found important for someone to proselytize me to a cause is that I have to have respect for the person. No respect, you are endlessly wasting your time.

    • Me

      Well, I think you’d need to be somehow viscerally uncomfortable or disturbed by the way women are treated and portrayed to begin with. The men the article talks about are typically deceitful, not uneducated.

      I tend to disagree that “Nice Guy is unaware that … he reinforces the power dynamics he is supposedly seeking to understand.” I think he is aware in the sense that he is comfortable where he is the way things work, and once/if he’s pushed close to out of that comfort zone, he is quick to react to force the dynamic back to what he was comfortable with. So he intuitively knows when things start going bad for him, and that’s the point where feminism starts.

      • stephen m

        @Me: “The men the article talks about are typically deceitful, not uneducated”

        I got the impression the author was not talking about trolls. “Recently, I politely declined to debate with one such baffled male friend,”

        • Me

          That’s kind of a hard distinction to make though, isn’t it? :) From what else she wrote I got the impression the men were into a fair bit of self-deception at least.

          When you’re confused and bewildered, okay, but how does that confusion work itself into newfound understanding if you insist your male ego has to run the show? If you can’t step away from it, just can’t seem to do it? It can’t until you do. And you probably could step back in a heartbeat if it were a man informing you about highbrow manly truths. There’s more choice there than these men would care to admit, or a willful failure of imagination if you will.

          • stephen m

            @Me: This topic asks some very interesting questions.

            Are male supporters of feminism necessary at this point in its evolution?

            Are they really worth the bother to proselytize to the cause right now?

            It would seem men are a bigger bother than being useful. Many changes can be made through the legal system without actively recruiting the men. This conversation might stop here if this is the choice. I think this position has genuine credibility given that men seem to be more trouble than they are worth.

            The tough discussion comes when it is decided that they have to be brought on board. Of course after reading Margaret Atwood there are probably a few women who have gone into genetics and biochemistry to solve the whole men problem, permanently 😉

            I cannot fault your analysis of men’s behaviour toward feminism as you have seen it. I am not sure your “I think you’d need to be somehow viscerally uncomfortable or disturbed by the way women are treated and portrayed to begin with“ is the only or best approach. Perhaps a discussion of technique for bringing men into feminism is in order. Different techniques are probably required for the different personalities involved. Interested or should we leave this thread here?

          • Me

            I’m sorry, I can’t really respond because I don’t understand what specifically do you mean.

          • stephen m

            @Me: Sorry for my lack of clarity here. I have to learn to always carefully reread what I post before I post it.

            I did a quick literature search and there was too much conflicting and insubstantial research for what I had in mind anyway.

          • marv

            Feminists have told me they want men to be involved in subverting patriarchy. They see us as essential allies. Aside from a consciousness raising role among men, feminists expect us to raise funds (which in itself is educational) for the implementation of the revolution. Men must not determine the direction of our participation. Feminist abolitionist collectives (including their bloggers) have to do it. They lead we follow. Men cam make suggestions and proposals in reference to tactics and strategies. The final decisions nevertheless rests with feminists. This is not a gesture of subordination but reconciliation. It is our highest duty as members of the oppressor class. (Indigenous women and men make similar legitimate demands upon settlers in the quest for decolonization and dispelling the fiction of the “doctrine of discovery”).

            If our support is not concrete, practical and collective it easily becomes bogged down in abstractions, esoteric intellectualization and liberal individualism. Stephen and me, you know what I am saying more than I do :) Some other male readers may not however. They need to recognize that being fundraising brothers of feminist sisters is the most seminal work of men’s lives. It is a constitutive dimension of developing into real humans and advancing feminist social transformation .

          • stephen m

            @Marv: Thank you!

          • http://www.freesoil.org Aletha

            Marv, I cannot speak for what other feminists may expect of male allies, but I would not expect them to raise funds. I would expect a feminist revolution that depended on funds raised by men, or allowed men to interfere, would never get off the ground. Men could contribute ideas and money, but a feminist revolution could not depend on male contributions. What I do expect is that a male ally would do his best to raise the consciousness of other men so that they will stop raping, battering, and harassing women, seeing women as sex objects, and otherwise treating women as lesser beings. Women cannot do this. Women cannot educate or force men to stop being sexist. Simply put, women cannot do this because sexist men will not pay any attention. Even the law is ineffective, though having the laws is better than nothing. The vast majority of men could only be educated to abandon their sexist ways by other men they respect.

    • Me

      … and not to nitpick, but we’re still both responsible for educating men even though feminists aren’t…

  • MB

    Misandry is certainly a real thing – its a word in the dictionary, meaning dislike or hatred of men. Even if you’re arguing that there has never been a single person who dislikes or hates men, the word would still be a real thing – a concept that has meaning. Analogy: even if you don’t believe in magic, the term “magic” is still a real thing.

    And furthermore, I would be amazed if there is nobody who dislikes men. In fact, I often feel like a bit of a misandrist myself.

    • amd

      I was a bit confused by the misandry does not exist comment, so I went looking elsewhere and found this, which made more sense to me: “Fun fact: Misandry does not exist! Someone can hate a man as much as someone else can hate a woman, and that is called being prejudiced against men, but it is not called misandry because the fact that someone hates a man does not mean men as a whole are or will be oppressed, as it effectively happens towards women.”


      • MB

        I looked at the link. They are confused. In these areas of sexual politics and the definitions of words, sometimes confusion reigns because people try (often successfully) to morph word meanings to suit their beliefs. I think this should be resisted where possible, because it results in people talking past each other, using words differently.

        For example, in Australia there’s been all kinds of confusion at the highest level of politics, because some people have started to use “misogyny” to mean “sexism”, and many other people still think it means “hatred of women”, and these things are hugely different. But “misandry” hasn’t made any such move, and your link is simply wrong. It means dislike or hatred of boys or men, and it has nothing to do with “oppression”. In my view, its not likely to change that way, because “oppression of men” doesn’t mean anything to most people. And if it did morph, we’d need to make another word to mean “hatred of men”.

        • amd

          My mistake, how stupid of me, I thought you were interested in understanding what the author of this article meant, as I was, but you were merely looking for an excuse to beat your drum. Understood. Moving on.

          • N

            amd what you just did is called “losing an argument and stomping out of the room”. Pathetic.

      • Lara_H

        There isn’t such a thing as misandry?… ok. Then explain what it is that my mother is feeling towards men. She curses MEN when something goes wrong or brakes because it was obviously a MAN who built it/engineered it and it is his fault. If a women would have done it, then it would work. She really does believe this quite often. That men are more often than not idiots. If that is not misandry, then I don’t know what is.

        • Meghan Murphy

          1) I think you’re exaggerating about your mother
          2) MAYBE there are perfectly good reasons for her to be angry at men/male power
          3) Anger towards men/male power/patriarchy does not constitute “misandry”

          • David Moss

            “I think you’re exaggerating about YOUR MOTHER.”
            Why would you think that? So much for respecting people’s lived experience.

            From the original comment:
            “She curses MEN when something goes wrong or brakes because it was obviously a MAN who built it/engineered it and it is his fault. If a women would have done it, then it would work.”

            These comments clearly don’t represent righteous anger at male power, just that men are stupid and bad at things.

            It should be uncontroversial that some people evince anti-male attitudes, but that these are typically minor and peripheral.

  • http://drizzleanddew.blogspot.com Kogen

    Still here, still sorry, and committed to listening.

    True listening proves dangerous. It causes me hear things I don’t like, consider the validity, and ouch, think something I’ve never thought before, feel something I never felt before, and maybe feel something I never wanted to feel, like entitled and privileged. It’s disgusting and quite true.

    But who said this was going to be fun?

  • jo

    Yes. Too often is a serious or advanced discussion between women online spoiled by a man to come in and derail by demanding that all the attention should be on him and his basic or offensive questions. That behaviour shows why feminism is needed in the first place.

    There should be a site with good feminist books/articles/speeches/documentary recommendations that guys with sincere interest in women’s rights could be pointed to when this happens. If they were sincere they could then keep themselves busy with those resources and not disrupt more discussions.

    • jupitaur

      There’s this really great resource where you can type in any question you have about feminism and get an answer pretty much immediately. Here’s the URL:


      • jo

        I’m do think a novice’s (or advanced!) resource site would be great, for men and women. Google can give you a lot of dubious results. I remember my first act as someone who had really understood how misogynist our culture was, it was when I first googled “anti porn”. And the first results where a bunch of sites bashing anti-porn feminists.

  • Missfit

    What I have mainly seen are men with no understanding of feminism wanting to debate straw man arguments. Sorry, not interested. As Me said, a man ‘intuitively knows when things start going bad for him, and that’s the point where feminism starts’. Such men might thus end up shutting down discussion with variants of ‘everybody has their problems (men too!)’ or ‘men and women are just different’. Analysis of systemic sexist oppression is evaded. Or a man would think that in a patriarchy, every man should feel like a king and since he feels like a loser most of the time, patriarchy must not exist… Recently, I had a man told me that women always had the upper hand over men because of sex. Seriously, where do you even begin with a man like that?

    For men who are genuinely interested in understanding feminism, there are plenty of books out there for that. Read. Listen. Men would need to forget their navel for a moment and try to truly see the world from a woman’s perspective. I find that this is something very hard for them to do while women had to see the world, and themselves, through men’s eyes, learning men’s history, men’s religion, men’s language and narratives; how all this, cultural attitudes and media représentations, act on a girl growing up in this world? This is what men who claim to be interested in feminism should try to do.

    I think most men know that it is shitty to be a woman in this world and would not want to be one, they just don’t want to admit it. They don’t want to challenge male privilege.

  • Hecuba

    MB misandry doesn’t exist because whilst an individual woman can hate men this in no way disrupts male power or how men collectively/individually continue to dominate and oppress women. The correct term you are thinking of is misanthrope which is hatred of mankind. Given men claim they alone are default humans then misanthrope is the correct definition.

    Regarding that term magic – it is merely a definition which does not mean ‘magic ‘is real. Myth is a term meaning story which is not true. So therefore ‘misandry is another male myth.

    • MB

      No, see any dictionary: “misandry” simply means “dislike or hatred of men” – quite different to “misanthrope”, which as you say is about hating everyone. Misandry has nothing to do with power/oppression etc – this is a linguistic and logical issue, not a political contention.

      “Misogyny” existed as a word and a concept long before coherent theories of oppression, patriarchy etc. “Misandry” is a much more recent word, but like the old use of “misandry” it has no need of political/power analysis – hatred of a group of an entire gender is a concept that warrants its own word, and has no need of further baggage. It has already reached the dictionaries in this form, and to allow it political connotations is only to play into the agenda of the Men’s Rights movement.

      • Tao

        Nobody cares about your semantic arguments. You may think you’re breaking ground, but you’re really just ignorant to the context. In terms of social justice, misandry is about power relations. You’re just trying to be a thorn in the side of everyone here. If you’re not going to have a serious and constructive discussion, get the hell out.

        • Jenna Lo

          MB is correct though. There are plenty of different definitions for words, some linguistics some dictionary. You can choose what you want to define misandry as. But he’s not ignoring context. You’re trying to fight his proven definition with denial. “You’re just trying to be a thorn in the side of everyone here. If you’re not going to have a serious and constructive discussion, get the hell out.” Prove he’s wrong. He’s talking about definition of a word. A word being used constantly either incorrectly or morphed to suit an angle. I’m sorry MB doesn’t blindly follow your point of view, but to say that what he’s saying is wrong because you either don’t understand what he’s saying or are too lazy to grasp his concept is childish.

        • MB

          You’re right, my argument is “semantic”. That word is not a perjorative like “pedantic”. In fact, semantics are the study of meaning, and the words we use to understand meaning are an essential tool of clear thinking and communication. And if we aren’t focussed on clarifying meanings, what is the point of a blog like this?

          If you don’t think I’m trying to participate in constructive conversation, re-read my comments please, because you haven’t understood. Its your final sentence that sounds unconstructive; blog conversations are worthwhile only to the extent that they involve clear thinking and good manners. And kindness is always a bonus.

          • guest

            Everyone knows exactly what you’re doing you ridiculous, attention seeking pedant. Please go away.

            And to the others, may I suggest not feeding the conceited troll trying to derail the conversation. I realise I fed its narcissism with this comment, but that won’t be happening again.

          • PKRT

            Sorry if I’m feeding a troll here, I just couldn’t help myself! I’m not sure MB is a troll though, it looks more like he (or she? not sure) just misunderstood what Hecuba was trying to say in the first place. These things can happen, it doesn’t mean that the person replying is a troll.

            That said, you may be right, I guess we won’t ever know for sure :)

  • Merrick

    Good article. Showing anger at a situation is only natural. You can sometimes use it when warranted to communicates your passionate displeasure about something.

    As to the point of the article, I think the responsibility for educating humanity about feminism (or anything deemed important for that matter) needs to be shared by all. That being said, I think the fine folks like those who put a site like this together are doing their part. They don’t need to do more if they don’t want to, they are paying their dues to responsible human-ship.

    I see Feminism as women taking responsibility for their situation. But to clarify any possible misunderstandings of what i mean by that: Taking responsibility is absolutely NOT the same taking the blame or fault. Responsibility is recognizing that we all have our part in a problem. That our action or inaction has in however small a way contributed to the problem. And our actions (and sometimes inaction) can contribute to the solution. Taking responsibility gives you power, a say in your life, and the life of all humankind…. I see that as the most important lesson men can learn from Feminism.

  • Ross

    While I agree, that as a man its my responsibility to educate myself, I do find myself having more difficulty understanding texts than I imagine a typical woman would have. A lack of shared experience makes communication more difficult because what is obvious to an author is omitted. I think, until we have more feminist texts written by men or trans women, as a kind of translation, I fear many men, even those that are really trying hard, will remain lost.

    If being a good privilege-aware ally involves shutting up and listening, are we ever allowed to ask questions? Is there some way of asking questions that doesn’t imply any obligation of an answer? Especially when an answer would help a the less privileged group by serving to educate others?

  • PKRT

    Very interesting article, thank you. This is the kind of thing I wish I’d read sooner actually. I agree with everything you’ve said 100%, although I think it’s still very hard for us men to find our place within the feminist (or pro-feminist) community.

    Here’s something that happened to me recently for example.

    I was commenting on a blog post, this was a feminist woman’s blog, and she was posting about the new law that’s about to be voted in France to penalise clients of prostitution. Some dude was basically trying to prove that this new law is a bad idea by accumulating a ton of misconceptions, anti-feminist clichés (they hate men, the bastards!), and just playing the whole mansplainer card. I engaged in a very, very long conversation with this man. We must have replied to each other through comments about 10 times – very long comments as well.

    There were no insults exchanged, we simply put forward our own ideas based on our own understanding of the subject – so all in all I’d say it was a fairly decent conversation (it could have been worse). I should point out as well that I’m a pretty strong pro-feminist: I am honestly geniuinely trying to avoid casual sexism as much as I can, and I never tell anyone (man or woman) what they should think or do, on any subject.

    Anyway, the person who runs this blog got fed up and told us something along the lines of: “Right guys, I’ve been pretty nice so far but don’t you think two guys occupying a feminist space is a little bit special? So go somewhere else to have your discussion and shut up.”

    I guess by ‘special’ she meant ‘weird’. I wasn’t particularly shocked by this, after all it is her blog and it’s her right to kick anyone out whenever she wants. I was however insulted by the fact that it was impossible for her to accept two men willing to engage in a discussion about feminism, within a feminist space (virtual space in this case). Why did I feel insulted? Because it felt to me like she was saying that this conversation would have been absolutely OK for her if it had involved at least one woman.

    So I agree with you, misandry is absolutely not a real thing. However, this type of reaction really doesn’t help us men understand what our place should be when taking part in this type of debate. Should we shut up and forever hold our peace? Should we just nod in the corner and read only? Do we create our own blogs for male commenters to be able to participate? And whenever we have a question or we disagree with anything, should we speak up or just let women take over?

    Of course I don’t expect you to answer these questions, and you already sort of did anyway in another article (I think it was about John Stoltenberg). What I’m trying to say is this: if I felt insulted by her comment, me, a pro-feminist who does his very very best on a daily basis to fight against sexism, then there’s a good chance any other man would have felt insulted reading this as well. And sure enough, the other dude I was arguing with called her ‘sexist’, ranted a little bit and left.

    My point is not to say that feminists are responsible for the stupid/unfair comments they face: this guy’s reaction was stupid. But there is a fine line between telling men what their place should be in the debate and completely alienating half of society (men). Of course I’m not saying that this is what you are doing either, but I’m just constantly asking myself: what am I supposed to do? What does a feminist expect of me? And it’s really hard to answer this question because there are so many different variants of feminism and so many different mentalities…

    • annika

      “But there is a fine line between telling men what their place should be in the debate and completely alienating half of society (men). Of course I’m not saying that this is what you are doing either, but I’m just constantly asking myself: what am I supposed to do? What does a feminist expect of me? And it’s really hard to answer this question because there are so many different variants of feminism and so many different mentalities…”

      I see what you mean; let me offer you a different perspective. There are women in the world who exist without any contact at all with men. They deliberately choose to associate with female friends, lovers, business owners, etc. Their feminism is completely woman centered, and, like Mary Daly, they don’t think of men at all. These are usually lesbian separatists, but I’m sure the occasional celibate straight woman also lives her life in such a way.

      My point is that feminism’s main focus should not be on how men can contribute, but rather how women can empower one another to transcend the patriarchy. So whenever you wonder what your place as a man in feminism should be, just remember that there are women who don’t think of you at all. I think trying to see the bigger picture would answer your questions.

      • PKRT

        Yes absolutely, I understand this and that is what I meant by “so many different variants of feminism and so many different mentalities”. And this is why I didn’t react by calling her ‘sexist’ either, because I already know that!

        The problem wasn’t actually her reaction, I think my message wasn’t very clear, it was more the way she present things. Let’s say she could have said something along the line of: “I don’t think two men discussing this sort of things belong in a feminist space, please leave.”

        Instead her choice of words was more condescending and slightly patronising, telling us that we were not welcome within feminist spaces at all. And it’s not clear to anyone in this kind of sentence whether she’s talking about her own views, her own feelings, or that of the whole feminist community.

        It is problematic in my opinion, as I said, it felt like an insult and from that moment on, without the proper education to understand what lies behind such comments, crappy reactions are only natural…

        Hope that makes sense :)

        • Anon

          Does the irony that you’re telling a woman that she should communicate feminism better to men under THIS article not strike you at all?

    • Me

      You were told flat-out: “So go somewhere else to have your discussion and shut up.”

      That’s as unequivocal as well as doable as it gets, no? Just take the discussion elsewhere. It’s absolutely appalling that you chose to feel insulted instead. Matter-of-factually, you did not accept the options given to you, but decided to dictate two bad options instead (even if you don’t see it that way)–to either have the discussion there or have none at all. It is both immature and entitled, don’t hold on to that.

      “what am I supposed to do?”

      I want to be very clear: this has to be a serious question. By way of asking this, you do not get to throw your hands up in the air and shift responsibility for your work on women. The answer then is simple: work with men. The problem is not that you didn’t do that, it’s that you didn’t accept the clear boundaries set for your work by the women in this case, but became a part of the problem.

      Thank you for taking the time to discuss it.

      • PKRT

        Ok, sorry to hear you think it’s appalling to choose to feel insulted, but that’s not what I did. I don’t recall ever choosing any feeling in my life, I haven’t chosen to feel insulted any more than I’ve chosen to be a man :/

        I also think you might have misread, I never chose between these two options: she asked me to leave her blog and stop commenting, and I did. And here I am discussing other feminist issues elsewhere. As for talking about prostitution, I won’t be doing it on her blog since she doesn’t want me there, but I’m certainly still engaged against it so I won’t stop talking unless someone physically restrains me 😀 (I’ll simply choose where I speak more carefully from now on)

        “shift responsibility for your work on women”

        I don’t recall ever doing this either, however if you think I did (by reading my comments here) please let me know.

        “The problem is not that you didn’t do that, it’s that you didn’t accept the clear boundaries set for your work by the women in this case, but became a part of the problem.”

        I think I did though, when she asked me to leave her blog I said goodbye, thanked her for letting us speak so far and left… If by ‘became part of the problem’ you meant that I chose to feel the way I felt, again I’m very sorry but I didn’t choose anything, honest to god. I’ve never ever asked anyone to feel differently, whatever the reason, because I believe this can lead to bad things. Which is exactly what happened here: this dude concluded that “feminism = sexism”.

        I know the little comic strip that illustrates this blog post makes fun of men talking about their own feelings, but this shouldn’t be taken as “men don’t have feelings” or “it’s ok to hurt men’s feelings”. Unless I’ve misunderstood something – I thought this was just to say that crying about misandry was ridiculous.

        • Me

          You have to be mature enough not to feel insulted by something like this. And yes, you do choose to behave maturely or immaturely.

          You also choose to behave like a man–like you do when you expect women to take care of your hurt feelings–and you choose to step out of that mold.

          I’m sorry, but I feel like I could just quote my above comment back to you, because from your response it seems you have not understood any of the points I made in it. You are arguing about perceptions and my opinion is that your perceptions seem somewhat immature and entitled and lead you to unfortunate conclusions.

          Did you take the discussion elsewhere or didn’t you? That’s a simple question. If not, and when that was the clear instruction given to you, why do you ask “what should I do” as if you don’t understand which way you’re standing? You are asking others to do your work for you, and when as a man you’re asking that of women, that’s a problem quite clearly addressed in the above article. For instance, in this comments thread, you could’ve explained that there was this discussion and you were told this and this, and asked what should you have done? We’d be done by now instead of this nonsensical game of dodge.

          In my opinion, the difficulty in understanding “What does a feminist expect of me?” is not in the many strands of feminism that there are, but in behaving like a man and perceiving things like a man. So that leaves you and me with work to do with ourselves, our behavior and perceptions. I’m just trying to point you to a few leads, and feeling insulted over what you’ve described above isn’t anywhere near one of them and is itself the problem. Once you get that sorted for yourself, I’d really like to hear how well trying to explain it to other guys goes for you. At that you and I have more credibility than women. Because it didn’t yet work for annika above, it didn’t work for me, and it didn’t work for you in that discussion on that other blog either. Different dude, same challenge. Sometimes it’s me, that was him, this time it’s you. Get it?

          • PKRT

            “You have to be mature enough not to feel insulted by something like this. And yes, you do choose to behave maturely or immaturely.”

            That is not my definition of maturity. As I said, I’ve never chosen to feel anything, people don’t choose to be insulted, this is not in our control. It’s like when racist people make horrible jokes and expect the guy who felt insulted to be ok with it, by telling them they have no sense of humour, or that they are immature. I really don’t think things are that simple unfortunately.

            However, how we manage (and react on) these feelings shows our level of maturity. If I’d reacted by insulting her, or crying about misandry like this other person did, then yes I’d agree to say this would have been an immature reaction.

            If you don’t feel insulted when someone adopts a really condescending tone to shut you up, then fair enough, but that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t be hurt by a similar comment.

            “like you do when you expect women to take care of your hurt feelings”

            Well no, I don’t expect women to take care of my hurt feelings :) I think you might have misread my comments (or maybe I’m not making myself very clear I don’t know). I don’t expect anyone to take care of my own feelings, I am simply saying that certain types of comments and language can have a negative impact – whether this woman meant to be insulting or not is irrelevant to the conversation, what matters is this: she made a comment and as a result, some dude concluded that: feminism = sexism.

            That’s all I’m saying.

            “You are arguing about perceptions and my opinion is that your perceptions seem somewhat immature and entitled and lead you to unfortunate conclusions.”

            Ok fair enough, I wouldn’t call that a conclusion though, it was more of an observation than anything.

            “Did you take the discussion elsewhere or didn’t you?”

            Well yes, I thought I made it very clear in my last comment, sorry if I didn’t.

            “You are asking others to do your work for you”

            Nope. I clearly said that *I* am asking *myself* all these questions, and that I don’t expect anyone to answer – I’m a grown man, I can read well enough on my own.

            “in this comments thread, you could’ve explained that there was this discussion and you were told this and this, and asked what should you have done”

            I wasn’t asking anyone “what should I have done considering the situation”. I’m giving an example of something that happened to me recently, that is all.

            “In my opinion, the difficulty in understanding “What does a feminist expect of me?” is not in the many strands of feminism that there are, but in behaving like a man and perceiving things like a man. So that leaves you and me with work to do with ourselves, our behavior and perceptions”

            That may be true, point taken, and this is kind of what I was trying to say – I am trying to be better at understanding what my own position should be. As to perceiving things like a man… well it’s easier said than done, I can try and put myself in the shoes of a woman instead, but try as I may, I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand what it means to be a woman. I can only work with what I know and understand. And I certainly can’t tell a woman how she should feel regarding certain things I say or do, why should it be different the other way around?

            “I’m just trying to point you to a few leads, and feeling insulted over what you’ve described above isn’t anywhere near one of them and is itself the problem.”

            Well fair enough, this is your opinion, but again I haven’t chosen my feelings. I’ve felt insulted and I did my best to react in the most mature way I could. But this is beside the point anyway.

            The title of this blog post is “Feminists are not responsible for educating men”. This is 100% true, and the problem I was trying to point out is this: the woman who made this comment tried to educate the two of us by telling us that we didn’t belong in any feminist space. She did so by using a mildly insulting language (I want to say condescending because this is really what it felt like) and therefore failed: she achieve exactly the opposite, as the result was yet another dude thinking that feminists are all just sexists because they don’t accept men. I know it’s not the case, but this dude obviously doesn’t, this is the problem I was pointing out.

            “Once you get that sorted for yourself, I’d really like to hear how well trying to explain it to other guys goes for you. At that you and I have more credibility than women”

            Getting this sorted as you say is not as easy as it sounds – we (men and women) are molded by a system that implants ideas into our heads from a very young age. So working against these ideas and all these reflexes we have takes a lot of patience and time. And explaining it to other guys is obviously not easy, everyone knows that, but I do my best :)

          • Meghan Murphy

            Can you please stop talking about your feelings, PKRT? That would be a good start… I fail to see how your ‘feelings’ are relevant in this conversation. Whether or not you felt insulted isn’t really of interest in terms of building a movement to end violence against women and I doubt anyone here is very much interested in listening to you complain about how badly you feel you were treated on another woman’s blog. It’s really no wonder she asked you to leave…

          • Me

            I don’t want to respond to you anymore and frankly I didn’t even try to make sense of everything you just wrote. Your distortion starts from the first sentence. You disavow responsibility for many things you clearly are responsible for. It doesn’t matter if it’s a character flaw or a philosophy. You did this in all your comments here thus far and I’m sure you will keep doing it. You are a drain to resources, not an ally.

          • PKRT

            Yes I am aware of that, I’m sorry that the discussion started to turn around my own feeling, and as I said this is completely beside the point I was trying to make anyway. I know that my feelings are irrelevant to the conversation, maybe I should have said everything in a much simpler way. I’ll try again:

            I have witnessed, a few times (the above was one example) men ending up to the conclusion that feminists are sexists, because of the way they were treated. It is stupid, and I’ve said it before: I do not believe that feminists are responsible for these stereotypes (feminazi/man-hater/etc…). Being angry is perfectly legitimate, what I am saying is that being insulting, to anyone, whatever the reason, is a bad idea (you can be angry without insulting anyone). That’s all I was trying to say.

            Regarding your other comment, I didn’t come here to complain about anything, I was making an observation based on my own personal experience. I’m sorry if you think it’s irrelevant, that may well be, and maybe I am out of line pointing all of this out. I was merely offering an observation, saying that whilst I do understand AND agree with everything that is said in this article, I can see why some men end up with these stupid ideas about feminism: lack of education combined with an unfortunate experience.

            So sorry again that the whole conversation got turned around to talk about me, or about men’s feelings, this was definitely not my goal here… But I can say I’ve learned by commenting on this thread at least, my communication skills can definitely do with some improvements, especially when it comes to such sensitive issues.

            @Me: Sorry to hear you feel that way, really genuinely sorry. If all I have managed to to do here is turn myself into some kind of ‘enemy’ then I probably should stop here too (and I will). Thanks for taking the time to reply so far though.

            I’ll stop here on a humorous note regarding this subject, this is the whole issue summed up in a comic: http://www.robot-hugs.com/but-men/

        • Me

          I mean, come on. Really come on!

          You had a “courteous” discussion, the woman asked you to leave and SHE got shit on. Not you. Not the other guy. She let you have the discussion and SHE got shit on. On her own blog. For what? For being a woman.

          And YOUR feelings got hurt???!?!?!!?!?!?!””!!1

          Understand some of her reaction yet? Not? Still think she wasn’t being fair to your man-feels?

          • PKRT

            I can tell my comment has upset you, I’m sorry that you find it outrageous that I speak about my own feelings…

            Since you ask, yes, I do understand. I never said I did not, so sorry if my coment was not clear enough. I can probably think of 10 different reasons for her to get angry, and as I said I wasn’t particularly shocked by her reaction.

            I didn’t say she was being unfair either. I’ve said it in the above comment but I will say it again here, I was simply making an observation. What I meant by all of this is that her comment made us feel a certain way (by we I mean the other dude and I, and most likely some other guys who read it), and that had a certain impact: this dude ended up calling her sexist!

            I am not saying that my feelings are more important than hers, this is beside the point. The point of my comment was to highlight that by not being careful about your tone or the type of language you use, you can easily go off target – the target being the fight against sexism of course.

            You might argue that she’s not responsible for this other dude being a moron and not understanding feminism, and you would be absolutely right. But if your goal is to fight against sexism, and what you achieve is making some guy believe that feminists are sexists, then maybe, just maybe you could have done things a little bit better. This is not an insult, it’s a very simple observation.

            That’s all I’m saying, and sorry if I’ve upset anyone.

          • Meghan Murphy

            OH MY GOD YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS, PKRT!?!? Are you ACTUALLY, like, REALLY coming here to tell women they need to be ‘more careful about their tone’ when men barge into these conversations and demand patience, respect, education, acknowledgement, whatever?

            You came on to this blog SPECIFICALLY to complain about another feminist blogger ‘doing it wrong’ and then proceeded to take up a bunch of space talking about YOUR feelings and suck up everyone’s energy addressing YOU and how YOU feel about feminist’s tones. You just don’t get it, do you?

          • Jon

            Being committed to a social struggle simply means you will have to explain time after time things that to you appear very obvious and to do so patiently and politely no matter how irritated you actually are (of course there are times when showing anger is productive but most often not).
            To speak frankly a lot of feminists just don’t get this, in fact the whole range of left/progressive types just don’t. Reactionaries often are better at debating.
            This blog post gives good advice to men who already DO consider themselves male feminists I think, but not good advice to women considering themselves feminist activists.

          • Me

            Total tool.

          • Me

            The further he goes on, the further he goes to blame women for inviting sexism on themselves and causing male “reactions.”

          • PKRT

            Well no. My original clearly states the following: “My point is not to say that feminists are responsible for the stupid/unfair comments they face: this guy’s reaction was stupid.”

            I’m saying that the lack of education combined with insults has consequences. I’m not saying feminists (or women) are responsible for the crappy reactions, just that I understand why some men end up with such stupid ideas.

            Anyway, I will stop now – thanks to the author for the article and thanks everyone for the replies.

          • GHZ

            Interesting read,
            I have had a life that introduced me at early age to this subject, through my Wellesley(44) Mother, and have heard her say much the same stuff you have gone over here.
            As her son, I have tried to live my life better than the way my father treated my mother. Though I just barely finished High School. I helped my wife get through law school, worked at home to take care of our three kids and cook. I was very happy when my oldest daughter got her letter to goto Wellesley(15).
            One of problems that is apparent to me is that the educational level of men is falling FAST, and fewer are getting higher education at all. The idea that they will read or care about this is very low. So you will at some point need to teach men what you are talking about in a way they can understand. There will also be fewer smart ones and a lot more dumb ones with even less interest.

  • phoebe

    What I would like to see is a feminist political party, taking an active roll within government.

    Every woman, every feminist needs to show that they can collaborate and bring progressive change within law and culture. Until we create a politically sound united front, our beliefs will continue to be whispers and progression will be slow.

    Without a political platform, without leadership, without union of thought, we have no representation.

    • MZ N

      @ Phoebe. There was a all women’s political party in Australia, called “What Women Want” I was hoping to join it, but it folded some years back. I full agree, and have been trying to get the idea off the ground for some years now. The realities however, must be dealt with- it would, I think need to be a coalition- such as Wikileaks plus green?

  • Pingback: Friday feminist roundup (11th October, 2013) | feimineach.com()

  • DannyJane

    I agree with the points of this article, but playing Devil’s advocate here, if we DON’T attempt to teach our point of view–how will they learn to accept it?

    Most people, men and women both, are uncomfortable to panic-stricken to learn that a lifelong belief is dead wrong and that the behaviors they’ve lived with are harmful and destructive. Faced with the new, unpleasant truth, a few will attempt to apologize if possible and make real attempts to change their outlook and behavior. However a large number will be unable to accept what they are shown no matter how convincing the evidence (SEE: Republican Tea Party response to Global Warming). These will retreat deeper and deeper into denial. Rather than improving, too often their subsequent behavior will become even worse as they seek to defend the undefendable.

    So I ask: If reasonable conversation does not work, if facts will not convince and we do not continue to hammer at these, how–please–can we bring about change?

  • PKRT

    I asked myself the same question when I read the title of the article, if feminists (or women) are not responsible to educate men about feminism then who is? Well I won’t say I’ve got the definitive answer to this question but I’ve got some ideas. I personally approach sexism the same way I approach racism, because all in all, it’s the same kind of thing.

    For example I’ve given up on trying to educate my grandma about racism: she was brought up in a very specific way and I won’t change the way she thinks. Simply because of the way the human brain works, the longer you’ve been doing things one way, the harder it gets to change it. So when she makes a racist comment, I laugh at her, and she understands why, and we kind of leave it at that. However I intend to do my very best to pass my values on to my kids. What I’m trying to say is that we can only educate people that can be educated. The whole thing is about privileges and understanding how, as men (or white people in the case of racism), we have a distinct privilege over women. If someone can’t understand that then you just can’t educate them.

    With children it’s easier: we have schools. So one thing I believe we can do is pass some of the responsibility over to public education systems. As for educating men, well… I think that responsibility belongs to men. We need pro-feminist men explaining to other men why they are privileged. Like you said, hearing the truth can be hard, and it is probably even harder to hear it from the very people you are oppressing without realising: they don’t want to hear it. Which is why the reasonable conversations are difficult I think.

    • DannyJane

      PKRT, I think your response is well-thought out. No, I don’t think you will be able to re-educate your grandmother about racism. Still, I think that when she makes a particularly outrageous remark you can challenge her–gently and not disrespectfully–with a truth from your own experience.

      Likewise, I do challenge sexist remarks and behavior. Usually I try to do so quietly with truths from my own observation. However, condescending behavior gets a cold fisheye and God help the guy (a male, not a man) who dares call me “little lady”.

      In other words, I think the response has to be appropriate to the situation and the mental level of the individual. An intellectual argument is not going to work with an ignorant person or a young child. An emotional argument won’t work with a self-appointed intellectual.

      Sadly, we live in a world where it’s just too easy to perceive “us” as better than “them” in thousands of unpleasant forms. Until we begin to overcome an emotional tendency that is almost instinctive I fear some form of “ism” will always be with us.

      This is one of those times when it’s all about the war–not just against women but against the very human tendency to oppress another.

      • PKRT

        Hehe yeah I definitely agree with all of that! And don’t worry, I’ve never disrespected my grandma 😉 (and I would never approach anyone else in the same manner, I actually laugh more ‘with’ her than ‘at’ her, she knows what her comments sound like to my ears)

        It’s funny that you mention that people should be approached gently and with respect. Because this article actually says the opposite, i.e, polite feminism is pretty much self destructive – which I struggle to understand, I have to admit.

        “An intellectual argument is not going to work with an ignorant person or a young child. An emotional argument won’t work with a self-appointed intellectual.” –> I couldn’t agree more!

  • http://petjeffery.co.uk Pet Jeffery

    I’ve just been reading the responses to Ms Winterfox’s post. I was simultaneously amused and aghast to find examples of exactly what Ms Winterfox was blogging about. Crumbs!

  • Offler

    I think this article makes a lot of terrible arguments.

    However, in the spirit of the article, it’s not my responsibility to tell you why the arguments are so terrible. Anyone who wishes to know should educate themselves.

  • Sally

    Thank you. I’ve had men derail conversations and discussions so many times with this exact behavior, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because they genuinely are simply not interested in learning about the topic, but rather trying to quiz us on our own knowledgeability in order to “prove us wrong”, i.e. feel inadequate for having an opinion about something. And it doesn’t just happen with the topic of feminism either. Capitalists love love love arguing with marxists in the same manner, I’ve noticed. You see… us Marxists? We actually went and read some literature before we came to our conclusions. You know, like Lenin, Trotsky, Engels and… wait for it…. MARX. Said pro-capitalists usually tend to be anti-feminist as well and of course will never actually read anything you take the time to politely recommend. If I wanted to know a subject I would go read about it, not ask a random person I hardly know who may or may not be an expert. I’d AT LEAST go read fucking Wikipedia. Shit, how is it so hard?