Thu 29

Nothing Against Women

Max Boy we’ve become smart about feminism. Way back when I was young, if you were a dude who wasn’t a feminist, you told girls to make you a sandwich and sexually denigrated them in the workplace. But actively vocalized misogyny has become pretty uncool since then, so we had to come up with something new. And we did! It’s: Nothing.

Nothing is great. Nothing works almost as well as active misogyny, with the added benefit of not requiring you to do anything. Also people can’t complain about you doing nothing, because you’ve literally done nothing.

The way nothing works is you just go about your business and ignore anything not directly relevant to your own life. This is the default for most people, so it’s pretty simple. But you can really make it work when you’re operating in an environment set up in your favor. In that situation, doing nothing grants you benefits without requiring you to come out and explicitly endorse the system you’re benefiting from, which would be, you know, awkward and uncool.

There are lots of ways to profitably do nothing as a dude. One of my favorites is not to profile violent people for being male. If there’s a riot, a shooting, any kind of major crime, we’ll dive right into a conversation about whether it’s fair to observe that the perpetrators are a particular ethnicity or English soccer fans or whatever. We will be all over that discussion. We’ll hit it from every angle: transparently racist, excessively apologist, whatever. But we won’t say a word about how ninety-plus percent of the perpetrators are dudes.

I really want a riot with 95% women looting stuff and punching people, just to see how how fast the media fills up with hot takes. Not a women’s issues protest: a riot in which all the assaults and property damage just happen to be committed by women for no obvious reason. I don’t know what we’d conclude about that, but I guarantee we’d discuss it. We would discuss that to death.

Another great one this year is vaccines. I’m not sure if you heard, but a few of them (like AstraZeneca) have an almost-but-not-quite-zero chance of causing blood clots. This caused angst about whether they were truly safe, particularly in places where there wasn’t much COVID. But we forgot about contraception, and out came media pieces like: “Oh, we’re talking about unlikely but dangerous side-effects of medication? Can we discuss the pill?” Because the contraceptive pill causes blood clots (albeit far less dangerous ones) at a hundred times the rate of AstraZeneca, and has a list of other side-effects that are also very unlikely but serious.

Obviously we’re beyond the time when we could tell women to stop worrying their little heads about the pill while we deal with this unacceptably dangerous AstraZeneca situation, so instead we did nothing. We just didn’t say anything. We didn’t click the pill articles; we didn’t retweet; we didn’t post. They weren’t that relevant to us. Within a week, they all died from lack of attention, and six months later we’re still talking about AstraZeneca.

We closed the golf courses in my city for a while during lockdown. Holy hell, was that a discussion point. We filled the airwaves with talk about whether it was fair or a terrible injustice. I’m pretty sure other sports and recreational activities were in similar situations, but I barely heard about them.

I remember a time when I thought I shouldn’t have to cross a road to avoid alarming a woman walking alone at night. Because if we want equality, shouldn’t I equally be able to walk wherever I want? I marvel at that perspective now, because it requires almost total blindness to the inequities women face. I had a spotlight that only illuminated the part of each issue that directly affected me. An environment causing women to fear for their safety: nothing to do with me. My potential inconvenience: civil rights issue. I outgrew that, mostly, I hope, but still, it has been a journey of discovery, with each discovery looking very obvious in retrospect, so that I wonder how I failed to notice it earlier. I’m sure that isn’t over, and, of course, it’s part of a wider road that covers more than just feminism. But in the meantime, I aim to do less nothing.

You know—I was going to finish this piece there, but it struck me that I genuinely expect you to be satisfied that I’ll try to do better than nothing. That’s amazing, isn’t it? I can benefit from gender bias my whole life, and keep all those benefits, plus any I may accrue in the future, but so long as I try to avoid being a silent co-conspirator in any future oppression, that’s pretty good. That is one low bar.


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Byron (#5419)

Location: St. Louis
Posted: 999 days ago

I can see how a white male like you or me might be tempted to try to view his every action, reaction, interaction, transaction, and (as you've awakened us to) inaction through a guilt stained lens, questioning whether he might be either receiving or exercising some privilege or perpetrating some oppression. I think if he tries hard enough everything about him can be viewed to be misogynistic, racist, bigoted, or privileged in some way. It's not a stretch. Today, there are many voices telling him that he needs to feel guilty about that, that he needs to feel bad about his privilege, that he needs to confess that his very existence is oppressive and that he should suffer as those he has oppressed have suffered.

I'm not saying that you are saying those things, but I think it would be dishonest to deny that the zeitgeist of today supports those ideas.

So, what is that white male to do? I think looking for misogyny, racism, privilege, and oppression under every rock would be debilitatingly depressing, because given just a scoach of creativity or self awareness, you can find it. I don't think it would be a healthy way to live.

If guilt and shame are how a person wants to deal with white male privilege, it is certainly a popular option, though perhaps not as popular as doing nothing.

I understand that many people have no use for God or even the idea of God, but the founder of the religion I profess said that his purpose was to set us free from our guilt and shame, and he gave a simple cure for white male privilege. He said that I should love my neighbor as I love myself (walking to the other side of the street at night so I don't frighten a woman would indeed be an example of loving my neighbor). That I should do to other people as I would have them do to me. He said I should forgive other people who have oppressed or wronged me just as God has forgiven me.

Whether you're a white male or not, if you're living in a prison of guilt and shame, there is Freedom and Hope available. Unfortunately, many of the voices we hear today are trying to convince you that more guilt and shame are the answer. Regardless of your belief in God, Love and Forgiveness may be a more healthy alternative.

Radiatia (#6360)

Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted: 999 days ago

This isn't really related to the article at hand as to be 100% I don't have anything particularly intelligent to say about the subject, and the subject is a hell of a minefield however -

I finished reading the 22 Murders of Madison May earlier this week and by gum, it's the best damn book you've written so far. An absolute masterpiece, well done, I hope it sells gangbusters because it bloody deserves it.

I suppose I should try and loop this comment back to the topic at hand...

Ugh, well... ugh... I also didn't frown when I realised the main character was a woman, or swear and say "bloody woman" every five minutes, which I think is a small step in the right direction for me as far as gender equality is concerned. I'm now so woke I could probably get out of bed.

Suetu (#276)

Location: New Orleans, LA
Quote: "The sky and water looked like separate panels of the same chalk-fogged blackboard. Nature has erased the diagrammed sentences and multiplication tables, leaving a view that was all pan and no orama.--Tom Robbins"
Posted: 999 days ago

You know, I've been reading your blog posts for years--enthusiastically--but I really think you've upped your game lately.

I got into trouble with my book group recently when I tried (inarticulately) to explain why I, a white person, read so many books about racism. I seek to educate myself, acknowledge my privilege, and become the best ally I can be. But somehow it didn't come out right when I tried to explain this. Your blog post helped me crystalize my thoughts a bit, and perhaps I'll be able to express myself better in the future.

Also, on behalf of women everywhere: Thank you.

Brenda (#7217)

Location: Berowra Bushland
Quote: "entering your world via the book portal is awesome"
Posted: 999 days ago

As a female having worked in the male dominated computer industry during the 70's and 80's then the finance industry late 80's to 90's I can attest to developing a healthy defence when faced with misogyny. The few 'bad apples' were quashed with my male colleagues' support. It was interesting to be the only female in these male dominated sectors and to notice how the insecure male reacted to my success. As a possible solution I would like to see more males mentoring females. If a culture of successful men championing female employees were fostered I think the work environment would benefit everyone.

I may be too idealistic and my rose coloured glasses do get pretty steamed up when viewing our political leaders and the environment they engender. I encourage all sexes to follow your lead "avoid being a silent co-conspirator in any future oppression"

Captain Awesomepants (#5009)

Location: South of the River
Quote: "If I didn't flush OR wipe, do I still have to wash my hands?"
Posted: 999 days ago

Regardless of how much nothing I perpetrated or how much I NotNothing I tried to do (sometimes very conspicuously), I never quite got past the one phrase Wifeage put to me: Privilege should be used to end itself.

Nothing about guilt. Nothing about white. Nothing about male. Nothing about straight. Nothing about Western Culture.

All I was tasked with was recognising my privilege and using it to end itself. Everything after that became a lot easier, and I was doing more NotNothing than ever before in my life.

Good on ya, you beautiful bastard. Keep being correct-minded and it'll spread, I have faith.

jas (#4698)

Posted: 999 days ago

"One of my favorites is not to profile violent people for being male...we won’t say a word about how ninety-plus percent of the perpetrators are dudes."

Nobody says a word about it because we all assume that's the case. It's the default setting. When it rains we don't generally make a point of discussing the fact that, while there were also a few particulates, the vast majority of the rain consisted of water. It's the unexpected types of rain (frogs, fish, etc) that get discussed because they are highly unusual. If you hear the word "rapist" does anybody instantly picture a woman?

Most men aren't rioters, but yes most rioters are going to be men. I won't cite possible reasons for this because they might be perceived as excuses and this behavior is inexcusable.

As for birth control, any potentially dangerous side effects of any drug should be of concern. And it has been discussed extensively during eras when it was an effective political football, but right now COVID gets more clicks and news is driven more by the size of the audience than the objective delivery of information.
I also don't see discussion of beneficial side effects of birth control pills. For instance, my wife's OB/GYN said they can keep endometriosis in check.

lu77 (#5471)

Location: melbourne
Quote: "everything is simple, nothing is as straight forward as it seems."
Posted: 986 days ago

bloody hell this is well written. i wish this was a major newspaper editorial, hello The Age…?

it is a wonder that women don’t commit all the acts of violence, i mean how angry would you be at the total utter apathy of the denigration of 51% of the population. racism we can talk about, but sexism? it’s everywhere….. and like you said, a lot of it is silent.

i dream of a riot of women with baseball bats and hockey sticks taking over the city saying enough is enough! business women in their power suits, cleaners, nurses, janitors, teachers….

so regardless of what others have said i’d like to say “Thank you Max.” i won’t be reading the other comments, i don’t need to hear the defence of nothing, i live with it every day.

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