Photo Credit: Robot Hugs
I sometimes feel like I should earn a medal, or level up in my feminism, when I try to talk about anti-oppression with people who don’t understand what privilege means. I’m so fucking tired of being told to be “more neutral” or “less angry” when talking about the oppression I face, or while attempting to work in allyship with other groups who experience oppressions I do not experience.
Please stop TONE POLICING!
Let’s be honest, no problem has ever been solved by telling a person to “calm down!”
Tone policing is focusing on the feeling tone of the individual expressing their viewpoint, rather than on the facts or content of their experience.
Yesterday I read a newspaper article about a man in my city who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 17 year old employee in his shop. I frequented that shop regularly and knew the man. I’d spoken to him while ordering and talked about my life, his family and the weather. I thought he was a “nice guy.”
I was wrong.
When I read the article I experienced a lot of feelings. Anger, sadness, betrayal, disgust, frustration and more. As a woman, and a survivor of sexual assault, the story impacted me personally. I felt anger at misogyny. I felt rage at sexism. I felt disgust at the rape culture that perpetuates stories like this one (and my own). I felt sadness for his victim. I felt betrayal and frustration because in a small way I had trusted this man. I felt an intense feeling that NOBODY can be trusted.
And in that moment I felt like ALL MEN were part of the problem. I felt like ALL MEN were responsible. I felt like ALL MEN could not be trusted. I was very angry and I didn’t want to calm down.
While I was angry, I texted with a male friend. I told him about the news paper article and my feelings. I said in anger related to the story: “men are pigs.”
And that started an EXPLOSION of justifying and defensiveness and “not all men” and comparing me to the worst type of discriminating, bigoted people.
To me it felt like tone policing. It felt like being told to CALM DOWN about sexual violence. And I didn’t like it.
Of course I know that not all men are abusers. Of course I know that women can also perpetuate violence. Of course I know that many men are allies to women and some could be called feminists.
But I also know that a ridiculously high percentage of sexual assaults are perpetrated by cisgender men…probably as high as 98-99% of sexual assaults. I also know that the vast majority of victims of those assaults are women and gender non-conforming folks. These are facts. I have never been sexually assaulted by a woman or gender non-conforming person. That’s a fact. Thus, when issues related to violence perpetrated by men come up…my lived experience, plus my factual understanding leads me to see men as the problem.
Unless you are actively working to be part of the solution to misogyny, you are part of the problem. Men can’t just claim to be feminists. Men can’t just absolve themselves of their male privilege. Men have to work in allyship with women. They must actively unlearn their male privilege.
I know that not ALL men benefit from male privilege. And that not ALL men experience the same amount of privilege. I know that men experience violence too. I know…
But I’m still angry. I still have my feelings. I still had intense feelings about that newspaper article and I didn’t want to be told to calm down. It wasn’t the moment to start the “not all men” argument with me. I didn’t care.
Because sexism and misogyny are responsible for the majority of the trauma in my life.
I won’t calm down. Let me express my anger, then work to be part of the solution rather than justifying why you aren’t part of the problem.