Men get really upset when you say you don’t care about them. This is evident both in the minutia of women’s everyday lives, where women who leave or attempt to leave their abusers are murdered or have extreme and often sexualized violence acted against them, and also in the grander scheme, where males have infiltrated every last vestige of women’s space and peace of mind. Men, for many reasons but not many of them legitimate, have grown up thinking they are entitled to the care, interest, and attention of women in their lives and indeed total strangers. We are born into a state of Men=Owed, Women=Giving. Men have also learned they are not responsible for returning that care, and in fact that women are not complete or interesting or worthy enough to even warrant the consideration of reciprocation. What I’m saying is it literally does not occur to men that we owe them NOTHING and are not in a default state of vomiting permissiveness.
So when women tell men they are not welcome, they get angry. They make accusations. They very frequently try to get the upper hand, appealing to the women’s sometimes battered sense of self, a shaky foundation from which to demand respect, especially from men. Men act like respect is a reward they bestow upon women for meeting their immediate criteria. All men have different criteria. That’s why one man calls you a whore but the other has no problem letting you suck his cock. You might have noticed these men are often one and the same, depending on what ‘you did’ to deserve his ire or his ‘respect’ (i.e. what you are good for to him, which is your only value).
Men are not welcome in my feminism, and I have a lot of good reasons why. It’s important to remember that most men make women uncomfortable. Their demand of focus and energy, their inappropriate comments or eye contact, boundary disrespect, their zero sum games (‘equality for all or no one’ is one I hear a lot, even though right now we unarguably don’t have equality for women and I don’t see any men giving up their half until we get ours), their often willful ignorance of the realities of female lives, and the simple fact that they are the oppressors attempting to force entrance into the safe spaces of the oppressed. When men are in the room, women have to start from scratch. We’re put on the defensive and expected to explain ourselves without becoming personal, recite countless statistics, and basically teach men what has become so familiar to women that we often have a hard time putting it to words.
We are learning those words, though. That’s what consciousness-raising is all about. In the seventies and indeed long before and after, women would get together in apartments or hotels or bookshops or coffee shops, and they would talk about feminism (or women’s lived reality under any name), and what it meant to them, and they would learn words. Those words, the naming of the problems, has tremendous power. I sensed it the first time I sent someone a definition of gaslighting. I knew it when I brought up patriarchal bargains. I understood it when I learned what compulsory heterosexuality was, and what it meant for me and for all of us. This isn’t the seventies. Lesbians and women and lost ground because we’ve lost valuable definitions—those two words, lesbian and woman, being the most important, most devalued, and most appropriated. But what we learned from the seventies, what our liberal feminist sisters forgot, is how to be a group and fight as a group. I don’t care if you shave your legs—but I need every woman to be free not to. I don’t care if you have heterosexual sex or get paid for it—but I need every woman to be free to choose not to or free to stop. A hundred years ago in my country I wasn’t even a legal human. Now men are telling me we’re all good, maybe even a little ahead? Men lie when they say women should be grateful for how far we’ve come. They’re reminding us how long they KEPT US BACK, and that our position is tenuous based on their approval. Then they threaten us with rape because that’s what they know sex to be, culturally and historically. Sex women wouldn’t want to have if men hadn’t lied about it first.
You can’t change the rules in the middle, though—we KNOW this. You have to start the game over.
When men hear this, they become upset. They are afraid. They think we will take away all their rights, that we will kill them and humiliate them and devalue them. They think this because they understand that we deserve revenge. They are afraid because they know what they’ve done to us is wrong, and were they in our shoes, they would strike. We are striking. And men will indeed lose much of their valued power. But we won’t be taking it from them to use for ourselves. We will be using our own power, the power men have lied to us about for millennia. Women’s power is not violent. It is not ruthless or destructive or consuming. I know many women desire justice for harm done. I do too. I’m not just angry at one man, or ten. I’m angry at every single last man who ever benefited from the subjugation of a sister. Every man who believed a lie about a woman because it suited him better than the truth. Every man who has power he did not earn at the expense of someone deemed lesser from birth.
All men benefit from patriarchy and even as all men benefit, some men are harmed. I don’t care. This is a radical statement, I’ve learned, not caring about men. For at least five thousand years men defined themselves as the default. Women are the other. We didn’t make the rules but we’re hated for making the best of them. We’ve become complicit in our own oppression for survival and self-preservation (mental and physical). Women need help, and we need to help women. Women need energy and togetherness. We need to sit in a room and talk about what it means to be a woman today. Why can anyone be a woman? Why are we women? Why does the sex with all the real power needed to heal and sustain the world (creation, empathy, foresight) get painted as the weaker one? What is ‘strength’? Why do we need men in our feminism? If they were going to help, they would have done it already.
Men don’t like the idea of being hated. They certainly don’t like to think about role reversal. What if we recorded a million gigs of naked men always bent at the waist, faces full of streaming make-up, smiling and begging for more as women, fully clothed and without compassion, violently penetrated them in symbolic fashion? What if we told boys they were filthy and if they couldn’t orgasm from something inside them then they were just broken? What if girls grew up seeing that violent, man-hating pornography, and entered into volatile and abusive relationships with those once-little boys? Don’t worry, men. It would never happen. Your vulgarity and sickness horrify us. Your lack of humanity causes despair among us. We are nothing like you, and that’s why you aren’t welcome. Are you inherently damaged—that pathetic little Y—or is it cultural? Why can’t you leave women alone, even when you are repeatedly and earnestly asked to?
You want to know the truth about consciousness raising, men? You should be scared. Not for your lives, a fear you’ve dealt us every day. Not for your honour as you toy with ours. Not for your children, they are safer with us. You should be scared because you’ve been lied to about us, even as you perpetuate those lies. We are not meek. We are not irrational. And we are not better off as wives. We have empathy. We understand and respect emotion. We value life instead of death. Things are changing, you can sense it, which is why you flood us with hate speech and death threats, and waste our time with your trivialities of not feeling included or recognized or welcomed or rewarded. Feminism isn’t for you, it’s for liberation from you. But fear not, because no matter what else happens, and so much is already, we will never do to you what you’ve done to us.