“Words Are Not Fists”

Thanks to continued watching of the Sleeping With The Enemy posts at Feministe, I found Words Are Not Fists, an old post by Hugo Schwyzer that does a wonderful job of explaining how generally pro-feminist males act to silence women from expressing their anger/frustration/ disappointment and why they need to stop. It’s an enlightening read, worthy of a gender studies professor.

I want to talk about this part:

Joking about getting beaten up (or putting on the football helmet) sends a message to young women in the classroom: “Tone it down. Take care of the men and their feelings. Don’t scare them off, because too much impassioned feminism is scary for guys.” And you know, as silly as it is, the joking about man-bashing almost always works! Time and again, I’ve seen it work to silence women in the classroom, or at least cause them to worry about how to phrase things “just right” so as to protect the guys and their feelings. It’s a key anti-feminist strategy, even if that isn’t the actual intent of the young man doing it — it forces women students to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger. It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away.

As part of the minority-male population in gender studies class that Schwyzer talks about in his post, I certainly remember these kinds of disclaimers (occasionally from me). I think I was trying to use them to show some kind of self-awareness about the potential shittyness of my statements, so that, yes, no one would critique me too harshly. Which is, of course, exactly the behavior Schwyzer critiques.

It’s rare to find such a solid explanation of a familiar phenomena, and all I can say is that everyone should read the post.

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