A Terrible Bargain

In 2009 Melissa McEwan posted this essay on her blog. It struck a chord in the blogosphere, and many people have since linked to it and discussed it. I've never heard anyone else make the points she makes here, and so I'd like to discuss it with you.

Feminists have a reputation of being man-haters.
Is this true, in your opinion?
Why do you suppose people say this of feminists?

In the essay, Melissa McEwan, who runs a very well known political blog called Shakesville, writes: "Most of my threatening hate mail comes from men. The most unrelentingly trouble-making trolls have always been men. I've been cat-called and cow-called from moving vehicles countless times, and subjected to other forms of street harassment, and sexually harassed at work, always by men. I have been sexually assaulted—if one includes rape, attempted rape, unsolicited touching of breasts, buttocks, and/or genitals, nonconsensual frottage on public transportation, and flashing—by dozens of people during my lifetime, some known to me, some strangers, all men.
But I don't hate men, because I play by different rules. In fact, there are men in this world whom I love quite a lot.
I don't hate men. It would, however, be fair to say that I don't easily trust them."

What do you feel about this statment?

When you as a women have pointed out a problem, have you ever been accused of:
a. not really understanding the situation
b. sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong
c. hysterically overreacting, being too sensitive

Have you ever had your personal experience dismissed because it does not fit someone's concept of how things should be? e.g. "It can't have been that bad" "You're being oversensitive" "I'm sure they didn't mean it that way"

Have you ever heard of the term 'the exceptional woman' or 'the exceptional minority'?
Have you ever been placed into that role?
If so, what was your feeling? Did you ever feel any contradictions about the situation?

Here are some long quotes from Melissa McEwan's article. For each one, I want to discuss:
What did this quote make you think about? Do you have any similar stories?
What feeling did you have when hearing/reading it?
What is the point she's making?


"My mistrust ... [of men is because] of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man—the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, ... the accusations of overreaction, the eyerolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language ("humankind").

"There are the jokes about women, about wives, about mothers, about raising daughters, about female bosses. They are told in my presence by men who are meant to care about me, just to get a rise out of me, as though I am meant to find funny a reminder of my second-class status. I am meant to ignore that this is a bullying tactic, that the men telling these jokes derive their amusement specifically from knowing they upset me, piss me off, hurt me.
They tell them and I can laugh, and they can thus feel superior, or I can not laugh, and they can thus feel superior. Heads they win, tails I lose ... and then I am meant to believe it is true when some of the men who enjoy this sport, in which I am their pawn, tell me, "I love you." I love you, my daughter. I love you, my niece. I love you, my friend. I am meant to trust these words."

"There are the stereotypes—oh, the abundant stereotypes!—about women, not me, of course, but other women, those women with their bad driving and their relentless shopping habits and their PMS and their disgusting vanity and their inability to stop talking and their disinterest in Important Things and their trying to trap men and their getting pregnant on purpose and their false rape accusations and their being bitches sluts whores cunts… And I am expected to nod in agreement, and I am nudged and admonished to agree. I am expected to say these things are not true of me, but are true of women (am I seceding from the union?); I am expected to put my stamp of token approval on the stereotypes. Yes, it's true. Between you and me, it's all true. That's what is wanted from me. Abdication of my principles and pride, in service to a patriarchal system that will only use my collusion to further subjugate me. This is a thing that is asked of me by men who purport to care for me."

"Not every man does all of these things, or even most of them, and certainly not all the time. But it only takes one, randomly and occasionally, exploding in a shower of cartoon stars like an unexpected punch in the nose, to send me staggering sideways, wondering what just happened.
These things, they are not the habits of deliberately, connivingly cruel men. They are, in fact, the habits of the men in this world I love quite a lot.
All of whom have given me reason to mistrust them, to use my distrust as a self-protection mechanism, as an essential tool to get through every day, because I never know when I might next get knocked off-kilter with something that puts me in the position, once again, of choosing between my dignity and the serenity of our relationship.
Swallow shit, or ruin the entire afternoon?
It can come out of nowhere, and usually does. Which leaves me mistrustful by both necessity and design. Not fearful; just resigned—and on my guard. More vulnerability than that allows for the possibility of wounds that do not heal. Wounds to our relationship, the sort of irreparable damage that leaves one unable to look in the eye someone that you loved once upon a time."

"This, then, is the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck: Men are allowed the easy comfort of their unexamined privilege, but my regard will always be shot through with a steely, anxious bolt of caution.
A shitty bargain all around, really. But there it is.
I hope those men will hear me when I say, again, I do not hate you. I mistrust you. You can tell yourselves that's a problem with me, some inherent flaw, some evidence that I am fucked up and broken and weird; you can choose to believe that the women in your lives are nothing like me.
Or you can be vigilant, can make yourselves trustworthy. Every day.
Just in case they're more like me than you think."

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