Understanding isn't the same as excusing

Andrea of Vociferate has written a post, Bring on the trolls, on the harm that ignoring male participation in the patriarchy can bring. I don’t agree with everything she says (I think there is, and needs to be, a place for men/men’s issues in feminism, and that sometimes it’s okay to step off a point in order to speak on a level that others can understand), but I’m 100% there with her underlying point. We can’t ignore, or downplay, male responsibility for hurtful acts just because we’ll be labelled “man-haters” or “offensive.” Guess, what? As long as we continue to fight for equal rights, we’ll be labelled that no matter what we say.

She said a lot of good things in her post, but these two paragraphs resonated deeply with me [emphasis mine]:

Sure, they live in a society which tells them it’s acceptable, good, fun, what they’re supposed to do, but the choice to do it is still their own. If we excuse the men who do these things, we must excuse anyone who commits an atrocity in a society which tells them it’s OK. Nazism must be OK, slavery must be OK, since nobody can resist what society tells them, can they?

But they can, every man who looks at porn and laughs at the retching girl deepthroating someone, every man who raises his hand to a woman, every man who rapes, every man who is disrespectful towards women and regards them as less than himself has chosen himself to do so.

So I do blame men, I blame men for what they are responsible for, and I blame them for what they allow other men to get away with.

I think that it’s useful to understand why the men in question do what they do. I think it’s useful not ony for feminists, because understanding the principles of oppression is the first step to finding ways to fight it, but also for all men – whether or not they subscribe to whatever action is under question – because ignorance is one of the most effective tools of privilege. If they can’t see the harm they do, then they can continue beliving that they do no harm.

However, understanding and excusing are different things. Yes, the reasons behind an unacceptable action should be taken under consideration. But that in no way, shape, or form gives a person a “get out of jail free” card for their continued bad behaviour. At some point we become adults and take responsibility for our own lives. And, furthermore, as Andrea said: if we refuse to call people on bad behaviour because society has condoned that behaviour, then we are condoning it as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m a feminist because I’m sick of the unnacceptable being packaged as acceptable. And if that makes me a man-hater, well so be it, because I don’t want to love anyone who doesn’t see and treat me, and my gender, as a worthy equal.

Hat tip: Mind the Gap

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr
This entry was posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics, The Evil -ism's. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Understanding isn't the same as excusing

  1. kristy says:

    Short and sweet this time (from me):

    Well said!

    ———–
    Btw, something weird is happening with the code when i go to type it in it comes up automatically like I have typed it in before but I haven’t.

  2. tekanji says:

    What, exactly, are you talking about? I need to know which feature is giving you issue, what you’re typing in, and what comes up automatically before I can fix anything.

  3. Andrea says:

    Hi Andrea, thanks for the link.

    The post wasn’t aimed at excluding men from feminism, however. Feminist men are as welcome as feminist women as far as I’m concerned; nor was I suggesting issues shouldn’t be explained to others if they are genuinely confused by them. I’m certainly up for feminist education! I do, however, think that womens’ issues are of paramount importance to feminism, and mens’ issues are not.
    Rather my point was that I resent the time feminists are forced to spend defending their criticisms of men who deserve criticism. A valid point gets easily lost in an argument about ‘prejudice’ against men. Which I feel is the reason for pulling out the ‘man hater’ card in the first place.

  4. kristy says:

    The code part, the part where it says ‘enter this code’, as I type in the first letter it comes up automatically. It’s similar to how if you type in the first part of a website and you have typed it recently a drop down box pops up with a few sites with similar start.

    Eg: you type in http://www.hot and a dropdown box pop up with http://www.hotmail.com.

    I hope i’m making more sense, btw it seems to be a IE thing, didn’t happen then on firefox.

  5. tekanji says:

    It doesn’t do it to me. Are you sure it’s not that you’ve typed the words before so it remembers and fills it in? When I was playing with porting the code to another part of Shrub and using the same picture over and over, FF would help fill it in for me.

  6. Kyra says:

    Sure, they live in a society which tells them it’s acceptable, good, fun, what they’re supposed to do, but the choice to do it is still their own. If we excuse the men who do these things, we must excuse anyone who commits an atrocity in a society which tells them it’s OK.

    I think that, while this is true, they deserve some sort of leniency or understanding due to the fact that they have been disadvantaged by the fact that while we have people who teach us how to be good people, respect others, et cetera, they often didn’t—they are in essence victims of their culture, which turned them into something evil by teaching them that it was acceptable.

    I am not speaking of excusing them, I am speaking of educating them, of rescuing them from the assholedom that they had thought was the norm, of encouraging them to understand, to reject their previous prejudices and start out on a new path, and be welcomed if they are sincere.

    Which would any of you rather be? A victim of the Nazi concentration camps, or the soldier who turned the gas on? It would be worse to be the latter, yes, even though only the former experienced suffering? Such people ought to be rescued as well, although certainly not at the expense of the people they hurt. And if the oppressors are enabled to go beyond what they are, they would not be causing pain anymore.

    Certainly there are truly evil people. There are also people who are taught to see evil things as normal and acceptable, and people who do not think to question a system that supports them, and people who are not evil but selfish, or blind, who never bother to see other people’s problems or don’t think them as important as their own. These people can sometimes be persuaded to take another look at the way they think, and to exchange it for a worldview that is more compassionate and understanding, and beneficial to everyone, themselves included, and realize that they really haven’t lost anything by giving up their old ways, and in fact have gained something, as have all the people who encounter their new self.

    Certainly a former racist who becomes a civil rights crusader is a better outcome for all involved than a racist who sits bitterly in a prison cell, despising everyone of a certain skin color he encounters. It is not easy, and it will not work every time, but certainly it is worth trying.

  7. tekanji says:

    Kyra: Neither I nor the other Andrea are advocating writing off men (or even men who are unwitting pawns of harmful patriarichal-encouraged values).

    In her response to this post, she emphasized that she was for feminist education (of both men and women) and that she was venting about all the backpeddling feminist have to do to not have people shut their ears to discussion:

    Rather my point was that I resent the time feminists are forced to spend defending their criticisms of men who deserve criticism. A valid point gets easily lost in an argument about ‘prejudice’ against men. Which I feel is the reason for pulling out the ‘man hater’ card in the first place.

    And, for my part, the original post engaged directly with your criticism:

    Yes, the reasons behind an unacceptable action should be taken under consideration. But that in no way, shape, or form gives a person a “get out of jail free” card for their continued bad behaviour. At some point we become adults and take responsibility for our own lives. And, furthermore, as Andrea said: if we refuse to call people on bad behaviour because society has condoned that behaviour, then we are condoning it as well.

    Speaking out against wrongs is a form of education. Perhaps it’s not one that will reach the perpetrator, but it may reach those around him who are excusing his behaviour. I am a huge proponent of education as spreading awareness; I think it’s one of our most effective tools against oppression.

    But, I wholeheartedly agree with Andrea’s point: having to constantly preface a discussion with disclaimers about the person committing the reprehensible behaviour hurt education more than it helps it. There are better ways to reach out to people who have been conditioned by harmful patriarichal norms.

Comments are closed.