A few days ago I was alerted to a remarkably silly list on the internet here, "35 Practical Steps Men Can Take To Support Feminism." (Originally from here.)
This list required a response.
Here it is.
1. Do 50% (or more) of housework.You need to do your share of housework all the time, of your own accord, without procrastinating, without being asked, without making excuses. Recognize that our domestic habits and our internalized ideas about unpaid domestic work are hugely gendered and hugely benefit men, and accept that it is your responsibility to fight against this. If feminism is the theory, clean dishes are the practice. Over the next week, take note of how much housework you do as compared to women you live with and note where it is or is not an equitable division.
This is a one-size-fits-all solution. Every marriage/relationship is different. In my marriage, I am the only one who's working a job, so of course my wife does more of the housework than me. I still try to help out whenever I can (because I'm not a TOTAL jerk) but we don't do 50%. Nor do I think that's really important. It seems to me that in a marriage, women tend to care more about the house looking better. Maybe...men and women are different.
2. Do 50% (or more) of emotional support work in your intimate relationships and friendships.Recognize that women are disproportionately responsible for emotional labour and that being responsible for this takes away time and energy from things they find fulfilling.
What? I don't even know what this means. Maybe because I'm a man.
3. Consume cultural products produced by women.
In whatever your interests are -- French cinema, astrophysics, baseball, birdwatching -- ensure that women’s voices and women’s cultural products are represented in what you are consuming. If they are not, make an effort to seek them out.
I'll consume cultural products that I enjoy, if that's okay with you, and not even consider who came up with them.
4. Give women space.Many women walk around -- especially at night or while alone -- feeling on edge and unsafe. Being in close physical proximity to an unknown man can exacerbate this feeling. Recognize that this is not an unreasonable fear for women to have, given how many of us have experienced harassment or abuse or been made to feel unsafe by men when we are in public spaces. Also recognize that it doesn’t matter if you are the kind of man who a woman has any actual reason to fear, because a woman on the street doesn’t have a way of knowing this about you or not.
Examples: If a seat is available on public transit next to a man, take that seat rather than one next to a woman. If you are walking outside in the dark close to a woman walking alone, cross the street so that she doesn’t have to worry someone is following her. If a woman is standing alone on a subway platform, stand some distance away from her.
Okay, so maybe this is reasonable. I personally would try to give EVERYONE space when I'm on public transport. But isn't it condescending to women to assume they're so fragile that a stranger sitting next to them on the bus will be a source of danger? Maybe women shouldn't assume all men are rapists. Because, you know, honestly, most of us aren't.
I can't imagine the circumstances where I would be walking in the dark, without any illumination, near a woman. But if I WAS in that situation, I would probably introduce myself, and then get a flashlight. If the woman seemed distraught, I would probably ask if she needed help. Does that make me sexist?
5. … but insert yourself into spaces where you can use your maleness to interrupt sexism.Examples: challenge men who make sexist comments and jokes. If you see a female friend in a bar/at a party/on the subway/wherever looking uncomfortable as a man is speaking to her, try to interject in a friendly way that offers her an opportunity for an “out” if she wants it. If you see a situation where a woman looks like she may be in distress while in the company of a man, stand nearby enough that you make yourself a physical presence, monitor the situation, and be in a position to call for help if needed.
Things like this can super difficult, awkward, and complicated to know how to do, but it’s worth trying anyway. Making yourself feel momentarily uncomfortable is a fair tradeoff for making a woman feel more comfortable.
This is what used to be known as "chivalry" or "being a gentleman." Maybe the reason feminists find it "super difficult, awkward, and complicated" is because feminists have spent a lot of time bashing these things.
6. When a woman tells you something is sexist, believe her.
Translation: "If a person has a vagina, she is automatically always right."
No. That doesn't make any sense.
7. Educate yourself about sexual consent and make sure there is clear, unambiguous communication of consent in all your sexual relationships.
Translation: "Don't be a rapist." If someone is having sex with someone who's not consenting, that would be rape.
So...yeah. Okay. I won't ever be a rapist. And I'm kinda bothered that you think I might be.
8. Be responsible for contraception.
If you are in a relationship where contraception is necessary, offer to use methods that do not have health risks for women (use of hormones, surgeries, etc.) and treat these as preferable options. If your partner prefers a particular method, let her be in charge of making that decision without questioning or complaining about it. Don’t whine about condom usage, and be responsible for buying them and having them available if that’s the method you’re using.
Assume financial responsibility for any costs related to contraception. Women earn less than men, and also have to assume all the physical risk of pregnancy. Further, in instances where contraception involves any amount of physical risk, it is virtually always women who must assume this risk. As a gesture that redresses a minuscule amount of this disparity, heterosexual men should finance the whole cost of contraceptives.
I'm a Catholic who tries to follow his church. So I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone who wanted to use contraception anyway. By the way - contraception, IMO, contributes to the objectification of women AND men.
9. Get the HPV vaccine.
If you are a young man, get it. If you have a young son, ensure he gets it. Since women are the ones who are disproportionately affected by the consequences of HPV, as a matter of fairness men should be the ones who at least assume the potential risks of getting vaccinated. (I am hugely pro-vaccines in general and don’t believe there actually are significant risks, but this is a matter of principle.)
I'm going to teach my sons to only have sex with their wives, so this won't be a problem.
10. Have progressive name politics.If you and your female partner decide that the institution of marriage is something you want to be involved with, be willing to both keep your existing surnames. If having a common surname with your spouse is important to you, be willing to change your surname and treat this as a preferable option to your spouse changing hers.
No. I won't. There will only be one name in my family. Tradition usually says it's the male's name. So that's what we do.
By the way, what are the grandchildren supposed to do? Will the daughter of John Smith-Bowers and Jane Harper-Flexley have to be called Alice Smith-Bowers-Harper-Flexley?
If she marries a guy called Thomas Smith-Jackson-Weaver-Simpson, will THEIR kids have the last name of Smith-Bowers-Harper-Flexley-Smith-Jackson-Weaver-Simpson?
11. If you have children, be an equal parent.Be willing to take paternity leave and to stay home and care for them when they are young. Divide childcare responsibilities so that you are doing at least 50% of the work, and ensure it is divided such that you and your partner both get to spend an equal amount of “play” time with your children too.
Translation: "Don't be a jerk." I'm trying not to, thanks. But most of us don't have paternity leave. By the way, any dad who's neglecting his kids and making his wife change all the diapers is not the kind of person who will be reading this list or even care about it.
12. Pay attention to and challenge informal instances of gender role enforcement.
For example, if you are at a family function or dinner party, pay attention to whether it is mostly/only women who are doing food preparation/cleaning/childcare while men are socializing and relaxing. If it is, change the dynamic and implore other men to do the same.
Translation: "Be an interfering busybody. If you find yourself in a situation where people are enjoying themselves and doing whatever they feel inclined to do, butt in and try to make them all act the same way. Because feminism."
13. Be mindful of implicit and explicit gendered power differentials in your intimate/domestic relationships with women…whether a partner or family members or roommates.
Work to recognize where inherent structural power differentials based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age (and so on). Where you benefit from these structural imbalances, educate yourself about your privilege and work on finding ways to create a more equitable balance of power. For example, if you are in a domestic partnership where you are the primary income earner, educate yourself about the gendered wage gap, and work on dividing labour and economic resources within your household in a way that increases the economic autonomy of your partner.
This was clearly the product of a women's studies degree, so it's full of jargon. But I'll tackle part of it: "educate yourself about the gendered wage gap" Yes, I have. It turns out that more women are in lower-paying positions such as teaching and nursing...and women tend to take more time off for child care... and men tend to take riskier jobs that pay more... in other words, men and women are different. This is not a bad thing. This is a good thing. Vive la difference! And get a life!
14. Make sure that honesty and respect guide your romantic and sexual relationships with women.The way you treat women with whom you are in a relationship is a mirror of your values about women in general. It doesn’t work to espouse feminist theory and then treat your partners like trash. Be upfront and open about your intentions, communicate openly so that women have the ability to make informed, autonomous decisions about what they want to do.
Another "duh" one. But I'll comment on this line: "It doesn’t work to espouse feminist theory and then treat your partners like trash." Maybe, just maybe, feminist theory doesn't have good results for either men OR women? Maybe pretending gender differences are artificial and not natural is dumb, and only leads to men treating women with no respect? Just a thought.
15. Don’t be an online bystander in the face of sexism.Thanks, I will. But I think your definition of "sexism" is different than mine.
Challenge people who make, say, or post sexist things on the Internet, especially on social media.
16. Be responsible with money in domestic/romantic relationships.Know that if you are irresponsible with money, this necessarily impacts your partner and since women still make less than men overall (and live longer), this is a feminist issue.Okay. I'm not sure why this advice applies only to men, though. Women can be spendthrifts too.
Example: Your credit card debt/money wastage/gambling problem impacts her economic livelihood and future. Share budget making, tax filing, and general personal finance duties and be open and honest about household money management.
17. Be responsible for your own health.Men go to the doctor less often than women for issues troubling them, and when they do, it’s often at the urging of women in their lives. To have a long and healthy partnered life for both you and your spouse means being responsible for your own health, noting any issues, and taking them seriously. Since we’re dependent on one another, your long-term health is also her long-term health.Ditto. Women can also live unhealthy lives too.
18. Don’t ogle or make comments about women. (i.e., Keep your tongue in your mouth and comments to yourself.)
Even though women may be more prone to wearing more revealing outfits than men, don’t ogle them just because you want to and can. Though you may find someone attractive, there’s a line between noticing and being creepy/disrespectful. It makes the ogler feel uncomfortable, as well as any women who notice the ogling or are aware of the comments.
Okay, this is trickier than you think. On the one hand, of course men shouldn't ogle women or make comments on them. On the other hand, women need to understand men. Men's sexuality is primarily VISUAL, and this is never going to change. It's hardwired in our brains. Men have a biological urge to look at women's bodies. (All men have this urge - even gay men. They have an urge to look at other men's bodies). Of COURSE we need to control this urge. But women have to understand that we HAVE this urge, and act accordingly.
To put it another way: a girl who dresses in a short skirt and then gets mad at the man who stares at her legs (just stares, nothing else) is not respecting that man. It's that simple. This whole list is about men respecting women, right? Why doesn't it go both ways? You're going to get noticed by men if you show your legs, because men are not hairy women - they're men.
19. Pay attention to the sex of experts and key figures presenting information to you in the media.When you are watching an expert on TV, reading articles, etc., notice how often this information will come from men and, at the very least, wonder how a female perspective might be different.If a female perspective is different, doesn't that mean women are different then men? Isn't that sexist?
20. Ensure that some of your heroes and role models are women.They already are. Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Harriet Tubman, Mary the Mother of God... just off the top of my head.
Geez, do feminists really think this poorly of men? Do they really think we have NO female role models? Really?
21. Praise the virtues and accomplishments of women in your life to others.In everyday conversation and in communication in general, talk to others about women you know in a positive light. Suggest your female friends for projects, jobs, and collaborations with other people you know.Yeah, already do that too. Because, you know, I don't hate women. If I DID hate women, I wouldn't be reading this list. What's really bothering me is why you assume I WOULDN'T do this.
22. Have integrity with your male friends. (i.e., Don’t be a “bro.”)When a male friend is doing something sexist (being a deadbeat dad, down-talking women, ogling women, secretly spending shared money, lying to their partner, etc.) have integrity and say something to your friend. It’s not enough to think it’s wrong; let them know you think it’s wrong.Translation: "Don't look the other way when your friend is lying, disrespecting other human beings, or neglecting his offspring."
Good. But be careful. You're starting to sound like one of those sexist misogynistic Christians who tell us the EXACT SAME THING.
23. Don’t treat your spouse like a “nag.” If she is “nagging,” you are probably lagging.Or...she could be nagging. You know, because having a vagina doesn't automatically make you right.
24. Know that acknowledging your own sexist opinions and stereotypes you hold is not enough. Do something about them.How about I just don't have sexist opinions and stereotypes? You know, like the ones you just expressed, assuming that because I'm a man, I must be a sexist?
25. Befriend women.If you don’t have any female friends, figure out why you don’t and then make some. Make sure they are authentic, meaningful relationships.The more we care about and relate to one anther, the better chance we stand of creating a more egalitarian society.I have one really close female friend. So close that I married her. She tends to not like it if I have others.
26. Find female mentors/leaders. (i.e., Be subordinate to women.)If you are seeking a mentor, or want to volunteer with an organization, go with a woman, or woman-led organization. Know that there’s a lot you can learn from women in positions of authority.I've had female bosses and male bosses. I didn't really care about their gender. But as far as "seeking out" mentors - does that work both ways? What would happen if I told you to find male mentors/leaders (i.e. be subordinate to men)? Wouldn't you be offended? Wouldn't you be right to be offended?
How about we just be mutually respectful of each other?
27. When in a romantic relationship, be responsible for events and special dates associated with your side of the family.Well, I TRY to be. But if men were truly in charge of the universe, I doubt very much that Christmas cards would exist, or that anniversaries would be a big deal. That's just my suspicion.
Remember your family members’ birthdays, anniversaries and important events. Don’t rely on your spouse to send cards, make phone calls, organize reunions, etc. It is your family, and thus your responsibility to remember, care about, and contact them.
28. Don’t police women’s appearance.Women are taught to internalize intensely restrictive beauty norms from the time they are small children. Don’t do or say things that makes women feel like they aren’t meeting this norm, or create pressure on them to meet it. At the same time, it is equally not a feminist response to do or say things that pressure women to use their body to resist these norms if they don’t want to. Recognize that there are significant social sanctions for women who disobey beauty norms and they shouldn’t be expected to act as martyrs and accept these sanctions if they don’t want to.I think it's mostly other WOMEN who care about this, actually. I'm pretty sure if you don't shave your armpit hair, people of either sex will look at you funny.
Whether according to your personal aesthetic or ideals you think she wears too much makeup or too little, removes too much body hair or not enough, it is none of your business how women choose for their bodies to look.
29. Offer to accompany female friends if they have to walk home alone at night…or in a public space where they may be likely to feel unsafe.But don’t be pushy about it or act like you are being the Ultimate Gentleman for doing so.Translation: "Be a gentleman... but don't you DARE use that chauvinistic term 'Gentleman!'"
30. Inject feminism into your daily conversations with other men.If your father doesn’t do his fair share of housework, talk to him about why this is important. If your friend cheats on his girlfriend or speaks negatively about her, talk to him candidly about respecting individual women with whom he is intimate is part of having respect for women in general. Have conversations with your younger brothers and sons about sexual consent.Yeech. See my response to #12.
31. If you have a tendency to behave inappropriately toward women when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, do not consume drugs or alcohol.Translation: "If you're an alcoholic, stop drinking." Thanks, Capt. Obvious.
32. Be aware of the physical and emotional space you occupy, and don’t take up more space than you need.Use your fair share of “air space” in conversations, give as much to relationships as you take, don’t sit with your legs splayed so that other people can’t comfortably sit next to you, etc.OMG, how many more of these are there? Another big "DUH" from me.
33. Walk the walk about income inequality.Women still earn about 77% as much as men. If you are in a position where you are financially able to do so, consider donating a symbolic 23% of your income to social justice-oriented causes. If 23% sounds like a lot to you, that’s because it is a lot and it’s also a lot for women who don’t have a choice whether to forfeit this amount or not.If I really thought the gender earning gap was a problem (I don't), I would force women to take riskier, higher-paying jobs, and deny maternity leave or even children - because you MUST earn as much as men, women!
34. Get in the habit of treating your maleness as an unearned privilege that you have to actively work to cede rather than femaleness being an unearned disadvantage that women have to work to overcome.I think femaleness is more of a privilege these days, actually. After all, women aren't portrayed as either dumb or evil in the movies. Women aren't told they are all potential rapists.
But a better alternative would be to accept that men and women are equal, but DIFFERENT.
35. Self-identify as a feminist.Speak about feminism as a natural, normal, uncontentious belief, because it should be. Don’t hedge and use terms like “humanist” or “feminist ally” that reinforce the idea that the F-word itself is a scary word.If this list is any kind of indication, I can't imagine anything less natural than feminism as it's presented here. It seems that the author of this list thinks that there's no difference between men and women (see #12 and #30). There are. They're built into nature.