Dear Cis Men, You Don’t Know What You Are Talking About

[NOTE, 03/08/2014: This blog was written over a year ago. Reading it now, I think there’s a lot wrong with it, and it’s in need of some heavy editing.]

[This blog will look at privilege and oppression, but only from the perspective of the cis-trans* continuum[1]. As such, it will not consider any other intersecting forms of privilege and oppression. This is because I want to make a specific point about cis men.]

My understanding of the label ‘cis’ is that it is used on two levels:

  • at a basic level, as a descriptor, meaning ‘not-trans*’;
  • at a deeper level, as a marker or indicator of privilege, meaning that cis people are privileged in ways that trans* people are not. By extension, this means that trans* people are oppressed in ways that cis people are not, and that cis people are implicated in and benefit from that oppression.

I’m a cis man. I think that my cis privilege is clear. As a cis man, I feel that there cannot be any doubt that I benefit from privilege when compared to cis women, trans* women and trans* men.

However, when the label ‘cis’ is applied to women, I think that the picture is less clear. Here’s why:

  • Some trans* women believe that cis women have cis privilege;
  • Some trans* women believe that cis women do not have cis privilege;
  • Some cis women believe that cis women have cis privilege;
  • Some cis women believe that cis women do not have cis privilege.

The key word for cis men to take on board in the four bullet points above is ‘women’.

So when cis men start weighing in on this discussion, and particularly when they do either one of the following two things –

  • demand that cis women take the label ‘cis’, and state that any woman who refuses to is transphobic;
  • insist that cis women should not take the label ‘cis’, and state that any woman trying to force cis women to take this label is projecting her own internalised misogyny

– I have to wonder about those cis men, ‘Why are you getting involved?’

Well, okay, I don’t really wonder about that, because I’m pretty sure that I know the answer.

But my message is – don’t get involved. You don’t have a voice in this discussion. You are neither a cis woman nor a trans* woman. By all means, form an opinion, but unless you are specifically and explicitly asked for that opinion, keep it to yourself. And certainly stop flinging accusations of transphobia or internalised misogyny at women whose opinions differ from your own.

And, if you stop and listen, you might actually learn something about the real lived experiences of both cis and trans* women, about any privilege that they may benefit from, and about any oppression that they may encounter.


[1] I’m not sure that ‘continuum’ is the right word here. I toyed with ‘spectrum’ and ‘dichotomy’. Hopefully it’s clear what I’m getting at.

EDIT1: I had two brief conversations on Twitter about this blog. Here they are Storified: http://storify.com/Zeeblebum/dear-cis-men-you-don-t-know-what-you-are-talking-a

EDIT2: And here’s another Storify: http://storify.com/Zeeblebum/dear-cis-men-you-don-t-know-what-you-are-talking-a-1

Men in Fights!

[EDIT, 14/05/2013: I’ve just read this post – I Hate Nightclubs (They Feel Like Street Harassment To Music) – by Trudy on her Gradient Lair blog. If you’ve only got the time and/or inclination to read just one post, read Trudy’s instead of mine.]

I went out on Friday night. I got drunk. I went to a nightclub. I danced. These are all unusual things for me to do. But I enjoy them. And I enjoyed my night out.

While I was in the nightclub, I observed the following:

  • people sexually harassing other people;
  • a fight;
  • towards the end of the night, many people loitering on the fringes of the dancefloor, looking sad and haunted;
  • at the end of the night, outside of the nightclub, another fight.

What do all of these things have in common? In every case, the subjects of the behaviour were men:

  • men sexually harassing women
  • men fighting with other men
  • men loitering on the fringes of the dancefloor, looking sad and haunted
  • different men fighting with other different men

My dear fellow men – are we happy? We don’t look happy – we look angry and sad and rebuffed and bloodied and haunted. And – for the really unlucky ones amongst us – we look all of these things while sitting in the back of a Police van.

This is patriarchy and the cult of masculinity. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to be different, to be better. And if we made that choice to be different and better, I think we’d be happier. And – here’s the real bombshell – if you don’t shove a glass into the face of that guy who just looked at you funny, it doesn’t mean that you are any less of a man.

More importantly, though, is that our behaviour would not then have a negative impact on other people, and particularly on women. Invading someone else’s personal space and violating their bodily integrity  – do we really think that this is okay? If another man does that to us, how do we respond? He may well have that glass shoved in his face. But men’s sexual harassment of women, it seems, is perfectly acceptable to us. This might be because we feel that our needs are more important than their needs, because we feel entitled to leer and touch and grope. And because this is seen as such ‘normal’ behaviour, I think that in a lot of cases there is no longer any consideration of women’s needs – this is what men want to do, and we’re damn well gonna do it. Finally, some men appear to have convinced themselves that this ritual is something that women generally find desirable and flattering – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. All of this is then reinforced by our male friends, all of whom appear to think the same way.

What needs are we having met when we sexually harass women? Power, control, being a man, feeling like a man, being considered to be a ‘real man’ – that kind of thing. And that brings me back to patriarchy, the cult of masculinity, and the choices we make about the way we behave. We don’t have to behave like this – it’s not natural or genetic or biological. Attempting to dominate women is learned behaviour, and because it’s learned behaviour it’s something that we can change.

If we understand that we don’t need to define ourselves by our ability to have loads of sex with many different women, we might then realise that we don’t need to sexually harass women in nightclubs. It might also mean that fewer of us stand around on the fringes of dancefloors looking sad and haunted, feeling like sub-standard men. And women might feel safer, and not constantly on alert for the next assault.

Choosing not to sexually harass women (or stepping back from the potential fisticuffs) doesn’t make you less of a man – it just helps you along the road to becoming a decent human being.

Newspaper Launch: The Daily Diversity

[Written in October 2012]

My white heterosexual able-bodied mates (all men) and I totally recognise that we have loads of privilege, which is obviously totally great. So we’ve decided we need to use that privilege to help people who aren’t like us to overcome their innate deficiencies, to fit in better with society, and to improve their wretched miserable existences. We’re certain we know what that lot want out of life – to be more like us – and our first idea is to launch a newspaper called ‘The Daily Diversity’.

Now bear with us on this – it will probably sound like political correctness gone mad, but we feel confident that when you have read through the full proposal you will understand how great it is. Despite it being political correctness gone mad.

We will have separate sections for the following ‘communities’:

  • The Ladies
  • The Handicapped
  • The Coloureds
  • The Ho Mo Sexuals

The rest of the paper will cover Home Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Business, Finance and Economics; and Sport. [These sections will obviously be targeted at white heterosexual able-bodied men (WHAMs), but we wouldn’t need to label them as such because, well, it’s obvious.]

One of the brilliant additional benefits is our recruitment policy. We have recognised that WHAMs are insidiously discriminated against in the employment arena – basically, you need to be a coloured handicapped lesbian to get a job these days. We are committed to doing something about this. We have consulted our legal advisers and will take advantage of the ‘Genuine Occupational Requirement’ clause to only recruit WHAMs. This is applicable because only WHAMs really understand what these other groups are (and should be) interested in reading about.

We would be interested in hearing people’s ideas about what items to include in each of our ‘special needs’ sections. When you respond, please tell us whether you are a WHAM or not – this will help us to decide whether or not to pay any attention to your opinion.

Some ideas we’ve had so far are:

For ‘The Ladies’: To be honest, this is pretty much locked down. Plenty of newspapers have shown us the right way to go with this. One thing we don’t see much of, though, is advice on how you girls can keep yourselves safe – how to treat your man so he doesn’t feel the need to ‘put you in your place’; and what to wear so that you don’t experience sexual violence.

For ‘The Handicapped’: Obviously, loads of stuff about wheelchairs. And a series of articles about how to fit in with the world around you and not be an inconvenience to others. Plus – and this is important in the current economic climate – how to stop scrounging handouts and get a job.

For ‘The Coloureds’: This one’s a bit tricky, because apparently there are these things called ‘ethnicities’, and it’s not necessarily ‘politically correct’ just to lump them all together. Whatever. In this section, we’ll cover music (reggae and hip hop), drugs (ganja), terrorism and extremism, Muslimicism, and skin-whitening products and treatments. Plus a couple of light-hearted columns – ‘How to Commit Crime Without Getting Caught’ and ‘How to Find Your Way Back to Where You Came From’.

The Ho Mo Sexuals: We’re not sure yet what to do with this. Our understanding is that the gay men are mentally ill, and that the lesbians are just not able to get a man (mainly because they’re fat and hairy). So obviously we need to handle these ‘issues’ sensitively. In light of that, we’re thinking of putting a man’s arse on page 3 of this section, and filling the rest of the space on this page with a column about the dangers of promiscuity. We’ll also have a regular feature about sexually transmitted infections, as well as gay men’s gay fashion and gay male gay grooming tips. And for the ‘lesbians’, articles about weight-loss and hair-removal are essential. Once we feel that these two critical areas have been covered adequately, we’ll change our focus to giving the ‘lesbians’ tips on what men want, so that they might one day be able to experience some good ol’ heterosexual lovin’. We’ll also have reviews of sensible shoes and different varieties of shortbread.

[Please note: We do not think that this section for ‘The Ho Mo Sexuals’ will be a feature of our newspaper for ever. Once the ‘gays’ are cured, there’ll be an influx of desperate eligible men on the market for the so-called ‘lesbians’ to get together with. Then we can all move on from this same-sex relationship nonsense and start behaving normally.]

Please feel free to share your ideas, comments and suggestions with us. As noted above, if you do, please let us know whether or not you are a WHAM.

If things go well, we’ll also launch a pared down version called ‘D!’.

—-

[A brief note: I’ve no idea if Glosswitch will be okay about this, but the above was inspired by her article ‘Remind me again, which bits of the news am I supposed to read?’. I hope she is okay with that, but perhaps the idea that her coherent erudition could inspire such jumbled dross is grossly insulting. If so, I’m truly sorry.]

Rape is controversial, apparently

[Written in July 2012]

Mike Tyson is coming to Portsmouth Guildhall!

http://portsmouthguildhall.org.uk/news/mike-tyson-is-coming-to-portsmouth-guildhall

On the Portsmouth Guildhall’s website (link above), Tyson’s behaviour outside the ring is described as ‘controversial’.

Does rape provoke a sharp intake of breath, coupled with a statement something along the lines of : “Rape, eh? Hmm…that’s a bit controversial”?

It may well have been the case that Tyson’s conviction for rape created controversy. But ‘controversy’ will never be an adequate response to rape. ‘Condemnation’ might be more appropriate.

Aurora New Dawn – “a client-led service in Hampshire, offering safety, support, advocacy and empowerment to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence” – has created a petition to ask Portsmouth Guildhall to cancel this event. You can sign it here: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-guildhall-portsmouth-cancel-the-event-to-host-an-evening-with-mike-tyson

Aurora New Dawn are on Facebook and Twitter.

—-

Update, 27/07/2012

E-mail from www.change.org:

Great news! Thanks to over 3,000 people — including you — who signed Aurora New Dawn’s petition, Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth Guildhall have cancelled the evening with “legendary figure” Mike Tyson — a convicted rapist.
Aurora New Dawn were delighted to hear the announcement on Wednesday, just a few days after starting the petition. They believe this move illustrates Portsmouth’s commitment to ending violence against women.
They’ve been overwhelmed by the support shown for their campaign. CEO Shonagh Dillon said “Today is a proud day for Portsmouth, and we would like to thank Portsmouth City Council, Portsmouth Guildhall and every single person who put their signature to our petition.”