The Soapbox

It’s time to chat about enabling.

Okay guys, it’s time we have a chat. And let’s be clear, I don’t mean “guys” from the perspective of our language that often defaults to a masculine bias; I actually mean that right now, I need to talk to those who identify as men. Female or feminine identified folks, you can of course join in - some of you already have - but ultimately, this conversation is most needed between us guys.

I really hope we can be frank with each other about something that seriously has to stop. It’s called enabling, namely the enabling of the harmful traits we all too often associate with masculinity. Yikes, I said it! But the world didn’t end, so stick around with me for a bit here.

Let’s go back a couple of weeks to Jan. 16. Ben Wickstrom, a law student and former political staffer, tweeted The Pint Winnipeg pub about an offensive, sexist poster they had on display and the establishment responded by taking the poster down. That part was actually quite innocuous; we’re going to talk about what happened next. People - almost exclusively men - took to Twitter and viciously attacked Wickstrom for pointing out this example of sexism and the exploitation of women.

While many of these comments were pretty disgraceful, Wickstrom’s response took the focus off of himself with the following tweet: “And I’m pretty sure I got 2% of the abuse that any woman who speaks out receives.”

Not only was it noteworthy that a man was speaking out against sexism, it was also noteworthy that he was being harassed on social media too. 

That’s a pretty scary idea. It’s scary because when women speak out about issues surrounding sexism, it’s seen as normal, while we still seem to consider men advocating for women’s rights as groundbreaking. We also seem to care a lot more when a guy gets harassed on social media for defending his opinion even though it’s par for the course in the lives of many women.

Now, whether or not we care about the comments, we need to talk about the nature of these comments. Most tweets asserted that Wickstrom was gay or trans as a way of explaining why he may object to the sexism in the poster. While many people would rather laugh off these remarks, I urge you to take them seriously. This is the part where I really need you to pay attention, because this is that harmful-trait-enabling crap I’m talking about.

By queering the idea of a feminist man, we’re perpetuating the assertion that “real men” don’t act against sexism. The notion that real men encourage and enjoy consuming sexist materials is dangerous to women but also to men. It’s a large part of why men are less likely to report sexual assault, and it’s the figurative line drawn in the sand of how much a guy can speak up before his peers no longer have his back. This is the isolating point of no return that we have the power to reclaim and it applies to all forms of systemic oppression.

As I wrote this, I had a conversation with a co-worker about being notorious for not putting up with bigotry - in this case racism - and his question reminded me how far we still have to go. He asked me “well, what kind of background do you come from that would encourage you to speak up against this kind of thing anyways?” My answer should have been, “The human perspective.”

Speaking out should be the “normal,” and the question men should be asking each other is, “Why the hell aren’t you speaking up against this?” So guys, I hope you engage in feminism because you care about the sexism that’s still alive and well and is probably impacting you whether you realize it or not. If you’re not fighting against it, you’re contributing to it.

Dayne Moyer is a masculine identified feminist who spends his spare time training for the Iditarod. They are a gin and obscure vinyl enthusiast that is best known for his superman onesies and impromptu rants.

Published in Volume 69, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 11, 2015)

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