We’re not all Archie Bunker

Note to Shakespeare’s Sister, and everyone else who is (correctly) pointing out the anti-woman sentiment being pointed at Sen. Clinton from others on the left.

Hi. Not long ago, I would have been one of those people. Reading your blog – along with some classes I’ve been taking and books I’ve been reading – have helped me understand exactly how horrifying the characterizations of Sen. Clinton are. And I thank you for that.

I have to wonder how I would have reacted if the timeline was different, if I was not as far along on my awareness of feminism.

I know it’s not fair. I know you’ve been putting up with it all your lives, and I’m … well, still not putting up with it. I’m still a guy, and while I empathize, and speak out when I can, I’m not actually experiencing it myself like you are.

I think I would have written you off six months ago. I would have dismissed what I now am able to see as very real and very pertinent complaints. Not because of the content, but because of the style.

The me of six months ago would react very differently to these two statements:

“I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but did you realize how sexist that is?”


“God, what a fauxgressive you are for saying such sexist things!”

Because here’s the thing: All the -isms are, by definition, bigger than individuals. They are systems of oppression. Yes, a sexist or racist or heterosexist or ableist statement might mean that person is prejudiced. It might also mean they’re part of the bigger system, and totally unaware of how thier actions are part of sexism, racism, et al. I really credit Privelege, Power, and Difference with helping me to understand that difference – which has in turn allowed me to not take it as a personal attack and get automatically defensive when someone points out my mistakes, my gaffes, and my reinforcing of the privelege system.

Privelege, Power, and Difference should be required reading for all white males, but it isn’t yet. Those of us further along in our understanding – whether by study, experience, or a combination of the above – have to remember what the point is. Is it to change behaviors, or simply to condemn those who don’t (yet) have the same understanding as we do? Archie Bunker (or substitute your TV talking head) wasn’t going to change, or even understand our point of view. Wil Wheaton, Oliver Willis, and other foks labeled progressive just might. They are imperfect progressives, yes, but progressives just the same.

So yes, point out where the sexism is. Absolutely.

Just remember, amid your frustration, that although you’re up to your billionth explanation, the person you’re talking to may just be hearing their first.

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One Comment

  1. Maura
    May 13, 2008

    what i said in email. 😉

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