About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Don't be 'That Guy'

I have always maintained that feminism must be both a theory and a practise. Practise without theory has no direction and may often end up doing feminism a disservice, while theory without practise accomplishes nothing but intellectual self-satisfaction.

How do you 'do' feminism then? Like, in daily life? And as a man? I've already written a few short tips (under the 'Minimal effort' title) that you can do to be a better ally even if you feel uncomfortable discussing or arguing in public.

Disregarding the question whether men can really be complete feminists because they are not women, there is much more that we can do to both help ourselves and help women. This includes a category of breaking with what I call 'That Guy'-behaviour that irritates me to no end among some men who claim to be supportive of feminism and its goals. So, don't be*:

That Guy who brushes off criticism by saying "but I mean well!"

Because he tries to be a good husband to Felicia and listens to the opinions of women around him moreso than his peers do, Patrick can't see what's wrong with advising women to not wear revealing outfits late at night in dodgy areas in the city. Instead of reflecting on what he might have done wrong, Patrick goes into defence mode, digs in his heels and keeps repeating he "means well" as if that is a magic mantra that will shield him from criticism.

That Guy who dismisses women's perspectives and feelings as part of the discussion.

George is a scientist with a keenly analytical mind. He enters a discussion on everyday sexism where a woman complains that salesmen always address her husband first or seem to assume that her husband will know more about the matter at hand. George launches into a discussion of why this salesman might assume that and will be frustrated about the 'anecdotism' of the woman with the story, completely ignoring his privilege of not having experienced any of her frustration on a personal level.

That Guy who thinks he's entitled to make sexist jokes because he "gets it".

Frank is abhorred by acid attacks on women in the Middle East and came out in support of stricter laws on sexual violence. He also realizes that in many ways, women still don't have it as good as most men. When someone then calls him out on casually referring to a celebrity as a "vacuous bimbo", he dismisses that criticism by saying that he can't possibly mean it that way.

That Guy who enters debates and wants to be heard despite not knowing a lot about the topic at hand.

In an ongoing discussion about underrepresentation of women in higher management, Robert pipes up with selfmade theories about how and why this is, despite never having really thought about this before. He disturbs the discussion and objects to being told to listen because he is very eager to share his opinion, although it is irrelevant.

That Guy who tells all the ladies to calm down.

A discussion is getting particularly heated, and Richard steps in to say that he finds the atmosphere too toxic and that people should calm down. Instead of trying to honestly understand why they are upset, he manages to turn the discussion against him, confirming his prejudice that feminism is being hijacked by "hysterical women".

That Guy who is "just asking questions".

James can't stay away from a good debate. In a discussion following a news story about sexual assault on a minor, he starts theorising about age of consent laws and bringing up the possibility that some minors might enjoy sex. In the outrage that follows, he fails to see that he's been acting pretty airily about a touchy subject that some may have personal histories with, and decides that feminists are bad at debating.

That Guy who lectures feminists about how to do feminism.

David is an experienced guy and socially progressive. He can't help but offering suggestions about the marketing strategy of feminism, its branding and its messaging, in ways that he believes would improve the movement, inevitably rousing anger in activists who have dedicated years to the cause, and ignoring that the root cause for the pushback against feminism is (usually) not their comm strategy, but society's sexist structures.

This list can be virtually endless, but I'll end on a few brief notes that extend beyond men who are already engaged in socially progressive movements in one way or another. As always, I'm aware that I may be preaching to the choir, but I want to demonstrate how easy it can really be to make a positive difference without becoming a full-blown activist.

So, allow me to present some quick parting shots. Don't be That Guy who:

... takes criticism of some male behaviour personally
... wants a cookie or a pat on the head for not being a horrible person
... pushes for sex although all physical, mental and even verbal cues say she doesn't want to
... decides to strike up random conversations with random women who are out alone at night - there are plenty of avenues to meet women where they don't already feel unsafe
... reduces gender to stupid stereotypes
... cat-calls, whistles, honks or jeers at women
... brings up issues that affect men only when the conversation is about women
... feels entitled to female attention
... calls other men gay, girls or pussies if they don't meet some arbitrary standard for masculinity
... is totally That Guy without realising it

* All of this may apply to some women as well, but I write mainly for men.