Hey men! Have you suddenly discovered a good friend, someone you might even love, has said something awful about women? As a beneficiary of the problem, and despite your innate cowardice, are you obligated to challenge your friend’s attitude (hint: yes)?
More importantly, are you also an inarticulate idiot? If so, wonderful! Come with me as we argue that women are indeed people while navigating the terrifying world that is friendship. And all in the internet-approved format of a chose-your-own-adventure!
1. Listen for sexism and point it out
Hesitantly question what your friend meant. We’ve all blurted out awful things before – maybe they didn’t really consider what they said? Maybe they were trying to be sarcastic? Maybe everything is fine, just fine, and you will never have to exit your comfort zone again.
If your friend refuses to back down, go to 2.
If your friend apologises and acknowledges their insensitivity, what are you even doing here? Mission accomplished, now beat it.
2. Buckle up, you’re doing this
Understand that no, they meant whatever it was, and as part of a damaging masculine discourse their attitude needs to be called out as bullshit. Their tone may now have changed to a kind of defensive, faux-impartiality but yeah they definitely meant that women can’t do whatever or feminism is stupid or rape is not always rape etc. Blurt out something simple but effective, like “that’s crap” or “you are wrong,” then gather your thoughts.
If they said something dumb about gender stereotypes, go to 3. If they dismissed concepts like feminism or male privilege, got to 4.
If they somehow played down sexual assault, cry, go to 5.
3. Panic, insult everyone’s intelligence with anecdotal evidence
How many people do you know who conform 100% to gender stereotypes? Tell your friend that we are all beautiful snowflakes, and also having a penis does not somehow trump the female lawyers, scientists, economists and body-builders of this world. What about our female friends, huh? What about my sisters, cousins, professors, or bosses? What about Oprah, huh?We don’t have to prove any of this to you! FUCK you!
Go re-think your strategy at 6.
4. Explain male privilege
We’re all just people right? And no one in the discussion thinks outright sexism is a good thing, so why are we even discussing it? PC police, ra ra. This is where you explain why casual sexism is a part of the problem and we need to understand the privileges we’ve received by being born men. Take your pick from so, so many examples, from concrete data such as job opportunities, pay gaps, media representation and all-around-safety, to more subtle forms of male privilege. You might be told that things like affirmative action prove otherwise, in which case you will have to explain why affirmative action is necessary in an extremely uneven playing field and doesn’t nearly make up for the advantages and options we’ve enjoyed. Have fun! Maybe steal a thing or two from this excellent analogy.
If they concede that yeah we do have it much, much easier, then you’re done! Peace out at 11.
If they pretend that these privileges are somehow deserved, I mean, Jesus? Piggyback off the stereotype argument at 6 I guess.
5. Flip out that anyone could be blase about sexual assault
Ask them why they’re so eager to defend already well-defended sexual predators when women face very real, constant consequences for this kind of perpetuated apathy. This will be met with cries of defamation and misquotation, but it’s an important point to make because it is the fucking truth.
There’s no going back now, jump to 7.
6. Talk about women as if they were test subjects instead of people, embrace shame
None of the male commentators have a background in gender studies, or experience in being female, but this won’t stop anyone talking like they’re somehow an authority. Your opponents will reframe the argument as if they’re impartial, objective observers to women, who are coincidentally slaves to some fucked up version of biology. Expect some commentary on lady emotions and some things that dudes are just programmed to do better, y’know? You will not be smart enough to stop their non-science (ha!) because you too are not a scientist.But try challenging them to name a single profession women are somehow physically exempt from, and explain that any lack of representation is due to a patriarchal society (yes it exists, obviously!) and not some genetic quirk that stops women learning maths. Personal favourites include “there are three and a half billion women out there and they’re not clones or a hive-mind,” and “gender is a social construct and might influence personality but will never define them or ME, man!”. This will make you sound both smart and cool.
If they acknowledge that their prejudices are not based on any kind of evidence, go to 9.
If no one listens to any of this, go to 7.
7. Keep arguing until someone leaves.
If you are lucky, it will be someone from the other side who has just given up. One down, right? If you are really lucky, it will be the only woman in the conversation, who leaves after one too many rape jokes. This will make any remaining men feel bad and reinforce yours as the moral high ground. You are almost there!
If they still insist that some forms of misogyny are defensible/hilarious/whatever, go to 8.
If they feel guilty and get on the defensive, go to 9.
8. Become visibly angry and incomprehensible, shake with rage
This is a one step forward, two steps back kind of thing. While getting angrier disproves any earlier assumptions that men are inherently rational (because female emotions, right?), it will unfortunately mean the guy/s can quite rightfully accuse you and your anger of ruining a perfectly civil conversation about the female brain or rapist “grey areas”.
Do not give in to that white hot anger you did not know you had. Go to 10.
Give in to that anger, go to jail.
9. Get sidelined by moral relativity, ontology, other irrelevance
A weird trend amongst people who are confronted with their prejudices is an ethical-relativist, everyone’s-opinion-is-equally-valid counter-attack. They’ll pretend that freedom of speech and moral relativism mean that everyone’s perfect, no one can really know anything, and no one should have their prejudices challenged/feelings hurt. I kid you not, someone tried to end one argument with “I’m a person with my views, you’re a person with your views, and we’re all just people, man, so what’s the problem?” and a sad face.Because I have neither the space nor the capacity to articulate why all this is stupid, here are some dinosaurs to do just that!
Show them that comic, go to 11.
Failing access to that one comic, go to 10.
10. Resort to name-calling
(Note: this is exactly half a joke. Which half is up to you!)
If they still think that people are entitled to harmful opinions that somehow don’t have real-world consequences, compare them to human monsters and say something like “well should we not have done anything about HIM, huh?”.
If they shut right up, go to 12.
If they end up defending Hitler, go to 11.
11. Enjoy your moral victory
Congratulations! You are now as angry as you ever could possibly be and the night is most definitely ruined, but at least all your friends have stopped talking to you.
You should probably still go to 12.
12. Peter out of conversation/friendship
No one has learned anything. Awkwardly try to contribute to any follow-up conversations, but, having previously lost control of your voice, end up kind of barking weird comments. Go home absolutely livid and stay up until 5 am ruminating on just how thoroughly you failed.
Chris Woods (@tophermwoods) is Editor-In-Chief of Brisbane’s Tech Street Journal, a title which means nothing here or anywhere else. He does not know what he’s doing right now, but will someday see the world.