So, over at “Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men”, Ally Fogg recently said this:
I hate to break it to you Martin, but a primary message of feminism is that the world does not (or should not) revolve around the sensitive fee-fees of middle aged, middle class, straight white men and our boners. Demanding – or even politely requesting – that feminism rebrand itself to become more palatable to men like you and me is deep, deep into the territory of waging war for peace or f***ing for virginity. If you want feminism to become more palatable to swallow or an easier cloak to don, the only course of action is not to change feminism, but to change yourself.
Now, this isn’t really a prime example of what I’m going to talk about here, and normally Fogg is actually better at this than most feminists or those who are feminist leaning, but you really should note the very, very dismissive response to a comment that the word “feminism” has certain implications that cause feelings that are a barrier to his acceptance of it. It’s suddenly that feminism isn’t about the “sensitive fee-fees” of a certain group of people, which has the implication that feminists don’t have to care about the feelings of that group … in particular, in this case, white, middle-aged, middle-class men. And as I said, this isn’t a particularly good example of this — but it’s handy — and elsewhere you can find even more dismissive comments that pretty much suggest that women, at least, don’t have to care about the feelings of men at all, and that men expressing hurt feelings over something are being overly sensitive and that their hurt feelings can not only be ignored, can not only be dismissed, but are even things to mock and make fun of.
This leads to a massive logical problem in feminism, or at least feminisms that accept this.
A major component of feminism — and from those who love to use the “fee-fees” line — is that the feelings and experiences of women are too often not taken seriously, dismissed and disregarded. Men — the argument often goes at least — need to take the feelings of women seriously. Which is perfectly fine, but if you argue that someone needs to take your feelings seriously, it’s really, really hard to get that when you then turn around and argue that you don’t have to take their feelings seriously. I’m perfectly willing to consider your feelings, but if you won’t consider mine in return then, well, I feel no obligation to care about your feelings. Caring about someone else’s feelings is a two-way street: to get people to care about yours, a good start is to show you care about theirs. A really bad start is to demonstrate that you not only don’t care about theirs, but that you will sanctimoniously defend your right to not care about theirs. People are likely to reciprocate the amount you care about their feelings to you, at which point you can do the math.
Now feminists can counter that they don’t need to care about the feelings of men because society, by default, already does. Putting aside how accurate that is — patriarchy seemed to care about the feelings men were supposed to have, not the ones they did have, just as it did for women — the issue here is that being out and out dismissive of feelings is in no way caring about them. You can make an argument that you already have considered their feelings as much as is reasonable if you don’t express that as not caring about them at all … and this also runs into the issue that those they criticize for not caring enough about the feelings of women can counter with that as well (and often do).
This leads to the next way to go: to argue that their feelings, in that case, are invalid. They are judging the world through the perspective of privilege, and while they do feel that way, they ought not feel that way. And so since their feelings are wrong and invalid, they need not be respected and considered. The issue here is that this opens up the idea that feelings don’t have to be considered if they are invalid or based on a faulty perception of the world … and there’s no reason to think that this is limited only to the “privileged”. So, then, this means that if someone thinks that what a woman or group of women are feeling is based on an incorrect perception of the world or that the feelings are invalid, then they also ought to be able to argue that … without getting accused of ignoring their perceptions or “gaslighting” them.
The conundrum, then, comes down to this: if we should respect the feelings of others just because they are the feelings of others, then the feelings of men — accurate or not — need to be respected and not dismissed. But if one introduces the idea that we can indeed judge feelings as valid or invalid, then the feelings of women are just as open to that sort of judgement as the feelings of men are. At the end of the day, this pretty much demonstrates why the Golden Rule is a very good one: if you don’t treat others the way you expect to be treated, it’s nearly impossible to avoid hypocrisy.