Planned Parenthood to male allies: You suck
Just in time for Christmas, Planned Parenthood, the reproductive rights advocacy group, service provider, and conservative punching bag, sent out a message to its male supporters: Happy holidays, you sexist pig.
Well not quite in those words. Here’s what the tweet actually said:
The graphic, which originally appeared on the Feministing site, has eight panels showing “bad allies” confessing to their sexist crimes: a women’s studies professor who “chooses one lucky student” to sleep with every semester (a swipe at former male feminist star Hugo Schwyzer), a gay man who feels his “special kinship” with women is carte blanche to get away with misogynist comments, and other characters whose sins may or not be apparent.
The message caused quite a stir on Twitter, with many people — women and men — pointing out that it seems to say men will always be the baddies and “can never win.”
Others countered that the graphic was not going after all pro-feminist men but merely those who aren’t true supporters of women’s rights:
So how bad is this tweet? Let me count the ways.
Generalizing and stereotyping. While the Planned Parenthood tweet mentions “some male allies,” the comic’s header seems to have a broader sweep: “Male feminist allies be like…” (And text below: “Male activists, artivitsts, and social justice champions tell us what makes them role models for other aspiring male feminists.”) Sure, it’s an article of faith in social justice circles that collective insults hurled at one or another “privileged” group are a perfectly justified expression of the legitimate frustrations of the oppressed and that a good ally from said privileged group must bear such insults with equanimity. But anyone who is not part of those circles will easily recognize this as a deeply toxic mindset which encourages abusive behavior on one side and either doormattery or patronizing chivalry on the other. If a “male ally” posted a cartoon under the header, “Feminists be like…” which mocked some feminists’ bad behavior, feminists would not be amused.
Sexism. There is no matching cartoon mocking female feminists for not living up to their ideals — for instance, undermining other women at work, or holding men to stereotypical expectations. Where’s the panel that says, “I denounce the sexist idea that men should be the primary breadwinners, but I don’t regard less ambitious, lower-earning men as suitable partners”? Or “I call for fathers to take equal responsibility for child-rearing, but when it comes to my own kids I think I should be the No. 1 parent because I’m the mom”? Or “I preach equality but I still expect the nearest guy to kill that big spider in the bathroom”?
Nebulous offenses. Sure, we can all agree that the professor who uses his women’s studies classes as his own personal hookup service is an unsavory character. But what about the other offenders on the list? The guy in the second panel, for example (“After reading a couple of Audrey Lorde and bell hooks books, I now take every opportunity to educate women of color on their own oppression”), could simply be a white male who has the temerity to express opinions on race and gender issues. Panel 3 (“Every time I make my move on a new female comrade, I make sure to tell her how revolutionary my gender politics are”) echoes the well-known stereotype of the male feminist whose feminism is all about getting laid. I’m sure this exists. However, feminists who make correct gender politics a litmus test for relationships have little cause to complain when males use such politics as mating displays. (Or is it unfeminist to make moves on women in the first place? And if so, are we going to criticize women who preach feminism but still expect men to make the first move?)
The gay guy in Panel 4? For all we know, the “misogynist things” he’s guilty of saying could be nothing worse than ironic use of “bitch.”
The offender in Panel 5 is described in such specific terms that one suspects he is meant to be an actual person: “Even though my partner is a proud feminist, and at home I take care of the kids and do all the domestic work, I feel castrated, so I reclaim my masculinity by gaslighting and undermining the women I work with.” (Some have suggested it’s meant to be feminist/atheist YouTuber Steve Shives; there is some physical resemblance, though I haven’t seen any evidence of Shives’s behavior toward women being criticized.) Of course, let’s not forget that this behavior and motivation is merely being imputed to the man in the comic. From his point of view, the story may be, “Even though my partner is a proud feminist and I do most of the child care and domestic work, when I get into a conflict with a woman at work I still get accused of misogyny.” But then, having a point of view undoubtedly makes him a bad ally as well.
Which brings us to Panel 6: “I do cutesy songs and poetry about liberation, but when I get accused of misogyny, I sit back and let women take the lead in shielding and defending me.” Well, we know what would happen if our hapless poet/songwriter took the lead in defending himself against accusations of misogyny (which could mean one use of a phrase someone finds “problematic”): he would be guilty of invalidating women’s experiences. And probably of gaslighting.
The guy in Panel 7 says the right things in the “social justice reading circle,” but laughs at or ignores sexist comments when “chillin’ with the homies.” That could be either bad or pretty innocuous — depending on what “sexist comments” means. It could be nothing more egregious than discussing women in terms of “hotness.”
And finally, Panel 8:
“As much as I think I am an ally to womxn (sic), I do not focus my work on where it could make the most impact: other men. By pushing away relationships with men, I impose the burden of my emotional labor on the womxn (sic) in my life.”
I’d like to think that “womxn” is meant as a spoof of “social justice” jargon, but alas, it’s probably not. It’s a bit difficult to figure out what “imposing the burden of his emotional labor” on women means (the emotional support this man gets from the women in his life?). What’s easy is to imagine an exact reversal of this criticism: “As much as I think I am an ally to womxn, I focus my work mainly on helping men.” It’s a classic case of “you can’t win.”
This panel prompted one man on Twitter to comment:
As a pro-choice woman who has given to Planned Parenthood in the past, I sympathize. For the record, I am ambivalent about the recent controversy surrounding allegations of fetal organ sales by PP; I think there is evidence of possible wrongdoing, but I also believe the reporting on the right has been highly tendentious. However, if Planned Parenthood is going to throw in its lot with the “Social Justice” cult, identity politics, and male-bashing Third Wave feminism, it’s going to lose essential support from liberals who support individual rights. Please, Planned Parenthood, don’t hire any social media interns who unironically use the phrase “check your privilege.”
Planned Parenthood aside, this execrable comic fully exposes the dishonesty of declarations that modern feminism supports men and men’s issues too and than men concerned with how gender biases hurt them should join the feminist cause. Why join a movement that will constantly police your behavior for real or imagined infractions, put you in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” fix, and mock you for failing to reach ever-shifting goalposts? So much for “Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you.” So much for “we care about your problems a lot.”
There’s another ironic twist: the creator of this comic is a male feminist, Victor Entrepuertas. That doesn’t make it any less sexist toward men: “Look at all the awful people in my demographic group — of course I’m nothing like that!” is a pretty noxious form of bigotry. But in its own way, it is also appallingly sexist toward women, who are cast solely as helpless victims. They get seduced by lecherous professors (and never initiate such sexual relationships themselves, unlike at least some of Schwyzer’s actual paramours). They are beset by pickup artists spouting revolutionary gender politics. They get undermined and “gaslighted” by supposedly feminist male colleagues. Even when they step up to defend a male friend against charges of misogyny, they are merely being used as “shields.”
Maybe we should add another bad ally to the list: a bearded “artivist” who says, “I attack other men for being bad feminists, but deep down I see women as nothing but damsels in distress.”
(This post original appeared at Newsish.com.)