I am a White Male and I Cannot be Silenced
It sounds really stupid when I say that I can’t be silenced, doesn’t it?
I mean, here I am writing a blog entry and I get to say whatever the fuck I want. Nobody is telling me to shut up because I’m a white guy. Nobody seems to think that I haven’t a right to speak my mind. It’s really fucking easy for me to have my say any time I like.
I bring this up because I’ve been reading a lot about a welcome address given at the Women in Secularism conference just over a week ago. The address got on the nerves of a lot of attendees because the speaker, a white male, chose to use part of his speech to admonish the women in attendance for perhaps taking feminism too far.
Now the fact he is a white male should not be the big issue here as he is the CEO of the Center for Inquiry and they did sponsor the event. Having him open the conference does seem somewhat appropriate.
But when he came out and admonished the attendees for telling men to “shut up and listen,” one wonders what he was thinking. Was he thinking this was a great way to endear him to the attendees at the conference? If so, he was, at best, foolish.
Is he correct that feminism can be taken to unhealthy extremes? Well yeah. Just about anything can be taken to unhealthy extremes and that can and does include feminism.
What I see from so many white males, though, is this idea that they are being bullied into silence by feminists in the secular movement. I’d find that easier to believe if there weren’t so damn many of them talking.
That’s the thing. The world is filled with white guys who are saying what they want all the fucking time. Since when did we get the idea that we were being shut out of the conversation?
I know a lot of women in the secular movement and many of them are also feminists. We talk about all sorts of stuff and I’ll bet I talk way more than they do because – well – I talk a lot.
It’s shitty and I’m constantly reminding myself to shut up and let other people say stuff. I don’t think I do it because I’m a white guy. I think I do it because I’m me. I’m constantly reminding myself to be quiet and let others talk. Some days I’m better at it than others.
But when a woman talks to me about the experience of being a woman, I do a much better job of shutting up (I hope) because they know way more about it than I do. It’s not that I’m not permitted to have an opinion on the topic. It is that I probably shouldn’t share my opinion until they have had an opportunity to share their perspective.
Because they are experts on being a woman and I’m not.
Now, I don’t have to wait for them to tell me about their experience if I don’t want to. I can go onto the internet and say whatever I damn well please on any of a thousand different forums. I wonder how this translates into “being silenced?”
If I’m a speaker at a secular conference (I don’t expect I am likely to be one but let’s play pretend) and I say something that upsets others at the conference (men or women), they will probably call me out on it. On Twitter. Immediately.
I’m not being silenced, though, because I’m still talking, right?
I now have to defend what I said and if I can’t defend it, I should apologize, right? If I don’t, then I probably won’t be asked to speak again.
I’m not being silenced by anyone but myself. My choices determine what will happen next.
But I’ll tell you what – the difference between what I will hear as a result of saying something others disagree with and what most women would hear is precisely the reason that this speech was so tone deaf. Hell, you can see it if you read the comments in support of what he said.
Look at all the guys who are smugly patting him on the back and using terrible derogatory language to berate the women who might have the audacity to think that he was just a titch condescending and/or insulting. The hatred these guys feel for women they have never met pours off their keyboards in a manner that is, frankly, embarrassing.
They are making comments about how they are being marginalized in which they are marginalizing those with whom they disagree. And the irony is completely lost.
They want to make the conversation around women in secularism about them. Why don’t they get to be part of the dialogue? Why are women so anxious to talk about their experience in the secular community without letting men talk about women’s experience in the secular community? Every now and again a woman pops up to tell other women how they are doing it wrong but it’s mostly the guys. They really want these women to know what horrible people they are for wanting the opportunity to say something.
And many of them felt a secular conference focused exclusively on women was a bad idea. Would they have felt the same about a secular conference focused on GLBT members of the community? Non-white members of the community? Males? Must all secular conferences be about everybody?
They talk and talk and talk and most of what they are talking about is how they aren’t being permitted to say anything. If they would shut up for a little while, they might notice how much they have already said. Most of it completely self-centered and useless.
That’s fair, I suppose. Most of what gets posted on the internet is self-centered and useless.
Must men be shut out of the dialogue around sexism and secularism?
But maybe they ought to check their ego at the door. Contrary to what a lot of guys seem to think, you can argue with a feminist.
Of course, if you start saying things like “you deserve to be raped” or “I’m going to punch you in the face if I ever meet you” or calling her a “feminazi,” what you have done is abandon your argument for intimidation tactics. If you can’t stand behind your argument without using intimidation tactics, your argument wasn’t very good to begin with. If you can’t stand by your argument without calling someone names, you need to go back to high school because that is where that behavior belongs.
I’ve posted opinions like this on the internet before and do you know how many personal attacks I’ve gotten?
Do you know how many threats I’ve gotten?
Do you know how many times I’ve been called a slut, frigid or a cunt?
You get the idea.
It isn’t just because I’m a comedian and I would just laugh at those people and make fun of them until they gave up.
It’s because I’m a white guy. And because I’m a white guy, I can say whatever I want, whenever I want. Even about other white guys.
See what I mean? I cannot be silenced.