Last night I scored my first “proper” full-on misogynist blog comment. It was, to put it mildly, a shock to the system. While up till then I’d had the odd attempt at a sexist put-down – “no sense of humour”, “PMS”, even the word “feminist” itself – this was something else. Although not remotely on the scale of the misogynist taunts and threats I’ve seen hurled at other women on Twitter, this upset me. Thankfully some lovely tweets and comments from some lovely people soon put it right. Oh, and some wine – that helped, too.
I’m not going to write a long post about this because other women have experienced far worse and have far more revealing stories to tell. What I am going to write about is the one remaining type of sexist comment I’ve received, the one that actually amuses me. I call it the Men’s Rights Flounce.
This is how the Men’s Rights Flounce tends to work:
- Admit that, sure, women have been discriminated against, at some point, in some dim and distant past
- Claim that you used to buy into all this feminism shit and feel guilty and hate yourself for all these vague things that had sod all to do with you
- Announce that since you got divorced, sorry, saw the light, you now realise that it’s always been women who are using men – as cash machines, as sperm banks, as door-holder-openers – while claiming to want equality
- Proclaim that you are now withdrawing your manly services. You’re outta here. You don’t need no woman. So ner.
- Flounce (but remember to close the door behind you).
I have never know precisely how to respond to the Men’s Rights Flounce. Usually I think the polite thing is to say “bye”, and possibly “good luck”. I suspect that one is actually supposed to cling, metaphorically, to the knees of the flouncer, screaming “no! Don’t go! I’ll do all the dishes, I’ll give you the house and kids, I never really wanted the vote anyhow, just please, for the love of god, DON’T GO!” Alas, I’ve never managed to summon up the energy for all that. Besides, I have decent enough menfolk in my life already (even if they do, apparently, all secretly hate themselves).
The Men’s Rights flouncer has a strange idea of feminism to begin with. The idea that women who’ve fought for workplace equality and reproductive rights all, deep down, just want to “steal” a man’s sperm, raise his children in matriarchal isolation and live off male wages seems to me rather odd. “Ah, but that’s the contradiction”, the flouncer will say. It isn’t, though. It seems contradictory because it’s just not true (unless all women are in fact the flouncer’s ex-wife). Sure, feminism has highlighted the fact that if “traditional” women’s work – childcare, housework – remains unpaid, and if women are still expected to do most of this work, women will necessarily become dependent on the wages of men, at least to some extent. That’s a problem, though, not a feminist ideal.
The flouncer will of course then claim that women still expect men to do “manly things” – hold doors for them, open difficult jars of Dolmio, get things down from high-up shelves. Personally, I don’t have an issue with a man holding a door for me, as long as he’s okay with me holding it for him. The only problem I have with door-holding is when the person for whom the door’s being held is at that difficult in-between distance from the door – the one where you (if you’re holding it) are torn between slamming the door in his or her face or making the person half-run in an undignified manner. Or else you’re the person for whom the door is being held and you’re half-running, but also pretending not to, because you don’t want the door-holder to feel guilty for putting you under pressure. God, I hate that aspect of door holding. But it’s got bugger all to do with feminism (as for the jars and high-up shelves, well, I’ve no idea what Virginia Woolf recommended for a room of one’s own, but I’m having a footstool and some elastic bands).
While it is awful for some women to have to deal with men who fundamentally don’t like women at all, when such men make formal proclamations about their withdrawal from service to the whole of womankind, I do find it rather funny. It’s like when my three-year-old announces he’s running away from home and will never see me again, ever, because I’m mean and didn’t give him a second bag of animal biscuits (actually, it’s nothing like that, because on some level the latter can still make me rather sad). But the former – it is rather ridiculous, isn’t it? But perhaps part of the amusement comes from relief – it might be silly, but it’s a non-aggressive response. And sometimes a lack of aggression is the best we can hope for.
So leave, flouncers, leave. I’m sorry that womankind let you down. But don’t forget clean underpants.