I had the most ridiculous argument on twitter this week. It started with a tweet in which I pointed out the following in the midst of a silly hashtag game intended to poke fun at men by disparaging them as unable to apologize in a way that properly caters to women’s sensibilities:
“Women spend their lives taking for granted: Resources men risk their health and lives to gather, produce, and distribute; security they have because men fought for it; & rights earned at the cost of men's lives... then worry about #HowMenSayTheyreSorry.”
The resulting butthurt explosion was amazing. All I had done was take a disparaging joke at men’s expense and turn it around on the women in the hashtag, making a similar one at theirs… yet women lobstered all over it like a mob of zombified Cathie Newman clones. So I must be saying women’s historical contributions weren’t important? Men never, ever do anything wrong? Women are men’s property to do with as they please? OH MUH GAWD, MUH VIOLENCE AGAINST DA WHAMMIN, YOO RAYYYYYYYPE APOLOGIST!
Even more amazing than the butthurt were some of the assumptions expressed in the midst of it. I must be a man complaining because he can’t get laid. Oh, and I must also visit prostitutes, but that’s no contradiction, and one of them really ought to cut off my dick, because that would totally improve my attitude toward women.
And I must be a transwoman trying to tell “real” (read: RadFem) women how to live their lives. My husband or boyfriend must beat me. I must have daddy issues. I must be doing this for male attention (but that doesn’t indicate that male attention is of any importance, guys.) The list went on. But the most interesting was an assumption that was not about me.
She actually said that other women’s act of reading things into my post that were not there made my post misleading… that she didn’t take it the way they did, but could see how they might. She could, in other words, sympathize with their act of jumping to conclusions, even though she admitted their conclusions were not supported by the post. After all, if they had been, she’d have been confused about its meaning rather than able to identify their conclusions as incorrect. And she was articulating that others’ internal processes, rather than my own defined and characterized my communication.
This is something which, during my time with the men’s rights movement, I have learned to recognize as a common behavior among women. You don’t get to decide what you mean by what you said. She does… but what she thinks of it and how she feels about it are all your fault.
I challenged that by pointing out, no, that would be a biased response… and she took that personally. She took it to mean I was calling bias out not in the individuals who had jumped to the wrong conclusions about the post (and had taken it way too seriously, by the way,) but in the individual sympathizing with their outlook.
Again, the butthurt was amazing. She argued about this with me for 2 days. She raged, then accused me of getting emotional. She lobstered, then accused me of putting words in her mouth. She flounced, then feigned superior maturity. She gave me a full-on demonstration of the bias women have not just toward females, but damsels. She never did figure out my initial statement was not about her. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It was about some women; therefore, to many women, it was personal.
In their study, “Gender Differences in Automatic In-Group Bias: Why Do Women Like Women More Than Men Like Men?” Laurie A. Rudman of Rutgers University and Stephanie A. Goodwin of Purdue University tested difference in in-group bias between the sexes, and found that individuals have fairly consistent attitudes toward the genders within their own lives; people of both sexes who more explicitly preferred their mothers over their fathers also favored women in general, as did people of both sexes who reported being raised primarily by their mothers, and women who more strongly identified with their gender.
People with a pro-female bias were found to be more likely to associate men with threatening attributes. In the case of the Tweet Heard Whirled ‘Round Wrong, this took the form of viewing a statement that was humorously sympathetic to men’s experiences with the troublesome female habits of taking men for granted and nitpicking their attempts to fulfil women’s expectations, as an attack on women’s value as human beings… such that even trying to maintain a balanced outlook did not stop at least one woman from imputing, if not malice, responsibility for other women’s knee-jerk reactions.
I do not deny that I trolled the shit out of that hashtag, though I’ll leave it up to the listener to decide whether to believe it was deliberate or an entertaining side effect. I will say that the most effective trolling involves getting the targets to do it to themselves… and in this case, they did that in spades, most of all the woman who thought herself more balanced than both sides of the gender fence.
It took me a long time to figure this phenomenon out, and to be fair, I had help. I was an MRA before I recognized that a trigger for women to behave the way these women did was for women with a bias toward the female sex as a group to be confronted with someone saying something that is in conflict with that bias, even in jest. By the time I started using Twitter I was an old hat at that. When I started using reddit, however, I was kind of new at analyzing gender-based characteristics. I kind of understood, but not really. I knew speaking up for men would bring women out of the woodwork (or at least other subreddits) to take umbrage at my supposed hatred of my sex, but not why they might make that association.
After one of reddit’s LadyMRAs mods posted that link to the conflict they had caused in their own subreddit to /r/mensrights, bringing those of us who weren’t involved with LadyMRAs to examine and comment, Karen wrote a post that really clarified things. It was a real light bulb moment for me, as she did what Karen does - put into words something I was kind of aware of, and hadn’t been able to articulate - the reason women like us don’t subscribe to the bias of most women, but instead often find ourselves at odds with it. That post is where we’re going to start today.