I don’t have sympathy for 101-level questions because men exhaust me

[Hi, folks. I apologize for the radio silence; the start of a new term is always a hectic time. I’m currently finishing up the research for a 2-parter on Curse of Strahd – the republished version for D&D 5th Edition (OMG, folks, I have so much to say about this book…), but in the mean time, I wanted to take a moment to address something that I’ve been thinking about since last week.]

Recently, in an online community that I participate in, there was a post discussing community standards which included the word “trolling” in the list of intolerable behaviors. Someone expressed concern that some people might not know what “trolling” means, to which I replied (rather bluntly) that if someone participating in an online community doesn’t know what a word that has been around so long that it has passed into the common parlance means when used in reference to anti-social online behavior, that’s their problem for not taking the time to educate themselves. (I mean, that’s why Google exists, right?) And apparently, my comment was perceived by at least one person as bullying.

Which. On the one hand, sure. I’m a bitch, and have long since stopped trying to be anything other than a bitch; no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, someone is always going to think that you’re a bitch if you’re a woman, since “bitch” pretty much only means “woman that I don’t approve of”.

And yeah, I don’t have much empathy for ignorance about 101 level issues, which isn’t always the best – especially when I’m dealing with people who are part of communities that I’m invested in. In those sorts of situations, bridge-building is important, and it’s not something I’m terribly good at. While I look up tremendously to the women in my circles who are bridge-builders, I know that’s not ever going to be me. I just don’t have the patience.

On the other hand, though, I’m pretty annoyed that saying forthrightly and without apology that people need to be responsible for educating themselves is something that someone can feel “bullied” by. I have been both 1) bullied and 2) a clueless white person who couldn’t buy a clue to save her life, and I can tell you from personal experience that the pain of learning that you are ignorant about social justice and need to do some work around educating yourself does not even come close to the pain and life-long trauma caused by being the victim of bullying. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT.

Learning how ignorant I was about social justice and the level to which I needed to educate myself? That sucked, sure. It’s painful realizing that you’ve been inadvertently reinforcing systemic injustice, because everyone wants to believe that they’re a good person. Being bullied? Left life-long scars that I won’t ever recover from. Saying that you feel “bullied” by someone telling you to do your own damn work in educating yourself about important issues just shows how much marginalized people are expected to do the work of teaching their oppressors how not to be oppressive. Marginalized people are expected to hold their oppressor’s hand while gently stroking their hair and whispering softly in soothing, dulcet tones about how their behavior was oppressive, but it’s okay because they didn’t know and they’re still a good person.

Which. You know what? No.

Now I am talking generally and not a specific person, just to be clear

It’s no secret that this is and never has been a 101 level blog – it’s right there in the sidebar. I delete comments pertaining to 101-level questions and issues, because there are so many better places on the internet to educate yourself. There are two reasons for this that I give whenever I am asked about the policy:

  1. Something I learned in the first few years of running this blog was that if I tried to answer all of the 101-level questions I got, I would never get any real actual work done. If I did all of the work around educating clueless privileged people that I was expected to do, I would never get to write about the deeper issues that are my real passion and focus.
  2. I am tired of having the same damn 101-level conversations over, and over, and over again. Explaining the basics of social justice 101 is fucking exhausting and aggravating to me, and I just don’t want to do it anymore.

But if I’m honest, there’s also a third reason. One I don’t talk about much, because it’s hard to address it without sounding like a complete and total bitch: I don’t have empathy for the 101-level struggles of men because men fucking exhaust me.

I’m not proud of it. As much as I make jokes about misandry and male tears, I’ll cop to the fact that those jokes are more of a coping mechanism for dealing with the shit I get because of writing this blog than an actual desire to laugh at men’s suffering. I would like to be able to respond to these situations with empathy and compassion, but that’s just not possible, because I have suffered too much from men too often. When my daily life is full of struggles that reinforce the fact that society sees me as less because I am female, I just don’t have the energy to feel empathetic about a man’s pain that a woman is refusing to educate him about the basics of the basics of the basics of social justice.

Specifically, I don’t have empathy for men who need education to understand that patriarchy exists. When daycare costs in Canada are forcing women out of the workplace and back into the home… When the male-domination of the tech industry means that tech towns are also areas in which women suffer the greatest economic inequality… When, at my last job, I made 78% of what my husband makes, despite having a higher education level than he does… When my life is full of glass ceilings and invisible barriers that I have been beating my head against, with no perceptible progress, I can’t have empathy for a man who is blind to the daily indignities that I face.

I don’t have empathy for men who need education to understand that you are accountable for your sexist actions. When I worked for several years for a company at which the sales bros could talk openly in the office about strippers, call women bitches, and engage in other sorts of misogynist language without any penalties or repercussions… When that same company literally broke the law in regards to condoning a hostile work environment and doing nothing to change it when it was reported to them, and I was told that I had no real legal recourse… When I once temped as an assistant to a high-powered real estate broker who was so condescendingly insulting and patronizing that he made me cry on multiple occasions, and I later found out that I was his fifth temp in four weeks… When my life has been full of men who have harassed, insulted, or harmed me with sexist words and actions, I can’t have empathy for a man who is blind to the fact that only you are responsible for your actions.

I don’t have empathy for men who need education to understand that the male gaze exists. When IGN had a section of their website devoted to covering booth babes at E3 (before booth babes at E3 were outlawed)… When games like Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive offer up sexualized depictions of women who are reduced to a collection of titillating body parts… When Bayonetta is sold as an empowered and liberated “strong female character”… When the hobby that I love reduces women on a daily basis to the sexual pleasure and gratification that they can provide to the only “real” gamers – straight men – I can’t have empathy for a man who is blind to the fact that objectification of women is a problem.

I don’t have empathy for men who need education to understand that rape culture exists. When all the girls I went to high school with wore shorts under their uniform skirts because the boys would flip up our skirts to “see if we were wearing underwear”… When truck drivers coming into the office of the company I used to work for would routinely sexually harass the women in the office… When I have been pursued by men who are only dissuaded by me making a show of the ring on my finger… When literally every woman I know has at least one story about unwanted sexual touching by a man at some point in their life… When there are now 50 women who say that Bill Cosby raped them and there are still people who say those women are just looking for attention… When I have to exist daily in a culture that commodifies my body and tells men that they are entitled to use it for their sexual pleasure, I can’t have empathy for a man who is blind to the ways in which our society excuses rapists and blames the victims of rape for their own rape.

I don’t have empathy for men who need education understand that rigid gender roles are bad. When my four year old daughter thinks that women can’t fly planes… When my daughter wants to grow up to be a princess who gets saved from a monster by a prince, marry that prince, and have babies, despite my husband and I telling her she can do anything she wants with her life… When a friend’s five year old son gets bullied for wearing his favorite skirt to school and cries because of it… When the daily reality of parenting my four year old daughter is trying and failing to combat the social programming she internalized when she was TWO that she is less because she is female, I can’t have empathy for a man who is blind to the ways in which gender essentialism and binarism are harmful.

So that’s where I set the bar of “you must be at least this enlightened to be worth my time”. Make of that what you will.

10 thoughts on “I don’t have sympathy for 101-level questions because men exhaust me

  1. Yup to ALL this. The fact that someone felt bullied by your suggestion that it is their responsibility to educate themselves about social issues just makes me wonder what it is like to live in such a sheltered environment where the merest HINT of a pointed comment sends them to the GD fainting couch. I just don’t have words for that. Maybe if they need an example, the pain the felt by that remark should be multiplied by about a million and then they can start to understand your life experiences. I guess I have nothing to say other than I am on board with this a 1000000% In the downtime between being harassed by trolls who want me to prove myself over and over again, I have no patience to then turn around and coddle an ignorant person. God knows they don’t care about our feelings when the tables are turned.

  2. I tend to be a bit leery of 101-level questions in non-101-level spaces because I’ve seen the constant asking of 101-level questions used as a bullying and derailing tactic by people who don’t like the way that a conversation is going. They’ll ask a 101-level question, and then side-track into endless discussions of minutiae of the question – the exact meaning of various terms, the exact nuances of what was being asked, does this apply to Edge Case X, how about Edge Case Y, what about this case Z which has nothing to do with the situation but that I’ve just thought of… and before you know it, the original discussion topic is long forgotten, lost in the blizzard of pinning down 101-level basics to the satisfaction of the de-railer. The tactic is known as “JAQing”, or “JAQing off” – for the words “just asking questions” – and is well known enough to be documented at a number of locations online.

    There’s also the basic point that all this work has already been done elsewhere, and by other people. The information is out there already, in 101 level format – so why should you be required to re-invent the wheel? If John A Questioner has genuinely not encountered information on basic, 101 level feminism, then he’s probably in need of the wider perspective on the matter than can be provided in a blog about a different topic entirely.

    Finally, if telling someone they have to do their own bloody homework makes them feel “bullied”, then the main thing I feel for that person is a deep and profound pity. But they’ve proved they’re capable of learning – they’re walking and talking, after all – so I’m sure they’ll work out the basics of how to do research and how to educate themselves on a particular subject.

  3. Sure, it’s not your job to provide answers to 101 questions

    (I do think it’s a good idea to provide links to places where 101 question can be answered — which you do, no complaints there)

    A lot of disagreements between reasonable people, however, do boil down to subtle differences in definitions or assumptions about the basics. Even though both parties might already be well-educated on a subject, talking about 101-level stuff can help resolve these differences.

    Of course, it’s also not your job to resolve these differences either. I find that conversations can get ‘deeper’ if everyone is coming from the same point, but the blogsphere probably isn’t the best place for really deep conversation anyway.

    • You can go back and look at the posts from 2011 to illustrate why I take the no-tolerance approach to derailing here. Engaging with those questions never led to deeper discussion. Discussion always suffered for it.

    • The great thing about the Internet is that there is so much information at your disposal that if you really are keen on understanding issues that any group faces, you can enter it into The Google and learn a whole bunch right there. If you want an even deeper understanding, you can find forums where you can ask questions and then *listen* to get an even more insight. I bristle at the thought that it is somehow the responsibility of the marginalized person to provide tools to the non marginalized person. Reasonable people disagree on things all the time, but privileged folks have a nasty habit of forcing the marginalized person prove their own experiences again and again without consequence.

  4. just want to say i’m not even a follower of your blog, just came here cuz someone linked the strahd post and i was about to run a strahd campaign.

    but man was this post refreshing.

    i’m a male, by the way, and i really love it when folks, male or female, shut down the 101 questions because they have to do work. like you, i also admire the bridge-builders, as you call them (mind if i steal that?) but there is so much creative space in the world and i applaud the idea and ideal where not all of us have to stand at the border of horribleness and build bridges all day.
    🙂 cheers!

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