Gay Men Confronting Our Sexism

Brian Kane: The thread about […] unintentional sexism is touching a lot of nerves. But it should. We gay men can’t go on assuming that our own minority status in society has made us immune to sexism, as much as we’d like to believe that. Ayana has made the crux of the argument clear: good intentions are not good enough. Gay men must defer to women’s opinions on this matter: women are the victims of sexism.

Tim Evanson: I will not for one minute agree that just because a member of a discriminated against group says he or she is discriminated against that therefore he or she is.

Tim Wilson: Try understanding this: The obligation of a person who is not, at the moment, in general, subject to racism, sexism, or heterosexism is tolisten to a person who is, at the moment, in general, subject to racism, sexism, or heterosexism. When a black person talks to you about racism or the possibility thereof, a white person in the USA in the last decade of the twentieth century ought to shut up and listen. When a woman talks to you about sexism or the possibility thereof, a male person in the USA in the last decade of the twentieth century ought to shut up and listen. When a homosexual person talks to you about heterosexism or the possibility thereof, a heterosexual person in the USA in the last decade of the twentieth century ought to shut up and listen.

It doesn’t mean saying “of course everything you say is true”; it means understanding the numbers make it more likely that its true than any comparable statement about oppression by a white or male or straight person, and it means understanding that not listening to the person’s complaint is another act by which that person is subject to racism or sexism or heterosexism.

The other major point is : How in hell do you expect to learn what is perceived as sexist/racist/whatever unless people tell you? If a black friend tells me that something I’ve said or done comes across as racist, that doesn’t say anything about my intentions. If I’m not willing to examine my behavior, and modify it if necessary, that says a lot about my intentions. It doesn’t mean that everything my friend says about racism is gospel, but she’s certainly in a hell of a lot better position than I am, to know how my words and actions might come across to a stranger. I’ve never lived in this world as a black woman, and I don’t have any other way to find out about it than to listen. And if I don’t want to come across as racist, and that’s important to me, I will make the effort to listen, and if I feel the need, I will ask other black people, friends and not, for their opinion.

Tim Evanson: For us to simply assume that women are pristine and logical and have no political agenda and that when some woman asserts discrimination she’s being Mother Teresa is simply untrue. My female friends would be the first to start taking advantage of me if I gave them such leeway! Women have human natures, too, and that nature includes power-hunger, lying, and deceit — just like it is in men.

I might question your notion of friendship, but hey! It’s your life. If you think your friends would lie to you about what behavior is likely to be seen as sexist, then ask some strangers. The original point was, I think, that there was a different reaction from the guys than from the women, and the response from the guys came across as sexist, no matter what their intent was. Nobody claimed that women don’t have a political agenda — we do. We want to be treated like equals. That doesn’t seem like it would be so very hard to understand. Not madonnas, and not whores, and not helpless little ladies. But in general, women are your best resource when it comes to learning about what looks like sexist behavior, and how to avoid it. If you aren’t going to listen to women on that issue, I would question whether you listen to women at all.


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