These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just some men.
This type of semantic squabbling is a very effective way of getting women to shut up. After all, most of us grew up learning that being a good girl was all about putting other people’s feelings ahead of our own. We aren’t supposed to say what we think if there’s a chance it might upset somebody else or, worse, make them angry. So we stifle our speech with apologies, caveats and soothing sounds. We reassure our friends and loved ones that “you’re not one of those men who hate women”.
What we don’t say is: of course not all men hate women. But culture hates women, so men who grow up in a sexist culture have a tendency to do and say sexist things, often without meaning to. We aren’t judging you for who you are but that doesn’t mean we’re not asking you to change your behaviour. What you feel about women in your heart is of less immediate importance than how you treat them on a daily basis.
You can be the gentlest, sweetest man in the world yet still benefit from sexism. That’s how oppression works.
When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces. When I look too hard it goes away. And when it all goes quiet, I see they are right here. I see that I’m a little piece of a big, big universe and that makes things right. When I die, the scientists of the future, they’re gonna find it all – they’re gonna know once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.
Red Ice-White Ice
C-print on aluminum
Disko Bay, Greenland.
Emil Nolde, The Sea III, 1913, Oil on canvas.