A problem in discussing feminist issues

I don’t know a solution to this. I think it’s a serious problem, but I don’t know how to talk about it in a good way.

Feminist issues can get really, really hard to talk about.

There are a lot of forms of abuse that play out in a gendered way fueled by misogyny, that have some of these attributes:

  • They’re usually done to women by men (eg: rape; stalking; sexual harassment at work)
  • Almost all of the people directly affected by them are women or girls (eg: the overwhelming majority of people who need to have abortions are women or girls)
  • They are almost always motivated by misogyny 
  • There’s a pattern of misogyny that enables them to happen
  • Most of the culture is dedicated to denying this
  • People really, really pressure everyone to pretend this isn’t a misogynistic pattern

But, for all of these things, there’s also this:

  • Some of the abusers are women (eg: there are female rapists and stalkers)
  • The same thing, or a similar thing, happens to men (there are male rape and stalking victims)
  • Some people who are affected by the things aren’t women (eg: intersex folks who can get pregnant also need access to contraception and abortion and reproductive healthcare, so do trans men and nonbinary folks who can get pregnant)
  • Some people are taught they have no right to say no for reasons other than gender (for instance, this routinely happens to both boys and girls with disabilities)

That creates a complicated problem. Here’s one aspect of it:

  • People who are harmed by these things other than as a form of male-on-female abuse tend to be erased
  • And often even don’t realize that the things that happened to them actually happened, or that it’s ok to take them seriously
  • And often the only things that they have access to are things that implicitly or even emphatically describe this as something that ONLY happens to women and is ONLY done by men
  • For instance, most of the books about learning to have boundaries are women’s self-help books written in a way that suggests that being taught not to have boundaries is always mostly the result of growing up socially perceived as female a misogynistic culture
  • And it can be hard for trans people of any gender to get anatomically appropriate medical care without facing unbearable hostility to their gender identity
  • Or for female victims of female abusers to find supportive spaces, since many women’s spaces assume that men are dangerous and women are safe
  • This can be awful situations to be in, and exposure to some kinds of feminist discourse can make it worse for people who experience this pattern of abuse in a way that doesn’t fit this model

Here’s another aspect of the problem:

  • The pattern of misogyny that creates the male-on-female forms of the abuse is very much a real thing
  • And a lot of people don’t want it to be talked about, ever (eg: MRAs, people who want to say that women are just imagining everything and that really men have it just as bad if not worse, etc)
  • And some of them use other kinds of victims as pawns. And use them to say that it’s wrong to talk about women’s issues or patterns of misogyny, because there are exceptions
  • And that’s a seriously messed up form of derailing, because misogyny is real and so are the patterns feminism describes. Gendered patterns are real, and important to talk about, even though similar things happen in ways that don’t fit those patterns
  • And, more often than not, the people saying these things don’t actually care about victims who don’t fit the patterns – they often don’t ever talk about them except to derail feminist conversations

And another aspect:

  • Sometimes people who talk about lack of representation are totally sincere
  • They often get accused of derailing when they’re not remotely doing so
  • They’re interpreted this way by people who want to derail the conversation *and* by people who want to prevent it from being derailed
  • This can make it hard for these people to ever have any space to talk about their experiences
  • Or things that contributed to them
  • Or patterns of ways they happen
  • Or ways to fight these patterns and protect people

The result ends up being that there’s some people who tend to get overlooked or shouted down by just about everyone. I don’t know a good solution to this. I think noticing the pattern might be a starting place. I wish I knew more to do about it.