Male Privilege: Case # 32,564,978

So I recently read a book written by a grassroots activist advocating government reform.  It wasn’t excellent, but it did have a few good insights, and, frankly, I’m happy to see any books by activists and any books advocating government reform.  That said, the book really grabbed my attention when I read the lengthy acknowledgements section at the end.  The guy, as is fashionable these days, acknowledged his white male privilege, but as I read through the acknowledgements, I thought ‘You have no idea.’

My first clue was that he’d written, early on, as if it were a matter of simple fact, “So if I’m invited to a fund-raiser, I go.  And when I make eye contact with the candidate, I too am saying, ‘I might be calling you for something.  I hope you’ll answer the call.  I’m on your team'” (p141).  I realized right then: this has been written by a man; this is how a man experiences the world.  Because if I, a woman, had gone to a fund-raiser and had caught the (male) candidate’s eye, he probably would’ve understood me to mean ‘Yes, I’ll come up to your room afterwards and give you a blow job.’  (Or perhaps he would’ve just ignored me.  Years ago, when I went to a talk by Alan Borovoy, then President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, I approached him after the talk, on fire with a passion for justice, ready to join his activism, his (male) assistant told me he didn’t have time for questions.  And Borovoy agreed by not even acknowledging my presence just a few feet away from him.) 

My second clue was that the guy didn’t do the research for ‘his’ book.  To me, that’s part of writing a book and I think the person who did the research should have gotten co-author credit.  (At least he got title page credit.)  And, well, that’s a male thing, isn’t it: taking credit for someone else’s work.

But back, onwards, to the Acknowledgements.  (And I’ll write this as if I’m talking to him.  Because I am.  In fact, I sent a version of this to him.  But I’m also talking to every man out there.  And every woman.  You should know how much easier it is for them … )

“[This book] was a fantasy and I truly had no clue where to start.”  If you were a woman, and you truly had no clue, you wouldn’t even think of writing a book.  Men do what they want; women do what they think they’re qualified to do.  Read the study of journalists asking men and women to be interviewed: men almost always say yes, whether they’re experts on the matter or not; women almost always say no, believing they’re not expert enough.  That is to say, men overestimate their competence; women underestimate theirs.

“It was my friend Peter … who suggested I’d need an editor and introduced me to … ”  Women tend not to have friends who know editors.  You figure out why.

“… who then told me I needed an agent and introduced me to Rick … ”  What the fuck.  Would you like to know how many queries I’ve sent to agents asking them to consider representing me?  Well over a hundred.  Probably close to two or three.  Hundred.  Women have to knock (and knock and knock) on the front door.  Men are (‘Psst! Over here!’) let in the back door.  Read Sieghart’s The Authority Gap.  And the many books like it.

“…who informed me that I needed a book proposal.”  You didn’t know that?  Every publisher’s website makes that quite clear.  (But you didn’t bother reading publishers’ websites; you’re going through life from back door to back door via friends who introduce you to people who roll out the red carpet for you because why?  Oh yeah.) 

“[The agent] took an enormous leap of faith by joining the project and has been acting as my cheerleader, advocate, and advisor for half a decade.”  Ask him if he’s done that for any women.  It’s a ‘bro’ thing.  (By the way, twice I queried that particular literary agency; both times, I received no reply whatsoever, not even a form letter.  If the query had been from Patrick Tittle … well, who knows?  Actually, the researchers who have studied that sort of thing know.  And so we do too:  the query from the man will receive more attention.  Read Sieghart’s The Authority Gap.)

And you received interest from FOUR publishers?  Based on a proposal you re-wrote only once?  Un-fucking-believable.  If the proposal had been from a woman …

Eventually, you delivered “a bloated manuscript with 100 long-winded chapters.”  And they didn’t retract their contract?  If the manuscript had been from a woman …

“…and he showed me how to turn it into a book.”  Wow.  This reminds me of the  I was asked by a publisher to review a manuscript that had been submitted (this was after I’d published Critical Thinking: an appeal to reason with Routledge and What If? Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy with Longman).  It had been written by a HUGE name in Philosophy, but the manuscript was a mess.  I mean C- grad student mess.  I tried to be kind while being honest; maybe it was time for the guy to quit, we all get old, our minds don’t last forever …  Weeks after I’d submitted my review (recommending that the manuscript not be published), it occurred to me that all of his work all of his life may have been like that and someone else fixed it up for him.  (And upon receiving the publisher’s rejection, he probably just gave the manuscript to someone else, perhaps one of his A+ grad students, and said ‘Be a sport/dear, and fix this up a bit, will you?’)  (And he/she would have said ‘Sure!’, honoured to have been asked.)  (Instead of ‘Hell, no!  Do your own damn work, Professor Y.’)  See, men get help.  They get detailed feedback.  (Again, read Sieghart’s The Authority Gap.)  So they get shown how to turn something into a book.  Women are expected to submit publication-ready manuscripts and if they don’t, well, sorry, we can’t offer you a contract, it’s/you’re just not good enough.

And wow, that research tour.  Nothing like that would ever happen to me.  I’m sure of it.  You got taken seriously.  You have no idea —   Women don’t.  Get taken seriously.  Read Jass Richards’ The ReGender App. And Chris Wind’s This is what happens.  And see and and and

“During my travels, many couches and guestrooms were generously shared …”  Again, if you’d been a woman, in most cases it would have been considered inappropriate.  While I was recording a CD in Toronto at Musicworks, I had to drive three hours each way, there and back, (I couldn’t afford a hotel room).  Not once did anyone involved offer their couch (let alone “their entire home for writing retreats”).  And I didn’t expect them to.  Women don’t expect things to be given to them.  Men do.  It’s called male entitlement. 

” … helped me battle procrastination and doubt …”  Men get cheerleaders.  Women don’t.  Think back to your high school sports teams.  Any of the women’s teams have a bunch of people applauding their every move, encouraging their every step … ?  They probably didn’t even have the bleachers filled.  Not even half-filled.

“The final draft was polished by … who proposed hundreds of clever edits and then by … who proposed thousands.”  Yeah.  See above regarding that philosopher.  Look, if the manuscript needed thousands of edits, it was not a final draft.  It was—  My god, but you guys play by different rules.  The bar is set WAY HIGHER for women.

“I’m very grateful to the people who kept me employed, fed, and housed during the six years it took to produce this work”—you mean you didn’t have to pay rent/mortgage or buy food?  You didn’t support yourself?  Even though you received a $30,000 advance?  (Quick comparison: for my business ethics text, I received a $5,000 advance, out of which I had to pay permissions.)  Unfuckingbelievable.

Open Season on Women: More evidence of the pornification of our society

I live in a small lake-centered community about three hours north of Toronto, consisting of about thirty houses: about ten are occupied year-round; the others are occupied mostly just during the summer.  So, small neighbourhood.

Over the past few years, I’ve experienced six instances of what I would call over-the-top insult.  Specifically misogynist insult.

Man #1: I’d called the MNR to inquire about laws concerning cutting down trees at the shoreline; I emphasized that the guy was doing so on his own private property, but still, I wondered if that was okay—in some areas it is not, because it messes up the ecosystem.  The man had put up for sale the peninsula in question (my precious view!), and I had already offered to purchase it at its assessed value, at twice its assessed value, at three times its assessed value—he refused to sell it to me, believing that he could get more for the house on top of the hill if this slice of waterfront was attached (true, but what he could get for house-without-peninsula + only-peninsula might have been even more), and he thought that clearing the peninsula would make it more attractive.  (And maybe he didn’t think women should own property.)  That afternoon (after paddling over in the morning and begging him to stop, suggesting that the next owners might actually like the natural woodsiness—to no avail whatsoever), I stopped at his house with yet another offer: I would pay the property taxes on the peninsula until he sold the property if he would agree to not cut down any more trees.  Barely suppressing rage (at what?), he called me a cunt, flicked the rag he happened to have in his hand at me, pushed me back into my car, told me to leave before he became a murderer, then reached in and smacked my dog. 

Man #2:  This guy had recently purchased a cottage at the end of our dead-end lane, and his young son had started driving an ATV up and down, and up and down, and up and down, annoying everyone …   So I finally stopped him, told him there was a nearby stretch of road that had no one living on it, and suggested he play with his ATV there instead.  Next up and down, it was his father on the ATV.  He got off, stomped toward me, stood way too close, started jabbing his finger at me, called me a bitch, and told me that his son could drive his ATV wherever he wanted to.  Later, while I was walking on the road (dirt/gravel road with no sidewalks), I saw his fast-approaching pick-up, moved as far to the edge of the road as I could, and faced the ditch so I wouldn’t get any gravel in my face.  He came so close to me, I felt the swoosh of wind; if I’d happened to bend down to re-tie my shoelace while I waited for him to pass by, I’d probably be in a wheelchair now.

Man #3: The smoke from this guy’s burning leaves had been drifting onto my property for hours, forcing me inside with all the windows closed (I’m one of the many for whom such smoke is a headache trigger).  So, deciding to take an indirect approach and thus avoid a physical confrontation, I simply left information about the toxicity of smoke from burning leaves in his mailbox; I figured he could read it and (hopefully) make the decision on his own to just let the leaves decompose in a pile in the corner of his almost-an-acre lot—it was better for the environment that way, quite apart from more respectful of his neighbours.  A few days later, he happened to be picking up his mail when I walked by.  He asked if I had been the one to put the information in his mailbox; I said yes; he then called me a coward and a cunt, all the while standing way too close and doing the finger jabbing thing. 

Man #4: My transgression in this case?  I’d knocked over the guy’s pile of rocks.  It had apparently taken him hours to build.  Unfortunately, he’d built it about thirty feet from shore (and not by any means close to his own property), right in the middle of what I think of as my kayak path—which he would have known had he been paying any attention to me kayaking past almost every day for the last twenty years, hugging the shore to be safe from the jetskis.  Apparently he needed a landmark, other than, oh, I don’t know, the dead tree on the opposite shore, in order to avoid the submerged sandbar that was there.  So he raced out on his jetski to me in my kayak and started yelling at me, calling me a bitch, asking me how stupid I was, and generally throwing a tantrum.

Man #5: This time?  Apparently I wasn’t moving quickly enough from the easy walking of the middle of a seldom-travelled dirt road to the soft edge.  That is to say, I wasn’t running out of his way.  So while heading straight for me on his ATV, he shouted ‘Ya gotta get out of my way!’  Not terribly misognynistic unless you recognized the patronizing tone he managed to put into it.  Like I was a toddler who needed to be told to look both ways before crossing a road.  (Sidenote: his father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, had wanted to hire me to be his maid and caretaker—I’m a consultant for a firm in Washington—and asked if I liked sex and was I any good at it.)

Man #6: I’ve saved the ‘best’ for last.  On my way back from an all-afternoon paddle up the river, I stopped in front of a cottage (another of the eight upwind from my house) to ask that they put out the smokepit they’d had going since morning (so, for eight hours).  Long story short, a guy came running down to the dock and started lunging at me (as if trying to scare away a bear?), calling me crazy, telling me to fuck off, telling me to mind my own business, and finally telling me I should take off my headphones (they were already off), bash my head with rocks, jump into the lake, and drown.  Die.  (He probably also called me a cunt, but I’m not sure, because I was so transfixed by his foaming-at-the-mouth reaction to me, to my simple request … )

So.  What are the odds?  Assuming one man per house, that’s six out of thirty, which is one in five.  One in five men responded with absolute outrage when I challenged them on something.  That in itself isn’t particularly new.  Someone once said that “When men make demands, they expect women to comply.”  True enough.  And when women make demands, men completely lose their shit.

And I’m no stranger to sexism—as a femalehuman being, I’ve been dismissed and/or ignored all my life.

What caught me by surprise, in every case, was the vehemence of the response, so disproportionate to the stimulus (two of the six uttered near death threats), and the ease with which those who called me a cunt did so.

On top of all that, in four of the six cases, I was significantly older than the man in question.  Insults among peers is one thing, but it takes a certain arrogance to insult someone twenty or thirty years your senior: no deference, no hesitation, they were just as reckless, just as abusive, with me as I imagine they might be with their peers.

At first, I thought of individual explanations, something in our history … but to three of the six, I was a total stranger.

So.  What’s going on?  Yes, our society is increasingly uncivil.  And some have attributed

that to the internet: in general, people are more insulting when they are anonymous and, no surprise, that rudeness becomes a habit and crosses over into ‘real’ life.

But that doesn’t explain the sexual nature of the insults.  Or the ease—and the rage—with which I was called a bitch or a cunt.

So I’m thinking it’s due to internet porn.  Most porn, now, is incredibly aggressive and humiliating to women (read Dines’ Pornland and Bray and Reist’s Big Porn, Inc.): women are routinely slapped, hit, fucked; spat on, pissed on; and yes, of course, called a bitch and a cunt.  Routinely.  And most men watch porn.  And, well, we become what we expose ourselves to.  (Read the research).  Therefore, most men believe they have a right to hurl abuse, sexual abuse, at a woman.  Any woman.  Anytime.  Anywhere. 

(Act accordingly.)

How Not to Deal with Smoke from Your Neighbour’s ‘Campfire’ that Forces You Inside with All the Windows Closed

(This may well appear in Satan Takes Over, the sequel to TurboJetslams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God, but I thought I’d give a heads up to women  attempting to stand up for their rights in a straight-forward, rather than simpering, manner.  (Not like you need one, probably.)

So I’m down at the water enjoying a lovely summer day, looking out at the sparkles on the water, music in my headphones, a cup of tea in my right hand, a book in my left, the fresh air—fuck.  Someone’s started a fire.  I can smell it.  Instant headache.  I turn to my right and sure enough, I see smoke rising on the property six lots upwind of me.  It’s 11:00 in the morning.  Why—

I try to take shallow breaths …   I turn my chair a bit …

Nope.  Not working.

At 1:00, it’s still going strong.  Determined to enjoy at least part of the day, I head out in my kayak.  And as I pass by, I see that there isn’t even anyone outside enjoying the campfire.  (Though since I don’t see any flames, I’ll call it a smokepit.)  And that really pisses me off.  It’s one thing to have to go inside for an hour while someone upwind has a campfire, chatting with friends, maybe toasting marshmallows with the kids.  That I accept.  It’s quite another to have to spend the whole fucking day inside for—what?  Because someone mindlessly associates being ‘up north at the cottage’ with ‘campfire’?  Even though they’re inside, probably watching ‘the game’ on their huge flat-screen tv? 

I decide that if it’s still going when I return, I’ll stop and say something.

And it is.  Still going when I return.  At 7:00.  And there’s still no one there, enjoying it.  So I linger at their dock, hoping someone will see me.  Sure enough, someone appears at the door. 

“I’d like to talk to you,” I call up.    

“We’re in the middle of dinner,” she calls down.

So?  She expects me to sit in my kayak, paddling to stay in one place, until they’re done?  Or go home and paddle back?  She can’t stop eating for a minute?

“I’d like you to put out your fire,” I call up.  I add that it’s been smoking for eight hours, no one’s even enjoying it, there are six houses downwind …

“I’ll do it after dinner,” she replies. 

No.  Her casual response indicates that she hasn’t understood the incredible rudeness of her behavior, the utter lack of consideration …

“No.  Put it out now.”  I’d decided I’d get more aggressive with asshole renters because there’s little chance of retaliation—they don’t know where I live.

Her response is unclear.

“Well, I’ll be contacting the owner then,” I say as I start to paddle away.  Hopefully, it’ll kill their chance to rent again.

“I AM the owner, BITCH!” she screams at me.


Then she yells something like she’s heard about me and I’m a bitch and get the fuck out of her face …   

“Move along!” she says then, dismissively, actually shooing me away with her fingers.  As if I’m a child.

I do not move along.

Next thing I know, there’s a guy running down the hill onto the dock yelling at me, “Why don’t you just fuck off and mind your own business!”

“I am,” I reply calmly.  “When your smoke comes onto my property, it becomes my business.”

“You’re crazy, you know that?”

I repeat what I’d said about eight hours, downwind, headache, no one’s even enjoying it …

Then another man comes down to the dock, says he’s also the owner and I’ve upset his wife, they’re having dinner.

What?  I’ve upset her?  Because she’s had to stop eating for a minute?  (What is it with people and eating food?)

Well, I’m upset too.  Because eight hours, smoke, headache …  I’ll apologize for a two-minute interruption when she apologizes for a three-hour headache.

I try to explain.  “If you could keep your smoke on your own property, no problem, but you can’t, so—”

“That’s scientifically impossible,” he says.   Oooh, ‘scientifically’.  Such a smart man.  “Just think about it,” he adds, helpfully.  I’m tempted to scratch my head and look like a complete idiot.

By this time, the other guy is really losing his shit.  He’s charging the full length of the dock at me again and again as if trying to scare away a bear. 

“If I used a paint sprayer while on my property,” I say to the man, the second one, “and because of the wind, much of the spray drifted over onto your property, and you ended up with your screens, your windows, your siding covered with a fine mist of red paint, that’d be okay?  No cause for objection? Mind your own business?”

No response. 

Well, except for, “You know what you should do?” It’s the other guy, the first one. He’s practically spitting, he’s so excited.  “You should take your headphones off, get some rocks, and smash them against your head, then jump in the lake, and drown.”

Part of me’s thinking, ‘That’s a lot of words.’ 

Another part of me’s thinking, ‘That’s a hair away from a death threat.’ 

So now, I move along.

I’m surprised at their seeming surprise.  (I’m crazy!)  This is not a new issue.  It’s why, for example, chicken farms are widely hated.  And it’s why there are zoning bylaws in so many townships.  (Not our township.  Of course not.) 

Of more obvious relevance, weather websites have been for days issuing air quality alerts for our area because of the forest fires northwest of us.  And the smoke drifting through the neighbourhood from their smokepit is way worse than the slight haze we’ve seen from the forest fires.

And I’m stunned at how easily it came to them, the verbal abuse.  Did I say fucking fire?  Or fucking smoke?  Perhaps.  But I didn’t tell any of them to fuck off.  I didn’t call her a bitch. 

So, how should I have dealt with the problem?  Well, first, I shouldn’t’ve been a woman. 

And second, I—no, actually, that’s it.  If a man, greying at the temples, had stopped on his way past, I suspect the whole interaction would’ve unfolded quite differently. 

Where will you draw a line?

Where will you draw the line?

I know I’m going to sound like a prude, but fuck it.  I’m not.  (And evidence for that claim falls into the ‘too much information’ category.)  So, I’m going to ask:

If men want you to wear shoes with high heels and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear bras designed to push up your breasts and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear clingy leotards/tights/leggings without a skirt and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear wide-necked shirts that fall off your shoulders and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear short shirts that expose your belly and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear tops with plunging necklines that expose your cleavage and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear halter tops that leave everything uncovered except your breasts and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear very short skirts that expose your bum when you bend over and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear thong bathing suits that leave your ass cheeks completely uncovered and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to wear pasties that leave your breasts completely uncovered and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

If men want you to be totally naked and it becomes fashionable to publicly sexualize yourself in that way, you’ll do it?

Where will you draw a line?

Funny how male violence …

South Park on trans in sports – hilarious!

If Michelangelo had been a woman …

Great McSweeney’s list here!

We’re not debating whether you exist.

John Mulaney on Drag Queens

Some excellent lines, for example:

“What is your notion of a woman based on?”

“[re mean and rude drag queens] You could’ve stayed a guy if you were going to be an asshole about it.”

Proposed Official Men’s Volleyball Uniform – Equality in Sport

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