Friday, May 8, 2015

How to Ally


In the wake of Joss Whedon's massive ally fail, a friend of mine sent me a piece by a man called "Confessions Of A Former Misogynist." The piece is an in-depth examination of the guy's former thought processes that led him to become a "proud misogynist" and the selfishness and lack of empathy that caused him to blame women for his suffering, abuse the women he went out with, and come to generally hate women as a whole.

He then explained how he had a revelation one day when he decided to evaluate why he was so angry with a woman he'd had unprotected sex with and subsequently told her that she was not allowed to have a child if she were to become pregnant from it.

I’d write down why I thought I was angry a few days ago – lists of statements such as ‘she overreacted,’ ‘she’s being arrogant, selfish and hypocritical.’ Then I looked at each one individually and asked myself what had actually happened. What was the truth? Without the shield of irrational anger, I began to realise that half of what was on the list wasn’t even true, and the stuff that was true couldn’t in anyway justify that level of anger and hatred.

This simple step led him to continue to self-analyze and begin to listen to the people who challenged him on his views.

At that moment, this man was in the very beginning steps of acting as an ally. Acting as an ally is both simple and not, a constant process you slip in and out of, and the basis of that process is self-examination and self-awareness. You must practice constant self-awareness of your thought processes. You must be willing to catch and dissect thoughts, reactions, and emotions.

This process is hard because it necessitates coming to terms with your own flaws. It's easy to blame others for your personal misery*, it's hard to admit that your misery is a result of narcissism and lack of human empathy. It's hard to admit that you're actually the bad guy. But you have to if you ever want to act as an ally.

[*NOTE: "Personal misery" in this case is meant to refer to individual personal problems, as distinct from widespread systemic oppression. The problems faced by oppressed groups as a whole are absolutely caused by their oppressors, something which can actually be very hard to come to terms with for the oppressed.]

Part of the key to this process for "Ben" was that there were people around him who would challenge him, including his friends. He speculates in the piece how, if he'd had access to the Internet at the time and all the websites and message boards populated by MRAs, PUAs, and other virulent misogynists, he probably wouldn't have had this turning point and never would have left behind his overt hatred of women. And he's probably right.

This is a huge problem. It's a problem for women in obvious ways that I've already talked about plenty. How many more women would Ben have emotionally blackmailed and abused if he'd never started that self-examination process? But I also want to take a rare moment to address how much this hurts men. Ben, as a heterosexual man, couldn't have a meaningful, healthy relationship with a woman while he hated women. Furthermore, as a person, it was impossible for Ben to become an emotionally healthy and happy human being while lacking self-awareness and the ability to self-reflect. Being aware of and understanding your own emotions, thought processes, triggers, and limitations is essential for psychological health.

Hence why MRAs are so clearly unhappy people.

MRA groups are terrible for women and terrible for humanity as a whole. They advocate for so many things that have been identified by psychologists as unhealthy. Projection, lack of empathy, external locus of control, manipulation, abuse, etc. They're basically an abscess - a dangerous sign of a bad infection. Cut it the fuck out of society.

I appreciate how Ben ends this piece, by explaining that it's not meant to elicit praise for himself (cookie-fishing) but to urge his fellow men to examine their own thought processes and "challenge themselves" rather than being swept along by their irrational anger towards women. This is an important ally action. Privileged people must speak to their fellow privileged people and push them to do better for the people whose oppression they benefit from.

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