I have been speaking with a lot of my female friends recently and something that has come up a lot is the frequency with which men talk negatively about women when only other men are around. It´s one of those really strange things when people of a dominant group will say things they believe about an oppressed social group only when in the safety of other people who share the same dominant characteristic. Specifically my friends and I talked about it in respect to supposedly progressive men who, when with other men, would talk about women in a disrespectful way, make sexist jokes, etc etc.

You would think it would be obvious by virtue of logic that when you talk about someone but don´t want them to hear it that what you are saying is mean or offensive or inappropriate. Unfortunately this is definitely not the case, or sadly is the case and men don´t care. I don´t understand why so many men have such a problem simply respecting women and, consequently, respecting themselves. One of the points I try and stress when talking about the male gender and patriarchy and how it negatively affects men is that why would we want to be assholes? Why would we want people we do genuinely care about to be hurt by us or disgusted by us? Being an asshole to women makes us feel stupid and lowers our own self esteem. I´m not an animal, like all men and all people I am controlled by my thoughts and my emotions and to a lesser extent by instincts. Treating women like shit, consistently sexualizing their bodies, and treating them like a separate species isn´t gut instinct – it is a choice.

Even saying this I feel kind of ridiculous because it should be so obvious. When you hate and when you oppress it reciprocates back onto your psyche. The more disrespectul you are the worse a person you are, the less friends you have, and the more unhappy you are. It´s basic 101 psych class. And yet so many men don´t make the connection. We can make fun of a random woman but if someone makes fun of our sister or mother or daughter it´s wrong. Everyone is a sister, mother, or daughter and that´s the point of all progressive politics – we all deserve the same respect and equal rights. What´s so important about feminism and radical feminism and the deconstruction of gender is that it brings us all together by realizing all that we share in common and all our unique characteristics of equal importance.

What´s interesting as well is the intersection of all types of social groups with this type of male shit talking. In the workplace it´s extremely common for male bosses to speak with male employees in all sorts of offensive ways about women and often neither party sees any problem with it.

It´s these small daily occurrences of disrespect that build a society and atmosphere of inequality. Another aspect of feminism I find so important is that it deals with the personal lives of people; specifically our emotions and beliefs. Change rarely occurs from the top down despite what political parties would have us believe. Change occurs from social dynamics and people choosing to believe in and act upon a better world and in turn better relationships with those around us. Laws can be put into effect and good people can be elected to government but if the public doesn´t want to follow the laws or demand progressive change from the politician then no rule or person can be held responsible for following through on itself. And the other side of the coin is that these changes don´t get made unless at least some people call for them. All progressive change made by the government, corporations, and parts of society owe that progress to people fighting for it.

Which brings me to my ultimate and once again very simple point: if you can´t say something to someone´s face then there is probably something wrong with it and you should re-think your reasons behind wanting to say it. If you are a man and your male friend says something offensive then call them out on it and explain why it´s wrong. Disrespecting people is never ok and being prejudiced is just a worse and more aggressive form of disrespect. If men live in a world where it´s ok to talk shit about women that only feeds into an uncomfortable and unequal environment. Thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become cultural norms. Do your mother proud and think before you speak.

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