Earlier this year The Onion released a satirical video showing a former Trump supporter who, after reading 800 pages of queer feminist theory, expressed regret for voting for the current president and he decried the oppressive patriarchy. At the time I laughed at the video because of its absurdity but, after a semester of reading hundreds of pages of queer feminist theory, I’m able to discuss hypermasculinity in a way that I couldn’t when I engaged in that behavior.
A few months ago, I was hanging out with a group of guy friends and a constant refrain of our jokes consisted of crude sexist sexual humor. It was a sort of competition to see who had the better wit and who can best puff their chest and boast about their sex lives. It seemed harmless because I knew that I treated women respectfully and I knew that they treated women respectfully too. We knew exactly what consent was and would never dare touch a woman improperly. But physical harm was about the extent to which we considered the way that we could harm women. We weren’t thinking about how our rhetoric and our perpetuation of sexist behavior can spread everywhere – from the lower wages women get paid to the disregard that male academics have towards investigating female issues, and, even worse, on how our conversations can make other men think they are justified in behaving however they choose around women.
The essence of the problem here is of ignorance. The ignorance of men in understanding female issues and how we may be unconsciously exacerbating female suffering instead of clearing barriers so that they can empower themselves. Now, the only reason why I developed an understanding of the challenges facing my queer friends and my female counterparts, both white and nonwhite, is because I did my reading on feminist theory. But that’s not something we can expect all men to do. Instead what we can, and should expect, is for men to teach one another and be confident in stopping sexist rhetoric and behavior by saying, “Stop. Don’t do that. That’s not right.”