Silence?

I was brought up to participate. My education taught me that it is important to contribute to discussions, and share my views. I was expected to have views, and I was given a voice by my teachers.
Last week we were asked in #moocmooc to create a feminist video/blogpost. I spent the week thinking about what a feminist blogpost, written by a white male, would look like. I wanted to share the outrage I felt as I read Anita Kardeeshian’s week of harrassment. I wanted to lament that a project such as Everyday Sexism should be necessary. I wanted to make intelligent comments about patriarchy and abuse….

I started writing a few times, and stopped. I was stumbling around the subject and I felt a strong sense that I was not contributing usefully so much as trying to alleviate my own discomfort.
I thought about all the episodes of Rebecca Solnit’s “mansplaining” I have heard recently, wondered if I had done that, felt I hadn’t, recognised that quite possibly I had. I thought of white males at conferences standing in Q and A to give their talk about the talk, and about the dynamics of male occupation of meetings. I thought about how it might be so refreshing if men just shut up for a while. So I shut up.
I want to speak, but I sense that to do so may not be helpful. I have a sense that for white males to give their considered “feminist” perspective, however reasonable it might sound, is simply unnecessary, and even to do so is to raise a whole series of assumptions about male and female voices, legitimacy etc. Silence is respect – listen and learn.
But silence can also be abdication of responsibility. Sexism is built on silence. The question becomes how to speak up.
Perhaps a white male perspective on feminism must necessarily be stumbling and clumsy. Without the lived experience, how can it be otherwise? But I believe it is possible to listen, and then listen some more, and it is possible to call sexism sexism where it appears, and bear witness…
Last week I read that a survey on gender violence of 2500 people between 15 and 29, carried out by the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality found that physical gender violence was considered “unacceptable” by 92% of males. I wonder about the other 8%. In addition to that, 33% considered it “inevitable” or “acceptable” that they should monitor their partner’s schedule, prohibit them from seeing family or friends, not allow them to work, or study, or simply tell them what they can or can’t do. (Source: El Mundo)

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3 thoughts on “Silence?

  1. Thanks very much for this post Nick and to Mariana for sending me to look for it. I feel a sense of belonging with you here. ( I posted my one and only MOOCMOOC post in that week BTW). In August last year, events at Ferguson catapulted my attention to the lived black experience of being policed in USA. I realised the extent of my ignorance and so I have been following @deray @brownblaze and @akacharleswade on Twitter. It has been a revelation to me and in a sense they allow me to witness what is outside of my own experience. Of course, that’s not enough, I also have a responsibility, as you say, to help change happen.Silence is good when it enables listening but not so good when it removes important topics from the agenda. See the links on spiral of silence in this post (scroll down) https://francesbell.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/between-athenians-and-visigoths-what-lies-between-polar-positions-in-public-discourse-online/ So more witnessing and action – less bystanding:)

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