Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Are feminist critiques of socialized male speech dominance consistant with anarchist perspectives?

+2 votes
Is it inappropriate to critique the application of these ideas in liberal anti-opresion workshops for example?

I'm on the fence with this one. I have seen men dominate group conversations and one-on-one exchanges. Doubtless patriarchy and rape-culture are serious problems. But prefiguring behavior between genders? Does this not deny the agency of individuals (see the link below)?. This question is inspired by an article at alternet.org where the author maps out the "10 Words Every Girl Should Learn" which are "Stop interrupting me." "I just said that." "No explanation needed." Are these sort of things helpful?

http://www.alternet.org/gender/10-words-every-girl-should-learn
asked Mar 28, 2015 by anonymous
edited Mar 28, 2015
feminist covers almost as much definitional territory as anarchist, so... i wouldn't say that i take all feminists seriously when they talk about these things, but i do take the things seriously.
i wouldn't advocate (ever) having stock, pat responses to behavior (i was basing this on the url for the article, i hadn't looked at it yet) but i do think noting people's behavior and perhaps adjusting what i do is frequently helpful. i find that confronting other people on the inadequacies of their behavior is almost always not helpful (sometimes unless i have a relationship with them).
feminist (and other identity) -based critiques seem to attempting to do away with sexism (or whatever) by challenging people's behavior. i don't believe that that kind of shift is going to significantly impact society, which takes a lot of the urgency out of the interaction.
if one assumes sexism (including from one's self), then there's a lot less angst about it all.

i'm not sure that actually gets at what you're asking - but i think it's somewhat to the point anyway?

edit to add a caveat in paran.
based on my own upbringing (as a male), i don't relate at all to that article. my parents expected politeness, not cursing, taking turns, and not interrupting from me just as much as my sister (sometimes it seemed like they expected it even more from me).

i often find myself these days re-explaining myself and getting interrupted by both males and females. generally i don't spend much time with people who interrupt and don't listen well. i don't really know if men speak more dominantly (especially toward women) than women do, but when it happens to me, i usually find another person more willing to listen.

i've noticed most often in mixed-gender environments men talking in groups and women talking in groups without much interaction from the other gender. my wife and i both tend to mix much more with other genders than the large majority of other people at parties and gatherings.

to attempt to get somewhat at the question, i don't know what "is" or "isn't" appropriate, but it doesn't seem helpful imo to think about the behaviors of interrupting, dominant speech, and non-listening in a gender-specific way. most people i meet don't appear to listen all that intently - and when i encounter a person who continually interrupts and tries to dominate conversation, i usually say nothing about it and spend less time with that person in my life.

like dot, when interacting with a person i have a relationship with, i sometimes do say something if they keep interrupting or try to dominate a conversation (and i don't mind if they call me on it when i do the same) - probably because our interaction normally has plenty of give and take, because we do listen to each other most of the time, and we trust each other.
I upvoted this because it's a conversation worth having since anti-oppression politics have somewhat recently gained mainstream exposure in liberal circles.

2 Answers

+1 vote
on considering this more, i think the question is about two things - one: how to change other people's behavior and two, being anarchist.
i am going to leave out the "feminist" part, because i think it's a distraction in this case.
it is anarchist to challenge messed-up power dynamics. it is subjective about how to best do that. i find that trying to make other people change isn't as interesting as doing other things. (for example "if this person refuses to listen to me, i will find someone they *do* listen to, and talk to them". or "i will bypass them altogether." etc).
this article is fine as far as it goes, but the way people tend to translate this kind of information is into an identity politics that is notoriously self-righteous.

edit: so to address the main question, the *critique* might or might not be relevant (in the case of this article, i would say it is, with the huge caveat that all her examples are within institutions that anarchists want to do away with anyway), but the implied/assumed resolution to the critique is probably not.
answered Mar 29, 2015 by dot (50,140 points)
edited Mar 29, 2015 by dot
it's funny how socialized i sound in this answer. one would think i was female. lol.
part of the reason that i find it more interesting to work around other people rather than confront them directly is that it is absolutely my tendency to directly confront, so i have found many limitations to that style (also it's just boring for me now).
for someone who tends not to confront, then picking one of the plethora of ways to confront would probably be more interesting.
+2 votes
I think that these points are valuable, yes.

I know anarchist men who talk over people or interrupt women, and it makes sense that not only that guy is criticized and tries to be mindful, but also that the women he interacts with learn how to do that themselves. Sometimes there is a moralistic criticism of this mentality that sounds something like "Patriarchy is a mens' issue, why should women have to deal with men's shit?" This is a very utopian train of thought, which is fine to keep in mind, but ultimately not helpful in the real world where structural forces are producing shitty guys in the millions, who are going to continue to be shitty no matter how many of your "conscious" male friends get into facebook arguments with them.

The part about prefiguring gender is where I lose my ability to clearly articulate myself because it's very confusing. I actually chose to answer this question as a sounding board for my thoughts on the subject, so here goes nothing!

I'm a man and grew up falling into many passive roles. Much of my behavior and ways of thinking sound a lot like what I hear women are socialized into: I am very aware of situations, go out of my way to make everyone comfortable (even if they don't deserve it), and in my early relationships I avoided confrontation and defaulted to passive aggressiveness and not saying how I feel about things.

In many other ways my behavior reflects what these types of articles typifies of men. So the mindset that this train of thought brings up, about prefiguring gender, is good in that it covers all the bases. But as someone who was socialized passive and who then got into anarchism and read zines about how aggressive I was as a man...it didn't help. Only recently have I realized more about myself and my behavior from the passive/assertive and other typically gendered roles that I fall into normally or not.

Also, I know plenty of women who interrupt people and lack situational awareness. Many of them are 'rad.' They are never the targets of said zines and therefore don't ever feel the guilt and responsibility to become more aware of power as it flows between people in every day situations. Maybe this is fine though, in that men are much more likely to rape than women, and silencing women is definitely connected to that, so there's less urgency for women to unlearn stuff.

To summarize: on the one hand it's good to be aware of the range of behaviors that society OFTEN socializes men and women into. On the other hand it ends up imposing gendered stuff onto people in an unhelpful way and, as dot pointed out, changing individual behavior won't stop the structural mechanisms causing said behavior. Also it ignores that everyone has different individual forms of socialization and nobody fits any mold perfectly.

Maybe it's best to keep in mind that men need to be more aware, but that EVERYONE should read up on stuff like this? But then again, structural forces produce millions of shitty people every year. So is it really worth it? Maybe just among friends and comrades to make more bearable scenes? I don't know this is all so confusing to me!
answered Mar 29, 2015 by flip (3,970 points)
individual vs social, intimate vs public, male vs female--
all sort of false dichotomies, but also quite relevant in our lives as distinct things, and all of them (and more) come into play in these questions.
no idea why you would find that confusing, flip, jeez. ;)
I enjoyed this answer. For me, I feel much of what flip is saying. From flip's definition of passive roles, I would say I have also found myself in a similar position, but my view of how and why I've taken on such roles deal more with leadership training rather than passivity. I would also say I make an exception with defaulting to passive aggressiveness, though awareness and responsiveness are both traits I've adopted when dealing with other people.

The difference in responding to confrontation has been with considered firmness and diplomatic answers mixed with inspirational or affirming agreement on other issues. I used to directly confront people a great deal, but I typically find a way to make mention my point of view, followed by asserting that point of view if necessary rather than passive aggression.

It is difficult getting along in the patriarchy. I never felt particularly strong in my childhood neighborhood, but now as an adult I do, but there is this knowledge. The knowledge that the patriarchy is out there, but it is a stranger to me. I see it as an other while at the same time I feel I may support a compromise with patriarchy in how I live my daily life. I am affected by its values while rejecting all I can afford to. It is like trying to reject Western culture while still being completely part of it and surrounded by it. To reject Western culture and still do Western culture. To reject patriarchy and still do patriarchy. /tangent
...