My last Tumblr post on gender discrimination went unexpectedly viral. In less than a week it has been published online by Atlantic Media and AOL, and I’ve also had inquiries for interviews. The post has been eagerly reblogged on Tumblr and the link retweeted countless times on Twitter. After such a flurry of activity I thought it was worth making a few comments on my experience of blogging my story.
This is how it started:
What has been most surprising about this whole experience is not one person has challenged my version of the events. Twitter is full of reactionary trolls that will argue with you on far less anecdotal issues, but I have yet to see one response that has called my story into question. It is just a personal story. It is completely true but it could equally be accused of having as much weight as a ghost story. Perhaps the ease with which everyone finds the story of my experience so entirely believable is the most distressing part. People have expressed sadness, disappointment, anger, but no man or woman has expressed disbelief. I have also not seen a single example of anyone declaring that my story is only relevant to my local experience as an Australian. It’s been shared widely throughout the USA, Canada and the UK, and I have even seen a few links from outside the anglosphere. Yet everywhere it is greeted with knowing assent.
The sad reality is this shows we all know how real and invasive sexism is. We all know that sexism unnecessarily impacts negatively on women’s lives and men benefit from that. It’s been decades since western countries passed laws making most forms of gender discrimination illegal. Yet we all know sexism continues to support a segregated lower class status for women and in general our societies continue to do little about that. Leadership on gender equality is virtually non-existent in the political sphere and attempts by women to raise the issue are often labelled ‘divisive’. Women who complain about everyday sexism often have their arguments eclipsed by people who point to underdeveloped countries where women have it worse. Sometimes detractors might highlight indigenous or lower socioeconomic classes of women in their own countries who suffer greater privations. It’s as if the fact that middle-class women in western societies might not get raped and beaten as much as the others makes everything ok. It doesn’t.
We all know gender discrimination exists and, aside from the small percentage of sociopaths in our societies, we all know it’s wrong. We also know the power to fix this lies principally in the hands of men. Many smart women have made it into positions far more powerful than me, yet still they don’t have the privilege of being able to speak out publicly about sexism the way I can, simply because I am a man. There are gender specific problems that affect men too. Rates of suicide, depression and stress among men are serious issues. But they are not this issue. Gender equality is not about taking away men’s ‘rights’ but it does involve removing men’s privileges. There is no room for gender privilege in a just world and the burden of proof against any claims of discrimination should always lie at the feet of the privileged.
Gender discrimination is real and it damages women, and removing gender discrimination needs leadership from men. It needs men who are not afraid to sacrifice their own artificial privilege in order to achieve genuine and equal rights for all.