Navigating male entitlement, or: how I learned to stop caring and block dudebros

There’s this funny idea people have about free speech.

See, here’s how it actually works. You can say whatever you like, so long as what you say doesn’t harm anyone. If you can find a platform for yourself, even more power to you. Start a blog, make a Twitter account (make ten Twitter accounts!), post on Reddit, find your happy place and go for it. Free speech, whilst not constitutionally protected the world over, is a basic human right.

Here’s what’s not a human right: an assurance that anyone will listen.

Yeah. This is where it gets funny.

I get cat-called a lot. I mean, I get cat-called a lot. And before you rush to say something snarky about my outfit choices or the height of my heels (I see you in the wings, slut-shamers – you’re not as subtle as you think), I’ve been cat-called in my daggiest jeans and my oldest t-shirt and my rattiest sneakers and no makeup. I’ve been cat-called by old men and young men and men with their young sons in the passenger seat next to them. And the one thing all those men have had in common is the idea that they have the right to make me listen to their opinions. It’s not enough for them to have the opinions; it’s not enough for them to voice those opinions to their friends (or, I suppose, their young children – seriously, dude who did that, I will never stop judging you); they have to voice them to me. They have to make sure I hear them. They think they have the right to make me listen.

And the thing is – and like I said, here’s where it gets a bit funny – the thing is, they don’t have that right at all.

One afternoon, a guy tried talking to me for the entirety of my bus journey home. I had earphones in and I was doing a sudoku puzzle on my phone and I very, very purposefully ignored him – I even had my back turned. He tried talking to me anyway. “Hey, love,” he whined from a seat behind me after I refused to make eye contact and took a seat far in front, “hey – I’m talking to you.” He kept it up as I got off the bus, too. I loudly thanked the driver and waited until the bus had departed before walking to my gate, lest the guy figure out which house was mine by watching through the window.

Recently, I was sitting near a bus stop waiting for an evening bus into town, earphones in, when a man came up to me. I didn’t notice that he was trying to talk to me, so he walked right up and started waving his hands in my face. Thinking something had fallen from my purse, I took an earphone out, looked up and asked what was wrong.

He wanted to tell me I “looked cute”. I gave him my best “not in your wettest, wildest dreams” stare and responded with a, “move along, dude,” in the kind of voice one uses for pronouncements such as oh, look, the new puppy isn’t house-trained yet. I mean, seriously? He waved his hands centimetres away from my face for that? I own a mirror, and even if I didn’t, I don’t think strangers on the street would be my go-to resource for fashion critiques.

He broke into an expletive-laden tirade about what an uptight bitch I was. I put my earphones back in, turned the volume up and waited until he was gone.

(I was lucky – it was a crowded area and he was pretty small. I doubt I’d have been brave enough to reject unwanted advances so brazenly otherwise. Even surrounded by people, it took a fair amount of chutzpah to pretend I was unruffled by the spittle flying from my harasser’s lips as he screamed epithets at me. Guess those public speaking classes paid off.)

I recently noted that the threats directed at Suey Park, creator of the #CancelColbert hashtag, were born of the idea that violence against women, particularly women of colour, is an appropriate “punishment” for non-conformity. It’s the oddest thing – people don’t seem to like it when we express our right to free speech. As though to prove my point, I was inundated with replies verging from the nonsensical (“you’re racist against white people!”) to the sickening (“I hope you die, you ugly bitch!”) to the simply tiresome (“but why are you trying to oppress our freedoms?”). I merely made an observation – that white “progressives”, when forced to choose between allyship and protecting their own, will invariably protect their own. When I refused to engage in “debate” on whether or not racism against white people exists (it doesn’t), I was met with more vitriol still. I was silencing people (by…letting them talk without responding to them?); I was a white-hater (because…I pointed out that if white people don’t want to be seen as racist, they should probably stop doing racist things?); I was unwilling to “defend my arguments” (you might just as well ask me to “defend” my belief in the existence of gravity).

At first, I amused myself by inventing colourful ways of telling the trolls to fuck themselves (my favourite is still “go fellate yourself with a chainsaw”), but after a while, responding to the barrage of internet word-vomit grew tiring. I blocked any new troll accounts, made an announcement that I would not be engaging further, and went to bed.

That was when the real hate began.

I won’t sicken you with the details. Suffice it to say that waking up to threats of murder and sexual abuse was something of an object lesson in my original point. Exercise free speech to criticise white progressives and watch the mask of liberalism crack and shatter. Freedom, it would seem, is a one-way street.

With privilege comes an overweening sense of entitlement – entitlement to our spaces, entitlement to our stories, to our culture, to our voices, to our resources, to our time. When I tell men I’m not interested in talking to them, they treat it like a personal affront. How dare I, a woman, refuse to pander to them? How dare I refuse to warp my universe until they are at its centre? How dare I – and this is what really underlies it all – say no?

But you see – and I said, didn’t I, that it’s funny how this works – you see, while they might have the right to speak, I have the right not to listen and a mandate handed to me by the good citizens of the Republic of Myself to take advantage of that right whenever I like.

I’m not obliged to listen to your cat-calls. I’m not obliged to make uncomfortable small talk with you at bus stops. Online, I’m not obliged to indulge your desire for a “debate” when you interrupt me mid-story to derail the conversation and re-centre it around your own experiences. I’m not obliged to pander. I’m not obliged to serve you in any way at all. “Republic of Myself” is a bit of a misnomer. My space is not a democracy. I make the rules and enforce them as I wish. And what I’ve decided after years of politely acquiescing to men in positions of authority, after years of submitting to men who knew what was best for me even when they didn’t, after years of being told that men have the right to my personhood is that…well, no, they really, really don’t.

Make your troll accounts; inundate me with abuse and threats; scream until you lose your voice. I will tell you to fuck off in a delightfully colourful fashion and then I will block you or walk away or slam the door in your face because you are not entitled to any more of me than I am willing to give. Not my time, not my energy, not my resources, not my voice, not my personhood, not my anything. Scream into the void, though I think you’ll find the echoes cold comfort and poor company. I’m not obliged to let you scream at me.

Enjoy your freedom of speech. I’m putting my earphones back in.

Male Feminists – a spotter’s guide

Ah, the Male Feminist. Once an elusive creature, this peculiar subspecies of H. sapiens sapiens has begun to proliferate at an alarming rate with the advent of the new atheist movement. Most often seen flashing their plumage (in the form of buzzwords such as “consent is sexy” and “I want to empower women!”) with the aim of attracting the attention of real feminists, the Male Feminist, or H. sapiens mansplainam feeds on a steady diet of female approval, ally cookies and pity fucks. 

As H. sapiens mansplainam is the natural predator of women, particularly trans* women, women of colour and sex workers, it is important to be able to quickly recognise the signs that differentiate him from the true feminists amongst whom he hides, almost cuckoo-like, consuming their resources and shunting aside anyone who threatens his position in the spotlight. H. sapiens mansplainam has evolved several forms of camouflage designed to help him blend in against a backdrop of actual feminists, but the cunning and discerning scholar of natural history may, with careful study, identify him among the morass.

One may identify a wild H sapiens mansplainam as follows (please note that these are only a few of the telltale signs of the beast):

  • He may identify as a “freethinker” or “progressive” who demands that every woman he meets engage with him in debates about trifling issues that often derail larger conversations
  • The distinctive squawk, “MISANDRY! MISANDRY!”, which the Male Feminist uses in order to intimidate women into submission during his bizarre mating ritual
  • The belief that he is owed sexual favours, gratitude or praise for basic acts such as choosing not to rape a drunk woman at a party one time, or saying that a woman could totally be President
  • A peacock-like display of t-shirts bearing the logo of the HRC or other trans*-exclusionary “equal rights” groups, designed to attract prospective partners in a show of ostentatious philanthropy
  • The insistence that feminism should be renamed “humanism” or “equalism” to more accurately reflect the struggles faced by fellow Male Feminists
  • Frequent use of the tone argument when a woman is not charmed by his claims of “ally cred” or the fact that he once read a book by Virginia Woolf and responds with disdain or hostility
  • Use of coercion or insistence that “grey areas” exist which allow the Male Feminist to have sex with any woman he pleases, something he believes is owed to him due to the fact that he claims to be a feminist

These are merely some of the many signs by which one may identify the Male Feminist; however, as they are the most common, they should help the beginning scholar to avoid the most egregious Male Feminist infestations in their communities.

Unlike true feminists, H. sapiens mansplainam is impervious to reason, will ignore any statistics that do not support his worldview and is unable to be swayed from his predatory ways through engaging in rational debate. The Male Feminist will barge into and quickly claim entry of any feminist spaces he finds, and will respond to resistance or hostility with his other mating-call, “radfem! radfem!” It is not yet known whether this word has any meaning to the Male Feminist or whether it is just a random regurgitation of previously heard syllables, similar to the facsimile of speech that can be achieved by some species of parrot. It is inadvisable to engage the Male Feminist, as it is rare that one will be persuaded to discard his predatory, territorial ways and assimilate peacefully and successfully into civilised society.

If one encounters H. sapiens mansplainam in the wild, the following tactics – some defensive, some diversionary – may prove useful:

  • Barring the beast from entry into one’s community, thereby preventing him from terrorizing the residents
  • Providing the Male Feminist with male-authored treatises countering his spurious claims that misandry is a real issue threatening to undermine the feminist movement
  • Pointing and laughing from a safe distance
  • Openly and blatantly rejecting any and all sexual advances in public, which may cause the Male Feminist to reply with Male Tears and cries of, “frigid bitch!” or, “ugly whore!” – a small price to pay for escaping his predatory clutches

It is important to be on one’s guard against H. sapiens mansplainam at all times, as they will often attempt to convince their victims that they are true feminists using a technique known as “mansplaining”, whereby they assume that everything they have to say on any matter is correct because they are men. Beginning scholars are particularly advised to be wary of such an approach, as the Male Feminist can be a very vocal and persistent mansplainer, particularly when accidentally engaged in any kind of debate.

It is this writer’s hope that this introductory guide to the Male Feminist will be useful to spotters beginning their forays into the world of feminism, particularly intersectional feminism. Forewarned is forearmed, and with H. sapiens mansplainam populations increasing drastically in many communities, it is best for anyone seeking to take part in feminist discourse to be prepared against the possibility of a Male Feminist attack.