Since 2014 the hashtag #notallmen began popping up, sometimes from frustrated individuals who are upset that men are lumped together, sometimes ironically from individuals who are tired of being the subject of systemic power imbalance, and all sorts of individuals in between.
For reference, GenCon just released their Industry Insider and Guest of Honor list, for the first time in 50 years, there are more women than men on the featured presenter list and Margaret Weis leading the ticket as Guest of Honor. In 2016 GenCon’s Industry Insider list first reached gender parity, there is still a notable lack of POC on the list*. Yet, as discussed before, women represent approximately half of all computer and video gamers according to ESA, while table top gaming isn’t computer and video gaming, it is worth being aware that women do represent a large portion of the gaming community and cross platforms.
For all of recorded history, there is documented evidence of systematic selection for men over women in all things that do not include child rearing or sexual conquest. Patrialineal thinking lines families up under fathers, ignoring the contributions of women to the point of losing all record of women in some genealogical records. It wasn’t until 1980 when Sweden was the first documented country to adopt absolute primogeniture for dynastic inheritance, several countries have followed suit since that time. Clearly there are fewer kings than farmers, but even at the lowest levels, oldest sons receive the greatest favor regardless of how many older daughters there might be.
All men, by happenstance of chance at the time of their fertilization, have historically been given preferential treatment and access to countless opportunities that women have not been afforded. Language in documents favor the male pronouns as “neutral”, the AP stylebook only recently recognized using “they” as the gender neutral singular pronoun. Medicine favored white men and only started consistent drug testing on racially and gender diverse groups in the last 10 years when it came to light that drugs do not work the same across the spectrum of humans. White men can find representation across all media and genres, the same cannot be said for minorities.
There are countless ways to illustrate that men, specifically white men, have advantages and privileges that their female, POC, and other minority counterparts do not have access to, and unlike their female, POC, and other minority counterparts, they are blind to those privileges.
When women seek spaces without men that seems to be when hackles get raised. It can be difficult to realize that there are people in the world who do not wish to listen to what men have to say or to speak about men without providing men with an opportunity to defend themselves. For example, women specific forums, retreats, schools/education opportunities, or even contests are not some nefarious way to prevent men from doing the things that men wish to do, they are a way of opening male heavy areas to marginalized people who have similar interests. None of these “closed to men” events stop men from pursuing their own goals and desires, as men remain the strongest voice in game design, whether through male designers or just as the focus of the system.
Women seek out women only opportunities because we wish to hear voices like ours, see faces like ours, and be heard by others who want to hear our messages without having to fight for the opportunity to speak it. It isn’t because we hate men, it’s because we have already heard what men have to say. We aren’t men, we’re women, we should be allowed to be as proud of who and what we are just as men are, and we feel like we can’t do that in the presence of men.
It can be difficult to realize that as an individual you benefit in small (and not so small) ways because of luck and things that you have no control over, especially if you aren’t super rich, living high on the hog, and skating through life. Do men get assaulted, mocked, discriminated against, and otherwise not well treated or treated fairly? Sure, it happens. Men are assaulted and abused and have difficulty being believed, men had a harder time getting custody of their children after separation from partners, but that’s changing. Modern men benefit from the patriarchy that millions and billions of men before them have crafted over thousands of years.
Our society is now open to observation across most lines that would ordinarily divide us – space, time, social circles, etc. People who would not ordinarily be in the same space during a conversation are now privy to the conversations that have been going on all along, and that is upsetting to some. Coming to terms with the fact that an individual may not be aware of the privilege they are afforded by their race, gender, or other easily identified markers is proving to be a struggle for some, most notably men, as evidenced by the rise of #notallmen.
The straight talk
The Inspire Confidence blog exists because the gaming community could be a universally welcoming and open space for everyone. In order for that to happen, we must each examine the personal traits we have that provide us with benefits that prevent others similar access to, such as skin color or gender identity. Being someone who identifies as male doesn’t make that person “the enemy and a monster”, being hurtful or deliberately dismissive can make that person “the enemy and a monster”.
Speaking generally of groups of people can be difficult to do, such as when writing a blog on #notallmen, when the real issue lies with the systemic privilege of the male portion of population that cannot be further teased out. Speaking strictly for myself (although I am sure others feel this way), I do not believe “all men” benefit from male privilege the same way, just as I don’t believe all of any subset population does/receives/benefits from anything the exact same way, but I have seen men receive benefits that I have not when all other things were equal. I also don’t believe all men are hateful pigs, but I do believe that some men are and have had my fair share of run ins with them.
Finding out that the world isn’t the way you thought it was is upsetting. Maybe you remember finding out that there was no Santa (if you’re Christian) or tooth fairy. Maybe you experienced a difficult realization about a loved one that left you wondering if everything you ever thought was true. Discovering that perhaps you are part of a problem and not part of the solution can shake a person to their core, but all is not lost.
What to do
- Remove “not all men” from your vocabulary, or the equivalent for you, no matter who you are or how you identify. That distracts from the conversation that you are a part of directly or one you are indirectly observing. Recentering the conversation on you is poor form.
- Listen more than you speak when you are in a situation where you feel defensive.
- Really listen, don’t just pretend you’re listening and fume angrily in silence. Pay attention to what the other person is trying to tell you or show you.
- If you are feeling emotionally defensive in a conversation involving minorities, do your introspection as to why that is in private. It is unrealistic to expect someone to publicly hold your hand through your process of self-discovery of your own privilege.
- Find people or organizations that do educational work and educate yourself. Be generous in your support of them.
- Speak up for marginalized and minority individuals, do not speak for them.
- Do not tell marginalized or minority individuals their problems, they know what the problem is.
- Recognize mistakes you make and make an effort to not repeat them. Also the mistakes of others, learn from every experience.
- Own who and what you are, use it to make things better, not worse. Use your voice to speak out against misogyny or racism, work for equity for all, and demand just punishments for those who break the law – specifically those whose crimes include hate aspects.
- Be kind, respectful, and understanding. Just as not all men are “whatever”, no other group is “whatever” either. If one person asks you to use a term to describe them (such as pronouns) but another person of the same group hates that word, then use the terms each person asks you to use in the way they ask you to use it for them. We call each other by individual names, it’s not that hard to figure out and remember a person’s preferred pronouns or other terms of identity.
Everyone has some characteristic that makes them a target. Perhaps you are a man who doesn’t have a traditional family role, traditional “manly” job, or traditional “manly” hobbies. It isn’t my goal to minimize that, it’s hard to feel like you aren’t worthy or wanted by society. Today’s blog is the result reading a meme trashing #notallmen said (paraphrasing here) “And if a man gets his feelings hurt, so what!” Hurting one another and one-upmanship on pain doesn’t get us collectively to a better place. Making generalized comments about any group of any kind doesn’t get us to a better place. Using bad stereotypes is not okay, whether it is saying all women are sluts, all Muslims are terrorists, or all men are rapists – while some stereotypes are more serious issues for a society to address than others, the point remains that simplifying a portion of the population into a group that is “X” that isn’t completely accurate hurts everyone.
As well, attacking allies is problematic. It is hard to be to endure the awful things that are said as a marginalized or minority individual (if you doubt this, read last week’s blog about Green Ronin and Monica Valentinelli). The pressure of being targeted daily builds frustration and anger until someone, who may or may not be the cause of that frustration, sets it off and all of it comes out, but our goal should never be to hurt someone. If your reaction to someone else’s pain is “oh well, so what”, then please stop and ask yourself what your goals really are, because dismissing pain or hurting others to make yourself feel better isn’t a good solution.Ultimately the only way to fix #notallmen is to fix the societal issues we have – namely stopping preferential treatment based on class/wealth, gender, race, sexuality, and other identifying markers. If you are a guy who is upset and feels like you need to say “not all men”, I want you to know that I see you and I hear you, please give me and all the other marginalized individuals and minority groups out there the courtesy and do the same for us? We’re all in this together.
*Disclosure of the author – I identify as a cisgender, bisexual, white woman. I acknowledge that this article focuses on imbalances between male identifying and female identifying people. I acknowledge that not all non-male identifying individuals identify as female. This article does not venture into the imbalance of power between races and color. I lack the knowledge to speak to those topics appropriately, but recognize that those imbalances are also issues as well. I recommend this article to provide a starting point for education on systemic racism. Non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon explains their identity to Ellen Degeneres is a starting place to learn about non-binary individuals, but the internet is full of great resources to learn about people who are not like yourself.
Some information about why women need women only spaces:
Time “Why Women talk less than Men at work” – http://time.com/money/4450406/men-interrupt-talk-more/
Time “Who talks more, Men or Women?” – http://time.com/2992051/women-talk-more-study/