Tag Archives: feminism

Serena v. Naomi (or not)

It’s been interesting to hear a few different angles on the whole Serena Williams / Naomi Osaka thing today. Being 2018, probably humanity’s most polarised year yet, responses seem to veer towards one of two extremes: disgust with Serena (how dare she ruin Naomi’s moment?!) and disgust with the umpire (how dare he change the course of the game?!)

Annoyingly, I think parts of both arguments have merit. Is it possible that they’re both right?

There is undeniable truth in Billie Jean King’s comment on Twitter:

When a woman is emotional, she’s “hysterical” and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s “outspoken” & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.

Even I’ve watched enough Grand Slams to know that male players are routinely far less deferential to umpires than Serena was, and they are barely ever penalised. Whoever might have otherwise won, it’s undeniable that this umpire’s sexism changed the outcome of the game, and Serena was completely justified in railing against it. Whether it was wilful or unconscious sexism isn’t at all relevant–sexism ought to be challenged, in all of its forms, in elite sport and everywhere else.

Meanwhile, I totally sympathise with Naomi Osaka, whose phenomenal success has been overshadowed by this controversy. She deserved an opportunity to play in her first Grand Slam without any of this drama. The same is true for all elite female athletes–they should be treated as equal to their male counterparts, unencumbered by sexism and misogyny. But in sport, as in life, the patriarchy is still far from smashed, and the results continue to be messy.

Let’s not make the mistake of blaming Serena for distracting us all from Naomi’s victory. Responsibility for that rests solely with the male umpire who treated her in a particular way because she’s a woman.

Surely we’ve learned to stop blaming women for the mistakes of men by now?

PS: congratulations on your win, Naomi. I’m sorry that it’s been tainted.

Confessions of a sexist feminist

I have zero qualifications to write about feminism.

I’m a privileged white male, comfortably inhabiting a man’s world. I enjoy the benefits of winning the chromosome lottery 32-ish years ago, and I’m often blind to the ease with which opportunity, recognition, and remuneration fall into my lap, just because I’m a man.

I’m not being sarcastic. There are no mind games here.

I accept that simply having a penis makes my life easier in ways I might never understand. I accept that the challenges I face as a man don’t compare with the daily realities of women in pretty much every society on earth.

So why am I writing my first piece on feminism?

It would certainly be easier to remain on the sidelines, cheering feminist women on, rather than adopting their cause as my own. Women feminists, after all, know exactly what they’re fighting for. I’ve never experienced the reality of casual sexism or blatant misogyny. What could I say or do that would actually help? Won’t I somehow be guilty of mansplaining if I try to speak up?

It’s worth noting that as an amateur feminist (and a male human), the sexism in me is not yet dead. Patriarchal patterns of thinking and behaviour I’ve inherited or absorbed have not yet been eliminated. My eyes have not yet been opened to every form of sexism as it exists around me, and I will never understand it as well as women do, because I’ll never be able to experience it as they do. So it’s almost inevitable that I’ll be complicit in sexism without realising. Even this post might contain accidental sexism.

But as I acknowledge my imperfect feminism, thanking several women for opening my eyes more and more every day (you know who you are), I’d suggest that I’m not alone.

Are you a quiet male feminist too? Are you hesitant to be “out and proud” because professional feminists might point out the flaws and inconsistencies in your feminism? Are you afraid that your words might be too feeble, or that they might be misunderstood and used against you?

I ask because I’m no longer convinced that these are good enough excuses for merely shaking our heads while SO MANY women around us are underpaid, undervalued, abused, harassed, assaulted and killed–usually by men. Do we really think it’s okay to abandon women in their fight for basic rights and survival, just to minimise our risk of hurt feelings?

Men, it’s our duty to be active feminists. Not because women are dependent on us–far from it–but because our sexism is responsible for making feminism necessary in the first place.

Uncomfortable as it may be, we need to take a back seat. We need to educate ourselves about the ways we’re limiting, demeaning, and damaging women. We need to listen when they tell us how to clean up our act. And we need to actively call out men who fail to grasp the value and importance of women.

Here’s my personal “Male Feminist Charter”. Will you join me in committing to this?

  • I will respect women and fight for them to be seen by other men as equals in every way, especially when no women are watching.
  • I will value the opinions and contributions of women. I will see women as assets in every workplace, community, and family. I will do everything in my power to open doors that are currently closed to women.
  • I will listen and learn and change when women point out sexism in my words and actions.