I must have hit some sort of critical tipping point, because I can’t seem to go a week without a man getting angry at me for not agreeing with him when he comes into my online spaces and says something contentious. The excuses are usually based on the alleged humor of the remarks (often retroactively applied), the particular man’s sexual preferences, and Freeze Peach.
If “jokes,” “expressions of attraction, and “free speech” mean “they must agree with me at all times” in men’s minds, then I’m very much against all three.
Yes, I do have a sense of humor. No, you aren’t funny.
So you made a joke and I didn’t find it funny, and now you’re sad. Maybe I replied with snark that everyone thought was funnier than your joke, and you’re upset about my having one-upped you. Here’s a free piece of advice: You need to calm down and stop taking yourself so seriously. You made an unfunny joke or poorly presented a joke that might need work. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us.
Your mind is probably turning to rationalizations that paint me as
- oversensitive / hypersensitive
- lacking in a sense of humor
- easily offended
- no fun at parties
Sadly, none of these things are true. If you take these and run with them, you’re letting emotion get the better of you. Take a deep breath instead and let it go. After all, it’s just a joke. You’ll do better next time, I’m sure. Take it from me. Unlike you, I’ve successfully done comedy for unsympathetic (if not quite hostile) crowds, online and off; you’re failing even at this minor attempt at humor. My sense of humor is contingent on my ability to make people laugh, not my ability to find your half-baked attempt at humor funny.
Your sexual attraction is irrelevant.
It seems to shock certain men that their lack of sexual arousal is not germane to most conversations. It upsets them that their utterance of some variation of the phrase “I find that unattractive” is not a conversation-ender, if not a world-changer. They think that the global population is supposed to fret over their particular lack of genital swelling and work in earnest to rectify the travesty that is their lack of prurient interest.
They aren’t the worst offenders, though. Most people will recognize, at least on some muddled level, that calling someone unattractive is mean and therefore agree that saying so is unnecessary. What people who recognize the superficial problem with the act of dubbing something or someone unarousing (which is its seeming cruelty) fail to understand is the fallacy of the very premise. If you reject the implicit assumption that sexual attraction is at all important to the inherent value of anything or anyone, that some particular man doesn’t find it hot is a non-sequitor rather than cruel.
Without the rejection of that flawed premise, sexual attraction still has the potential to be weaponized in its more “positive” form. Declarations of attraction in conversations where anyone’s particular attraction is not the issue have the potential to be just as derailing and detrimental as declarations of a lack of attraction. The former is worse than the latter because they can hide behind the shield of “positivity” and “compliments.”
Take, for instance, a conversation about fat hatred. It seems that some men believe that their declaration of attraction to a fat person somehow eliminates the effect that fatphobia has on that fat person. Their well-meaning yet self-absorbed actions do nothing but re-center male arousal as the metric by which worth is determined. It is that centering that is the problem, not the alleged cruelty in declaring a lack of attraction. Yet speaking up about the problems with irrelevant declarations of attraction is considered unseemly and cruel, a returning of positivity with negativity. That is what makes it so dangerous.
I couldn’t care less about your cold fruits.
The majority of “humor” pages and websites are misogynistic and otherwise *-ist in every possible way. Many porn and “admirer”-type sites, blogs, Tumblr, subreddits, and pages allow and encourage expressions of sexual attraction. That one person didn’t want or enjoy your comments in their space hardly means that your ability to express yourself is legitimately under siege.
It seems that, to some men, free speech means being able to say whatever they want whenever they want in whatever space they want to whomever they want without ever facing any consequences, however paltry and meager, for their words. Their definition of “free speech” begins and ends with their own speech, leaving no room for others to exercise that right. Funny, that.
Even funnier is when such exchanges occur on social media. Offended men often act as if my space is the only space they have in which to express themselves. It’s as if they don’t realize that they have their own Facebook walls and Twitter feeds on which to share their opinions ad nauseum if they so wish, as well as delete and/or block any comments they don’t like.
Freedom of speech does not mean I am obligated to coddle you. I am not your indulgent filial female figure. It is neither my duty nor my responsibility to cater to every person ever to ensure that each of them finds a safe space for their opinions specifically with me. If you don’t like the way that I treat your precious words on my spaces, you are fully within your right to withdraw from my spaces and retreat to your own.
Do you wanna build a straw-man?
I can hear it now, the cries of the #NotAllMen: “But that’s not what humor / attraction / free speech actually is!”
Too. Fucking. Bad.
For me, the well is well and thoroughly poisoned through and through. I didn’t start out believing that the terms like “humor,” “sexual preference,” and “free speech” were excuses for men to be assholes. Instead, it was consistently and repeated exposure to such men, online and off, that informed me that my theoretical definitions for those terms were bullshit, and I needed to revise my working understanding of those terms to better reflect reality.
I am absolutely, positively done with men who barge into my conversations and don’t like what I say in reply to their intrusions. I am exhausted by their inability to understand that sometimes, their perspectives are unnecessary, denialist, and unwanted. I am bored by their spluttering justifications for their behavior. I am annoyed by their ability to derail and destroy interesting conversations.
I am done.
Calling something a joke is not a free pass. Expressions of attraction or lack of attraction won’t always be allowed to flow freely in all spaces. Free speech is not a get-out-of-everything-free card.