digging up the roots of gender-based violence

I’m Not Pouring Your Coffee or Wiping Your Tears, Dustin Hoffman: Take Your Feelings Elsewhere, Fellas

It’s not that I think men shouldn’t talk about their feelings. For real, fellas, I think it’s great that you are emoting or whatever. Have your feelings. Be outraged about misogyny, racism and homoantagonism, feel guilty, feel frustrated, feel your feelings. Have them.

But stop expecting  demanding women to take dawson-cryingcare of your feelings, especially around our own marginalization and oppression. Don’t cry (ref: Dustin Hoffman) to me about how you’re sad (like you’ve just discovered this terrible thing that I obviously have no idea about) that so many women and girls are raped and beaten in this world, because I have my hands full holding the feelings of women who are being raped and beaten.

Years ago, I was in a workshop on working across differences (primarily addressing race), and one of the white women there told this story about having a black boy come over to play when she was a girl, and her neighbor called the police on the young man.  The story was told as something that happened to her, and she was seeking care for her feelings about the situation. A woman of color sitting next to me very respectfully addressed this white woman, telling her that what mattered most in that moment were the feelings her friend had about being targeted by her neighbor’s racism. As shocking as it was to the white woman, it was painful and violent to her friend, the young black boy.

The folks in the culturally dominant group take up a lot of space, in all spaces. White people sure do have some feelings about racism. I experience rage about it all the time myself. I cried white hot tears of anger when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, for example. My rage, while entirely justified, and really coming from my core commitment to solidarity with marginalized folks, is all about me. It’s mine, and I don’t expect people of color to help me feel better, to offer me a vessel for my anger, or to even say “thanks”. I do expect, however, that other white people might say, “Hey, I am pissed too. What can we do about this?”

I once heard a woman express great fear of men coming into feminist space because of the caretaking that is then required. “Men take up so much space,” she said, “and women are trained and conditioned to take care of them.” She was right. I see it all the time. I’ve seen it happen with so-called good men, pro-feminist/feminist men who expect the women in the room get the coffee or sandwiches, or take minutes, or be nurturing all the damn time. That’s misogyny! Own it, and then stop doing it. Follow the leadership of women as we are the experts on our lives. I am an expert on what it feels like to live in a world hostile to my very existence in a way that you will never be, even if you put on a dress.

Fellas, look to other men to take care of your feelings on misogyny. I ain’t taking care of you. Perhaps when it is no longer a fact that 1 in 3 women are beaten and raped by the men in their lives, I might be able to make a little time to hear about your feelings on misogyny. Until then, roll up your sleeves and dismantle the white, cis, heteropatriarchy. Or at least get out of my way so I can.  I’ll appreciate knowing where you stand, because this issue has no neutral place.

“Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us.”   Andrea Dworkin

12 responses to “I’m Not Pouring Your Coffee or Wiping Your Tears, Dustin Hoffman: Take Your Feelings Elsewhere, Fellas

  1. startledoctopus July 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I like to apply Circle Theory to social justice – all the venting about MY feelings about marginalization that doesn’t directly affect me should be to people who are also outside that circle of marginalization.

  2. Molly July 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    This is an interesting piece and made me feel all sorts of emotions. I mostly feel your rage, Haven, which is justified. However, I don’t entirely agree with what you are saying. It seems like you are taking an all-or-nothing approach to men being a part of the feminist movement.

    You can’t expect men to completely change their perspective overnight. Hoffman is sharing a revelation that people (especially men) everywhere can identify with. No one can leap to the top of the mountain – it takes small steps every day to reach a goal. This is a step that should be celebrated, not berated.

    In then end, I think the rage you’re pedaling will turn people away from your justified cause. Loving is harder than hating. Fighting the hate of misogyny with hate will lead to a world of hate. Perhaps fighting hate with love of self and others will slowly dispel the darkness and oppression.

    • HAVEN July 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Firstly, please read the commenting guidelines before commenting again. You are making several assumptions of bad faith on my part, which is outside the boundaries of appropriate commentary. If that continues, your comments will be removed.
      Secondly, I am entitled to be angry about misogyny, please do not audit my feelings or tell me how to react to misogyny. Additionally, if this is all you’ve read here, I suggest you read further before you make assumptions about what we are “pedaling”.
      This essay was about far more than an old video of Dustin Hoffman talking about his discovery of misogyny. That was merely the impetus for a discussion about how marginalized people (in this case, women) often are expected/demanded to take care of the feelings of folks in the dominant group (in this case, men) around their own marginalization/oppression (in this case, misogyny). I am entitled to be angry about having my boundaries transgressed, and to redirect men to talk to other men about their feelings. Which was the point, and had nothing to do with hate or with expecting “all or nothing”.

      • Molly July 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        You are correct and justified in everything that you say and feel. I was simply expressing what I took away from your article.

        I want you to know that I love you and was never trying to act in bad faith.

      • Richard Marinos July 11, 2013 at 4:28 pm

        In response to HAVEN’s comment to Molly:

        Derisively quoting misused homophones (“pedaling” vs. “peddling”) is flaunting your literacy privilege. You could have silently made the correction in your reply and just written “peddle”, but by putting it in quotes you’re using spelling as a cudgel to deny the validity of her points (leaving aside the question of their intrinsic validity or invalidity) and drawing attention to your superior erudition.


      • HAVEN July 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

        You are also making a bad faith assumption about my motives. I used quote marks because I was quoting, and I wanted to be faithful to her words. Let me be clear, you must follow the commenting notes or your comments will be removed. The meaning of what I said directly addressed her point, and you calling out my use of quote marks (again, because I was quoting) is a derail. Not gonna fly here.

  3. Richard Marinos July 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    OK, allow me to rephrase what I said, please:

    When the only direct quotation that you make in responding to Molly’s comment is of her spelling mistake, it’s quite easy for both Molly and third parties to see that as a put-down of her intelligence, regardless if you meant that or not. This is especially true because it’s an exceedingly common and ugly tactic on the Internet that marginalizes people who do not have the privilege of not having dyslexia / having an excellent education / etc. I wanted to call this to your attention in case you haven’t reflected upon your own literacy privilege. (You’re clearly a competent writer.) Even though your heart was pure and you were only trying to quote her for textual accuracy, I think a bit of graciousness might be in order so as to not inadvertently put her down in this manner.

    I’m not trying to derail anything. I don’t have a well-thought opinion on what you and Molly are discussing. I just wanted to encourage self-reflection on an often-unexamined form of privilege that really irks me.

    • HAVEN July 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      To be honest, I didn’t even recognize the spelling error until you pointed it out. I was quoting, and I also used quote when I said “all or nothing”, which is another quote from her comment. I am very conscious of literacy privilege, and work hard to mitigate mine.

  4. Jamie July 11, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I disagree that people of privilege cannot empathize with those who experience misogyny or racism. I think Dustin Hoffman’s video did much to raise awareness of injustice in our society and I think the fact it went viral should be applauded not side-eyed.

  5. Pingback: Do Your Own Work: A follow-up about pouring coffee and wiping tears (It’s Not Really About Dustin Hoffman) | UpRoot

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