Actually, this fabulous blog post by my feminist friend Xenologer is less of a collection of tips and more of a comprehensive guide to understanding how male privilege can negatively affect the interactions of well-intentioned men with women. Using simple language and concrete examples, and packing a ton of links for further reading, Xenologer unpacks how guys who don’t perceive themselves as sexist can have happier and healthier interactions with not just women, but everyone around them who’s impacted by patriarchal power structures – which is to say everyone, really.
Here are some of my favorite points from her post (though really, you should just go read the whole thing):
- Recognizing your privilege is important – and perhaps more importantly, you don’t have to feel bad about being privileged. When feminists point out instances of male privilege, we’re not trying to shame you for having it: “You are definitely not a bad person for having male privilege, and you don’t need to be a sexist male to have it. It’s not ‘misogynist privilege,’ after all. It’s just the stuff you get for being a guy, along with some stuff you’re sheltered from for being a guy.” The “stuff” that guys get to be sheltered from include constant vigilance to make sure no one drugs your drink while you’re out, tries to follow you home or to your car in order to rape you, and so on.
- Consent is an essential part of every social and sexual interaction, and there’s no magic wand to get it. Heck, even if you’re polite enough to ask for it beforehand, you may still not get it…and then you should take it gracefully and not act like a schmuck about it: “If you view a failure to sleep with you as an unjust act on the part of a woman, the message women receive is that you have some kind of problem with the fact that women are allowed to say no to you.” Respecting everyone’s boundaries, even when that means you get rejected, is super important to sending the message that you will respect the “no” so that people can feel safe giving you their “yes.”
- On sexual advances: yes, there is a way for feminist-friendly men to make them. That way is not to act indistinguishably from a potential sexual predator: “A lot of men compliment women at times or in places or in ways that they don’t realize are the same ways a potential rapist or abuser would approach a woman. It’s important to note that a man who waits for a woman to be alone before approaching her and standing between her and the exit to deliver her a compliment might not be a rapist, but he’s exhibiting behavior identical to what a rapist does just before he attempts to commit rape, and is thus indistinguishable from one.” It’s entirely possible that if you’ve never been hit on in a predatory fashion, you don’t know what it feels like. Read this blog post in depth, or ask a female friend.
- Be aware of rape culture. Make it known that you’re not okay with it. This sends a message to other dudes who may be just as well-intentioned, but haven’t had to live through being objectified, harassed, and hit on as frequently as women, so they might not have an idea of what needs to change. This also sends a message to women, letting them know that you are creating a safe space around you. Both of these results are good for everyone.
Again, I’m such a fan of this blog post that I’m gonna recommend reading it for yourself. And if you just can’t get enough about consent, rape culture, and harassment, check out the links below: