As Women’s History month winds down I’d like to ponder the difference between being powerful and merely feeling powerful. Too often people chase the feeling and give up the real thing.
I sensed the phenomenon in a highly publicized event last year.
Last October a Yale fraternity chanted “No means yes, yes means anal” in front of the campus Women’s Center. One man concluded it was all meant to stir up feminazis. “The sole purpose of that building,” he opined, “is to give hatemongering academic feminists a base to spread their propaganda and recruit new members… They most likely (chanted there) because feminazis always go out of their way to harm men. Just about every policy implemented by academic feminazis is meant to incite misandry and marginalize men.”
Interesting tactic. “Who looks worse?” I asked.
“The guys will come across as arseholes, but they don’t care. All they care about is stirring up the feminazis.”
The commenter has a blog which seems to have the same goal. I just don’t know whether any feminazis go to his site so that he can stir them up.
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that his theory could be true. Do you think the Yale frat staged a blow to feminism? Or to sexism, instead?
While some seek to feel strong by chanting rape fantasies, real rapists and wife batterers are involved in the same loop. They want to feel powerful, so they beat down a woman or invade her body. Or both. They feel dominant in the moment. But their potency is actually pretty limited. And the acts are only destructive, not constructive.
Any time gang members beat or kill someone they probably feel formidable. But in the long run, how mighty are they sitting in jail, or dead?
A few early feminists made the error of feeling powerful over the real thing when they spewed man-hating rhetoric. In the moment they likely felt pretty tough. But the strategy did not create real muscle and feminists at large gave it up. For the effect was to repel potential female and male allies, alike.
Now we are left with the brand “feminazis.”
To all of the above I ask, why don’t you do something with your efforts and your lives that are both powerful and constructive, instead of beating others down in a basically weak attempt to feel better about yourselves?
And next time you seek power, consider whether you are being powerful only in your own head.
March is Women’s History Month
The boys (not men) of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) chanted, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” at the Women’s Center on campus last week. See video.
What was their motive?
When people do things like this – put others down – they’re trying to create an identity for themselves and for the people they are targeting.
“No means yes.” While rape has a sexual component, it’s mostly about power. In this chant, the guys were celebrating images of men overpowering women. “Yes means anal”? If she says yes, then do something she didn’t ask for (and presumably wouldn’t want) turning even “yes” into rape.
Chanting in front of the Women’s Center – a safe space for women who have been assaulted or abused – makes that message stronger.
Afterwards, the frat offered an apology that let them off the hook. And which actually helps them to feel powerful: We can do anything so long as we apologize.
How sorry are they? Frat boys shouted the same slogans in front of the Women’s Center in 2006. In 2008 a different fraternity bellowed their love of “Yale sluts” in the same location.
Here we have boys desperately trying to assert their manhood. Intimidating women to create a sense of male superiority that doesn’t exist in nature – otherwise they wouldn’t need to try so hard. It all screams “insecurity!” There must be a big gap between the men they want to be, and the boys they seemingly are, to make that much effort.
Guys in frats are often pressured to hurt women to prove their manhood. “Bros before ho’s.” Sociologist, Michael Kimmel, studies men. And he says that many of these pledges don’t want to do the hurtful things to women that they are pressured to do.
But aren’t men supposed to be strong, confident, courageous? Don’t men follow their conscience instead of following the crowd?
What we see here is not courage but bravado. Trying to appear more brave than they really are.
This is supposed to prove their manhood?
Are women that threatening? Really, these guys are just scaredy cats.
Related post: Ever Wanted To Be A Woman? What Men Say