Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Misogynist Cabal

There is a certain irony in Hugo Schwyzer attending Woman and Media 2008, a networking conference, writing about some discomfort he experienced as one of the few older male feminists, and at the same time writing a post about how hard it is for women to deal with men's social networks. In a post entitled: Refusing membership in the Boys’ Club: an answer to Derek about what feminist men can do, Hugo advises a young feminist men to refuse to join the "Old Boys Club" Like most leftists, Hugo believes that this will be a heroic, noble sacrifice, since success in business (unless it is success by women, gays or non-white men) is more about privilege than talent or hard work.
Particularly for young white men working for older white men, the pressure to join the the Network can be both immense and subtle.

Ahh the secret "Network" of Illuminati! Of course all male networking is akin to Politburo meetings where nation-states and country dachas are doled out. Any success you achieve is merely the result of a blessing by an "Old Boys Club" consisting of misogynistic, drink-swilling white guys:

Invitations to the Old Boys Club don’t come on monogrammed Crane’s stationery. They frequently come in the form of the casual, “Hey, we’re going out for drinks later”. Sometimes, the Club is obvious in its sexism, inviting “Derek” but not his fellow intern “Delilah”. More commonly, Derek and Delilah both get invited. Delilah, however, soon senses that the invitation to “hang with the guys” was made more out of obligation than desire. She may notice that some of the men seem uncomfortable with her, or that the conversation over drinks seems designed to exclude her. The older Boys in the office don’t have to take their junior colleagues to Hooters or a strip club to make the sexism obvious; indeed, that kind of crassness is becoming (one hears) somewhat rarer. But from what I hear even now, it’s still common for a young woman, out in social situations with male bosses and co-workers, to feel the tangible presence of a wall separating her from a group of men who might well wish that she would go home early, so the “free talk” (sexist and profane) can begin.

Sure - there is absolutely no way that men - especially white men - can engage in social activities without dissing women. So much so that they'd rather not have women with them at all, just so they can talk trash and head off to the strip club.

There really isn’t any point in arguing - as a Women Studies professor he's paid to promote stereotypes about men, and when you question stereotypes of male behavior on his blog you're treated like a stereotypical gun-toting male rights activist.

The comment thread on this piece is fascinating. Someone said that harassment laws had a chilling effect on male-female contact in the office and after work hours - that’s when I piped in and spoke of a policy I've always had one of "cool professionalism" in the office. I avoid any private contact with females, because of the small, but real chance of a false allegation. You can read the comments.

But then some twit shows up with this:

I don’t think false allegations are as massive a problem as some people claim. How can they be? As a man, you’ll no doubt ahve witnessed sexual harassment before (hopefully not perpetrating it), or at least inappropriate talk about women colleagues. This is very common, I’m sure you’ll agree.

No doubt? Her smug certainty gave me the impression that she was a Women Studies student.

I can’t say I agree, based on my experience. I’ve been a professional for more than two decades, and have never witnessed anything that I would consider an act of sexual harassment. Not one. Not even close. And when socializing with male coworkers I have never heard a female co-worker spoken of in sexual terms. Not even once.
Lots of women are biased against men, and particularly, as I wrote about here, men in groups. Some people just assume that any male bonding has - as its essential glue - misogyny.
I’m not denying that misogyny exists, or saying that women don’t face unfair obstacles in the workplace, and I’m certainly not asserting that sexual harassment is not a serious problem. I just get troubled when people assume that my male bonding necessarily is based on misogyny.
And she comes back with:

OK, maybe you haven’t seen any sexual harrassment. Maybe you have, and haven’t even recognised it. Maybe your experience isn’t representative of the rest of the world, or even your country. that doesn’t mean that there isn’t sexual harassment.

So men who don’t believe there is inequality by essence can’t not be misogynistic, because not being misogynistic requires the effort to realise that society is, and therefore you are, unless you try to change.

You can read the rest of her incoherent nonsense, but it was clear she felt I had to be lying, or so blinded by unrecognized misogyny that I was an ignorant participant in harassent. Since I was a man, it simply wasn't possible not to have initiated or participated in the harassment of women. She's (clumsily) adopted the feminist rhetorical techniques that I summarized in my response:

I started to write a point-by-point rebuttal, but I realize there is little point, because in your eyes I have no credibility, even when discussing myself and my experiences. It seems you are saying that I must hate women, because I claim not to, and that my failure to admit I saw, or participated in, harassment means that my unrecognized misogyny makes me clueless in such matters. I’m either lying about myself or my experiences or my experience must be so unusual that it proves some more general rule.

She came back with an equally incoherent response, but I've learned it is pointless to engage with people like this. I'd rather let the exchange stand as it is, and let reasonable people judge.

Any socializing I do with co-workers has been at lunch, in hotel bars and airport terminals - not Hooters and strip clubs. Hugo and his students would probably be astonished to learn that the conversation is most often not about sports or telling dirty jokes - it is about the one thing we all have in common: work. We talk mostly about projects we are working on, and the office politics around them. The most frequent subject of conversation that doesn’t involve work is our families. If we talk about women, it is usually about our wives and daughters. Female co-workers can, and do fit right in. It isn’t exclusionary in any sense I can detect.

But for some reason academic feminists want to imagine I'm part of some dark misogynist cabal. Ironically, I work in a largely male profession but there has been an explosion in our female labor force recently - overseas. Women over there don’t waste their time learning Women Studies - they are smart enough to know that an engineering degree gives them a better chance at work than learning how to deal with my misogyny. Odd notion that.

I know lots of Americans are concerned about high tech job losses to overseas competitors. The conventional thinking is that we have to become more productive, or create tax incentives to keep jobs here. I think the best thing we can do to level the playing field is to fund massive endowments for Women's Studies programs in Indian, Chinese and Eastern European engineering colleges.


Anonymous said...

Oh snap! Complete pwnage! That was a great response.

I sometimes wonder how Women Studies departments ever got to believing some of the things they spout about men. Even a lot of the so-called misogyny of younger males stems a lot from frustration with their relationships with girlfriends and "what women want" rather than a literal hatred.

It has an equivalent with women at that age and older who also make statements like, "I hate men!" or "Why are men such pain's in the asses." It's not necessarily misandry either, but sheer frustration usually over a relationship.

Pete said...

Hugo (willfully, methinks, or I'd have to ascribe superhuman levels of ignorance and naivete to him) misses the point that the soi disant "Old Boys Club is in reality the MANAGEMENT club.

Business is not conducted in a boardroom. A boardroom is where things go "on the record." Objections. The necessary "nay" votes. Such decisions are made beforehand, over lunch, drinks, or a round of golf.

When I have lunch with a colleague from outside of my office - more networking - this is where I get the REAL lowdown on a prospective employee, aside from what I am officially allowed to say on a reference sheet. This is where I get told "Those parts are going to be on/off sale in a couple weeks."

Cut yourself off from that netowrking at your own risk.