Don’t Make ‘Tone Arguments’

This one is going to be quick, as I should really be asleep right now. The other day I was talking to a a classmate who had been placed into physical danger due to a variety of catcalling, and was telling this story in a way that was expressing anger towards men. I understood in a sympathetic but not empathetic way that she should be angry, and that this was another example of endemic, pervasive mistreatment of women. However, my reaction, instead of being supportive (which was the norm for this story), was to say that her message was going to get lost if it was expressed in such a vitriolic way, and that such a mode of expression runs the risk of framing this as a gender war and inciting negative responses.

What I did was what is known as a tone argument– basically shifting the focus away from the content of message toward its delivery. Doing this kind of thing is wrong. It’s part of the problem. Regardless of the truth value of this evaluation, we’ve got to stop trying to censor or ‘civilize’ women and their thoughts and instead be supportive.

This begs the question of what men’s role in feminism should actually be. It’s clear to me that men do not need to be hijacking the movement and giving it a stamp of approval. Feminism does not need men. It doesn’t need their endorsement, or approval. The way I see it now, it’s important that modern men act as facilitators for women’s voices rather than focusing on trying to manage them, even if social change is the goal. What we’re trying to pull off is a systematic restructuring of human culture in a way that the world has never seen before- ever. It takes some meta-reasoning about what sort of values we are upholding through each and every one of our actions.

So, if someone is making an argument, be aware how your acceptance of their argument are being affected by their method of delivery, appearance, and style. Until I started learning about feminism, I found it unpleasant to hear women acting in certain ways (basically angry and intense).   Guys- while you have have this too, I recommend all of you recognize it for what it is- requiring that women act pleasantly in order to be accepted in society. Suppress that. It’s got no place in modern society. Be decent.

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