(Yes, you’re the devil’s advocate, you’re “just sayin’”, you “just want to understand”, you “just think that…” etc. etc. and that’s you on a good day. But this is MY LIFE you’re batting around, friend. This is my daily, consuming lived experience.)
Feminists want collaboration. Deep down, I think that’s what pretty much all of us want. The masculine, competitive beat-you-up-and-dominate-you approach to culture hasn’t been kind to women over the millennia, and that’s the entire approach the pernicious debate culture that sprouts up all over online forums depends upon. Competition is what all the sickest aspects of the patriarchy are built on; war, greed, socioeconomic hierarchy, ecocide, all of these things are about stomping out competition, whether it’s enemies on the battlefield, competitors in the market, or the natural world needing to be conquered and subjugated, all society’s greatest ills can be traced back to its patriarchal bias toward competition over collaboration.
Men, we want your curiosity, not your combativeness. We want you to understand the way we see our predicament, not explain to us how our perspective is wrong. By engaging us from a desire to out-debate us, outwit us, and beat us into submission, you’re already starting the interaction off on the wrong foot.
This is subtle stuff we’re dealing with here. Female subjugation is to our culture as water is to fish; it’s so pervasive and ubiquitous that it’s almost impossible to see unless you know what you’re looking for. But it’s there. And we can’t show you it’s there if you’re leaning back demanding that we somehow debate you into seeing it; it doesn’t work that way. We need to take you by the hand, walk you through it, we need you leaned-in and open-hearted, not pulled back and critical, otherwise you won’t be able to come to these subtle understandings we’ve spent the entire history of feminism trying to figure out ourselves.
No one can debate you into understanding their point of view. It will never happen, and I think we all know that, if we’re honest with ourselves. All we can really do is keep extending the invitation for you to give us your sustained curiosity, and hope that you accept that invitation someday. Until then, you can hold out in your unassailable “debate us or be wrong” fortresses for as long as you’re determined to.