“I’m Not Interested In Moaning That All Men Are Hard Done By” – A Defence of Women Only Spaces

2000px-Williamsburg_restroom_sign_cropped.svgIt seems like one of those debates that never ends: are woman only spaces empowering or discriminatory? Are they valuable or dated and unnecessary? Do they build bonds, or build walls?

We hear a lot from men who are against the concept, but bi activist Grant Denkinson is not one of them.

I’m a bisexual cisgender man and if women choose women-only spaces that is their business and not mine.

However, some people might be interested in my opinions including other men processing how they feel:

The first thing I think of is feeling excluded; unwanted; not allowed in. I’m a bit sensitive to that sort of thing as many of us are. I might feel a bit frustrated or annoyed.  One of the things I’ve learned from polyamory is to stop a moment and take notice of feelings like jealousy; This might be a similar feeling. I ask myself what I am annoyed at missing out on. If I can work that out that maybe I can get that thing elsewhere or at a different time. I might just be reacting to being excluded yet again. The cumulative feeling is the fault of other exclusions and too many of them, not this specific one. I can deal with just this one: I can feel a bit frustrated but not have to do anything about it.

I might presume that these women don’t want to be with men because of bad experiences with men. I know that I’m not a danger to them and feel a bit maligned. I might want to show that I’m not as sexist as some. I don’t want to be grouped with all other men and be given responsibility for the other guys.

So, if I’m confident in my own behaviour then I don’t need others to tell me I’m OK all of the time. I can know pretty well that someone having a problem with a crowd doesn’t mean they mean all of that about me personally.

My gripe here is with the badly behaved men, not with the women treated badly. While I’m not responsible for the other guys is there anything I can do to curb their behaviour or not have it happen next time? Yes, I am pissed off if women have been treated badly because they shouldn’t have been and also because I get less trusted just because I’m the same gender as the perpetrators.

Perhaps I don’t do the big exaggerated bad things but can I use them to look at what I do do? I probably share some of the patterns of behaviour that men have towards women without meaning to. Are there subtle things I do too that I want to do less of so I affect women better? When women talk about their lives and I listen then the main problems aren’t scary strangers or just the odd obnoxious bloke on the train: it is often the combination of little problematic things from men who are basically OK (though some big bad stuff keeps happening too). I make mistakes and do stuff by habit or when I’m in a bad mood; beating myself up over it probably won’t help and being forgiven doesn’t get us very far. Having a supportive coach with a positive attitude to make course corrections and encourage me to be the best me I can be might work better. I’m not sure where I’d find such a person but perhaps I can, or we can do that as friends for each other, or I could replace the guilty voice in my head with a coach voice.

Why can’t I have men only spaces? I can. What could stop me?

But why can’t I have men only spaces? I can. What could stop me? If they don’t exist, us men can make them exist – it isn’t difficult and women aren’t stopping us. If we just want to get some blokes together to chat then we can.

I think it can be useful for us men to talk about how we are treated by women (and everyone else) and those emotions don’t have to seem reasonable or be agreeable to us. Some men are treated badly by some women and some of the ways our society wants men to behave aren’t good for us.

But it doesn’t have to be a women’s job to support all of our feelings and to be honest I might not share some of the feelings I’m not so proud of when women are around.

I’m just not interested in moaning that all men are hard done to by women or that feminism means we can’t do stuff we would reasonably want to do.

I could be missing out; deprived of women who are in their own space instead. I might be missing out on learning, on fun times, on friends, on partners, on getting laid, on all sorts of things. As I said before, I find it useful to stop and feel for a bit sometimes. Am I filling in the gap where the women aren’t with all of my fantasies and desires? OK, knowing those desires better means I might be able to fulfil them somehow someday. I’m an adult, I don’t get to have everything right now, and it would be a bit overwhelming if I did.

Whenever anyone does any male/female thing I remember than gender is complicated and can be fluid and I see a lot of that in my friends and communities. There are, I think, entirely reasonable challenges to binary male / female thinking and spaces, and I always want to support trans people of any or no gender. Where do the boundaries go around a women’s only space anyway?

I don’t have an answer to that but I do know I’m not near those boundaries myself as a cis man. This isn’t my problem and isn’t my decision, other than supporting women and people of all genders and not agreeing with transphobia.

Finally, I’m just curious what happens between women when us men aren’t around. Perhaps some readers might wish to share…

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