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Do Take Note: The universal myth of the "good guy"

Published: Monday, February 28, 2005

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

"Good Guys" in the patriarchy are harder to find than the Loch Ness monster in a desert. But according to many people I hear and talk to, "good guys" are everywhere. The propensity to acknowledge the shortcomings of men, overlook them even in obvious examples (such as gang-rape) and excuse their moral responsibility with the magic words, "But he is a good guy," is an epidemic phenomena at the very least. I am amazed continuously with the amount of forgiveness people are willing to grant men, as if the majority of rapes aren't committed by them, as if the majority of businesses aren't owned by them, as if they majority of pornography isn't consumed, produced, and profitable to them, and, as if they aren't somehow affected by the extreme privilege granted to their gender class.

Tuesday, I attended the Socratic Society's re-visitation of the issue of pornography as violence against women. I felt astounded repeatedly by many men's refusal to acknowledge their complicity in the oppression of women; as if their lives thus far had been devoted to the liberation of women, as if they didn't benefit from male privilege because they didn't like the idea of having it and as if perceived non-participation in patriarchal institutions fulfills any and all moral obligations men could have. Though I believe the behavior of men in this Tuesday's "soc-soc" was much improved over the last one I recounted in my column, I still found an extreme lack of basic understanding of the issues of pornography, violence against women and oppression of women.

Though things were considerably more civil and orderly, often many of the men, the author of the fallacious op-ed "A Socratic Defense" included, spoke up in defense of each other when another man's comments or arguments were criticized. The common response was that the person, almost always female, confronting the argument put forth by one of the men, did not understand exactly what had been said or that she had somehow misconstrued the meaning. Almost consistently, several men would chime in together and defend the man in question, disguised and perhaps sincerely intended as an effort of "clarification," but very clearly embodying the concept of the "boys' club."

This is specifically not commentary on a perceived level of intelligence of any men or their arguments. Rather, it is on their easily assumed behavior of preserving their privilege by excluding women's intellectual contributions in rejecting and dismissing them collectively in an effort to protect their own patriarchy-sustaining ideologies. Unfortunately, this is not a remarkable occurrence and is an incredibly effective methodology men learn as a function of their existence. By existing as men, men directly aid in the oppression of women. Every time a man uses pornography, beats his wife or coerces a woman or dismisses or laughs at her, he is simultaneously denouncing her humanity and reaffirming his own. He does not just do this to amuse himself; her subjugation is a vehicle necessary for his continued existence. That is why men accepting responsibility and acknowledging their complicity in women's oppression is so extremely uncommon. It is also why there is no such thing as a "good guy" in the patriarchy.

One man mentioned that he didn't do those "bad things," i.e. use pornography, rape women, etc. It was also mentioned at one point, perhaps by the same man, that he hoped there weren't men who had raped in this room, i.e. that all men who were present were basically "good guys." "Good guys" rape women and are responsible for harassing, beating, dismissing, objectifying or laughing at women. Many women I know have been raped or sexually coerced by "good guys" like doctors, business men, fraternity boys, friends, fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers. "Good guys" use pornography, condone other's use of it or don't speak out against it. "Good guys" condescend us in the classroom and school paper and laugh at our feminist agenda. "Good guys" sit back and do nothing. "Good guys" feign political interest in feminism or deny its importance completely. "Good guys" teach us classes excluding women's intellectual work, favor male students incessantly and are complicit in the perpetuation of male supremacy through the patriarchal cultivation of their male academic progeny. "Good guys," their "good institutions" and "good power," are the PROBLEM.

In "Redefining Nonviolence," Andrea Dworkin writes,

"Any man who is your comrade will know in his gut the indignity, the demeaning indignity, of systematic exclusion from the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Any man who is your true comrade will be committed to laying his body, his life, on the line so that you will be subjected to that indignity no longer. I ask you to look to your male comrades on the left, and to determine whether they have made that commitment to you. If they have not, then they do not take your lives seriously and as long as you work for and with them, you do not take your lives seriously either."

Does anyone else hear that tune, "We don't need the men, we don't need the men"?

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