It started like this: 25-year-old New Yorker Beth Breslaw was chatting to a friend about her observation that men were less likely than women to make way for other people on crowded pavements.
Breslaw decided that she was going to test out her friend’s theory. No longer was she going to act like a polite, decent human being who occasionally moved out of people’s way, dammit! No, she was going to plough forward without any regard for whatever man, woman or child might be in her path.
Or, in other words, ‘behave like a stereotypical New Yorker’.
You’ll probably guess the amazing thing that happened next: Breslaw bumped into people. She bumped into a lot of people. Mainly, though, she bumped into men.
Maybe there was a football game on, and a lot of men about? But no, that will never do. It must be THE PATRIARCHY!
One might be inclined to believe that the lesson learned from all this is that you shouldn’t act like a douchebag when navigating a crowded city. But that would be reading too little into the experiment. No, says New York magazine, Breslaw’s experience is indicative of “the sidewalk MO of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them … a phenomenon that perhaps we could call manslamming.”
At this point, I think we’ve gone well beyond the ‘clutching at straws’ stage. Even the Guardian writer seems to think that this is not helping the cause…
One of the challenges feminists face is having to constantly reiterate that, no, feminism has nothing to do with hating or belittling men. Feminism is about equal rights. And while this experiment was based on the valid and very important premise that male privilege manifests itself in even the most basic tenets of everyday life, it doesn’t follow that all the many microaggressions of city life are a direct result of that privilege.
Or even any of them.
Call me cynical, but manslamming seems to be more about a headline-friendly “trend” than a legitimate problem, and the latest iteration of a trend towards “experimental feminism” . It is a social media science whose results are not measured in an increase in women’s rights, but in click-throughs, video views, and – the holy grail – being accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Yup, that’s modern feminism to a ‘T’.
Somewhere, in an urban newsroom filled with millennials, someone is trying to come up with the next great feminist experiment. Here’s one for free: manstraining; the act of having to squint your eyes really hard to find an affront to your daily experience as a woman, despite so many bigger ones to battle.
Heh! Well done, modern feminists – you’re starting to lose the ‘Guardian’…