This came out of a discussion elsewhere about a lot of things, including objectification, agency, sexism, and privilege. Specifically, it revolved around a situation at a large social gathering that highlighted a lot of difficult issues in male/female reactions.
I wrote this essay for a lot of reasons, but mostly because a lot of women I know in that particular social culture often run into creeps, and a lot of men I know in that particular social culture accidentally display behaviour that trip the "creep radar" these women have developed. After I wrote it, and posted it in a different forum, I got a couple of requests to take the post and strip it of references to the social environment into which it was born, so they could pass it along further without drawing people into that social environment. This is my attempt to do so.
To do so, I've removed the original introduction and taken out some of the context and interlinked framework. It's aimed at men who want to learn how to avoid tripping women's Creep Radar, but it builds on a number of conversations I've been having and observing about all kinds of privilege and discrimination. This essay is specifically about male privilege and how to avoid wielding it like a club. I hope it can be generalized to other forms of privilege as well.
I've stripped out all the places where I credit people for introducing me to other ideas, because that does draw people into that social environment, but I want to make it clear that I didn't get here by myself; a lot of very smart and very generous people helped me.
This is the "broadcast version" of this essay; I'm deliberately not including a way to contact me about it, and I apologize, but I don't want to fork the discussions that are going on about it in the environment in which it was born.
How To Not Be That Guy
To go through the getting-the-cards-on-the-table thing: this is my list. I come from a place that isn't everyone's place, because there is no such thing as everybody's place. This isn't an exhaustive list, and everyone's creepdar is calibrated differently. I'm also discussing this from a position of heterocentrism; I'm assuming that you are a straight man who is mostly interacting with straight women. (Mostly because introducing sexual orientation into this would complicate it umpteen billion times over. I'm not saying that gay men are immune to That Guy-ness towards women, and even in some of the same ways, but it usually has different unconscious motivations.)
I'm using the phrase "That Guy" here, because the people who display these behaviours are predominantly male; these behaviours come from a place of privilege, and right now, in our society, the men have the privilege. Yes, it's possible for women to be That Guy from time to time. But I'm very much talking to men here.
I'm going to try to include not only "what makes me take a step back", so as to (hopefully) give men a window into the kind of thing that creeps me out, but also "how allied men can call other men on their fail when they see it" -- for my friend who wants to know what to do and has never known any way to ask, and for any other man who feels the same way. It's very long. Please don't feel you have to read it all at once. It'll still be here when you come back.
I'm also using generic "you". I don't mean you. Unless I do.
So what makes That Guy into ... well, That Guy? Either in person, or in discussions on the Internet? Basically, how do I identify creeps?
For me, That Guy displays one or more of:
THE BIG THREE
This word gets thrown around a lot, and I think everyone uses it a little differently, which is one of the reasons why I have so much difficulty putting it into words. Let me try with: If you approach me with the presumption, stated or implied, that I owe you anything -- my time, my attention, my energy, my conversation, my acquiescence to your desires -- that's entitlement. If you make me think that you think you can express a wish and I will fulfill that wish, that's entitlement.
Women don't owe you anything: not their bodies, not their time, not their emotion. Hell, not even their attention. (Nobody owes anybody anything except basic courtesy, respect, and trying not to be an asshole.) A lot of guys walk into a situation and give the impression that they have the right to take these things, through outright force or through a more subtle coercion. Giving someone that impression makes you That Guy.
It is so hard to explain how this is made manifest. Body language. Disregard of personal space. The way you talk to me. Intonation. Innuendo. I can't give you any real guidelines about how not to trip over this, I really can't. Maybe the best thing to do is to watch very carefully for the body language. If a woman keeps stepping back away from you, or pulling away from you, or looking away and seeming extremely distracted, or coming up with ways to remove herself from the conversation or the situation, you may be tripping that radar, and you should step back (physically and metaphorically) and let the line of discussion or behaviour die a graceful death.
And if you think or you know that your ability to pick up on body language is not that great, err on the side of caution. (And if you think your ability to pick up on women's body language is great, confirm this with a bunch of women friends, because a lot of guys think they're pretty good at it when the fact that they aren't and think they are is part of what makes up their That Guy-dom.)
When I talk about this point with guy friends of mine, the most common response is "But guys are always thinking about sex, and that's going to show!" And yeah. I know a lot of guys are. Hell, often I am. But there's a difference between your awareness of me as a sexual being, and your expectation that our mutual awareness of each other as sexual beings implies some sort of obligation to mutually act upon that awareness. And trust me, I can tell the difference between you looking at my tits (because yeah, they're kind of hard to miss) and you looking at my tits and building elaborate fantasies about what they would feel like pressed up against you. And further, I can absolutely tell the minute you get the bright idea, spoken or unspoken, that you're continuing our interaction for the sole or even the primary purpose of building the chance to feel those tits down the road.
And it's not just sexual. It's not just the tits. There are a lot of men out there who are looking for someone to service their emotional needs -- to Heal Their Pain, as it were -- and that can trip the alarms just as sharply. I'm one of those people who complete strangers walk up to and tell their life stories, and that can trip the entitlement thing too, because it can carry an equal undercurrent of "I'm using you as an emotional dumping ground". It's okay to drop heavy emotional shit on a friend, but doing it with a stranger is often a presumption. (Although I do not count LJ comments as falling in this category, a lot of the time. Hell, that's kind of what LJ is for.)
And if you see a man and a woman having an interaction and the woman's displaying those signs -- backing up, pulling away, looking away, her mouth smiling politely but her eyes nowhere near the person she's talking with -- the way to gracefully stage a rescue is to step in from a distance (not in her space, not within touching distance of her) and distract the guy by striking up a conversation with him, not with her. That gives her the chance to slip away if she feels the need, with less of a chance of making her feel more threatened. (Not no chance, sadly. But less of one.)
Then say to the guy, once she's gone: "Hey, I think you were making her feel really awkward. Back off a little next time, hey?"
2. Entitlement (part two.)
Related to the first: if you make me think that you're coming from a place of "but as soon as she sees how awesome I am, she will of course see that I am not one of Those Guys and want to reward me", that's entitlement too. This is what a lot of women mean when they derisively say "Nice Guy™" -- because, and sadly to say, a lot of men who say "I'm a feminist!" carry the distinct undercurrent of passive-aggressive "I'm a feminist! I'm one of the Good Guys! So it's totally okay for you to sleep with me, and in fact, you should do so right now and as often as possible."
These are the men who give allied men a bad name. These are the men who are poisoning the well and making it harder for us to believe you when you say that you want to help -- because there's a really, really good chance that we've had frequent experience with guys who think there's some kind of magic incantation they can recite and get the instant rubber stamp of Okay Person, forevermore absolving them of having to be aware of these issues and undercurrents -- with everyone they meet, not just their friends. This part, right here, is the #1 reason why I say that if you think you're not That Guy, you might still be That Guy.
Being an ally is not a destination. It's a process. Everyone fucks it up sometimes. I have made some spectacular fuckups myself, and that's with trying to be very, very careful and aware. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card; there is no Magical Incantation. If you catch yourself thinking that of course you're not like those men, stop and take a good hard look at yourself, because statistically speaking, chances are good that you might be patting yourself on the back and forgetting that you have to walk the walk as well as talking the talk.
If you consider yourself an ally, and you wind up doing or saying something that gets a really strong negative reaction, and you see one of your friends saying something along the lines of "it's okay, he's one of the good guys, it's not like that", that should be a warning sign that it's time to immediately apologize. A real apology, not an "I'm sorry if you were offended" -- because that kind of language isn't an apology at all. You clearly did offend someone, or else the dogpile wouldn't have happened. "I'm sorry that I offended you, and I'd like to make sure I understand why, so it doesn't happen again; what I'm getting is that it was such-and-such, and I'm sorry I did that, and if that wasn't it, I'd like to listen to anything else you have to say..."
If you hear a guy who says "I'm a feminist", but who behaves in ways that trip women's creepdar, call him on it. It is a very sad fact that nine times out of ten, people with privilege, who are exercising that privilege in a way that makes other people feel uncomfortable, will not hear the fact that they are making other people uncomfortable until it's pointed out to them by someone with the same privilege. They literally will not process what people are saying. It happens all the time, and it is so subtle and pervasive that people don't see it even when someone calls them on it. You can, however, use this for good in terms of pulling another guy aside and saying: dude, you're being a creep. The sad fact is, that guy is way more likely to listen to you.
(Be careful about not displaying points 4 through 6, though. More about that in a minute.)
And no. You don't get
laid cookies for being an ally. You get the warm fuzzy glow of knowing that you're a human being, and over time as you demonstrate that you are an ally, you will find that women who know you are growing more and more willing to cut you some slack, because you have demonstrated that you are a human being. But being a human being doesn't entitle you to get laid. (Or, to generalize: being a human being doesn't entitle you to override point #1.)
Don't be an ally because you think it will get you something; be an ally because you don't want to be an asshole.
Otherwise known as "if you give a mouse a cookie..." or the camel's nose argument. And I think this is a very, very hard thing for men to understand, because they don't have anywhere near the same experience as women do.
A woman's default assumption is most likely going to be that if she says yes to a small thing, a man is going to try to get her to also consent to the next small thing, and then the slightly bigger thing, and then the really bigger thing, etc. A woman's default assumption is likely going to be that if she says no to the small thing, the man is going to ask her again. And again. And again. He's going to beg, and plead, and guilt-trip, and pressure, and try by any emotional blackmail possible to turn that "no" into a "yes".
This can be really blatant -- trying to use physical intimidation to gain reluctant consent, for instance, like constantly trying to touch her or loom over her or get in her space -- or more subtle. The more subtle form can be anything from constantly dropping conversational references to the question or proposition, to the very very subtle "puppy dog eyes".
You must understand this. Chances are, you do this too, even if you think you don't. This is the point that gets turned, in certain circles of dialog, into the "all men are rapists" argument that you might have heard: the notion that women say "no" and many men hear "maybe". It's not just men. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, tries to cajole other people into giving them what they want. It's just that, from men, to women, it takes on an additional layer of pressure, just by the very fact that it is a man interacting with a woman.
Because the society we live in, the society women move through, is one of pressure. Constant pressure. Women are bombarded with the pressure to be sexy, to be attractive, to conform to the idea that their bodies and their sexuality are public property. Women are constantly told, directly or subtly, that their looks and their body are matters of public record. We live in a world of the the male gaze, and it's reflected in the notion that women's bodies are communal resources.
That's the world that a lot of women walk through. Women have, for the most part, come to accept that, oh, anywhere from fifty to ninety percent (based on the situation and circumstance) of their male acquaintances will at least pay lip service to the concept that "no means no", because it's been drilled into their heads over and over again. But there's a huge number of men whose actions behave as though "no" means "maybe", and they will keep turning up the pressure, and women have no idea which category you fall into when you're a stranger to them -- and because they don't, they must assume the most paranoid reading.
And chances are, you -- the guy reading this -- read that sentence and said to yourself, "what do you mean, women think I don't understand that no means no?" Because you've been told it over and over again, and you think you've got that basic concept pretty down. And you probably do, right now. But when you're in the middle of something, when your emotions (and other things) are aroused, it's your natural inclination to try to talk someone out of that no, because it is basic human nature to try to talk people into doing what you want them to do. And -- particularly when it comes to sexual matters -- that's where the point of becoming That Guy lies.
Yes, you have to be more careful about not doing that than a woman might be. That's because you carry the privilege in this situation. Because -- okay, let's take a potential transaction here. Let's assume You and She are at a party, and happen to be next to each other. Let's take it from your point of view, as a good guy who likes to make other people around you happy:
You: [thinking: she looks stressed and tired and tense, I'd like to increase happiness in the world around me and do a good deed] Hey, wanna backrub?
Her: [speaking very sharply] No. I have to be somewhere else right now.
You: [thinking: ...wow, that was really kind of rude, I was just trying to be friendly.] Are you sure? Really, you look stressed, I'm happy to --
Her: [walks away, quickly]
Whereas the reality is, to her that might look really different:
Her: [thinking: oh God I'm tired and stressed and I don't want to deal with anybody in the world right now and oh God this guy next to me is in my space and I don't know what he's going to want]
You: Hey, wanna backrub?
Her: [instant wham of thoughts: what does he want, what is he suggesting, if I consent to accepting this and being touched what else is he going to try to talk me into, dammit, I said no and I am sick and fucking tired of having to say it sixteen times before it fucking sinks in and I so do not want to deal with this fucking shit right now because I do not have the energy to fight off yet another creepy guy hitting on me, I need to just get the fuck out of here] No. I have to be somewhere else right now.
You: Are you sure? Really, you look stressed, I'm happy to --
Her: [thinking: How many fucking times do I have to say it? Dammit, I just dealt with this shit ten minutes ago and I don't want to argue with another fucking horny jackass who's just doing this to try to get into my pants. I'd better get out of here before he starts pulling that "I'm doing this for your own good" crap even more.]
I know a couple of guys who think that because I made the utter mistake of making out with them once, they have the perpetual right to beg, plead, whine, wheedle, and cajole, presumably until I agree not only to do it again, but do it again and then go further. They think they have the right to try to coerce me into agreeing to have sex with them, by any means and pressure tactics necessary, and there's a definite feel of "I will badger you into saying yes just to shut me up if that's what it takes."
Persistence is not a virtue. Don't be That Guy. And if you see or overhear another man countering a "no" with "well, but --", you should repeat, very firmly and loudly, "Dude, she said no." Whether it has to do with sex or not.
THE MORE SUBTLE THREE
Those big three things up there, though, are not just the only ways (for me) that men can set off my That Guy alarms. Those three up there are mostly in-person, in-your-face issues. The next three are more likely to be encountered on the Internet, because that's where men are more likely to step into discussions that are going on where women believe they're speaking predominantly to other women.
Because these are more rhetorical issues, not action issues. But they're no less skeevy:
I was going to explain this point, and then I was linked to the absolutely brilliant Men Who Explain Things, and so I can just point at it and say: yes. That. That.
Women -- in person and on the internet -- hear, day in and day out, implicitly and explicitly, that their experiences don't count. That they need a man to come along and Explain Things. And it might not always stem from overt sexism -- personally, I view a lot of this behaviour as a sort of human male version of the peacock preening behaviour. "Look! Look at me! I'm smart! I'm smart! Let me show you how smart I am! I want to impress you!" Because, you know, brains are sexy!
But to a woman's ears, that sounds a whole lot like "Let me come along and tell this woman (who cannot possibly be as smart as a man) about all the things that she thinks she knows. Because she can't possibly know them. She hasn't had them explained to her by a man. It is my duty to come do her this service." Whether or not that's what you mean, that is what women hear.
If you are ever, ever in a conversation about anything relating to gender expression, sexism, male/female relations, etc, and you catch yourself thinking, "She doesn't understand, and I need to explain this to her," stop. Walk away from the discussion (if it's online) or shut your mouth (if it's in person), and ask yourself: is it really that "she doesn't understand"? Or is it that she's coming from a place so different than yours that you feel like she doesn't understand your position? Do you think she doesn't understand your position because she doesn't agree with your position?
In the case of clear-cut facts, there is an objective truth: you can reasonably expect to find the "right" answer. When it comes to personal perception of the world around you, there is no right answer. There's my right answer, and there's your right answer. Resist the urge to explain to women how "the world works". No, really. Women know how their world works. For us, it works kinda shitty at times, thanks.
And again, if you see another guy trying to explain to a woman that she's "wrong" because "that's not how the world works", pull him aside and say "dude, that's coming across as skeevy and patronizing. Here's why. Listen to what she's saying, okay? It's true for her, and she doesn't need you telling her how things 'really' are."
Having gotten this far, it's time to reiterate: You are going to fuck things up.
You are not bad or evil or wrong for fucking things up. You really aren't. The fail happens if you, when called on your fuckup, fail to recognize that your experience of the world is not the only experience -- if you say "that's not possible", or "but my (wife/girlfriend/best friend/sister/etc) doesn't think like that", or "but my (wife/girlfriend/etc) hasn't ever experienced that, so it must not exist". The fail happens when you take what people are saying to you and start coming up with arguments to counter and invalidate those experiences.
Everyone gets defensive. Everyone. But if you've said or done something to call down the dogpile, please stomp on the initial impulse to come out swinging, no matter how in-the-right you think you are -- because a basic fact of possessing privilege is that you have to be really careful to avoid anything that looks like you're trying to silence the people without that privilege. And just about any defense at this point is going to come across like you're trying to use your privilege to silence people.
It's okay to fuck up. I tell you three times. It's going to be a painful process for you, because you are probably going to get your skin torn off in the immediate reaction, but if you shut up, listen, and actually process and engage with the truth being conveyed by that dogpile, you will be able to ameliorate the damage caused your fuckup -- or at least not make it worse.
There are things you don't know. There are things you can never know. You can be told about them, and you can, as you start to open your eyes and observe and listen, start to see and hear them, but you can never experience them firsthand. It's okay if you don't immediately understand the true reality of women's experiences and perceptions about sexism, sexual assault, fear, history of being silenced, etc, etc. You're not going to viscerally get it when it's explained to you. You can start to understand, but it will never be your world the way it is for a woman. (Hell, it's not the same world for every woman, and that's an important point to remember too.)
You will learn to be able to see that truth, and you will learn to recognize it when it is spoken to you (even if it's whispered), and you will learn, slowly, that this is someone else's truth even if it isn't your own. But it's not going to happen overnight. When you fuck up, and accidentally behave in a way that invalidates or dismisses the perspective and experience and worldview of the women around you, apologize.
And then stop and listen to what is being said to you, and imagine, as hard as you can, that the world being described to you is your world, and work from there. Even if it's not your world. Even if it's not the world and the experiences of your wife/girlfriend/best friend/sister/etc. Don't be the guy who says "this can't be true, I would have noticed", because people are telling you -- loudly -- that it is true. Work from the perspective of: this is not my experience, but it clearly is her experience, and her experience is just as valid for her as mine is for me. Too many times, women speak up to try to educate men, and men say "you must have misunderstood" or "you must be imagining things" or "that's not possible". She didn't misunderstand. She's not imagining things. It is possible. You just don't see it, because you have the privilege of ignoring it if you want to. Failing to recognize it makes you That Guy.
And women don't owe you an education -- see point #1 -- but, you know, a lot of us want to try. There are those of us who want you on our side, because we think that you do have the capability to understand it -- really understand it, actually have that moment of "oh holy fucking shit, I get it, and I thought this was all being exaggerated and overdramatized before, but now I see that it's not and holy fucking shit how is it that nobody else is fucking outraged about what life is like for a woman sometimes?" We want you to have that moment. Because that's when you start realizing that things should change.
When you fuck up (and everybody fucks up; I fuck up, you fuck up, we all fuck up), it's probably going to feel like getting hit in the face with a very large, very wet, very unhappy cat. There will be hissing and clawing and spitting and you may walk away bleeding. Please don't let this discourage you from trying. You're not expected to get it perfect all the time. The rage will be directed at you, but it's really a spontaneous explosion of the rage that comes from knowing that the world we live in is broken, and your accidental fuckup has been the latest manifestation of a more systemic brokenness. The women reacting probably don't hate you personally (unless they know you personally); they hate the systematic failure that your particular actions were exhibiting. I want you to understand the reasons for that rage. Because if you see that things are broken, and you see how badly it's hurting us, you'll want to help try to fix it.
You will be tempted to stick your head in the sand and never come back out again. You will be tempted to say "fuck, man, I tried, and I got back rage, and I guess they don't want me to participate after all." This kind of awareness is hard. Assuming a basic level of decency, it makes you really fucking uncomfortable to realize that you are hurting other people, and that will provoke guilt, and you will be tempted to say "well, I can never make things totally better, and it's uncomfortable and hard to be aware of all the ways in which I'm failing, and that makes me guilty, so I'll just leave it alone and let someone else do it."
Please, please, please don't do that. I know it's hard. I really do. I experience the same kind of guilt and failure when it comes to racial issues, where I (as a white woman) put my fucking foot in my mouth when it comes to invalidating the experiences of people of color, or accidentally showing my ass (which is to say: exhibiting behaviour or unconscious attitudes with which I have been programmed by society's defaults). I have been that fuckup, where something I say without thinking hurts someone else.
You are never going to eliminate all of the unconscious assumptions that your privilege -- whatever that privilege might be -- has programmed you with. You do not have to devote your entire life to crusading against sexism or racism or ableism any other kind of -ism there is. What makes you not That Guy is recognizing that you have that privilege, that your experience is not everyone's experience, and -- this is the critical part -- not assuming or behaving as though your perspective is the only perspective and anyone who doesn't match it is wrong.
And if you see another man who has fucked up, and that man's getting the Dogpile of You Have Fucking Failed, pull him aside and say: "hey, dude, stop a second, take a deep breath, and let me tell you why what you said was troubling from her point of view." That way, he can start to see that world and that experience as just as legitimate and valid as his own, and start down the same path you're working on.
Likewise, it's possible that the minute you have that moment of Getting It, you're going to want to dive headfirst into the experience of being an ally, and you're really going to be bursting at the seams with all of the awesome new things you've learned and how much you want to help and hey let me just dive right in here and tell everyone I talk to my brilliant ideas for fixing this problem. Please don't. Or, in lolcat terms: lurk moar. I want you to tell other men how to stop being That Guy instead of telling me all the brilliant new ways you've come up with for how I can make guys not be That Guy. The one tells me you want to be a pair of hands; the other tells me you want to be yet another person in the long line of people who are trying to a). exercise control over me and b). tell me that the situation is All My Fault.
6. Co-Opting The Argument.
Okay, if you're still with me, first of all, thank you. Second of all, I'm about to say something that (in my experience) makes a vast majority of men I've ever said this to sit up, open their mouths, and say "But --":
The absolute last words you should ever say in a discussion of sexual assault are "men can be raped too".
Or "but men can be falsely accused of rape". Or, well, pretty much anything that attempts to shift the focus of the conversation, subtly or not-so-subtly, away from women's problems and onto men's problems.
Because most women have spent their entire lives living in a world where it's All About Men's Problems. (In fact, we can generalize that: most people without $Privilege have spent their entire lives living in a world where it's All About $Privileged_Group's Problems.) When a discussion is happening among people without a particular privilege, it's ridiculously common for a member of the privileged group to come across it, see that rage or upset directed towards the people with the privilege, feel like they personally are being attacked (because they are a member of that group!) and leap in, guns blazing, to talk about how their group is also affected by the systematic brokenness of our society.
This doesn't calm the rage. I think it's probably pretty safe to say that no woman, ever, has heard the words "men can be falsely accused of rape" and suddenly said "Yes! You're right! Let's stop talking about how angry we are that women worry about being raped and start talking about how angry we are that men worry about being falsely accused of rape!" Whether or not it is a problem (and I so do not want to have that debate, and if you're tempted to bring it up in comments, please go reread points 1-6 again), by co-opting the argument like that, by attempting to re-focus the argument like that, your actions will be taken as not giving a shit. Your actions will be taken as trying to make it All About You.
On the surface, this can look like women doing the very same thing I've been cautioning you against: them trying to say that your experience isn't valid, and that their way of viewing the world is the only way possible. And yeah, in some rhetorical circles, that might be happening, because women are no more automatically enlightened than men are. Having a vagina does not make a woman automatically not-an-asshole any more than having a penis automatically makes a man an asshole.
But ultimately, the fundamental difference is this: because men are the group with the privilege, every conversation, if not stated otherwise, is assumed to be about men's worldviews and men's issues. And for a woman (who's used to running smack into that default assumption a hundred times a day), finding that she's in the middle of a very good conversation about something that matters to her in a place where her worldview is being given due weight and consideration can be so tremendously uplifting that to have someone come in and (in essence) say "Whups, just kidding, let's restore that status quo, it's still all about me" is either a). very frightening, or b). very enraging.
Co-opting the conversation like that is a rhetoric-specific form of Point #1 all the way back up there. By coming into a conversation in that fashion, it does not matter what your intention is. There is a much-greater-than-nontrivial chance that the women who are listening will view it as an expression of entitlement and a manifestation of your privilege. And in a predominantly-female space, there is a much-greater-than-nontrivial chance that the women inhabiting that space will feel empowered to tell you to sit the hell down and shut the fuck up.
Sometimes it is not about you. If you have ever received a LiveJournal response anywhere along the lines of "your life, so hard", or "let me tell you, internet, it is tough being a white man", or "get off the cross, we need the wood", this is a sign that you have been That Guy.
Does this make you angry? Does it make you feel upset? Do you feel like your right to speak, like your right to be heard, has been silenced?
That's the space many women live in all the time. And we can't put it down and go back to a place where that silencing doesn't exist the way you can. Because for us, the conversation you just took over was that space, and we are sick and tired of repeating this fact over and over and over again.
Don't be That Guy.
After-the-fact: In framing #6, I accidentally displayed a case of being That Guy myself. My point in saying "don't bring up male rape" was aimed at men who don't have that experience, and in using that example I unconsciously uncovered a prejudice of my own -- assuming that men reading this wouldn't have that experience. I apologize to anyone whose personal experience I've accidentally invalidated by originally framing the point in that fashion.
In the discussion about the issue, I tried to clarify:
In trying to say that, my point was more that sometimes it's okay to just concentrate on one piece of the massive seething puzzle of sexism and racism and ageism and ableism and classism and everything-ism that we swim through. Because everyone's got some privileges and lacks others, and a lot of times, a discussion that focuses on one set of privileges (or, more to the point, a discussion among people who lack one particular privilege) will get co-opted into a discussion about all sets of privileges.
I was aiming more for a generalized point of: when you're a person with a particular privilege, and you're in a discussion about that privilege, composed primarily of people without that privilege, it's a good idea to avoid mentioning ways in which, in your experience, that privilege isn't all it's cracked up to be.
That's closer to what I meant, and I picked a bad example. Thanks to the person who helped to point out the problem to me.