For cishet black men 4:44 was a Godsend. For the rest of the black population, however, 4:44 a curse. Almost immediately, a man who presented himself as feminist and activist posted a tweet thread about the pain and restrictions black men experience growing up, and how black women needed to be patient with black men who are still learning. When multiple black women responded that black women grow up under the same conditions with equal or greater constraints on emotional display, he gaslit and dismissed them. This is exactly what I feared. This is The 4:44 Effect in action, cishet black men sobbing about the emotional/empathic growing pains while expecting grace that was never afforded to black women. All the while, these same black men continue to “learn” by harming and discarding black women. They continue to learn by ostracizing queer black men, but then want easy access to the emotional spaces queer black men were beaten for entering. Cishet black men want the applause for finally gaining emotional depth that the rest of the black community had to develop as children for our safety and their comfort. The 4:44 Effect, I fear, will be particularly toxic in spaces once considered safe for black women. Cishet black male allies can can now dodge accountability under the guise of “still learning”. They can berate black women for not being impressed or wooed by their juvenile grasp on emotional intelligence. They can berate queer black people for not graciously allowing their casual queerantagonism because that’s “how I was raised.” The bar wasn’t raised, it was just repainted. Jay-Z and the other men in the Footnotes, in all their blissful enlightened ignorance, don’t realize the pandora’s box they’ve opened on the people they claim to now care about.
Now, I understand that some men genuinely want to help women. I love and respect male allies of the feminist movement. They have a role in creating a better, safer world for women. However, in a movement where the people you are trying to help are routinely silenced, one of the best things you can do is take a seat, listen respectfully, and let them take center stage and share their story. Being a good ally doesn’t always mean getting a spotlight shone on you so everyone can see what a good person you are. Sometimes it means insuring that other people are in the spotlight.
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man - there never has been another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows pungency from female perversity; nobody could guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.
Dorothy Day, Catholic social activist and journalist
Okay, here’s the problem with the idea that oppressed groups can “alienate allies” by not being nice enough:
You shouldn’t be an ally because oppressed groups are nice to you. You should be an ally because you believe that they deserve basic human rights. Hearing “I hate men” shouldn’t make men stop being feminist. Hearing “fuck white people” shouldn’t make white people stop opposing racism.
Your opposition to oppression should be moral, and immovable. Your belief that all humans should be treated with equal respect shouldn’t be conditional based on whether or not individual people are nice to you.
Why is it that men treating women even half decently or at least not downright horribly is all we can hope for? And then when a man does show proper respect, that’s praise worthy to us? Don’t get me wrong, thank god for male feminists, but I feel like men respecting women should be basic and required and anyone who doesn’t respect women is a shitty person.
All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another … Like women, men have been socialized to passively accept sexist ideology. While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for eliminating it.
bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
But mostly your guilt, your suffering, reduces to: gee, we really feel so bad. Everything makes men feel so bad: what you do, what you don’t do, what you want to do, what you don’t want to want to do but are going to do anyway. I think most of your distress is: gee, we really feel so bad. And I’m sorry you feel so bad – so uselessly and stupidly bad – because there is a way in which this really is your tragedy. And I don’t mean because you can’t cry. And I don’t mean because there is no real intimacy in your lives. And I don’t mean because the armor you have to live with as men is stultifying: and I don’t doubt that it is. But I don’t mean any of that.
I mean that there is a relationship between the way that women are raped and your socialization to rape and the war machine that grinds you up and spits you out: that you go through just like that woman went through Larry Flynt’s meat grinder on the cover of Hustler. You damn well better believe that you’re involved in this tragedy and that it’s your tragedy too. Because you’re turned into little soldier boys from the day that you are born and everything that you learn about how to avoid the humanity of women becomes part of the militarism of the country in which you live and the world in which you live. It is also a part of the economy that you frequently claim to protest.
And the problem is that you think it’s out there: and it’s not out there. It’s in you.
1. As plays out regularly, oppressed people being asked to explain things over and over to their oppressors, and then again. … And again.
Men specifically use this tactic to waste women’s energy, trying to convince us incredibly simple and intuitive concepts are somehow imponderable and nearly impossible to grasp. They aren’t.
We also place this burden onto other women by saying, “We need to educate men.” Well this has been going on for decades now and where are the pupils? Where is the evidence men listen to feminists?
2. Excuses, excuses. Well, men have a hard time of it, you know? Their lives are so hard, the world is so unfair - and that means we have to be grateful for the littlest scraps of compassion or acknowledgement that women might be somewhat human. This despite the fact that their empathy for other men like themselves is endless.
And so here we are. Women take responsibility for men but men do not take responsibility for themselves. The issue is not that they cannot improve but they have no desire for it.