An Encounter with the Tone Police

I usually inhabit a world where men and women are equal: I never feel like I have to fight to be heard.

However, I participated in a a strange online discussion recently about "male headship". There were many online (mostly male) participants who believed men are called to be leaders in marriage, and that the role of wives is to submit. Many did not believe that women can lead churches (or in some cases, say anything in churches) because of "male headship".

I noticed something interesting. It seemed whenever a man voiced strong opinions, even in CAPS LOCK, other men would engage with his line of argument.

However when a woman expressed a strong opinion, her arguments were often ignored, but veiled comments appeared about her "tone".

It's as if the passive-aggressive crowd decided it was time to declare women "bitter", "negative", "defensive" and "hostile" if they disagreed with dominant male opinion. And would also brandish the word "feminist" not in its literal sense (a supporter of equality) but as a kind of insult (an embittered man-hater) to keep women in line.

It was also surprising to notice that some women who shared a personal experience of a violent relationship, had this ignored, or minimized ("Well, obviously your husband didn't understand servant leadership properly"... um, derr).

It was interesting to watch. I wondered whether it was one more manifestation of the way society minimizes women's voices. I also wondered whether I was imagining it. Perhaps I was.

Self righteousness is always immense fun. There is a guilty pleasure to be found in deriding the Great White Male Oppressor (or whomever one wishes to feel a little superior to at any given point of time).

But on my long, slow journey to becoming a kind and self-aware person, I'm learning to let self-righteousness go. It's not the path to a joyful life: I rather think it is the road to a small, smug one.

I began to think instead of why some men seem to shut down the expression of feelings by women. I wondered whether they had learned to shut down their own feelings, and whether strong feelings from women made them deeply uncomfortable.

My experiences in school yards suggest boys are teased, if not bullied, when they cry. They learn to mask feelings; they learn to "man up" when they're hurt or sad.

My observation of relationships is that men hate it when women cry. They feel helpless, or manipulated.

So perhaps in future when I notice the "tone police" online, I'll remember to have compassion toward them. That doesn't mean the "tone police" phenomenon shouldn't be confronted, but the unconscious participants in this game should at least be treated with kindness and respect.

How do you manage the "tone police"? Have you ever encountered this kind of silencing?


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