#NotAllFedoras: On MRAs and Fedora Biases.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

(This essay was written to raise funds for @Catlaughing; FetLife user @ThoughtMonster donated, and as their topic chose “In Defense of the Fedora.” If you’d like me to write 500-750 words on the topic of your choice, there’s still two slots open; this one, I thought was interesting enough to cross-post to my Real Blog.)
The fedora has, unfortunately, become the stylistic choice of a generation of asshats. All those guys who absorb the pick-up artist manuals for women and proceed to use them to treat women as some sort of vending machine for sex, where you manipulate the controls until the sex comes sliding out?
They have decided that fedoras are The Bomb.
I wear fedoras. (Or, more accurately, fedoras and trilbies, since trilbies go better with my funny head shape, but sadly no one ever knows the difference but hat aficionados.) I wear them because I look damn good in them.
Without that hat, all you’d see would be a bald spot and a funny-shaped head. The hat helps give definition to my face. I wear it because it’s an assistant to a doughy physiognomy, which helps me to look prettier. I do not wear the hat because I wish to attract women with my blatant peacocking, but because it makes me feel good to wear a fedora.
Anyway, when I approach you, I promise I don’t have any pick-up lines ready, nor do I have a couple of negs ready to unload to undermine your self-esteem enough that you might be willing to sleep with me to impress me. I promise you I don’t work like that. I promise you not every asshole wearing a fedora thinks like that.
But my other promise is this: I promise not to get too upset if you lump me in with those clowns.
Look, how the hell would you have any way of knowing who I am? It’s not information that can be magically transmitted to you. No, all you have to judge me at first is by what I wear – and unfortunately, a lot of really irritating and slimy dudes have chosen, without even checking with me, to don the fedora as their outfit of choice.
Now, if you’ve run into enough of these bozos that you’ve come to associate me with them, well, it hurts… but I feel that a lot of my hurt should be directed at the people who are making me look bad. You have been, sadly, the victim of enough bad behavior from these fedora-wearing choads that I think it’s piling hurt on top of hurt to get pissy at you when yeah, five out of the last seven guys who had this outfit tried real hard to sleep with you. Maybe even tried to work you over, emotionally or physically, to get in your pants.
Me telling you, “You shouldn’t judge me by this hat that other assholes wear!” is, in fact, a way of saying, “You should lower your defense mechanisms for my convenience!” And if your hard-earned personal wisdom includes the direct experience that “Dudes in fedoras are likely to be creepsters,” well, then, I get why the shields went up.
Because I have my own biases! Me, I’m suspicious of old white guys in suits, because every time I see some asshole on television screwing over poor people, it’s some old white guy in a suit. I’m not saying it’s right to exclude white guys in suits from your parties because they might be self-centered Republicans, nor would it be right to pull them over in cars on suspicion of banking fraud just because they’re old, white, and driving a nice Maserati.
What I am saying that if your personal experience – and I stress “personal” experience, not as in “I’ve seen those bankers destroying our economy on NPR’s website!” experience – is that whenever you’ve seen some guy in a fedora, he’s been about to slobber all over you, I’m going to try not to take it personally when you initially respond to my behatted self with trepidation.
Yet at the same time, you have to realize there’s a balance between personal experience, media experience, and legitimate bias. Because somewhere, there’s a dude who got mugged three times by Hispanics, and now treats every Hispanic as a thief-in-waiting….
And then that guy told his story, which confirmed to someone else that “All Hispanics are thieves,” and then that guy told enough people so the cops started profiling Hispanics because shit, they’re gonna cause trouble, and then next thing you know there’s real legitimate discrimination.
It’s complex. I do not want to tell you to ignore the experience of your own senses to put you at risk of abuse by asshole pick-up artists in hats. But I do want to tell you, “If your assumptions about guys in fedoras comes mainly from reading articles that other people have written instead of actually talking to guys in fedoras,” well, keep in mind that you’re working with second-hand evidence, even if you trust the people who wrote those articles implicitly.
The people you trust implicitly have their own biases, and you’re at the biggest risk from importing them.
Because the way legitimate discrimination works is that people shorthand and amplify – “I got mugged by Hispanics” turns into “Hispanics mug everybody who looks like me” turns into an unquestioned assumption that guys who look a certain way (because not every Hispanic has the brown skin and the mustache and the cholo outfit) are all criminals and should be shunned.
The world is complex, so people make shortcuts. And the best way to fight those shortcuts is to recognize that the shortcut is not the person. If you choose not to talk to me because I look like some slimy MRA asshole, that’s fine, but then don’t conclude that I am a slimy MRA asshole. Don’t use a time when you didn’t interact with me at all to reinforce your personal experiences.
Because somewhere, a black guy in a sketchy neighborhood is walking past a white person’s car, and that person is mashing the “lock” button to protect themselves. And there’s two ways you can do that:
“I don’t know this guy’s motivation, but I’m not prepared to take the risk right now.”
Versus:
“You see that guy? Total mugger. I just locked him out. God, this neighborhood is terrible.”
In the first, you acknowledge your own potential bias, keep a watch on it, and allow for the introduction of new data.
In the second, your bias has just confirmed itself, even though nothing actually happened.
For me personally, the fedora-bias isn’t a big whoop. Occasionally some feminist leaves a comment assuming that because I wear a fedora, I must be a Men’s Rights Advocate who sneers at consent – which proves that nobody’s free of stupidity. And it means that some women are less likely to sleep with me, but since I don’t see “getting fucked” as a right I was denied, but rather as an activity I am obliged to convince partners is as good for them as I’d like it to be for me, that’s no big loss.
And, you know, I believe the “Not all men” argument is insidious bullshit. Not all Waffle Houses are altars of food poisoning, but if you get sick enough times you start skipping Waffle House to go to Bob Evans. Not every Waffle House has to guarantee you diarrhea before you say, “You know, I’d rather not.” You should have a right to make your own decisions on what’s safe.
But at the same time, with every right comes a responsibility, and the responsibility for “choosing your own dangers” should be “recognizing the potential for internalizing other people’s misinformation and treating them as fact.”
You don’t have to hug every fedora-wearer. You don’t even have to be particularly nice to them.
You just have to go, “I don’t know, and I’m unwilling to take the risk, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.”
That is, I think, the best you can do in the real world.

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