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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Last updated: 10:24am

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Women's rights: White men should neither be seen nor heard



Birth control pills are only for women to be promiscuous, and serve no medical purpose. Abortion is wrong in any case and if the mother is going to die, then she will have to die. Gays shouldn’t marry and Trayvon Martin was a thug in a hoodie. Also, Sandra Fluke is a slut.

These are harsh statements that some of you may agree with. In truth, I don’t. Rather, they are paraphrased statements that caught my attention on the news. My hands hurt typing them.

I am not an expert on women’s reproductive health. I am not a professor of Africana studies. I am not black, gay or a woman.

I am just a white man.

Why are white men like me considered experts in fields that we have no knowledge of? Why are we paraded out on the news to comment on issues that will not affect us? Why have four white men discuss “the war on women” or whether “‘thug’ is the accepted way of calling someone the n-word?”

When Fox News had its “All-Star Panel” of men discussing the “War on Women,” it implied that those men were experts capable of carrying the conversation by themselves. Yet none of those men have a degree in gender and women’s studies or work in public health. They aren’t even sex columnists!

Charles Krauthammer, Bret Baier and Charles Lane have had long careers and are experts in broadcasting, political science, economics, psychiatry and journalism, but lack the academic expertise or lived experience required for this conversation. They acknowledge that they don’t have a comprehensive understanding of women’s personal experiences. However, they can look up statistics, so they keep talking about the “War on Women.”

Sandra Fluke, a graduate of Georgetown Law, may not have a degree in a field related to reproductive health, but she went before Congress to give her valid and valuable perspective on the importance of birth control pills for women. She argued as an expert because she has firsthand experience and knowledge that gave her authority.

More importantly, she is affected by the issue. She uses birth control and the policy related to it actually makes a difference in her life.

The 4th Estate created an infographic to show whether men or women were quoted more often in news pieces related to women around the 2012 election. They found that 79 out of 100 interviewed subjects in print were men. On television, the number rose to 81.

In addition to the news being dominated by men, the Guardian reports that the media increasingly more trusted.

“In the UK and US, trust in the media has actually increased,” wrote Polly Curtis, the Guardian’s deputy national editor. “People are more likely to believe what [they] read in the papers, online and what they are told on TV bulletins.”

An audience’s trust still doesn’t make a person an expert, but it does make them dangerous. This trust allows those white men to be put in front of us as experts, and that’s wrong.

To that point, having four unqualified white people debate a word’s significance to black people is ridiculous. People with degrees in Africana studies or linguistics or people with first-hand experience of racism have a lot more authority and stake in a conversation about “thug.”

People without the knowledge or experience of a subject who try to talk to an audience about it is like vegans recommending steakhouses. At best, the advice is misinformed, and at worst, it is just ignorance breeding more ignorance.

As a whole, there needs to be a restructuring of dialogues where we replace Charles Krauthammer with Megyn Kelly and Charles Lane with Melissa Harris-Perry or ask Juan Williams to discuss the racial significance of the word “thug.” We need to think about who should be trusted — academic experts and people who have actual life experience with these issues — and not just accept that white men know everything.


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