This doesn’t mean that I intentionally hate women or that I desire to oppress them. It means that despite my best intentions, I perpetuate sexism every day of my life.... As a sexist, I have failed women. I have failed to speak out when I should have. I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life. I have failed to challenge those poisonous assumptions that women are “inferior” to men or to speak out loudly in the company of male philosophers who believe that feminist philosophy is just a nonphilosophical fad. I have been complicit with, and have allowed myself to be seduced by, a country that makes billions of dollars from sexually objectifying women, from pornography, commercials, video games, to Hollywood movies. I am not innocent.I skimmed this when it came out, on Christmas Eve and have had half a mind to write about it since then. My original idea of what I wanted to say has faded, mainly because I'm reading these 2 paragraphs more closely and realize that he's not admitting to much, in fact, he's promoting himself as a man who understands feminist critique and is aspiring to win admiration for trying to rid himself of aspects of sexism that most men (I think) are not willing to regard as sexism.
I have been fed a poisonous diet of images that fragment women into mere body parts. I have also been complicit with a dominant male narrative that says that women enjoy being treated like sexual toys. In our collective male imagination, women are “things” to be used for our visual and physical titillation. And even as I know how poisonous and false these sexist assumptions are, I am often ambushed by my own hidden sexism. I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them. Our collective male erotic feelings and fantasies are complicit in the degradation of women. And we must be mindful that not all women endure sexual degradation in the same way.
I mean, look at these failings. Not transcending the rigidity of gender roles in his own life? (A humblebrag? He's so inherently masculine.) Insufficient loudness in contradiction of male philosophers who diminish feminist philosophy? Acceptance of Hollywood movies? Lack of mindfulness? Lax inclusion in something called the collective male imagination? The real point here is that all men are necessarily embedded in sexism, an affirmative effort is needed to escape from it, he's so enlightened he knows that, and he's so good that he's striving and straining to escape.
On first read, however, I thought the confession of sexism was more damning, and I was going to blog about how a professor is admitting that he subjects his students to different conditions based on their sex, and that is, as a legal matter, sex discrimination. The line "I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them" is, actually, rather damning.
On the theory that the confession was damning, I wanted to ask: Why did Yancy feel free to write that? And I wanted to answer: If you go to the link, you'll see that the column is not about sexism. It's about racism. It's called "Dear White America." Yancy is a black man, and he'd like the collective entity called White America to recognize that we are necessarily embedded in racism, and his detailing of his own sexism is presented as a model of how to examine yourself and find the problem in you even though you resist and like to think of yourself as not belonging to the benighted crowd known as racists. So Yancy feels free to write that he's a sexist because it's part of an essay about the racism of white people.
But I felt he was endangering himself, even as he lured others into endangering themselves. Come on, watch me confess. It's good. It's just what we need. But how does he know that? What confidence can we have that this soul-baring exercise will work out well? He is perhaps overconfident, because he enjoys certain privilege as he speaks about race, but he could be wrong about how his confession will be received. Once the words are said, you lose control, and other people, with other agendas, will use those words against you. Ironically, his confidence is patriarchal. He seems to think women will appreciate his efforts and enfold him. Shouldn't part of the confession have been that he assumes women are nice and nurturing and incapable of fighting too hard?
Having done my second read, I have to say, you can follow his model of confessing to racism, but work on your skills. Put your confession in carefully honed writing, and ensure that it works to make you look better than virtually everyone else — the overt racists and the blind, benighted white people who won't admit to being racists. Think you can do that?