‘Real Men’ and ‘Real Women’: This is why we call it misogyny, folks

As many of us are wont to do, I too enjoy an updated Facebook newsfeed from time to time. I gotta say, there’s a lot going on in our world, and since I subscribe to some cool pages, and have a bunch of smart and thinky-type folks as friends, I generally find my newsfeed littered with interesting topics, political points, blogs, article links, and scientific developments to sift through. It’s fun, and following those links out into the webosphere takes me places I might not otherwise find myself. While sitting in the living room with three cats swarming all over the place, reenacting feline versions of scenes from the great Scorsese films of our time. There are also times when those posted things dishearten me; sometimes these links depict simple and sad phenomena like puppy mills, or the latest work on demolishing women’s rights in the US (both of which inspire feelings in me of passionate, controlled rage). Other times, they’re something else entirely.

This blog that you are reading now is an open letter to the guy who wrote this irritating and terribly old-view sexist critique of social media pictures that lady folks post on their profiles. Actually, I’m being facetious. He really, really wants women to know what makes a GOOD WOMAN. That said, there are everyday occurrences that speak to our collective and never-ending hope that women (and men) who speak against the socially acceptable dominant masculine viewpoint, will just SHUT UP. It’s very important that women stop having sex lives, personal lives, and professional lives, that maybe don’t depend on our direct approval. These are the messages we send when we talk about ‘good women’, in relation to ladies that just…don’t know what they need to do to be ‘real women’. And ladies always need us dudes to tell them who ‘good women’ are. Because apparently, ‘good men’, ‘real men’, know who ‘good’ and ‘real women’ should be. (I hope readers of this know that I’m being very, very sarcastic.) I’m going to post the entirety of the entry, and respond within. And then I’ll wind it up with a brief final analysis.

Here’s the url: http://dernierevie.com/an-open-letter-to-women-what-men-really-want/. His response to people calling what he said stereotypically gendered and sexist was a pretty impressive avoidance tactic. Actually, no, it wasn’t impressive; it was boringly standard and lazy. But let’s get to the heart of it, shall we?

I was thinking, the most BEAUTIFUL women are the ones that are selfless. I think that submissive, caring, driven women are so sexy! I love it when I look at a woman’s page (on social media) and it’s nice and sweet. No club pics, no pictures of her in the mirror, no vulgar, drama filled updates… just her. I realized that most women draw their cues from other women. They look at big butts, huge breasts, hairstyles, and lifestyles of other women and try to imitate it thinking that it’s what men want. Well, its NOT. Yes, we give those women attention, yes those women get flown places, yes they get taken shopping, but at the end of the day (to us) they are simply something to do. (Typically something to sex). The treatment that they get is part of a contract. That is, spend a little money and a little time and her legs will always be open for you. (Dudes do just enough to keep them interested.)

This is just packed with bullshit. So, selflessness is beautiful; can’t argue with that at face value. However, in this context, what he really means is that women who don’t think of their own wants and needs, and cater to mens’ insecurities, are beautiful. It’s the old, “women who take care of men are real women,” trope. If you’re in service to your man or men, then you’re a good woman. He touches on this a bit more later on. Then, NO CLUB PICS? What the hell are women supposed to take pictures of if they go to a club? This is code for underhanded slut-shaming, as in: ‘don’t be a slut and don’t be out with dudes you aren’t married to’. Selfies in mirrors are sociologically interesting, and sometimes hilarious, as we can see from the #selfieolympics on Twitter. And what if someone is dealing with some vulgar drama in their life? They can’t talk about it? Again, this is code for WHY WON’T YOU JUST SHUT UP? What the hell, man? Okay, now imitation of others is sort of the point here. What do you think you’re doing dude? Being originally masculine? We all imitate others. I imitate tons of writers, sociologists, lawyers, scholars…it’s what we do as humans to try to figure out who we want to be. Who are you to tell half the population they should be doing anything other than what they damned well please? Now here’s the fun part of this bit: he legitimately makes the case that women who dress a certain way are asking for it. Not rape necessarily, but absolutely as sex objects entirely. First, where the hell do you get off speaking for me? I have no interest in taking responsibility for what other adults choose as their dress code. And it doesn’t matter what women wear: WOMEN ARE HUMAN PEOPLE WITH BRAINS, MINDS, BODIES, SEXUALITIES, AND LIFE TO DEAL WITH. It’s your problem if you devalue women regardless of the context, not theirs. It’s like saying, “look, it’s not her fault she was sexually assaulted, but she went to a bar wearing that; what did she expect?” It’s problematic because of the inherent misalignment of values and actions. Are we taking personal responsibility for how we treat people? Or are we blaming others for how we behave? You’re blaming women for men treating women like sex-only objects. That’s absurd, and should deeply insult all ‘good men’.

What men, GOOD MEN, REALLY want is a GOOD woman! PERIOD. Give a man your (undivided) attention, time and affection and he will give you love and respect. If you cater to him, nurture him, mend his wounds and encourage his dreams he will lay down his life for you!

The last sentence here is fine-ish, as long as we’re okay with a little Romeo & Juliet-esque dramatic style, and we assume that men should also ‘cater, nurture, mend wounds, and encourage dreams’ in heterosexual relationships. But from what I know, most people would prefer that relationships take the form of a reciprocal, equitable time-sharing. It’s shared time, not given time, that we might focus on. But again, dude, you’re saying that women should service men. And that is a sexist idea. Remember, I’m disagreeing with you and labeling your words misogynist, not you the person. You can change your world view if you choose, but your words are what they are.

A man, a REAL MAN, takes pride in being a man! He will sacrifice EVERYTHING if it will put one smile on his woman’s face. No mountain will be too high to climb and no ocean too deep to swim. A man will go to the ends of the Earth to provide for the RIGHT woman.

More with the Romeo & Juliet fallacy. You know that was a story, right? Fiction, anyone? And one single smile? That’s not a very high standard you’re setting for yourself and all the rest of us. Now we’re getting to the ‘providing’ action, and it is glorious! Let there be gendered separation! Men provide, women accept those providings with sexytimes and quietness. Yeah, here’s what you’re implying brosef: even if women have their own lives, they should spend extra time taking care of our needs, without regard for theirs. Because that’s what the RIGHT women do to be GOOD.

Ladies, take pride in being a WOMAN. Take pride in the fact that you are the backbone of mankind. The power, majesty and beauty of civilization comes from your womb! We (men) recognize that. We long for the woman that understands that as well.

Alright. This womb-worship is all fine if that’s your thing, but it’s a bit overblown. To the point where it’s pretty obvious that the exchange implied is: ladies, if you cater to our fragile little egos, we’ll say we love your wombs, and that you’re everything to us, except in charge of your own life choices that we don’t necessarily feel totally comfortable with. Which is sexist and misogynist. Your words, not you as a person. I’m not attacking you, I’m appropriately labeling your publicly published thoughts.

Allow us to take the lead. Not to control you, but to protect you. Let us clear the path so that your walk will be made easy.

This makes me shudder. Slightly reminiscent of, “men may be the head of the household/relationship/whatever, but women are the neck.” Also, “you need us to protect you. Because you cannot take proper care of yourself.” Look, everyone’s relational dynamics are their own, but it’s wholly ridiculous to presume that women need ‘protecting’ more so than any other gender. Patriarchal, sexist, misogynist. Your words, not you as a person.

Submit to us. Not for us to stand over you, but so that we can extend our hand to lift you up, over our heads.

Physics! Science! God references! Submission! I fully support everyone interested in establishing a healthy and fully equitable dom/sub relational dynamic. But I know that’s not what you meant. And if you’re lifting someone up, it means you were STANDING OVER THEM! Now there’s physics involved here, and it’s getting serious. And then you say that we’ll position women above us…uh, not to nitpick (okay, well, to nitpick), if women submit to us, there’s a perpetual power imbalance in the relational dynamics. I’m also relatively sure that one of your other implications is that women should be willing to be held up, by men, as trophies of our position as dominant. Right? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Nice try though.

Ladies, in our eyes (a REAL man’s eyes), there is NOTHING more precious than a woman. NOTHING.

You called ladies precious! That’s cute! Like kittens, or puppies, or baby talk. Because nothing says REAL MEN and REAL WOMEN like baby talk. Again, if that’s your thing, cool with me. But basing an entire gendered relations viewpoint on that? Naw.

One thing that I have realized about relationships is that people are continuously responding to the actions of others. What that means is, the best way to be happy, the best way to have a healthy, meaningful relationship is to give what you expect to get. If you want to be cherished, respected and valued, give us those things!

You keep mixing things that sound halfway decent, with things that are so obviously sexist it’s staggering my fragile little mind. But what we’re getting to here is that you’re implying that if women want to be treated well by us in their heterosexual romantic relationships, they better cater to our egos and wants. Which is sexist and misogynist. Your words, not you as a person. Because I don’t know you, but I’m getting to know your words intimately. And I’m getting more irritated and pissed off by the minute.

The treatment that a man gives to his woman starts and ends with her. Consider us, our feelings, our expectations, and the fact that we want to be treated EXACTLY how you want to be treated and watch as the world opens up to you.

We men can open the world up to women! I never knew! Where are the world-opening club meetings held? I haven’t been to them, but I’d like to know how to open worlds for women with my magic. I bet that goes fantastically at parties (but not at clubs), where all the women are dressed in pillowcases not showing their cleavage or ‘big butts’ and just waiting to submit to me so they can be protected from themselves. I hear volcanoes are also very in right now, along with the opening of the world.

Ladies, we love you, we need you, and we want you to understand that the way you treat us (and YOURSELF) dictates the way that we treat you.

We men aren’t responsible for how we treat women because if they don’t service us, we don’t owe them any respect? I’ve held it together pretty well over this whole thing, but I’m at the point where I’m just going to say it: if you cannot treat people with respect regardless of whether they service your fragile little ego, YOU ARE NOT A REAL MAN.

Lastly, understand that your beauty and value ARE NOT defined by how you look or what you own. Your beauty and value is defined by your heart and it’s ability to give and RECEIVE love.

Women are constantly bombarded by imagery focused on inspiring body insecurity, cultural narratives (like the one you so eloquently wrote out) dictating wholly submissive and narrowly defined cultural politics, and political, social, and sexual violence. It’s all cute and Disney (which is meant as a bit of an insult) to say things like it’s what’s inside that counts, or your heart and how you act are what really make you beautiful, but your sheer density is making me nauseous. Men have always been able to look like pretty much anything, and it’s kinda alright. Yeah, there’s a bit of body shaming in our culture toward men, but to nowhere near the volume, ferocity, and emotional violence as that directed toward women. So you don’t have to excuse my anger at you for talking like such a typically uninformed and unaware male, and I don’t really want you to. I want you get angry…at yourself, at our culture, at our gendered presumptions built into us by that very culture. To say that women should just BE THEMSELVES AND BE BEAUTIFUL INSIDE is like saying that everything we experience is just silly nonsense, and women should let men bring them up above it all, except that’s exactly the problem in the first place.

I’m done being sappy.

You were a little sappy, and that wouldn’t bother me one little bit if it weren’t for you letting your sexist socialization and internalized misogyny dictate the thoughts you put into words. Sappy is fine with me; we all get a little gooey for the people we are attracted to. Totally normal in our context. The thing that bothers me is you took the bits of our cultural heritage of feminine servitude, tried to pretty them up with low-level platitudes about gendered submission being somehow romantic and lovely, and then tried to sell it like you were just trying to be helpful. Us guys do that helpful thing all too often, and I’m sure I have as well. We’re built to do it by society; we are conditioned to think the way that you obviously think. No one is immune from cultural influence, and your writing is a perfect example of this cultural narrative training.

But here’s my challenge to you: question why you would ever ask a heterosexual woman to submit to you, or any other male partner. Because if there’s one thing I think I can guess, it’s that you aren’t secure enough in your masculinity to have a truly equitable relationship without that power imbalance specifically in play. That means, along with a whole host of mostly-hetero men out here, that you’ve got some work to do on becoming that good man you seem to idolize. And if there’s anything else I know, working to be a good man intending to create gendered and sexual equity, never stops, and never should. But this? The words you wrote that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed from an old college friend? This perpetuates gendered inequity in such a subtle way to us, the heterosexual men, because 1) we don’t have anything to be concerned about unless we care about pervasive misogyny in the form of ‘protective masculinity’, and 2) it’s highly likely that if we want women to just be themselves as you so succinctly put it in your first paragraph, we sure as hell better start demanding that us men treat ALL WOMEN, ALL TRANSGENDER PERSONS, AND ALL OTHER MEN, as worthy of our respect, regardless of how they decide to present themselves to the world.

That this kind of thing could be spread far and wide as ‘good’ is what really grinds my gears. Seriously, it bothers me. So, instead of being done being sappy, which I actually think is good for us overly-masculinized men, try being done with imitating all the other egotistical, self-centered, culturally twisted men out there. Try being done with falling back on your (and mine too) straight male privilege. It’s old, it’s tired, and frankly, it’s insulting to me as a man and it pisses me off.

7 responses

  1. This is one of my favorite responses I have come across to that piece.
    Hopefully, Mr. MacKay will get something from the numerous rebuttals to his sexist instructions to women.

  2. I really feel like you added your own context behind another man’s words here. you have no clue what he meant when typing this up. you completely dissected his open letter and added your own context and then criticized him for making you feel thats what he meant. confusing isnt it? additionally, on the topic of equality, i do believe men and women should be treated equally. however, i do believe women help to create men’s over-percieved view of the classic providing man. If you disagree with me then thats fine. but, just ask around and find out how many women actually appreciate and like when men provide and take of care them. next time i go on a date with a girl i’ll be sure to split the bill and even play rock, paper, scissors to decide who drives.

  3. I really feel like I made it clear what he meant, and created an analysis of that meaning. An analysis isn’t simply, “thanks for sharing, I shouldn’t say anything else.” An analysis is a critique applying principles or rules that provide an overarching context, not just a context in a vacuum. The power dynamics of gender allow us to address the underlying assumptions of how we know and think what we know and think. It is this kind of analysis that I applied to his words, to explore the underlying assumptions and meanings both implicit and explicit in what his words were, at face value, and what his words represent, as a symptom of a larger societal context. I didn’t add anything except clarification from the point of view of a white cisgender male who works to curtail and eventually eliminate the assumptions that allow us men to say things like, “women help to create men’s over-perceived view of the classic providing man.” A couple of the assumptions are: (1) that women have only two choices; find a provider or completely disassociate from the provider scheme, and (2) that women are only simple functionaries in a system of oppressive gendered consequences for simply being born women. I obviously disagree with you, and that is fine. The difference is I clearly explained why I disagree in the original post, point by point. Doesn’t seem confusing to me.

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