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June 06, 2006


Q Grrl

Ahhh. So when he's ready to determine that women are no longer less than human, or merely second class citizens, *then* he'll support us.

You know, when women approach an all male group and challenge them on their misogyny, we're called man-haters, ball busters, dykes, and harpies. Don't kid yourself that a man challenging other men is brave or exceptionally impressive. It's not even virtuous. More precisely, it's a base-level human reaction to injustice -- and no man should be given kudos for simply rising to the least common denominator.

This guys whining about lack or sex or lack of female companionship -- but he's willing to put up with misogyny if it means his needs are getting met. Why would you find that even remotely acceptable?

Further, just because a man feels he cannot compete with other men vis-a-vis dominance, it doesn't make him a feminist. Or pro-woman. It just means he's fully bought the idea of masculinity equaling dominance. He's just as bad as the bully who calls another man a "pussy" -- only he's assuming he *is* a "pussy" and therefore has some sort of "in" with women. Then he gets upset when he realizes he never bothered to ask women what they want or need -- and blames it on women for sending mixed messages.


Sometimes, in other words, a pro-feminist man can make decisions. As Jackie put it, "I don't want a man to always ask me where I want to go to dinner -- sometimes I want a man confident enough to pick the damn restaurant on his own."

YES. I went on a couple of dates with a guy like this last Fall. For the first date, he waffled for so long about what to do/where to go, that I finally just said, "This restaurant. This time. See you then!" For the second date, I didn't bother waiting for him to have an opinion, and made a suggestion from the start. Nice, nice man...but very bland.

Q Grrl, cut Pete a little slack -- he clearly had a skewed idea of what it might mean to be pro-feminist, but at least he's looking. That's more than can be said for many college-aged men -- and women for that matter.


Q Grrl, you're confusing the right thing to do with the easy thing to do. Male privilege is not infinite, renouncing it is tricky, and entails a lot of unknown risk as well as known risk. You're losing out on a lot of things that most people will tell you are your birthright, and no matter how wrong they are, the patriarchy sure is persistent. Add in the hypocrisy of feminists rejecting feminist men due to their own swallowing of patriarchal mythology, and things are challenging for a male feminist. I should say that we don't really need to compare the challenges of being a male and female feminist - it might be harder for women in a million different ways but that doesn't mean it's a walk in the park for a dude. And, as for your first sentence, I think that sounds like the right arc for moving from a life wrapped in patriarchal norms into one that follows and understands feminist principles. Unless you're willing to wait for non- and anti-feminists to up and die one day, that's what you're going to have to settle for.


WOMEN ARE NOT ATTRACTED BY BAD BOYS! Actually, I trully believe the opposite is more the norm, although there appears to be a persistent stereotype regarding women as pro "jerks." Why don't you take a survey in your classes? I bet you will discover that women are not a stupid as they are made out to be. __Okay, I finished the article,I certainly agree with your conclusion. I believe that taking a stand and being aggressive about what you feel strongly about has nothing to do with being a pro-feminist, it has to do with having the confidence to just be yourself!


I have very little sympathy for people who conceal and repress any aspect of themselves that's remotely non-mainstream in order to maximize the chances that any random woman (or man) they approach will be willing to sleep with them. Those of us whose appearance, personality and interests fall well outside the mainstream generally don't have the privilege of being able to conveniently put away all the less traditionally attractive aspects of ourselves when we want to get laid, and yet somehow we manage to get along just fine-- why should I feel sorry for "Pete" when he laments how hard it is to actually have a personality that isn't centered around some stereotypical generalization about "What Women Want"?

Also, shockingly enough, there are some things in the world that are a little bit more important than having as much sex with as many women as possible. Even if the hypothesis that pro-feminist men get less sex is true, Pete's refusal to do anything about the "injustice and inequality" he sees around him because doing so might threaten his social life is deeply selfish (and, again, privileged). If Pete honestly believes in feminist ideals, but refuses to live by them-- not because he fears violence or any real, significant threat to his way of life, simply because he thinks he might have to work a little bit harder to find a woman who'll go to bed with him on any given night-- then I don't see how he's anything other than a hypocrite.

Of course, I am feeling rather cynical today, so maybe it's just that. I know I'm not always completely open about my feminism when I'm around friends who I know don't get it, but that seems a little different-- one, I am willing to identify as a feminist in other areas of my life, and two, I'm not rejecting feminism because it doesn't fit into some prepackaged idea of "how to be as attractive as possible to the opposite sex." I think that's the part that bothers me most, honestly-- I hate it when people sacrifice the things that make them unique and interesting because they think those things will make them less attractive to "average" people and they don't want their dating pool limited in any way. Quality over quantity, anyone?

The Happy Feminist

I have always liked strong, confident men but that doesn't mean that I want to be dominated. Too often the cultural attitude seems to be that a woman can either have a man who dominates her or a man who is willing to be dominated. Both strike me as equally unattractive.

It is amazing how people have a tough time grasping the notion of an egalitarian relationship. It is almost as though people assume that someone has to be "in charge" -- so if the man isn't "in charge," that means the woman must be "in charge." Not so!

Random Lurker

While I'm not delighted by this young man's decision to be pro-feminist 'later', presumably after he's been the requisite 'dangerous asshole' and gotten some play, I do think this indicates that feminist women have some work to do.

Others have said it better- young (and maybe not so young) women still carry enough internalized misogyny to buy into patriarchy's ideal of manhood. That's on us, then, to bring our desires in line with our ideals. I suppose my main comment is that oppression is a bitch and it's a hellacious pain in the butt to disentangle it from both society and yourself.

I know that *I* don't want a domineering guy. I like to be in charge. But more attractive yet is the prospect of joint leadership, a true egalitarian relationship. I'd agree completely with Happy that society can't seem to even imagine that. We are really addicted to top-down hiearchies of dominance as a society, to our utter detriment.

We can't call out that young man without getting our own house in order about this. We need to reject this crap first, and be consistent in our desires.


The comments here are illustrative -- so many feminists in their post-college years do discover the "joint headship" model (to use Christian language). But when we're talking about a 20 year-old guy dating women his own age, it's tough -- as Random makes clear, so few young women have really extricated themselves from the culture at that age!

A Dude.

the most difficult thing to do was to become clear on the difference between an attractive and compelling confidence and a privileged arrogance

So how is this to be executed exactly?

Q Grrl

Be that as it may Hugo, your advice was to pat him on his back and tell him it's okay! You're neihter young nor female -- he came to you for advice and you seem to have forgotten that the premise of feminism is politics, not sexual liscence.


No, I did not tell him it's okay to mistreat women; I told him it was okay (in a therapeutic sense) for him to be where he was. I acknowledged the legitimacy of his feelings. I also encouraged him to think differently, be braver, and push himself forward "one day at a time." To borrow a phrase from AA, a journey towards feminism is "progress not perfection."

Dude, confidence comes from knowing what it is that one really wants; arrogance is feeling entitled to be given it. We learn to live into it by trial and error with the help of good friends -- alas, there is no magic formula!

Q Grrl

You condoned his willingness to continue to view women as less than fully human in lieu of his desire to be intimate with women. You would have been much braver encouraging him to be celibate until such time that he can see no difference between his humanity and the humanity of women. Feminism is not a self-help group; it is not a program to cure the ills of an ego run wild. One day at a time might work for *his* ego needs, but then that's why we have feminism in the first place: men's ego needs have superceded women's needs for social change for millenia now.

You are placing his ego needs before the needs of teenage moms, raped women, battered women, underpaid women, trafficked women, depoliticized women, etc. If he cannot face the reality of being a woman in this world, he has no right to say women send conflicting messages and "feminism is hard."

He needs to grow up. Treating feminism as if it were a logical 12 step program of personal retribution and ego humiliation forgoes the vast histories of human society. This is not a crusade; not a 4th step; this is *my* life, the lives of all women, placed on the dusty shelves of time until this young man can figure himself out.



Q Grrl, ultimately, I go with what works. I'm an incrementalist when it comes to transformation, and I know damn well that fire and brimstone lectures (which I could easily have given) would send most young men running towards the door. Do I want Pete to be a more effective advocate for justice? Damn right. But I'm going to rely on years and years of experience with young people to inform me that a gentle, incremental approach to personal transformation and social justice works best with folks who are suspicious of the feminist project to begin with.

Q Grrl

And your approach to Christianity? You would encourage the sinner to continue sinning because that is more comfortable than fully accepting Christ? Because that's what you *are* doing. You are supporting the ongoing trespasses against women. I mean, you don't *have* to be a feminist, all you have to be is a Christian, to see the humanity and worth of women.

I don't want Pete to be a "more effective advocate" for justice. I want him to be just. He, however, just wants to sow wild oats. Then, and only then, will he find it in his conscience to view women as equal.


Q Grrl,

I'm going to jump in and defend Hugo.

If the real, actual people that I meet say, "I dislike it when you do/say X," I think that is something I need to pay attention to. I do not see the sense in saying, "Well, my theory is that treating you well requires doing/saying X--if you don't like it, too bad." That seems like the classic justification for both slavery and treating women as legally less than men--it's better for them, whether they like it or not.

Isn't that the basic problem Pete has? There's this theory (feminism, in some one of its versions--I don't have any info on which) that says, treating women well means doing Y and not Z--but all the actual women he meets are saying (by their actions, at least), I do not like it when you do Y--I'd much prefer for you to do Z. Wouldn't any coherent system of ethics that values women as individuals pay attention to what said women actually want?

A Dude

I find Q Grrl's lack of compassion toward Pete very disturbing. As Pete understands the world, he has a choice between satisfying a basic human need for romantic and sexual relations (one that both women and men share), or sacrificing that need in the interests of other people who are the victims of injustice. (Whether or not this is a correct perception is irrelevant unless Pete can be convinced it's incorrect -- something that's not in Pete's control.)

You may think that this choice is a no-brainer, but it's less clear to me, and, I'd suggest, to reasonable, compassionate people. Is it morally compulsory to make personal sacrifices to aid others who are suffering injustice for which one is not personally culpable? I don't know. There's centuries worth of philosophical and religious argument on either side. We admire those who make personal sacrifices to avoid injustice. The Germans who hid Jews are recognized rightly as heros. But do we condem as villans those who merely tried to live their lives without being actively culpable in the evil?

From Pete's perspective, isn't it easy to see how he might have trouble giving up what is, I hasten to point out again, a basic human need?

Q Grrl

Dude: he wants to fuck women he doesn't see as being his equal. He admits, when they're older and much less fuckable, they'll value his feminist contributions more. Pete doesn't even stop to consider all the women who are never going to fuck him who might just, maybe a little, support his feminist politics. All he's worried about is his need to screw women. Really. He spells it out very, very clearly.

Why should I ever be compassionate to some guy's desire to screw hawt, willing chicks? Pete's whole outlook on feminism is what he will gain from it, and if it isn't hawt, willing pussy, well... fuck, it ain't worth it. So says Pete:

"I mean, why should I be more feminist than the women around me?"

Poor guy.

Nah, I save my compassion for folks whose morality resides outside their scrotal sacks. Nice reversal there, though, Dude.


It is amazing how people have a tough time grasping the notion of an egalitarian relationship. It is almost as though people assume that someone has to be "in charge" -- so if the man isn't "in charge," that means the woman must be "in charge." Not so!

Nicely said, Happy. An ex of mine seemed convinced that control in a relationship was a zero-sum game. He couldn't seem to get the idea that I had *no* desire to tell him what to do -- I just didn't want him trying to control me.

QGrrl, I don't see in this post Pete's desire to "screw hawt, willing chicks." I see a guy who's afraid that *all* women will reject him if he becomes a pansy-assed pro-fem pussy. Hugo worked with him to understand that pro-feminist does NOT equate to pansy-assed pussy, and the guy left the conversation understanding a little bit more about how he might (whether now or later) work toward fixing society's wrongs. Is that so bad?


From Pete's perspective, isn't it easy to see how he might have trouble giving up what is, I hasten to point out again, a basic human need?

Companionship may be a basic human need, but is companionship gained through retooling one's values and personality toward the lowest common denominator really worth having? If Pete honestly believes in the basic premises of feminism, I don't see why he would even want relationships with women who don't see themselves as or wish to be treated as equals. Again, I have very little sympathy for people who are so terrified of the idea that (gasp!) they might not be desirable to every woman/man in the world if they show any hint of individualism, and (shock!) they might even have to spend some time single before they find a compatible partner, that they sacrifice values and beliefs that ought to be important to them. Pursuing the natural human need for companionship is one thing; putting such a high priority on obtaining companionship from anyone at any cost that one abandons the right thing to do in favor of the attractive/popular thing to do is something else entirely, and IMO it smacks of highly unattractive desperation.

Hugo, I just had an interesting thought: if you validate young men in their desire to behave in ways that are incompatible with pro-feminism, you must accept the fact that they will be less desirable partners for young feminist women. Presumably, then, you're now okay with those young women choosing to date older men (who have "had their fun" and "settled down" into more feminist-friendly attitudes)? Or are they supposed to suffer through relationships with guys who don't really respect them until those guys get around to growing up?


Keri, as you saw in my progression of posts on older men/younger women, I softened my position considerably on just that subject -- your criticisms at the time played a happy role in that!


This is not that tricky. Don't rape women or beat them up, respect the women you date as human beings, and don't use your own feminist sympathies to patronizingly "empower" them.

As Hugo has written, the primary useful work that pro-feminist men do is in their relationships with other men; as long as you aren't boring women with war stories of all the rape jokes you've objected to in the locker room, I don't think they'll be bothered by your feminism one way or the other. Don't be jackass in your personal interactions with women (this even applies to women you aren't dating!) and you'll be fine.


I feel slightly uncomfortable with Q Grrl's insensitive comments about Pete's developing feelings toward feminism. Although I am a woman, I can really relate to what he's going through. I only recently embraced feminism (in fact, I wouldn't have called myself a feminist five months ago!). One of the reasons I didn't consider myself a feminist was because I held so many stereotypes about feminism - that it was a harsh, angry agenda that came with an "us and them" mentality. That's how I feel that some may classify Pete - either he is a feminist man, or he isn't. Feminism is not a black and white worldview.

Few people respond well when classified in the "them" category. I agree with Allison's thinking - no, Pete is not where many feminists would like him to be. But hey, he's thinking about feminism and is obviously interested in it.

I can draw a parallel to this situation using an experience I had going to confession at the age of 13. Many years ago, I sat in front of the priest and began to cry as I told the him all of my sins, namely the "fooling around" I had done with a few guys that past year. Instead of being glad that I had honestly told him about my struggles of blending Catholicism with my raging middle school hormones, he gave me a stern look and wasn't very sympathetic at all. He even asked me to describe in detail what I had done with the guys, which I wouldn't. I left confession crying, angry at the priest and more closed to Catholicism than ever before. (I have long since embraced and renewed my commitment to Catholicism).

What had the priest done to help me out with my situation? Here he was, a priest, who had no comprehension of what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl. And yet, he had the nerve to act like he knew what it was like being a Catholic middle schooler. "Just say no" and I would be fine, was his basic advice. Just be good, just do what it is right, supress your thoughts, only this faith is right. WIth that, I thought, "If that's what Catholicism is about, then I don't want to be a Catholic."

Q Grrl, the same applies for your critique of Pete and his struggles to embrace feminism. It does no good to judge him for being slightly confused and reluctant about certain aspects of feminism - and whether or not his reasons for his thoughts are valid. I am confident that you don't know what it's like to be a 20-year-old guy. Similarly, while I wasn't right in fooling around a lot in middle school (I agree with the priest that it wasn't in accordance with Catholic teaching), his harsh attitude towards my feelings only backfired on his agenda.

If feminism is to reach men, and if Christianity is to reach non-believers, it is important to LOVE LOVE LOVE all people, no matter where they are in their journey toward a particular belief system. He may not be where we, as feminists, want him to be. But hey, he's on his way. And that in itself is extremely admirable. You go, Pete!


Mermade, I think we're on a similar path. I'm 34, but can only really say I'd self-identify as "feminist" recently -- for the same reasons. My family is staunchly conservative, and largely because of that, the only real notion I had of feminism was of something angry and irrational. Now that I have a daughter (and I'm looking out for her future), everything has changed.

Thanks for sharing the story of your experience with the priest -- your story was powerful, having come from personal experience.


Mermade, thank you as always for your thoughtful responses. Allison, I'm grateful for your thoughts as well. (Heck, I'm stimulated and challenged by Q Grrl -- she's making a case that I need to always consider.)

And Keri, here's the post on older men and younger women that isn't listed on my sidebar: A note to Scarlett about older men, younger women (again).  It is relevant here, as are the two earlier posts on the subject:

Older Men, Younger Women, Integrity

More on Older Men, Younger Women: A Response to Kate


Thank you, Allison! :-) Your support made my day!

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