Are my male acquaintances being inappropriate towards women?
January 27, 2021 7:28 PM   Subscribe

So, first I'm a man and this is something that has been bothering me. There are certain behaviors that a lot of men I know seem to engage in. I always seem to feel uncomfortable with the way they behave when it comes to women. However, I don't really know whether I'm exaggerating or not.

Anyway, so the men I've been around are definitely somewhat sexist but not all of them partake in some of the behaviors that I find dubious.

For instance, there are some of them who say things that are just straight out sexist. I've heard strange beliefs about how you cannot talk about your ex-girlfriends with your current girlfriend. I've asked why, and I've been told because "women are crazy, and they're bitches". Frankly, I thought that was a problem localized to the woman they were dating, and if that was someone who you couldn't talk to about past relationships, well that person was just not good relationship material.

Not all the men I've met do that however. What does make me uncomfortable is when men gather in groups to start looking up women they know on Instagram to make comments about "the huge ass she has" or "the great tits on her". I find this uncomfortable, I just think that they're referring to people they know in such an inhumane way.

This happens as well whenever a hot woman passes by, everyone gathers in a group, and they start giving opinions about every body part on her and also talking about the sexual things they'd like to do with her.

It's worse when they did these things with women they knew in real life, like a coworker they at the office.

I didn't engage in such things, because it just didn't make me comfortable. Of course other men always question my "manliness" because of that. I just never felt like it was dignified of myself to act like a drooling idiot whenever an attractive woman was around. It has always bothered me that apparently acting like a moron and behaving like that were apparently standards to which your manhood was measured.

Anyway, is this objectification at play? What does everyone think? Was I overreacting or is my lack of comfort justified? I would like it if women gave their opinion as well, this is difficult for me to understand because I lack that perspective. In addition to that, I've never really asked any woman in particular what they thought of this, and I think they're the best people to ask about this.
posted by Tarsonis10 to Society & Culture (27 answers total)
 
You're right, they're gross.
posted by greatalleycat at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2021 [44 favorites]


Yes, this is objectification.

I am a woman and if I knew a male acquaintance or family member or friend participated in that sort of behavior I would be grossed out, horrified, and pissed off.

I won't tell you what to do, but I will point out that one of the reasons guys get away with that stuff is because none of their friends challenge them on it.
posted by suelac at 7:35 PM on January 27, 2021 [48 favorites]


I am not sure what the question is. Are you wrong to find things inhumane and degrading for everyone to be inhumane & degrading for everyone? No. I would say that it's pretty rare that if someone genuinely finds something they find inhumane & degrading that they could be considered to be wrong about it or exaggerating. A feeling from your gut can't be faked or impersonated.
posted by bleep at 7:35 PM on January 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


This is awful and you 100% need new friends.

Like, all of your examples seem way over the top to me.

I want to push back not on the obvious ones, but on one of your own beliefs: "not good relationship material". This reflects a judgement of women, people, based on whether they can serve or complement you, rather than an understanding that people are complex and have their own stories. This is a judgement that many people make -- up to snuff, good enough for me, up to my standards, marriage material -- and is a type of judgement you absorb from the judgemental world around you.

Everyone is good relationship material. We're not all compatible with each other, but we're all deserving and worthy of relationships.
posted by Dashy at 7:36 PM on January 27, 2021 [21 favorites]


Yeah I am a woman and these men are being sexist and awful. "Women are crazy" isn't even okay if the women they happen to have experience with have mental health issues or personality issues. It's just not how you should talk about other people of any gender. Objectifying women they know on Instagram to talk about their bodies? Ick. Talking about basically assaulting women who walk by? Awful.

It's a tough situation, sometimes, because maybe you don't feel for various reasons that you can tell these men they're being terrible, but sometimes there are gentler ways to get the point across "Gee I wouldn't want you talking about my partner like that" or "She's young enough to be your daughter" etc. These aren't always great responses because it still sets women up as the dominion of men, but it may be a way to get the point across that sort of talk really isn't okay for whatever reason you feel that it isn't. But also agreeing with suelac.
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 PM on January 27, 2021 [7 favorites]


Yes, these men are jerks. You seem to know they're jerks. I wonder why you care what these jerks think of your masculinity. (Genderqueer femme presenting person here.)
posted by shadygrove at 7:45 PM on January 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


Anyway, is this objectification at play?

Yes, 100%. As you've rightly pointed out, while it's one thing to objectify random people on Instagram, it's really out of line to do this with a co-worker.

So yeah, get new friends. Not all men are like this, by a long shot.

If this comes up in a professional setting, like a male co-worker talking about a female co-worker this way, please, please speak up. You can be brief, "Hey man, it's really not cool to say that about a woman at work. Think about how she might feel if this got back to her. She very likely would feel uncomfortable, and it could impact her ability to get work done." And if the same person does it twice (or even if he reacts aggressive to your intervention), report it to HR.
posted by coffeecat at 7:48 PM on January 27, 2021 [9 favorites]


Best answer: Yeah these guys are being gross. I'm a hetero guy, and if my friends were doing things like this they would get a stern, scathing, measured dressing down and then I'd not hang out with them anymore.

A man can think anything he wants, but he must comport himself as a gentleman.
posted by vrakatar at 7:53 PM on January 27, 2021 [13 favorites]


I'm not about to defend any of your other examples, but I think that there is some truth to this observation: "I've heard strange beliefs about how you cannot talk about your ex-girlfriends with your current girlfriend". Of course, it does vary from person to person.
posted by alex1965 at 7:53 PM on January 27, 2021


I am a cis het man. I don't do this. I've never hung out with any men who do this. It's not something that men have to do. You don't have to hang out with people who do this. It's gross and dehumanizing.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:57 PM on January 27, 2021 [12 favorites]


I am a guy and I would (and have) felt uncomfortable in situations like this. Its possible to talk about sex and sexuality with your bros in a way that is not objectifying or flat out misogynistic but this ain’t it.
posted by TurnKey at 8:05 PM on January 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


Best answer: The reason you're not sure your reaction is on target is because this sort of behaviour is so very very common. It is difficult to call out coworkers and friends because they will have been used to doing this since puberty or before and will have had many male role models in their life and on TV behaving this way without repercussions.

When my son was in Grade 9, he was allowed to swear but if he did it in an inappropriate place, I would not back him up. So he was telling a quite innocent story about some event with his school friends and used fag(got) as a derogatory term for someone (whose sexuality was not part of the discussion - but even or maybe especially if it had been), I called him out. We were in the car, so he couldn't get away from my lecture, but it made such an impact that he tried to stop his friends using that word. He didn't succeed, and is still disappointed that over 15 years later, some of his friends still do that.

I think some of the strategies listed above are great ideas, because talking about rape culture for example will in my opinion get you nowhere. I think you'll find that one excuse will be "what he women/bitches/sluts don't know, won't hurt them" or "they put these pictures online, mate, they want us to look at them."

If I were a man, I'd probably make a mocking sound and shake my head whenever the behaviour occurred. But yeah, new friends if social group and HR if work.

I'm glad you're thinking about these things.
posted by b33j at 8:07 PM on January 27, 2021 [14 favorites]


I am a cis het man. I don't do this. I've hung out with men who do this. I've not hung out again with men who do this. It's not something that men have to do. You don't have to hang out with people who do this. It's gross and dehumanizing.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 PM on January 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


Is this behavior bad: Yes, and you need to find better friends.

I find this uncomfortable, I just think that they're referring to people they know in such an inhumane way.

FTFY.

A good rule of thumb for you is: if someone is treating someone else as an object to look at or build social cred by dehumanizing, and not treating them as a person with an inner world, they are objectifying and should be discouraged. If they keep doing it around you, vote with your feet and stop hanging out with them.

I'm using gender neutral language in that rule of thumb because a person of any gender can objectify somebody of any gender. Structurally, women are objectified; however, if you see somebody treating a guy like an object (for example, intentionally making a mess so a waiter has to clean it up - objectifying the man as a waiter and nothing else), it would be right and kind to stand up for him as well.

In my experience, being upfront about your boundaries, and especially the boundaries you maintain on behalf of other people, tends to attract the right sort of folks. I hope you find worthier company.
posted by snerson at 8:29 PM on January 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: P.S. They're not really friends of mine. I used to be close to one of them but I cut him out long ago. I haven't hung out with those people for a looooong while

Also I don't care what they think about me. I don't really care who finds me "manly" or not.

But these behaviors were just so common for such a long time that I just never knew what to think. They always made me uncomfortable, and I always thought these people were kind of losers to obsess over those women so much but to never actually talk to them or engage them in a wholesome way.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


I haven't hung out with those people for a looooong while

Good, because they sound like absolute monsters.

PS: I just ran this past my wife who in no uncertain terms agreed that these are all monstrous sexist behaviors.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:46 PM on January 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


I don't mind if people I'm interested in talk about past relationships. It can be quite illuminating: if all the exes are 'crazy', maybe the exes weren't the problem?

This might be the secret/true reason for that stricture.
posted by inexorably_forward at 8:52 PM on January 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


Best answer: good for you for instinctively knowing this stuff is gross, even when it's so prevalent.

(the one about not talking over prior girlfriends with current ones is especially weird because there ARE perfectly good reasons not to talk about aspects of prior relationships in many circumstances -- reasons that have nothing at all to do with anyone being crazy. It's common for new girlfriends to know prior ones, when people share a circle of friends; it's nice, in that case, to not discuss prior sex lives, or other things that were private. Discretion and respect for the trust of prior intimates is an honorable way to live.)

By the way, I've known men who talk like this. They're gross and their relationships tend to not work out well. My husband and his friends do not behave that way and never have, even when it's just the guys hanging out, even when they were horny college students back in the day.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:25 PM on January 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm a woman. This behavior is gross. Thanks for not partaking in them.
posted by Toddles at 10:05 PM on January 27, 2021


If I were a man, I'd probably make a mocking sound and shake my head whenever the behaviour occurred.

I am a man, and my usual response is "oh for fuck's sake, what are you, twelve?"
posted by flabdablet at 11:48 PM on January 27, 2021 [13 favorites]


>But these behaviors were just so common for such a long time that I just never knew what to think. They always made me uncomfortable, and I always thought these people were kind of losers to obsess over those women so much but to never actually talk to them or engage them in a wholesome way.
So your next step and mine, in those conversations, is to challenge it when it comes up so that people aren't putting down one group of people to feel better about themselves. Make a joke of it, or share your gut feelings, or tell a horror story about a series of dates that went wrong because you objectified the other party -- but we've got to stop this hortible behaviour from being seen as normal.
posted by k3ninho at 12:20 AM on January 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


It's a tough situation, sometimes, because maybe you don't feel for various reasons that you can tell these men they're being terrible, but sometimes there are gentler ways to get the point across "Gee I wouldn't want you talking about my partner like that" or "She's young enough to be your daughter" etc.

I worked on a construction crew for a little while and the non-gentle version of this was for the foreman to say something a tad more offensive about the daughter.

Two sexisms don't make a right, obviously, but it was effective: the divorced mid-thirties guy who had been luridly bragging about his teenaged girlfriend shut down immediately, with a rather pained and admonished expression on his face as he presumably thought about his child.
posted by XMLicious at 12:32 AM on January 28, 2021


Ackh. I can't believe this is even allowed in a workplace. In 2021. Or that these are grown men and not teenage boys. So depressing. What does the manager say when they see it? A senior person at work should have caught wind of this and set the standard for what kind of work atmosphere is acceptable. This should not have been normalized at work. It's not okay anywhere in public outside of a strip club (probably not even there).

Yes this is very inappropriate, objectifying and misogynistic. No you are not overreacting at all. I wish more guys would react like that. I would hate to be a woman working in that office. Have you spoken to your female colleague about it? One of the things I have found difficult in such work environments is that the 'silent men' allow it to continue when they are in more of a position of power to be able to do something. It just feels as if they support it too. It's your call about whether you want to do something about it. If you do speak to the woman you work with, when you come to confront the guys or speak to your manager, please don't mention her comments or throw her under the bus. They will likely make her life even more difficult (since they're dumb misogynists), whereas with you, you'll just get the 'not-manly' jibes.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 1:35 AM on January 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


It can be uncomfortable standing up to misogyny, racism, etc. Especially if you hadn't before. Lean into that discomfort, and it gets easier.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 8:56 AM on January 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


Boys are often too afraid to call out other boys for bad behaviour.

Men, less so.
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 AM on January 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I'm a woman. In my former life I worked in a male dominated field where I was the only woman on the crew much of the time. I understand what you mean when you say the behavior is extremely common. As a contract worker and (most often) the only woman at the job site I was rarely comfortable with pushing back on stuff like this, but I damn sure didn't appreciate it, and would have very much welcomed and supported any man who called out this type of behaviour. (Sadly, I never encountered any man who did.)
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:41 PM on January 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


Our misogynistic society leaves men barren options and no training for emotional connection - we are not encouraged or taught how to be vulnerable or emotionally available, and sometimes use this sort of sexist shit as a way to perversely "connect" with other men about undeveloped sexualized observation. Its a funhouse mirror sort of way to feel emotionally connected to another man by "admitting" you have feelings, but in a super lame, no risk way. (Yay, you are straight too, you like boobs.)

In some situations where I have called other men out, they've changed their behavior because they value our friendship, and just needed permission to be more real and less sexist in their communication... other times I've encountered it in stunted assholes I didn't care to continue to spend time with.
posted by RajahKing at 12:03 PM on January 13


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