Help, I'm not a very good feminist
February 1, 2007 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me overcome my latent misogyny, -or- I don't think I'm a very good feminist.

I'm a late-20s male, and intellectually I consider myself a feminist. I had what I figure is a pretty typical liberal arts college experience, with classes spanning literature, philosophy, psychology, etc, with feminist criticism worked in pretty consistently. I'm pro-choice, I support rape shield laws, strong workplace harassment policies, and the equal rights amendment. In short, I'm great on paper.

And yet - I find myself making all sorts of misogynist assumptions all the time. I came to this realization as I started dating much more frequently over the past few months, running into more women than I had been in a lot of different contexts. Here are some of the things I'm talking about: I take attractive women much more seriously than others who are not so hot, even on intellectual or professional topics. I forget the names of plain or ugly women far more often. When I start dating a girl, I feel I should be allowed to see other people but feel threatened if she does the same. In general I expect to be the argumenative or aggressive one in a relationship and I get upset if a woman outdoes me in these ways.

I should reiterate that these aren't positions I take on purpose, but rather default positions and underlying emotions that arise without effort. I'm sure it's connected to my upbringing, wherein my mother was a docile housewife and my dad was the breadwinner who threw an occasional temper tantrum when he didn't get his way (no domestic abuse or anything like that, though). But I intellectually reject that setup, and have no desire at all to relive it in my own relationships. How do I change my default positions to be more in line with my express beliefs?
posted by Joey Buttafoucault to Human Relations (48 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
In general I expect to be the argumenative or aggressive one in a relationship and I get upset if a woman outdoes me in these ways.

Why should either one be the "argumentative" one? This comes across as pretty strange, I mean it's not a competition, conflict should be avoided unless the other person is being really obnoxious. I don't think any person (man or woman) would like to date someone who is more argumentative then they are, or feels that being argumentative is reasonable.

If you feel yourself wanting to pick fights or get angry, try to change the subject, or leave the room.

As far as paying more attention to more attractive women: Well, I don't think there is much you can do about that, other then making more of a conscious effort to pay attention to less attractive women.
posted by delmoi at 5:18 PM on February 1, 2007


The fact that you're trying to objectively examine your behavior and assumptions is, I think, the best place to start. Changing something so deep-rooted is difficult. Best of luck. I'm trying to do the same.
posted by lekvar at 5:26 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


You might find reading the suggested literature on this page useful for your purposes. If you're looking to participate in a movement that may get you in contact with men who are pro-feminist the White Ribbon Campaign is a good place to start.

Thank you for acknowledging that some of your attitudes may be problematic and wanting to change them!
posted by winna at 5:27 PM on February 1, 2007


first of all, it's great that you are working to notice these situations. keep doing that! read about common sexist assumptions and behaviors and talk to people (men and women) who are actively feminist. some places have feminist groups specifically for men to talk about problems like this they are struggling with, if you feel more comfortable with that.

whenever it's something that you can make a conscious decision about, then do that, despite whatever your instinct might be. for example, if you feel uncomfortable with a girl you like dating others, then see if she will agree for the two of you to be exclusive, and if you start to chafe at that, keep thinking of how you felt when she wanted to date around (or agree that both of you can date others and proceed as above).

whenever you can think of a stereotypical role, turn it around, if only to give it a try-- don't interrupt, wait for women to speak first, try not to raise your voice (or at least notice if you are doing it) etc. think about the fact that women more often phrase their statements tentatively even if they feel strongly about them, and realize that because you're willing to come out and claim that you are right doesn't necessarily make it so. try some stereotypical female activities if any interest you, and when you are involved in activities that are typically male dominated, see if you can find women who are good at them, especially better than you. i don't know what areas would apply to you for this but you could try to go to a female mechanic, have a woman help you fix your computer, or watch professional female sports. also, find/learn about some women who really impress you with their accomplishments, such as artists, writers, musicians, scientists, or whatever interests you. exposing yourself to these kinds of things on a regular basis might cause some shift in your subconscious assumptions as you get a broader range of experiences.
posted by lgyre at 5:33 PM on February 1, 2007


Being a feminist is not about supporting the issues du jour--it's about seeing women as people, not as exotic others. How many female friends do you have? Make some more. Without trying to date them or shag them.
posted by gsh at 5:41 PM on February 1, 2007


I was getting a suspicious vibe of this question as well AC, but illegitimate or no the question might help people down the road.

Following up on gsh's point, one thing that helped me a bit in this area was that I made a serious effort to stay friends with many of my ex-girlfriends. There was no need to try to impress them into bed, and they knew me well enough to call me out on my bullshit. Don't know if this applies to the poster, but if there is anyone with insight into your misogynistic ways, it will probably be someone you had a relationship-that-ended with.
posted by quin at 6:01 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


You could start by accepting yourself as human, with a mix of aspirations and reality. Works better that way.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:04 PM on February 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe this has nothing to do with feminism. I've known plenty of women and gay men who don't take unattractive people seriously, are jealous but feel entitled to fool around, and give themselves the right to be verbally agressive in ways that they would not accept from their partner.

If you're sincerely looking for human contact based on mutual respect, you start treating other people accordingly, whether they're men or women. If deep down you want control rather than connection, it'll show in a million different ways in your attitude. If you try to change those attitudes by putting them in some abstract political context, you're just distancing yourself even more from the personal work you need to do to understand who you really are and how you want to relate to other people.
posted by fuzz at 6:07 PM on February 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


I had no idea there was such a vibrant singles scene down in Antarctica.

Perhaps you should read Malcolm Gladwell's bit on implicit racial bias in BLINK. I imagine that some of the stuff he talks about would apply, particularly the kid who trains himself to score less-suckily on the racial bias test.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:07 PM on February 1, 2007


Brand new username, never posted before ... I'm calling troll on this one.

Well, everyone starts somewhere. What about the post itself seems troll-ish to you? I guess I tried to err on the side of being frank and explicit rather than subtle, but I hope it doesn't seem outrageously over-the-top that people could inadvertently have these emotions and assumptions.

As for the name... let's chalk it up as eponysterical and move on, eh?
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 6:07 PM on February 1, 2007


I find myself making all sorts of misogynist assumptions all the time.

Of course you do. You're living in a misogynist culture. As others have said or implied, the important thing is recognizing this. It's the smug bastards who think that because they are pro-choice and support rape shield laws, strong workplace harassment policies, and the equal rights amendment they're feminist heroes and can pull whatever crap they want who are the problem (just like the people who think that because they took a black studies course and like rap music, they can use the n-word). Being a feminist, like being an anarchist or combating racism, is hard work, because it's constantly undermined by the culture around us; it's not about taking courses and holding positions, it's about constantly observing your own behavior, noticing contradictions and hypocrisies, and making corrections rather than excuses for yourself (the latter being something we humans are superlative at). You seem to be on the right track. Feeling uncomfortable is a good thing!
posted by languagehat at 6:08 PM on February 1, 2007 [13 favorites]


AmbroseChapel: yeh, never trust an artist. Especially not an intarwebs one.

I take attractive women much more seriously than others who are not so hot, even on intellectual or professional topics. I forget the names of plain or ugly women far more often.

Here's some advice: constantly remind yourself that the hotties are likely to be boring in the sack, and that the uglies are more likely to swallow. That should help.

Oh, and never misunderestimate the prevalence of hidden misogynistic patterns in your thinking.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Look buddy, you don't have a problem, you are just human.

Oh and...who cares if you forget ugly chicks name? Are you supposed to be wildly attracted and care about everyone you meet? Nature conditioned you to find what you find attractive, instead of fighting that, embrace it and you might be surprised who you end up with.

Sometimes I wonder how the hell nerds mate to make other nerds, we think about shit way too much.
posted by evilelvis at 6:26 PM on February 1, 2007


You want your default posistions to me more inline with your express beliefs, yet you start your post with "and intellectually I consider myself a feminist. I had what I figure is a pretty typical liberal arts college experience, with classes spanning literature, philosophy, psychology, etc, with feminist criticism worked in pretty consistently.

Isn't that a sexist stement in and of itself? It's almost that you think those are 'girly' classes? Would you be less of a feminist if you'd taken Geology and Physics?

This really isn't meant to be snarky or argumentative, but I think you need to rexamine where you really stand.
posted by matty at 6:34 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh and...who cares if you forget ugly chicks name? Are you supposed to be wildly attracted and care about everyone you meet?

Maybe the "ugly chicks" are co-workers. Maybe they're potential friends or collaborators on creative projects. There are actually ways to relate to women other than "attracted/not attracted."
posted by transona5 at 6:36 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


How do you treat men? Do less attractive or lower status men get less courtesy/interest from you? Do you rate all people's attractiveness or visual appeal? (I can't imagine rating everyone I meet as this person is hot/sexy, this person is plain/ugly etc, I'm more likely to be judgemental about their apparent IQ). If so, maybe you're not a misogynist after all.
posted by b33j at 6:36 PM on February 1, 2007


evilelvis: Nature conditioned you to find what you find attractive...

It should be pointed out that what mother nature has conditioned any given person to find attractive varies widely by culture, upbringing, etc.

The cure for your problem, JB, is twofold: 1) Mentally dissect the representations of women that you see every day (billboards, TV, internet...). Note the falseness & crass inhumanity in them. Stop ignoring that. 2) Date (or hang out with, whatever) the smartest and most outspoken woman you can find. Listen to everything she says.
posted by sleevener at 7:12 PM on February 1, 2007


egad. feminism is a sexist philosophy. every feminist i've ever met or slept with has the idea that in order to be equal, men need to give up their 'priviledges' and 'power' to women, because of a long list of man's faults that goes back to sharing food and getting sex.

what feminists don't like to admit, or theorize about in discussions, is about the inherent biological advantages of being a woman, and the advantage of being a woman in society. it seems like they just want to circumvent nature with our big brains and regard everyone as genderless 'equals'. without acknowleding their inherent powers (of which, women have MANY), they are only reinforcing the notion that women are weak, and need the domineering role of men to aspire to. which many feminists, ironically do. they disapprove of the actions of the male creature, then turn around and emulate it!

it's impossible to treat everyone as equal, our brains are hardwired to be curious, fight, flee or fuck. everything else is mental masturbation.

in response to your post joey:

be proud of who you are, and who you choose to be, don't let any self-righteous chick tell you to be more like them because it's more fair. they're already being more like you, not sexually exclusive, talking back, etc. they don't want you to be more like them.

i for one, wish i could be more aggressive and argumentative in my relationships and life, and i welcome anyone who can engage with me on this level, because it's a learning opportunity.

learning is what life is about, regardless of gender.
posted by emptyinside at 7:30 PM on February 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


what feminists don't like to admit, or theorize about in discussions, is about the inherent biological advantages of being a woman, and the advantage of being a woman in society

Um, emptyinside, I don't think the feminists you've slept with and (or met) are necessarily a representative sample, then.

Joey Buffafoucault, remembering the names of the pretty girls and not the plain girls doesn't make you a bad feminist. Catagorizing women as "do-able, will remember name" and "bleh, and who cares what her name is" would make you a bad feminist.

From the list you provide, getting your briefs in a twist when a woman out-argues you is the one that a) you can work on changing and b) is most deserving of a re-think.
posted by desuetude at 7:48 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Finding women to respect should be helpful. This isn't a bad place to look for bright, dynamic women to admire and befriend. Your current MO is dangerous because it will lead you to women whose failings reinforce your preconceptions. People who defy gender conventions in any way are also great allies in your project. Good on ya, btw.

egad. feminism is a sexist philosophy.
met or slept with?

Eponysterical fuckwit. If this guy ever gets within twenty feet of me I will use my biological advantage to kick him SQUAH in the nuts.

on preview, hear hear desuetude
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:50 PM on February 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Your late twenties is a pretty typical time of life to begin consciously deciding which beliefs you want to keep and which you want to discard. It's when being cool starts to become much less important than being able to live with yourself. Some people don't bother doing this - in my view, they're the ones who end up having mid-life crises once they get past forty. You're doing it; you'll be fine.

The essential feminist position, it's always seemed to me, is that nobody ought to be treated like a doormat because they happen to be female. The assorted straw women variously attacked above are, in my view, sideshows.

Don't strive to be a "good feminist"; that way lies slavish adherence to dogma in one form or another. Strive to be a good person who takes others as you find them, own your ill-treatment of others and learn from it, and a healthy feminism will naturally follow.
posted by flabdablet at 7:52 PM on February 1, 2007 [8 favorites]


Seriously: quit thinking of these things in terms of 'misogyny'. The word is cheapened enough already by its constant unreflective political deployment, the last thing anyone needs is well-meaning introspective types signing on to this ridiculous vocabulary turn. You don't sound like a misogynist, you sound like a guy who knows he thinks with his dick and doesn't wanna do so anymore. Bravo indeed.

It sounds like you ought to hang out with more women outside of sexual situations. So give yourself no choice. The more human someone seems, the harder they'll be to dismiss. Time will do that on its own, if you're not evil. Let it. Cheesy but effective: expose yourself to art made by (and even 'for') women. Steer clear of anyone who offers to 'raise your consciousness', and just worry about being conscientious, which you're doing. You recognise impulses in yourself you want to change - now seek out better alternatives. It's not great advice, I know, but then your problem doesn't sound too bad, man! You sound normal. And normal isn't ideal but it's not pathological either.

Incidentally, what kind of feminist you are on paper just doesn't matter one jot. Hang out with more people, with more kinds of people, and really listen to them, regardless of what you think you can get out of them. In times as dark as these, with relations between and within the sexes as confused as they are, such a simple thing is a good deal more authentically feminist than taking a class on gender and literature.

(Take it from a guy who's done the latter and fails all too often at the former.)
posted by waxbanks at 7:57 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's quite common for college-educated people in their 20s to discover that their intellectual convictions don't match up perfectly with their actual feelings. This isn't something to beat yourself up about. The contradictions between your behavior and your reading aren't happening because the classes you took were a means of your receiving the gospel even though you're the spawn of Satan.
posted by bingo at 8:15 PM on February 1, 2007


"It's the smug bastards who think that because they are pro-choice and support rape shield laws, strong workplace harassment policies, and the equal rights amendment they're feminist heroes and can pull whatever crap they want who are the problem (just like the people who think that because they took a black studies course and like rap music, they can use the n-word)."

You leave jonmc out of this!

"Isn't that a sexist stement in and of itself? It's almost that you think those are 'girly' classes? Would you be less of a feminist if you'd taken Geology and Physics?"

There's very little gender theory in geology and physics, at least how they're taught here in America.

"egad. feminism is a sexist philosophy. every feminist i've ever met or slept with has the idea that in order to be equal, men need to give up their 'priviledges' and 'power' to women, because of a long list of man's faults that goes back to sharing food and getting sex."

OMFG hilarious. Joey, you don't want to end up emptyinside, do you? This is where it leads!

"From the list you provide, getting your briefs in a twist when a woman out-argues you is the one that a) you can work on changing and b) is most deserving of a re-think."

This is the best advice around. There are plenty of smart, funny, feminists. (Bitch may be required reading). Start hangin' out with them. They may not be gorgeous, but they're worth your time. And it's OK (even good) to argue with them. That's how I develop respect for a person. Just be man enough to admit when you're wrong and called on it instead of getting all knicker-twisted about it.
posted by klangklangston at 8:36 PM on February 1, 2007


Oh, dear lord. Please don't listen to emptyinside, that's the kind of argument people use to say that feminism is a defunct movement. All the feminists I've ever met just want choices, and don't want to have their options limited because they don't have a penis between their legs. Stop thinking in terms of "women are like this" and "men are like" and just start seeing them as people, like you?

I do sympathise with your position, there are many men and women alike that have struggled with the idea of equality over history, especially in the last few decades. When it's something ingrained in you practically from birth it's hard to reconcile your feelings with your logical side. I don't have any real practical advice for you other than being aware of these thoughts and attempting to actively avoid playing them out in your actions.

You're still far along feminist thought than many other people around the world and the fact that you're willing to try and change this about yourself is a good thing. Oh, and languagehat speaketh the truth.
posted by liquorice at 8:57 PM on February 1, 2007


I read this recently in a thread somewhere on MeFi and I thought it was kind of appropriate.

“Refusing To Be A Man”
i’m not going to try to tell you that i’m different from all the rest. i’ve been subject to the same de-structure of desire and i’ve felt the same effects; i’m a hetero-sexist tragedy. and potential rapists all are we. but don’t tell me this is natural. this is nurturing. and there’s a difference between sexism and sexuality. i had different desires prior to my role-remodelling. and at six years of age you don’t challenge their claims. you become the same. (or withdraw from the game and hang your head in shame). i think that’s exactly what i did. i tried to sever the connections between me and them. i fought against their further attempts to convince a kid that birthright can bestow the power to yield the subordination of women and do you know what patricentricity means? i found out just a couple of days ago. it means male values uber alles and hey! whaddaya know… sex has been distorted and vilified. i’m scared of my attraction to body types. if everything desired is objectified then eroticism needs to be redefined. and i refuse to be a “man”.
posted by liquorice at 9:03 PM on February 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


In general: x-ing "meet more women outside of dating situations," and "listen to women." Maybe join a local feminist club or NOW or something, and just spend a lot of time listening. They might revere you because you're a man interested in feminist things, or they might treat you suspiciously: don't let it get to you either way.

When I start dating a girl, I feel I should be allowed to see other people but feel threatened if she does the same.

Well, why? Make a list of exactly what you think will happen and how you'll feel if you see a woman you've been on one, two, three, or four dates with on a date with or kissing someone else. Ask yourself exactly when you expect this "commitment" to begin: after one date or one month of dating? Ask yourself if you really do want to see other people. Ask yourself if you feel that way about only the women you're really interested in, or even the women you're only interested in casually, or whether there's any difference in degree there. Ask if it'd be easier for both of you to not date anyone else, or for you to both date other people.

In general I expect to be the argumenative or aggressive one in a relationship and I get upset if a woman outdoes me in these ways.

Well, shoot... don't be argumentative or aggressive, then? It mean, it sounds like you're setting this up as a positive trait here, and so it might help if you define exactly what you mean by aggressiveness.

But assuming it's something like "expresses anger/frustration in a relationship": realize that almost everyone is either aggressive or passive-aggressive. Would you rather date a woman who's going to simmer about something you said for a month and take it out on herself and you in numerous small ways until it comes out in a really horrible way what she's upset about and for god's sake it's not even that big of a deal, or a woman who'll yell at you once and get over it?

Learn to compromise and talk things out. This doesn't even have to be a gendered thing - most people flat-out suck at talking in relationships and lean towards aggressiveness or passive-aggressiveness and it sucks. Listen, listen, listen to what she says when she complains and truly try to understand it. Ask her to listen to you, and if she's reasonable, she should give you a fair chance as well. This will diminish most arguments unless you're dealing with someone who really can't control her anger, in which case don't date her.

As for remembering attractive women better: that's complicated too! Most people think more highly of attractive people in general, it's not necessarily a sexist thing.

But assuming it is in this case: are your judgments just initial, or do you find they diminish as you spend more time with less-attractive women? I know that I've come to find lots of perfectly average or conventionally unattractive people to be quite beautiful after spending time with or dating them. And I don't mean this in a "oh, their personality makes up for the flaws" way. It's that if you spend a lot of time looking at someone, or especially looking at someone and kissing and touching them, it's so much easier to see what's unique and beautiful about them. So I guess this goes back to "spend more time with women in a variety of situations," because the more women you see and know, the more you realize - subconsciously, that is, since you already realize it consciously - how irrelevant a signifier beauty is of worth.
posted by your face at 9:56 PM on February 1, 2007


Everybody has all sorts of less-than-perfect thoughts. Stop worrying about the fact that you're human.

Instead, just:
  1. Try to explicitly notice when you're having such thoughts;
  2. Try not to act upon them.
That's really all there is to it.
posted by Flunkie at 10:40 PM on February 1, 2007


i’m scared of my attraction to body types.

This is where people have lost contact with feminism.

Being who you are, whoever that is, whatever it wants or is attracted to or likes, is never "wrong".

Feminism is not about a value set that must be enforced on others. It is about allowing yourself and others to self define.

From a feminist perspective, there is nothing wrong with any of the things I'm going to list, although many of the radicals who have hijacked feminism in the last thirty years would like you to think so:
a) Wanting a wife who is barefoot and pregnant
b) Wanting women to be hot, and wear high heels all the time.
c) Being a hot teen girl who flaunts her sexuality.

Feminism is a philosophy that says "what you want is fine, but don't insist that others conform to it."

If a woman doesn't want a,b, or c, she should be able to get a job in construction, become president, or whatever. If she agrees with a,b, and c, that's fine too, and doesn't make her misogynist, and it doesn't make you one either.

The basis of feminism is the idea that we define ourselves, our gender doesn't define us. Every time that anyone says "should" to anyone else based on gender, then they've become the enemy of feminism. Men shouldn't be anything or do anything, women shouldn't be anything or do anything, because "man" and "woman" don't mean anything - feminism is about self definition.

Slightly off topic is a corollary of this principle of self definition - the law should not define people, punish them, or reward them, because of gender.
posted by ewkpates at 3:50 AM on February 2, 2007 [9 favorites]


There are actually ways to relate to women other than "attracted/not attracted."

Are there?
posted by pollystark at 3:55 AM on February 2, 2007


Therapy.

You have larger issues than being a "bad" feminist. Doesn't make you a bad person of course, but there are issues from childhood that have shaped you and you want to change them. A professional would good at helping with that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 AM on February 2, 2007


Uh, so what?

Do you really think this is a problem?

This is not a problem. This isn't even an annoyance. This is like having a bad hair day. You're a human being. You're not perfect. Deal with it. The next time you find yourself being unfair to somebody or disrespecting an individual then catch yourself and apologize to that individual. Then move the fuck on. Stop worrying about this silly, overloaded abstraction 'WOMEN' that you've built up and focus on the actual persons in front of you. And stop using loaded words like misogyny and feminism. That's now how real men talk.
posted by nixerman at 5:36 AM on February 2, 2007


Here's a question: are you *not* being yourself just so you can appear to be in with the feminists?

Basically, what nixerman said.
posted by drstein at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2007


Given you have all the theory, one surefire way to get it operational is to date a few men just like your father. That ought to test your mettle.
posted by de at 10:30 AM on February 2, 2007


How to change your default position? Hang out with more women. Nothing destroys stereotypes and assumptions more than being exposed to a wide variety of people. Make an effort to be closer to female acquaintances, be open to new activities.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:53 AM on February 2, 2007


The test that thehmsbeagle referenced is called the Implicit Association Test. Some things to note about this test:

- It was developed by Harvard psychologists and it has a respectable (though not undisputed) scientific track record.
- It measures subconscious or semi-conscious attitudes that contribute to prejudiced behavior.
- It's extremely (even disturbingly) common for people to have prejudiced "default" beliefs that are in direct contradiction to their conscious, chosen beliefs.

At the IAT website, you can test yourself on a number of different issues, including race, gender, and age. You might find it useful to do so.

Some might ask, why bother? If virtually everyone has these subconscious attitudes, then what's the use trying to change them? The answer is: it is possible (and worthwhile) to counteract your bias, even if it is unconscious. Here's an excerpt from a great Washington Post article about the test:

"There is growing evidence that implicit attitudes can be changed through exposure to counter-stereotypes ... Volunteers who mentally visualized a strong woman for a few seconds -- some thought of athletes, some thought of professionals, some thought of the strength it takes to be a homemaker -- had lower bias scores on gender tests ... Interventions as brief as a few seconds had effects that lasted at least as long as 24 hours."

I think you're doing the right thing by examining your own attitudes and emotions. Know thyself ...
posted by ourobouros at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


"what feminists don't like to admit, or theorize about in discussions, is about the inherent biological advantages of being a woman, and the advantage of being a woman in society. it seems like they just want to circumvent nature with our big brains and regard everyone as genderless 'equals'"

i've heard arguments for societal advantages. what biological advantages to being female are you referring to? the ability to have babies? i guess that's an advantage if you want to have babies, but not that great for getting treated as an equal in daily life. biologically there is support for men having bigger brains, but are you really implying that being smarter is a male biological advantage? if you seriously think that, i can't imagine where your big brain is doing its research.

"egad. feminism is a sexist philosophy. every feminist i've ever met or slept with has the idea that in order to be equal, men need to give up their 'priviledges' and 'power' to women"

change "priviledges and power to women" to "privileges and power over women" and that sounds pretty much right.
posted by lgyre at 11:44 AM on February 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are actually ways to relate to women other than "attracted/not attracted."

Are there?


God, some of these responses are so depressing. Would you say the same thing about men? That it's fine for men to only remember the names of men they thing are hot? That the only way that human beings can relate to each other is through physical attraction? That it's fine to disregard someone because they don't fall into the category of People I'd Like To Fuck? I applaud you for facing up to this issue, and urge you to disregard those who tell you it's benign. It's not; rather it's the very definition of prejudice based on social stereotypes. You say "I take attractive women much more seriously than others who are not so hot, even on intellectual or professional topics"; of all your statements, that's the one from your post that struck me as the most harmful - both to yourself and to others. It's a big deal.

I'm not saying you're a terrible, terrible person. We all have our pockets of prejudice. But you shouldn't let yourself off the hook for that sort of bullshit. Follow Lunalaguna's advice: get to know some more women. Put some effort into making friends or acquaintances with women regardless of what they look like. While you're at it, take a look at how you treat other people you find unattractive, like, I dunno, the homeless, or people in wheelchairs, or fat people, or people with disfiguring birthmarks. I'm not saying you treat them any differently, but it's worth thinking about.

Really, the two things that are going to make a difference are mindfulness and familiarity. If you make a dent in this attitude, you'll likely make valuable friends you'd never have made otherwise. You may, at some point, even get your mnd blown. I hope so. Good luck.
posted by hot soup girl at 11:45 AM on February 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


So some people have proposed that the way you are is totally natural and you'd be doing a bad thing to try to change that for the sake of gender equality. Fair enough idea, and two responses:

As a feminist, you know that it's hard to tell the difference between nature and nurture. Don't take the easy way out and assume it's all nature and you just can't help your behavior/thoughts and can't change them. You probably know this very well already.

By contrast, don't be opposed to the idea that you might naturally be more argumentative than usual, to take one example, and just like winning arguments. But you know, just because you're that, or jealous, or lookist or whatever else: it doesn't mean it's bad to try to and change!

I'm naturally lazy. Like, really, astonishingly, horrifyingly lazy. I could be content to be lazy all my life and only do work that's placed in front of me. I could do average work at an average job and make average pay. I could live in a perpetually-messy house because it takes a lot of effort for me to to clean. I could remain a total introvert on weekends because getting dressed and putting on makeup and leaving the house is a pain.

But I force myself to fight my laziness, and go out and put forth effort in all ways and sometimes it's really really hard and feels totally forced and unnatural, but in the long run I know it's worth it because I get to socialize and I get to do work I like and I get to like myself more and I get to be really happy, not just content.

People "naturally" practice all kinds of destructive and lousy behaviors, and sometimes it's better to force yourself to go against your own nature and change. You have to figure out if and why it's worth it to you to change. What will you gain from changing, what will you lose from not changing? What will women you know/women you date/women as a whole/humanity as a whole gain/lose from you changing or not changing?

Brush up on some feminist texts, remember what it means to truly regard women as human. Despite what some are saying, thinking that attractive women are better than less-attractive women ain't it. And vice versa, for that matter.

And finally, don't beat yourself up if some things are hard - or even eventually impossible - to change. Most people would probably consider me "one of those radicals who has hijacked feminism in recent years," but I have the occasional sexist, racist, homophobic thought (usually not all together). Hard not to, when you live in a society that's pretty pleased with certain manifestations of those things. What matters is that you do your best to not act on them.
posted by your face at 11:52 AM on February 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm not only speaking out my ass, i have taken several women's studies classes, including an upper division on the constructs of masculinity and femininity (got an A by the way).

part of my viewpoint is based on experience (the ass part), which has been, so-called feminists don't treat me in a manner that deserves respect. they lie about love, cheat, interrupt, sexually belittle, and treat people less-than-human. i find that to be nothing short of hypocrisy.

@lygre - There are biological advantages, namely, (and I forget the specific parts, but I present a truth) the part of the brain responsible for communication between the two halves is MUCH thicker and more active in women, instead, in a man's brain, it is replaced by the sex center, nearly three times bigger than a woman.

hence, what is socially obvious, men have sex on the brian, is backed up by biology. women are better at integrating the emotional and rational sides of life, and form stronger bonds with people then men do, who ultimately are concerned with territory and status, perhaps only for sexual purposes.

surely the innate ability to form strong social bonds is a tremendous advantage in a society that is becoming increasingly fragmented.

I'm not saying that feminism doesn't have a valid viewpoint, that women don't deserve to be treated as equals. I'm not denying that there has been a long history of men treating women as sub-human. i welcome a philosophy that tells women, yes, you can achieve anything you set your heart on.

i love women, with all their shapes, sizes, attitudes and imperfections, brilliances and confusions.

in order to demand respect, you must first be respectful.

and stop using language that is gendered to indicate a philosophy of equality between the sexes (ie. FEMinism), that would be less of the group mindset and more egalitarian.
posted by emptyinside at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2007


Feminism isn't a religion....yet. You're not a "good" feminist because there's no such thing as a "good" feminist. Feminism is an ideal (and a rather varying ideal at that) and I don't think anyone expects you to achieve that ideal.
An unfortunate irony of subscribing to ideals such as feminism is that you are forced to take a very general stance on an issue that should be incredibly specific. For example-

I'm pro-choice, I support rape shield laws, strong workplace harassment policies, and the equal rights amendment. In short, I'm great on paper.


What you're saying here is "In general, I respect issues that, as far as I know, are generally of interest to women."

If this is a problem to you, why don't you try engaging women as singular, unique individuals who pursue a variety of goals and interests, and may, if you get to know them well enough, be worthy of your respect? I'd start with one, and go from there.
posted by tjvis at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2007


emptyinside, if I read you correctly, you're claiming that you don't have a problem with "Feminism," the ethos, just "Feminists" the women. Which really makes you seem like a misogynist. The blanket claim that so many women treat you so crudely makes it seem like either your expectations of their behavior are narrow, or your manner is offensive to the women in your sample.

Feminism is the belief that women are people. The name only matters if the name is all you know about it. It's an oft-heard and disregarded sophomoric position. Your "several" courses seem fruitless to me if you can earnestly claim you think the word is problematic in the slightest when compared with the vast array misogynist or biased language normalized in English at large.

Pardon the lack of respect, but you chose to come out against a human rights movement on the basis that you find some of its proponents rude. I find that hateful, as a feminist and a woman.

Joey, keep the difference between sexism and misogyny in mind. I think you meant sexist in your post.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:06 PM on February 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


The favorable bias you have for more attractive women is known as the Halo Effect. It explains a great deal about human relationships, and understanding it may help you be more even-handed in your affairs.
posted by mullingitover at 2:09 PM on February 2, 2007


"Would you say the same thing about men? That it's fine for men to only remember the names of men they thing are hot?"

I forget everyone's names (though I'll say that the more striking people, male and female, are easier to remember). So you might want to do what I do— make an effort to remember people's names and to write them down. I go out of my way when I'm interviewing people to ask them their names several times, write 'em down (make sure to spell 'em right!), and then use their names. Helps me a lot.
Not a cure-all, but if you're aware of your tendency and have the tools to change, you should do OK.
posted by klangklangston at 6:14 PM on February 2, 2007


"in order to demand respect, you must first be respectful."

i'm not sure how much to respond to all your specific points since it turns out the main thing that seemed shocking to me, that men are naturally smarter, you weren't necessarily saying. i do disagree with this statement, though...the main problem being that it seems that men can be societally respected without being respectful, but that women, since they're in a position to ask for respect rather than insist on it, have to play nice.

"and stop using language that is gendered to indicate a philosophy of equality between the sexes (ie. FEMinism), that would be less of the group mindset and more egalitarian."

i do agree with that, actually. as a feminist, this is my major complaint about feminism the movement (rather than the actions of specific feminists, which like those of other people are pretty mixed) i can kind of see the purpose for it, but i think it's unecessarily polarizing and exclusive sounding.
posted by lgyre at 6:32 PM on February 2, 2007


Feminism is not the belief that women are people.

It's the philosophy that people are people, if anything. It's the perspective that gender is not a determining factor in life. Not female gender, but any gender.

Further, feminism is, or should be, silent on the question of whether men should listen to ugly women or remember there names, as it should be silent on the issue of whether computer nerds should get to date runway models.

Feminism is concerned, NOT WITH PEOPLE RESPECTING EACH OTHER, but with the idea that a woman can be a computer nerd and a man can be a runway model, and society shouldn't enact laws to prevent this.
posted by ewkpates at 7:44 AM on February 5, 2007


ewkpates, to the contrary, feminism is concerned with much more than equal access to work as your post implies.

In many places women are still treated as property, servants, or sexualized objects to the extent that their lives are endangered or disregarded. Feminism's priority, in my modest opinion, should be the pursuit of human status for these women and girls. Your comment seems to have a narrow white/western viewpoint, and evokes the causes Womanism, one of feminism's many revisionist offshoots, had for coming into existence. The gendered killing of women globally is a deadly form of disrespect, and feminism is absolutely concerned with it.

And for the record, I was paraphrasing a famous quote.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2007


I didn't imply that. I pointed out that feminism is a philosophy intent on the abstract elimination of gender as a construct, and in application the equality of people in all spheres.

Feminists are as much concerned with sexual slavery in some cultures as they are with the economic barriers to stay-at-home fathers in others.
posted by ewkpates at 7:16 AM on February 6, 2007


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