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New required reading: Confessions of a former misogynist

There are times when I read things that people have written on the internet, and I say “that’s wrong”. There are other, slightly rarer times when I read something and say “that’s right, but I could have said it better”. There are still other occasions where I read something and my reaction is “that’s exactly how I would have said it”.

But then there are those rare and happy occasions where I read something and say “fuck, I wish I had written that”. This piece is one of those:

I remember when I first heard the word misogynist. I was talking to a friend about a girl who’d dumped me, and my feelings about feminists creating a society where nice men couldn’t get girlfriends, and he described me as “quite a misogynist”. I asked him what he meant, and he said “it’s simply hatred of women.” I instantly loved the term. I didn’t consider myself a sexist – I thought of Benny Hill as sexist – sexism was just silly but this was serious.

I very seriously thought women were irrational, mad, over-emotional and pseudo-intellectual creatures who would do anything, via new feminism, to crush weak men who suffered from depression, and I hated them. These days, I see a lot of people saying “I’m not a misogynist, but…”, because they don’t want to be called a misogynist, but not me. It was the term I’d been looking for, and I was proud to call myself a misogynist.

This was before the age of social media, but I know what I’d be doing if it was available at the time. I’d be following feminists and strong women on Twitter, combing their tweets for any kind of slip-up that I could use to ‘expose’ them. If I saw a blog or comment by a feminist that challenged my world view, my anger button would be pressed and, rather than responding rationally, I’d lash out with gendered insults, all while completely failing to empathise with them.

The post, which is a lengthy but incredibly worthwhile read, is the story of a man who made a journey very similar to my own (except he had the added bonus of having to contend with clinical depression) from unthinking misogyny and entitlement toward a more egalitarian and healthy relationship with not only women, but with his own anger.

This is one to keep in the quiver for the next time someone decides to go on a rant about how femi-nazis are ruining the suchandsuch, or how feminism is discriminatory against men (or at least has nothing to offer men), or how it’s “just a joke” and that thicker skins are needed.

I particularly like the ending, although it does end on a slightly daunting note:

I haven’t written this to show off about how enlightened I am, to “save women” or to seek atonement for my former emotionally-abusive self, but to explain how my misogynist mindset worked and how I woke up to the real world. If you recognise any of the same behaviour in yourself, know that it’s possible to change, and that you’ll be a much better person for it. If you feel your irrational anger button being pushed, sit back a few days later and ask yourself why, and ask where your empathy lies. Write it down, think about it and be truthful.

You may not come to the same conclusions as me, and that’s fine – I always like to think that life is a learning experience, and I still get a lot wrong. But once you remove irrational anger from the equation and develop a sense of self-awareness and empathy, you can then start to really challenge yourself and open your eyes.

This process took decades with me, though. Debunking a feminist conspiracy in your head is a little bit like deprogramming yourself from a religion. It takes years of self-reflection and asking some really uncomfortable questions about yourself, but you do come out of it a better person.

It took him decades, which may be cause for a bit of despair, but we all get there eventually, and the more of us there are, the easier the process becomes. I also emphasized the comparison between misogyny and religion because it so exactly parallels how I feel about it, and precisely addresses why I (and so many others) spend so much time on ‘atheist blogs’ addressing misogyny, racism, and other similar processes – because they’re reflections of the same cognitive failures.

Anyway, read the thing.

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