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Jul 15 2010

How Sexism Hurts Men, Part 2: Why Do I Care?

Undateable So why do I care?

I devoted last week’s column to a silly pop-culture book, Undateable, which gives straight men snarky- but- sincere advice on how to make themselves attractive — no, strike that, tolerable — to women. I devoted the column to all the ways this book reinforces a rigid, narrow, absurdly unattainable vision of acceptable manhood, instilling men with anxiety and self-consciousness about their masculinity while at the same time exhorting them to be confident.

Today I want to answer the question: Why do I care?

Why do I care about sexism and gender normativity in ephemeral bits of pop culture fluff?

And why do I care about how sexism hurts men at all? With all the grotesque ways that sexism and gender normativity hurts women, why would I spend my time worrying about how it hurts men?

*

Thus begins my latest piece on the Blowfish Blog, How Sexism Hurts Men, Part 2: Why Do I Care? To find out why I care so much about rigid and sexist gender roles in trivial bits of pop culture fluff — and why I care at all about how rigid and sexist gender roles hurt men as well as women — read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to the Blowfish Blog — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

10 comments

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  1. 1
    Jack Rawlinson

    If the price of being considered dateable by women is that I must give up my cats and start wearing boxers (*spit*) then by golly I will remain single and celibate. Some things are simply not to be borne!

  2. 2
    Valhar2000

    Do they say anything about dogs? I, personally, am fine with not having cats, as they tend to get on my nerves after a while, but I absolutely cannot go without my dog, not for all the dates in the world.

  3. 3
    Demonhype

    Geez, state the obvious! :)
    In my college health class, the teacher had us get into unmixed groups of girls or boys, about two or three per group, and make a list of what characteristics we would look for in a potential mate (though he specified “of the opposite sex”, of course).
    The girls in my group kept coming up with things about how the guy had to be funny or handsome or supportive or financially successful–standard Prince Charming kind of things–and I said the first and foremost characteristic I would look for is security. They immediately thought I was paraphrasing the “financial success” that they had listed, and I told them I meant personal security–emotional and psychological security, strong but realistic self-esteem, security in who he is without needing to “prove” anything. I explained that a man who had that particular characteristic was more likely to be supportive of you, more likely to treat you right, less likely to be emotionally, psychologically, or physically abusive.
    They were completely and utterly amazed, to my own complete and utter amazement. The idea that was so obvious to me was completely unheard of to them. They loved the idea and took it to heart, and even the teacher was impressed and wanted to know who in the group had suggested the idea, but I am still astonished at how few people had considered that what should be basically obvious.
    I’m also kind of put off by some of the clumsier feminism that seems to make things worse: from the feminists who need to make things worse for men and discredit anything that has a whiff of masculinity, even to the point that basic scientific reality is suspect because it was all discovered by men and is therefore evil and to be rejected in favor of magical female “intuition”, to the feminists who assert their womanhood by essentially rejecting it and embracing the equally damaging stereotypes of masculinity. I’m sure that in the early days these kinds of extremes may have played their role in advancing the ideas, but I’m really not convinced that they are really all that helpful in the long run.
    I’m reminded of my animation teacher, the only female teacher in the animation department, being expected every year to do a presentation on Female Animators, and she wanted to avoid doing that. It’s true that about thirty years ago women wouldn’t even be admitted to animation schools, being seen as too stupid to be animators, and it’s good to at least keep a note of this, but my teacher stated that she’s not a Female Animator–she’s an Animator who happens to be female. To constantly over-punch the fact that she is Female with a capital F is actually demeaning to the entire human being. She is an animator. She is female. And these are simply two individual aspects of a whole person, in the same way that it would be if one were an animator and a male.
    I don’t know if that sounds off-topic, but I think that’s kind of what you were shooting for–the emphasis of the individual person, with the state of being male or female as being one of many parts of an entire person rather than a Major or Single Defining Factor, and that is where we should be taking this kind of anti-sexism effort.
    Which I applaud, of course.

  4. 4
    Demonhype

    @Jack Rawlinson:
    Wait, guys have to wear boxers and hate cats to be dateable? When did this happen? Why did I not get the memo? Is that what they are saying in that Undateable thing? Perhaps if I had read it, I wouldn’t be a mutant. Oh well. :)

  5. 5
    efrique

    Thankyou for this piece.

  6. 6
    Ben

    I don’t get it.
    “And why do I care about how sexism hurts men at all? With all the grotesque ways that sexism and gender normativity hurts women, why would I spend my time worrying about how it hurts men?”
    Because men are human beings too?
    Because men are expected to conform to very narrow norms all the time, in every aspect of their lives?
    Because the men being “targeted” (or, okay, ridiculed) aren’t necessarily men who have done anything wrong?
    Saying it’s okay to “harm” men in this way because men have had it too good for too long is like saying it’s okay to ridicule some random Republican because the GOP is evil.
    Unless that’s a stupid analogy.
    My point is just that there are two kinds of equality:
    1) We’re all treated equally well
    2) We’re all treated equally poorly

  7. 7
    Greta Christina

    Um… Ben, with all due respect, did you read the piece? That’s pretty much exactly what I said.

  8. 8
    Ben

    I know! I’m addressing my “I don’t get it” to the same people you’re addressing your argument toward.

  9. 9
    Greta Christina

    Oh, okay. Never mind. (That’s the problem with the Internet: you don’t always know where the outrage and hostility is being aimed.)

  10. 10
    Azkyroth

    Reading over that piece, I don’t have much to say that hasn’t popped up already, but this caught my attention:
    “There’s probably not a big market for books on How To Get Nerdy, Kinky, Non-Monogamously Married Bi-Dyke Sex Freaks To Date You.”
    Write one. I’ll buy it. Seriously. ^.^

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