In my corner of the interwebz, the main result of last week’s presidential debate has been that a whole bunch of guys has apologised to a whole bunch of women. They’re guys who believe that sexism, along with many other -isms and -phobias, is a bad thing. However, until that particular dumpster fire released its toxic fallout, they hadn’t really “got” it.
Yes, that is how some men talk to, or rather over, women.
Yes, there are plenty of men (and way too many women, too) who find that acceptable.
Yes, if women reacted by matching the behaviour, it would be seen as deeply unacceptable, and the consequences may be severe. But boys will be boys, so it’s ok for them to do it.
Yes, women’s behaviour is still measured against a completely different scale. Where a man may be “forthright,” a woman is “a bitch.” Where a man may be “assertive,” a woman is “a bitch.” Where a man may be “confident,” a woman is “a bitch.”
Yes, in some quarters it’s really easy to be a bitch, these days.
And no, not all men are like that. And unless you spend time with that kind of “man,” you can honestly believe that he doesn’t exist. Tales of them may end up sounding like tales of some kind of mythical beast – not unicorns, because they’re pleasant. Maybe a male-harpy equivalent? You know, something deeply unappealing that gets LOUD at the slightest vexation and shits on everything as it goes? I can’t find a suitable mythological creature, so I’m going to be all creative and call them “sexist assholes.”
To make matters worse, the presence of a decent guy is pretty much the ultimate sexist-asshole-deterrent. Those “men” who believe in innate superiority by gender also tend to be very fond of hierarchies within a gender. There is a certain type of guy, and I’m blessed to know a whole bunch of them, who will never, ever see a woman mistreated in his presence for longer than it takes for him to frown, because he wouldn’t stand for it and he shows it. So, whenever that kind of guy enters into a situation, the sexist assholes tend to either immediately scuttle off or act like decent human beings for the duration of his stay.
It’s a superpower that women don’t tend to have. We absolutely can deal with that kind of asshole, but we tend to make poor deterrents. In the mind of a misogynist, women have no right whatsoever to demand, well, anything much. We definitely do not have the right to expect a different kind of treatment. They will push our boundaries in a way they wouldn’t against another man; they will force us to enforce them. We can only cure the problem by addressing it, which creates a whole host of other issues, particularly if the good guys in our lives are completely oblivious to the fact that the problem is there; if they think we’re chasing shadows, and misbehaving in the process.
But now it’s out. Yes, it was just one guy talking to/at/over just one woman. Yes, one could always not read the resulting comments, thereby protecting one’s sanity. However, it was a rather stark public display of something we’ve been trying to convey, and been told we were imagining. I can see a lot of future conversations being referenced back to it. “Yannow when I said the mechanic was rude to me? Well, remember the first presidential debate of 2016…”
I just hope we don’t ruin it all by being too gleeful with the “yes, that’s what I’ve been telling you all along.”
(The reverse of the game is also played, and sucks just as badly. It can be very hard for men to display qualities or engage in behaviours considered “feminine” without incurring repercussions. Given that “feminine qualities” are taken by some to include the ability to feel and manifest more than about five feelings, and that “feminine behaviours” can include stuff like maintaining basic hygiene standards, it gets really old really quickly. But the fact that it can suck for everyone doesn’t make it OK, and doesn’t take away women’s right to air their views of their experiences.)