Call me a misogynist

Men need to call each other out. Every time they don’t, the world gets a little worse.

I’m a man, a dad, a human struggling to make sense of the recent murders at Isla Vista and the discussion that followed summarized by the #yesallwomen hashtag. I’ll start this piece by acknowledging that I am going to make mistakes, forget stuff, and say things that are wrong. Please feel free to correct me in the comments below. I also want to recognize that I am a straight, white, cis male so I’m pretty much playing through this game on Easy Mode.

I’m scared for my daughters. Not scared in a (literally) paternalistic “I have to protect these weak creatures from an evil world” way, but scared that no amount of indignance on my or their parts is going to make much of a difference.

Let me put a few things on the table that I feel ridiculous having to say: women are in no way less than men. They are only the “weaker” sex because we’ve told them that and they believe it.1 Women are in no way inherently weaker or worse than men. On average, women may be physically smaller than men, but on average, white dudes have smaller external genitalia and that didn’t stop us taking over the world. My daughters are just as strong as your sons. That my girls have to live in a more fearful world isn’t because they are inherently weak. It’s because the world is wrong.

So, I’m mad that a guy murdered a bunch of women because he saw them as lesser; he killed them because the narrative in his head wasn’t playing out the way he wanted. And I’m mad that way, way too many men responded with, “well he shouldn’t have murdered them.”

The first time I was called a misogynist was in high school, by one of my best friends who at the time identified as male.2 I was struggling with being a teenager, and I didn’t treat the women I “went out” with3 the best. How we learn to have relationships with people is hard. The gender(s) we are attracted to are so elusive. What do they think? How can I get them to notice me? After they notice me, what do I do? I was figuring out what relationships were, and how to be in one. I did typical teenage BS: breaking up with people for no reason, being a jerk so they’d break up with me, disappearing from my usual “spots” around the school to force the issue. Part of learning how to not be horrible to each other is to be horrible to each other.

What my friend said stuck with me. I didn’t hate women; I couldn’t possibly be a misogynist. But that didn’t matter. It caused me to reflect not on my conscious motivations but my actions. Were my actions because I thought the women in my life were less than me? Was I with this person because I liked this person or because she fit a particular role in the narrative of the story I thought I should be having? Until I met my now wife, I definitely worried about the narrative more than I should have. This is not to say that I did not feel genuine emotions towards women I was with, but I let the narrative get in the way.

So, yes, I have been an entitled romantic partner. I was trying to create my own biopic when I should have just tried to be one of two extras enjoying each other’s company over coffee in the background of a romantic comedy while the leads have their drama in focus.

The moral of the story? One male called another male out on his misogyny. And, as a result, for the past 15 years I have (imperfectly) been more reflective of my actions. Men need to call each other out, even when it is hard. I’ve been on business trips where I tacitly accepted (with my silence) my male colleagues oogling female conference attendees. Every time you don’t say something, it reinforces in other men that this is OK. I didn’t speak up because it was easier to roll my eyes, say nothing, and avoid conflict. I regret every time I didn’t speak up because I made the world a little worse.

— ∮∮∮ —

My girls are going to have it harder than me because they are girls. They’ll have to figure out this human relationship thing too–but with a gun to their heads. I was fortunate that my friend called me a misogynist, but there are a whole lot more words that apply to the normal “mistakes of learning how to be in relationships with people” that women make than men. I was never called a slut. I was never called a whore. I was never called a tease. I was never called frigid. I was never dismissed as being hormonal.4 I was never called a prude. I never had to worry that how I dress might send the wrong message. I was given the freedom to make mistakes without any real consequences.

The expectations of me were to figure out how to be a man. The expecations of my daughters are to already know how to be a woman.

  1. And those that don’t are met with hostility and often violence. Hooray for thousands of years of systematic oppression! 
  2. We haven’t seen each other in years. I have no reason to assume he changed his gender identity, but I also have no reason to assume that he didn’t. 
  3. We didn’t actually go anywhere. 
  4. Which I certainly was. 
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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages five and eight) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. BCT on said:

    Thanks for a well reasoned and important piece of writing! Self-examination is the hardest thing, and those in a position of privilege are rarely called on to engage in that kind of honest, self directed critique. Unfortunately, by the very nature of power, those whose power has been diminished have weakened voices in demanding that sort of change. Those of us in a privileged position can best be allies by using our power to hold others with power accountable.

  2. This is surface writing in my opinion… it brushes feel good topics but isn’t at all accurate… A few points…

    1) Women ARE inherently weaker than men, physically. That is an undisputable fact when talking about the general population of adults. Let’s be real, throwing in the line that your daughters are as strong as someone’s sons isn’t giving proper consideration to the argument. Typically the argument isn’t being made about pre-pubescent children, rather adults. And if the sexes were physically equal professional sports wouldn’t be set up the way they are. Look at golf, a woman is always welcomed to challenge herself to play in the PGA, show me one man who has been welcomed to challenge themselves in the LPGA?

    2) Do you really think that women do not do the same exact thing at those work conferences that men do? That good looking keynote speaker, yea, he’s being sexualized just as much as any good looking woman is. You are fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

    3) By allowing yourself to dictate your article from the view point that men are the problem and need to change, why not accept that men and women really aren’t all that different in their dealings with each other. People use other People all the time, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, etc and treat them poorly. To feed the conversation and not call it like it really is, coddles the vocal but neglects to properly examine that people generally suck and treat others poorly if they can get away with it.

    The conversation should be what can we do as a collective society to get everyone to treat everyone else better instead of pitting group A against group B.

    Just my $.02 on the overall conversation.

  3. Holly on said:

    1) thanks for this 2) I enjoy the pop up footnotes 3) nice video game reference

  4. David H. on said:

    In the sentence where you say “I am going to make mistakes, forget stuff, and say things that are wrong” … you have a spelling mistake. There’s also a spelling mistake in the preceding sentence. You asked to be called out in the comments, so there you go.

  5. Do you understand that your comment about “white dudes,” “external genitalia,” and “taking over the world” is offensive because it suggests dominance and the same ability to overpower that has become pertinent with the #AllWomen discussion? #AllEthnicPeople have to negotiate a world where everything from beauty norms to unusual names can work against them. Try not to marginalized someone else’s struggle by making light of colonialism/oppression while you attempt to support and give voice to women.

  6. Mary on said:

    You stated that you are privileged for a variety of reason. What grounds can you possibly understand the plight of women? Please, take your privilege elsewhere.

    The fact that you, a white male, feel the need to write the piece to save women is disgusting. Women don’t need your help, and we don’t need your protection. Take your smaller than average genitalia – your words – and please exist the conversation.

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