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On whether I hate men

Dear men,

I love you. Well, I love some of you. I’d love most of you, probably, if I had the chance to meet you all. But apparently some people don’t. Some people hate men so much that they can barely think of them in human terms.  Just as there are times when I want to scream blue murder because Alan Sugar thinks women like things pink, or because Femfresh reckons we should all start deep-cleaning our vulvas, there are also times when I think guys get things in the neck that they totally don’t deserve.

So, gentlemen, this one’s for you, and it’s as much a feminist issue as all the other stuff I write about. Get angry. Pick up your placard, get on the street, and tell people to stop talking about you like you’re all destined to act like arseholes.

Some examples…

Men think about sex all the time

Jon Snow recently explained that he thinks about a woman’s sexual potential when he meets her for the first time. That’s fine – a lot of us do that no matter what our gender or sexual preference. It’s not the end of the world. But, as the excellent Brooke Magnanti points out, we think about a lot of things when we first meet someone, we don’t necessarily blurt them all out like some sort of brain-to-mouth shitblower.

Problem here, though, is that Snow’s not just saying “I do this” he’s saying “all men do this”, which is demonstrably untrue. Even if we assume all men are straight (which they’re not), there are many men who are asexual, who are uninterested in sleeping with loads of women, or who simply don’t consider all women to be potential sexual partners.  I’m happy to accept that some, or even ‘many’ men might want this, but saying ‘all’ sweeps away much of the beautiful and spectacular variety that exists within your gender. We know you don’t all want sex all the time: sometimes you want a sandwich, sometimes you want a nap, sometimes you want some goddam peace and quiet to finish a jigsaw puzzle.

What’s more, Snow is elevating the importance of this tiny behavioural trait and using it to dispense what he thinks are meaningful insights about the whole of humanity. OK, so when you first meet a woman, “naturally” you evaluate her sexual potential. What significance does this have? Do you then fuck her? Do you treat her differently because of it? Do you send her a postcard that says “by the way, toots, I definitely wouldn’t kick you out of bed”? If you do this, then it’s your behaviour that’s the problem, not your thoughts. If you don’t do this, then congratulations – you, like most men, are able to behave in a way that isn’t dictated by your penis/testosterone/random brain farts. In short: you’re not an arsehole.

By stating “men think about you sexually” it as if it were a wise nugget of great import, Snow is propping up a narrative that paints men as pathetic fuck-seals, compelled to clap every time they see a pair of tits. The truth is that men are far more complicated, not to mention more intelligent than that.

Men cannot view you as a person if they also see you as sexual

Recently someone commented on an old post of mine about delicious and degrading sex. Essentially my point was that one can be submissive in the bedroom but have loud and stroppy opinions elsewhere. This person (I neither know nor care what their gender was), told me:

“Men equate dominating sexual degrading acts with sluts they would never marry or seriously be with.”

This offends me, and I hope it offends you too. Because no matter what gender you are, if you are capable of putting assertions like this into words then you are more than capable of taking a rational look at society and realising that this particular assertion is horseshit. The commenter, to be fair, does say that their conclusion comes “after reading numerous comments and testimonies from men.” Apparently, though, only reading those testimonies that support their belief that men are unthinking cockhounds.

Statements like this belie a deep disgust for men, yet are presented as if they’re actually a ‘fuck you’ to women. Things that we poor flowers simply must accept if we want to get on in life. Well, I’m not going to. Because I’ve got on pretty well so far without having to choke down the rage that would inevitably come if I bought into this lie, not to mention the fact that I’d never be able to have sex for fear that the person I was fucking was incapable of basic human decency.

Men will grab any opportunity to rape you

Finally, I can’t fail to mention the recent Cosmo shitstorm. An agony aunt for Cosmopolitan magazine said that women should avoid getting drunk around men. Their penises are weapons, apparently, and we should “avoid getting drunk around people who are stupid and armed.”

Now, I’m fully of the opinion that you should avoid getting drunk in scenarios where being drunk can endanger your personal safety, such as on the edge of cliffs, in a pen with some pissed-off tigers, or on the central reservation of the M25. But men are not angry tigers or vans traveling at 80 miles per hour: they are human beings with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

Sure, the penis can be used as a weapon. But that doesn’t make the penis itself a dangerous and terrifying tool – it only becomes one when in the hands (or pants) of someone who is an execrable bastard.

A kitchen knife can be a weapon too, but I don’t stick to mineral water and hide in the cellar every time my boyfriend starts chopping tomatoes.

Men, know that these are not your limits

We’re all flawed individuals, and often we act like idiots. Sometimes it’s tempting to say that certain people are acting like idiots because of their gender. But what is more likely – that fully 50% of the human race is programmed to act uncritically and aggressively all of the time, or that some people are just arseholes looking for excuses to justify their behaviour?

Most people I know try their best to be good. Don’t let anyone tell you that, because of your gender, you’re destined to fail.

Men: I love you.

Love,

Gotn

x

19 Comments

  • ron swanson says:

    As if to prove your point, I now *really* want a sandwich…

  • Tom Striker says:

    Thank you! Only a female could post these observations. A male posting the same thing would be trivialized.
    So, as one lousy male thinking the same things, thanks for being a keen-eyed female and posting your thoughts. I’m tired of some thinking all males are knuckle-dragging mysogynists.
    I’ll have that BLT, please, extra mayo.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I don’t think guys would *necessarily* get bad feedback for writing this stuff – it’s mainly that the default is to show how this stuff is offensive to women when, in fact, it’s offensive to all of us. Glad you liked it!

  • Roger says:

    “…it’s mainly that the default is to show how this stuff is offensive to women when, in fact, it’s offensive to all of us.” That’s quite perceptive. And typical of GOTN: you do see through a lot of feminist bullshit. Or maybe you see around it. Either way, you display the feisty independence AND the generosity of spirit that are lacking in so many commentators.

    This article ties in perfectly with my own watchword: I’m not responsible for thoughts that ping unbidden into my mind, but I am entirely responsible for everything I do or say.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thanks! And “I’m not responsible for thoughts that… Etc” is a lovely summary. I’m uncomfortable with the “feminist bullshit” thing, though – if only because I *am* a feminist – a wholehearted and enthusiastic one. I just think that feminism is about much more than women: it’s about equality and empathy and all the things that benefit all of us. I see what you mean though – some stuff is done/said under the banner of feminism which ignores the important egalitarian principles behind it.

      I’m a bit pissed, so going to read this comment back tomorrow and see if it makes any sense whatsoever =)

      • Roger says:

        “…some stuff is done/said under the banner of feminism which ignores the important egalitarian principles behind it.” Yes, that’s part of it (so you see – you weren’t too pissed!). But it’s more complicated than that.

        I often feel that I’m being shouted at personally, and therefore unjustly, when the real culprit is the system with its built-in discrimination. And of course those who shape the system. The chapter on Parliament in Sarah Lyall’s “The Anglo Files” had me squirming with embarrassment.

        • Girl on the net says:

          Good point, and forgive me if I end up getting a bit overly chatty on this, but it’s something I had a big discussion with a few friends about on Friday, so it’s fresh in my mind.

          I agree that the biggest problem is the inbuilt discrimination within the system, and this is a huge issue to tackle. *However* (read that in big shiny letters with flashing lights or something) that doesn’t mean that when people raise feminist issues it’s directed personally at you, and is therefore unjust. I think, given how the system affects all of us negatively (such as in the examples in the blog post, and all the examples of where women get screwed over) it’s on all of us to be responsible for changing it. Sometimes this means challenging things directly, sometimes it means examining our own behaviour, and sometimes it means having awkward and uncomfortable conversations.

          I’m not saying that you, personally, are responsible for a lot of this stuff, but I’m willing to bet that some of the things you do (or some of the times when you don’t challenge people, or extract yourself from a conversation about it because it feels you’re being shouted at) do contribute to society’s general trundling state of gender divide. I’m only willing to bet this because I am 100% certain that’s true for me. Particularly in situations where other people face different difficulties to me, I find it hard to have those conversations because I want to shout “hey, wait! I’m a nice person! I’m not racist/sexist/transphobic/homophobic etc!” and I’m not. But there *are* problems that other people face that I’m not (or only vaguely) aware of, and I think it would be unfair of me to say that trying to engage me in conversation about it is unjust. That’s not to say that anyone’s awful for feeling like that, incidentally, or that someone is a horrible person if they don’t want to engage, just that I’d hope people could understand why although it is the system that’s ultimately at fault, we do need, as individuals, to engage with these issues in order to make headway towards smashing the motherfucking system (woo hoo, etc).

          When you say ‘those who shape the system’, I think there are many different levels on which people shape the system. Some people shape it relatively directly, but we all shape it to a certain extent every day. When we challenge this stuff and discuss it, sure, but also when we react to other people’s challenges. Of course it can be really uncomfortable to be challenged (and I don’t want to say that you’re wrong for feeling shouted at, as you may well have been shouted at loudly and unjustly), but I think that there are some times when it’s important to take on board why there’s a challenge.

          I’m garbling. But a lot of this comes from a conversation I had last week, where I was discussing this issue with a group of friends. I was trying to explain to someone why I felt like, in discussing feminism with my most liberal and feminist dude friends, there was still often a bristling defensiveness, and that that was unhelpful. He accused me of shouting at him, getting shrill, blaming him personally, etc. I’d love to have a recording of the conversation because I genuinely wasn’t shouting (other people in the pub would have noticed) or, indeed, blaming him personally. What I was actually trying to do was explain how X Y Z types of behaviour made life just a bit more difficult. In that situation, his ‘it’s not me’ wasn’t helpful, and ‘it’s not me’ generally isn’t helpful. Because we *know* you’re not the ones who’ve set up up an unfair and ignorant system – if you’re liberal and feminist, you’re probably not also the person who deliberately discriminates when hiring women, or choosing who’s going to be the member of your board or the receiver of help. But, there are things that you (and I) do every day that contribute towards it, and I think it’s important for us to recognise that. It doesn’t mean we have to spend every day bowing down in contrition and flagellating ourselves, it’s just a useful thing to keep in mind so that we are prompted to pay attention when someone with different experience of the system says ‘hey, here’s how it affects *me*’

          Again, I don’t know if I’ve explained that very well, but I hope it makes sense. I think all the things, such as the examples in the above post, contribute to built-in discrimination, and the reason I wrote the above is because I think it’s incredibly important to highlight how the patriarchy has a negative impact on men too. I *could* respond to stuff like this by shrugging and saying “well, it’s not my fault people are arseholes to/about men, and besides women have it much worse” but I don’t think that would be as helpful as trying to engage, and empathise with someone else’s experience of some bullshit.

          I haven’t read ‘The Anglo Files’, although given what you’ve said – is it worth reading, or will it annoy me? =)

          • Roger says:

            Thank you for all this.

            Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you but this retired gentleman is pushed for time! I’ve been working on a half-hour climate change PPT for next weekend, and I realised – the day before yesterday – that I have to throw most of it out and start again. So this was on standby. As a mere male, I don’t do mutli-tasking; unless I’m being paid for it and then I call it professional skills! Women of course don’t have professional skills – they’re natural multi-taskers. This explains why a woman can feed the baby, keep the toddler out of the fire, write the Christmas card list, call the plumber and prepare a soufflé while listening to a radio programme about nuclear waste… all without GETTING STRESSED!

            There’s nothing I disagree with in your comments. And this is particularly pertinent:

            The « bristling defensiveness » too is spot on. Probably the individual concerned hadn’t yet unscrambled the areas of responsibility we mentioned above (thought-talk-action). Or perhaps he simply lacks practice in discussing knotty subjects while keeping them at a distance.

            I think you and I are looking at similar conclusions and describing them differently. I tend to think we need a new word for “feminism”. Words these days can be waylaid, made off with and used up with dismal ease. The other day I wanted to use ‘awesome’ to describe something that truly was, but I just couldn’t. The word has been stolen. How many people, I wonder, are stuck with ‘feminism-equals-all-men-are-pigs’ or some other such undigested rubbish? I would suggest ‘humanism’ and hope that that one doesn’t get killed off too.

            The nub of the problem is that there are too many pig-ignorant men and women out there who haven’t got the message; they might even be incapable of understanding it and in any case they don’t give a shit.

            I don’t suppose you know the “8 Bells” in Dover. I happened upon it one Saturday night while waiting for a ferry. Don’t go there, please, it’s definitely not what you need. Segregation by sex was apparently de rigueur: the young gentlemen clustered at the bar, the ladies were seated. The former clearly had only two subjects of (for want of a better word) conversation – cars & driving, and fighting. The latter, their largely bare, fat tits all over the table, largely bare, fat thighs squeezed in beneath it, seemed to be intent only upon getting as drunk as they could, as quickly as they could. All in all, not a sight for the faint-hearted.

            Now, I don’t buy into the argument that says those young ladies were merely exercising their inalienable right to dress as they please. No, they were wearing the uniform of their role: flash your tits, pull a bloke, then nag him into shape. Neither the boys nor the girls could see how pitifully one-dimensional they were. But don’t bother trying to sell them humanism. They may need it, but they don’t want it. They’re quite happy with their role-playing: it provides a social framework, they know the rules, it gives them something to moan about.

            As for ‘The Anglo Files’, I don’t know whether it would have you squirming or fuming, but I hardly think you could remain indifferent to it. I can’t guess what perspective you have on England and the English. You’re still young and – at a guess – you’ve not been abroad much. I’ve been living in France (and in French – subtle difference) for 33 years and I previously spent seven years in Germany. Lyall’s short, hard-hitting chapters reminded me of all the reasons why I could never live in England again. As it happens, I shall be going across for my sister-in-law’s 70th birthday in a few weeks’ time; I find myself mentally preparing for a visit to a hostile, foreign country.

            Bisous!

  • Larry from Leeds says:

    I like this piece it made me smile – as a heterosexual man I’m continually bemused by the ‘why hasn’t he had a girlfriend for ages’? question – when the answer is he might ‘you know not want one’ – it’s the conformity that bleeds and in a consensual society where in a lot of areas you can do what the fuck you like, more people should try it.

  • Fiddy says:

    Am I the only one who finds irony in reading this while making paninis (a type of sandwich) for the ladies?

  • LaBoheme says:

    Point taken.

    However, having been raped twiceand an attempted rape once; having been sexually assaulted dozens of times (from random arse gropes on the tube to much more injurious assaults); having lived with catcalls in the street that mysteriously stopped when I hit 40; knowing that at least one in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at least once in their lives – fact; having been personally turned down for jobs because “sorry love, the client wants a man”; having been randomly patronised and specifically insulted at work for no other reason than I’m a woman; knowing that all women are consistently paid up to 30% less than their male counterparts, across the board; having personally met countless men who pretend to want a relationship when really they just want a booty call, or who lie about being married, or having a partner, or having a child, in an effort to get me to allow them to have sex with me; having had relationships with men who are only interested in my ability to demonstrate to the world that their sperm work, and when they find out I do not want to be a mother they run a mile; you’ll excuse me if I respectfully disagree.

    Sure – generalisations about men may not be accurate, as not all men fit the stereotype. But there are more than enough men who do fit the stereotype to make it a general evidential truth. The fact remains that, for the most part, vast numbers of men are variations on the basic theme of sexist misogynist arseholes who do not see woman as equal, who do not treat women as equal, who in fact routinely treat women as their inferiors, and who will do anything for a shag. Their sexism takes myriad forms, and many of them are not even aware of it, but the outcome for women is always the same – we live in a world where we are second-class citizens.

    From so-called ‘lad culture’ to the insidious exclusionary tactics of corporate boardrooms, from the bedrooms of the nation to it’s streets and thoroughfares, women are treated as less-than, just like they have been for thousands of years. The fact that there are a minority of self-declared ‘decent’ men who do not consciously behave badly (but who also conveniently ignore the fact of the privilege and entitlement their gender affords them) does not negate that. Men don’t have to like this, but they need to accept it – even the ‘decent’ ones. If men could find it in themselves to do something about this situation, so much the better, but I’m not going to hold my breath in that one. They benefit too much from the status quo to ever want to really change it.

    In terms of the plethora of sandwich comments that form the bulk of male response to this post – casual sexism dressed up as humour and irony is still sexism. Nice try, guys, but you’ve just proved me right. You can’t even take a compliment without subtly denigrating, in sexist terms, the woman who tried to pay you it.

    • Mr.Smith from Canada says:

      It would seem to me that you have been in multiple bad situations as far as relationships with men go, and perhaps as a man I cannot fully understand the nature of your pain but I can empathize and for what a stranger’s sympathy is worth know that you have it. Still hardly is it the fault of all men everywhere, and nor can you claim with justification that enough men are like that so as all of us must be treated as women hating bastards. Yes I have often met women to whom I am physically attracted, and it would be rather strange if I did not being a heterosexual male, but the point to be made is that I never once have used that to make a woman feel uncomfortable or degraded. That would be because I am also a human being, with thoughts, emotions and moral values all of which I hold dear. This is because I can empathize with others and more importantly because we are all human and so maybe not so vastly different from each other because of what type of genitals we have, or where we like to put them. And maybe you don’t believe this but as one stranger to another who I will likely never meet, I wish you no harm, only goods things and in such a way I love you. As it seems fighting hate with hate never works, maybe this will.

    • ron swanson says:

      I’m not sure I agree with your last paragraph (funny, seeing as it’s about me, I think).

      If I can explain what the two posts I made were supposed to mean (because there’s nothing more laudable than explaining a [pretty bad] joke)… the first was an acknowledgement that GotN is right. I do think about sex a lot, but also I think about food, sometimes I would rather have food (or play or watch sport, or read a book, or alpabeticize [sp] my DVD collection) than have sex. That’s áll. It isn’t in any way shape or form intended as sexism, casual or otherwise. If it reads that way, I’m sorry.

      The second comment was just playing on the idea that any generalisation can actually lead to any genuine insight is a nonsense. It is. We use generalisation as a shorthand, but it’s a curse, really. If anyone thinks that because one person likes coleslaw, every other person who shares one characteristic with them must do the same, then they deserve to be joshed, even with such an unfunny joke as mine.

      As to the broader notion that, as men, we are all responsible for sexism around us by not standing up and doing something about it, I guess that might be true. But it’s similar to the way that we’re all a little responsible for living in a country that voted for a government destroying the NHS. I don’t deny that my outlook, opinions and desires have been molded by living in a patriarchal society. I also believe in feminism, think that any disparity between the sexes is grossly unfair and would love to be able to say I could change the world towards that in some way.

      I think, and I think it was GotN’s point as well, that we’re all a little bit more complex than being ground down into base stereotypes. Even so, I’m sorry that I offended you, and hope you’ll accept my apology – it couldn’t have been further from what I wanted.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hi LaBoheme – sorry it’s taken me ages to reply to your comment, I wanted to have a proper think about it and try to put together a proper reply. Firstly, I’m sorry that you’ve had those experiences – it’s awful stuff, and although I have experienced some similar things I’m not going to try and pretend I understand, because it sounds like you’ve had far more experience than I have. I wanted to point out that I do write about this stuff too – I’ve posted on some of these issues in the past, and I’ll continue to write about them in the future because you’re right – this type of behaviour is far too common, and there are many levels on which it is accepted and either brushed aside or subtly condoned. This does not make for a great world for women, and means that there are many things we still need to fight against before we can come close to being equal.

      But I think I do have to disagree with you that enough men fit the stereotype to make it a general evidential truth. I feel that by categorising men as unthinking sex pests, to a certain extent we’re excusing behaviour that is immoral (and in many cases criminal). No one does this stuff just because they’re a man and ‘men are like that’ – rather I believe that they do it because they are immoral. That’s partly why I wrote the post above – I think that by saying ‘all men are X’ we’re giving those men who do heinous things some sort of explanation/excuse for their behaviour, when actually the only answer is ‘this is completely unacceptable.’ I think this is important for society as a whole, because if men are default programmed to act like rapists then what hope do we possibly have of bringing men who break the law to justice, or building a society in which there is equality and mutual respect?

      Your latter point about self-declared ‘decent’ men definitely strikes a chord with me – see my earlier answer to Roger. There are many men who will respond to discussions of sexism and patriarchy by saying “well, it’ snot me” – this defensiveness doesn’t help anyone, and is often a kneejerk emotional reaction to the fact that all of us (basically anyone in a position of privilege) find it hard to accept when we might be subtly or unconsciously supporting the status quo. I don’t think it means these men are bastards. Being privileged does not make you a bad person, and I don’t think that all men are bad people simply because they benefit from a rotten system. I do, however, think that everyone has a responsibility to examine their status, listen to other people and – where necessary – challenge behaviour (either their own or other people’s) when they recognise something that’s wrong. I know many guys who could benefit from doing this, and I could benefit from doing this too.

      “They benefit too much from the status quo to ever want to really change it” – I think this might be the heart of where we’ll disagree. The post I wrote above was partly by way of pointing out that they don’t always benefit from the status quo – the statements about men that I’m challenging in this post are part and parcel of what our patriarchal society wants us to take as red, and they’re incredibly damaging to men. So just as women are damaged by being told to stay in their place, that they’re more emotional/maternal, weak, etc, so men are damaged by the belief that they’re always on the lookout for the next thing to fuck. I think the status quo damages them too – perhaps not as much, and in different ways, but it’s worth pointing out. Secondly, even if they do benefit from the status quo overall, that doesn’t necessarily mean that individual men can’t fight to change it. I benefit nothing from getting angry about the way certain people are treated, about human rights abuses in other countries, etc. In fact, I actually benefit from the exploitation of other people in our country and across the world every day – that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to change the status quo. People often choose to fight for what’s right rather than what’s best for them.

  • Roger says:

    Whoops!

    …particularly pertinent:

    …I’m not saying that you, personally, are responsible for a lot of this stuff, but I’m willing to bet that some of the things you do (or some of the times when you don’t challenge people, or extract yourself from a conversation about it because it feels you’re being shouted at) do contribute to society’s general trundling state of gender divide”

    I tried to use the blockquote gizmo and it didn’t work!

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