A Few Humble Suggestions

On Friday, Corinne and I posted a discussion we had about some of the examples of sexism women encounter every day (You can read that post HERE).  I am not a woman, so I can’t and won’t claim that I can understand what it feels like to go through the experiences we discussed or that have been expressed through the #yesallwomen tweets.

Before the defensiveness starts, can we just take it as a given that not all men do these things and in no way does the existence of the #yesallwomen hashtag imply that the women who post on it just hate males?

Back to the issue at hand, I believe that changing the situation all starts with one very basic idea: women are people.

Radical concept, I know.  However, rather than understanding that a woman has thoughts, dreams, feelings, interests, likes, dislikes, and so on just like them, many men instead seem to view them as some kind of Other.  Let me repeat, she is a person.  A human being.  She is not a mystery to be solved, a trophy to be won, a territory to conquer, a servant to obey your commands, or a thing to use and discard.

A quick Google search will bring up many MANY links discussing the idea that the rise feminism is tied to the rise in the rise in the divorce rate.   For some, this is proof that feminism is a bad thing, and if women would just go back to being subservient to their husbands, everything would be fine.  However, when we look at this from the idea that a woman is a person (You have no idea how hard it is to type that without getting angry that this is even an issue), that whole argument completely falls apart.  So just because she is a woman, she is supposed to set aside her own wants, needs, interests, ambitions and happiness in favor of her husband’s? 

I’m not advocating divorce here.  Having been through one, I wouldn’t recommend it if it can be avoided.  But I also don’t recommend staying in an unhappy marriage where your needs are not being met.  The rise of feminism coincided with the rise of no-fault divorce.  The world changed, and women were able to get out of marriages where they were being treated like the help.  I don’t see that as a bad thing. 

I’m a fan of marriage, but a long-term relationship, or any relationship really, must be built on mutual respect and the coming together of equals.  That cannot happen when one partner sees the other as somehow less than human or as a possession.  I know couples say it all the time in completely cute and innocent ways, but I’ve never been fond of the use of “You’re mine/I’m yours” in a relationship.  It’s mostly harmless, I guess, but I’ve always preferred to think of it as “We choose to be together.”

But long before marriages or even relationships come into play, men and women have to meet and start down that path.  I can’t change the world by myself, but I would like to make a few suggestions to my fellow males on this subject that might just help make the entire process more comfortable for both genders.

You and your friends are walking down the street, and you see an attractive woman walking on the opposite sidewalk.  What do you do?  If your answer involves cat-calling, whistling, or shouting lewd comments at her, please stop reading this and punch yourself in the face right now.   Done?  Good.  Now do you honestly think any woman is going to suddenly take an interest in you or even be flattered when you’re cat-calling or whistling at her?  Honestly?  Do you want your mother, your sister, or your daughter subjected to that?  I guarantee you that the vast majority of women don’t like it, and they don’t want anything to do with you.

Does shouting lewd comments at some woman you don’t know make you feel bigger somehow?  More masculine?  Are you showing off for your friends?   That means it’s not about her.  It’s about you and your own ego and quite possibly your own insecurities.  You’re just treating her as an object at that point.  STOP IT!

Next scenario: You’re out at a bar or night club, and you see an attractive woman.  You go over, try to talk to her, and she tells you thanks, but she’s not interested.  What do you do?  If your answer is anything other than walk away and leave her alone, you’re part of the problem.  She said no.  End of story.  That’s not an invitation for you to stick around to try and convince her that she should give you a chance.  Remember she’s a person.  You don’t get to tell her who she likes and dislikes.  I get that rejection sucks.  For many guys, even getting up the courage to ask a woman out is very hard (Let’s be realistic here.  For all of the advances toward equality that have happened over the last 50 years, this is still one area where men take the lead.  Women will ask men out, but the reverse is far more common), and she’s basically telling you that she doesn’t like you.  That hurts.  But she said no.  Respect her and yourself enough to move on.  Your ego will heal.  And try and put yourself in her place.  If a woman you were not interested in asked you out, you’d want her to accept your “no” rather than continually trying to cajole you into dating her.

Final scenario (and this one could apply to both genders, but I believe men are in this situation more than women): You have a female friend.  You’re very close and spend a lot of time together.  You’re also madly in love with her.  What do you do?  The answer, while obvious, is also very hard to deal with.  You ask her out.  “But what if she says no?” I hear you cry.  “That will destroy the friendship!”  I hate to break this to you, but in that situation, you don’t have a real friendship.  Your side of it is based on a lie.  Corinne and I talked about these kinds of friendships, and she called it “stealth dating.”  I’d never heard that term for it, but it’s wonderful and fits perfectly.  You’re spending time with her, pining away, and hoping that someday she’s just going to come to her senses and realize that you’re perfect for her.  That’s not going to happen, and you’re misrepresenting your friendship with her as long as you hold that belief. 

Again, I know this is hard.  Relationships between men and women can be very complicated.  Where’s the line between a close friendship and a romantic relationship?  (And I’m not even going to get into friends with benefits)  But if know you’d rather be this woman’s boyfriend than her friend, you owe it to you both to ask her out.  She might say no.  She probably will.  The girl I was in love with in high school did.  But she and I stayed friends, and I (eventually) started dating other people.  Meanwhile, I have a good friend who maintained a friendship with a woman he was secretly in love with for years.  Finally one night after way too many drinks, he drunk texted her a confession of his feelings.  It…didn’t go well.  She cut off all contact with him after that. 

And in the end, my friend was better for it.  Yes, he lost a friend, which is sad; however, he’d been dishonest with her.  Afterwards, instead of harboring hope that one day she’d love him back, he started dating women who were actually interested, and has been in a relationship for the last several years that make him very happy. 

Once again, I ask you to take the perspective of the woman involved in this situation.  Yes, cutting off all contact sounds harsh, but I can see her side of it.  She felt lied to and was no longer comfortable in his presence.  Would you be comfortable being friends with someone of the opposite gender that you knew was constantly pining away for you?  That’s not a real friendship.

None of what I’ve suggested above is all that earth-shattering.  Don’t make an ass of yourself.  Don’t lie.  And remember that woman you’re attracted to is an actual thinking and feeling human being.  Is that really so hard?

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter