Ladies: We’d Prefer You Didn’t Fake It


Seriously. Don’t feign helplessness. If you can open the pickle jar yourself, go for it.

I read a blog post earlier this month that sounded a familiar refrain: Are single women too independent for their own good? Women’s magazines ask that question, men’s magazines ask that question, and the answer is almost always the same: yes.

The thesis rarely varies: women have become so independent that they no longer need men. They may want men, but they’ll get by without them. That self-sufficiency, so the conventional wisdom goes, is chasing men away. Men, as all these articles invariably say, need regular reminders that we’re indispensable. We need women to have problems that they can’t fix for themselves; if we’re not given the opportunity to prove our usefulness, we feel worthless.

Popular wisdom suggests that women feign helplessness: “Even if you know how to do it, pretend you don’t! Let your guy be the hero once in a while.” Nothing like a little manipulation to establish a relationship on firm footing, right?

♦◊♦

As a man, these articles irk me to no end. They’re insulting because they reveal such a low opinion of men. The subtext of these pieces is always the same: despite the outer trappings of civilization, most men are a mixture of the beastly and the heroic. To keep a man from being the former, you have to give him as many chances as possible to be the latter. And in order to give him those chances to be heroic, women have to fake incompetence.

The idea seems to be that while women have evolved leaps and bounds within a generation or two, men are still stuck in the Paleolithic era.

(This is the same rationale that encourages women to fake orgasms—instead of talking to your male partner about what he could do differently, or explaining that you’re not in the mood, or doing some other truthful and healthy thing, we teach wives and girlfriends to feign ecstasy in order to protect the supposedly fragile male ego.)

There are more than a few good men out there, men who are much stronger and emotionally competent than we’re taught to believe. We don’t need women to hide the truth from us, especially if that truth involves pretending you don’t know what you know. We’re better, smarter, and more resilient than that. Despite what a few pop psychologists say, our egos aren’t any more fragile than women’s—there’s no need to infantilize us.

♦◊♦

So what’s the real impetus behind these magazine articles urging women to “give up control”? Part of it is unabashed hostility to feminism, the ongoing “backlash” against women’s slow but irresistible march into traditionally male spaces. The oldest trick the anti-feminists have is to use the fear of loneliness against women, setting up a cynical false choice between happy dependence or lonely autonomy. From an anti-feminist standpoint, the more women who can be scared into choosing romance over pursuing their dreams, the longer the glass ceiling stays intact.

But there’s more to it than that. Part of the problem is that we raise too many women to be mistrustful of men. I often ask my female students, most of whom are first-generation college attendees, “How many of you were told to get an education so you wouldn’t have to rely on a man?” At least two-thirds raise their hands, often more. I ask the boys the same question with the sexes reversed, and laughter ensues. You can’t miss the point: while we assume that education is “good” for men, we still send a message to girls that education is a kind of “second-best,” a fall-back option because there are so few good, reliable men. The implication is that if women didn’t find men so disappointing, most women would be blissful about forgoing education in order to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

These are toxically mixed stories we tell to women. We urge them not to rely on men because men will invariably hurt them—and we urge them to put relationships first, because despite the pain, romance is better than any other kind of success. We tell women to be independent, but not so independent that men can’t demonstrate their usefulness. And we tell women they need to move quickly, because (as the magazines like to claim) biology is ruthlessly unforgiving.

♦◊♦

We need to recognize that men want relationships, not jobs. Giving guys tasks so they can demonstrate their prowess may make sense in the workplace, but it’s lousy advice for a love affair or a marriage. Believe it or not, men don’t just want to be valued for what they can do; they want to be valued for who they are and for how well they can connect and love. And it sells men tragically short to suggest otherwise.

Here’s a newsflash: men can multitask. We can differentiate between a boss and a spouse. Like women, men take pride in doing something well, whether it’s writing a killer brief or throwing a knuckle ball or fixing a broken faucet. But don’t confuse the pleasure of being needed with the need to love and be loved.

♦◊♦

I deal with other people’s needs all the time. As a father, as a mentor, as a PTA president, and as a college professor who specializes in sexuality and gender, I get a lot of validation from “being there” for other people. Lots of people need me. I like that.

I also like that it’s different in my marriage, partnered with a woman who makes more money than I do and who knows more about fixing things than I do and, truth be told, could knock out most men with one punch. (She’s a veteran boxer.) Our marriage isn’t about what we do for each other. We’re friends, we’re soulmates, we’re lovers, but mostly we’re partners of the kind that runs deeper than mutual need. I fell in love with her strength as well as her beauty. I’m grateful she never pretended to be weaker than she was.

Not all men are alike, of course. But I think most of us want more from a relationship than a to-do list and false praise. We’re not caught between beastliness and heroism. Like women, we’re human beings, longing to love, longing to connect, and longing to be challenged.

—photo by Abraxas3d/Flickr

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. Chromesthesia says:

    What an encouraging article. Books and magazines make it seem like women cannot be themselves and get a man at the same time. They got to be all weak, ditsy and helpless because men can’t handle strong real women.
    Which is rather insulting. I hate those notions. They’re stupid.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    typhonblue
    The idea of the woman as always in danger, fragile, constantly vulnerable, always oppressed, suppressed, repressed and depressed, provides a good many jobs for folks in the academic and activist world. Can’t afford to let that one go.
    The rest of the issues you mention are also valuable in a different way.
    To see a contradiction is perfectly reasonable. To presume that feminists will give up one or the other because of the contradiction is not reasonable.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    second beach.
    The original note about the pickle jar was to believe instantly that the female help at a fast-food place were stroking the ego of the guy by asking him to open the pickle jar.
    In some kinds of situations, a tall, strong person can do various things–retrieve a heavy box of documents from the top shelf–more safely than a person who is shorter and not as powerful. Whether it’s a matter of safety or ease vs. struggle, the more powerful person has a kind of obligation among his colleagues. Most don’t mind. Hate to change the practice because it might also stroke their ego.
    I once dated a woman in college who was always saying, when I remarked on one thing or another, “You know so much about….” or words to that effect. Got kind of annoying after a while. Really annoying.
    By coincidence, several years later, I discovered a friend of mine had known her. Tentatively, I asked, “She was kind of dim…?” Oh, no. Honors College, various other indications of intelligence and knowledge about how the world worked. Really like to know what about me made her think she had to play that game. Complicates things to consider she was wrong.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Suppose the pickle jars, of which the fast food places must open several times a day, are routinely extraordinarily difficult to open. Does it make sense for the strongest person to be the go-to pickle jar opener?
    Or is this too simple?

    • SecondBeach says:

      I think the point is that if you can open a pickle jar, then do it. Don’t act like you can’t open the pickle jar because a magazine told you it will make your husband feel manly. Wait, I get the sense we’re not talking about pickle jars…

  5. There is something wrong with the facebook “Like it” function in this article. I don’t know if it is just with me nor how to correct it. When I press the “Like it” button, it re-likes the last link I liked, and not this article, making this article “unlikeable” on facebook. Which is a shame. Maybe it is a problem in this page, maybe it is in my facebook only. I don’t know, but thought I would let you know, cause maybe you can correct it.

  6. Clicking on this article I was sure it was going to be about orgasms.

    I am disappoint.

  7. Just to add a little more confusion to the discussion, I see a lot of this as a cultural phenomenon. I was compelled as a young girl to follow my academic dreams and not to rely on men – not because they are hurtful or unreliable, but because I come from a culture where the generation of women before me were never given the choice or had the financial stability to be able to make that decision – to go to school, to not marry at 16, to have your own life. So it’s been a push to fulfill every personal potential and to use all your strengths to become the best person you can be. I do think unfortunately to do that sometimes you put love second, and your own success first. I don’t feel I have an unhealthy attitude towards men, or my own strength. I see we work just as hard as each other. It’s just sometimes a play of time and energy and knowing where your happiness lies. It’s not all lies and faked orgasms and bad articles in womens’ magazines. (I try not to read them anyway!)

  8. I love this part of the article:
    “I fell in love with her strength as well as her beauty. I’m grateful she never pretended to be weaker than she was.” It would be great if more men felt this way! Perhaps due to articles like this they will over time.

    Life is challenging enough. If all of us are capable, powerful and cooperating skillfully, we will all have more time to relax and play.

  9. Double L says:

    Jim,

    I am simply trying to point out that when you look at school teachers or nurses do you see many single ones in their 30’s and 40’s? Yet, when you look at women who are further along in education or finances, you tend to see more single woman. Also, from experience I have unfortunately adopted that mentality although I rather not because I didn’t go into my profession for the finances. But when you date guys who do not make as much as you or do not have the same education, all they do is bring up how they wish they made as much or keep bringing up your doctorate. Yes, that is my profession, but I am more than just an education title and salary, but men’s egos usually can’t get over that and it is fricken annoying.

    Brenda,

    Thanks for the suggestions and no I don’t think men are lame. I think there are a lot of great guys out there. It is just hard finding one who is single and confident in their own skin to not let superficial things get in the middle of a good relationship.

    • typhonblue says:

      Hm. Here’s a thought.

      Maybe they can’t get over it because they think you think they’re inferior to you.

      “Women are faking it in the sense of being okay with being single because we have no other option besides settling.”

      No other option but settling for a man who is below you in education and pay. Settling because they’re the inferior option, of course.

      “Honestly, I wish girls were raised to be like men to be content with men who are not as ambitious or educated as them for mates.”

      You just can’t be content with men who are not as ambitious or educated. Because they’re inferior to men who are.

      “Yeah, many of us could get a guy who I guess would be the modern “trophy husband” who would be kind and caring for offspring, but we were not raised that way. Just because we go after the education doesn’t mean we do it just because we think it is that or the man. Usually we believe we can have the job and the man, but unfortunately these days, men are not keeping pace and it shows.”

      Men are not keeping pace, not as ambitious or educated. And because of that they’re inferior.

      Yeah, it’s definitely a mystery why men feel insecure around you.

    • Ok, that makes sense. All I can suggest is that you widen your search. At the same time, you might wnat to examine your own attitudes about these disaprities. Just as there are men who seek out socially inferior women – the young ingenue that he can terach about life, the Third World mail order bride – there are women who do the same, and both can be completely unaware of the dynamic. It’s a form of self-sabotage.

    • Double L, I understand where you are coming from, I really do. I’m an attorney and men are terrified of me. LOL. Yes I laugh about it but it’s true. There are plenty of men who will be freaked out by your intellect, education and income, and they will write you off as a potential date/girlfriend/wife. It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality. There are other guys out there who don’t feel that way. You need to find them. But when you say things like the following, it makes me wonder if you are clinging to a Disney princess fantasy, waiting for a powerful alpha male prince who will swoop in and save you from your mundane existence:

      — “Yeah, many of us could get a guy who I guess would be the modern ‘trophy husband’ who would be kind and caring for offspring, but we were not raised that way. ”

      — “Honestly, I wish girls were raised to be like men to be content with men who are not as ambitious or educated as them for mates.”

      — “Girls still desire the man to be some what the protector and the strength in their world, because honestly is exhausting ‘faking it’ to be strong/good at it all on you own. ”

      In other words, you want a strong man who will take care of you, but face it, you are a strong woman and you don’t really need a strong man to take care of you. So of course you won’t have luck with the kind of men who want a woman who is weak to protect. They know you aren’t that kind of woman and you won’t be able to convince them otherwise.

      This truth was a bitter pill for me to swallow because, like you, after I graduated from school, I still harbored this idea of being taken care of by a man, preferably a CEO/executive/doctor type. Yet none of those guys were interested in me. They dated secretaries, massage therapists and aerobics instructors. I was angry. I didn’t want to “settle.” I bought a cat.

      So let me tell you what it took me a long time to understand. You need to look for a man who values your strengths and that means giving up the Disney fantasy. Focus on what qualities in a man will really make you happy, not what you idealize as a perfect alpha male/provider/rescuer. For example, I’ve learned that I need to be with a man who is intelligent and educated, because otherwise we don’t have much to talk about, but I don’t care how much money he makes or if he can “take care of me” in a material sense. I want a man who is fun, passionate about life and can connect with me emotionally. No drugs or excessive alcohol. No drama or craziness. Those are the important things for me.

      I’m in a relationship now with a man who is sweet, shy, and a bit “nerdy,” and he makes less money than me, but he’s a peach and I love him. He’s incredibly smart, successful in his job (though it’s not hugely lucrative), passionate and talented in many different areas of his life. I haven’t settled. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share my time on this planet with such a great guy.

  10. Double L says:

    I appreciate the article, but you are speaking from a well educated man who is in a monogamous relationship. Most men rather the simple girl who doesn’t make more than them and will always keep their egos in check.

    I am a pharmacist who like many female pharmacist are single because most men can’t handle our salaries or our level of education. Most of us do not fake it and are really personable and sweet gals (otherwise we would not make it in our profession). Yet, the only reason I can assume for why most are single is because of these stupid hiccups of men. I have dated countless men who all they can focus on is how much I make or even if it isn’t the profession, it is other intellectual or physical insecurities.

    Women are faking it in the sense of being okay with being single because we have no other option besides settling. Yeah, many of us could get a guy who I guess would be the modern “trophy husband” who would be kind and caring for offspring, but we were not raised that way. Just because we go after the education doesn’t mean we do it just because we think it is that or the man. Usually we believe we can have the job and the man, but unfortunately these days, men are not keeping pace and it shows. It shows when an “independent woman” as you call it, dates a guy and he feels inferior. If he can’t get it up he curls up in a ball. If he doesn’t make as much, he will never show you empathy for your work stresses because he is jealous.

    Thus, us “independent women” have to accept that this is how it is. If guys like you exist they are relationship men and have found their partner. Yet, the single girls, which we do out number most men especially in education now, are just forced to fake it by being content growing old with just our careers and out pets.

    Honestly, I wish girls were raised to be like men to be content with men who are not as ambitious or educated as them for mates. Yet, this is not the case, girls still desire the man to be some what the protector and the strength in their world, because honestly is exhausting “faking it” to be strong/good at it all on you own. I give credit to all those alpha males of the 50’s and 60’s because it must have been tough, especially when you substitute most single girl’s pets with a family.

    • “I am a pharmacist who like many female pharmacist are single because most men can’t handle our salaries or our level of education. ”

      If that’s your attitude, then it isn’t your wondrous salary or level of education that is keeping the men away. Of course it’s more comforting to find some reason you can blame on someone else.

    • Double L,

      If I’m misinterpreting what you are saying, please correct me. Here is what I hear you saying:

      You are having trouble finding a suitable mate. It is basically the fault of all the men in the world. The lameness of the planet’s men will ensure that you are single for the rest of your life. It’s not you’re fault that you have everything to offer and are perfectly wonderful. Anyone not interested must be seriously flawed, of course.

      Allow me to suggest an alternative perspective: if the search for something (mate, car keys, website, whatever) is not going well, maybe the searcher needs to:
      1. Look in new places
      2. Have more realistic expectations
      3. Change the search parameters
      4. Look at the usual places with new eyes
      5. Advertise the search better

    • typhonblue says:

      You know what, Double L, if you like your life the way it is then fine, you don’t need to settle.

      I ‘settled’ for a man who was ‘inferior’ in education and pay. And aside from the fact that I have someone I love to look forward to coming home to, someone I’m building a life with, someone who makes me happy just to get up in the morning, I really haven’t gotten anything from settling.

      Stick to your cats and your principles, girlfriend.

    • your attitude about what you own and who you are is the problem. And like most human who you are stiffnecked and unwilling to change. The truth is that you also associate with people of like feather, rather than seek out those strong women in beautiful relationship for advice on the right attitude and principles to healthy relationship. Secondly, a man needs a friend and confidante and not a boss, like you. I have lived with women who want to have their way, it is a terrible hell for any man – I say this from experience. Turn to JESUS, leaving both religion and your stereotype about GOD, and ask him to open your eyes to truth. YOU, YOU need GOD in this age more than ever

  11. http://goo.gl/TUiN .. scroll down and click on the “Authority Scale” .. you’ll see a chart pop up with James Bond BITCHSLAPPING all of Hollywood. A true Bro!

  12. Thaddeus G. Blanchette says:

    You can’t miss the point: while we assume that education is “good” for men, we still send a message to girls that education is a kind of “second-best,” a fall-back option because there are so few good, reliable men. The implication is that if women didn’t find men so disappointing, most women would be blissful about forgoing education in order to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

    I dunno. Again, I wonder if you’re actually listening to what your students say or just reading your own opinion onto them.

    I ask my female students the same question and they report a similar answer in a simila rpercentage as yours. But I’ve NEVER heard one of my female students say that an education was some sort of “second best” option. In fact, most of my students, when they talk about this sort of thing, point out the many examples in their lives where female friends and relatives presumed that a marriage and a career as a housewife was a good deal and it turned out to be a disaster.

    The moral of the story – for my students, at least – isn’t so much ” career is a “second-best” or “fall back” option to marriage, but that it’s an absolute necessity, marriage or no.

    Many of my female students have made the point that this has nothing to do with “reliable” or “good men” at all. Just yesterday, in fact, we were talking about this in class (as a general discussion of cultural change, involving women’s roles), and one of the students said “It has nothing to do with whether or not the man’s a good guy, professor. What if he’s the best man in the world and he dies? What then? It’s just not good for anyone to be absolutely dependent on someone else.”

    Then another student chimed in: “And besides, you just can’t raise a family on one paycheck alone these days. I don’t know any men who are interested in marrying a woman who can’t financially contribute to the family”.

    There then arose a big discussion as to whether or not Brazilian men wanted their women to work today. About half the women in the class defended the position that a woman was less likely to land a husband if she didn’t have a profession, while the other half of the women basically believed that men didn’t want women to work. I then asked the menn in the class what they thought, and all of them claimed they wouldn’t marry a woman who didn’t work. And I asked the women what their fathers’ thought, and again, all the women claimed that their fathers urged them to get a job BEFORE looking for a husband.

    So at least for the working andf middle class Brazilian students I teach, no one sees a job as a “second” or “fall back” option.

    • “….while the other half of the women basically believed that men didn’t want women to work. I then asked the menn in the class what they thought, and all of them claimed they wouldn’t marry a woman who didn’t work. ”

      Thaddeaus, what do you think accounts for this disconnect? Why are the women so uninformed of what their male peers really think? Who are they listening to instead of the people who se views they claim to know? What social mechanism is at fault for their ignorance?

      • Well, first of all this is anecdotal evidence, so I’m not sure if this is “proof” of anything, really.

        But I think that both men and women in the younger generation have grown up being well aware of older, sexist attitudes. Women still believe that younger men think this way because T.V., the media, and the occasional RL example show them this. The fact that the majority of younger men DON’T think that way hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

        After all, you only need one male asshole to “prove a point” about all men.

      • Do you think the “disconnect” might be about parenting? This type of work, which is often emotional and invisible, doesn’t always get recognized as “work.” So the women might be wondering whether the men want a marriage where the woman does the lion’s share of the parenting (thus the woman would not “work” for pay if it competed with parenting) or a marriage where both the man and woman parent and both work for pay.

        If the man does parenting work, this is unpaid and so he does not have as much time and energy for paid work – but since the woman is working for pay this often makes up the deficit and then some. It is also healthier for children for both parents to parent and both to do paid work.

        Some men don’t know how much unpaid work is involved in parenting. I think this is sometimes frustrating to women.

  13. In any case, I have wrists like a 10 year old. If most women cannot open a jam jar then I cannot either.

    • I have painful ganglions in both wrist joints. Hell, I have difficulty opening those plastic bottles of milk with ease…

  14. You clearly don’t know what the glass ceiling means. And no, it’s not a ‘magical reason’ it’s sexism.

    Men who choose to do business in male only spaces to exclude their female coworkers from participating are doing so to keep the ‘boys club’ going.

  15. EXCELLENT PIECE. BRAVO.

  16. I can proudly say that I’ve never faked an orgasm, and always have been honest if asked and I didn’t.

    …But I really do have a hard time opening stuff like pickle jars. I’m not pretending! 😉

    Actually, to be more serious for a minute, I think this expectation that women act helpless actually makes a great deal of us believe we are helpless. I was reminded last night while playing pool, of all things, with my husband. I assumed I’d be bad at it, like I usually am because I never try very hard, and figured he’s a better and more experienced pool player, so I was just playing for fun, not to win. Turns out, I’m not so bad, because when I actually tried, I beat him. 3 out of 4 times. But it was that expectation of helplessness, incompetence, and second-rate everything that led me to believe I simply wasn’t good at pool because I’m never good at so-called “guy stuff” like billiards, car repair, etc. If we teach girls to be competent and proud of it, we’ll have more girls growing up to be more capable women who aren’t helpless, and don’t feel the need to pretend to be. It’ll be better for everyone.

    • I sometimes faked orgasms when I was in my 20’s because it just got to be too difficult to try to explain all the time why I didn’t get one. At that time in my life, I just wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to have an orgasm or to explain to a guy how to give me an orgasm (in fact, I didn’t know, so I couldn’t tell him). It usually wasn’t the guy’s fault at all. Nevertheless, my inability to have an orgasm became such a huge “issue” in a couple relationships that I felt I had no other choice except to fake it. One poor boyfriend drove himself (and me) insane trying to try every trick in the book to give me an orgasm, no matter how often I told him it was fine and not to worry about it. I didn’t need tricks or techniques, I needed to get over my sexual inhibitions. But try explaining that to a guy in his 20’s who is absolutely convinced it’s all about his penis and his technique! So, I had to fake it. I think that’s the main reason women fake orgasms — not because they are trying to be manipulative or inflate the guy’s ego, but because otherwise it creates too many problems in the relationship.

      • Anonymous says:

        Men of all ages hear the message that if their partners are not having orgasms it is the man’s fault somehow. Not necessarily just his technique or physique but some kind of intimacy failing. I believe the GMP just had a recent article suggesting that many men overestimate how much pleasure their partners are having. Many a man is afraid that he is one of those clueless men.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I’ve been with women who have faked orgasm. I found this out in one of two ways: 1) she told me afterwards that she did, or 2) I could tell at the time she was faking. (Plus, I just assume there were times when they did but I never found out.) There are lots of downsides and risks to faking it, all sorts of ethical dilemmas and gender dynamics we can get into. I just want to put it out there that not everyone is a gifted actress. There actual limits to an aroused man’s cluelessness and limits to his wishful thinking. I’m not saying it takes a brilliant acting job, just that it takes a minimum of ability that not everyone has….

        Many women admit that they have faked orgasm in the past, but virtually all of those admissions add “but I don’t do it anymore.” You can imagine how hard it is to trust that statement.

  17. I think actually that’s more or less what he’s saying, that the glass ceiling exists because of the choices women make (i.e. to pursue romance over an independent career).

    • I don’t think the author was saying there is a cabal out there keeping women down. Rather he is talking about cultural messages that we all incorporate, even unconsciously, that affect our behavior in various ways. Those messages come from parents, friends, tv, movies, magazines, advertising, etc. Women end up getting so many mixed messages that it leads to a lot of inner conflict. (Men get plenty of mixed messages too, our culture is toxic in many ways to everyone.) A classic example would be the message that as a woman, you must be sexy and desirable or no man will want you, but at the same time, you can’t act like a slut. Another mixed message is the idea that you must be independent because men are unreliable, yet if you are too independent, no man will want you and you’ll end up with no one for company but your cats.

      It may surprise you to hear this, but I tend to agree with you on the glass ceiling bit. I think most women in my field (law) would agree with you. We’ve all seen plenty of female colleagues opt out of the high pressure, long hours work environment once they had children. For that matter, a lot of men opt out as well. Being a law firm partner is a special kind of hell. Women can succeed at that life but they have to be willing to put the same grueling hours as the men– which is nearly impossible if you have children, unless your husband becomes the primary caretaker. Most female law firm partners that I know don’t have children. So that could be called a glass ceiling but I don’t believe it’s the result of a conspiracy. It’s the result of a dehumanizing workplace culture that values partner profit over every other consideration.

  18. All I can say is that I’ve had plenty of men over the years tell me that I’m “too independent”. Luckily, I found a man who appreciates my independent nature but it took me a long time. I was never one to manipulate men by acting helpless, but honestly I think that hurt my romantic prospects. Obviously every man is different but there are plenty of dating books by MEN that advise women to do little things to make men feel “needed” — even if it’s feigned. I’ve read over and over again that men need to feel needed or they will feel useless and dissatsfied. If a woman wants a relationship, she has to do what works.

  19. I can relate to this as well. Growing up, my father always parroted women and men are different and boys want one thing and one thing only, and I realize the latter statement is damaging to boys in general, and probably the former. My father also told me that men need to be the bread winners of the family, while also telling me I need have an education/job should anything happen (I take this to mean should anything happen to the man in my life, though dad also told me I never needed a man to be happy.) You can see these are very contradicting messages. On the one hand, dad tells me to be independent, but on the other hand he tells me men need to be the bread winners of the family. WTF?

    • J.G. te Molder says:

      Not to mention damaging to girls. If as a girl you get taught that boys are bad people that just want sex, it would mean that if they want sex that sex is bad, and it must be the boys fault. It completely destroys girls’ sexual identity, especially when then they get the conflicting messages that she should be sexually open, in for example college.

      You want a major reason for false accusations of rape, when in it fact it was just two drunk people enjoying themselves? The tearing apart of girls’ sexual identity. They’ve been taught sex is bad, and that the evil boys want nothing like it, and will do anything to get a girl to have sex with them, at the same time they’re taught to get drunk and enjoy themselves. They’ll have fun, they sober up the next morning, and all of a sudden all the guilt about the bad sex they’ve been taught comes back, and who was she taught was the bad one in such a scenario? The guy, and presto.

      And who is continuing to perpetuate this? Hell, who created “guys just want sex” to begin with: feminism.

      • You know, I took this response seriously until you go to the part where you blamed feminism. Feminism didn’t birth this mindset. This mindset has existed for a while, that boys are sexual fiends and that’s all they want. As someone who has studied Victorian literature and its time period, this mindset has existed for centuries. Women couldn’t go out alone because they might be attacked by an “evil” man. They had to have escorts, and it was incredibly indecent to see them without one. Men, on the other hand, could go out alone, because the assumption was that they weren’t in danger of being victimized by females, but females were in danger of being victimized by them.

        It was also common in the early-mid 19th century for girls to keep their bedroom windows shut at night (this was actually in a book on raising proper ladies) to protect them from predators that could possibly climb in to their rooms because the windows were open. Nowadays we likely keep our bedroom windows shut at night to keep out people in general, but back then it was mostly a concern that women keep their bedroom windows shut at night to keep out men.

        So this mindset that boys/men are evil has always existed. It just seems more prevalent because the media is parroting this.

        Is it right? Hell no. You’re right. Such a mindset is demonizing to girls. I can tell you right now I felt sexually repressed in middle school, constantly frustrated because I couldn’t express my sexuality the way the boys were freely doing without consequence.

        • typhonblue says:

          “I can tell you right now I felt sexually repressed in middle school, constantly frustrated because I couldn’t express my sexuality the way the boys were freely doing without consequence.”

          And I was with you right up to the point where you made this huge unverified assumption.

          Explain how you felt boys could express their sexuality without consequence?

          Were boys who didn’t fall into the dominant narrative able to express their sexuality without consequence? The ones who ‘didn’t feel ready’, were virgins, were sexually shy, valued chastity and emotional commitment, were gay… did these boys get to express their sexuality?

          Do boys get to express any sexuality outside of a very narrow and proscribed way? Do boys get to express the idea that their sexuality has a value that degrades when women use it? No, they don’t. And who knows how much the dominant narrative reflects the reality of these innocents are experiencing new drives but no outside direction but the dominant narrative.

          I might remind you that there are cultures in which the dominant narrative is that adolescent boys engage in sex with adult men–and if we can see that dominant narrative as harmful and likely not really reflecting the desires of said adolescent boys, I think it’s very easy to realize that our dominant narrative of ‘the penis people have no sexual vulnerabilities, desire sex constantly even while their sex actively damages the sexuality of the vagina people so badly that they have to negotiate terms like one might negotiate the disposal of toxic waste’ may be just as damaging to the sexual innocence of boys on the cusp of becoming men.

        • J.G. te Molder says:

          Aka, gynocentrism. And who do you think are the ones who continue to promote it? That’s right: Feminism.

          It’s feminism that spends his time depicting boys as rapists, to the point that girls going to college get taken apart and get a nice lecture of how you should be afraid of that guy you’re with, even if he’s your best friend since kindergarten who came to the same college as you did, because one unguarded moment and he’ll rape you!

          It’s feminism that spends its time with shaming posters targeted at boys making everyone look at them like rapists unless they are taught right.

          And we can keep on going, but the ones perpetuating this crap, is feminism.

  20. I do consider myself a male feminist, though not in the definition you appear to hold. To me feminism is gender equality. This on the one hand means stuff like equal pay and equal notions of maturity and on the other equal parental leave.

    From wikipedia:” Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women.[1][2][3] Its concepts overlap with those of women’s rights. Feminism is mainly focused on women’s issues, but because feminism seeks gender equality, some feminists argue that men’s liberation is therefore a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles. Feminists—that is, persons practicing feminism—can be persons of either sex.”

    Your question is a clash of paradigms. The whole notion of the white knight/damsel in distress is based on the clasical gender stereotypes. The whole point of feminism is to get beyond those stereotypes in the first place.
    if those archetypes are the things you’re trying to destroy, congratulations, you’re a feminist aswell.

    • As I said, you use a different definition of feminism than I do. Changing definitions to suit your needs is all well and good as long as you do so in-group, where everyone knows of the changes. Everybody loves an in-joke.
      However when discussing things on general forums it would be clearer to adhere to the general definition of terms. Because I do sympathise with a lot of things the MRA seems to stand for. The rethoric used makes you come across as the male equivalent of the extremist manhating female superiority crusader.

      • typhonblue says:

        Woman as victim has a huge refrain in feminist thought.

        Do you disagree?

        • We both know what you’re trying to set up here.
          If you have a point, get to it.

          • typhonblue says:

            What I wrote was perfectly transparent. But I’ll try to put it another way.

            If feminists were about getting rid of the stereotype of the ‘damsel in distress’ wouldn’t they be invested in gender-blind DV, rape and other services to victims and actively oppose *genderizing* these issues?

      • J.G. te Molder says:

        Wrong. Keeping to “general definition” of terms when that general definition is a false definition created through propaganda and manipulation is not making things clearer, it just obfuscates the truth even more.

        Feminism is not about equality, if they were, they wouldn’t have created a VAWA, they would have created a VAPA. They wouldn’t hurt girls ability to learn to read just to hurt boys ability to read more, they wouldn’t create commercials and posters that shame boys even babies for being boys, claiming they are all rapists unless they’re taught well, etc. etc. etc.

        If you are against all these things and are for genuine equality, you aren’t actually a feminist, you’re just an MRA who hasn’t woken up to the scam yet.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I don’t feel insulted when someone suggests that men aren’t necessary in life. I’m a big believer in autonomy. If I feel threatened by my partner’s independence then that’s my problem, not hers. If her behavior means the relationship is all about her needs and not about mine at all, and if she won’t change to take my needs into account, then I have to take responsibility for my life and walk away. Besides, as a hetero guy I know _I_ don’t need a man, so not needing one makes perfect sense to me.

    There are lots of wonderful things in life that really are not necessary but make life so much better. (For me: coffee, bacon, TiVo, visiting Venice, etc.) I would find it more reassuring to know that I am wanted instead of just needed. If it’s just about need, then any old pair of hands will do for opening a jar.

    I also think there’s a new gender double standard out there about asking for help. It goes something like this: a woman who doesn’t ask for help is strong and independent, building a good life for herself, but a man who doesn’t ask for help is afraid to show his vulnerability, is immature, and needs to let other people in because he will never grow that way.

    • Anonymous says:

      P.S. Of course, if you find it really sexy when I open a jar of pickles, and it serves as a flirty prelude, then please don’t stop asking me to open jars!

    • “I also think there’s a new gender double standard out there about asking for help. It goes something like this: a woman who doesn’t ask for help is strong and independent, building a good life for herself, but a man who doesn’t ask for help is afraid to show his vulnerability, is immature, and needs to let other people in because he will never grow that way.”{

      There is truth in this. I think we all sometimes need other people’s help, but it’s not gender specific. It’s a human concern.

      I suspect that one of the reasons people push for men/boys to feel comfortable showing their vulnerability is because they need access to that part of themselves to empathize with their children. Since children are dependent and thus “needy,” the risk is that a man – or woman – who has blocked memories of his/her own dependence and neediness and vulnerability will block the child’s expression as well and traumatize the child. Sometimes this even gets acted out into physical abuse; for example, the child cries and the father/mother can’t tolerate the expression of that emotion much less empathize with it in their child and help the child articulate what is wrong (if the child is at the verbal stage) and help him/her get what he/she needs – or get it for him/her if the child is still small. Instead so they hit the child or suffocate it or stuff it with food or whatever.

    • I thought the point of the article was that women are “supposed” to ask for help, because otherwise men won’t feel needed and they (women) will die lonely spinsters surrounded by cats.

      • Anonymous says:

        Feeling lonely can be very tragic, but who says being a spinster surrounded by cats is a bad thing? (I mean, besides dog people….)

  22. bathorie says:

    Not male, but I am a feminist, and I have to disagree a bit with both you and the author. I have no problem with MGTOW, but I think that the pressure to become a “jar opener” is pounded into men long before they’re adults. Sons face a much larger pressure to become the “jar openers” of their families than daughters do, especially I think in more conservative households, and more so if they’re the oldest. The Helpless Woman ploy from women who are their adult peers comes later, and plays into an attitude that’s already established to some degree or other. MGTOW only frees men from the Helpless Woman, rather than from the larger pattern at place.

    I don’t think this is to advantages of feminism at all, actually, and especially not male feminists. Until parents teach their sons that they can be more than a “jar opener”, (the way that they teach their daughters to be more than a Helpless Woman) the Helpless Woman will always be not only an easy ploy to manipulate men, but also a disempowering trap to fall into for women.

    • bathorie says:

      I disagree. I think feminists (especially radical feminists) understand exactly what it means. Twisty Faster is actually a good example of this- she calls it the “future feminist utopia’ and in it, all of the things above would be true. Feminists would honestly love to be out of a job, (and so would I) but I don’t think that’s going to happen until sons are allowed to be more than jar openers. MGTOW are well within their rights to step out of that particular gender roll, but frankly I don’t think much will change until both they and feminists make changes to the way boys are raised regarding gender rolls. I think feminists differ in MRAs differ on method only, not the end result.

      • bathorie says:

        I’m not placing the responsibility on boys; I’m placing the responsibility on the adults in his life, and societal norms as a whole regarding attitudes towards who he “should” be. I’m not denying women agency at all: a large part of the problem is that while mothers (and fathers, but less so I think) are happy to teach their daughters not to rely on the jar openers, they have not similarly taught their sons that they deserve the opportunity to become more than that in life. I have no idea how you concluded that achieves goals for women; I think that it would result in less anxiety for boys as well as men in the long-term.

        On a different note, I noticed you posted a couple links to books above. I was wondering if you had any more recommendations for reading, or could point me towards a good MRA reading list- I have yet to find a comprehensive one.

  23. Cultural conditioning and physiological facts….what a grappler. These conversations have gone on for centuries. It is what you choose for yourself as a person that makes a life you can live with satisfied, or one that will expand the bounds.

    The reality is, who would choose to fake it? Those who just want to get it over with. But then, what part of you are you giving up if this is all there is in the act? I think the act should be completely reciprocal, therefore, never fake it. Nothing like a real smorgasbord.

  24. Nice article.

    As another poster put it, being “wanted” rather than being “needed” adds a whole new level to your sex life and partnership with a woman, I would imagine.

    I wanted also to mention that where Mr. Schwytzer says “And we tell women they need to move quickly, because (as the magazines like to claim) biology is ruthlessly unforgiving,” there is, of course, truth to the female biological clock, but there is also truth to the male biological clock. Chromosomal deterioration of sperm over time, sperm motility issues, psychological issues associated with older fatherhood all have an impact on children. The first two are why sperm banks don’t take donations from men over the age of 35. There have been a number of articles lately in National Geographic and the New York Times. I know two families personally where an autistic child was born to fathers over the age of 35, even though the mother was younger. These men did not know about these risks in delaying fatherhood and now their children, their wives (ex-wives in both cases) – and they – suffer as a result.

  25. The great thing about this is that it takes two to tango – which means that both mend and women can end this silly little dance if they want to. The first step is to not do it in your own relationship – to not pretend to be weak if you’re a woman, and to encourage your woman to be self-sufficient if you’re a man. And to accept that if you arrive in the relationship with a lot of conditioning, there may have to be a trial and error to get it right. Talk about it. Talk about gender roles in your relationship.

    Of course, that’s only going to change things in your home. But if you manage it, you’ll be setting an example for your children. Changing gender roles is a slow and gradual process. Speaking up – like you’er doing here – can help speed things up. But men need to do more than complain about the game; they need to stop playing.

  26. “what are the chances that many are going to take you up on your offer for them to just give it away”, you ask. Well – you appear to missing that the game is disempowering to women, and therefore hurtful to both men and women.

    We all – men and women- have to get away from the “us and them” thinking. As long as we go on pretending that the ill effects of normative gender roles is and evil they do to us we’re not going to make progress (no matter if we have men or women in the “they” role). Men and women have an equal interest in ending these silly games, and an equal responsibility for not mindlessly promoting them.

    • typhonblue says:

      It’s empowering and it’s also limiting.

      The longer you feign victimhood–and see your power in coercing others to serve your needs–the more you’re trapped by the role.

      • J.G. te Molder says:

        Exactly, feminism traps women. It doesn’t empower them. Feminism exists solely to hurt man, in any way or form they can. And if they have to hurt, trap, and destroy women to do so, they will do it, with a smile on their faces.

        The whole “fake you can’t open the pickle jar”, doesn’t come from anti-feminist magazines, they come from FEMINIST magazines. For to hurt men most, is to trap them in marriage with children and make them slaves through the family court. Women can’t do that if they wait too long – fertility drops rapidly from 27 years on. And not being able to attract a male and get them to marry you, would go counter to feminists desire to see men hurt, punished, and being beasts of burden.

        The same way feminists happily hurt girls ability to learn to read with a deficient method of learning how to read, just because it hurts boys even more than it hurts girls, feminists happily hurt women. A continued stream that they are weak and pathetic and are victims of the evil strong man, and give us even more funding and draconian laws like VAWA, and it turns women in a bunch of pathetic, lying, manipulating, wastes of space.

        But of course, there will be claims now that this isn’t feminism! No, us folks, who like real equality is the real feminism. All empty claims, as none of them work to shut the heavily funded VAWA-wanting crowd up.

    • Feminism is about teaching women to pretend they can’t open the pickle jar so their man will feel strong and masculine? News to me.

      • typhonblue says:

        But feminism does teach women that their problems are the result of men. Or the ‘patriarchy’–a code word for the collective choices of all men.

        Feminism also resists the idea that men are victims to anywhere near the same extent as women.

        All of this is justified by the observation that the majority of people in power are men. From this observation comes the assumption that having men in power somehow benefits men as a group. This is assumed without verification or examination.

        To understand how one doesn’t follow from the other, let’s imagine that all the men in the US government were replaced by Sarah Palin clones. Would those women serve the interests of all women or the interests of their own belief systems?

    • How is victimhood empowering?

  27. I am waiting for the day when a man is okay with the fact that I want to be with him because I want him, not need him. Great, great article. Tweeted.

  28. I basically yell a mental “yes!” when I read anything you write. Thank you for this. As a self-described feminist (of the third/fourth wave) I continue to struggle with the contradictory messages sent to women and girls. You can have it all! You can do it all! You can be/do all and be happy! When the truth is you can’t. Women aren’t superheroes, and neither are men. Men value sincerity and honesty just as much as women, and it IS patronizing to men to tell women to feign weakness and ignorance so a man can go and “be a man”. Its a part of this fucked-up idea that a man is whatever a woman isn’t. I could rant about this for pages, but I won’t, because you’ve said all of this much more eloquently than I could right now. Thank you.

  29. I’m going to go ahead and tell any ladies reading this blog that are convinced they can’t open a pickle jar or whatever: you can.

    If you think you can’t twist the lid off and you need to give it to somebody “stronger”, it is because of the vacuum inside the jar. Stab the centre of the lid with a knife or something, which will break the vacuum and allow you to open with ease :]

    • Or whack the perimeter of the lid with somethin’ blunt—my mama’s trick.

      • ^That’s what I do…the handle part of a butter knife several times all around the edge of the lid….works every single time.

        I also kill my own spiders…Im a fkn rennaissance woman

        • Oh I know, hence the spider killing rennaisance woman thing.

          It mostly boils down to chivalry and how that has forever defined our gender roles anyway doesn’t it?

          • Alberto C. Delano says:

            Chivalry ultimately boils down to defending and protecting the one who is powerless, or, in better words, if someone does not have enough might for whatever reason to fend off for him/herself, the Knight is supposed to watch over them . So now, one thousand years later, chivalry applies to the women running a human rights NGO, a man supporting the feminist movement and becoming a scholar on the matter or the single mother busting her rear to support her children. So… what was the point? Ehhmm, a really chivalrous man goes beyond opening jars and doors, or defending against attacks if it comes to the point (that’s what you’re supposed to do because you are human and emphatic … and if you know how to punch, I know a handful of girls, shorter and lighter than me that could save my ass better than me). In fact, for some reason I can’t really remember and I’ll be sure to feedback if necessary, a teacher of mine said that chivalry, in it’s original meaning, is much more feminist than what it looks, at least to a certain point. Sometimes men are in distress, and need a woman to pull them out of danger, and I’m not only talking about the addict-nurturing women scheme… It’s a shitty world the one where women are not being made aware of their potential and where men are taught to fear it.

  30. Ok, but….

    You guys all respond to it. Moreover, you have men saying they don’t want women who are working 60 hours a week, pursuing CEO status, competing in the business world ‘like a man’, saying that they’d rather have a woman who is more traditional, more nurturing, more ‘feminine’.

    Women fake the pickle jar because men respond to it, men respond to it because women do it. Women have game because men have game and men have game because women have it….

    Gender relations are innately push/pull, yin/yang, or functionally complimentary be design.

    • should read *by* design

      • I agree with you about the behavior confusion; and alienation is a result of that. I also do not think that the majority of men want a simpering little idiot who can’t think for herself as a partner…at least, not any more or less than most women don’t want a total brute for a partner.

        As for men being “afraid” of strong, independent women…don’t even get me started, that needs an article all on it’s own ffs.

        • fondueguy says:

          I don’t know how to respond to someone who only talks in cliches.

          • Ad hominem gets us nowhere; however, @fondueguy does raise the issue that generalizations are being thrown around.
            “You guys all respond to it.” – I’d hope that a guy responds to his partner. But I took this to mean more than acknowledgment. Being “traditional, nurturing and feminine’ has absolutely nothing with pickle jars.

            “60 hours a week, pursuing CEO status, competing in the business world” creates a strong, independent image of whomever, male or female. The question is mate preferences. Do you want someone who is more family focused, career focused or a mix? The answer for some men is that they want a partner to compliment them and thus be more family focused than they are. This doesn’t mean that they are intimidated by some women, just not interested in mating with them.

            • typhonblue says:

              Nobody wants a workaholic for a mate. And I doubt most men would reject an ‘independent’ woman who uses her strengths to benefit him and complement his rather then compete with him.

              Think about it.

              Also, when did being permanently latched to the corporate tit become independence.

              The most independent people on this planet are homesteading women(and men) who’ve used their own muscle to get off the consumer cycle.

    • By which you mean, you enjoy a push-pull attitude towards men? Please don’t confuse that with what is “innate”.

  31. I think you hit the nail on the head – these calls for women to act helpless betray a patronising attitude towards men. And, really, if you use those tricks ensnare the kind of man who needs the ego-boost of being able to open a pickle jar, do you really want him in the long term? Both genders need to stop playing silly games, and simply engage with each other instead.

    • Too many men like Hugo are EMASCULATED by feminism to the point where they’re unable to rationally defend their views in public. Thankfully http://manhood101.com doesn’t have that problem and they’re well able to expose the hypocrisy of feminism so that men around the world can wake up and get their balls back.

      • Steel Mesh Hippo says:

        The above website sites Styles, a.k.a. Neil Stuart, the author of The Game, on their front page. Obviously, the site doesn’t realize that Style claimed that the men who trained to be Pick-up Artists were “sad”, and I agree. I have the book and I stopped reading half way though because I became so disgusted with the sexist way PUA treated women in tricking them into having sex with them.

        Second, what you don’t understand is that the above website just helps to reinforce the patriarchal system. Men who embrace Feminism challenge the system and the sadistic way it turns them into uncaring monsters. With the patriarchal system created by men for men, forcing them to jump through a set of hoops to be considered a man, patriarchal men are our own worst enemy.

        Stop with the hypocrisy that’s being a Men’s Rights Activists in mentioning the above website. MRA make no attempt to do any type of meaningful work in making our culture better. You just blow a lot of hot air, screaming how men are being emasculated when the fact is you feel emasculated, not me. You feel you are losing your “special privileges” because men like me challenge the system you, and I, benefit from, even though I don’t like some of the benefits that I get for being “a man”.

        Grow up.

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