Masculinity’s Quiet Usefulness

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About Andrew Smiler

Andrew Smiler, PhD is a therapist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (USA) and the author of “Challenging Casanova: Beyond the stereotype of promiscuous young male sexuality”. He is a past president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity and has taught at Wake Forest University and SUNY Oswego. Dr. Smiler's research focuses on definitions of masculinity. He also studies normative aspects of sexual development, such as age and perception of first kiss, first “serious” relationship, and first intercourse among 15-25 year olds. Follow him @AndrewSmiler.

Comments

  1. Similar to Ernie Pyle’s reporting during WWII, the novel From Here to Eternity, by James Jones, also paints a truly loving, admiring portrait of the military’s “grunts,” working-class enlisted men and their camaraderie with each other.

  2. John Sctoll says:

    Well Done OP. Your piece reminds me of an exchange on the Bill Maher show Politically Incorrect some time ago when ultra feminist Michael Moore proclaimed that men were the cause of all the worlds problems, he listed examples of war, poverty etc but he was really taken to task when he mentioned the environment and included overfishing. Several people told him rightfully so that while fishermen are most men, women of course eat and consume at least half the fish and if you include things like cosmetics made from whale products they consume over half.

    I found it rather convienient that modern feminism is quick to blame men for the bad things and assign all the blame to men without at all considering if women have a huge hand to play in all this.

    If I were to use the methodology that modern feminism uses to assign blame for a social ill then prostitution and pornography are actually caused by women as they are the ones providing the service and without their willingness to provide it the industry would fail.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    John S. makes a point. Men could work a lot less, and have less of an impact on the environment, if they didn’t need to pay for the support of women and children. Now, if women work in order to support themselves and some children, we have the same amount of impact on the environment, the same need for resources….

    Ref last graf. “we believe”. I believe we’ve been fooled.

  4. Most women are blind to the extent that they are looked after and to the extent that men are regarded as human doings rather than human beings, see Nealy Steinberg list of 20 things that she loves about men, it was really a list of things that men do for her and make her life more comfortable and easy. I think a far greater challenge in gender equality than any facing men, is women examining and letting go of these this privilege and becoming as useful as men but the womens movement is extremely resistant to recognizing female privilege.
    Another big challenge for women is going be taking adult responsibility, this using men and masculinity as a scapegoat for all that’s wrong and projecting onto men has to stop and male feminists have to stop collaborating with them on that.

    • Are you trying to argue women aren’t proving themselves to be useful, even though we make up a little over half the workforce now? Or are you arguing this believing that the jobs we dominate are useless? I would say any woman who works is posing a form of independence, which would be a lot of women in the US since they make up more than that half of the workforce. We might not dominate the labor sector, but who cares? It’s called incentive, and there isn’t a big one. We do, however, dominate the teaching field, and people often don’t associate any dangers with this job, even though there are plenty.

      I am sick and tired of generalizations. All women this, all women that, all men this, all men that. Not all women blame men for everything. I don’t what women you associate yourself with, but the women in my life don’t blame men at all. And stop with the ‘most women’ don’t realize their privilege nonsense. We are individuals, just as men are individuals. If anyone is privileged, it is those who have the means and money to buy themselves that privilege. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t come across this female privilege that you speak of, nor as my fiance come across any male privilege anyone else has spoken of. Everything I’ve gotten in life is because I’ve worked for it and not because I’m a woman, and I feel rather insulted otherwise.

      • Amber

        Yeah my post was sort of facetious. I’m saying why not, why not make women wear the shoe that the women’s movement wants men to wear? Lets do it back – women are worthless, useless, animals, lets have talk shows where men laugh about the torture and mutilation of women like womens talk shows do … because women are responsible for everything that’s bad. Lets start advocating for legal discrimination against women and publishing lies about how they are mainly responsible for abuse. Perhaps if we do back what the women’s movement are doing to us, they will stop their gender war.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          Not sure if that was sarcasm or bitter anger, but doing any of those things would probably make things worse.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Good for you, and I agree that gender roles are changing, but there still is an unfair expectation on men to be the primary earner, just as there’s an unfair expectation on women to be Betty Crocker. Female privilege still exists for alot of people, and unlike male privilege it isn’t being challenged.

    • David Byron says:

      How can you say women are blind to it and then reference a woman who wrote an article about how grateful she is for it? Women are aware of it.

      However it tends to be recognised for individual men and not for men as a whole. Kind of the opposite way as how “rape culture” makes out men as a whole are responsible for rape not individual people.

  5. Oh great, yet more bullshit about how all the women in this world have the option of ether working for a living or sitting around on their asses eating bonbons and letting men do the work for them, while men have never had any choice but to work and support women.

    Guess what, guys: many of us women have never had any option other than to work and support ourselves. We’ve had to quietly go about doing the work that needed to be done, JUST LIKE YOU.

    I know that when I turned a certain age, I didn’t put a finger to my chin and think: “Hmm, what shall I do? Go out and find some man to pay the bills, or get myself an education so I can get a job?” I just put my head down and started doing what needed to be done. I didn’t even have a daddy to pay the tuition bills. I had to do it largely through scholarships, grants and loans.

    Same thing today, after 20 years of working life. Yes, I’ve decided to change careers, but there’s no sugar daddy now to help me do it. I’m having to somehow both go to school and figure out how to keep myself alive while doing so. I’m just lucky there are no kids for me to support as well.

    Let’s be honest. The “option” of whether or not to work for a living, or to choose to kick back and be supported by a strong, silent, reliable man, has always belonged only to certain classes of women, anyway. Others never had any choice. Sojourner Truth was a good example of that kind. To this day her words ring true:

    “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

    Because of the color of her skin and the time in which she was born, Sojourner Truth was a member of that group of people who many believed were born not only to go about quietly doing what needed to be done, but to do it for other people. Nobody ever said “Hey, she’s a woman–she should have a choice. Only men in this world have no choice but to do what they have to do.”

    I guess all this is my way of saying it’s utterly absurd to praise men for being the people who, unlike women, always quietly, stoutly, resolutely, go about the essential ugly business of the world, while women collectively benefit from their resoluteness by enjoying the freedom of “options.” No. We don’t all live like that. Hell, the very drudgery of housework and child care, which so many of us do FOR men, should make that obvious.

    Oh, and while you’re at it, guys, please don’t pat yourselves on the backs too hard for inventing democracy, creating great art, etc. You have no idea what some women would have done had they not spent the bulk of their lives cleaning up after you and caring for the children.

    • You’ve missed the point. Women have not been said to be the cause of everything bad on the planet as have men.

      The point is, yeah, men have done / do some bad stuff but do a lot of good things too, the vast majority of which seldom if ever gets acknowledged.;

      • Julie Gillis says:

        There are libraries filled with books written by men, named after men. There are galleries funded by men filled with art by men, how could you think that men aren’t acknowlledged for their good works?

        Women have done plenty of bad things in the history of this planet. And good things. Just like men.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          The historical predominance of men in cultural works shouldn’t be framed as male privilege, unless you’re also willing to acknowledge the oppression and lack of recognition of the majority of male authors and artists. The truth is that some men were privileged, as were some women, most people were exactly the opposite.

        • David Byron says:

          Yes the Frontman Fallacy.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            I just plain give up. I do. I can say, over and over and over again that I think men got a raw deal. That I believe women rape. That I believe men are, and have been abused. That deep in my very heart I fear that all human kind is just one big monstrous evil, and it doesn’t matter.
            No matter how supportive I might be, I’m always guilty of something. And I suppose that’s your point isn’t it. That women treat men that way. In which case, when does it stop? At what point do the sneetches just get to be sneetches star bellied or not?
            When do we get to being supportive of each other in good faith?
            When do I become an ally to you and you to me? I want to believe you want allies as do I, but more and more I wonder.
            I’m in empathy overload at the moment, I”m processing a huge amount. Changing a world view, if you will. This is the wrong place for me to be looking for praise for that I’m quite sure, but just because I make misteps in your mind doesn’t mean I’m the enemy.
            I think. I hope. I suppose it doesn’t matter that much, what I say or do.

            • David Byron says:

              You’re OK Julie.
              As far as I’m concerned you don’t have to do anything more. But at the same time there is a little more you might need to hear.

              Oh hey what do you think of this?
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp8tToFv-bA&feature=related

            • Julie Gillis says:

              I am OK David Byron. I know that. I’m quite amazing actually. Not that who I or who you could ever be fully expressed here on this blog. If we met in a coffeeshop or pub there is a very likely chance we’d talk for hours and enjoy ourselves. I mean I think. I don’t know. You might dislike me terribly. But at least we’d have a whiskey or a beer out of it.

              And duh, of course there is more I need to hear. About a lot of things. Like other issues affecting the planet besides gender, for one thing. But that’s not the focus of this magazine is it. Gender won’t mean much of a fig if we poison our water and food to the point of killing ourselves.

              I’ll watch that video a bit later, I’m far too agitated to deal with it this morning. Most of us 7 billion humans are disposable, but yet no one is disposable. Everyone has something to offer. It’s that last bit of my thinking that usually gets me into trouble.

            • David Byron says:

              You *are* amazing. :)
              I just didn’t think you’d take that coming from me so I just said you’re OK, which you are too. Pitched it a bit too low maybe? I meant more “You’re OK by me. We’re good.” I’d be glad to praise you some more if you want… um… I already said you had nice shoes, right?

              Are you OK today?
              Twenty thousand kids will die of hunger related diseases today but that’s twenty thousand fewer than would have died 40 years ago. Wars, civil wars, genocide and so on are all down. Down by a lot. The world is getting better if we can get there in time.

            • Julie Gillis says:

              Getting sick with some virus. Tired out from lots of rehearsing, theater etc. Thank you for responding, I really do appreciate it, David. We are making the world better, David and I’m glad we’ve found a place where people are trying to do it together, even if things are still difficult. You’ve taught me a lot.

            • David Byron says:

              Well I thought I had replied here before I left this morning in a bit of a rush but evidently it did not go through?

      • What about original sin? Eve ate the apple, not Adam…

        Not that I believe this at all, and I’m saying this a little tongue-in-cheek, not trying to start a flame war of any kind (there’s room on GMP for a sense of humor, after all!). I have heard **some** Christians use that argument to defend the position of women as subservient or inferior to men, or why women can’t be ordained in certain denominations, etc. So there’s at least one worldview out there that does blame women for all the evil in the world, even if it’s not a particularly widespread or popular view.

    • “Oh, and while you’re at it, guys, please don’t pat yourselves on the backs too hard for inventing “democracy, creating great art, etc. You have no idea what some women would have done had they not spent the bulk of their lives cleaning up after you and caring for the children.”

      Some women. But the exact same number of women as men had the leisure it took to create democracy and all that. Your kind of woman, and man, was waiting on them hand and fott just like thier male counterparts. And yes indeed, their men held them back – becasue they could, because those women didn’t fight back hard enough, didn’t go out and take over the world the way their men did, because they were happy to sit back and reap the benefits of the labor of your kind of people.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        I suspect there are countless “little” contributions to art, science, and politics that go unnoticed in the annals of history. For every great painter and sculptor there were people supporting him, sometimes literally helping him carve marble.
        In order to really know why women didn’t go out and take over the world we might need to travel back in time.
        Were women in the 1850′s able/encouraged to attend university? How many men were, come to think of it.
        If those few men had more access to education and their wealthy female counterparts weren’t, makes sense that the women wouldn’t be inventing things.

        http://wiki.answers.com/Q/When_did_Harvard_begin_to_allow_women_to_enroll_as_a_student (fun fact here http://www.omg-facts.com/view/Facts/42278)

        Answers vary but women began seeking educational opportunities as early as 1833 in Oberlin in the US and public universities took women earlier than privates.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed-sex_education

        The more women gaining education, the more advances women could make in work, technology and more.

        I don’t have any stats on what graduation rates were or average majors for women vs men. That would be interesting to see.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          I don’t think anyone is trying to argue some kind of supremecist “men are better” theory. A tiny minority of men made up almost all of the movers and shakers of history because men had the opportunity to. But its also important to recognise that they didn’t have the opportunity *not* to, men were defined in terms of their ability to do great things, so more of them tried and even more of them failed.

          Equally, its a null argument that I can associate myself with the inventor of electricity or vaccination simply because we share similar genitalia. But by the same count I shouldn’t be associated with murderers simply because we both happen to be male.

          A commentator who points out that men are responsible for 90% of violent crime should equally be willing to point out that men are responsible for most of the medicines which allow us to live past 40. I argue that neither position is really relevant, individual human beings do individual things. Being a man doesn’t make you a sinner or a saint.

    • “Others never had any choice. Sojourner Truth was a good example of that kind. To this day her words ring true:“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?” Because of the color of her skin and the time in which she was born, Sojourner Truth was a member of that group of people who many believed were born not only to go about quietly doing what needed to be done, but to do it for other people. Nobody ever said “Hey, she’s a woman–she should have a choice. Only men in this world have no choice but to do what they have to do.”I guess all this is my way of saying it’s utterly absurd to praise men for being the people who, unlike women, always quietly, stoutly, resolutely, go about the essential ugly business of the world, while women collectively benefit from their resoluteness by enjoying the freedom of “options.” No. We don’t all live like that. Hell, the very drudgery of housework and child care, which so many of us do FOR men, should make that obvious.”

      Your quote though it at least makes a passing nod albeit condescendingly, to Sojourner Truth is a prime example of privilege that women often use. Appropriating and employing whatever tactics work to your benefit when it suits a purpose and allows maintenance the fantasy of being blameless and a hapless victim of circumstance. That is easier than acknowledging and respecting the humanity and dignity of others and that no gender has the market cornered on being marginalized, used and abused and that the world does not revolve around only one genders perspective. Rather than simply admitting that men have a point and have been unjustly vilified as the root of all evil you change the subject and focus onto yourself. Simple truth walk a mile in another’s shoes to see how it feels and act on the lessons learned.

      Stop seeing it as an all or nothing position neither men nor women are all good or all bad. It is not winner take all. If one side loses we human beings all lose. Wouldn’t it be better to recognize that we are all humans? – People who for the most part just do what needs to be done and go about our lives trying and sometimes failing and getting back up and being quietly effective. Just allow people to just be humans being rather than humans doing and value who a person is rather than defining their value and worthiness for respect and fair treatment based on that rather than by what they do. It’s funny that the women’s movement pushed for that initially and has now morphed into a force that fails to give that same thing to other humans just because of their gender. It’s not about who has more value than the other based on what they do or gender but that all humans have value because they are human.

    • David Byron says:

      Kinda sucks to hear your entire gender get run down… doesn’t it?

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      You hit the nail on the head: Female privilege has only ever belonged to a certain class of women. The same is also true of male privilege: only a tiny portion of the male population in any era have ever actually been privileged in terms of their gender. There’s some privileges that run across social classes, increasingly so in first world countries, but I almost never hear a feminist commentator point out that “male privilege” is in fact “a select few males privilege.” I also hear depressingly few feminist commentators attack female privilege where it does exist and male oppression in all the many places it exists. The ones who do point these things out I salute.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        I think about privilege a great deal, even more know since I’ve been looking at new frames for it. I agree that only a tiny portion of the population have had the privilege of wealth and I can see how in generations past it would have been small groups that had any rights at all.

        Slight derail for an example.

        When I think about the experience male privilege today I guess I”m thinking about something more subtle. I’ll use an example that may or may hot highlight what I’m talking about.

        Recently, on Reddit in an atheist subreddit, a girl posted a picture of herself with a book.
        Loads of comments poured in that had to do with raping her, fucking her, etc etc.
        On skepchick, the community complained about the treatment in a post.
        A commenter Fontaine noted that the girl herself could have chosen to post anonymously and hide her gender.
        The skepchick community reacted strongly to this that she shouldn’t HAVE to hide her gender in order to move about the internet with out harrassment.
        Fontaine, in good faith tried to reframe, but things got ugly in a way I didn’t appreciate but I don’t think he got the point.

        Men don’t expect to be harrassed/virtually catcalled online. Women do.

        a) yes the girl could post anonymously and get far less sex comments.
        b) why?
        c) because anonymous is default male? Because to be female on reddit means opening yourself up to sex commentary?

        My guess is the men that post on reddit with either male handles or anon handles don’t run into sexually aggressive posts. If you post while female (sounds like driving while black) you’ll run the risk of a potentially less positive experience. Why is this. The men have the privilege of posting without interference. Women do not. This seems based on gender.

        That’s usually what I observe when I think about privilege. Not getting to go to uni, or getting better jobs, but just that default experience is male and the presence of female is cause for much different behavior such as in an online community about atheism.

        Then again, I don’t go to Reddit and don’t know if men harrass other men in other ways. So i could be wrong about how Reddit works. There do seem to be a number of rapey type sub/r threads there though and I think they are gross.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          “Men don’t expect to be harrassed/virtually catcalled online. Women do.”

          We don’t? My experience of online communities with any degree of anonymity is that everyone gets trolled, especially if you post a picture or in any way reveal your identity. Incidentally, why are you assuming that all the harassers are male? And that if a man were harassed online it would only be by another man?

          I also remember reading a commentary on that thread (I think we’re talking about the same one), as I recall the commentator grouped “men’s rights” in with “women beating” as “things that make me angry.” When I pointed this out on facebook I was absolutely torn apart by a feminist friend of mine on the basis that if a woman is being insulted men’s rights deserve to be suspended. Everything she knew about me became a weapon, I tried to reason with her and explain that standing up for men’s rights didn’t mean trampling on hers but that just wasn’t acceptable. In her mind as long as women are being harassed men are infinitely privileged and men’s rights is a red herring. Not only this but she effectively grouped me in with that woman’s harassers for saying so. I’m sure you don’t agree with this, but it just goes to show that being male on the internet doesn’t make one immune to bullying.

          I agree that male privilege still exists in some ways, but immunity on the internet isn’t one of them. Noone gets that.

        • David Byron says:

          just that default experience is male

          But you have no idea if that is true or not. You’re just expressing a prejudice. Feminists are certainly very prejudiced and are always reaffirming their own view to themselves but that doesn’t make any difference at all.

          So you bring up as some sort of “typical” example an experience that neither of us have experienced from some foreign subculture of which we know nothing. That is not evidence. That is just prejudice. As you say for all you know the men are treated the same or worse, or there exist other subcultures where men are treated worse and women better (we both know that is true on all feminist web pages for example).

          This is not evidence in any sense but a highly biased anecdote, presented with a very slanted view apparently produced with the idea of creating something for feminists to complain about. Feminists make up that sort of stuff all the time and it signifies nothing (except to tell you about feminists).

          And as was expressed the girl could have changed her name. That she didn’t means that in that girls opinion any damage she ‘suffered” was less than the inconvenience of a name change. For myself this is a fake name which I adopted about twenty years ago because I decided the damage that *I* suffered on feminist boards certainly exceeded the inconvenience of having to use a fake name. I wont go into the details but it was a lot worse than you describe that girl suffering.

          My own observation is that often women will go out of their way to attract male attention on line by eg creating avatars with pictures of themselves (or some other woman maybe) in an attractive pose. You said, “a girl posted a picture of herself with a book”. So in effect she was engaging in a behaviour she probably figured was going to draw some fire. Do you know what the picture was?

          Now you might say that either that girl or I could probably avoid a lot of trouble by simply avoiding the places were likely to get attacked. That’s fair enough and for that reason I don’t think this is much of an issue especially compared to eg. the constant thing about women fearing men / men being seen as dangerous all the time, which is a huge deal in actual real life.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        And my post was purely to describe something that I see fitting in the bounds of what is usually called “male privilege” Kind of a translation. Feel free to disagree with it obviously, but that’s the kind of thing I see.

        • David Byron says:

          Feminists tend to see things which are not there because they only ever bother to look from one direction. They are not interested in truth but only in finding semi-plausible justifications for attacking men.

          A complete analysis of this incident would have to ask for example WHY do women get cat called and men not? That would lead to a discussion of the fact men get stuck having to do all the initiations in dating which in turn is at women’s option because they have the power in sexual relations. In short would women want to swap positions with men? Would women accept the necessity to be always approaching guys and as a consequence never being the one to feel wanted or attractive, if it meant they would never get cat-called? In my opinion they would never accept that deal in a million years. I’m sure this girl (I looked up the picture on skepchick) is going to get a lot of this treatment in her life but the fact is she is getting that treatment not just because she’s a girl but because she’s extremely attractive and THAT will be a considerable source of privilege for her in life (from both men and women), which again I doubt she’d want to give up simply to avoid cat-calling. I guess the term is “sexual celebrity”. Being a celebrity is usually considered an advantage but it does come with some issues like paparazzi.

          It’s always far too easy to find “privilege” if you don’t look too hard around the story. eg:
          * poor people don’t have to worry about the stock market going down
          * homeless people don’t have to worry about the bank taking their house
          * unemployed people never get fired and don’t have to go to work

          You have to ask WHY these situations hold and what the bigger picture is and whether that bigger picture actually shows that the alleged “privilege” is a necessary side effect of a more significant disadvantage. Without that sort of check you would have to conclude that poor homeless and unemployed people had privilege.

          • Peter Houlihan says:

            Thats a very broad assertion to make about feminists, and to be honest could be equally levelled at masculists. Not that I argue that some, or possibly even most, feminists don’t do this, but it would be a little more accurate, and a lot less inflammatory not to attribute that view to all feminists.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            I don’t have time to answer fully. Being catcalled, in my opinion is not a privilege. Being cat called does not mean you are necessarily attractive. It often means people just want to fuck with you cause they are bored. Or you are walking down the street.
            Sometimes women get catcalled that they are fat or ugly. Being commented on is not privliege.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            “A complete analysis of this incident would have to ask for example WHY do women get cat called and men not? ”
            This would be a good analyis. Are the men cat calling because it’s a way to make a first move, it’s a way to screw with someone as they are walking own the street, they are bored, etc.

            I have never been catcalled as a way to get asked out. I’ve been honked at while I ran at the lake. I’ve had spanish slur words hurled at me while walking (no asking out there). I’ve had friends out biking called fat slut for no good reason.

            This is where my “feminist” comes out. Being an attractive woman does not give men license to say the things they said to that girl on Skepchick. I imagine that if she was an ugly girl, the comments still would have been rapey/nasty only in reverse, “No one would even rape you.” kind of thing. Part of that is because online communities are often really rude.

            Being an attractive women does not give anyone (male or female) license to cat call. Being an attractive man doesn’t either. It’s a boundary violation no matter the gender.

            Personally I hate the idea that being a celebrity gives anyone the right to harass them. At least with a celebrity they have money to hire bodyguards, people to filter the bullshit from them, and a salary to keep them well kept. If I get harassed due to being hot, I just have to deal with it.

            I’d rather not be hot, if that was what being hot got you.

            And we’ve already discussed my anecdotes on being a female that initiates, and knowing females that initiate. I don’t know if it makes me feel unwanted or not. Sometimes I guess it does, but I’d rather have that level of agency than sitting around waiting to be “picked.”

            • David Byron says:

              To recap: you said that the cat-calling thing was an example of male privilege. In view of how you’ve been feeling recently I really ought to have recognised that it is a good answer. I didn’t and that was a mistake. I like it as an answer. It’s the sort of answer that I get from women feminists who have really tried to think about it all. I don’t get many but I’ve had a few. Enough that I can tell a fake answer from a real one so I appreciate this. But I made the mistake of just starting on analysis without stopping to say thank you, and that probably frustrated you and made you think I was just rejecting what you said out of hand, even after you’d come up with good stuff.

              I apologise for that.

              So then the analysis. We’re assuming basically cat-calling is only something women get from men. Seems a fair assumption. I don’t know much about it because I never see it. There’s a class dimension to it people don’t much explore. So I guess in a typical feminist conversation it goes no further than “men cat-call” because the explanation for why is implicitly “because all men hate all women”. But we want to look beyond that and I suggested a link to men being initiators.

              I guess I am not too sure about it because I’ve never done it or seen it done except on line. It’s foreign to my experience. I didn’t mean that it was an attempt to initiate. I said it was related. I also didn’t say it was justified. I’ve never had the experience of having to initiate in dating, at least not significantly, but I have done my share of cold selling in other markets and its very tough work indeed. You might have a better idea about this than I do. I am happy to hear any ideas. But “they are just bored” or “they want to screw with someone” doesn’t explain why women. Unless they’re just attacking guys too but when they do people don’t relate it to cat-calling.

              My best guess is that it is related to a mind set from having to face a huge amount of rejection and robocalling required for initiating, possibly leading to some rather odd combination of feelings towards women both positive and negative together with an aggressive approach to accosting women. So while I don’t think the cat-calling is an attempt to get a date, I think it is behaviour that’s informed by toxic habits created from initiating.

              Oh and I didn’t mean that an individual woman would feel unwanted if she started initiating. I meant that all women would if no men initiated. it’s a group dynamic.

            • Lisa Hickey says:

              When I was a teenager to early twenties — I used to go out for bike rides and count the number of times I’d get cat-called in a day. I believe my all time high was 30 in one bike ride, and I think I was age 16 at the time. I know it was right before I went off to college.

              The problem wasn’t with the cat-calling itself. The problem was that I was using that to form my identity of myself. The fact that I counted them — counted them! meant I was chalking them up as *proof* of how good I looked. How attractive I was to men. At age 16. It really wasn’t healthy.

              I never thought men hated me. I always thought they liked me — but only when I was beautiful. Even today — when I have so much more to offer than looks — I get that same insecurity. Every.Single.Time. Is that men’s fault? Was the cat-calling to blame? Of course not. I am taking responsibility for the way I feel and the way I act. But part of the way that I feel is that I wish that somehow, some way, I could have grown up so that I didn’t have a this horrible insecurity about not looking “good enough.”

            • Julie Gillis says:

              That’s spot on Lisa. If you don’t get cat called does that mean one is ugly? I have a memory of 7th grade where the boys decided (I think it was the boys, who knows) that Fridays were “Grab Ass Day.” They’d go round trying to grab girls asses. Which was sort of horrible if you got grabbed, but also more horrible if you didn’t. Because it meant your ass was….not grabbable? I found out years later that no one grabbed my ass (which I took at the time to mean I was hideous) because they were scared to death I’d beat the crap out of them. Because I was actively outspoken, assertive and no nonsense about things. I remember a few girls placing themselves in the “line of grabbing” purposefully. I knew at the time, they were somehow “better” girls than was I, because boys paid attention to them. I’ve always been a bit of an amazon in that sense. And yes, I’ve gone through weird self esteem mind-fucks because of it.

              Still do actually. That stuff that happens to us in middle school lingers a long time.

            • David Byron says:

              I went to all boys schools so even if I could recall anything of my childhood I’d have nothing to say from experience there. But it sounds like the boys (those participating) made an evaluational of the girls to guess which would be unhappy with being “grabbed” and they (correctly) figured you wouldn’t want to be. It also sounds like while you were signaling you didn’t want to participate, other girls signaled they wanted to. But no girls would explicitly say they wanted to be grabbed or not so the participating boys would be forced to guess? That sounds a lot like regular dating but I can see how it is also nearer to cat-calling too.

              Grade 7, is that about 12-13 years old so you’d be about as big as the boys?

  6. TRU

    Riddle me this, all the modern conveniences and things that made your life safe and easy today, from your bed to your shelter to your jobs that pays you to the roads that brought you there to the machine that you are tying on, to the people you will call it breaks down … the entire infrastructure you live inside, how much of it was put there by a women?

    • edit – by women.

      The point being, perhaps the extend to which you are being taken care of is invisible to you because you have never known it any other way.

      Check your privilege.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      A great question and one is love to see a fair answer to. Stats onomen in factories during the industrial revolution and during war WW2. Admin staff during the 40s through 70s . Can’t get raids built without typed contacts! The point is women have always worked and have always contributed to the whole, just like men. Perhaps indifferent ways but still both have contributed

      • Then if women are as responsible for the good in the world as men, are they not as responsible for the bad?

      • It goes further than that, Julie. Factory workers in those days could not live without women’s work, either at home or in boarding houses. It’s the same collaboration as always going back before the agricultural revolution. Women didn’t invent democracy, but they invented beer. That’s an even trade by my lights!

        • Julie Gillis says:

          And we may never truly know what women invented in other cultures, given so much history has been destroyed during conquests. I do think men and women, well, we’ve been together forever yeah? So I think it’s fair to say we all created this world together.

          • Peter Houlihan says:

            Conquests usually happened for a reason, I can’t think of an example of an invasion perpetrated for the lulz.

            Yep, I’d agree. Any argument framing men as angels or devils is flawed. Would you agree that along with women’s desire to have equal access to privileges that had been uniquely male, they should also have access to equal responsibility? I’ve yet to see a female bin collector (although I have seen two taxi-women).

          • David Byron says:

            It’s not a good comparison because inventors can be extreme people so it’s not like you are answering a question about the general intelligence of men vs women. No more than noting that most mentally deficient people are men.

            But some have pointed out that for ten thousand years women were in charge of textile manufacture and basically never made any technological progress except the spinning wheel replacing the distaff around the 11th century AD… until men came along and invented stuff in the 19th century. The spinning Jenny was invented by a guy who said he did it because he was sick of seeing his wife and daughters wasting so much time spinning inefficiently. In that same ten thousand years every field of technology that was male dominated underwent incredible advances whether that was sailing, mining, farming, metalurgy, husbandry, architecture, medicine, mathematics, warfare you name it.

            Maybe that argument is pure bullshit and maybe it isn’t. Maybe women were not in a fair position to compare like with like. Or maybe men really do become inventors more easily than women do for some weird reason. I guess it could be true. I’d prefer a different explanation but we shouldn’t get too hung up on that. I guess the way the universities are putting women through 60% more often these days we’ll soon find out.

      • David Byron says:

        I suppose there really were some freeloaders throughout history though. The question is, why do people get all bent out of shape – well women anyway – with such a reasonable observation if you then add, “and some were women!!” Or let us say for the sake of argument that the feminist view of history that has an unending procession of horrors done by men to women is true — why should that mean that men today are guilty, since they have done none of that and even suffer the other way around?

        Actually I can understand men being defensive because exactly that guilt has been implied by feminists time and again, but why would women get bent out of shape by such a view? Are they afraid of a reversal of that same guilt by association?

        Should I pay for the sins of your male ancestors Julie? or vice versa? It makes little sense to me. But it’s something that grips people.

        • Julie Gillis says:

          Well, I think it’s because the first comment by Man in response to TRU made it sound like women were basically freeloaders living off the backs of men.

          Which may be true in certain cases. But it may also be a bit ahistorical considering how much work just plain living took out of everyone, gender roles notwithstanding.

          it’s not saying men didn’t build things, it’s saying women did too. I have no idea the percentage of women who participated in the building of the infrastructure we now enjoy. And I’m not sure how we’d even track it given that there weren’t necessarily records. But I do know that women worked alongside men in stores, factories, studios, farms and so forth (at least in America) and do you count the women who provided clerical support to get the paperwork through to get the roads made? The women who cooked food for the road workers who built the roads? The wives who counseled the CEOs or do we just count one man who “built roads.”

          One thing I notice a lot from (who I suspect are MRAs though I don’t know for sure) is they often say something like, “And you women enjoy all the fruits of our labor, nothing you have would exist if it weren’t for us, no art, no science, no roads etc.” And that’s simply just silly.

          A) of course men did great things. B) women did too (Madame Curie, Elizabeth Hazen, Amanda Jones, Margaret Knight, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and I could google all night (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_artists)

          Also, if women had less access to higher university level education (first US college opened to women in like 1833, and privates opened much later), then of course they’d have less ability to invent things!

          Obviously there have been amazing men doing amazing things inventing great stuff being great.

          But when a fellow comments like that, it gets my dander up.

          I don’t know what sins are being accounted for David. Will you expand?

          • Peter Houlihan says:

            Well said, both of you. I suspect the “women are freeloaders” thing is a defensive reaction to the equally ridiculous “men are responsible for all evil” thing. Unfortunately that particular meme (the second one) passes for journalism these days.

            I’ve no problem with attributing equal responsibility for historical achievements to men and women as a group, even if only from the point of view that every inventor was supported by a vast society of other humans, so long as we also recognise the influence gender roles are still having on us.

            -Many women still feel that their first duty is to the home
            -Many men still feel that they are only worth their paycheck

            Both statements are true as far as I can see, neither contradicts the other, and both endow equal and opposite privileges and oppressions on each gender (although not equally on each individual),

            • Julie Gillis says:

              Yes. This.

            • David Byron says:

              What I say is that if we can’t figure out if men or women are better off in our own culture that we LIVE IN then it’s absurd to try and guess the same equation for cultures we have almost no idea about be they in the past or in foreign countries in the modern world.

              But having said that much of the assurance that feminists have in their theory of male privilege is based on exactly those unknowable cultures — they are sure women were worse off in the past and in foreign cultures like Afghanistan. You can’t even talk to them about this.

              I have read up on Victorian America and Afghanistan under the Taliban precisely to test these cases and what I see is just more and more uncertainty. Again and again feminists know only half the tale, the one showing women suffering but they know nothing about the lives of men, often worse in different ways so familiar from the same discussions of our own culture.

              So what if women were NOT worse off in the 18th century in the US? What if they were the same? Then all the feminist intervention had the effect of making things MORE UNEQUAL all that time.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Right, stats on eras when men were either giving their lives to protect others (often unwillingly) or were most commonly employed as a slightly intelligent beast of burden. I don’t look down on the contribution women have made down through the years, but we still live in a society where men are disproportionately represented doing the jobs noone else wants to do.

  7. Andrew Smiler says:

    Thanks for the comments y’all. My goal was to write a few paragraphs about something that many people consider to be part of the definition of what it means to be a good man. For one day, I just wanted to talk about men without comparing them to women, arguing about who’s got it better/worse, etc.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Well said. I’m not sure I agree that “hard working” is some innate quality of men, so much as something human. But I’d agree that its a quality many men embody.

      • Andrew Smiler says:

        Hi Peter. I agree that hard working is not an innate quality of men; anyone can be hard working. But I do think it is a quality that many men embody.

  8. Lovely piece. Doing what must be done is an often unsung virtue. Thanks for singing about it for a bit.

  9. I didn’t read this article as a commentary on the overall positioning of men and women in the larger society. I read it as a commentary on the de-valuation of the “everyday joe” in the larger society. We love special interest groups. We admire brilliance. We in turn pity and excuse incompetance. But the guy that goes to the factory everyday, comes home every evening, opens a beer, reads a book to his kids, puts them to bed and then figures out with his wife which one of the bills isn’t gonna happen this month is pretty invisible. This vision of masculinity got lost somewhere in the “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” thing. And, in many ways, this framing has contributed to the decimation of unions, public goods and a functioning working class in this country. Because I think we mostly believe that that guy should go to college, get a better job, and be more awesome, rather than just an “everyday joe.”

  10. Thanks-a-mundo for the blog article.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  11. The Bad Man says:

    I don’t know if this is praising men’s usefulness or quietness. It’s true that men don’t generally speak up for themselves until things get really bad, but that’s not necessarily good.

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