Why Women Need to Challenge Men in Healthy Ways

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About Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony is an Iraq War veteran, vegan, and writer.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed war memoir: Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq. He spends his free time working on his house and volunteering for veteran charities, you can follow Michael on his website: MassCasualties.com or on Twitter: @WarVetAuthor


  1. Hi Michael
    I look forward to read the comments to this article.

  2. I think you missed the point, Michael. What I got from the two most recent ‘cut us men some slack’ articles was the suggestion that men, for whatever nature and nurture reason, communicate and convey emotions differently than women. And that women should bear this in mind at times of such communiction. I don’t think the article by Tamara Star, for example, was advising women to count to 10 every time a man says a dumb thing.

    Your article is directed at communication between two people, at times and places when those differences are not in play. Challenging someone to be a better person is a human to human interaction. I think there is a significant distinction between those two modes of interaction, and I think you lumped them both into the same pot.

    • Tamara Star says:

      Thank you @CW and thank you for the shout out. You nailed it and I appreciate that you got what I hoped people would get. Virtual high five. Compassion for our differences, not excuses or allowing bad behavior for either sex.

    • Only half of a communication is how the other person conveys its emotions. The rest of the work is done by the person who listens. and I think everyone has been listening to men and women differently, causing a self-serving difference,.

  3. Reminds me of this:
    “For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

    “This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men. This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding her standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. ” – Ayn Rand, 1968

  4. Nice. I had an issue lately with a male housemate where I challenged him and how he has decided not to like me or be a mate anymore. That one didn’t work out. sigh

  5. Tamara Star says:

    Hi Michael, great article. I too look forward to the comments. And for the record, I have no hesitation to call out bad behavior from my man. I believe a good woman sets the bar for her man to rise to the occasion and a good man sets the bar for his woman to rise to the occasion. My 3 articles were to help us all stop pointing fingers at the “other” as wrong and instead take a look from the other side. Love your points and agree! Nicely done.

  6. “Tell him instead that you demand and expect more from him.” O.K., so I should have a demanding girlfriend or wife. Sounds like fun.

  7. I think the wording here sounds too confrontational. There are times when confrontation is necessary, but most of the time it calls for ASSERTIVE communication which you don’t describe here.

    We should be expecting more from all of us, but we don’t get there by being confrontational. That tends to provoke conflict. You have a better chance at changing minds and behaviour by voicing concerns while respecting the other person.

    Maybe this all sounds like coddling to you because of your military background? You know better than I possibly could how training is designed to inure you to stress – it’s not exactly helpful in a combat situation if you’re overtly sensitive, but out of combat life, sensitivity is essential. I think the posts you refer to just acknowledge that there is a huge societal pressure for men not to be sensitive, and that it prevents men from realizing the full spectrum of themselves as people.

    Just because you can handle someone ‘calling you out’ doesn’t mean everyone can in the same way. Sometimes a more subtle tool is needed.

  8. What do you call a man who you challenge or make demands of? GONE.

  9. “Ranger training and Marine recon both have fallout rates of about eighty-five percent. Next up would be special ops like army Special Forces or Navy SEAL’s. These guys have a fallout rate of ninety-five percent or higher—and a lot of those are guys who’ve already been through Ranger training and Marine recon. ”

    Michael, As you point out, even the vast majority of men who would LIKE to be up to the challenge of Special Forces or Navy Seal type of hardship and stress crumble under the duress. I agree that men and women grow by challenging each other in relationship, but I disagree that it must be in a combative, antagonistic or confrontational way. Wasn’t a part of your training to have each other’s back? I think a part of how we grow, of how we embrace challenge is when we know that our false starts and fumbled attempts will be accepted along the way. If we only try those tasks where we know we can succeed, if we only risk those things where we are guaranteed excellence, then we stymie growth.
    There is another type of challenge: the challenge to be vulnerable, to take emotional risks, to show one’s fears. I suspect that for men who are trained as warriors, such risks are much harder, require a type of courage which is more natural to some women. Can you hold that courage in equal estimation? If so, then bravo. There is a wide range of what it means to be challenged, and what it means to ‘be a man’, to ‘be a woman’ today…flexibility is one of the more interesting characteristics of either definition.

  10. First off, let me say thank you for your service to our country( I have a son currently in Afghanistan). That being said however, I must say I’m 180 degrees from you on this. My wife of 38 years has always been there to support me and to help me ‘heal up’, both physically and mentally. I have no problem physically motivating myself and am a firm believer that there’s no dishonor if you die trying, so perhaps that’s why I don’t see the need to have a D.I. for a partner. I do realize that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for all.

  11. I noticed you didn’t specify any examples.

    If my girlfriend has a better idea on doing something useful, like making money, then I’d gladly accept her point of view.

    How much of “calling out” is over something useful, and how much of it is something social like “You’re being mean!” Think about it.

    At the end of the day of most of what women criticize about men is something irrelevant/emotional. Before telling guys to improve, they should first work on controlling their own feelings.

  12. Women don’t challenge men already? I’d argue that more men need to stand up to/challenge women, especially as the gender debate continues to evolve.

  13. John Anderson says:

    There is a difference between challenging someone to get better and expecting immediate results with consequences and assisting someone to get better and being patient while they get there. I think that is the essence of giving someone a break. I think if there is enough good in a person for you to go out with them, the you better do this or else approach is not the right way to go. If not, you shouldn’t be with that person. Too much to change and life’s too short.

  14. Tom Brechlin says:

    Personally I’m struggling on several levels with the Hillary anecdote. That being said, in part, I am the person I am today because of the support of my wife but as she has influenced who I am, my own dad played a major role in who I am as well.

    But as you know as a military man, the challenges are within you, be the best you can be. If that motivation isn’t within you, in your core being, you wouldn’t have put yourself into that environment in the first place.

    As much credits my wife and dad deserves and receives, the ultimate credit goes to the man who archives his goals and beyond.

    I have been told by more then a couple of people that there is no one harder on me then me. One of my problems is that I should cut myself some slack. But that’s who I am, especially in business; I demand the best out of me.

    I have to wonder though, who determines what another person should or shouldn’t accomplish in life. My wife is a prime example. She well educated and to be honest has many skills that exceed my own. But here is the deal; she never wanted a business career. I could look at her and say that she’s wasted her talents and skills. Should I have challenged her? But then again we could turn our focus on me where I went to the Chicago Art Institute /U of C on a scholarship. Had she challenged me as an artist, would I be where I am today? As it turned out, we challenged ourselves as to the direction we individually took. The ultimate goal was to be happy in life and enjoy a family life.

    I have to wonder if it’s a challenge we need or support for the decisions we make.

  15. I know you aren’t trying sum everything up with that Clinton conversation but frankly that didn’t sound like Hilary was challenging Bill. That sounded like she was telling him SHE is the reason he became president and without her Bill wouldn’t have been able to do it. (Let’s be honest if a man were to say that about a woman the response would be very different.)

    She doesn’t look at me as a man who’s been wounded by society, she looks at me as a man who needs to be challenged.
    Why can’t she look at you as both, while simply recognizing that those are two different perspectives and each has their place?

    Men don’t need women that understand us—because we’re often talking out of our asses—we need women that challenge us, that demand more from us than we ever thought possible.
    Asking women to understand men isn’t about letting the talk that comes from our asses slide. Its about seeing where he is coming from.

    Its almost like you are trying to conflate “recognizing what a man is going through” and “coddling a man”. They are not the same thing. It is entirely possible for a woman to have compassion and understanding for her man in some situations AND to stop and challenge him in other situations.

  16. Non-American female says:

    I’m going to challenge you on this statement: “The current U.S. military is the greatest and most powerful military the world has ever known.”

    How can you possibly know this? Has *ever* known? It may perhaps be the greatest and most powerful military currently operating, but hardly the greatest/most powerful ever known. Roman armies, the armies of Alexander the Great, or Genghis Khan…. Just because the US military hasn’t been defeated yet doesn’t mean it won’t be one day, if history is any indication.

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