“You know, I’ll still love you, even if you’re sexist towards me,” I just told a dear friend. We’re in the middle of some sort of email fight over something he did that was at worst a micro-aggression, and at best nothing. And, as these things often go, the conversation afterward was more triggering than the original event. To summarize:
I didn’t mean anything bad!
Everyone always says they didn’t mean anything bad!
Throughout my adolescent and adult life, I have regularly overlooked the subtle sexism of my male coworkers and friends. I have also overlooked homophobia and biphobia when they’ve come up. Like, it sucks, but “calling people out” is a pain in the ass. I only have so much energy. So, I let things slide.
The reason it takes so much energy is that, normally, if you confront someone with their politically incorrect behavior, they will go into overdrive trying to convince you to change your perception of reality. If a guy at work, for instance, makes a condescending offhand remark about my work, and I’m like “I don’t think you’d say that to a male coworker” he will then waste the next hour of my life trying to convince me that he totally would say that to a male coworker. And, I get it. If he gets branded as “sexist” his professional/social cred will be shredded, so he feels compelled to eliminate any suggestion of his sexism. It’s not enough for me to be like “hey, no biggie” — he will continue hounding me until he is convinced my brain has been expunged of the offending belief. It feels very invasive, as if I am not entitled to my own interpretation of reality based on my own life experience.
Consequently, I never bring up sexist behavior at work, and rarely with friends. I just silently notice that I hate how I’m being treated and become bitter and resentful. Sometimes, men will comment on other men’s sexist behavior toward me (which makes me think I’m not insane) but no one will ever admit that they are being sexist.
Which is actually too bad for them, because a lot of men have a rarely discussed problem: intimacy starvation.
A lot writing from the groupthink-femosphere condemns “the man web” aka some conglomeration of men’s right activists, 4chan, and anonymous twitter users that regularly rage at women. Very few “feminists” ask “why are men so angry?” The pre-programmed answer is something like “male entitlement” but 15 years of being in male-dominated arenas has convinced me of something else.
Men are actually desperately starved for intimacy and they will use all the male privilege they can muster in search of said intimacy. However, men are also socially ostracized for exhibiting weakness (like, say, needing touch) so they have to rephrase their needs in a sort of angry and misogynistic way. This is why men talk so much about “needing to get laid” — it’s a lot less vulnerable than saying they need to get loved, but it comes from the same source.
What happens if you starve someone of love and intimacy? If they are a baby, they will die. If they are an adult, they will harden into an angry bitter shell, and if they are an adult man, they may find some solace from the man web. However, if they are discovered on the man web, they will be bitterly shamed.
This is basically the story of Jared Rutledge. This is my summary of the story (but, go read for yourself if you have time.)
- Jared is raised as a sexually repressed Christian with a lot of shame
- Jared is terrible with women throughout high school and college, and doesn’t lose his virginity until after both
- Sometime in his late 20s, he finds the Pick Up Artist community, and for the first time ever he is not starved for physical contact
- He cannot help but notice that girls are going for him for fairly superficial reasons (many in the article comment on his job) and this reaffirms his belief that he is deeply unlovable except for his superficial successes. (It is worth noting that his criteria is also very superficial, as is common for pick up artists, so naturally the women he attracts will behave superficially in turn.)
- He bitches about the women he dates in some highly misogynistic ways in places on the internet he assumed no one but other men would ever read. (It is worth noticing that the women’s names were not published, and while they were able to identify themselves from descriptions of their dates, it seems unlikely a 3rd party would be able to identify them.)
- The women he was sleeping with found it, he became the town pariah, and was unable to repent. Even when he offered to donate all proceeds from his coffee shop to a rape crisis center, they refused his apology.
- Jared is continued to be denied the love and affection that created this entire problem in the first place.
So, I challenge you, what is the correct way for a socially isolated straight man to get intimacy? If he approaches other men, he will lose face, as intimacy between straight men is shunned. If he approaches women, he will be rejected. How the hell can he get out of this?
(Pubic Service Announcement: if you are a man in this situation, I think you should seriously consider hiring a caring sex worker. Pay a nice lady for her time, maybe a therapist too if you have the means, treat her well, and try not to get arrested.)
But anyway — how does this relate to men admitting they are sexist? Men know they are sexist. Every single man who treats me differently from men knows, on some level, that he’s treating me differently from men. He just doesn’t want me to know that. He thinks that if he can trick me into thinking he’s not sexist, then I will not deprive him of my affection.
What he doesn’t know, is he’s not fooling me when I choose to overlook it. I’ve been absorbing sexism my entire life, I am way more adept at spotting sexism than your average straight man is at hiding it. And, it’s ok. Like, I want them to work on it, obviously, but I just expect that all men I meet will be sexist, and those I like, I like in spite of their sexism.
I was on the other side of this when dating my ex girlfriend, who is latina. Like all other white people*, I am racist, and she saw that in me. I couldn’t hide it from her. The best I would be able to do is to convince her to doubt her own observations of my racism, which would cause her to lose faith in herself. But, even if I could get her to believe I wasn’t racist (which, probably I could’t have— the best I could have done would be to get her to lie) but, if had, her body would still have stored up all the anger and resentment from her mistreatment. You can never force someone to turn on themselves completely. Their entire evolutionary makeup will fight you. Even if you can convince someone to consciously align with your oppressive motives, their subconscious will hold the truth. It is impossible to dominate another’s soul, which is the lesson we still haven’t learned from slavery.
But, even though my ex knew I was racist, she loved me anyway. Part of being loved for all of who you are is having someone see all your terrible and still love you. The problem white men have, is they are constantly forced to put on a show, to constantly hide their terrible. They’re so afraid that if someone sees who they really are, then they won’t be loved. But if you’re not loved for who you really are, then you’re not loved. So, when I have to pretend to my male friends that I don’t see their sexism, we’re blocking their reception of my intimacy. I cannot love them for all that they are, because they are refusing to admit all that they are. So, my love will never feel like enough, and they will remain starved for affection.
And, let’s get real, we all see the white man’s terrible. Even other white men see each other’s terrible, but they refuse to see their own. And, yes, it hurts us who are not white men in various ways — but, it hurts them too.
PC culture has become a new form personalized propaganda as people try to project “not racist!” “not sexist! “not homophobic!” to the world as loud as they can. But, if they believed that, why would they have to scream so loud? If they really believed they weren’t racist/sexist/etc. they wouldn’t have to work so hard to convince everyone of this fact. This personalized propaganda is not only blocking necessary change (as activists already know) but it is also isolating people who feel the need to hide who they really are. If you hide who you are, you are always alone.
We are all savages inside, but that doesn’t stop us from being beautiful.
** I have since revised my views that it’s a good idea to view all men as sexist, all white people as racist, etc. but I left this in tact. Can read more about it here.