A Message To My Sexist Friend From My Hometown
We all have them, those friends we keep because we grew up in the same place. We might nod and say hi if we see them in public but we don’t really hang out with them. We keep them as friends on Facebook so that we can see what’s going on and what the general mentality of our hometown is or out of some strange sense of loyalty. It almost feels like a betrayal to unfriend them or block them. I mean, they were cool at one point and surely they must be cool now too. Well, not all of them are and this is a message for those friends from our hometown who for one reason or another have held onto those sexist ideas, or really any of the outdated and bigoted ideas that they hold onto.
I’d like to start with a question. Does your girlfriend or wife think it’s funny when you make fun of women drivers? Does she agree with you when you say that women aren’t as smart as men? I’d guess not. You probably laugh and say that you don’t mean her but she just nods and keeps doing things and thinks you’re a good enough man in other ways that she can look past this little bit of misogyny. But that’s the same thing that ends relationships eventually, it dehumanizes her and all women. It takes away their dignity and for what? Does it make you feel superior? Do you actually think that you’re superior? If you’re a man of any age under 80, you should realize by now that women are not inferior to men. They can perform at the same level as men in everything short of growing back hair. Which isn’t a particularly good measuring stick.
I want you, my friendly hometown misogynist to really think about this. Why do you think that you can denigrate women and still think you’re doing nothing wrong? I don’t know the answer. I used to push back on feminism. I didn’t think it was necessary. Women were obviously equal to men and all this nonsense about systems of power that hold women back didn’t make sense to me. Rape culture was a misunderstanding about who was doing the raping, jokes about women being dumb or bad drivers or whatever were just jokes, and the men who were actually sexist were few and far between.
I was wrong, and if you think those things then you are too. Take a look at some of the comment sections on videos done by women or check out the replies to women on Twitter. It’s not just a matter of men disagreeing with women. They call them names, threaten to rape them, and accuse them of dishonesty even when they’re just saying something obvious. Women online are subject to sexual advances no matter what they are working on, no matter what they’re wearing, and no matter what age, race, or sexuality are. They’re subject to it just because they’re women online. I can’t imagine you would think it’s ok for some dude to walk up to your wife and whip out his dick or hit on her and call her a bitch when she rejects him. If it’s not alright to do in real life then it’s not alright to do online because online is real life.
And it’s not just online, women have to deal with catcalling, harassment, demeaning jokes and sexual advances every day in their lives offline as well. This isn’t some myth spread by third wave feminists. It’s extremely common and the experiences have been expressed by probably every woman you know. If you haven’t heard of it then that usually means that they just don’t trust you enough to tell you or they don’t think you’ll believe them. Would you? Would you be the guy who thinks she should be super nice to someone who won’t take no for an answer?
I personally know women who have felt uncomfortable ordering a pizza because they don’t know what kind of person the delivery guy might be. That might seem over the top if you haven’t heard some of the stories that women share about this stuff but it’s a legitimate concern if you know that there are enough men who are rapists to scare some women away from trusting men at all. It’s not just the rapists, which could include neighbors, friends, delivery guys, landlords, or pretty much anyone. It’s also the apologists, men who find it necessary to defend every guy who’s accused of rape by announcing that they once heard about a false accusation that one time or they share an article on Facebook. All of this stuff together doesn’t even scratch the surface of the world that women face.
There’s also a system of power that favors men and questions and over scrutinizes everything that women do or say. When women say or do something that men think is good, men will take the credit and pretend it was their idea. This is another well documented occurrence, particularly in the workplace.
Just ask the women in your lives if some of them have experienced some of these things. Not everything is universal but the number of women who experience this stuff is far too high and some women even work to deny that any of this is happening. It’s hard to deny the sheer number of instances of men getting promoted over women or the number of rape cases that go unpunished. I’m not saying rape and not getting promoted are the same thing but they are both symptoms of systemic issue of men having power over women and those women being failed by that system because of it.
I don’t really know how to end this message to the sexist dude from my hometown except to say that you need to actually think about the way you see the world. When someone challenges your perception of things you need to actually stop and try to understand why you see things the way you do instead of getting defensive and acting out. Instead of telling a woman who disagrees with you to go get you a sandwich and showing yourself to be a misogynist (and frankly not very creative), maybe try to understand her point. Do this with all things, not just with sexism. When someone tells you that the meme you shared is transphobic, try actually thinking about what gender is and why you feel the need to keep it binary. When someone tells you that you shouldn’t use the N-word, instead of telling them to “get over it”, maybe try to understand why the history of that word matters and why it’s hurtful when white folks use it. This and so many more things need to be worked on by you, by me, and by society in general.
You can stay in your hometown and there’s not even anything wrong with that but you still need to grow as a person and you need to do better when dealing with people who are different than you. I want to stay friends with you. I want to be justified in maintaining a bond as tenuous as it may be. And I’m not saying that I’m perfect. I am far from perfect. I mean, hell, I’ve still got you on my friends list even though you post some pretty shitty things and even though you say some pretty shitty things. Someone with less privilege that I have might not be willing or able to put up with your sexism or racism or bigotry of another kind but I do but even I have my limits and I hope that you can work towards being a better person so that we can stay friends and work towards building a better world together.