Two conversations with a second wave feminist.

A conversation:  An older woman I know – call her “Karen” – once had the pleasure, along with her roommate, of meeting Senator Ted Kennedy when she was in college, back in the sixties.  When she mentioned this to me, I had to ask, “So, did Senator Ted Kennedy make a pass at you?”

“I have to tell you, my roommate and I were both terribly offended,” Karen deadpanned, “Ted Kennedy didn’t make a pass at either one of us!”

It’s a funny story.  But at the same time, the way she said it, it was hard not to think that, at some level, Karen and her roommate really were offended that they were not the object of Kennedy’s affections.  (By the way, let me state the obvious in that there is nothing inherently terrible about young women having such desires.  Yet to the extent these desires exist I think it’s helpful to discuss them honestly and openly.)

Another conversation:  There’s a friend of the family that Karen and I both know – call him “Fred.”  Fred has a worthless degree; Fred’s wife has a more useful degree.  Fred stays at home with their two small children; Fred’s wife works.  One day I was talking with Karen and somehow Fred’s name was mentioned.

“You know,” Karen winced, “he’s kind of a house husband.”  Kind of a house husband.  Karen said this in the same tone of voice you might use if you were talking about someone’s drinking problem or obvious weight gain.  Kind of a house husband.  Not a compliment.

I mention these two stories together because I think they illustrate the two lessons that young men often learn, at least from some feminists.  There’s the explicit message:  “Be nice and be kind.  No need to fight for status and power.  Just be the best you you can be.”  And then there’s the implicit message:  “You’re going to be graded on a sliding scale, pal, so you damn well better claw your way to the top.  And for crissake, don’t be a househusband.”

Men who are a little slow on the uptake learn only the explicit message, but most men learn both.  Smart men learn to hide from others their knowledge of the implicit message, and really smart men learn to hide from themselves their knowledge of the implicit message – yet still act on this knowledge to their own benefit.

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26 Responses to Two conversations with a second wave feminist.

  1. Oxon says:

    I’ve decided these things aren’t even worth talking about any more, you can only lose, and am feeling quite comfortable as one of the ‘smart’ men. The joke is that in my experience most strong feminists are actually more into bad boys than the average woman – by occupying a less traditionally feminine role (in certain ways), they want you to be even more masculine… I’ve come to believe that this gender difference is essential to much of sexual attraction; hence also why so many gay couples mimic it as tops and bottoms.

  2. Nealix says:

    I actually think the dynamics of “househusbands” are changing. I’m currently renting a room from a young wife and husband – the wife a lawyer currently seeking better work, and the husband who works at an auto place or something. Both get along very well, they met through online dating.
    Here is my conclusion, provided culture shifts as I see it changing: So long as both partners are bringing in enough money to support a family and provide enough purchasing power for their efforts, and /neither of them is lazy/, it works.
    This is a really good thing, since many careers that we have to take are just cogs in the machine of capitalism, and don’t warrant special appreciation. People are realizing that jobs and money are just tools to live.
    I have seen two other examples of this where it just works out and is great. One is someone I know who works a high-end job, and his pay is supplemented by his wife working at home about 30 hours a week while she also takes care of their child. This is the both-wife-and-husband-working-40-hours-a-week-suckage (unintended feminist backlash) evolved into something better – mainly better for the kid, since parents > child care.
    Another is a political blogger. He is a stay-at-home dad, who takes care of the kid, but he’s also a well known and goes around giving speeches occasionally. He might make some money from the blogging, but not a lot, just speculating. His wife works as a therapist – but it’s ok because he’s going around doing this awesome stuff, he’s not lazy, plus he seems really good with his kid. So, mom does meaningful emotional work and dad does good deeds on the political front and takes care of the kid. Sounds like success to me.
    It doesn’t mean that a man doesn’t have to be strong or anything – it doesn’t change your message – but the non-lazy aspect of it nulls a lot of the negativity of “house-husbands/wives.” If they’re sufficiently interested, both husband and wife can pull off full-time work sometime when their kids are somewhere through elementary school, after their kids have gotten the attachment benefits of parent care from the younger years.

  3. Lynet says:

    This is as much as to say: even when you want to change the world, you still have to live in it. Men and women are both judged unfairly in ways that can be sexist, and sometimes when it’s a man being judged harshly, it’s harder to call it out since there’s not such a history of that. Even feminists can be unconsciously biased towards traditional gender roles.

    So, just as female feminists make compromises — to beauty standards, to modesty, to the fact that it’s hard to succeed if you’re seen as ‘difficult’ even if a similar man would just be admired for ‘driving a hard bargain’ — so also male feminists, and men who are not feminists but sympathise with the cause in some ways, still find themselves bending to gender norms we don’t believe in, sometimes, as a way of accommodating unconscious prejudice in others. It can be a hard decision. Sometimes you really are compromising an ideal for personal gain. At other times, it’s compromising to make a smaller gain (such as keeping your job) that amounts to a feminist ideal in itself (getting more women into the workplace), even if you have to conform to a sexist standard in order to do that.

    So if you feel forced into masculine gender roles in order to get a date, my sympathies. But if you’re even slightly more feminist than the norm, then you’re helping us to shift in the right direction, and I think we all benefit from that.

  4. CaliOak says:

    This culture needs to figure out how to pay stay at home parents a living wage already, whether their married/partnered or not.

  5. TrollKING says:

    Good post. Why don’t you drop this feminist bullshit and come on over to the MRA side. We really aren’t as evil as feminists claim we are, most of us used to be where you are now and said fuck it and got sick of all the feminist double standards.

    One thing I will note is that male roles are reactive to feminine roles. This is due largely to biology and male-male competition/display and female choice. Women are the chooser in the sex game but they convince men to ‘act’ like the choosers because it allows them to passively-aggresively test a man’s fitness….in game/PUA circles this is called shit testing and in evolutionary circles it is often talked about as social proof, which is basically a man’s position in the social collective and is necessary for women to figure out because women are hypergamous….

    Feminists like to claim that masculinity is defined as oppositional to femininity and that the worst thing to call a man is ‘girly'(or some variation of that) because women are seen as less than but I reject this assumption. Women raise boys to become men. Women select men based on their own desires of what they think men should be. Even if there was such a thing as patriarchy, a system that defined cultural maleness by men for men, it didn’t exist when I was growing up in a male vacuum.

    If you look at it historically the female role has always been much more flexible than the male role. As women have taken on male attributes, the female role has expanded and the male role has constricted. Why do you think this is?

    I think it is because men are not women and women are seen as the default in society/culture. Anthropologically, in most cultures boys had to undergo a test or ritual into manhood. So women exist and men become. This fits perfectly into the notions put forth by evolution. Men display/compete and women choose the winners, not the losers. Some in the manosphere have pointed at feminism as a cultural wide shit test, a way for women to indulge their hypergamy and select out the top dogs, the alphas, and neglect the betas. This is the basis of the entire nice guy v. asshole paradigm. One thing to remember about women is that you should never listen to what they say but instead observe how they act. This is true of feminists too. They will treat you like a nice lil beta and use you to their own ends and when you need some help…they won’t be anywhere to be found.

    Anyways, I will finish up my long ass comment with some observations I have made of my own feminist mother. I have had several conversations with her about issues like this and many have been real eye openers. I remember one where we were talking about remarriage and she went on a long rant about second wives and how she didn’t give a shit if they lost out on earning capacity because their husbands were paying alimony and child support to the first wive who restricted his ability to even see the kids. This took me back, it was kinda shocking. One thing to remember, and many conversations with my mother and other women have lead me to these conclusions, is that women see men not as their equals but instead as objects to be used for their own gain/benefit.

    Men aren’t the only ones who compete for sexual access. Women compete against each other, often times in ways that are foreign to men, for access to men, especially the high ranking men. The main way that women compete is through beauty standards and feigning submission. The latter part is due to men being protectors and providers for women, hence the creation of trophy wives. Now the resource providing aspect is so that the woman can pop out some kids with the man and then entrap him so he will pay for and protect the children. Early feminists wanted this benefit without the responsibility of fulfilling their share of the equation. This, I believe, is why there is such hate for second and third wives. They think that they should have a right to get children and money from a man and then drop him and find another man but they don’t think the first man should have the same right. I could go on and on but I won’t.

    SImply put the dehumanizing aspect of malehood is due to men no longer having the ability or right to define the masculine role individually and culturally for the benefit of men and even more by men. There are perks to living in a masculine vacuum, we get to define manhood for ourselves now…but there are also downsides and to be honest I am not convinced that men ever had the power to culturally define masculinity separate from female wishes or benefits, the history of chivalry speaks to a different benefactor. One illuminating aspect of living in a matriarchal society, don’t kid yourselves we are matriarchal in almost every aspect, is that we are learning things about female nature that our grandfathers couldn’t have guessed about. Women view men as sperm donors and walking wallets and human shields and status objects/relationship objects and cannon fodder etc..

    Have a nice day and really, think about coming over to the dark side of MRAism…

  6. Lathe of Heaven says:

    Lynet: “Even feminists can be unconsciously biased towards traditional gender roles.”

    Pardon me, but what is the word “biased” telling us in this sentence? Is what you mean to say equivalent to the sentence “Even feminists can unconsciously prefer traditional gender roles.” ? If not, why not? Perhaps is that Preference == good, right? but bias == bad? and traditional gender roles can never be connected with the “good”. Your conclusion seems to be that a feminist can prefer traditional gender roles only through some kind of “unconscious”, under-developed awareness; certainly the enlightened, fully aware feminist (like yourself, presumably) could never have such a preference. Your language is extremely telling.

    Meanwhile,

    “So if you feel forced into masculine gender roles in order to get a date, my sympathies. But if you’re even slightly more feminist than the norm, then you’re helping us to shift in the right direction, and I think we all benefit from that.”

    Whom do you mean by “we all”? I don’t think that the man who leans toward feminist views but can’t get a date as a result (and, yes, that will likely be the direct result) is benefitting much at all. There’s no “shift” that’s helping his life, just that the chasm between what feminists tell him and what he experiences in the real world continues to widen. Of course, I’m sure that you and other feminists will appreciate him sacrificing his life upon your holy altar; but don’t be surprised when fewer and fewer men line up to follow his bloody trail to the temple.

  7. John E. says:

    Smart men learn to hide from others their knowledge of the implicit message, and really smart men learn to hide from themselves their knowledge of the implicit message – yet still act on this knowledge to their own benefit.

    What the…

    Why should smart men hide from others the fact from others that they know the implicit message and why should really smart men hide that knowledge of the implicit message from themselves?

    That doesn’t even make sense.

    Those of us who are in on the secret – that what the Karen’s of the world say they want and what their actions show they want don’t match up – don’t need to hide that knowledge from anyone, least of all ourselves.

    The only way that makes any kind of sense is that if you assume that it “isn’t nice” to let on that you know the secret and that you will upset the Karen’s of the world if you show that you know.

    But here’s another secret for you – the Karen’s of the world expect you to know the secret and expect you to act in ways that show you know the secret.

    If the Karen’s of the world think that you actually believe that they would be okay with marrying a househusband, then they will write you off as failing that part of the “how the world really works” test.

  8. Lynet says:

    I think I’ve told the story on this blog before of how I discovered I was unconsciously sexist — how I used to think that girls who were openly sexual were stupid, based on no further evidence, and how I learned I was wrong. That you assume, on no particular evidence, that I am self-righteous enough to believe that I could never make a similar mistake is — what was the phrase? — extremely ‘telling’. Give me a break, dude.

    Also, to be fair, it’s true basically by definition that ‘a feminist can prefer traditional gender roles only through some kind of “unconscious” … awareness’, because almost all the people who call themselves feminists are people who consciously prefer gender equality.

    I don’t believe as strongly as you do that men have to be ‘alpha males’ or whatever to get a date, which is why I think that a man could be more feminist than the norm and still be happy. Indeed, some aspects of feminism — like understanding that it’s okay for women to enjoy sex — will help you find and/or keep a date.

    I do think that creating a world where, for example, both men and women feel like they should be initiating contact when they’re interested in a person, and both men and women think that it’s okay for them to enjoy sex, and both men and women think that it’s okay for them to refuse sex — those are good things, that don’t just help women. So some men sign on to help that world come about out of self-interest, as well as compassion.

  9. La Lubu says:

    Can I ask a couple of dumb questions to the men here? Do you prefer “the Karens of the world” (as John E. put it)? If so, what is the appeal? Also….have you ever wanted to be a househusband—a man with no outside income?

  10. John E. says:

    Well, I don’t prefer the Karen’s, but I’ve never gone out of my way to make a great deal of money, so I probably don’t attract them.

    Have I ever wanted to be a househusband? No, but I’d gladly take a five year vacation where I didn’t have to think about earning money.

  11. FascistOrigami says:

    By what means will the state (which is what I presume you mean by “this culture”) obtain the resources to pay “stay at home parents a living wage”? If the “living wage” is sufficiently comfortable that many parents would prefer to stay at home rather than be productive members of society, then how will society’s needs be met, and how will there be sufficient resources to support those who are living off the largesse of others? Under these circumstances, who will decide who gets to stay at home and who has to work?

    I can already guess what your answers might be (whether or not you consciously know yourself) since our system is already set up to transfer wealth from one set of individuals to another set who quaintly refer to themselves as stay-at-home parents.

  12. FascistOrigami says:

    I agree that gender difference is essential to sexual attraction, but it may surprise you (or maybe not) to learn that the top/bottom thing is extremely fluid among gay male couples. What I like about being a gay man is the flexibility of gender roles. My partner and I complement each other in a number of important ways, but it would be hard to tell, without knowing us well, how we parse out the “masculine” and “feminine” roles. And upon meeting us for the first time, you probably would not even suspect we were a gay couple (as we constantly encounter objective evidence of this, e.g. questions such as “where are your wives?”).

  13. Lathe of Heaven says:

    “Indeed, some aspects of feminism — like understanding that it’s okay for women to enjoy sex — will help you find and/or keep a date.”

    Now, this is just … odd. To whom do you think you’re speaking here? If there’s one thing that feminists and PUA’s and men in general all agree on, it’s that it’s okay for women to have sex — the more, the merrier! as long as it includes the person doing the agreeing. This idea that there’s any meaningful reality to who does or does not think something is “okay” for women to do is a little beyond me. I’ve virtually never seen a woman be worried about what anyone (besides her man of the moment) thought was “okay” or not, so this overwhelming emphasis you place on external approval just seems weird to me.

    At the same time, though, you’re missing the really big fish as to what aspects of feminism might have been helpful for dating — though it didn’t turn out that way. To me (admittedly an amateur at women’s studies), the absolute bedrock of feminism is simply the idea that women are fully-fledged, thinking human beings; and that anything that should follow from that should actually happen. Do you disagree?

    The acceptance of this idea promised a revolution in how women would use language, and how men would receive that language. Previously, women were not expected to be logical, or trustworthy, or even completely rational — recall the old saw that “it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind”: consistency and accountability were not concerns of hers. In the new era, though, women would be recognized as rational speakers, fully sentient thinking beings whose words could be taken at face value.

    Sadly, the sun never really rose on this new world, much to the disappointment of those who had waited up through the long night. To put it bluntly, the man who respects a woman and takes her at her word as a thinking, rational human being will likely die a virgin — or at least reach age 26 in that condition, which is pretty much the same thing as death when one is 19. I could go into vast detail here, but I assume you already know the drill: what women say they want and what women demonstrate that they want inhabit two vastly different continents; women are vastly hypocritical and/or un-self-aware, on a scale that simply has no male counterpart. (Yes, men are typically dishonest; but that’s not the same thing at all.)

    Feminism had its chance to improve the world by improving women’s behavior; not only did that fail, but feminism now spends all its energy willfully ignoring these problems or covering up for women’s bad behaviors as shrilly and loudly as possible. It _is_ sad, really; only a later generation might ever see that dawn arrive.

  14. Lynet says:

    Wow, you really think women don’t want to be seen as rational beings?

    That’s pretty extreme. I guess it goes a long way to explaining why you and I disagree. I mean, I might concede that some women still want men to adhere to gender roles, but even then, most women still want to be seen as people with minds of their own.

    If there’s one thing that feminists and PUA’s and men in general all agree on, it’s that it’s okay for women to have sex — the more, the merrier!

    Susan Walsh, on the other hand, defends slut-shaming.

  15. Lathe of Heaven says:

    Good Lord! You want to use Susan Walsh as an example of someone who says “it’s not okay for women to have sex”? The blogger who once wrote a post entitled (paraphrasing) “Why having sex is good for you and you should do more of it”? Susan is, without doubt, a party girl who wants everyone to have a good time, really the opposite of the “it’s not okay” sentiment.

    I can’t speak for her on the slut-shaming idea in particular; but to me this is a tiny epicycle, the observation that “the more the merrier” stops being true past a certain point. If you want to defend the claim, that suggesting that there should be any sensible limits at all is equivalent to saying “it’s not okay to have sex” then I just can’t see it and I’m not with you at all.

    “most women still want to be seen as people with minds of their own.”

    I don’t dispute that this is what women want; what I’m saying is that women, as a general rule, fail to live up to the responsibility of having it actually be true. A sufficient example is the practice of the “shit test” (ST), which was discussed on this blog but quite inadequately IMO; a much fuller discussion (540 comments) can be found, for example (where else?) here

    http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2011/03/21/relationshipstrategies/why-we-shit-test/

    The short form is this: a woman makes a request of a man, which might arguably be judged as marginally unreasonable but within the bounds of chivalry. However, the truth is that she doesn’t actually want him to comply. Just the opposite, in fact: she wants him to refuse, to tell her off, to show that he won’t be pushed around. The chivalrous dude who does his lady’s bidding fails the ST and is thereby deemed “weak” in her estimation, and so is taken out of contention as a sexual partner. In the standard lore, it’s important to note, application of the ST is not a conscious calculated decision by the woman but more of an instinctual act.

    The widespread practice of STing leads directly (and justifiably, IMO) to the widespread impression that “women don’t know what they want” and are not really self-aware, sentient beings; or, in compact form, “Bitches be crazy.” Feminism failed to yank the leash on this kind of irrational behavior by women, and so failed to promote women to full-sentient status. As I said above, it’s sad.

  16. La Lubu says:

    Lathe of Heaven, I followed that link….never heard of Susan Walsh before, and didn’t make it to the comments, but my impression is that the behavior described in that post is sociopathic. It is not representative of average behavior.

  17. @La Lubu – I desperately want to be a house husband. I am an excellent cook, I used to be a janitor in High School (so I know how to clean), and I can do laundry. I also can mow the lawn and can’t wait for my wife and I to have kids.

    But when I was in High School, popular culture told me that no woman would want me unless I could make lots of money. So I got myself in massive student loan debt, got a degree and now make a lot of money (more than my wife can make.) So I’m stuck working to pay that off for the next couple decades. There’s no woman on the world who would want me as a house husband PLUS my student loan debt.

  18. Lynet says:

    Slut-shaming is sexist and wrong, and does have the effect of encouraging women not to have sex. As far as I know, Susan wasn’t encouraging anyone to put “reasonable limits” on men, was she?

    And I’m really not sure that the “shit-test” is anything like as widespread as you claim — to say nothing of the fact that I don’t go around saying that those guys who lie about their income, or whatever other pernicious dating behavior you like, are a reason not to treat men like rational beings.

  19. Lathe of Heaven says:

    As far as I know, Susan Walsh has been quite critical of “man whores,” as she calls them; but, really, it doesn’t make sense for me to speak for Susan whose writing is easily accessible.

    The main point remains, that slut shaming and general sexuality shaming of women are certainly not equivalent. If you can’t see that there’s an entire sky full of daylight between the statements “Women should not have sex at all” and “Women should not have infinite amounts of sex”, then I recommend you start studying English as a second language. Classes are probably available in your area.

    Meanwhile, you’re completely (deliberately?) missing the point regarding ST’s, where the key concept is not honesty but rationality. Yes, men will tactically, wantonly lie if it will help* get them what they want. This may be pernicious and morally reprehensible, but it is also rational: the man knows what he wants and calculates how to get it. The woman, by contrast, has no conscious understanding of her own desires; she sees no contradiction at all between saying “I want to be treated well” while also admitting “My last ten boyfriends were all assholes.” One is fully oriented to reality, if not morality; the other has yet to achieve real consciousness and recognize the obvious reality around her.

    [* Of course, one reason men lie for self-aggrandizement is that women will not sleep with them if they tell the truth about being ordinary. If women will only sleep with liars, then only liars will get laid.]

  20. Lynet says:

    Forgive me for replying down here; the increasingly narrow column is rather constricting.

    I plead guilty to the straw-man of saying “it’s okay for women to have sex” when what I meant was “it’s okay for women to have as much sex as they want”; I concede that these are different things (and should have done so before).

    I’m appalled that you would use the (questionable) idea that women don’t know what they want in a partner as a way to dismiss women’s rationality generally. A man who simultaneously slut-shames and complains that he can’t get enough sex (not an uncommon combination) is surely irrational when the two things are considered together, but this is human irrationality, not confined to a particular sex. Sure, there are women who want contradictory things in a man — and there are men who want contradictory things in a woman. But the idea that women have to be perfectly rational in order to be considered to have achieved the basic human level of rationality is silly.

  21. Jim says:

    “I agree that gender difference is essential to sexual attraction,”

    Not for me. For me it kills sexual attraction. Femininity is a turn off, at least sexually, in either men or women.

    ” but it may surprise you (or maybe not) to learn that the top/bottom thing is extremely fluid among gay male couples. ”

    “Versatile”

    “but it would be hard to tell, without knowing us well, how we parse out the “masculine” and “feminine” roles. ”

    We have both in ourselves individually, so it doesn’t have to be parsed out in the relationship.

  22. Lynet says:

    reply below.

  23. Lathe of Heaven says:

    You seem to have a low threshold for being appalled; I guess that makes it kind of hard to get through the day. But, maybe it’s a side-effect of having so much straw in your diet.

    But the idea that women have to be _perfectly_ rational in order to be considered to have achieved the basic human level of rationality is silly.

    Of course it’s silly, which is why I never said that or anything close to it. Making up a ridiculous exaggeration, and then arguing against the exaggeration instead of the original point is a classically weak debating tactic and usually the sign of holding a losing hand.

    but this is human irrationality, not confined to a particular sex. Sure, there are women who want contradictory things in a man — and there are men who want contradictory things in a woman.

    More straw, provided by the cults of false even-handedness and non-quatitativity. I never said that men were never irrational, or never had self-contradictory desires. These traits may appear in both sexes at detectable levels, but what I’m saying is that women exhibit them at a vastly greater level than men do, to the extent that there’s no meaningful equivalence. You may disagree with me, of course; but nothing is gained by mis-quoting me.

    A man who simultaneously slut-shames and complains that he can’t get enough sex (not an uncommon combination) is surely irrational when the two things are considered together

    I don’t think this is at all obvious; it may well be true that slut-shaming by the sexless unfortunate is entirely rational. Picture the man of median attractiveness, at the 50th percentile in the general line-up of the male population. In a slut-full world he gets essentially nothing, as all the women line up to bestow their favor on the top 10-20% most attractive men. In the slut-shaming world, however, where a monogamy system is more the norm then he has a much better chance, as his “natural” counterpart at the 50th percentile of women will be much more likely to give him the time of day that she never would in slut-world. NB: I’m not saying this is a good or moral desire on his part, only that it can be seen as rational.

    Of course, there are a non-negligible number of unfortunate men who really are irrational, in the sense of being self-defeating when their resentment of women becomes impossible to hide and makes them terminally unattractive. They are trapped, in hating what they desire and desiring what they hate; let us take a moment and pray for the unfortunate. I don’t think these men can be the basis for any conclusions about “true” male nature, however, because of the simple fact that I don’t think most of them started out that way; I believe that most started out as decent enough guys but were driven crazy by the irrational madhouse that women presented. Sad, once again.

  24. Lynet says:

    Yep, basically I just disagree with you now. Women don’t exhibit contradictory desires about sexual partners “at a vastly greater level than men do”, and sluts don’t just go for the top 10-20% most attractive men.

  25. Lynet says:

    I should also add: so far you’ve offered no evidence for either of those things, just assertion. And on the basis of that mere assertion, you’re willing to say that women exhibit vastly greater levels of irrationality than men do? Because if so, then, yeah, that’s pretty appalling.

    People have been denigrating women based on (sometimes contradictory) assertions about “what women do” for centuries. What makes you think you’re any better?

  26. B405 says:

    I would love to be a househusband. As for Karen, I don’t suppose I know enough about her or others like her to make a decision, but what little I do know sure isn’t appealing.

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