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men as feminist allies
July 3, 2014 8:00 AM   Subscribe

35 Practical Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution: "This list entails suggestions for some practical tools all men can apply in their day-to-day lives to foster equality in their relationships with women, and to contribute to a culture where women feel less burdened, unsafe, and disrespected."
The list is not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive. Certain items on the list will apply to some men more than others, but if you are a man and a human I guarantee there is at least one area on the list where you could make an improvement. If you think there’s something we’ve missed, tell me! If you think something on the list is problematic, let’s have a conversation about it!
Pamela Clark follows up her original list with:

#36 - Talk candidly with other men about the ways that gender expectations have been hurtful to you: "I am not understating it when I say that this kind of outreach to these angry (and hurting) men is one of the most urgent and important kinds of feminist activism that feminist men can do... When you see or hear a man expressing misogynistic beliefs because women have rejected him romantically, reach out to him in a way that sympathizes with how hurt he feels but helps him see that the way he’s directing his reasonable hurt feelings is completely unreasonable."

FAQ - Specific questions: "While I have been overwhelmed with positive responses to my article over the past month (here on Tumblr, but also on Twitter, by email, and on xoJane where it was reprinted) there have also been a lot of critical comments and questions... So I am writing this to respond to these recurring themes in hopes to clarify things a little more. I want this to be a comprehensive resource people can refer back to so I don’t have to keep addressing the same questions over and over."

Responses - addresses "the list is cissexist/minimizes the existence of queer/trans* men", plus more
Two responses (one & two) addressing the gender wage gap & intersectionality

Kirsten Schlewitz: 10 Rules for (interacting with) Women during the World Cup
I'm a woman; I'm interested in and write about soccer, and so I face this sort of discrimination every day. On social media, in critiques of my writing, when out watching a game in public. And I'm not alone. Nearly every female fan I've spoken with has a similar tale. We've been bullied. We've been the brunt of (bad) jokes. We've had our opinions ridiculed and dismissed. Based on one single, solitary criteria: Our gender.

So it's time to create a new list of rules. And this one isn't a joke. Instead, it's a considered approach to reducing sexual discrimination in the sport of football, starting with the fans. The more women are treated as equals in discussion, the easier it will be for them to progress in other areas of the sport.
Soraya Chemaly: Do You See These 10 Everyday Sexisms?
Honestly, setting aside the real physical harms that people face, living with sexism is like having a lifelong low-grade fever. When women take note of sexism during their daily lives—for example, talking openly about street harassment or workplace bias—and name it for what it is, they stop accepting it as “normal.”...The sad fact is that while it is polite to express sexist ideas, confronting them is considered the height of rudeness and humorlessness.
previously on MeFi:
Dating tips for feminist men
It's about improving the lives not only of women, but of men
posted by flex (343 comments total) 126 users marked this as a favorite

 
I haven't even started to read these yet, but just the title of the first link is enough for me to say thank you for answering many questions I have been having as a man on how to support feminism and gender equality.

So, thanks :)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:10 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


34. Get in the habit of treating your maleness as an unearned privilege that you have to actively work to cede rather than femaleness being an unearned disadvantage that women have to work to overcome.

Oh sweet god yes.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:15 AM on July 3 [31 favorites]


I disagree with a lot of these, because so many of them are relationship dependent, right? Especially things like #27. My husband (like a lot of guys) cannot remember dates for the life of him. But I'm great at it, and enjoy remembering birthdays on both sides of the family. A lot of this should really come down to "don't be a jerk."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:17 AM on July 3 [11 favorites]


Yeah, a lot of them come down to "don't be a jerk," but the insidious thing is that a lot of guys do a lot of jerky things without realizing it.

One of my eye-opening things, when I was maybe 20 years old, was realizing that I interrupted people. All the damn time. For who knows how long, and I hadn't realized it until this one moment. Now, I had no way to know if I interrupted women more than men, but I suddenly knew that there's this big indication of respect, and whether you value what other people have to say as much as what you have to say, and you have to pay attention to it.

Spelling out the jerky things that people do, and that men do to women, is important.
posted by entropone at 8:22 AM on July 3 [17 favorites]


I'm not good at remembering dates either, and I am not a dude. I try to take responsibility for this known weakness by putting things in my calendar.
posted by rtha at 8:23 AM on July 3 [39 favorites]


That may work for you, and if you enjoy the task, then cool. However, not being able to remember dates is not an intrinsic aspect of being male. Also, calendaring solutions are easy and free, these days. I don't remember dates because I don't have to and don't like to; usually, someone else does it for me, and those someones are indeed disproportionately women. I should work on that.
posted by gilrain at 8:25 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


My husband (like a lot of guys) cannot remember dates for the life of him. But I'm great at it, and enjoy remembering birthdays on both sides of the family.

I'm pretty sure it goes without saying that there are some individual situations that will be exceptions, as long as all of the individuals involved freely and explicitly consent with full awareness.

I'm interested in what kind of research has been done to show that men, on average, have more trouble remembering dates than women do. A lot of women cannot remember dates for the lives of them, either.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:28 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Love the list, lots of cool things in there, but the HPV vaccine is...a bit questionable to me. "Women have the worst problems of HPV, therefore men should take the risks from the shot" is both bad science (everyone should get the shot, that's how vaccination works) and...rather questionable from an ethics standpoint. She says it's "on principle", but that's still...rather hinky to make someone else take risks as a method of societal leveling.
posted by Punkey at 8:29 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Also, and you may not have meant to imply this r317, but the trope that "men are just bad at [mundane task they would rather have women do]" is broadly damaging. I like to put it this way: if women are so much better at so many things, why are men paid so much more? It must be a huge burden having men employees fumbling and forgetting their ways around the office.
posted by gilrain at 8:30 AM on July 3 [66 favorites]


These are brilliant, and I can find many ways I've not lived up to my potential against these criteria.

I do have one objection, however:
10. Have progressive name politics.

Name-politics should be hyphenated. "Progressive" modifies the entire phrase.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:31 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Jeez, I must have missed that one. That's...rather idiotic from a personal finance perspective. "Bankrupt yourself for social justice" isn't really great advice.
posted by Punkey at 8:33 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


A lot of this should really come down to "don't be a jerk."

I like Captain Awkward's articulation of one possible means of identifying and changing gendered assumptions about household/emotional labor:
I think one way to fight against this is for people to really understand that there is no normal. There is no default setting for who does what around the house. You get to make up your own normal, and you get to negotiate it explicitly ahead of time, and you get to re-negotiate it over and over again as things grow and change. ... If a more “traditional” division of labor feels good* and make sense to you, by all means, do that, but don’t do it as a default. Negotiate it. Verbally work out how and when everything will be done."
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:34 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


I don't think it's really about dates; it's about not expecting your female partner to remember them for you. Which happens! I have been given the side-eye occasionally from older in-laws when husband forgot a birthday and I did not step in and get the card/whatever. But now people no longer expect me to do that; they give him shit if he forgets, but that's on him.

(my side of the family is all terrible about birthdays, so we just don't bother)
posted by emjaybee at 8:34 AM on July 3 [19 favorites]


This is list of rules, not tools. Equating how to comport yourself on public transport with parity of emotional needs is simple-minded.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:35 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


The first link contains an excellent list and it would be great if everyone understood the rules (women, too, so that they understand it's not unreasonable to want a male partner who treats her as an equal in some of the less obviously jerky or at least more societally-conditioned ways).

I was exposed to a similar list in college in the 80s (the concept of men taking responsibility for sexism is hardly new) and it revised much of how I understood the world, including how I looked at my mother and sisters, as well as potential romantic partners and fellow students or workers.

My husband (like a lot of guys) cannot remember dates for the life of him.

No offense to your husband - I tend to be a little scattered or procrastinating with dates myself (though so is my partner, who is a woman) - but surely in this day of ubiquitous smart phone and internet social site usage, everyone has access to a variety of calendars that can remind them of any dates they decide to set up. Not setting them up in this case seems a matter of not prioritizing things that matter to others.
posted by aught at 8:35 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


Wow. I love this a whole lot. I don't 100% agree with every one of these, of course, and may choose to negotiate different options within my own relationship but overall there's a lot of good takeaway here.

I, for example, am in a relationship with a dude who is terrible at dates. It's not a huge deal - I set up calendar reminders for both of us so it doesn't take up too much brain space. I wouldn't list it as a top five issue in our relationship, or anything, but there is some space taken up in my brain by being The Reminder Queen, and it would be a practical thing my partner could do to promote equality in our relationship if he were more responsible for his own crap, leaving me more time and mental space to focus on my own crap.
posted by Stacey at 8:36 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Nice list.
posted by qi at 8:37 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


We met on 9/11 (not in 2001) so I got the big date remembered for good.

Although it makes going out for a celebratory dinner awkward.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:38 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


I follow #28 and I think it is a good idea for the exact reasons given. However, it is a little odd in the context of my actual relationships because my wife, sister, and mom all feel so free to tell me how to dress and groom myself. I've even been told when my belly is looking a little larger. Not some big problem, but it often feels strange during the moments of ordinary life. For example, when my sister gives me shit for how I look I never respond by telling her that she's looking a little ragged herself.
posted by Area Man at 8:39 AM on July 3


>33. Walk the walk about income inequality. Women still earn about 77% as much as men. If you are in a position where you are financially able to do so, consider donating a symbolic 23% of your income to social justice-oriented causes hiring, promoting and paying women at a level equal to men who share similar skills and ability. If you are not an employer or manager, consider donating a reasonable amount to Democratic politicians.
posted by spaltavian at 8:40 AM on July 3 [16 favorites]


Jeez, I must have missed that one. That's...rather idiotic from a personal finance perspective. "Bankrupt yourself for social justice" isn't really great advice.

I read this one more as a thought experiment than as a command.

And prefacing something with "if you are in a position where you're financially able to do so" is hardly "bankrupt thyself."
posted by phunniemee at 8:41 AM on July 3 [14 favorites]


Yikes that world cup list was scary. Does that actually happen?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:41 AM on July 3


And only a fraction of that 23% differential can be attributed to outright discrimination, so if you're doing many of the other things on the list (esp. childcare and household duties) you're probably helping reduce that differential anyway.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:45 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


10. Have progressive name politics. If you and your female partner decide that the institution of marriage is something you want to be involved with, be willing to both keep your existing surnames. If having a common surname with your spouse is important to you, be willing to change your surname and treat this as a preferable option to your spouse changing hers.

Why treat it as the preferable option? Treat it as an equal option. (My wife kept her name, for the record, and I actually preferred that to her changing her name.)
posted by spaltavian at 8:45 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


men as feminist allies

men as feminists allies
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:46 AM on July 3 [34 favorites]


Also, and you may not have meant to imply this r317, but the trope that "men are just bad at [mundane task they would rather have women do]" is broadly damaging.

I didn't mean to imply that. I meant that if your partner enjoys doing something you don't like to do, or aren't good at, it shouldn't matter what gender anyone is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:48 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Yikes that world cup list was scary. Does that actually happen?

I watch sports hardly ever, and have personally experienced 3,6,7,8, and 10 in the context of sports, and #1 *constantly* in both sports and other male-dominated areas like scifi.
posted by heyforfour at 8:50 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


>> Jeez, I must have missed that one. That's...rather idiotic from a personal finance perspective. "Bankrupt yourself for social justice" isn't really great advice.

> I read this one more as a thought experiment than as a command.

Another purpose might be to keep people humble. As some comments have noted, many of the items are elaborations of "don't be a jerk," so it is plausible that there are many people who are just naturally nice and considerate who follow most of the list items already. And many of the remaining list items are relatively painless to check off. But giving a quarter of your income to social justice causes? That's almost impossible for almost everyone, so almost no one will do it. So there's always that awareness that there's something more they should be doing, that they're not really all that great. And that guilty, haunting awareness is the point.

>16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
posted by officer_fred at 8:51 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


That's almost impossible for almost everyone, so almost no one will do it. So there's always that awareness that there's something more they should be doing, that they're not really all that great. And that guilty, haunting awareness is the point.

Interesting; I like that interpretation. I think it's important not to say, "Well, I wash the dishes and don't complain when my partner does feminist-y stuff, so I'm not part of the problem." Not actively getting in the way of feminist goals is not the same thing as actively supporting feminist goals.
posted by jaguar at 8:56 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Why treat it as the preferable option? Treat it as an equal option.

She addresses this in the FAQ (linked in the OP):
Because all else being equal, it’s preferable to contravene a patriarchal norm than to reinforce it.
posted by amarynth at 8:57 AM on July 3 [28 favorites]


there's always that awareness that there's something more they should be doing, that they're not really all that great. And that awareness is the point

Wait, the point is to tell people they're not all that great and there's something more they should be doing? You mean, in addition to my already-crippling daily internal monologues reminding me of exactly that?

I'm staying in bed.
posted by scrowdid at 9:00 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


I don't find the list to include that many practical tools. For example, what is this supposed to mean:
Do 50% (or more) of emotional support work in your intimate relationships and friendships.
Also, some stuff seems to be just something that the author wants, not something that is actually feminist or about equality, like remembering dates or being responsible with money.
posted by rogerbraun at 9:02 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Not actively getting in the way of feminist goals is not the same thing as actively supporting feminist goals.

True. But actively supporting any cause must involve some element of self-interest. What, then, is the benefit for himself for a man who actively supports feminist goals? It seems to me that for men who self-identify with existing power structures there is no benefit whatsoever. Only men who recognize their own social alienation can see any benefit for themselves in supporting feminist goals.
posted by No Robots at 9:05 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Some things I try to do:

Spend time sincerely considering the ineffability of each unique sentient life-world, and approach other beings as if they are undefinable by conventional signs.

Whenever you notice that concepts, desires, or fears prevent you from seeing another creature as a fellow traveller not essentially different from yourself, remind yourself that everyone you meet could as well be your brother, sister, mother, father, best friend, or even you yourself.

Look into the way your own gendered personality is constructed. Look for ways in which it hinders you from expressing higher values, like equality, friendship, trust, help, etc. Find a way to associate gender "transgression" with bravery and honesty, not just concession or eccentricity.
posted by mbrock at 9:05 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Regarding "remembering dates": To me, it's not about dates per se; it's about the fact that the domestic labor involved in such events overwhelmingly falls to women -- we send the flowers on mother's day (to our own mothers and often to our partners' mothers alike), we organize the kids' birthday parties, we buy the going-away presents for friends or the end-of-year gifts for teachers, we make most of the preparations for Christmas or Hanukkah, etc. This is all seen in our culture as part of women's work; the point is it should be shared work among men and women.
posted by scody at 9:06 AM on July 3 [39 favorites]


I don't find the list to include that many practical tools. For example, what is this supposed to mean:
Do 50% (or more) of emotional support work in your intimate relationships and friendships.


"Carol and Doug are going through a divorce, so let's start inviting Kayla over for playdates more often. That way they can see their lawyers, start separating their house, etc."

Who would be more likely to say that?
posted by phunniemee at 9:08 AM on July 3 [30 favorites]


Also, I found the "don't sit next to a woman on public transportation" thing to be really, really weird.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:08 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I don't find the list to include that many practical tools. For example, what is this supposed to mean:

Do 50% (or more) of emotional support work in your intimate relationships and friendships.


* Send birthday cards
* Initiate the holiday card project
* Handle 50 percent of social/logistical/purchasing duties w/r/t extended family
* Initiate half of "check-in" conversations about how a relationship is going
* Do half of the remembering about your mutual friends' life events, names of their children, scheduling of get-togethers
* If you want to see friends, invite them to something; be responsible for helping to maintain connection
* Put life events on a calendar, and be responsible for remembering them

In other words: Do not assume that your partner is responsible for doing the bulk of the emotional work. Just do it. Without having to be reminded.

I'm sure that others here can and will add to this list.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:09 AM on July 3 [25 favorites]


I meant that if your partner enjoys doing something you don't like to do, or aren't good at, it shouldn't matter what gender anyone is.

I hate laundry with a passion. My partner hate shopping.

I do the shopping and feel guilty that she stays home to do the laundry.
When I get back from shopping (a task I enjoy) she always apologizes that I had to do it.

It's not really a win/win for us, but it's for sure not a lose/lose.

We have a similar breakup of household tasks. Anything below three feet is hers, anything over six feet is mine (I have troubles bending, she's short). Anything between that we share.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:12 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


I don't really get what all the push back is -- this may be the most practical list about day-to-day male feminism that I've ever seen.

Which is not to say that every single point applies to every single couple/man. But, for a list of 35 of them, I feel like most of them are really solid, and relevant, suggestions.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:12 AM on July 3 [28 favorites]


My reaction to this list - While out in life trying to survive and have fun: be kind, be respectful, be empathetic, and make a good effort to build a sustainable emotional economy amongst those you already and will come to know.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:13 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


> While out in life trying to survive and have fun: be kind, be respectful, be empathetic, and make a good effort to build a sustainable emotional economy amongst those you already and will come to know.

And keep in mind that the cultural norms which define those virtues are inequal, so you may need to adjust your perception of what it means to be kind, empathetic, and making a good effort as a man vs. as a woman. Which is what these guidelines are about.
posted by gilrain at 9:18 AM on July 3 [22 favorites]


"Being kind" is great. "Being kind" is not the same as "being feminist."
posted by jaguar at 9:20 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


But actively supporting any cause must involve some element of self-interest.

This is a personal opinion stated as fact. It also flies in the face of everything I have ever known, believed, or experienced in regards to activism. None of the activists I know give a tenth of a shit whether the ultimate goal of every cause we support would be personally advantageous to us -- I feel very, very strongly about felon disenfranchisement, for example, but I've never been a felon. It's just that I think all American citizens should have the right to vote, even if they've committed serious crimes. The goal of activism isn't self-laudation or self-benefit, it's equality. It's peace. It's human rights.

What, then, is the benefit for himself for a man who actively supports feminist goals? It seems to me that for men who self-identify with existing power structures there is no benefit whatsoever. Only men who recognize their own social alienation can see any benefit for themselves in supporting feminist goals.

If there is indeed a man who feels as though he must secure some kind of personal benefit in order to feel comfortable with feminism, he is not anything close to an active supporter of feminist goals. Sorry, but feminism is not and will never be about ensuring any kind of nebulous "benefit" is provided to men -- and it's not about raising women up to men's unjust detriment, either. Feminism is about gender equality. Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

And if a man who self-identifies with existing power structures -- I think the term you might be looking for there is "the patriarchy" -- does not feel like treating women like human beings is a worthy goal in and of itself, presumably because he is aware that he may not enjoy the precise number of unearned privileges he has grown accustomed to if we were to move toward a more gender-equitable society, I would be happy to play him a very sad song on the world's tiniest violin.

I can't access Tumblr at work, so I can hardly offer a nuanced commentary on the FPP, but the idea that feminism needs to better position itself as something that will be directly and personally beneficial to men, themselves, in order to be more easily embraced by those men, is straight-up ridiculous. Women make up half of the human race! How is that not enough for you?
posted by divined by radio at 9:28 AM on July 3 [41 favorites]


Great list. Beats wearing a "This is What a Feminist Looks Like" t-shirt that your daughter gave you. (Me.) However, there's nothing on parenting (or on a less universal topic: teaching).
posted by kozad at 9:28 AM on July 3


For example, what is this supposed to mean:

Do 50% (or more) of emotional support work in your intimate relationships and friendships.


My mother was constantly thinking of what would make my father happy. Every decision she made, she considered how it would affect his feelings, whether he would like it or not, whether he was too tired to discuss something she was concerned about, etc. She always encouraged him in his work, and he most likely would not have gotten the promotions he did without her talking him up, increasing his confidence, listening to his concerns and complaints, and comforting him when it didn't go well.

He did none of that in return. She was doing 100% of the emotional support work in their intimate relationship.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:29 AM on July 3 [49 favorites]


True. But actively supporting any cause must involve some element of self-interest. What, then, is the benefit for himself for a man who actively supports feminist goals? It seems to me that for men who self-identify with existing power structures there is no benefit whatsoever. Only men who recognize their own social alienation can see any benefit for themselves in supporting feminist goals.

I'm a straight white cis dude with a well-paying professional job from an upper-middle-class family. I align with existing power structures about as much as possible (I'm Jewish, but having been born and raised in NYC I hardly consider that a source of oppression), and I care very deeply about feminist goals. There doesn't need to be some aspect of personal gain or benefit involved; sometimes people just want to try not to be douchebags.

(On preview, what Divined said)
posted by Itaxpica at 9:30 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


A lot of the statements that seem to be perplexing people are clarified in the FAQ. For instance, here's what she says about the space issue:
I am not stating that women, as a general category, cannot handle men being near them. My point is that many women feel less comfortable when in close proximity to an unknown man, and this is a sad, but reasonable and normal, feeling for women to have in the world we live in. Many (most?) women have had experiences of having our space or sense of safety violated by unknown men in public spaces.

Not every woman may feel it’s necessary for a man to do this, but it’s just a very easy gesture of sympathy and kindness for men to recognize that it’s very likely a woman will feel less comfortable if he walks close to her in the dark, stands near her on an empty subway platform, or sits next to her on the bus when there are other seats available, and just give her some distance.
Doing that "easy gesture of sympathy and kindness" requires almost no mental or physical effort, and doesn't seem confusing at all to me.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:30 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Also, I found the "don't sit next to a woman on public transportation" thing to be really, really weird.

It's only weird if there are other empty seats. If the bus/train is pretty much full, it's no big deal.

I have this happen to me about once a month. There are just a handful of people on the bus, it's mostly empty, and a man gets on and sits beside me. I find this weird and creepy and it really makes me uncomfortable.
posted by sadtomato at 9:31 AM on July 3 [43 favorites]


It's only weird if there are other empty seats. If the bus/train is pretty much full, it's no big deal.

I agree with that, but it depends on the situation. Is the empty seat near the front of the bus, or next to another empty seat? OK by me, then.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:33 AM on July 3


Kozad, I have to say that as a parent I have found that kids pay a lot more attention and learn from what you do and how you live your life everyday than from anything you say.

I can tell my kids, "speak up when you see something wrong" and "always look both ways when you cross the street" a thousand times, but if _I_ stand mute and if _I_ don't check both ways, THAT is what they are going to learn and do. I like this list as it stands.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:36 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


"Being kind" is great. "Being kind" is not the same as "being feminist."

I'd say they are even orthogonal. Sometimes being a feminist means being angry or calling someone out in a way that is confrontational and uncomfortable for the person, while the kind thing to do might be a different path altogether.

It's an interesting list, more applicable to some situations than others, as the author notes.

There are financial costs other than contraception that also fall much more on women, such as beauty stuff. I can get my hair and beard cut for about $25 at the barbershop including tip, but it costs an order of magnitude more for a cut/color for my partner. Add in cosmetics, waxing, and/or a facial, and a woman can easily be spending twenty times what her male partner does on personal upkeep in a given month, and all for things that many men implicitly expect their partners to do (lest she be "letting herself go.")
posted by Dip Flash at 9:37 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


I don't really get what all the push back is

Ooh, ooh, I do!
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 AM on July 3 [29 favorites]


Nope. Man sitting beside me on an empty or almost empty train or bus means I move immediately. Hell, i'd do it if a woman did that too, but a man doing it is threatening.
posted by agregoli at 9:38 AM on July 3 [16 favorites]


.”...The sad fact is that while it is polite to express sexist ideas, confronting them is considered the height of rudeness and humorlessness.

this.

i've never been outright called a bitch for it, but i do get the "hey i was only kidding" thing. like the guy who kept saying "skullfucking" on the party bus i was on recently (a bunch of people attending a wedding chipped in on one so we wouldn't drink and drive). i hadn't met him before, but everyone else knew him and just seemed to accept his behavior.

i seriously can't recall being more offended by someone and not being to leave their presence. i won't even go into what else he did and said. but i do know that i said something a few times along the lines of friendly chiding but no one else ever said anything. AT. ALL.

and he gave me the sorrowful hurt "i was only kidding" face every time i said something and looked around ot see if anyone noticed i had said something.

it was sickening and is still sickening to think about. yet i'm the one who's "uptight" when i try to call this kind of behavior out. sigh.
posted by sio42 at 9:41 AM on July 3 [13 favorites]


Re: men being responsible for the financial burden of birth control, I don't get it--birth control is the responsibility of everyone. But all the financial stuff here is super weird to me.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:44 AM on July 3


Here is something some may have not considered in seating (but doesn't apply to mostly empty, but may apply to partially empty): I'm a man. If I enter public transportation, and there is limited empty seating, do I sit near a man, or a woman? I consider men considerably more threatening than women, on average, so will often choose to be near a women if I have to be near someone. Clearly this is not when there is lots of empty seating available and I could be alone. Not only women consider men to be threatening.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:45 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Nope. Man sitting beside me on an empty or almost empty train or bus means I move immediately. Hell, i'd do it if a woman did that too, but a man doing it is threatening.

I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down. It perpetuates the stereotype that men (and especially men of color) are inherently dangerous.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:47 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I don't get the pushback either. 90% of all threads involving feminism have somebody in here going "But I don't understand, tell me what to do!" It's more than "Don't be a jerk." What to do is to not claim you're a feminist if you're expecting the women in your life to do everything your mother did for you as a child. Because women having to do everything under the sun and get less in return is part of how women have been oppressed for thousands of years. Don't claim you're a feminist while expecting your partner to take on 100% of the risk and expense of birth control because she's the one who suffers the consequences. Etc. Be willing to make sacrifices for the things you want. Be a partner and not a child or a boss. Think about how your actions affect women in terms of how you've both been socialized.

Unfortunately this is news to some people. And it's just as damaging to men as it is to women. If it's not news to you then congratulations. But thinking it's not necessary at all just because you already know it is just as self-centered as drinking away your paycheck.
posted by bleep at 9:47 AM on July 3 [24 favorites]


I consider men considerably more threatening then women, so will often choose to be near a women if I have to be near someone.

How do you think the women you sit next to feel about this?
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:47 AM on July 3 [20 favorites]


but what if the bus has been abducted by aliens and they only intend to spare the lives of someone sitting next to a person of a different gender

what then huh feminists?????
posted by kagredon at 9:52 AM on July 3 [15 favorites]


Nope. Man sitting beside me on an empty or almost empty train or bus means I move immediately. Hell, i'd do it if a woman did that too, but a man doing it is threatening.

I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down. It perpetuates the stereotype that men (and especially men of color) are inherently dangerous.


I think a woman's right to feel safe, in a world where rape and assault are a really common thing, trumps your concern.

I would do the same. Because why would a guy, in an empty train car, sit next to me, unless he was going to mess with me or hit on me? And here I am, alone in a train car, with some dude who doesn't grasp that sidling up to me like that is creepy. I'm gonna move, close to a door, and when the next stop comes, leave the car if no one else gets on.
posted by emjaybee at 9:52 AM on July 3 [33 favorites]


I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down. It perpetuates the stereotype that men (and especially men of color) are inherently dangerous.

Ah! Shall we have the Schroedinger's discussion again? It was extremely fun the first time around, and every time after that.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:53 AM on July 3 [36 favorites]


0xFCAF, that is the conundrum, isn't it? But if the woman doesn't like it, she is unlikely to do physical harm to me as a result. So, for me it is safer. Selfish? Yes. Should I take the hit instead? Maybe. That kind of set-up doesn't happen often, so it isn't the biggest deal, I guess. There doesn't seem to be a 'fair' outcome to this situation.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:53 AM on July 3


I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down. It perpetuates the stereotype that men (and especially men of color) are inherently dangerous.

I think it is far more dangerous for women to assume a stranger who is violating her personal space and ignoring basic social conventions is perfectly safe.
posted by maxsparber at 9:55 AM on July 3 [53 favorites]


No human being ever struggled to realize any aim or purpose—whether noble or ignoble—which was not motivated by the primordial desire to be recognized, honored and loved. And what is true of men is equally true of animals, and of all realities in existence.--Harry Waton / A true monistic philosophy, v. 1, p. 49.
posted by No Robots at 9:56 AM on July 3


Maybe if we stop perpetuating the stereotype that men are dangerous, they'll stop being dangerous. That's probably why they do it.
posted by bleep at 9:56 AM on July 3 [15 favorites]


I think it is far more dangerous for women to assume a stranger who is violating her personal space and ignoring basic social conventions is perfectly safe.

It depends on the context, again. I mean, totally empty car? That's creepy. Half empty bus? Maybe he wants to sit in the front row.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:57 AM on July 3


"Being kind" is great. "Being kind" is not the same as "being feminist."

I'd say they are even orthogonal. Sometimes being a feminist means being angry or calling someone out in a way that is confrontational and uncomfortable for the person, while the kind thing to do might be a different path altogether.

It's an interesting list, more applicable to some situations than others, as the author notes.
Right... I should probably add that my first comment reflects my default approach. God knows, having been to a handful of clubs and whatnot I have seen my fair share of blatant misogyny. Usually I am not smiling, or at least I am visibly losing happiness at those points.

On preview:

I don't get the pushback either. 90% of all threads involving feminism have somebody in here going "But I don't understand, tell me what to do!" It's more than "Don't be a jerk." What to do is to not claim you're a feminist if you're expecting the women in your life to do everything your mother did for you as a child. Because women having to do everything under the sun and get less in return is part of how women have been oppressed for thousands of years. Don't claim you're a feminist while expecting your partner to take on 100% of the risk and expense of birth control because she's the one who suffers the consequences. Etc. Be willing to make sacrifices for the things you want. Be a partner and not a child or a boss. Think about how your actions affect women in terms of how you've both been socialized.


I don't know about the majority of men on Metafilter, but to speak for myself I am a huge exception as far as who did what in the household. My dad followed rule #1 in the first link practically by default. He ended up taking my two sisters and I to school most mornings, and was sure to call home mid-afternoon from work to check up on things. Sure, my mom cooks, but it hasn't been every day. Dad often and still does cook lunches and dinners most of the time on weekends.

Short: I grew up in a very non-typical household, and I suspect that given the nature of the MeFi user base, the majority, or at least a sizeable minority, of males here grew up in their own instance of a non-typical, deviating from the norm household/culture.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:58 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


do I sit near a man, or a woman?

I sit next to whoever takes up less space, as that maximizes comfort for everyone involved. If they're of similar size, I will choose the closest one to the exit if my stop is close. If not, the one further away. Unless I'm dead tired, which it will be whichever is easier to get to.

This is getting to become a much more mundane version of "Who do you save from drowning?" type of question.
posted by FJT at 9:58 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Fortunately, feminism is about result, not intent, so it doesn't really matter what reasons a man (or anyone) has for striving towards an equal society.
posted by kagredon at 9:58 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Please read the second paragraph of my comment, Joe.
posted by bleep at 9:59 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


(Although I don't really care for the implication that men would not benefit from a more equitable society, and thus need some other reason to support it.)
posted by kagredon at 10:00 AM on July 3


A dangerous road to go down? FUCK THAT to hell and back. My safety is more important than worrying about whether its offensive to treat someone who is acting strangely like they might be dangerous. Just yesterday a strange man tried to stop me from going into my apartment, insisting I help him and his friend to do god knows what. I ignored him and got inside fast, and he still pounded on the door and waited outside for me. If a man acts out of the ordinary while I'm alone, you'd better believe I'm going to do whatever my instincts tell me. Even now recounting this story my heart is pounding.
posted by agregoli at 10:02 AM on July 3 [28 favorites]


I don't really care for the implication that men would not benefit from a more equitable society

Many men do benefit, or see themselves as benefiting, from the current inequities in society.
posted by No Robots at 10:09 AM on July 3


I don't believe that men are categorically dangerous. But for those who've been through domestic abuse or sexual assault, do you know how hard it is to remember that in the moment? To figure out which things are real signs that someone might be dangerous, and what constitutes friendly? If you're occupying a bus with a woman and you don't know her and you don't know how she feels, be careful about invading her personal space. That's all. Remember that a lot of women have had a lot of reasons to be afraid, and that you aren't saying that All Men Are Dangerous, you're saying you understand that women have reasons to be afraid and you're being respectful of that.
posted by Sequence at 10:11 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I guess my feeling is that if you're going to be a feminist, and you're a man, it helps to be cognizant of the fact that, without meaning to, you are perfectly capable of scaring the shit out of women just by walking too close to them, or sitting right next to them, or other things that feel perfectly harmless to you but is accidentally consistent with the behavior of men who have behaved like absolute monsters in the past.

I mean, sure, I may want to sit at the front of the bus when it is mostly empty, but I reckon it's not worth terrifying a stranger just because it's more convenient for me. I don't blame the women for being afraid. I blame the hundreds and thousands of men who misbehave toward any women in public every single time they leave their house.

Trying not to sit directly next to a woman on a fairly empty bus when there are other options is a pretty small price to pay to make the world feel a little safer for people who often don't feel safe. Nobody is saying don't ever sit next to a woman. They're saying there are contexts in which it comes off as creepy, and you may not be aware of them because you don't have the experience of constantly being aggressively mistreated when you leave your house. But now you're aware, and if you are a fellow who wants to be feminist, this is one of those privileges you consider when you go out in the world.
posted by maxsparber at 10:12 AM on July 3 [29 favorites]


But if the woman doesn't like it, she is unlikely to do physical harm to me as a result. So, for me it is safer.

The man isn't either. Not significantly. What do you think the odds of being attacked by a man you choose to sit down next to are? They're low. You're incorrectly gauging the risks involved.

Whereas, harassment on public transit is a common problem.

There doesn't seem to be a 'fair' outcome to this situation.

I would suggest that you're not materially improving your safety by sitting down next to women, but you are materially increasing their discomfort; the 'fair' thing to do would be to accept the infinitesimal decrease in 'safety' in order to prevent their discomfort.
posted by cjelli at 10:14 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down. It perpetuates the stereotype that men (and especially men of color) are inherently dangerous.

I have been groped four times on public transport, and have been in two situations where the man next to me started masturbating. I cannot even count the number of men who have waved their hands in front of my face and even taken out my earbuds to demand I have a conversation with them. This does not make me think that all men are dangerous. It does make me think that men who choose to share a two-seater with me when there are plenty of empty seats on the bus may think they have a right to my time and body.
posted by northernish at 10:15 AM on July 3 [55 favorites]


Nope. Man sitting beside me on an empty or almost empty train or bus means I move immediately. Hell, i'd do it if a woman did that too, but a man doing it is threatening.

I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down. It perpetuates the stereotype that men (and especially men of color) are inherently dangerous.


Regardless of gender, sitting right next to someone in an otherwise empty area is a dick move, and is to some extent boundary pushing. If it's a man doing it to a woman, it's not a bad bet that the particular boundaries he's pushing are sexist.
posted by spaltavian at 10:17 AM on July 3 [12 favorites]


I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down.

I'm male and if I'm on a bus / subway / monorail! car with plenty of empty seats, I'm going to be suspicious of anyone (male or female) who sits directly next to me, unless they're really young or if their fare had a senior citizen discount applied. And even then, I'll probably still be a little suspicious.

I personally would always choose an empty row, if possible, simply because this will reduce greatly the chances of random annoyances to me, and will make everyone else on the ride know that if someone bothers them today, it won't be me.

I'm not in cities often these days, but even I understand this is the very basic urban etiquette for seat selection. People, men or women, just want to get to their jobs or manicurists with a minimum of hassle and don't want any needless interruptions to Candy Crush. It's not a hard thing to oblige.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:18 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


23. Don’t treat your spouse like a “nag.” If she is “nagging,” you are probably lagging.

The second part of this one sounds like it came out of a 1950s manual on how to be a good husband. I'm trying to put my finger on why... I guess a lot of the relationships I see where there are traditional gender roles, the guy has his honeydo list, and I'd rather skip that whole thing. Don't treat her like a nag, not because you're lagging, but because you should be treating her like a person (with all the attendant assumptions that her concerns are legitimate and reasonable).
posted by surlyben at 10:24 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Many men do benefit, or see themselves as benefiting, from the current inequities in society.

My mother was constantly thinking of what would make my father happy.

Judy Brady, from "I Want a Wife":
I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life. When my wife and I are invited out by my friends, I want a wife who will take care of the baby-sitting arrangements. When I meet people at school that I like and want to entertain, I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me and my friends. I want a wife who will have arranged that the children are fed and ready for bed before my guests arrive so that the children do not bother us. I want a wife who takes care of the needs of my guests so that they feel comfortable, who makes sure that they have an ashtray, that they are passed the hors d'oeuvres, that they are offered a second helping of the
food, that their wine glasses are replenished when necessary, that their coffee is served to them as they like it. And I want a wife who knows that sometimes I need a night out by myself.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:24 AM on July 3 [14 favorites]


I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down.

The thing is, the road women walk on is, itself, already very dangerous. Women are harassed everyday, women are assaulted everyday, women aren't permitted to forget that they're female and in public everyday. We who are men need to be cognizant of that fact and not make it worse.
posted by clockzero at 10:26 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ on a cracker, if it upsets you to live in a world where it’s uncomfortable for a man to sit next to a strange woman on a bus when there are other seats available, rest assured that nobody likes the fact that that’s the kind of world we live in. But it IS the kind of world we live in; women deal with enough threats just going out into the world every day that wanting a strange man to sit in the empty seat over there instead of sitting unasked next to you is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the way things happen in that world.

If I had a nickel for every conversation I’ve been in where some asshole complains about being treated like a potential rapist, and then later blames a rape victim for her own rape because she happened to be with the “wrong” man in the “wrong” place at the “wrong” time, I’d have at least enough nickels to fill a sock with and hit that asshole over the head with it.

If you don’t want to live in a world where every woman has to wonder if the man getting into her personal space is going to hurt her or not, work on getting the men who do hurt women to stop it, and work on getting people to take it seriously when a woman does get threatened or hurt. Yeah, it sucks that women have to be constantly evaluating their risk level. Until we can make it so they don’t have to, it’s not unreasonable to make it an easier job for them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:30 AM on July 3 [41 favorites]


Yeah, it sucks that women have to be constantly evaluating their risk level.

Every person has to constantly reevaluate their risk level, depending on your circumstances. Is the insinuation here that it wouldn't bother a man if another guy sat down right next to him on an empty train or bus? Of course it would. It's creepy regardless of what, specifically, the creep may have in mind.

If I get on the bus and the bus is full except for one seat next to a woman, am I allowed to sit down or not?
posted by kgasmart at 10:34 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Oh come on now, don't change the situation as to be unrecognizable. I even said that a woman invading my personal space on a train would have me moving to an empty seat too.

If you're not interested in this post topic, and instead want to attack women here who know what they need to do to keep safe in the world, maybe move on to something else? You're not an ally, obviously.
posted by agregoli at 10:37 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]


you're allowed to do whatever the fuck you want.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:37 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Read. The. Fucking. FAQ.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:37 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


It's not even remotely controversial to insist that you provide yourself and others ample personal space in public when doing so is practical. Anything else is potentially threatening. And if someone does violate norms and take more of your personal space than necessary, it's totally normal to move. Conversely, in a crowded space, expect to be in close proximity to others and for all parties involved to have relatively little control over the particulars of the arrangement. This is super simple and totally mundane. It applies to buses, bars, restrooms, waiting rooms, concerts, and pretty much everywhere. Anyone who violates the norm is going to make the people around them uncomfortable. Don't do it. Done.

On the other hand, it's clear that some people need to hear this. As stated in the original piece, understand that the things that might not apply to you need to be said anyway.

I do wonder, on this item in particular, what the intersection is between the perpetrators and men who would even consider reading an article on feminism. I imagine it's rather small by comparison. Most of the other items are sort of "next steps" for men already on the path; telling men to give women (and people in general) a reasonable amount of space is just a hair away from telling them not to be selfish, vile mouthbreathers.
posted by WCWedin at 10:38 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Anyway, as a man, sitting down next to a man on a train/bus often means that I get to play a game of passive aggressive lavaball war.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:38 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


--Yeah, it sucks that women have to be constantly evaluating their risk level.

-Every person has to constantly reevaluate their risk level, depending on your circumstances.


And one of the circumstances that dramatically increases the need to evaluate personal risk is being a woman.

I suppose I should have added a couple of extra qualifying paragraphs for those who didn't realize that was implicit and understood, but I supposed that the people reading this thread wouldn't need to have that explicitly spelled out for them in blue and white.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:41 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


oh cool, what my day needed was the hideous mutant spawn of this thread and this thread under a bunch of helpful advice to men about not being terrible to women

thank you for providing me such ample spleen to vent later
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:44 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


33. Walk the walk about income inequality.

Income inequality is the reason why sexism, racism, any form of discrimination does not matter. These are artificial distinctions between people that are deliberately promoted by the rich and powerful, with the goal of dividing them from each other, to keep them poor and powerless. As long as there is structural inequality between the 1% and the 99%, nobody will ever be able to do a goddam thing about changing the manifestations of the corrupt system (like sexism in this case).

So stop seeing yourself as divided from other people in any way. Join or die. Stop seeing this as a struggle against gender bias, or your underpaid job, or whatever, and go after the true problem: the rich fucks who want to preserve the status quo. You are the 99%, you have the power, the 1% will do anything to keep you from realizing that.

And yes I know that many feminists denounce this point of view as the "Generalist Argument" used to discredit feminism, but get over it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:44 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I just think this is a very dangerous road to go down.

A thought I have often had while looking down a dark and empty road. As a woman.
posted by prefpara at 10:45 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]


I do wonder, on this item in particular, what the intersection is between the perpetrators and men who would even consider reading an article on feminism. I imagine it's rather small by comparison.

One hopes that the men who will read the article will embrace #'s 15 and 22 and spread the word to those who won't.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:45 AM on July 3


This thread is astonishing.
posted by agregoli at 10:46 AM on July 3 [17 favorites]


kgasmart: If I get on the bus and the bus is full except for one seat next to a woman, am I allowed to sit down or not?

Of course, every single example has been about an otherwise empty bus/train/etc, not one where the only empty seat is next to a woman. You able to read and write, so you are certainly intelligent enough to understand the difference between sitting next to somone in an otherwise empty place, and one where there are few seats available.
posted by spaltavian at 10:46 AM on July 3 [15 favorites]


Income inequality is the reason why sexism, racism, any form of discrimination does not matter.

Oh COME ON. If you seriously think bigotry is purely the product of the capitalist class then you shoulnd't be spending your time telling women to deal with it, you should be out in the streets immanatizing the eschaton or something equally quixotic.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:47 AM on July 3 [33 favorites]


Of course, every single example has been about an otherwise empty bus/train/etc, not one where the only empty seat is next to a woman. You able to read and write, so you are certainly intelligent enough to understand the difference between sitting next to somone in an otherwise empty place, and one where there are few seats available.

So answer the question.

If for whatever reason my presence makes the woman uncomfortable or uneasy, am I permitted to sit down?

I ask the question because I know that sooner or later someone will come along to answer: No.
posted by kgasmart at 10:48 AM on July 3


And yes I know that many feminists denounce this point of view as the "Generalist Argument" used to discredit feminism, but get over it.

quoted for whut
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:48 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]


If I get on the bus and the bus is full except for one seat next to a woman, am I allowed to sit down or not?

you know, I thought that parodying the "let's come up with every possible reason why a man would have mitigating reasons to sit next to a woman" would do the trick, but apparently not

And yes I know that many feminists denounce this point of view as the "Generalist Argument" used to discredit feminism, but get over it.

well now I'm convinced. Because racism and sexism only started with late capitalism, amirite?
posted by kagredon at 10:49 AM on July 3 [12 favorites]


This thread is astonishing.

Honestly, there's only been a few people who have been missing the point, so I don't think this thread has been all that bad. I feel like every time one person out of a hundred says something like "Oh so I can't talk to women now?!?!", someone turns up to condem the entire thread, MetaFilter in general, or announce that we're back to boyzones. The vast majority of this thread has either had total agreement with the OP or dealt with it in a thoughtful way.
posted by spaltavian at 10:49 AM on July 3 [20 favorites]


Of course, every single example has been about an otherwise empty bus/train/etc, not one where the only empty seat is next to a woman. You able to read and write, so you are certainly intelligent enough to understand the difference between sitting next to somone in an otherwise empty place, and one where there are few seats available.

So answer the question.


The first two words of my response answered the question: "Of course".
posted by spaltavian at 10:51 AM on July 3


I ask the question because I know that sooner or later someone will come along to answer: No.

Except no one in this thread has said anything approximating this weird straw seat you're trying to sit on.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:51 AM on July 3 [30 favorites]


Honestly, there's only been a few people who have been missing the point

Disagreeing doesn't mean you miss the point.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:53 AM on July 3


Eh, the tone the list is mostly "You're a man and a fuckup, here's how to fix you" while proceeding to dogmatically suggest how men should live, which admittedly could be seen as nice change from the female perspective. There are several good points in the list (8,14, 20, 21, 25, 28) but mostly it's just a generalized list on the internet, so feel free to ignore the bits that don't apply to your personal situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


kgasmart: Yeah, you can sit down in that last remaining seat. If the woman or women next to you seem uncomfortable, you can stand back up. I don't see any reason to get exercised over this. It seems pretty commonsensical to me.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:53 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I do wonder, on this item in particular, what the intersection is between the perpetrators and men who would even consider reading an article on feminism. I imagine it's rather small by comparison.

There's a pretty big gulf between actions and belief. I, for example, do not think I should eat three hamburgers in one sitting, but tomorrow, I will contemplate eating a fourth by the time the fireworks start.
posted by spaltavian at 10:54 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I didn't mean it that way. I meant that in this thread, of all threads, in this particular Metafilter month, to be attacked as treating men unfairly...? Astonishing to me. I wasn't discounting the great contributions here, and I resent your characterization of ME acting like the whole thing was a failure. I did not mean to be read that way, but you could have been more charitable.
posted by agregoli at 10:54 AM on July 3


Taking a point that's about how to respect women's space in public places by leaving them alone if there's another seat and making it about parsing every single possible permutation of bus seating is missing the point pretty badly though.
posted by kagredon at 10:55 AM on July 3 [24 favorites]


This is such a weird hill to die on. I'm a dude and if another dude sat next to me on a mostly empty bus or train I'd feel creeped out and uncomfortable too. That seems a completely normal reaction and is not at all contributing to any stereotypes or whatever. It's simply common sense to not sit next to someone on an empty bus and if you're willing to violate that social norm who can say what else you're willing to do?
posted by Justinian at 10:57 AM on July 3 [18 favorites]


kgasmart: Yeah, you can sit down in that last remaining seat. If the woman or women next to you seem uncomfortable, you can stand back up. I don't see any reason to get exercised over this. It seems pretty commonsensical to me.

Then let me make the feminist argument:

Women, suffering from high rates of sexual assault, may become uncomfortable seated next to a man who in reality has no intention of violating her personal space, let alone assaulting her. But due this entirely legitimate discomfort, and the fact that she has no guarantee she won't be assaulted, it's incumbent upon the male to realize how uncomfortable she is, and surrender his privilege by surrendering his seat.

That's not intended as parody, it's pretty close to the original list.
posted by kgasmart at 10:57 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I ask the question because I know that sooner or later someone will come along to answer: No.

Funny you should say that. There was a straw man looking for you earlier.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:57 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Disagreeing doesn't mean you miss the point.

That wasn't about you, that was about kgasmart's questioning if men were allowed near women.
posted by spaltavian at 10:58 AM on July 3


Women, suffering from high rates of sexual assault, may become uncomfortable seated next to a man who in reality has no intention of violating her personal space, let alone assaulting her. But due this entirely legitimate discomfort, and the fact that she has no guarantee she won't be assaulted, it's incumbent upon the male to realize how uncomfortable she is, and surrender his privilege by surrendering his seat.

That's … totally reasonable?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:59 AM on July 3 [13 favorites]


it's incumbent upon the male to realize how uncomfortable she is, and surrender his privilege by surrendering his seat.

Its more like, 'it's incumbent upon the male to realize how uncomfortable she is, so he should not sit next to her'. Pretty simple and easy to grasp, really.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:00 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Jesus, enough with the Voight-Kampff bus seating test.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:00 AM on July 3 [21 favorites]


Then let me make the feminist argument:

If you do a thing and a person looks really uncomfortable because of that thing you did, do you a) Adjudicate the situation and decide whether you should stop doing the thing or b) declaim an equality movement because you think they're calling you names
posted by shakespeherian at 11:00 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]


I had not realized that the "incumbent upon" bus seat paraphrase was meant any way other than completely seriously, because it makes total sense.
posted by maxsparber at 11:03 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


My question was an honest one, I really did not know what 'emotional work' was supposed to mean. So as far as I understand, it means either doing stuff like sending birthday cards and keeping contacts with friends, or caring about the feelings of your partner.

It still seems strange to me, because I have zero interest in the first thing and think of the second one (caring for each other) as the basis of any relationship, but maybe I already have non-traditional relationships.
posted by rogerbraun at 11:04 AM on July 3


> I ask the question because I know that sooner or later someone will come along to answer: No.

You suspect that there is at least one feminist, somewhere, who would make an unreasonable demand of you. And as a result, you feel justified in discarding the entire concept of gendered inequality and continuing to enjoy your life free of any demands, reasonable or un.

Your staggeringly bad faith is not worthy of derailing this thread.
posted by gilrain at 11:04 AM on July 3 [39 favorites]


Except no one in this thread has said anything approximating this weird straw seat you're trying to sit on.

Actually, I was thinking of a situation like that, but was afraid to ask because I didn't want to appear argumentative or pedantic. I was actually considering simply never sitting next to a woman, because their discomfort at me might exceed my own comfort of sitting down.

Again, I'm not trying to be difficult, just what I was considering due to this topic.
posted by FJT at 11:05 AM on July 3


kgasmart, here:

"Women, suffering from high rates of sexual assault, may become uncomfortable seated next to a man having an unknown man SIT DOWN NEXT TO HER, who in reality has no intention of violating her personal space, let alone assaulting her. But due this entirely legitimate discomfort, and the fact that she has no guarantee she won't be assaulted, it's incumbent upon the male to realize how uncomfortable she is, and surrender his privilege by surrendering his seat." sit somewhere else. FTFY
posted by jfwlucy at 11:07 AM on July 3


I ask the question because I know that sooner or later someone will come along to answer: No.

Going by your constant shitty participation in these kinds of threads, no, I personally would not want to sit next to you on a crowded bus.
posted by elizardbits at 11:08 AM on July 3 [55 favorites]


That could indeed be a kindness, FJT, assuming there were accommodations to stand (bars to hold onto, for instance). However, nobody here or in the article has actually asked that of anyone.
posted by gilrain at 11:08 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Income inequality is the reason why sexism, racism, any form of discrimination does not matter.

The only people I have ever heard earnestly out with this particular sentiment are middle- and upper-class white dudes. I mean, it must be a total coincidence, right, that the only people who so readily and enthusiastically insist that racism and sexism don't matter are those who will -- by accident of birth -- never have to experience those forms of discrimination at all?

Sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination most certainly do matter, even if you, personally, remain totally untouched by their effects for the duration of your days on earth. Income inequality disproportionately affects women and people of color, and it sure as hell ain't because we're inherently less deserving of wealth than white men.

Women are still made to fight tooth and nail to secure a number of human rights you take for granted every day -- the right to bodily autonomy is a big one -- and you still feel the need to waltz in here to haughtily inform us that sexism doesn't matter? Congratulations on being born into the good fortune that has allowed you to persist in such blissful ignorance.
posted by divined by radio at 11:12 AM on July 3 [42 favorites]


kgasmart, women aren't the other, with inscrutable sensitivities that men have to heroically suss out if they want to be feminist. Most women are made uncomfortable by things that would make any human uncomfortable. Like, sitting right next to them even though there are plenty of other seats.

Feminism isn't "accommodating special lady sensitivities", it's (in part, at least), not ignoring standard boundaries because someone is a woman.

You're trying to imagine a situation where you believe you could be acting in good faith and be called a sexist, and then trying to turn around a discredit the whole enterprise. If you reasonably sit next to someone one day and they start having a panic attack or something, no one is going to call you a sexist. Relax; feminism isn't a trick question.
posted by spaltavian at 11:13 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


yes ladies first we must crush the bourgeoisie, we have nothing to lose but our chains
posted by elizardbits at 11:13 AM on July 3 [14 favorites]


My husband is a feminist and a great guy, and he is really on top of most of these. He does at least half of the housework, he is completely capable of being completely responsible for our children, he speaks up eloquently and passionately about sexism both in person and online, he really understands that my lived experience is different than his and 100% believes my reporting about those differences.

But our daughter has a rare dietary intolerance that results in her having a very weirdly restricted diet, and he simply doesn't do the work to remember what she can and can't eat. There's a list of about 5 foods that he knows to be safe, and if he has her somewhere where one of those 5 foods isn't available, he calls me to read me the menu and ask what she can eat. This despite the fact that I had to learn from scratch when she was diagnosed last August, and he has access to all the same resources that I do. I offered to put together a spreadsheet in Dropbox, and he said "nah, I won't remember to check that." So that burden stays on me, 100%. That's the kind of "family caretaking work" the list is talking about.
posted by KathrynT at 11:14 AM on July 3 [48 favorites]


So as far as I understand, it means either doing stuff like sending birthday cards and keeping contacts with friends, or caring about the feelings of your partner.

Kinda, but I think it's more than just caring about your partner's feelings. It's the amount of time and energy you put into prioritizing your partner's needs and preferences. Who chooses the restaurant or movie? Who does the cleaning so the house looks nice when you're having guests? Who coordinates the scheduling of guests? Who arranges babysitting when you're going out? Can you both name your partner's primary co-workers, and how your partner feels about them? If you have to attend a work or family or social event of your partner's, do you go joyfully and make things eaiser for them, or do you complain and roll your eyes and turn into one more task for them to manage? Do you pre-emptively notice when you're doing things that are likely to annoy your partner (like leaving socks or dirty dishes around) and correct yourself, or do you wait for your partner to bring it up? Can you set aside your annoyance over a bad day if your partner needs support? What if your partner needs to address something not working in the relationship?

There's obviously more to it, but I think there's a way in which women are often expected to keep their male partner's lives forefront in their minds at all times, so that there's often a double commentary going in women's heads pretty much all the time about not only their own needs but their partner's. It's... rather exhausting. It'd be way less exhausting if that work were shared by and balanced between both partners.
posted by jaguar at 11:14 AM on July 3 [19 favorites]


I think we all agree that income inequality is an important topic. I think most of us are also aware that it is not the topic of this thread. Perhaps it might be its own thread and we can get back to the subject of this FPP?
posted by maxsparber at 11:14 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Also, I found the "don't sit next to a woman on public transportation" thing to be really, really weird.

Really? Assuming you are a man (can't tell from your profile): when there are other seats open on a bus or train, would you choose sit immediately next to another man? When there are other urinals not being used in a men's room, do you choose to use the urinal right next to a man who is already peeing?

If the answer to either of these is no, think about the difference in your thought process and what personal space means in regard to giving the possible impression of coming on to a stranger.
posted by aught at 11:17 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


It's one thing to speak up when guys around say dumb sexist things, but it's quite another to tapdance into the middle of a situation between a couple, say. Those 2 circumstances shouldn't even be in the same category. The "situation" could be anything from overt hostility and imminent danger, to dismissiveness or ordering a wife about etc.

I mention this not because I'm against guys wearing a feminist badge and jumping in to help out if they can on occasion, but because this is a huge area of difficulty in reading a scene and would benefit enormously from - particularly in the later years in high school - having a shitload of role playing. Because there's a lot of psychology involved here - not to mention potential physical risk - and the run of the mill guy may not be overly skilled in judging situations. This is hard stuff no question; and for me, it's by far the most difficult/fraught element on the list.
posted by peacay at 11:20 AM on July 3


My question was an honest one, I really did not know what 'emotional work' was supposed to mean. So as far as I understand, it means either doing stuff like sending birthday cards and keeping contacts with friends, or caring about the feelings of your partner.

It still seems strange to me, because I have zero interest in the first thing and think of the second one (caring for each other) as the basis of any relationship, but maybe I already have non-traditional relationships.


If your partner is not doing more work than you in the first area (and maybe she's not!) then you are golden here. But to be certain you should think about:

Holiday gifts: who shops for your family and friends, assuming you do give gifts to any of them for any reason?

Party planning or holiday parties; do you ever entertain? Who puts it all together? Is it equal or is she the one figuring out how much turkey feeds 20 people and by the way do we have enough plates and little cousin Sally needs a highchair?

Having any kind of social life can involve a surprising amount of hidden work like this. Presumably you guys do social things occasionally. Be sure she's not the only one in charge of making it go well.
posted by emjaybee at 11:24 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


when there are other seats open on a bus or train, would you choose sit immediately next to another man? When there are other urinals not being used in a men's room, do you choose to use the urinal right next to a man who is already peeing?

I had a male friend who asked me genuinely and sincerely what was the non-creepy way to hit on women on public transit. I told him "The right way to approach a woman in public is exactly the same way that you would like to be approached by a man. And the right way to approach a woman in an isolated space, like an alley or an elevator, is exactly the same way that you would like to be approached by a man at the urinal." He was like "But I'll NEVER be comfortable being approached by a man under those circumstances, because I don't know what his intentions are and whether he's stronger than me or. . . oh."
posted by KathrynT at 11:25 AM on July 3 [81 favorites]


[Turning a discussion about x into a discussion of your pet political theory is a complete derail and will be deleted with prejudice. Do not do this, folks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 11:25 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Because there's a lot of psychology involved here - not to mention potential physical risk - and the run of the mill guy may not be overly skilled in judging situations.

There are bystander intevention trainings that exist and are getting more common (they were in the recommendations to help stop sexual assault on college campuses). A lot of time, though, a guy just making it known that he's seeing what's going on can be helpful. Stopping and asking if everything's ok or if they (both yeller and yellee) need any help, and then just having a willingness to call the police or a cab or some other third party if needed.
posted by jaguar at 11:26 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I'd say they are even orthogonal. Sometimes being a feminist means being angry or calling someone out in a way that is confrontational and uncomfortable for the person

I think a lot about shaming (essentially "calling someone out" in an angry/confrontational way) as a means to an end, especially with regard to social issues.

Will the shamed party consider his or her behaviors/views and take positive action to change them?

Will the shamed party avoid publicly saying/behaving in the objectionable manner but privately and among like-minded persons continue thinking/behaving as before? If so, what are the unintended consequences of shaming in reinforcing/radicalizing those beliefs?

When offense is taken, aside from the obvious emotional/psychological satisfaction of tearing down the offender, is there any other utility that serves the goal of edging forward the goals of civil behavior? Is the emotional dividend alone worth it? (Guessing that answer for a lot of folks is, "Fuck yea it is.")

I haven't really come up with any answers. I go back and forth. I know the pleasure of giving an asshole a dose of his own, but I always feel sleazy after. Something about it personally doesn't sit right with me, the image I have of myself, and how I want to interface with the world. It just seems... self-indulgent in a really icky way.

Also, I grew up around scolds and correctors of a very different sort, so maybe that's the source of my personal aversion to these tactics.

Am I the only one who feels that way?
posted by echocollate at 11:26 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Actually, thinking about it, I have a specific recommendation for fathers to add to the list: If you are in a situation where the baby's mother is nursing the baby OR is the primary caregiver at home, you should be 100% responsible for changing the baby's diapers when you are available. Not 50%, 100%. Even if you're out; even if you're out and the men's room doesn't have a good changing table. Even if it's a gross one, even if you're in the middle of something. Not only does this relieve your partner of Yet One More Task, but it will give you a chance to get to know your baby on a physical caretaking level. AND it ties you in to the logistics of just how interrupt-driven and logistically complicated parenting can be. We did this with both of our children and I truly believe that it was the first step of my husband's journey as a fully involved and capable parent.
posted by KathrynT at 11:30 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


Am I the only one who feels that way?

I don't share your feeling that the point of calling someone out is to shame him for shame's own sake, or that it is reasonable for that person to respond by becoming even more terrible, no.
posted by maxsparber at 11:31 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


I would really love to read this article -- Erickson, R. J. (2005). "Why emotion work matters: Sex, gender, and the division of household labor." Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(2), 337-351 -- because I suspect it touches on what jaguar and others have been trying to identify. Feelings management in the home *is* exhausting.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:32 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


When there are other urinals not being used in a men's room, do you choose to use the urinal right next to a man who is already peeing?

SO YOU'RE SAYING IF THERE'S ONLY ONE URINAL OPEN I HAVE TO HOLD IT IN AND DIE OF A BLADDER INFECTION OBVIOUSLY THAT IS THE CONCLUSION I AM FORCED TO DRAW HERE
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:32 AM on July 3 [54 favorites]


emjaybee: Thanks for the explanation, I / we don't give or expect any gifts and for parties it's usually me who does the organizing / cooking, because I actually enjoy it.

But I do understand what the suggestion is supposed to mean, now. And I agree, if you want this kind of social stuff in your life, you should not expect your partner to do it all alone.
posted by rogerbraun at 11:32 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


I don't share your feeling that the point of calling someone out is to shame him for shame's own sake, or that it is reasonable for that person to respond by becoming even more terrible, no.

But does it much matter whether you think it's a reasonable response if it's a likely response? Expecting soul-searching and epiphanies in the wake of being aggressively called out seems, at best, naive to me, and contrary to what I've observed.
posted by echocollate at 11:41 AM on July 3


And I agree, if you want this kind of social stuff in your life, you should not expect your partner to do it all alone.

Yes, exactly. Explicitly negotiating what feels fair to *both* partners when it comes to the nuts and bolts and oil of daily life can upend the invisible gendered assumptions about who does what.

If you want this kind of social stuff fairness in your life together, you should not expect your partner to do it all alone.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:43 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I'm glad some people in this thread were able to do the emotional work of reading something that doesn't seem to describe your behavior exactly but being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes to imagine how it still might be useful or informative.

Requiring someone else to explain something to you that you don't want to take 5 seconds to imagine is an example of making someone else do your work for you.
posted by bleep at 11:45 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]


I would have said that "emotional work" is not parties and remembering birthdays and etc., as those were already covered under other items on the list.

I assumed that, you know, sometimes Ms. BLF will notice that I am stressed out and am more likely to snark or snap at others, and she will gently call me out, see how I'm feeling, ask me what is wrong, et cetera. And, likewise, so I will do for her. And I'll act as an emotional buffer in other ways - handle interactions with Stress-Inducing People Who Suck, let her vent about crappy things in her life when she needs to vent, and so on. This stuff was traditionally the lady's job, in a generic heteronormative 20th-century relationship. And it's a hard, shitty job, to be the only person in a relationship capable of such emotional processing.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 11:47 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


When there are other urinals not being used in a men's room, do you choose to use the urinal right next to a man who is already peeing?

THANK YOU! Seriously, mind blown that this bus seat personal space conundrum is such a source of confusion and heartbreak, when every guy I know has fully internalized the Buffer Rule as it applies to urinals, going to movies with bros, or any situation where guys run a risk of being perceived as anything less than hetero should he stand too close to another guy.

And because it's important to share our lived experience: I once politely, as gently as possible I swear, declined a gentleman who asked to sit with me on a long bus trip when there were tons of other seats available. He proceeded to sit directly behind me and regale his male seatmate with 2 hours of increasingly violent and misogynistic ranting directed at me, the uppity bitch who had dared to be rude to such a nice and completely normal nonthreatening man. I felt sorry for his victim, but that was still preferable to the alternative had he sat beside me, the usual depressing gauntlet of appeasing small talk, cringing no-smiles and attempts to disengage from unwanted conversation.
posted by Freyja at 11:51 AM on July 3 [31 favorites]


Expecting soul-searching and epiphanies in the wake of being aggressively called out seems, at best, naive to me, and contrary to what I've observed.

In my experience, the people who dig in their heels will dig in their heels regardless of how the complaint is voiced. Generally speaking, though, I try not to advise women on what tactics will work best for them, because I'm not the one with the experience to be an expert. If they think aggressive call outs work best, I'm going to go ahead and assume that is based on lived experience that I have not shared.
posted by maxsparber at 11:59 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


echocollate: Expecting soul-searching and epiphanies in the wake of being aggressively called out seems, at best, naive to me, and contrary to what I've observed.

Calling someone out isn't necessarily an aggressive act. A simple "not cool" or "that's messed up" is generally enough in my social circle to prompt a little reflection or apology.
posted by coupdefoudre at 11:59 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


A simple "not cool" or "that's messed up" is generally enough in my social circle to prompt a little reflection or apology.

I find "ugh, that's gross" to be really effective, particularly if I don't follow it up with an argument about WHY it's gross unless asked. I've gotten a lot of "you know what, I'm sorry, that was uncalled for" comments from people whom I really didn't expect them from.
posted by KathrynT at 12:03 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


I like these except 16 (Be responsible with money in domestic/romantic relationships. Know that if you are irresponsible with money, this necessarily impacts your partner and since women still make less than men overall (and live longer), this is a feminist issue.) and 33. (consider donating a symbolic 23% of your income to social justice-oriented causes. If 23% sounds like a lot to you, that’s because it is a lot and it’s also a lot for women who don’t have a choice whether to forfeit this amount or not.)

So, my guy needs to not be wasteful with his money because it will affect me, but also basically tithe nearly a quarter of his income. I think the latter would definitely impact my retirement plans...
posted by sfkiddo at 12:04 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I think the latter would definitely impact my retirement plans...

The former is meant as an indictment of couples where the husband buys anything he wants to without regard for what bills are coming or how much money is left in the account, but expects his wife to manage the budget and make sure the bills get paid. This is a common complaint among the women of my acquaintance.
posted by KathrynT at 12:09 PM on July 3 [7 favorites]


I would have said that "emotional work" is not parties and remembering birthdays and etc., as those were already covered under other items on the list.

It probably depends on the relationship. I tend to file it that way because "maintaining social/family ties and obligations" is part of emotional work, or at least, of mental health, unless you want to be a hermit.

But the other stuff, the one-to-one stuff, is not even filed under "not being a good ally" but under "guy I would not marry" if it wasn't there, for me. Someone who didn't ask about my day, or give a rip about how I felt, or care about my career? That relationship is doomed. Maybe it's possible for him to learn, but I wouldn't marry someone like that in the first place. Why bother?
posted by emjaybee at 12:14 PM on July 3


bus seat personal space conundrum is such a source of confusion and heartbreak,

I don't understand it either - but then, I am... larger than most people. I am very aware of my size - and I get the feeling that not all people, or even men, have a real sense of how much space they actually take up.

Even at a relatively svelte 6'4" and 210, bus seats are.... Tiny. They are tiny little seats made for tiny little children. I don't want to sit next to anybody, because we both won't fit. don't get me started on those lecture halls with the seats with the tables built in...

I remember once when my wife and I had started dating, we were taking the bus somewhere. She took a seat, and I stood next to the seat. She urged me to sit next to her, and after some back and forth, I did. And I have to lavaball, because my legs do not physically fit front to back. After 5 minutes, she says "These seats *are* really small - you should stand up".

No shit, right.

flights are hell
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:18 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Sometimes just getting a reminder to do the right things helps.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:18 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


In my experience, the people who dig in their heels will dig in their heels regardless of how the complaint is voiced. Generally speaking, though, I try not to advise women on what tactics will work best for them, because I'm not the one with the experience to be an expert. If they think aggressive call outs work best, I'm going to go ahead and assume that is based on lived experience that I have not shared.

My sense is that publicly calling someone out who is temperamentally predisposed to self-reflection might cause him/her to reconsider a position, depending on how it's phrased and delivered. In other cases, I believe you're probably right and the act of shaming has more to do with immediate personal gratification (or, in the case where a person feels threatened, calling public attention to the threat, which is absolutely fucking legit and pretty smart).

The point of my post wasn't to backdoor advice to women on how to do anything. It was just something I've been thinking a lot about that came up in a previous comment, and I wanted to see how others felt.

Calling someone out isn't necessarily an aggressive act. A simple "not cool" or "that's messed up" is generally enough in my social circle to prompt a little reflection or apology.

How often does that happen in your peer group? I'm trying to think of the last time someone in mine (a mix of progressives, conservatives, and apoliticals) said anything sexist that wasn't in complete jest and more or less appropriate to the audience (i.e., shared familiarity, personal trust, etc.). Is it more common to call out friends or strangers? I'm interested in people's personal examples/experiences with this phenomenon.

Not trying to derail. Personally I thought most on that list were pretty standard, common sense things. A few were vaguely worded but it wasn't hard to get the gist.
posted by echocollate at 12:19 PM on July 3


FJT: "I was actually considering simply never sitting next to a woman, because their discomfort at me might exceed my own comfort of sitting down."

Read the room, and the local norms. Around here, on a busy, well-behaved morning commuter train, if there's just a couple seats left, polite men will often say, "Do you mind?" to a woman sitting alone before taking the seat next to her. She'll say, "Oh, no, go ahead," and then you can go back to ignoring each other like civilized human beings. On a rowdy, late-evening trip on a weekend, though, you might want to think twice, especially if her body language is already tense. You can always take the seat and sit with your feet turned into the aisle (when you're not barring people from passing) so that you're physically signaling that you're not sitting next to her, just sitting somewhere.

Honestly someone who takes the time to say "Do you mind?" thus signaling that he realizes that I MIGHT MIND AND THAT IS REASONABLE AND HE RESPECTS THAT has signaled that he is the sort of person who's a pretty safe public-transit seatmate.

Pay attention to women's body language, particularly if they stiffen up or make themselves smaller in the space on public transit. Try a couple things, see what works in your local milieu. Maybe "Do you mind?" is taken as a come-on and silent sitting is preferred, I don't know your transit-life. It's not the end of the world if you're trying to figure out the right way to do things, you screw up, and someone leaves thinking you're kind-of a doofus (as I assume your errors would basically only rise to doofus level rather than scary creep level). It's too bad, but it's a learning experience, sometimes you mess up, that's okay.

---

When you do a "bystander intervention" it doesn't have to be about sexism -- you can often interrupt a situation just by asking, "Excuse me, do you have the time?" or "Can you tell me which way to 13th street?" Knowing that someone is watching them makes a lot of dudes back off; being interrupted by a calm, unrelated question can derail an emotional escalation; and generally something like that isn't seen as threatening or disrespectful, in a way that could get you into a fight yourself (some men are reluctant to do an "Excuse me, ma'am, but is this man bothering you?" thing for fear of a fight).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:22 PM on July 3 [19 favorites]


"If there is indeed a man who feels as though he must secure some kind of personal benefit in order to feel comfortable with feminism, he is not anything close to an active supporter of feminist goals. Sorry, but feminism is not and will never be about ensuring any kind of nebulous "benefit" is provided to men -- and it's not about raising women up to men's unjust detriment, either. Feminism is about gender equality. Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

I'm not sure about the "must secure … personal benefit" construction, but I do think that at least for me a lot of what I try to support is at least out of moderately enlightened self interest. There are things that I support, like immigration reform, that won't directly impact me, but I do believe that comprehensive immigration reform will be good for the economy, and will also lead to significantly more people working to make the country a better place. Likewise, a lot of programs I support are targeted at minorities because they're disproportionately affected by structural injustices, but helping undo some of the structural inequities will end up helping everyone. For example, increased access for LGBT people to social services will help modernize and increase the reach of social services broadly.

Or, closer to home, I feel like I benefit from more women participating in Metafilter, both in terms of seeing things that I wouldn't have already seen, and getting broader, more varied perspectives. Thinking that women have a lot to offer here does mean that I benefit from policies that help make that easier for them to contribute, and despite the general threnodies for MeFi that blame PC police or whatever, I just don't see the harms that are imputed. Like, the JulyByWomen has been pretty great so far — there's a bunch of stuff that I wouldn't have seen otherwise, that would have been excluded due to social norms that make it harder for women to participate, and I think everyone benefits from having a broader exposure.

So, yeah, on one hand I recognize that men harassing women should be opposed just on general principles, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't benefit me, and when I'm trying to explain to a dubious guy about why this really is worth his support, I'll often argue from enlightened self interest.
posted by klangklangston at 12:27 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


But actively supporting any cause must involve some element of self-interest.

"Not being on the wrong side of human decency when the history books are written" is one of the things I usually offer at a high level.

I mean, I get what you're saying. From a short-term pragmatic standpoint, "selling" people on an idea requires a strong dose of "what's in it for me" in addition to moral imperatives. Some shifts, though, happen because hard work and slow but steady change moves the needle on what society considers acceptable. Increased acceptance of interracial marriage, for example.

There is a period of time in which individuals can get on board the societal-progression bus and be ahead of the curve. But eventually? Holdouts aren't "people to be convinced," they're just the assholes who are thought badly of, and will eventually die out. Things like trans acceptance are regrettably in the early part of that cycle in our culture, but the bus will eventually depart and holdouts won't have people "trying to convince" them anymore. They'll just be a new generation of those weird, regressive assholes that are pointed at to demonstrate how bad things used to be.

If empathy and a desire to do right by fellow human beings isn't enough, that one might help some folks.
posted by verb at 12:27 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


How often does that happen in your peer group? I'm trying to think of the last time someone in mine (a mix of progressives, conservatives, and apoliticals) said anything sexist that wasn't in complete jest and more or less appropriate to the audience (i.e., shared familiarity, personal trust, etc.). Is it more common to call out friends or strangers? I'm interested in people's personal examples/experiences with this phenomenon.

I work at a brewery staffed mostly with 20-something-year-old dudes so unfortunately I am called upon to do this kind of a lot. (Fortunately I'm the HR manager so they actually have to listen to me.)
posted by shakespeherian at 12:32 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


As for the list, come on! I fight sexism on the internet! That means I already do my part!

(I don't think all of it applies — my fiancee makes significantly more than me, and I already work for social justice as a day job — but there's plenty in there that has the sting of recognition. She does do more of the housework, and she cares a lot more about the housework than I do. She was raised in a lot more of a traditional home than I was, so her social framework puts a lot more emphasis on things like keeping a clean home than mine does, both for gender and family preference reasons. I was raised by hippies; tidiness has never a domestic value. Still, it's a reminder that I should try to do better, both for her sake and as a general principle.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


If empathy and a desire to do right by fellow human beings isn't enough

The men most likely to ally themselves with feminism are those who see themselves personally as victims of social inequity. This could be for reasons of race, sexual orientation, physical impairment or intellectual disposition.
posted by No Robots at 12:43 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I thought this list did a really good job of digging out the oft-invisible ways that men benefit from and continue to perpetuate sexism/patriarchy, even if they have good, progressive intentions. However, it seemed like it missed the boat in the income inequality bullets, especially #33 (donating 23% of your income as a symbolic gesture). The great thing about this list is how concrete it is about the types of steps that men can take in order to really live feminism rather than just give lip service to believing that women are equal. And something about donating part of your salary to recognize income inequality feels like moving away from "how do you live an authentically feminist life vis-a-vis the women in your life" and more towards grand gestures of dubious effect.

I believe there's quite a body of research at this point that shows that equally-educated men and women start with a much smaller gender gap in earnings straight out of college / grad school (as I recall, women make something on the order of 95% of what men make in the early stages of their careers) and the real income blow occurs once you start having kids. So, it seems more in the spirit of this list to say that to be feminist, new fathers should:

(1) offer to be the ones who take a year off when their child is less than a year; and/or
(2) move to part-time work or a more flexible (leaned-out) job when their children are young (prior to entering school); and/or
(3) be the primary parent who is contacted by daycare or by school when kids get sick, with the expectation that they will be the one to leave work to provide childcare when other arrangements fall through.

Those are the sort of concrete suggestions that make it less likely that your (female) spouse or partner is taking the income hit when you have children, and the cumulative effect of 50% of men choosing to do this would deal a substantial blow to the income disparity that we see in aggregate income statistics. (And yet it's the sort of thing that very few men, even among those that would say they believe in feminism and gender equality, actually do because it's so easy to fall into the patterns that you see all around you without considering how those patterns reproduce gender inequality.)
posted by iminurmefi at 12:44 PM on July 3 [9 favorites]


23. Don’t treat your spouse like a “nag.” If she is “nagging,” you are probably lagging.


There is only one problem with this, though it might be the use of the word "nagging", and trying to be cute by rhyming it with lagging.

Asymmetrical Information. Though, to a greater degree, it is really something that should be addressed by #2, #14, and #17.

At least in my personal experience, and in deconstructing many cultural examples of "nagging" behavior, the main problems are that there is a miscommunication or failed assessment by one or both parties as to the value or importance of any given thing that someone "nags" another person about. The the party who is "nagging", they are trying to express how they feel a certain aspect of behavior/appearance/action is important to them, while the party who feels that they are being "nagged" is not clearly expressing that what the other party feels does not register at the same level of importance. I also think that both parties should understand that sometimes what one party feels is important may never hold the same level of importance to the other party, and asking either party to compromise will have an effect on the relationship. It can be a positive effect, i.e., the nagged party feeling that they should change their behavior in order to please the aggrieved party. Of course, you never know until you talk about it honestly and come clean on the whole of both parties intellectual and emotional stance of the given situation.
posted by daq at 12:47 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I appreciated this post -- I saw a lot in there I need to start doing, particularly around my behaviors toward fellow males who ain't acting right -- and I would add another tool to the list:

#37: If you are a white male who is trying to embody and live by the preceding principles, try hard to think about whether your public displays of feminism encompass and allow for women of color.

For example, a Ctrl+F for "Tiana" in the recent thread on Frozen (and by extension all the Disney princess movies) and feminism produces only one result.

And it's by no means an outlier for MeFi threads when it comes to this kind of thing.

Thanks for the post, flex!
posted by lord_wolf at 12:48 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]


The men most likely to ally themselves with feminism are those who see themselves personally as victims of social inequity.

Really? I do it because I find sexism repellent. Where did you get your stats?
posted by maxsparber at 12:49 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


be the primary parent who is contacted by daycare or by school when kids get sick, with the expectation that they will be the one to leave work to provide childcare when other arrangements fall through.

My husband had to attend Curriculum Night at the school this year, because I had a show that evening. And because he is not used to thinking of himself as the Family Representative, when it asked for "contact information," he only put down his name, email address, and phone number. The result of this is that he was the only one on the teacher's first "Here are your classmates' parents!" email blast, and he was the one who got all the playdate invites, birthday party invitations, requests for volunteering in the classroom, etc. all year long. He handled it, either on his own or by forwarding things to me where appropriate, but it was really eye-opening to him on a couple of different axes.
posted by KathrynT at 12:50 PM on July 3 [10 favorites]


The men most likely to ally themselves with feminism are those who see themselves personally as victims of social inequity. This could be for reasons of race, sexual orientation, physical impairment or intellectual disposition.

Not in my experience. Of all the men I know who ally themselves with feminism, most (certainly not all, but most) of them are straight, white, middle-class (for certain values of what "middle class" even means anymore) cis men.
posted by scody at 12:54 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Everyone who doesn't 'get' one or more of the tools/rules listed, just keep reading MeFi threads. I promise it begins to click eventually. Once it does, it's amazing how much sexism resembles a low-frequency hum that never, ever goes away. It gets louder, it gets quieter, but it's always there. Even when you find yourself able to hear the hum, it's hard to remember that for women, there are blades attached to the noise.

Do what you can, as much as you can. If all you can do is keep reading threads like this right now, that's cool. Press on.
posted by Mooski at 12:59 PM on July 3 [9 favorites]


Really? I do it because I find sexism repellent. Where did you get your stats?

Of all the men I know who ally themselves with feminism, most (certainly not all, but most) of them are straight, white, middle-class (for certain values of what "middle class" even means anymore) cis men.


If a woman is looking for allies in a sexist work environment, wouldn't it make sense for her to seek out those men who also seem to experience some kind of alienation in that environment?
posted by No Robots at 1:00 PM on July 3


That is interesting, KathrynT. When I was pregnant, on the recommendation of another very wise mefite, my husband and I read the book Equally Shared Parenting and OH MAN that book had so many useful nuggets in it, even for people who are doing pretty well on having a feminist relationship. One of the issues they raise is the phenomenon of moms becoming the default contact for all activities related to the kids, both because mom is the one more likely to be the one doing the daycare search or first day of school stuff where those forms are filled out, and partially because some providers/school staff just have a mental block about sending it to a man. This inevitably becomes just one more form of time-intensive invisible labor that women do without anyone really making the explicit decision that it should be set up that way.

One of the results of reading that book was that we were careful to have my husband be the one who was "in charge" of the daycare search. We both toured the facilities and obviously discussed which ones we liked best (a totally superfluous discussion as we only got into one daycare despite being on the wait-list for 4 places for about a year!), but my husband was the one who was sending the emails, filling out the application, and scheduling everything.

We can both see that it's surprising to the daycare we'll be using that my husband showed up at the orientation and was answering all the questions about how much and how frequently our baby eats and sleeps. On the emergency contact form, the mother's information was listed first and we had to ask about how to indicate that we prefer my husband be contacted first if something comes up (the daycare is only blocks away from his work, and he has more flexibility than I do to answer the phone as needed). They were a bit taken aback--I got the feeling that they hadn't ever been asked that before, despite being in a very progressive community.

Anyway. This past year has been one in which we've both been thinking a lot about the small decisions we're making potentially having large downstream effects on how equally we're sharing the parenting burden down the road, so it doesn't surprise me to hear that something as small as filling out a form can lead to a big shift in who is performing that invisible parenting labor.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:04 PM on July 3 [16 favorites]


This is a really good article; particularly the FAQ, which has cleared some stuff up for me (a dude). So thanks!
posted by lalochezia at 1:05 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


any situation where guys run a risk of being perceived as anything less than hetero should he stand too close to another guy.

The perception that men in public might be - gasp! - GAY is not equivalent to the fear women have to go through about whether we are going to be harassed or assaulted. A more apt comparison would be the fear that many gay, bi, and trans men experience in public bathrooms because they have to worry about violence and harassment from straight men who feel entitled to dominate these spaces.

To actually talk about the topic at hand, I would love to see more discussion of ways men and masculine-identified people can support women and feminine-identified people in LGBTQ+ spaces.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:06 PM on July 3


I definitely feel the emotional work issue. My boyfriend of 9 years will not call or write his friends. Will. Not. I have to organize get-togethers if we are going to have a social life. As a result, we mostly hang out with my friends. Of his friends, the only ones we still see on a regular basis have learned to email me with plans. He asks me every weekend, "So what are we doing this weekend?" Only if I haven't planned anything does he suggest an activity. I make sure we are signed up for races and events. He will buy concert tickets, though. I am short and hate concerts, and will not voluntarily spend money on them.
posted by domo at 1:07 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


If a woman is looking for allies in a sexist work environment, wouldn't it make sense for her to seek out those men who also seem to experience some kind of alienation in that environment?

I don't know. Sometimes people who are experiencing their own oppression can be unexpectedly parsimonious regarding helping others. The experience of women in other activist causes has not historically been one of mutual support. The gay community hasn't always been supportive of its trans members. The black community hasn't always been supportive of the gay community. The Jewish community hasn't always been supportive of the black community.

I wish it weren't so, but history often ignores my wishes.
posted by maxsparber at 1:08 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


If a woman is looking for allies in a sexist work environment, wouldn't it make sense for her to seek out those men who also seem to experience some kind of alienation in that environment?

Not necessarily. Someone who has experienced racism is still capable of being (or being blind to) sexism; someone who has been the victim of homophobia can still be racist. It's unfortunately common.
posted by rtha at 1:09 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


In my experience, one way for men who feel some kind of alienation in their environment to demonstrate they are a worthy man is by making visible shows of dominance over women.

This is by no means absolute, of course, but just because someone is discriminated against along one axis doesn't mean they will recognize other axes where they have the power (see: white women mistreating black women in feminism, or racism and sexism within the LGBTQ community).
posted by Deoridhe at 1:10 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


I think a lot about shaming (essentially "calling someone out" in an angry/confrontational way) as a means to an end, especially with regard to social issues. Will the shamed party consider his or her behaviors/views and take positive action to change them?

Certainly not in the moment. Very few people will admit to even a minor faux pas in public, at least until they've had time to reflect on it in private. Advice I've seen around in the skeptical community is to be stern but patient and try to let them disengage from the situation before it becomes a negative experience. Obviously, that would take practice.

I know I'm pretty terrible at not coming across as condescending in situations like that, and it's blown up in my face several times (related to both feminism and skepticism, among other things great and small). You've basically already lost just by being exposed to it. So I guess do what feels right, because you will probably regret it either way?
posted by WCWedin at 1:12 PM on July 3


My sense is that publicly calling someone out who is temperamentally predisposed to self-reflection might cause him/her to reconsider a position, depending on how it's phrased and delivered

It's not always about immediately changing the mind of the person who committed the behavior, though. Or personal gratification.

The other big benefit of "calling out" bad behavior is demonstrating that it's universally acceptable within the group. That tells anyone in the group who is hurt by the behavior that they're not alone. It can also slowly shift the norms of the group away from that bad behavior.

I don't know how many times a woman on MeFi has recounted an incident where she was in a group setting, someone said something horribly sexist, and she either felt terrible because no one objected, or because she objected and was immediately shut down. I haven't tried to count, but it's a lot. I imagine it's a really common experience.

I've been in that situation myself. If you're thinking clearly, you're weighing the costs; there's no "right" course of action. If you don't say anything, you'll feel terrible and alone and maybe even a little complicit, because you feel like you should be brave enough and tireless enough to take on this task. If you do say something, though, it's likely you'll get laughed at, called humorless, "I bet you're real fun at parties," lighten up it's just a joke, it's just as bad to call men a dick, are you on your period, I wasn't talking about women like you... that can be a worse experience, and so a lot of the time, we're quiet.

Another voice makes a world of difference even if it doesn't actually change the offender's mind.

So if you ever are holding back from speaking up because you don't think you'll make a difference, speak up anyway.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:13 PM on July 3 [8 favorites]


Still, the odds are that more allies are to be found among the oppressed than among the oppressors, no?
posted by No Robots at 1:13 PM on July 3


echocollate: "How often does that happen in your peer group? I'm trying to think of the last time someone in mine (a mix of progressives, conservatives, and apoliticals) said anything sexist that wasn't in complete jest and more or less appropriate to the audience (i.e., shared familiarity, personal trust, etc.). Is it more common to call out friends or strangers? I'm interested in people's personal examples/experiences with this phenomenon."

Not sure what type of anecdotes you are looking for, really. How often do I say the type of callout I mentioned? I don't know, maybe like... once every few months? No, I can't say I have ever called out a total stranger.

Here's an example: I'm on a co-ed, casual rec soccer team with a bunch of friends. One game, our goalie couldn't make it, and I was discussing with the captain, a good friend, what to do about it. We agreed that rotating a bunch of people into goal would be the fairest, so no one person would be stuck in there for long. Then he turns around and shouts to the rest of the team "Okay, so every guy will take a shift, figure out when you want to go". I said something along the lines of "what the hell?", because, really? There was absolutely no reason I or any of the other women couldn't have played goal, no one has the skills to play it, we are all on equal footing there. He says "well what, do you WANT to take a shift?" and I said something like "Not necessarily, but I still think it's weird just jumped to 'guys only'..." He asks the rest of the team, "what, that wasn't sexist, was it?" and one of the other guys says "yeah, actually, it was". Friend says hmm, okay, and the issue is done.

Do I think this was the hugest example of blatant sexism ever? Of course not. Do I think he went home and "soul-searched" about this incident? No, hopefully he will remember it, but that wasn't the point. The reason I said something was because I would have been annoyed with myself if I didn't. And because I said something, someone else felt that they had the room to agree with me, instead of staying quiet. It does seem like it usually takes a man agreeing with me before my point is taken seriously, but at least I don't go home kicking myself for just letting stuff slide.
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:17 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


From a short-term pragmatic standpoint, "selling" people on an idea requires a strong dose of "what's in it for me" in addition to moral imperatives.

I do some activism because it has direct benefit (free speech issues). I do some others because it makes me feel good (animal care/spaying donations). I do others because I would like to be a better human being. Some I do because there's social pressure.

All have some level of self-interest. There's nothing wrong with self-interest. It can actually be a positive force. A friend of mine was telling me how in his country there is free prenatal and maternal care for women. He was saying, "I'm all for this and it doesn't even benefit me." I pointed out kids that have prenatal care cost less and have less health problems than those without, so as a tax payer in that country he's probably saving money.

I'd like to see a version 2.0 of this list where it's broken into two parts. One general, and one for those in a relationship specifically.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:20 PM on July 3


I think that those who aren't oppressed can often have more time and ability to becomes allies because they're not fighting their own battles.

I also think that calling people out can have an effect on people other than the person you're calling out as it reinforces the fact that its not ok, and in my experience its not usually totally strangers who i've called out before but friends of friends or acquaintances I didn't know very well or people in shared activities.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 1:21 PM on July 3


Regarding the first point:

1. Do 50% (or more) of housework.

When I was in my pre-teens my mom called me into the laundry room. She said, "You start the machine like this, you put the soap in like this, you use these settings."

"Why are you showing me this?"

"Because you're doing your own laundry from now on."

When I got to college I was astounded that the cliche was true - there were guys who had no idea how to do their own laundry. I will be eternally grateful to my mother for instilling in me at a young age that not only was I capable of doing any kind of chore, I was expected to.
posted by komara at 1:29 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


The men most likely to ally themselves with feminism are those who see themselves personally as victims of social inequity. This could be for reasons of race, sexual orientation, physical impairment or intellectual disposition.

I know a lot of people have jumped on this one, but it does seriously ask for a cite, please.

Still, the odds are that more allies are to be found among the oppressed than among the oppressors, no?

The prevalence of fedora wearing "nice guys" on the intarwebs and the prevailing sexism and misogyny in "geek culture" would say otherwise.

Again, this is very much a failed rationalization. It seems you are conflating "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" game-theory with real life human interactions. The main underlying point of the first link in the FPP should really tell you one thing. Be more aware of how your actions, not your intentions. It is hard work. It is not the "default" state for most people to operate under, and it does require effort to see yourself outside of your own subjective filters. It can require training and constant vigilance to achieve the states goals. But EVERYONE, including yourself, benefits from having more awareness of the impact your actions have on your environment and the people you share it with.

Looking for "allies" in other oppressed groups does nothing to change the behavior of those doing the oppression. Setting examples of behavior and asking those with the privileges afforded them by their societal position to see that as the better option for the whole does. Hence why that list is addressed at MALE feminists, as they are the ones who have a societal advantage, and are NOT some other oppressed group.

So, then, anyone who feels oppressed should immediately try to make allies of the Koch brothers?

Were the Koch brothers amenable to understanding that their behavior is detrimental to society as a whole, the yes. Even if they aren't amenable to it, they should be exposed to the harm that their actions and behaviors cause. The difficulty does lie in many other axioms of society, such as the buffer they have due to their extreme wealth. And frankly, yes, people should be trying to influence the views of EVERYBODY who is reinforcing the current negative cultural attitudes that are causing harm in our society. In fact, there are many advocacy groups whose sole focus is on bridging the divide between disparate groups by attempting to counter the social stereotypes and harmful behaviors exhibited by religious and cultural groups.
posted by daq at 1:33 PM on July 3


"no one will ever do anything to help anyone else unless it's in their own self interest," an idea broadcast far and wide by such intellectual leading lights as, uh, the Koch brothers
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:34 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Still, the odds are that more allies are to be found among the oppressed than among the oppressors, no?

As a group or class, perhaps. As individual people? No, why? Being a lesbian of color hasn't somehow rendered me immune to the culture I grew up in; work I have deliberately done and continue to do to raise my own awareness - personal responsibility I have taken, if you will - has been much more effective than random acts of sexism or homophobia flung my way over the years.
posted by rtha at 1:37 PM on July 3


Still, the odds are that more allies are to be found among the oppressed than among the oppressors, no?

You keep asking these weird rhetorical questions.

There's no way to prove a negative, but I'll say that in my workplace, which is filled with African-Americans, and African-American women in particular, the white men and white women tend to be more progressive, and more specifically focused on sexism, as a group, than do the African-American women, many of whom are deeply socially conservative.

That isn't to say that all of the Black women are conservative, or that all of the white men are feminists, but the pattern holds in my observation.
posted by OmieWise at 1:38 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I live in one of those places where white male hetero capitalist power is still pretty much absolute.
posted by No Robots at 1:41 PM on July 3


It still seems strange to me, because I have zero interest in the first thing and think of the second one (caring for each other) as the basis of any relationship, but maybe I already have non-traditional relationships.

Oh god the emotional work when living with "feminist" men. Who are perfectly nice and who, as a broad generality, are people I like and consider friends.

Here's the thing about our house: nothing gets done unless I either do it or project manage it. I live with men who will, yes, do....well, probably about 75% of their share, if I ask them. I have to scaffold it - "This week, would you clean the bathroom?" Sure, they say. And then I have to remind them gently, and ask nicely, and I have to make sure to ask in such a way that they feel appreciated and valued instead of pressured, because they just won't do it at all if they don't feel like it. Basically, my choice is between begging and manipulating them into doing their share of very ordinary chores or doing them myself, and I often decide to do chores myself.

Any non-standard chore (like cleaning the refrigerator or vacuuming or cleaning up the pantry shelves and getting rid of dead onions and old bread heels)...well, they can't be arsed to remember how to do it or deduce the process, so if I want them to do it - and these are grown men - I have to give them very detailed instructions every time. How did I learn to clean the refrigerator? By cleaning the refrigerator. No one gave me instructions, I just noticed the big sticky drippy patch and got out the rags.

No one but me ever says "hm, I notice that there's drifts of cat hair blowing down the hall, perhaps I'll sweep". Their mental process is "chores are something that Mom [or my convenient household mother-stand-in] organizes, and I am only responsible for things I am directly asked to do in the moment that I am asked to do them. I do not need to devote any brain space to household management, because that is momwork, and I am a man."

It's exhausting, because I know that not only do the actual chores most often fall to me, but that if I am sick or depressed or stressed or studying, the whole household will fall apart. They've decided that they don't want to be "in charge" because it's boring and stressful, and I can't make them. All I can do is ask.

We've had direct conversations about how this isn't a feminist way to handle things, and no business resulted. (We've also had chore charts, and house meetings, and "how would you like to handle this? I would love a system with your buy in!" But it boils down to the fact that it's more fun not to use your brain space on remembering to wipe the counter or how to take out the trick shelf in the refrigerator or how to empty the vacuum bag.

The feelings in this - the feeling that I have to make nice and beg and cozen just to get help when they have no interest in making nice or begging or cozening me, the feeling that I am utterly alone in charge of the house....that's emotional labor, and yet your standard American would say that we lead wildly non-traditional lives.

It's the need to do 100% of the thinking about the wellbeing of those in the household and to have no one doing anything similar for you, that's what gets so exhausting.




*I stress that these are very, very ordinary chores - cleaning the bathroom every couple of weeks, doing their share of the dishes, picking up the stuff they've left in the common areas. All the non-ordinary chores (cleaning the fridge, wiping down the stove, dusting, organizing, dealing with recycling, I do. And believe me, our standards are not high.
posted by Frowner at 1:42 PM on July 3 [154 favorites]


Still, the odds are that more allies are to be found among the oppressed than among the oppressors, no?

It feels kind of weird to make assumptions about someone, even if it's positive, based on prior experience with someone of their race, orientation, or some other criteria.

And, the people writing that they know more white people than minorities that are feminist or progressive feels to me like minorities once again being judged as a group and whites being seen as individuals.

Yeah, and I realize about my own bias on this, so I'm just gonna go over there to untwist this pretzel.
posted by FJT at 1:45 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


No one but me ever says "hm, I notice that there's drifts of cat hair blowing down the hall, perhaps I'll sweep". Their mental process is "chores are something that Mom [or my convenient household mother-stand-in] organizes, and I am only responsible for things I am directly asked to do in the moment that I am asked to do them. I do not need to devote any brain space to household management, because that is momwork, and I am a man."

Dammit, why is the favorites button not giving you the 1,000 faves I want it to?
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:53 PM on July 3 [19 favorites]


It's the need to do 100% of the thinking about the wellbeing of those in the household and to have no one doing anything similar for you, that's what gets so exhausting.

God, if I could favorite this a thousand times, I would. One of my mornings tasks before I leave for work is that I have to remember to leave notes (cute, funny, sweet little notes!) for my boyfriend to remind him to do his share of work: please run the dishwasher, please clean the bathroom, please take out the recycling. Because if I don't, I will get home and there is a 90% likelihood that there will not be any clean dishes, the bathroom sink will be full of his hair after he ran the clippers, and the recycling will still be on the kitchen floor, and I will have to do all those things before I can make dinner (after which, until this past year, I would have to ask him to clean the kitchen -- but he's actually gotten much better about doing this on his own now).

I love my boyfriend more than anything on earth, and he has the sweetest, kindest heart of any human being I've ever known, but the fact is he is also someone who has lived for 50 years without fully internalizing the concept that he's equally responsible for the basic maintenance of his surroundings. I don't have to remind him to brush his teeth, but I do have to ask him to clean up the gobs of toothpaste in the sink. He knows how to install a kitchen from scratch, but he appears genuinely incapable of being able to avoid smearing honey all over the kitchen counter when he makes a sandwich.
posted by scody at 1:59 PM on July 3 [33 favorites]


In lieu of being able to favorite Frowner's comment more than once, I am just going to favorite every comment that says they wish they could favorite it more than once instead.
posted by KathrynT at 2:03 PM on July 3 [20 favorites]


Yeah I think living with men is usually a bad deal.

See also: co-parenting.

But anyway, this thread makes me LOL a bit.

"NOT SPECIFIC ENOUGH"

*provide a specific suggestion*

"LET ME NIPTICK THIS SPECIFIC THING TO DEATH, ALSO IT'S TOO SPECIFIC SO IT PROBABLY HAS NO IMPACT ON THE WORLD"

o ok
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:05 PM on July 3 [26 favorites]


quoted for truth forever

The feelings in this - the feeling that I have to make nice and beg and cozen just to get help when they have no interest in making nice or begging or cozening me, the feeling that I am utterly alone in charge of the house....that's emotional labor, and yet your standard American would say that we lead wildly non-traditional lives.

It's the need to do 100% of the thinking about the wellbeing of those in the household and to have no one doing anything similar for you, that's what gets so exhausting.

posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:06 PM on July 3 [17 favorites]


God, Frowner, you just wrote the comment I've been struggling with for a couple of hours.

The best way I can express it is as an example of entitlement: If I don't do these tasks, someone else will do them for me. A servant or something, whatever, I'm too important.

Whereas when I ignore a mess, I know damn well it's going to remain ignored until I have to do something about it.

And the lack of brain cycles devoted, as if my own cycles are less valuable so it's fine if I worry my pretty little head about these things. Yesterday, I specifically directed him to the back yard and the preparation thereof before the mowing service arrives (he put this event on the calendar, we both get notified). What he picked up: dog shit, two lemons. What he did not pick up: one lemon, a pool noodle that blew onto the grass, a ladder, the dog beds on the patio so they guys can blow all the shit off it. What the hell with the lemons? They were all in the same place under the lemon tree. I went out and picked up everything else behind him, which I was able to do because a conference call got pushed back a few minutes*.

It makes me so angry and hurt and belittled and minimized and, yeah, kind of oppressed by the middle-class college-educated white guy in my house. I had a meltdown the other day after vacuuming (for the first time in two months because he didn't tell me the vacuum was broken so I had to buy a new one), which is his job, and he just didn't notice for 20 minutes that I was making a peculiar noise. How insignificant must I be that I can literally roar for 20 minutes and go unnoticed?

I don't mean to turn this into a Let's Bitch About Our Men post, but I would not treat him like this. But this is how my father acted, and my grandfathers, and every man I've ever dated. It feels normal even as it makes the back of my skull hurt. Lord knows I've been a shitty roommate in my life, because my own mother tried to break the cycle, I guess, by not teaching me how to do jack shit, but I was *embarrassed* if I was so awful that someone else had to do my chores for me. That's actually how I learned to take care of myself: to avoid mortification.

*Punchline: I'm the only one working.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:09 PM on July 3 [54 favorites]


Like, I've had people express jealousy at the amount of free time and "help" I have with my kid because his dad takes him on weekends and they never, ever, ever get time to themselves on weekends. They have a partner! Who lives in the house! And does NOTHING responsible for the kids!

Sperm donation: it's the way to go (if you can afford it).
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:09 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Their mental process is "chores are something that Mom [or my convenient household mother-stand-in] organizes, and I am only responsible for things I am directly asked to do in the moment that I am asked to do them. I do not need to devote any brain space to household management, because that is momwork, and I am a man."

I have no reason to believe that for these people this is anything but God's truth.

However, more broadly, I've lived with male and female housemates who exhibit this same behavior. I end up falling into the role that you find yourself in, and I'm a dude. For me I've always conceptualized their behavior as a lack of respect for others' time and mental well-being, although completely ungendered. So I don't think that in all cases a lack of chore-doing is necessarily unfeminist/sexist/etc.

That said, yes, so exhausting to live with people who don't spend the same time thinking about your needs as you do theirs.
posted by TypographicalError at 2:09 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I don't mean to turn this into a Let's Bitch About Our Men post

Meh, why not? Frankly, I feel awful about your situation and lord knows you deserve better, but I also know how hard it is to find better, in addition to all the other shit you have to deal with when it comes to finding a suitable partner.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:10 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


So I don't think that in all cases a lack of chore-doing is necessarily unfeminist/sexist/etc.

Yeah it is (in the vast majority of cases)
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:11 PM on July 3 [14 favorites]


Like, I've had people express jealousy at the amount of free time and "help" I have with my kid because his dad takes him on weekends and they never, ever, ever get time to themselves on weekends.

My husband took the kids on a multi-family camping trip without me because I, again, had a show, and I had SO MANY PEOPLE express amazement. Apart from me having to supply an every-meal-and-snack shopping list for our daughter (see frustration above) he packed everything for both kids, including the 3 year old who is still in diapers. Because he is their father and he understands what their needs are, because he is actively involved in their lives. But to hear the commentary from my friends and colleagues, you'd think he'd pulled off some sort of major logistical miracle.
posted by KathrynT at 2:14 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]


TypographicalError, this might not be your truth, but it's a truth for a shitload of people who are tired of justifying a basic need, so maybe just take a step back and listen.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:16 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


"The perception that men in public might be - gasp! - GAY is not equivalent to the fear women have to go through about whether we are going to be harassed or assaulted. A more apt comparison would be the fear that many gay, bi, and trans men experience in public bathrooms because they have to worry about violence and harassment from straight men who feel entitled to dominate these spaces. "

Well, yeah, that's part of the point: Guys are already socialized to respect other dude's personal space because NO HOMO, so claims that they can't possibly do the same for women are bullshit.

"The best way I can express it is as an example of entitlement: If I don't do these tasks, someone else will do them for me. A servant or something, whatever, I'm too important."

My parents were pretty good about pointing out that for every household chore that isn't done by one partner, the other has to do it. I try to think about things that way. But god knows I'm not anywhere near perfect about it. I've got a slew of factors that influence that (hippy parents, ADD) but a big one is probably internalized sexist expectations. (I will say that I've lived with enough other guys to know that there's a significant amount of conflict that can be put down to different standards and norms about what's important to have clean and what isn't. I also have to remember to get better about making people take their shoes off inside, since I do a quick sweep pretty much every other day and I get annoyed when my partner doesn't get to see the clean floor because it gets so dirty so quickly.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:18 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Because he is their father and he understands what their needs are, because he is actively involved in their lives. But to hear the commentary from my friends and colleagues, you'd think he'd pulled off some sort of major logistical miracle.

You should see what happens if you're separated and he manages not to let the child die of neglect during his custodial time. ~FATHER OF THE YEAR, NO, THE DECADE~

I mean, my ex is actually decent-to-good with my kid, but the reaction that people have to him doing basic parenting is grotesquely positive. He also gets a lot of "wow, your ex is so meaaaan and bad!!! (because you have to parent)". What a jerk I am for making him do work that I should be doing!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:21 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Amen to every single syllable of Frowner's comment. Holy, holy shit. I am printing it out and taping it to the refrigerator as soon as I get home because it is one of the truest things I have ever read. I'll probably print out copies for my women friends, too. Because hand on my heart, the #1 thing that would make the biggest difference in my life as a woman is if all feminist-allied dudes everywhere immediately swore to thenceforth pick up after themselves without having to be repeatedly asked or explicitly instructed how to do so every. single. time. it comes up.

Every man I've ever shared a living space with has expressed what appears to be sincere confusion when I ask him to, say, wipe up the beer he just spilled on the counter or sweep up the crumbs he just left on the kitchen floor -- totally standard mindless household chores, but no matter what, they act like I'm asking them to enucleate themselves (too horrible/painful to even contemplate!) or solve an impossible riddle (too hard/takes too much time!). It honestly seems like a certain subset of dudes will always consider brooms, mops, sponges, and vacuum cleaners to be unfathomably intricate specialized LadyTools that only work properly when they are wielded by a woman.

My last ex has, to this day, never cleaned a toilet in his life. Thirty-five years on earth, has never picked up a toilet brush. I guess he thinks secret gnomes must do it under cover of night, because if I ever asked him to do it, he'd whine, "But I don't know how," like there was some complicated knack to it that he would forever fail to possess. If something had to get done around the house, either I had to do it or it wasn't going to get done at all. The mental toll it exacts -- keeping track of what needs to be done, asking nicely for assistance, asking again when your first, second, third, and tenth requests are all handwaved away, always remembering to be polite and patient above all else, and finally giving up and just doing it yourself -- is exponentially more exhausting than any other aspect of sexism in my daily life.

Whenever I meet a man who lives alone and his place isn't a godforsaken hell-pit, I am reminded that there are millions of guys in the world who can and do take care of themselves and their households without even thinking twice about it, and I feel genuinely horrified because it reminds me that I've spent hundreds of hours of my life doing absolutely nothing but cleaning up after men.
posted by divined by radio at 2:21 PM on July 3 [42 favorites]


But to hear the commentary from my friends and colleagues, you'd think he'd pulled off some sort of major logistical miracle.

It's so weird that people express this, and are apparently totally unconscious of the sideways misandry it expresses - like, of course the husband must be competent enough to run a company, but pack for a weekend for his toddler?! AMAZING!
posted by rtha at 2:22 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Aha! I found the article I mentioned upthread. Apropos of the turn this conversation has taken...
Over the years, family scholars have adopted different theoretical approaches to predicting the allocation of family work (i.e., the routine activities that feed, clothe, shelter, and care for both children and adults; Coltrane, 2000, p. 1209). One approach has been to suggest that a combination of relative individual resources, time constraints, and gender ideology could account for much of the variation in who performs domestic labor. Although each of these factors has been shown to account for some of this variation, being female has remained the primary predictor of family work performance (Coltrane; Shelton & John, 1996). Another, more recent, approach has sought to understand the gendered meanings associated with performing particular family work tasks. Referred to here as gender construction theory, this second perspective suggests that spouses actively construct the allocation of family work tasks in ways that affirm and reproduce their gendered conceptions of self (Ferree, 1991; Twiggs et al., 1999).
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:22 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


like, of course the husband must be competent enough to run a company, but pack for a weekend for his toddler?! AMAZING!

I answered these comments with "Oh, I think you must have misunderstood -- he's their FATHER."
posted by KathrynT at 2:24 PM on July 3 [31 favorites]


It's so weird that people express this, and are apparently totally unconscious of the sideways misandry it expresses - like, of course the husband must be competent enough to run a company, but pack for a weekend for his toddler?! AMAZING!

See also "men run NORAD but can't keep themselves from staring down women's blouses"
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:30 PM on July 3 [17 favorites]


which has cleared some stuff up for me (a dude)

i think this is the first time i even realized you were a guy so you're basically doing a good job already
posted by elizardbits at 2:31 PM on July 3 [11 favorites]


Who do you want to answer the red phone in the middle of the night? Definitely a man! But it better not be under some kind of household chore or WE'RE DONE FOR
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:32 PM on July 3 [9 favorites]


Reading this, I just feel bad for growing up and not helping my mom with the chores more.

I also have struggled with listening to my girlfriend. I don't ignore her and I don't get distracted with something else, but words and phrases are still missed. I honestly don't know if it's just down to sexism or if I have weak auditory comprehension abilities. My parents (both mom and dad) accused me of not listening through my life, so that just makes me more uncertain.
posted by FJT at 2:32 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


A while back I realized that one thing most of the great guys I have dated had in common was being raised by single moms.
posted by elizardbits at 2:38 PM on July 3 [12 favorites]


Can we just make a special separate MetaFilter for feigned-ignorance trolls who insist that any suggestion on social comportment come with a 700-page manual covering every imaginable sequence of events?
posted by threeants at 2:42 PM on July 3 [7 favorites]


it's called reddit
posted by elizardbits at 2:44 PM on July 3 [40 favorites]


See also "men run NORAD but can't keep themselves from staring down women's blouses"

Of course, they just had to fire a bunch if those guys for cheating on their tests, so they maybe should have stuck with the shirt ogling.

The feelings in this - the feeling that I have to make nice and beg and cozen just to get help when they have no interest in making nice or begging or cozening me, the feeling that I am utterly alone in charge of the house....that's emotional labor, and yet your standard American would say that we lead wildly non-traditional lives.

This is why I don't miss having housemates, at all. (Of course, if I'd know then how cheap professional house cleaners actually are, I would have just collected $10 from each person and had pros come in each week, problem solved.)
posted by Dip Flash at 2:45 PM on July 3


700-page manual

I would read that manual, memorize and shelve it next to my copy of Miss Manners when I finished.
posted by FJT at 2:45 PM on July 3


Who do you want to answer the red phone in the middle of the night? Definitely a man! But it better not be under some kind of household chore or WE'RE DONE FOR

Mr. President, reports are coming in of Al Qaeda causing a major situation in the sink. like there is just goopy green stuff everywhere for some reason and bits of maybe old chicken or something?? all sources confirm as super grody
posted by threeants at 2:46 PM on July 3 [12 favorites]


scody: "I love my boyfriend more than anything on earth, and he has the sweetest, kindest heart of any human being I've ever known, but the fact is he is also someone who has lived for 50 years without fully internalizing the concept that he's equally responsible for the basic maintenance of his surroundings."

This. makes. me. crazy. Not too long ago my husband was like, "Man, the fridge is getting kinda dirty, I guess we should clean it." And I said, "Oh, I know, I just haven't had a chance because [busy thing we'd been doing]." He said, "Well, we've lived here, what, ten years? And this is the first time we've had to clean the fridge, that's not so bad."

I was like, "Are you high? I clean the fridge four times a year, every year, and I take out individual shelves to clean spills and things a lot more often than that. How did you think the fridge stayed clean, fridge fairies?"

He seriously had no idea this was a chore that occurred. He also did not know that someone had to clean the walls and the cabinet fronts and things like that (although too be fair he's been better about not leaving muddy fingerprints around now that he knows they don't just disappear eventually ... I clean them).

He's a great husband who just voluntarily took over all the laundry because he felt like our chore load was unbalanced, but it's just so much easier for him to ignore and overlook things in our environment and to assume that if it needs to be taken care of, I'll make the arrangements and tell him what to do. I don't mind being CEO of the house, but some things should be obvious without requiring a memo about them.

Also I wish just once, when he takes me out to dinner for my birthday, he would call the damn babysitter himself. I don't like talking to teenaged girls on the phone either!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:15 PM on July 3 [32 favorites]


(Of course, if I'd know then how cheap professional house cleaners actually are, I would have just collected $10 from each person and had pros come in each week, problem solved.)

The immediate problem is solved. It does not touch the problem that some people don't feel responsible for noticing their environment, for extrapolating about what needs to be done, and for doing something about it because that's what other people are for. Outsourcing and paying for a service is not the same thing as being willing to pitch in and participate in the logistical and emotional work of keeping house. It's just a very, very effective form of entitlement.

I guess he thinks secret gnomes must do it under cover of night, because if I ever asked him to do it, he'd whine, "But I don't know how," like there was some complicated knack to it that he would forever fail to possess.

Folks, there are no motherfucking gnomes.

If something had to get done around the house, either I had to do it or it wasn't going to get done at all. The mental toll it exacts -- keeping track of what needs to be done, asking nicely for assistance, asking again when your first, second, third, and tenth requests are all handwaved away, always remembering to be polite and patient above all else, and finally giving up and just doing it yourself -- is exponentially more exhausting than any other aspect of sexism in my daily life.

Intentional helplessness is exhausting, because after all of the patient discussion, and detailed explanation, and gentle prodding, Bartleby is still sitting there effectively saying "I prefer not to" and meanwhile the mess has slid into disaster territory, and I'm standing in the middle of it all, now responsible for it and already tired out by the process of trying to get some help, and of trying to make fairness happen in my house. At which point, my internal monologue sounds like this:

"DEAL WITH YOUR SHIT! Your chosen helplessness is making me insane! This is YOUR shit! And I am going to lose the moral high ground if I toss it out the window, and fuck, you're already back to doing your fun thing. You know what? Fuck it. Better to just get it done."

What actually comes out of my mouth:

"Fine."

Which makes me complicit in accepting that my family is not going to deal with its shit, and that I have to before I can turn to getting my own stuff done, let alone having time for hobbies or just thinking and planning. My comfort with our surroundings is not important to them, whereas they tend to make their comfort my problem (all hail The Queen of Where Is! I know where *everything* is because I'm the only one who puts it away!). That asymmetry could be ameliorated by a cleaning service, but the underlying imbalance just gets, well, swept under the rug. Because women's work.

some things should be obvious without requiring a memo about them.


But that would take work. Noticing and tacking and planning take work, and when my family is asked to do the work, they make the ask unnecessarily difficult in the way scody outlines. Asking for the memo shouldn't be necessary -- but is so often part of a lengthy process of negotiating and procrastinating.

I may be a bad person, but I laugh a little every time my spouse or children yell from the bathroom, "Hey! There's no toilet paper in here!"

A feminist ally knows there are no motherfucking gnomes. And lays in a supply of TP rolls without being asked.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:25 PM on July 3 [24 favorites]


Most of these read as solid common sense principles to me. I struggled a bit with the 'cross the street example in no. 4:
If you are walking outside in the dark close to a woman walking alone, cross the street so that she doesn’t have to worry someone is following her.
This is similar to one of the issues being discussed in the Manfeels Park thread, about how some dudes feel like they are perceived as 'monsters' and how unfair they think that is. And my thought was, no one ever tells men that they have to cross the street because they're a threat to women. And then I saw this.

Except, the author is not saying 'never walk on the same side of the street as a women (or you will rape them)', she is saying 'when you are in a situation where you could seem threatening, try to to seem less threatening'. That's pretty solid advice, and seems sensible to me - it's the nice thing to do. But to act on it requires being present in the moment, and having some empathy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:27 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Okay, I have to go hug my husband, because everything you're saying about men not doing things and not cleaning and everything?

He does all that. I'm the forgetful asshole. It seems like every month or so, it's "Honey, can you make sure that when you bake, you wash the dishes so I don't have to deal with that gunky dough in the sink?" or "Babe, we really have to use up those potatoes in the cupboard before they go off" or "Sweetie, can you keep an eye on the weather because I put the laundry out?" and I go "Oh my God, I completely forgot again, I'm so sorry," and he sort of rolls his eyes and knows he'll have to remind me again because I am a mess.

When I lived alone, he would come and wash my dishes. And we're not talking a couple of days or a couple of weeks, no, I actually would not wash dishes for months and he would fly over to see me and end up washing my dishes.

So I have an amazing husband. Sometimes he's a bit too focused on cleaning (I have actually seen him re-wash dishes I've washed because they weren't clean enough for him), but, honestly, he's made me a better person.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:34 PM on July 3 [8 favorites]


Because hand on my heart, the #1 thing that would make the biggest difference in my life as a woman is if all feminist-allied dudes everywhere immediately swore to thenceforth pick up after themselves without having to be repeatedly asked or explicitly instructed how to do so every. single. time. it comes up.

HOLY SHIT, MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, YES. Our shared living situation is shitting the bed because of this right now. The hardest thing for me has been to date that the argument is apparently framed in "You need to do this and you don't do this, do this shit" terms when, as Frowner points out so eloquently, it's not just doing the work, it's the emotional labor of managing expectations AND knowing it will fall to you to clean up after if it doesn't get done AND deal with resentment at seeing someone spending their extra energy playing, basically, instead of pitching in to help maintain the space.

Fuck!
posted by beefetish at 3:41 PM on July 3 [14 favorites]


I'm not even in a relationship with this dude and I'm getting sexism-wife-ideas-played!!! In my own house!!! the patriarchy phone call is coming from inside my own house!!!
posted by beefetish at 3:42 PM on July 3 [8 favorites]


We essentially traded getting a two bedroom for a one bedroom with a blessed dishwasher when we moved because thanks to the miracle of pre-set settings and those detergent packets, domestic harmony can remain. At least when it comes to dishes.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:43 PM on July 3


When I was 12 or so, we lived in a three story townhouse--bedrooms on the top, laundry in the basement. My mother broke her leg in a snowstorm.

I love my father (love my mother too). They are both lovely people who raised me and my sister to be independent and worried first about our intellectual and moral capacities before worrying about a thigh gap. They made it clear that they wanted us to make our own choices, but expected us to make choices we--and they--could respect. Dad taught us how to boat, play tennis and poker and the piano, how to mix a Manhattan. Mom taught us how to cook, blow smoke rings, consider why things work they way they do. Neither ever expected us to be wives or mothers or or demanded that we be beautiful. Both of them let us read whatever we wanted, take whatever classes we wanted, taught us how to think.

But I'm 12. My sister's a little older. My father is a grown man. And my mother has a broken leg. And, suddenly, there she is on one of the many landings between the basement and the bedrooms, with a giant basket of laundry, tears in her eyes because she is so angry that not one of us thought for a moment that she really couldn't do this with her leg in a cast and should not, for the love of god, have had to do it.

For the rest of the time Mom's leg was in a cast, my sister and I did all the laundry and most of the rest of the household chores. For all his fine qualities--he has many--my 70-some-odd-year-old father is shit about sharing responsibility for keeping the house running, although both of my parents have worked since the 80's.

It is a thing I am every single day grateful about with regard to my husband, who does the dishes every day, does his own laundry, cleans the cat boxes before I can think to do it.

I'm rather ashamed that I've more internalized my father's Household Work is Somebody Else's problem than my mother's or my husband's belief that it's everyone's.

All that being true. I thought this list was very good and calmly and neutrally laying out the ways that men could be more cognizant of the hidden burdens and expectations that women deal with daily, in their relationships and just out in the world.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:08 PM on July 3 [9 favorites]


When I was growing up, my mother (of course) did 98% of all the housework, save for the garden and taking out the garbage. Absolutely typical. It wasn't even an issue because everyone in the family understood that was just the way it is. I don't think it occurred to either of them that it was supposed to be any other way. As I grew older, I started to see the inequities only because it began to impact me. My mother would ask me, and only me, to assist around the house, as opposed to my brother. It grated to the point where I bought a magnet and stuck it on the fridge that said "this is an equal opportunity kitchen".

When my mum passed away, my dad picked up everything, no questions asked. He took over all the tasks my mum had done for decades. He was great at it and he never complained.

When people say things like "Oh, but I can't leave him without something to eat, he'd just die" or "it takes him two hours longer to do it, so I just handle it for him", the assumed ineptness - which is actually just laziness or ignorance - grates me something fierce.

Men have the ability to do housework, trust me. It just may take you dying to make it happen, though.
posted by liquorice at 4:30 PM on July 3 [8 favorites]


I am a gay man who just yesterday asked that my husband "gently remind" me when something around the house needs doing (instead of suddenly blowing up out of nowhere when his breaking point is reached). I guess I tend to "live in my own head" a bit more than most.. less aware of my surroundings? Lower standard of cleanliness?
GOD I'M SUCH A SEXIST RIGHT??

(Plain ol' slovenly, shitty human being, I will, however, accept)

We all have our blind spots...
posted by wats at 4:35 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I guess I tend to "live in my own head" a bit more than most.. less aware of my surroundings? Lower standard of cleanliness?

I mean, all of these things are pretty true for me as well, but I still had it ingrained in me that I had to learn how to do them anyway, or else I was going to be a failure of a future roommate/girlfriend/wife. So.
posted by kagredon at 4:43 PM on July 3 [12 favorites]


Yeah, if you require handholding and reminding instead of feeling any obligation to take charge of your responsibilities, you might very well have learned that you as a man will have someone else do it for you.

That you are making it another man's problem instead of a woman is kind of secondary. You're just out-privileging him.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:48 PM on July 3 [23 favorites]


Plain ol' slovenly, shitty human being,

Well, sure, and blind spots too - there are women in this thread who cop to having them, because who doesn't?

But it's socially acceptable and a cultural trope - nearly required, until very recently - that (heterosexual) men have specific blind spots about housework. That's why there are so many jokes about how helpless men are when it comes to cooking or cleaning or laundry. So while of course individuals may (and do) vary, that we do so does not make the historical cultural context (built on and of sexism) of this cease to exist, nor does it make it not systemic.

MonkeyToes linked to an article about the measurable disparity of who does more housework.
posted by rtha at 4:54 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Wats, with respect, the discussion about housework that is happening right now isn't about you.

It is about how women as a group do more housework than men, how this pattern is reinforced in large part by men being unwilling to do their share, and how this effects women's wellbeing and their relationships. This is not about individual blind spots; it is about a huge cultural blind spot that is rooted in sexism.

Please read--and listen--to the stories that women are sharing. Read any one of a number of studies on the "second shift" and how marriage/partnership to a man is often a raw deal for women.

My own experience with this is watching my mother, who has chronic health problems and a full time job, do almost all of the housework, while my stepfather spends his evenings in his armchair. He complains that he's tired and his feet hurt.. He lived on his own for a while before he met my mother, and the house didn't fall apart--but as soon as he had a servant wife it was no longer his problem. He's otherwise a nice man, but this makes me so angry on my mother's behalf.

She told me once that she would never marry a man who doesn't do housework again. She has always been the type of person to keep her unhappiness inside, and not complain, so the fact that she told me that and meant it ... I just want to burn that armchair, I really do.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:00 PM on July 3 [12 favorites]


Lyn Never: Sorry, does that mean you think I do zero to contribute to the operation of our household? Because that would be wildly off base.


That's also not to say "I don't do any household chores", because I absolutely do.. I don't think I suggested as much above.. I just have trouble seeing asking someone politely to do something as being offensive? How is that "hand holding"?

Not that I consider this a "chore" in any way, but there was this one time I was accused of "never changing the toilet paper roll", which was so straight-up laughably false (uhh when I change it, you wouldn't see an empty roll sitting there...), but goes to show how things being done can go unnoticed..
posted by wats at 5:02 PM on July 3


Still not about you.
posted by scody at 5:03 PM on July 3 [25 favorites]


the measurable disparity of who does more housework.

From the American Time Use Survey:
Household Activities in 2013

--On an average day, 83 percent of women and 65 percent of men spent some time
doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial
and other household management. (See table 1.)

--On the days they did household activities, women spent an average of 2.6 hours
on such activities, while men spent 2.1 hours. (See table 1.)

--On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework--such as cleaning or doing
laundry--compared with 49 percent of women. Forty-two percent of men did food
preparation or cleanup, compared with 68 percent of women. (See table 1.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:05 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Yet another MetaFilter thread that makes me thankful for my husband. He does most of the cooking and cleaning (although this probably has less to do with him being a feminist and more to do with me being incredibly lazy and having a higher filth tolerance). The only chore I consistently end up doing for both of us is laundry, but that's mostly because he's willing to just go buy new clothes when he runs out whereas I'm too lazy to go clothes shopping.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:05 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


A corollary point from MonkeyToes link:
--Men were more likely than women to participate in sports, exercise, or recreation on any given day--21 percent compared with 16 percent. On the days that they participated, men also spent more time in these activities than did women--1.9 hours compared with 1.3 hours. (See table 1.)
posted by scody at 5:08 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those women who struggles with chores, and I can tell you - my shame around it is very gendered. I feel like a deformed woman because toilets are hard to clean (how do you clean hard water stains? I mean, wtf white stuff), and mopping sucks, and honestly the tape running in my head when I look at my disaster of a house is a lot about me being a horrible woman. Not a horrible person, a horrible woman, because if I was a good woman this all would just be done.

I have had to unpack a shitload of internalized sexism to try to deal with my deficits in house management constructively (instead of long, shameful, soul-draining sessions of self-hatred and evidence I was a drain on the universe by existing) because for a long time I assumed since I was a cis, femme woman the cleaning fairies would magically fill my body with clean spirit and everything would be oh so shiny all the sudden.

Yay sexism.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:08 PM on July 3 [27 favorites]


I also wonder how much of the invisibleness of this is because it's enforced between women instead of man to woman (yay internalized sexism 8D 8D 8D).

For example, when I was a teenager I went out to a fancy dinner hosted by friends of my mom's. After dinner, all of the women picked up the dishes and took them into the kitchen to clean, while all of the men sat and talked about interesting things. I stayed with the men - so much more fun that icky dishes. I got quietly read the riot act about it afterwards from my mom because "we need to help clean up; it's rude not to help."

Except every man there didn't help. Every single one. "We" has a very specific designation, and that was "women, who don't deserve to participate in interesting discussions."

The interesting discussion could have moved to the kitchen if the work balance was even; it's not like conversation and dishes are mutually exclusive by any means - if anything the opposite. However, the assumption that men got to have fun while women worked was so ingrained that my very feminist mother who raised me to be a feminist bought into the same dynamic without even thinking about it.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:16 PM on July 3 [24 favorites]


Sorry, I hadn't meant to make this "about me", I just thought I had a perspective to offer which is that disparities of these types can exist in relationships outside of a male/female arrangement, and that where one partner might falter in one area of home life, that doesn't necessarily make them some layabout who doesn't take up the slack in another arena, and vise versa.. I definitely "clean" less often than he does, but I also tend to cook the vast majority of the meals, deal with vehicle and household maintenance issues, do all the talking to "grown ups" (landlords & the bank, etc).. if that exemplifies "handholding", I mean, hell ya, we're holding each others hands as we battle our way through life together.

Yeah yeah, not about me. Sorry for leading with snark. Definitely get what you're saying, rtha.
posted by wats at 5:23 PM on July 3


Well, it's not really about wats or about me (bisexual woman currently married to a woman), but I think it is very worth observing that same-sex couples deal with these issues as well and how they negotiate it (often much more explicitly than straight couples).

In most couples, one partner will do more of X than the other. I have never cleaned a toilet. I do most of the cooking and shopping. My wife notices when things are dirty long before I do.

I am a feminist and I believe in male privilege! But I think that a wider lens can sometimes be useful in looking at relationship issues.

posted by mkuhnell at 5:31 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


it is very worth observing that same-sex couples deal with these issues as well and how they negotiate it

I'd be interested in reading up on this; do you know of any studies that have looked at this question?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:35 PM on July 3


Not a horrible person, a horrible woman, because if I was a good woman this all would just be done.

So much this.

Ugh, it's so gross, and I hate it, and yet there it is, in my brain.
posted by librarina at 5:48 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]


I'd be interested in reading up on this; do you know of any studies that have looked at this question?

Not a ton of research (unsurprisingly), but there is some stuff out there. Here are a few links.
posted by mkuhnell at 6:25 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Shall I make a list of 35 ways in which feminists can more effectively recruit men? Has any man attempted to do this?

I mean, one thing I think men should get to mansplain a little bit about is how male psyches work and how we can be communicated with ways that will get our attention and interest. Particularly, because men are often in rooms full of men with no women present, we get to see parts of maleness that men rarely willingly show women. Some of those parts are horrendously misogynistic, some are vulnerable, some are intra-male posturing, but all of it has underlying structure that can be exploited in ways that may get men to listen to feminists.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:04 PM on July 3


As a man, the vast majority of arguments which persuaded me to become a feminist were made by women. A few from already-feminist men, like Ivan Fyodorovich and a few others here, for instance. I can't think of any from an exclusively male perspective...

You could try it and see, I guess? I'm not entirely sure what aspects of broad maleness you're referring to that might be exploited.
posted by gilrain at 7:19 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]


RE: bus fuckwittery. Its really quite simple. All of us, as humans, have a responsibility to each other to try to make our short lives on this earth as pleasant as possible without unduly burdening ourselves.

If you are making anyone uncomfortable, ever, do what you can, within reason, to help that person become comfortable. Sure, there will be fuckwits who engage in fuckwittery, thats not a reason to suspend basic human consideration of other humans.

The basic state of affairs is that men have historically, consistently, and persistently made women feel uncomfortable (or much much worse) so our burden of ensuring everyone's life is more pleasant is slightly more onerous. Its OK, though, you get paid an extra 23% for a job the vast majority of us don't actually do.
posted by Freen at 7:22 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


1. Women (and any generally marginalized group) tend to "learn the language" of men and masculinity (or whatever the relevant ruling group), because we have to, both in order to avoid being killed and because the ruling group's literature, philosophy, op-eds, textbooks, and professors tend to be unavoidable. It is very, very, very unlikely that any given man explaining "how male psyches work" is going to be providing feminists, as a whole, with any new information, especially since many of us grew up reading teen/women's magazines with articles about "What he REALLY thinks about X" every month.

2. If any given man can't be arsed to give a shit about feminism unless it's couched in Man Language, then I have no desire to spend hours contorting myself in rhetorical knots until my language and message is appropriately flashy/sexy/docile/raunchy/whatever. Feminism does not need a new marketing campaign; men need to care about women.
posted by jaguar at 7:25 PM on July 3 [32 favorites]


3. I don't know that many men who, after college, are "often" only in rooms full of men. I mean, the locker room and the public bathroom I guess? And I'm not sure how much chattiness is a part of the culture in the men's room. To me it seems quite rare that a man would be in a room with only other men, but I'm willing to accept that men socialize and work in single-sex environments in other parts of North America and Europe ... but what's the deal there and why aren't there any women around?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Shall I make a list of 35 ways in which feminists can more effectively recruit men? Has any man attempted to do this?

As a man, I find it hilarious and cringe-inducing the mental contortions we go through to try to make ourselves uniquely relevant to feminism.

No. We listen to women, period. There is no need to "translate" the messages of feminism for misogynistic peers because it replicates the very fundamental issue at hand - they aren't listening to women in the first place. Not to mention, if you think "translation" means reducing how the message may be perceived as female-encoded - "feministy", "hysterical", "emotional", "bitchy" - that itself demonstrates you don't really understand the underlying problem of misogyny, and are being ridiculously sexist and ignorant of your male privilege to boot.

Teach your peers to listen to and respect what women say in the first place. Your goal is to challenge culturally engrained behaviors that create misogyny in the first place, not to enable it by providing bullshit shortcuts for your peers to absolve themselves of responsibility by going through the motions of not looking misogynistic while not actually internalizing any of its lessons.

We need to get over our collective egos about not being, for once, relevant to something.
posted by Conspire at 7:34 PM on July 3 [37 favorites]


All the comments about housework remind me of that stupid NYT article "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage." It's really upsetting that women have to (are expected to) train men in getting basic tasks done. (And then we're accused of being manipulative!) Like someone said above, cleaning a fridge is not some incredibly complicated project. It's not about specialized skills, it's about taking the initiative to do them.

That said, my (ex-)husband did all of the "guy" things - yardwork, maintenance etc. - in addition to helping out with more routine housework. There was some poking and prodding involved on my part, but mostly he was good about it when asked and reminded.

I've heard it suggested that women go "on strike" and let the dishes and laundry pile up if the guy is unhelpful, but I haven't known any woman who could hold out longer than their partner. Most men seem to have an incredibly high tolerance for mess and filth.

This "women's work" dynamic also holds true in my workplace, where one of the few women employees is always expected to be the one to order food for executive meetings and suchlike. (This is not remotely in her job description.) She does it very grudgingly but she does it knowing it will never happen otherwise because the guys are too disorganized and feign helplessness. It's hard for me to watch.
posted by desjardins at 8:45 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Good to know men are misogynistic behind closed doors. This changes everything.
posted by bleep at 9:26 PM on July 3 [8 favorites]


I've heard it suggested that women go "on strike" and let the dishes and laundry pile up if the guy is unhelpful, but I haven't known any woman who could hold out longer than their partner. Most men seem to have an incredibly high tolerance for mess and filth.

I can hold out much longer than my male partner when it comes to a dirty house. It's all in the socialization - he was socialized to be neat(er), I grew up with a week's worth of dishes on the counter most days.
posted by jb at 9:27 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I look at my disaster of a house is a lot about me being a horrible woman. Not a horrible person, a horrible woman, because if I was a good woman this all would just be done.

Oh man, I hear you. I used to think that eventually, I would grow up and be inherently good and motivated about doing the housework. But I'm 38 with two kids. Probably this is as good as it gets.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:12 PM on July 3


Oh god, so much of this thread is making me cringe in shame. I was so *absolutely* the guy who had to be asked specifically to clean stuff, and got huffy about "just having lower standards of awareness" whenever it frustrated my partner.
Some time after the end of that relationship I ended up living with two friends who both pulled exactly that same shit on me, and I realised how crushingly exhausting and dispiriting it is - followed immediately by the light bulb of shame that I used to be exactly like that. My own "oh shit, I am part of the problem" moment.
I see my ex every so often and we get on just fine now. I am unable to get through a hangout session without ending up cravenly apologising to her for this, I am still so mortified. And I know any future romantic cohabitation will require conscious effort not to slip back into the same pattern.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:18 PM on July 3 [14 favorites]


It would go a long way if men made a habit of discussing and considering emotional work and domestic work as work. Work work. There's a stance of resignation, acceptance and fairness that accompanies the concept of "real" work, that ought to be present.

(Which might require expending work, if necessary, learning what emotional work is, and further work reflecting on one's own relationship to it.)
posted by ead at 12:05 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


Thought #1: Yay! First date checklist!
Thought #2: Shit, I am going to be single for ever.
Thought #3: Wow, that is a crappy thing to say about men and myself.
*reads all of the tales of the heartache and heartbreak of the hidden work, relives memories of same*
Thought #4: Hells yeah, first date checklist.

Therein, my fellow mefites, lies the constant battle that is internalized misogyny. (Well, one of many.)
posted by susiswimmer at 12:12 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


Helpful tool: printed copies of solanas and firestone to hand out to your friends.
posted by ead at 12:48 AM on July 4


Reading the last part of this thread has had my stomach in knots with the memory of dealing with unequal childcare/household management. It's also made me almost giddily grateful that I don't live with my ex anymore. I will never clean up after-- or financially support-- an able-bodied full grown adult ever again.
posted by jokeefe at 12:57 AM on July 4 [4 favorites]


As a smart friend of mine pointed out, these suggestions are ultimately counter-productive to the aims of feminism because most of them ask men to be “allies” of feminism by re-deploying normative gender patterns and roles. From reading the list, the authors think that as a woman I must be timid, frightened, and burdened by domestic, emotional, and service-to-others responsibilities, and that men can best help this cause by policing themselves and each other. That’s bullshit.
posted by beanie at 3:58 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


> "All the comments about housework remind me of that stupid NYT article 'What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.'"

Never, ever, EVER attempt the techniques suggested in this article.

Trust me on this.
posted by kyrademon at 4:00 AM on July 4


It would go a long way if men made a habit of discussing and considering emotional work and domestic work as work. Work work. There's a stance of resignation, acceptance and fairness that accompanies the concept of "real" work, that ought to be present.

Agreed.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:25 AM on July 4


I was going to memail this to KathrynT but I think it's more common than just parents with special need kids. Several of our kids have special needs that require a lot of research and monitoring. I used to get very upset that my husband could not bring himself to read the basics. Like, I would read five books on a condition and he would skim a wikipedia article, then any discussion we had about how to treat the condition, I had to explain everything so he could contribute to the decision. Then there was lots of invisible-to-him work around this - figuring out okay, this movie will touch this aspect so I arrange a one-on-one movie night with the kid, make snacks and then have a deep conversation quietly about it later on where the kid feels heard and can talk about the issue indirectly. He sees this as "You watched a movie."

So now, I tell him about the emotional work I've done and outline what he needs to do ("Kid cooked dinner because XYZ happened, make sure to wash the dishes with him and talk to him about how when you were a kid, XYZ happened to you and that you're proud of how he handled it today"). I also give him the 101 on the research I've done.

In return, I quit cooking. I cook when I damn well feel like it, which is rarely. He does all the meals, groceries and cleaning. I get breakfast in bed, and can request favourites etc.

We trade off lots of things - I do homework, he does school paperwork and visits, etc. But making emotional work visible and valuable has been a big help. To people outside, it looks heavily skewed, like he does the majority of work at home, and my kids are vocal that I am not a Proper Housemother like their friends' parents, but it comes out even for us once we add in the emotional work.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:31 AM on July 4 [12 favorites]


The housework thing is still an issue for me and my really-very-wonderful husband. But we have resolved the remembering dates task. It used to be that his family and friends expected me to track birthdays and holidays and special events, even though I am scatterbrained and introverted and not good at buying gifts. When I brought it up I got the usual "but I don't care about this as much as you" and "you're better at it" and so on. But he's a good bloke so we finished up on him being responsible for the dates of his family & friends while I'm responsible for mine. We both suck at it, but at least I only have to set reminders and make excuses for half of it now, and he reminds his mum that it's his fault if he forgot to call his sister. And we wait for our mums to wish us happy anniversary before we make a dinner booking. It's all very civilized and I'm so glad we don't have to give it discussion time anymore.
posted by harriet vane at 7:02 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


and that men can best help this cause by policing themselves and each other

Do you really not think that men need to step up? I didn't read the list as saying women are too timid or scared; I do think that men can take advantage of some of these cultural expectations (like, that men take other men more seriously when told something than they do when told by a woman) and step up when they hear shitty sexist remarks etc.

But since you say that's bullshit, can you talk about ways you think men can contribute, help, ally, and just plain do more?
posted by rtha at 7:24 AM on July 4 [9 favorites]


The discussion of household stuff really verifies the old feminist slogan The personal is political. My Dad didn't do housework. It wasn't his responsibility. When my Dad was a kid, women couldn't vote. You know what got men started doing housework and child care? When women started working outside the home. The change in men's behavior is far behind women's behavior, but it's changing. Want it to change more? Legislate equality. If women get equal pay, equal respect will grow. If women have equal access to jobs, equality will grow. If you get harassed at work, sexually or otherwise, sue the bastards. If women able to get educated, have equal access to healthcare, aren't forced to have unwanted children, oh, whoops, well, yeah, that's why those fuckers on the Supreme Court are sexist assholes.

I grew up in a sexist world. Now, the women's vote is a major component of elections, and it will be more important in 2016. You think Hillary's gonna worry about the laundry or picking up Bill's socks? I'd enjoy having a granddaughter someday, I'll have a grandson quite soon. Electing a black president has made a huge difference in this country, for blacks and everyone else.* I so hope to see President Hillary Clinton, ideally with VP Elizabeth Warren, but, yeah, it's only 10:30 and I'm not drunk. Legislate, Get active. Vote. That's how you get guys to clean the fridge. by 2100.

*Disclaimer: Electing Obama didn't erase racism. But the pictures of black Americans at his Inauguration made a lasting impact on me. And all the racist assholes who hate him are still changed by having a black President. They hate it, but they are changed, and we aren't going back. I want that for women.
posted by theora55 at 7:28 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


3. I don't know that many men who, after college, are "often" only in rooms full of men. I mean, the locker room and the public bathroom I guess? And I'm not sure how much chattiness is a part of the culture in the men's room. To me it seems quite rare that a man would be in a room with only other men, but I'm willing to accept that men socialize and work in single-sex environments in other parts of North America and Europe ... but what's the deal there and why aren't there any women around?

My working life is probably at least 95 percent male, thanks to decades of biased hiring decisions and all of the factors that go into why a given pool of job candidates might not have any women applicants. Some of the federal and state agencies I work with have great gender balance in their regional technical staff, but others do not at all. Ditto the private sector consulting companies -- there is one I work with that has a bunch of senior female engineers and project managers, but others are dudes only except for admin staff and specific technical roles like riparian ecologists that seem to be mostly women everywhere.

There are a bunch of fields where a person could easily have a predominantly male working life; it's changing, but slowly. But a purely male social life seems unusual to me these days, more like something my grandfather's generation would have done down at the Elks club, with separate activities for the Ladies' Auxiliary.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:54 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


I dunno - I have gay male friends in tech (some of my former workplaces, actually), where the only female person they interact with regularly is their barista. All male at home, work, socially, sports... most of them like it that way and what's shocking is how easy it is to do. I cannot imagine how to create a similar dyke life, even though I went to a women's college in a town renowned for having a 65/35 female/male census split.

But most of my professors were men. And yes, the school knows they have a historic problem with that but equally historically doesn't fix it because of... perpetuating the male paid work/female unpaid affective labor dynamic. Since WW2 at least, it is almost impossible to be a female professor there and a parent/carer unless there is someone else to provide the care time.

Also, doing housework or childcare doesn't automatically create feminism. Some of those same gay men with flawless houses and (ordinary) children, or pads that make bachelor squalor look like an improvement, are as sexist as their het co-workers from more traditional patriarchal cultures such as northern India and Japan.
posted by Dreidl at 8:21 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


I dunno - I have gay male friends in tech (some of my former workplaces, actually), where the only female person they interact with regularly is their barista.'

Yeah, I had a former workplace where the IT department was dominated by men (80%), but there were some women in there. The two departments even more tilted towards men were manufacturing/distribution (maybe 90%) and field sales (out of 500 sales reps, maybe 5 are women, I don't remember any women at regional manager level on up). The numbers would flip when you get to marketing (nearly all women, more men in management), and surprisingly, R&D (at least 30% women).
posted by FJT at 8:33 AM on July 4


Do you really not think that men need to step up? I didn't read the list as saying women are too timid or scared; I do think that men can take advantage of some of these cultural expectations (like, that men take other men more seriously when told something than they do when told by a woman) and step up when they hear shitty sexist remarks etc. But since you say that's bullshit, can you talk about ways you think men can contribute, help, ally, and just plain do more?

I said neither that men don't need to step up at home, nor that stepping up when they hear shitty sexists remarks is bullshit.

What I said is bullshit is the way that this set of tools, in its majority, repeatedly asks men to support feminism by re-deploying traditional gender paradigms: women need help and what they primarily need help is in the domestic, the emotional, and the interpersonal realm. You know, where women are. Or, at least, where men see them, because that's where a man's primary relationships with women are: at home, at the dinner party, at the family picnic, in the sack, at a bar. A man might also see a woman walking alone on the street. So help the lady out and give her a hand; don't be so rude and sexist.

What I think is bullshit is that an article titled "35 Practical Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution" primarily (not entirely but certainly primarily) positions men as husbands and boyfriends (ie, in relation to women as wives and girlfriends). And the majority of a thread in response to an article titled "35 Practical Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution" is, as a result I think, devoted primarily to discussion about housework division between men and women in a personal, domestic relationship.

Again, I'm not saying calling for equal housework duties is bullshit. Of course that's not bullshit. None of the specific "tools" listed here are bullshit. I'm saying that this list of tools, in large part (not in entirety), assume that a man's primary and key relationships with women will be domestic, emotional and/or sexual in nature (usually all three); that the women in their lives will feel burdened in these areas; and that the women in their lives need help from them primarily in these areas. And that's bullshit.

What are some ways I think men can contribute, help, ally, and just plain do more? How can men step up and help feminist revolution? Stop assuming those three things.

Micro example of what the list (again, overall) does at the macro:

"30. Inject feminism into your daily conversations with other men. If your father doesn’t do his fair share of housework, talk to him about why this is important. If your friend cheats on his girlfriend or speaks negatively about her, talk to him candidly about respecting individual women with whom he is intimate is part of having respect for women in general. Have conversations with your younger brothers and sons about sexual consent."
posted by beanie at 9:19 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


beanie, I think some (most?) of what you're talking about was covered in Against Patriarchy's 20 Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution, from which this list spun off. The commentary was that Against Patriarchy's list was more academic, and this list was designed as more of an "what to do in your daily life" thing.
posted by jaguar at 9:29 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Did you read the FAQ or the Response that were linked? She directly addresses many of the things you're raising.
posted by Lexica at 9:31 AM on July 4


"...and this list was designed as more of an "what to do in your daily life" thing."

I know. That's part of my issue with it: what frameworks it re-deploys as a definition of "daily life". That said, I understand the important differences people want to make between that article and this one, and I don't want to further the sense that I'm saying the individual tools when applied are bullshit. So I'll just underscore that point again and let others respond, and read with interest.
posted by beanie at 9:37 AM on July 4


Also, it's possible to sign onto the big things - to believe in equal pay and fathers matter to children and women's bodies are their own, etc - but to have those big issues fade away when it comes to the day to day grind of actually living closely with a woman and be unthinkingly sexist.

But if you're putting in the effort to act with thought every day in your personal life, that's going to bleed over to the bigger issues. I don't think it works as well in the opposite direction.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:39 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


I'm saying that this list of tools, in large part (not in entirety), assume that a man's primary and key relationships with women will be domestic, emotional and/or sexual in nature (usually all three); that the women in their lives will feel burdened in these areas; and that the women in their lives need help from them primarily in these areas. And that's bullshit.

The personal is political. A man who works outside the home and is also a husband and father and doesn't expect his also-works-outside-the-home wife to carry all the domestic household cleaning and parenting weight is very likely to bring that attitude and those assumptions to work.

The revolution begins at home. It's not the only place it happens, but it's certainly a very important place. For one thing, it's where future adults learn what is acceptable and accepted and normal. How many anecdotes here reference their authors' childhood and what they learned by watching their parents?
posted by rtha at 9:41 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]


The revolution begins at home. It's not the only place it happens, but it's certainly a very important place. For one thing, it's where future adults learn what is acceptable and accepted and normal. How many anecdotes here reference their authors' childhood and what they learned by watching their parents?

I completely agree, as I do with your other points. That's why I would be uncomfortable to see the core assumptions I see here being passed on in the home. (Again, those assumptions being that a man's primary and key relationships with women will be domestic, emotional and/or sexual in nature [usually all three]; that the women in their lives will feel burdened in these areas; and that the women in their lives need help from them primarily in these areas.)

And, again, that's what I'm saying I see in this list of tools: the re-deployment of those frameworks. I did read the FAQ and responses, but I didn't see quite the issue I am grappling with addressed per se. My issue is not with any of of the individual "tools" per se. It's the frame. That may indeed be unfair to the author, given her purpose, and to the responses here, given the context.

But: still bugging me, and I wouldn't want to hand this list to my husband, son, or daughter for that reason.
posted by beanie at 10:18 AM on July 4


Do you think they won't be sexist if nobody tells them about sexism?
posted by Lyn Never at 10:43 AM on July 4 [4 favorites]


I am really not understanding the nature of your objections, I guess. When you say you object to the framing of this, I hear you objecting to how things actually are, and rejecting the piece for acknowledging reality. And then I think that can't be exactly it and I must be misreading you somehow.

Again, those assumptions being that a man's primary and key relationships with women will be domestic

Are those assumptions incorrect? I mean, for any individual man, of course they could be, but in general, are you saying that as a group, men's primary and key relationships with women are not domestic - not with mothers/wives/daughters/girlfriends/heck even roommates?

that the women in their lives will feel burdened in these areas; and that the women in their lives need help from them primarily in these areas.

Again, are these assumptions so wildly incorrect? I know from my straight female friends (as well as a number of women in this thread!) who live with their male partners that they seem to experience a much greater and more immediate impact (that's a terrible word with negative connotations I don't intend, but my brain is not finding the word I want at the moment) from men than I do in my lesbian relationship. It's not that the effects of sexism or patriarchy or ordinary assumptions about male/female things are absent from my life, but their presence is very different in scope and kind because I do not live with or have romantic relationships with men.

There have been a couple of articles recently about how male judges rule differently when they have daughters. To me, that is simultaneously obvious and kind of too-bad (they shouldn't *have* to have daughters in order to have a particular kind of empathy).
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on July 4 [6 favorites]


Oh god, so much of this thread is making me cringe in shame. I was so *absolutely* the guy who had to be asked specifically to clean stuff, and got huffy about "just having lower standards of awareness" whenever it frustrated my partner.

I know a guy who definitely identifies as a feminist who basically thinks his girlfriend should be President (she should) and is totally supportive of her brilliance and awesomeness in all things, and still thinks she should clean more because "women have higher standards for cleaning" and basically thinks this is because of biology.
posted by sweetkid at 10:58 AM on July 4 [4 favorites]


I meant to note that my husband the lemon-ignorer is absolutely a feminist in the working world, and in the media he consumes and the media he creates, some of which intersects specifically with women's issues and gender issues.

He has no idea that making me be the domestic mainframe is sexist because he has never actually had to think about it and I have so far refrained from unpacking it for him. This is his default, it's not a decision he's made.

Because he's been exposed to criticism of film and television, and comedy, and analysis of legal rights for women and abortion and bullshit gender expectations but he has only the most basic understanding of how a household is run and it's extraordinarily difficult to find much analysis on it. I doubt he's ever been confronted with anything that has forced him to ask himself, "How much do you expect your wife to be your mother? (And why don't you think that's really creepy and gross? Why do you want to have sex with your mom?)"

And I am, honestly, the last person who should be delivering that message to him. I need him to be exposed to conversations about the problem that do NOT talk about the workplace and politics and media, that speak to men in their down-time, so to speak - not as the figures who run business and politics and media, but as domestic partners and fathers and friends. Otherwise it just reinforces the concept that the important thing is work and you should just fling your hands in the air like Dumb Commercial HusbandDad when you get home.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:45 AM on July 4 [10 favorites]


More on Dumb Commercial HusbandDads and how these ads support the patriarchy.
posted by desjardins at 11:54 AM on July 4 [5 favorites]



I completely agree, as I do with your other points. That's why I would be uncomfortable to see the core assumptions I see here being passed on in the home. (Again, those assumptions being that a man's primary and key relationships with women will be domestic, emotional and/or sexual in nature [usually all three]; that the women in their lives will feel burdened in these areas; and that the women in their lives need help from them primarily in these areas.)


The domestic assumptions happen at work too - I rarely see men cleaning up after a pizza party thing in the office for example, even though it's just more work for the cleaning staff later so women will usually end up pitching in because of the guilt of making more work for low wage people who work overnight.

Also, recently a coworker went on paternity leave and right before my female coworker and I were like, "shouldn't we *do something* for him, like organize a party, get some baby gifts etc?" and my male coworker (who usually does the administrative, team morale type stuff) sent out an email like, "we're doing this, Thank God for the women, men are dumb and would never think of something like this." Why would he have never thought of a shower? That coworker has two children, my female coworker and I are both single and childless. And then we had the shower "The guy way" with soccer on TV and pizza, because of course women wouldn't like that.

Also, it's not just men - I've had female bosses in the past that made me organize all kinds of in office showers, birthday parties, etc, and it had to be accessorized to the max or I was just bad at life apparently. Once I had to get the cake and was told the person loved chocolate cake, like double chocolate, chocolate frosting, fudge inside death by chocolate type stuff, and I'm not a big fan of chocolate so opened a web page to a bunch of options and asked another female coworker for help. She looked astonished and was like, "you don't like chocolate? What kind of a woman are you?"

This was when my actual job was writer/web editor. So nothing to do with parties and chocolate and cake.
posted by sweetkid at 1:29 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


I rarely see men cleaning up after a pizza party thing in the office for example

Do you think there's also this possible separate, but overlapping idea that there is an expectation of men to be messy? That, at least for men, there's also a positive stereotype of being messy as a sign of being carefree or possessing creativity/intelligence?

I'm not saying this is good either.
posted by FJT at 9:01 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Yeah, men get a positive stereotype of being like children, carefree, simple, silly, never growing up.
posted by sweetkid at 9:06 PM on July 4


I mean it's amazing to me that someone would send a mass email saying 'men are dumb,' but it only happens when people are talking about children, food, parties, weddings, gifts, you know, lady things. I'm the only web savvy person on my team but no one would ever write an email about how men are dumb because sweetkid corrected something technical on a project.
posted by sweetkid at 9:11 PM on July 4 [5 favorites]


I particularly love hearing about how men are just dumb and women are just better at planning, remembering details and taking note of subtle things.....from men who perform surgery for a living.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:56 AM on July 5 [6 favorites]


Do you think there's also this possible separate, but overlapping idea that there is an expectation of men to be messy? That, at least for men, there's also a positive stereotype of being messy as a sign of being carefree or possessing creativity/intelligence?

No, I don't think so.

It's just that Good Housekeeping® is viewed as a positive trait in women, and therefore any man with such traits is effeminate, and effeminate is obviously the very worst thing a man can be, right? Both sides internalize this, and *bam*, you've got your nagging woman/lagging man dichotomy.

Think of just the sitcoms where this is central to the premise. There are a lot of them. Who's the Boss? is the only one to upend it, but even then, the oh-so-wacky notion of a macho Italian boxer from Brooklyn finding work as a housekeeper -- for a woman, no less! -- is the whole joke.

Yeah, men get a positive stereotype of being like children, carefree, simple, silly, never growing up.

I really don't see what's so positive about being stereotyped as a bumbling oaf.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:31 AM on July 5


(And if it is so positive, why is it derided as "manic pixie dream girl" when applied to a woman?)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 AM on July 5


he is also someone who has lived for 50 years without fully internalizing the concept that he's equally responsible for the basic maintenance of his surroundings.

AKA "I've got to warn you, I'm kinda messy."

The men in my life who have said this always act relieved when I tell them not to worry, that I'm messy, too. Until they realize that I'm also lazier then they are.

Not dirty-dishes-under-the-bed-messy, piles-of-books-and-papers-messy.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:56 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


I am so, so glad to have somehow internalized a complete lack of interest in doing housework, making the dudes in my life do housework, or any of it.

Why not just... stop caring?

Then again I'm also terrible at relationships, so maybe this whole "be even more of a slob than they are" thing isn't helping. It's definitely helping my sanity level, though, so whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 4:56 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Sara C. : "I am so, so glad to have somehow internalized a complete lack of interest in doing housework, making the dudes in my life do housework, or any of it.

Why not just... stop caring?
"

Because unless somebody deals with it, you get nasty orange scum accumulating around the faucets, the toilet gets downright scary, and the cats go hungry.

That gets brought up every time this kind of discussion happens, and it's stupid. In discussions about household upkeep, the people with complaints aren't complaining because "my partner won't dust the potpourri the way I like it to be dusted." The complaints are almost always about fundamental things like "my partner won't pay attention to the details of our child's medical condition, even when ignorance could be life-threatening" and "my partner, despite being tasked with clearing the lawn of all foreign matter, was somehow unable to see one of three lemons in the grass" and things like that.

I swear, I'm going to make myself a t-shirt that says "THIS SHIT MATTERS".
posted by Lexica at 7:06 PM on July 5 [12 favorites]


I don't give a shit about not housework either but not giving a shit doesn't get the dishes cleaned, the laundry done, the trash bagged up, the disgusting bathroom residues removed, and all that not-fun stuff. Very few people actually want to spend their time this way. Therefore when there's one party doing all the work and the other party doing nothing because ... "I don't care/I'm not good at it/I don't see the mess/it's not my job" well then it's going to be a problem. Especially when the party doing all the work is too busy doing this shit to study, work more hours, participate in organizations or whatever they feel like doing and this could be said about all of their ancestors for the exact same reason and they were socialized to not make a fuss.. That's centuries of abuse perpetuating itself.
posted by bleep at 7:38 PM on July 5 [9 favorites]


Sara C.: "Why not just... stop caring? "

I have a close friend who had nearly two years of involvement by DCFS after being reported to the state for "child neglect" for the uncleaned state of her house, by an EMT, because she had laundry in the living room and dirty dishes in the sink, when her husband called 911 after she collapsed from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. She spent two years proving to the state that she was competent to care for her child.

So I give a fuck because I would like to retain custody of my children.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:00 PM on July 5 [7 favorites]


unless somebody deals with it, you get nasty orange scum accumulating around the faucets, the toilet gets downright scary, and the cats go hungry.


So?

Seriously, though. Just... don't care about it. I mean, cats are small creatures and shouldn't be starved, but otherwise, you know, whatever, scum around the faucet, so the fuck what?

It's the genuine and earnest not caring that is key. If you actually give a shit about proper ladylike housekeeping and all that, no amount of pretending you don't is going to work.

Men seem to live perfectly good lives without having the bathroom faucet de-scummed. Why shouldn't we?
posted by Sara C. at 8:07 PM on July 5


What do you do when you run out of clothes? When there's takeout trash all over your living room? When you inevitably get ants, and they crawl on your head? Asking for a friend.
posted by bleep at 8:14 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]


Human beings deserve to live in clean, well-kept environments. It's not progressive to devalue caring for your environment because it's traditionally been women's work.
posted by jaguar at 8:15 PM on July 5 [7 favorites]


Also don't you feel embarrassed when friends come over and see filth and hair all over your bathroom? And if not, tell me your secrets, wise one.
posted by bleep at 8:16 PM on July 5


Because moldy scum around faucets and build-up of feces and urine on the toilet and rotten food in the sink and overly dusty, dirty air can cause illness (e.g., staph and respiratory infections)? Because most of us would prefer not to live in a race to the bottom where we're surrounded by our own filth?

Seriously, is your contention that basic human hygiene is unnecessary?
posted by scody at 8:19 PM on July 5 [9 favorites]


Sure, you can have different levels of caring -- but at a certain point, most people do care. Maybe I don't care about the state of my toilet (though actually I do; after the kitchen, the toilet -- and the toilet alone -- is probably the thing I clean the most regularly and I have no idea why because I am a huge fucking slob who really likes a pristine toilet bowl), but most people care about having dishes clean of rotting food, or clothing that is not capable of walking itself to the laundromat, even if they don't care about whether things are dusted. There's just a limit to how far you can give up caring.
posted by jeather at 8:24 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


If you're not living with someone, not giving a shit is totally an option. If you are, and they do care at least some, why should your not caring take priority? Why should they also have to not give a shit? They shouldn't, right? If this is the state of things, then you, as the partner who cares way less, should pony up for a cleaning service so that your partner isn't forced to either do more than their share, or pretend to not care.
posted by rtha at 8:25 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]


If you're not living with someone, giving a shit is totally an option. If you are, and they don't care at all, why should your caring take priority? Why should they also have to give a shit? They shouldn't, right? If this is the state of things, then you, as the partner who cares way more, should pony up for a cleaning service so that your partner isn't forced to either do more than their share, or pretend to care.

(Honestly, though, the notion that someone else should pay for a cleaner when you're the germaphobic neat freak -- even if it is as a result of brainwashing by the capitalist patriarchy and their toilet bowl cleaner commercials that always, always, always star a woman -- is just ridiculous.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 PM on July 5


Who said anything about germaphobic neat freak? Is not wanting days of crusty dishes in the sink somehow in that category?
posted by rtha at 9:02 PM on July 5 [6 favorites]


Hyperbole.

You know, like calling anything in less than pristine showroom condition "filth"?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:21 PM on July 5


As the one who used the word "filth" I wasn't using hyperbole. And I'm the least germaphobic person who ever lived. That's hyperbole. I'm not very germaphobic.
posted by bleep at 9:35 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


You know, like calling anything in less than pristine showroom condition "filth"?

My house is pretty much never in pristine showroom condition, thanks. But I do actually care about the basic daily maintenance that Sara C. is contending I should forget about, because if I didn't, it wouldn't ever get cleaned, and it would eventually become filthy. I know because I've lived that way before myself. The fact that I don't want to live that way again doesn't make me some sort of hysterical germaphobe.
posted by scody at 9:40 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]


The other thing is that it's not some sort of appalling unreasonable thing to occasionally kick in some money and/or effort to give your partner something that they care about more than you do, especially when you passively benefit from it.
posted by kagredon at 9:43 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Either that or find someone who actually WANTS to wallow in filth with you and leave the rest of us free from medieval conditions.
posted by elizardbits at 10:26 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to say thank you to a lot of women who have contributed honestly in this thread. In particular because I think it takes a certain kind of bravery to admit that the person you are living with and committed to, who is generally awesome and believes feminism is just a baseline decent thing to adhere to, actually does drop the ball in these kind of fundamental ways. Because yeah, it happens and it's really hard.

Responding more specifically:

(And if it is so positive, why is it derided as "manic pixie dream girl" when applied to a woman?)

This is NOT the male equivalent of MPDG. One, MPDG is pretty emotionally intelligent; Two, if she ever existed in real life, MPDG would definitely be expected to handle social & household matters with aplomb. You think the layabout who loves her for her punk sensibilities and adventurous nature is going to clean her toilet and make sure the kid gets to school on time? Right.

Why not just... stop caring?

Eh, I've tried that. It's harder when there are kids around. They get embarrassed by the squalor and don't want to have friends over.
posted by torticat at 10:27 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


My husband could have a filthy house and no one would think less of his work, but my house were not clean and I would be a bad attorney....and when that changes I will think we have achieved equality.

Unfortunately, men have yet to be held to the same level of accountability.
posted by OhSusannah at 11:08 PM on July 5


If you are, and they do care at least some, why should your not caring take priority?

If you're in a heterosexual cohabiting relationship where you are a sloppy/DNGAF woman and your male partner is the one with the standards of cleanliness, that's not really germane to the Housework Problem within feminism. Because presumably in that situation your male partner is carrying their weight with the housework.

Any hetero dude who cares about persnickety stuff like scum around the bathroom fixtures, but who does not pull their own weight with domestic chores, is a motherfucker who should be dumped, already.
posted by Sara C. at 12:21 AM on July 6


The problem with saying that the less-caring partner's caring-less should be valued as much as the more-caring partner's caring-more is that they are acting as a free rider; their trigger point for needing to clean up is always below the cleanliness level of their current environment because - if they take the noncooperative approach suggested by sys rq - the cleaner party is constantly busting their ass around them to keep it that way.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:28 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


I suspect that SR is fully cognisant of this, and enjoying a little devil's advocaat / pot-stirring, though.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:31 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I have stayed up far too late reading this thread. I really appreciate everyone who has shared their personal experiences. They've given me a lot to think about.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:01 AM on July 6


also I know that OCD is mostly a punchline in popular thinking, but sometimes it's really truly not an option to "just...stop caring" about certain things and it has nothing to do with being prissy or uptight.
posted by kagredon at 3:55 AM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Nor does OCD have to be the justification. There's nothing wrong with wanting a clean house, whether "clean" means like my mother's impossible standard or more like a little clutter and disorganization but not to the point of needing paths carved into it and nothing fuzzy growing on any surfaces, which is about where I fall. I just like it that way, it makes me feel less oppressed by my shit, it makes me happy, it makes my life SO MUCH easier when I'm not living in a landfill.

Also, not caring like that still means making it another person's problem - either the landlord or your estate - or yourself if you want to move and your house is unsellable. Or the city's when they have to condemn your house. Or the animals who are harmed by your neglect. Not picking up all the lemons means the lawn service has to do it and we're not paying for them to do that and it gives me a worrying feeling about race and low-paying labor and I'd just rather we pick up our fruit ourselves.

But I just in general don't believe in making somebody else deal with my shit, and that includes my husband not having to deal with mine, and nobody outside the us-unit having to deal with ours.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:46 AM on July 6 [7 favorites]


I suspect that SR is fully cognisant of this, and enjoying a little devil's advocaat / pot-stirring, though.

Playing devil's advocate is really annoying when people are talking about their real lives.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:54 AM on July 6 [13 favorites]


"Then again I'm also terrible at relationships, so maybe this whole "be even more of a slob than they are are" thing isn't helping."

Since this came on the heels of my messy boyfriend comment, I was talking about the assumption that I would automatically be neater simply because I'm a woman, as if neatness is genetic and not just something women end up being, and that I'd naturally feel compelled to straighten up all the time.

"It's the genuine and earnest not caring that is key."

If a guy I liked was messy (or even a slob) that would be one thing, but "genuine and earnest not caring" would definitely raise some red flags.

Do you think there's also this possible separate, but overlapping idea that there is an expectation of men to be messy? That, at least for men, there's also a positive stereotype of being messy as a sign of being carefree or possessing creativity/intelligence?


I wonder if the reason a lot of men and women are messy is because their mothers cleaned up after them all the time. So it's not that there was an expectation to be messy, it's that growing up there was no expectation to be neat.

I think that's separate from the "creative genius" stereotype, which is probably as much about working styles as being creative. I'm creative, and if I'm working on a project and reach a stopping point I need to leave everything as is so I can come back and pick up where I left off. I also know extremely creative people who need to put everything away at stopping points and come back to a clean space. I have a sneaking suspicion that some women suppress the former work style because they are expected to be the latter.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:27 AM on July 6


Playing devil's advocate is really annoying when people are talking about their real lives.

Agreed. That's why I wasn't. I actually do believe what I'm saying (except that first Who's the Boss? comment, which is dripping with sarcasm that I hope was obvious), and I am talking about my real life.

I just don't think it's as simple as men being lazy slobs who won't help out, cynically exploiting women who do all the work. (It's definitely partly that, but...) Couldn't it have something to do with the fact that women have been brainwashed into believing a clean house is super important to their self-worth and men have not?

Women's standard of cleanliness is higher because it has been engineered to be that way by centuries of advertising and the culture supporting it, in order to sell more household cleaners. Women have had the message forced on them constantly that their house is full of yuck and this product will save them from the embarrassment and shame and social stigma of soap scum or whatever. Men have not. Like, not at all.

So, yes, everyone doing their fair share is a good portion of the equation, and I support that. But be aware that men have not been conditioned to care the way women care, so what men think is their fair share might still look like slacking to a woman with all that internalized misogyny from the capitalist patriarchy holding her to a higher standard. While Sara C's advice to "stop caring" is indeed a bit extreme, yes, many, many, many women could stand to care a whole lot less.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:30 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


In reality, not everyone's attitudes and personality conform to gender norms about what they're supposed to be like. Not conforming to every single expectation about what women are supposed be like and care about does not make you an evil person who starves their pets. And, no, the city is not going to come and condemn your house because you're a woman and you let your dishes pile up in the sink.

I know a heterosexual couple in real life who've divided up their responsibilities in a way that reverses a lot of traditional gender roles. They're not ideological about this; it's just what's worked out for them, given their personalities and their situation. They get a lot of flak about this from other people, but they're happy with it, they both consider their arrangements equitable. That's what matters. They haven't died of food poisoning because cleaning the fridge is his job. The city hasn't condemned their house. Their mortgage is payed off. Their pets are fed. They haven't caused civilization to collapse by dividing household chores and work-life balance in a different way than you'd expect.
posted by nangar at 10:45 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I just don't think it's as simple as men being lazy slobs who won't help out, cynically exploiting women who do all the work. (It's definitely partly that, but...) Couldn't it have something to do with the fact that women have been brainwashed into believing a clean house is super important to their self-worth and men have not?

It's not just that men have not. They too have been brainwashed into believing that someone else (usually a woman) will clean up after them. That's a brainwashing that could also stand to be broken. Saying that women should be the ones to fight their conditioning is not exactly a value-neutral position.
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on July 6 [11 favorites]


I was reading this again and remembered why I refused, refused to worry if my girls learned all those household things because I was hoping that somehow they would find someone who actually did not fall into the deaf,dumb and blind to their surroundings and share in the keeping of the family.
posted by OhSusannah at 11:21 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


But be aware that men have not been conditioned to care the way women care, so what men think is their fair share might still look like slacking to a woman with all that internalized misogyny from the capitalist patriarchy holding her to a higher standard.

Yes, we know this, and there is definitely value in examining how culturally influenced one's standards are. But one's standards are always going to be culturally influenced, male or female, and choosing the option that creates less work for men by assuming their standard is the default and creates more stress for women by insisting they examine and change their standards is not always a feminist choice.

There tends to be a thread of "progressive" thought that assumes if women just got rid of all their cultural brainwashing and acted just like men, then everyone would be happy. Not coincidentally, such thought lets men off the hook for having to examine and change their own behavior, and only seems to come up in discussions where women acting like men would be better for men in relationships with women (sex, housework). I don't think I've seen any men argue that women should just stop caring about men's problems, for example, as a way of reducing their emotional labor.
posted by jaguar at 11:22 AM on July 6 [18 favorites]


Late to the page, but flagged as fantastic. Great post, Flex.
posted by cashman at 11:37 AM on July 6


women have been brainwashed into believing a clean house is super important to their self-worth

Nope. At least not this woman. I'm waaaay too smart and self-aware for that, as are many of my peers.

A clean house is important to my intellectual work. I find it frees up my mental space and focus for bigger things than worrying about if my place is up to some abstract level of acceptable cleanness. I know what works for me, and what doesn't.

If I were to live with a man, there would be some frank and in-depth discussion up front about what our individual values are re: keeping house, and there would be specific and quantifiable agreements as to who does what, with consequences attached for not following through.

It's not brain surgery, and it's not brain-washing. It's basic assertiveness and a willingness to have uncomfortable conversations (vs. avoiding conflict by picking up after a guy).
posted by nacho fries at 12:19 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


So, yes, everyone doing their fair share is a good portion of the equation, and I support that. But be aware that men have not been conditioned to care the way women care, so what men think is their fair share might still look like slacking to a woman with all that internalized misogyny from the capitalist patriarchy holding her to a higher standard. While Sara C's advice to "stop caring" is indeed a bit extreme, yes, many, many, many women could stand to care a whole lot less.

34. Get in the habit of treating your maleness as an unearned privilege that you have to actively work to cede rather than femaleness being an unearned disadvantage that women have to work to overcome.
posted by kagredon at 12:45 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


Look, Sara C. can keep her house however makes her happy; that's not at issue here. The issue is that prescribing that as a solution for all women, under the assumption that we've all been brainwashed by soap commercials or whatever, is no more a solution that shaming women who don't meet some arbitrary standard for neatness (as Deoridhe describes.) It's not a solution for all women. Some women have kids, some women like to entertain, some women have physical or mental health issues that are exacerbated by certain environmental conditions, some women just like having a neat house (for whatever definition of neat) for its own sake.

Of course, all of those are true of men as well. But it's more accepted for men to outsource the work for attaining whatever their preferred living standard.
posted by kagredon at 12:50 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Except every man there didn't help. Every single one.

Yep. I grew up in a home like this -- big family, lots of brothers, and it was up to my sister and mom and me to do all the domestic chores. Including doing their grody teen-boy laundry. When my sister and I staged a strike, my mom countered that our brothers did the yard work, so it was all even-Steven. My sister then offered to do the lawn mowing in lieu of dishes. Mom agreed. But mom did not shift dish-duties to any of my brothers. So, mowing just got added to the Girls' Chore List! And my share of dishes to clean just grew.

This is probably why I have exactly zero patience for my guy-guests who try to treat my place like a hotel with maid service. I shut that down pronto (politely, of course). It's like indoor backpacking rules: Pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace. If you take a nasty crap, clean the toilet right after. Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it for the next guy (or gal).
posted by nacho fries at 1:14 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


I shared Frowner's comment upthread with male housemate w/r/t the chores imbalance in our own house. It has sparked a dialogue. Thank you all, again, for sharing your experiences. This is really incredible.
posted by beefetish at 3:13 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


God reading this really makes me appreciate my father who after working a 10+ hour day comes home, makes dinner, cleans up, takes the dogs for a walk, cleans the litter box and then takes the dogs for another walk. On top of just generally picking up after himself and tiding things up that he sees. And that isn't even getting into all the housework and gardening he does on the weekends. Pretty much entirely without me asked.

It makes me realize why my expectations of men are so out of whack with apparently the rest of society. Some guy acts like an asshole in some stereotypical way and everyone I know is just like "that's just how guys are," aka selfish/superficial/immature whatever. And I'm like no they aren't I know plenty of men who aren't anything like that, but everyone else is just absolutely resigned to the fact that this is how men are and if you want to be in a relationship with a man then these are the things you will have to accept.

Even in my liberal enclave with my many so called progressive friends, in easily 70%+ of the relationships the vast majority of the housework falls on the woman. I can really only think of a handful of couples where the household responsibilities are even vaguely shared equally.

This probably explains why I'm single. It also probably explains why I'm so bad at housework. Seriously, where do all the crumbs come from?
posted by whoaali at 3:40 PM on July 6


Shakes, yes, agreed. That was clearly less clearly implied by my comment than I'd intended.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:46 PM on July 6


I thought of this thread as I read Shiela Heti's review of "The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P." by Adelle Waldman:
Then he remembers how ‘Aurit argued that for the person with more power in a relationship to refuse to take seriously the unhappiness of the other, simply because nothing is forcing them to, is the ultimate dick move'... Nate, like the people he condemns in his essay, outsources his conscience to free himself from guilt, to secure himself the luxury of behaving however he pleases. Aurit and Hannah serve to trouble his worldview; they provide a wider context (wider than his own self-interest). Hannah is forced to break up with him when she realises he won’t do it himself. He outsources the work of the break-up to her. The women around him do the heavy labour of making relationships honest and tender, because that’s their position culturally: they’re the ‘immigrant labourers’ in the business of love.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:34 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


A refreshingly brisk round up of housework, feminism and parenting on Slate: The Pre-Pregnancy Contract.

And yes, the honey-do list hell.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:53 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


women have been brainwashed into believing a clean house is super important to their self-worth

Nope. At least not this woman. I'm waaaay too smart and self-aware for that,


I don't think that's fair. I know very intelligent women who have very specific anxieties about the house- certain things that even if undone, the house is clean- that is more about interalized social expectations than any personal feeling that no dish can be in the sink ever, or the bed must be made to hotel standards every single day.

I don't think that every disagreement on how much house work really needs to be done is actually a gambit to do less than one's fair share. A lot, maybe even the majority is, but there needs to be some mechanism for negotiating different standards; which you also state in your comment- there needs to be some discussion about what is expected. But that means someone can honestly come by the opinion that not as much work is really required.

I think our culture simultaneously defaults to a) assuming that whomever wants it "cleaner" is right, b) expecting that women should be the ones who want it cleaner and c) men just can't be expected to understand/care. Some women get the message that they need to do all this housework because they're right, it needs to be done, and you're on your own. Combine that with an remaining belief that men really don't need to do "women's work", you have a toxic, sexist mixture. Men can choose at will weather to feel that domestic work is beneath them, or go the opposite route and feel that they're incapable of doing it. Meanwhile, women get pressured to do it, even if not directly from their partner.

Men have to understand that if they live in a house domestic work is totally within their purview and responsibilities so that they are not only doing their fair share, but also can talk respectfully about what they, as a couple, want to actually consider required housework.
posted by spaltavian at 5:29 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


viggorlijah, great article!
posted by jaguar at 6:21 AM on July 11


Make sure to catch the piece linked in the Slate article: "The Politics of Housework" (1970):
"We have different standards, and why should I have to work to your standards? That's unfair." MEANING: If I begin to get bugged by the dirt and crap I will say, "This place sure is a sty" or "How can anyone live like this?" and wait for your reaction. I know that all women have a sore called "Guilt over a messy house" or "Household work is ultimately my responsibility." I know that men have caused that sore-if anyone visits and the place is a sty--they're not going to leave and say, "He sure is a lousy housekeeper." You'll take the rap in any case. I can outwait you. ALSO MEANING: I can provoke innumerable scenes over the housework issue. Eventually doing all the housework yourself will be less painful to you than trying to get me to do half. Or I'll suggest we get a maid. She will do my share of the work. You will do yours. It's women's work.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:41 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


if anyone visits and the place is a sty--they're not going to leave and say, "He sure is a lousy housekeeper."

I'm not sure this is really a thing in 2014. It's certainly not a thought I've ever had, and not something I've ever heard anybody say. And if I did hear someone say that, I would assume they were a retrograde asshole, not that the person whose home we'd just seen was a failure as a woman.
posted by Sara C. at 5:28 PM on July 11


Sara C.: "I'm not sure this is really a thing in 2014."

Dozens of women in this thread have told said that it is, that women are still held responsible for the cleanliness of the home in ways that men are not, and that women are blamed when that home is not up to a socially acceptable standard.

It may not be your experience but it remains a very common experience, one that many women in this thread have testified to.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:41 PM on July 11 [12 favorites]


I don't think that's fair.

It's true to my experience, and that of some women I know. I'm not saying it's true for all. Which is why I was careful to qualify my statement ("at least not this woman").

The intent of my comment was to counter the generalization in the statement I was replying to: "...women have been brainwashed..."

I dislike it when women are referred to as some undifferentiated lump; and I dislike it even more when I'm told I don't know my own mind, or where my preferences and values come from, including being aware of the cultural forces at work. I think it is perfectly fair for me to stick up for what I know to be true...for myself.

Other women will speak for their own experience.
posted by nacho fries at 5:43 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


It's also an age or social cohort thing (intersecting with class, of course) in that myself and my friends lived in typical grungy student houses when we were 20, complete with decaying couches on the porches and disgusting kitchens, but virtually none of those people in their forties would feel comfortable presenting their house in that state to visitors now. Social expectations change, and having a coworker over for dinner is a different thing now than it was in my twenties.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:32 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I suspect the dynamics change once you're having other people's children over for playdates or birthday parties, too.
posted by jaguar at 7:06 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


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