Machismo: Alive and Well
Last Thursday I woke up to the wonderful surprise of being Freshly Pressed by WordPress, and spent the next few days reading lovely comments from people all over the world to my post “A Love of Layovers”. It was very special to hear from so many like-minded people who not only seemed to like my writing, but also really connected to it. For those of you who have recently subscribed to this blog – thank you all for choosing to spend your time with me!
On Saturday a new comment arrived, but this time it was in response to a post I wrote in April about turning 30. (If you have not yet read this post, “The Burial of Life as a Young Girl,” you might want to do so now in order to understand the context).
I read the first sentence of this man’s comment and was a bit confused, read the second and third sentence and started to feel uncomfortable, and then by the fourth I thought it had to be someone’s idea of a joke. But then I read on, and felt more and more nauseated.
At first I wanted to just delete it and erase this person and their perspective from my blog and my memory. But then I changed my mind – because I think sometimes it helps to shine light in dark places.
So instead I will include his words here in full and share them with all of you. For anyone who is confused as to why there is any insecurity around turning 30, read on. For anyone who wants to understand why many women in the workplace STILL feel there is no option for them but to play either the role of slut or bitch, read on. For anyone who wants to know what kind of shit women in even more sexist countries deal with, read on. For men who respect women, but have never really understood why women complain about sexism, read on.
***New comment on your post “The Burial of Life as a Young Girl” Author : Reality have we met? (IP: 220.127.116.11 , c-76-100-0-143.hsd1.va.comcast.net) E-mail : email@example.com URL : Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/18.104.22.168 Comment: Mel looked great at age 22! She should’ve married then. She wouldn’t be so concerned with becoming “invisible” to people like she is now. I guess at 22 she was too concerned that she’d marry a guy who wouldn’t be wealthy enough, hence the fretting over being seen as an “adult” and needing to get into adult circles, read: get the attention of successful older men who work in offices.
I suspect that Mr. Mel has few options, to marry her at age 30+. I predict the marriage will only last 3 or 4 years since once Mr. Mel starts getting regular sex from her it will charge up his confidence to approach younger women. Happens every time to guys who marry 30 year old chicks. Often they’re guys that just don’t understand female psychology simply cause they’ve been sex starved for so long. Giving him a regular dose will only stimulate his confidence to find a fresher set of strawberries in the sexual supermarket.
Can’t believe she waited to marry that long. Look at what 8 years did to her. Too much partying, chasing athletes and late night romance novel reading. She better have a good job at this point, cause who would hire her? I live in a country where all the men try to get rich and start businesses because it means you can hire secretaries that you have NSA sex with and dump em when they get frigid. It is an incredible set up if you can get it. Most of the guys are able to get hot blondes. The only problem here is that businesses are so coveted, because it means easy sex, nobody gets a loan from the male bankers. Those a#%^&a*!%; only dole out loans to old flaccid men to protect their egos. I heard about the sexual harassment laws in the US and me and my buddies, including the women, think it’s a farce. It’s understood here that women trade sex for their position in life, that’s why they get cushy jobs. If you want an easy life you have to pay, and there’s only one thing society wants from young women, but this setup is not trivialized and rejected by our women like American girls always do. If you give women the cushy jobs without getting any sex then you’re simply a chump and you end up with an entitled stone cold biyatch. This is happening to America all around, and it is why you read about their men wanting to fly to other countries where their money means something. If America allows their women to get away with acquiring jobs without trading sex then it’s a doomed country.
Who would want to live there if you have to hire hags who spend hours contemplating their bad choices on blogs? It’s like being forced to hire an old prostitute who has no clients. 30 year old Mel is already looking tired and witch-like in appearance, unless Mr. Mel is like 50 yrs old there’s no reason to settle for a 30 year old flesh hankie. Where I’m from, Brazil, she’d be forced to become a call girl or marry Mr. 50 which would be an appropriate future for these American princesses. Instead America lets her value as a spouse whither away as she catches up to episodes of Tru Blood. If she wanted into the club Mel should’ve blown the bouncer, it’s only fair because she’s simply not pretty enough to trade her mere presence for access. She has to start trading sex for her trophies. She’s at the age where she has declining value and must act as men wanted her to act 10 years ago. I suspect this is something this chick has avoided her entire life out of hatred of sex and how much her looks were tied into her level of comfort. Hard to admit it, I know, but America allows women to bury their heads in the sand when they’re hot and only pop out when they’re becoming gray, wrinkled and desperate.
This was the first time anything actually nasty has been said on my blog and it completely took me by surprise. I’ve had a few commenters disagree with me or not quite get what I’m trying to communicate – and though at first that inevitably leaves me with a sad, sinking little feeling, it quickly evaporates when I remind myself that hearing other points of view is part of the fun of making creative things public.
But this was different.
While some of the stuff he said was so extreme that it bordered on farcical, it was too long, developed and too deeply full of hatred to be anything but sincere. By the time I finished reading my mouth was hanging open, my heart was skittering around nervously and I felt a deep, slimy nausea. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach – it was the physical manifestation of oppression.
It is always hard for me to read ugly thoughts from ugly-hearted people, but this was particularly difficult to read because it put a voice and direct, unmistakable words to how I know many men think. This was the voice of machismo.
This man’s comment was actually the perfect counterpoint to my essay; without realizing it he demonstrated precisely the social phenomenon that I was describing. He attempted to denigrate every woman who has not fallen into the trap of believing that their main asset is their body, telling the ones that are under 25 or so that they are arrogant, conniving and frigid if they aren’t trading sex for power and getting married, and all women who are approaching 30 and beyond that they are desperate hags, with no value at all.
I feel I don’t need to bother arguing about how wrong he is – I think the idea that you are done being beautiful by your late 20’s is absolutely ridiculous, and the idea that women should marry young and should be trading sex for jobs is even more ridiculous. That really is not the issue. More important is to use this example to demonstrate how men attempt to make women feel insecure in order to give them more power over us. As soon as we’re grown up enough to have poise and a true sense of our own self-worth and a sense of who we are and what we want, that is when they try to hit us the hardest.
What is this man’s story? Is he your average Brazilian? Does he really speak for his countrymen as he claims, or is he just unusually misogynistic? I have to wonder about a man who trolls the internet seeking out the blogs of women who seem to have a sense of self-worth and self-respect, and then spends such a great deal of time writing impassioned missives attempting to completely degrade them.
His wacky analysis of “Mel,” (who from his world view is a stand-in for basically any woman who could be ‘stupid, arrogant, and frigid’ enough to not get married in their early 20’s!) was so off the mark that it made me laugh. And his entire analysis of “American princesses” told me so much more about him than he will ever understand about us.
I can see him rather clearly. His IP address was in Arlington, Virginia. Perhaps he does business in DC. Maybe he’s spent a lot of time in the states. He has clearly not had any luck with women. He has been rejected right and left. He does not understand why flashing his money around and bragging about his high-powered job is not doing the trick. His tailored clothes, slicked back hair and cheesy pick-up lines don’t work. The only explanation for this must be that American women are ignoring him in the hopes of marrying someone with an even better job and more money – because that is all women ever go for, right? He hates that the rules seem different here; he hates American women for making him feel powerless and insignificant.
It sounds like he secretly covets “cold” American women but now sees they are mystifyingly out of his league. He wants them to bend to the age-old rules of money=power=sex, and his only explanation for why they don’t is their American arrogance, and their grievous miscalculation of their sell-by date.
I am disgusted by this man, but at the same time I feel deeply sorry for him. He speaks as though he knows what moves the world, but he is missing out on the best stuff of life; the more he hates women, the less likely it is he will ever feel love. He knows nothing about relationships that are based on a foundation of real chemistry and then built up with love and respect. He knows nothing about the growth and learning that happens in relationships. He knows nothing about how much he could learn from the right woman.
He operates under a template that is so pervasive even in the US, and is SO bad for everyone. Men who objectify women like this are not only incapable knowing how to love a woman, but are incapable of being loved in return. They not only insist on giving all women a superficial value based on looks, age, and willingness to put out, but they also undervalue themselves in the process. They themselves become convinced that they are not worth anything but the sum total of their money and power, because they think that is the only thing that women want from them. It’s a tragic paradigm in which no human virtues can exist, because everything that is beautiful and lovable about us is a non-currency. Women are denigrated into nothing but declining-value objects to men, and men believe that women only want them for their money and power, and not for who they really are. No one is loved, no one is loving, everyone is insecure, and no one is happy.
An open statement to this man and all men like him: There are many of us who do not seek money or power. And if that were what we were interested in we would seek by ourselves, not gain it via a man. You have nothing to offer me, or women like me, and I understand this is what scares you. You have no power over us. The last card you have left to play is to insult us for being adults and not being the malleable creatures you would wish.
What do I want? An intelligent, compassionate person committed to growth, who knows how to love generously and without fear. I understand this also scares you, because bottom line, your denigration of women is part rooted in a fear that you are not actually worthy of a woman’s love. You try to convince yourself it’s all a game of money, sex and power to make your inadequacies as a man seem less pertinent. And that is why you will never have us. Because you are unwilling to look at yourself and become a better man, become the man that is worthy of a good woman’s love.
“It is amazing how far we have come since I was growing up. The fact that women do so many different kinds of jobs now – that is one of the US’s greatest strengths.” – My father
In a way the Brazilian’s comment had very good implications. In some ways it showed how far the US has come because ultimately his entire letter was a large complaint about how US women do not conform to the “Brazilian” idea of a woman’s place. We have in many ways moved beyond the ‘woman-as-object’ paradigm.
But the reason I couldn’t just write this man’s comment off as absurd and crazy and forget about it, is because although I may personally believe this man is horrible and pathetic, the sad truth is that his is not just a lone crazy voice; he actually speaks for millions of men who feel the same way. Reading it recalled me to the eternal vulnerability of being female, in a world where for many men we are just a collection of warm holes.
Although I’m from a country where, generally speaking, people cannot talk like this man in public, his ideas are certainly there under the surface, in the minds of angry men who do not know how to love.
And I have to wonder – how often do these exact sentiments get uttered jokingly by businessmen, frat boys and so many others, who are trying to be cool with their friends or peers by showing off their complete disdain for females. And what about many of my dearest male friends, who ostensibly truly respect women? When they are alone, out with the guys, how often do they say derogatory things about us?
The thing is that even in jest, these ideas have power and influence. They affect us all, just as racial and homophobic slurs and jokes, even when they are made without real malice, add to the horrible difficulty of understanding and accepting one another.
When I saw this man’s thoughts, I felt very small for a moment. I believe in myself, but sometimes it is truly frightening as a woman to stand and look directly into the face of sexism and see it not only for its ugliness and violence, but also for its pervasiveness throughout the world. And I have to ask myself, am I big enough and strong enough to stand up to that?
I have to admit something very sad – for a fleeting moment this man actually succeeded in making me feel insecure. For a moment some shivering, fragile part of me actually thought, “Perhaps he is right…maybe I am no longer beautiful.” It was only a whisper, but I heard it and I marveled at it; it showed me how deeply ingrained the idea that 30 is a small death for women is in our culture. It’s rare to hear the idea spoken so forcefully and clearly as this man voiced it – but it’s still there, a slow disease, a meme that works its way into the fabric of everything.
I am a feminist. Unfortunately it is not so socially acceptable in the US to admit this anymore, because people tend to assume this encompasses an irrational hatred of men. But for me – being a feminist is not at all about male-bashing – I love men. It’s partially because of how wonderful I think men can be that I am a feminist – because I think feminism is about helping men be better and happier too. I think being a feminist means you understand that while things have certainly gotten better for women, there is so much still left to be done. It is about recognizing that sexism hurts us all, men and women alike, and undermines society in general.
My idea of what feminism should mean:
Fathers loving their daughters, believing in them and showing them they are special, beautiful, and capable of anything.
Mothers teaching their sons to respect them and respect other women, teaching them to believe in themselves and know they are worthy of love, not for what they have but for who they are.
Men being brave enough to fall in love with a woman, and want her for more than just her body and what it represents; showing her every day how beautiful she is and how much he respects her; believing in his own value as well as hers; being brave enough to be worthy of a good woman’s love.
And Women believing in their own beauty, intelligence and strength and not listening to all the other voices; remembering that age makes them wiser not lesser; showing men they are more than their money and their position by loving them for who they are instead of what they have; respecting men who respect women; being true to themselves and respecting each other.
I think in part I wrote a lot of this as a little request to all the amazing men I know. I think it’s important for well-educated men who have a high respect for women to see how we get treated and talked about and why so many of us have such a complicated relationship with our own bodies and faces and place in the world. It’s important for you to understand the prejudice we are actually often faced with.
You have the power to support women, however you also have the power to add to the weight that is holding us down. Please make the right choice – please remember your words and actions have power. If you love us and believe in us, it is your responsibility to fight against this attitude with us. Every voice against this kind of ignorance and ugliness helps dispel the darkness.
If you like this post, here are some other posts you might like:
On anorexia and compulsive exercise:
A vignette about the reinforcement of beauty norms in children: