Op-Ed: Thoughts on Bashing Men

Feminist movements are slowly gaining momentum as more people try to educate the public about sexist ideas that attempt to limit women. These are good, much-needed changes. Today I'm going to talk about something I believe is hindering this growth, something that isn't discussed nearly enough: the problem of men bashing.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I'm not coming from the idea that feminists are man-haters. The idea behind feminism, as Emma Watson nicely pointed out recently, is that we as a society should care about sexism because it hurts men and women equally. So why is it that we never seem to care very much about the feelings of our men?

Surely you know what I'm talking about: the television advertisements that show bumbling, idiotic fathers and husbands who are corrected by their all-knowing wives and children, the women who gather together over brunch to roll their eyes about the latest boyfriend disappointments, the tendency to mock stay-at-home dads because it's “common knowledge” that they're probably not as loving or nurturing towards children as their wives are, making fun of men for their inability to express emotions when they were told as children that their feelings didn't matter. The list goes on, and so does the tendency to say “men are really dumb” to your girlfriend when she complains about a relationship problem that she could've started in the first place.

Why do we do this? I think some women do it out of feelings of hurt (I have a girlfriend with an uncaring father who talks about men with a bitter tone of voice), and others do it because they've been taught that it's normal to talk about men like they're stupid and incompetent. I'm not going to pretend I haven't done this myself; not so long ago I tried to convince myself that telling my friends about the negative qualities of my then-boyfriend was “just teasing” and was “helping me get my frustration out of my system,” failing to see that I was viciously hurting his feelings by joining the men-bashing circle. The truth is, he would never, ever betray me that way to his guy friends (obviously, as a human being I have faults too), and it was appalling how long it took me to see the damage I was doing to our relationship. Obviously, if a man is treating a woman disrespectfully or cruelly, this is not something that should be kept silent, but does a woman really need to whine to her girlfriends about how bad her husband is at folding laundry, like he's some kind of delinquent child who's nature is to inevitably disappoint?

The event that inspired this post happened on my honeymoon a few months ago. My husband and I were having breakfast at a bagel shop, and a group of three parents and their young children came in and sat at a nearby table. The parents were friends, and had clearly planned to meet at the bagel shop for breakfast before they all headed out to the beach. The children were adorable, and it was hard not to watch them, a tendency that led me to overhear the family dynamics.

“I just parked the car, over that way” one of the husbands announced cheerfully as he pointed over his shoulder, joining the group.

“What?! I told you to park it by the other street!” his wife snapped. “I clearly told you to park it on Main.” She communicated her displeasure by glaring at him and crossing her arms.

“I found a closer place,” the husband kept his voice calm, carefully controlled. He suddenly sounded tired. “It's really close to us.”

The wife ignored this and continued to question her husband about where he had parked the car, distrustful of his choice, and clearly caring little about his own thoughts. It was heartbreaking to listen to, and I was amazed at how quietly and patiently her husband answered her hurtful, rude nagging.

“Well,” she finished, “I need you to take Sandy and Tom to the bathroom.” He left with the children, and the other two husbands meekly followed him with their own children. When the husbands were out of earshot, the wives complained to each other about the short-comings of their spouses, right in front of the children who remained at the table.

My husband and I were sickened, sickened because the women treated their husbands horribly, sickened because a person's primary need is to be respected and these dutiful husbands would likely never have that need fulfilled, and sickened because the little boys and girls quietly chewing bagels at the table were learning how to talk and think about men from the example of their mothers.

Perhaps this sounds like something you'd see any other day.

If we want men to treat women with respect, we can't be hypocrites.

Instead of griping about how “dumb” men are when we're with our friends, let's take responsibility for our own actions in an argument. Let's try and fix everyday relationship problems respectfully (I think calling a trusted mentor for real advice is one way to do that), and if that doesn't work, bring a trained counselor into the picture.

Instead of laughing at “moron men” advertisements, let's express our disapproval at how idiotic they are (would you want to see a “moron women” ad about how incompetent women are with cars or technology? There would be a huge public outcry!).

Instead of telling little boys that “men don't cry” or communicating that their feelings are unimportant, let's encourage them to talk about their thoughts, especially negative thoughts like anger and sadness. Let's value boys and prepare them to be good communicators for their future relationships.

Instead of teasing stay-at-home dads, lets ask them for advice and praise them for their skills and hard work, because the truth is that dads can be just as fabulous at parenting.

Instead of seeing men through the eyes of a negative stereotype, let's start out by assuming that each man is a unique, valid individual who is worth being listened to. 

Instead of constantly complaining about their faults, let's start saying “thank-you” for everything the men in our lives have done for us.

You'd be surprised at the difference you can make for both men and women by starting to practice these things. I know I certainly was!

This article is an op-ed. The opinions presented in this piece are that of the author and not necessarily that of Her Campus.