You’ll get no argument from me


I enjoy reading Andrew Sullivan’s blog; he’s a cogent writer, and while he’s made some catastrophic decisions during his career, he at the very least is willing to change his mind when events warrant. He’s been one of the strongest voices against the current crisis in the Catholic Church, and there aren’t many Bush-supporting, pro-Iraq War bloggers who became passionate anti-war, pro-Obama backers — I think that universe is limited to Sullivan and John Cole. Reading Sullivan gives some insight, and some hope.

That said, Sullivan is not exactly a feminist, by which I mean to say that Sullivan is not a feminist. And that means that from time to time, he’s capable of giving over space on his site to completely wrongheaded arguments, whether his own or those of others. And this Wednesday he picked a doozy, a whining, bitter, anti-woman missive from a guy who regrets the choices he made in life, and therefore, women suck.

From the first, you know that this is going to be bad:

Call me a misogynist asshole….

You’re a misogynist asshole.

I firmly believe that when you say, “I’m not a racist,” it’s ipso facto proof that you’re a racist (or sexist, or homophobe, or what have you). Similarly, if you say, “Well, you’re going to call me a sexist for this,” it’s proof that you’re a sexist (or racist, or homophobe, or what have you). What’s more, it’s proof that you know damn well that what you’re saying, or are about to say, is sexist/racist/ableist/homophobic/anti-Semitic/whatever. You’re simply okay with that.

So when the first words out of your keyboard announce that we can call you a misogynist asshole, well, that’s enough proof for me; you’re a misogynist asshole, one who knows he’s a misogynist asshole, and you simply are okay with hating women and blaming them for your own failures.

We could stop here, but I want to demonstrate that there is significant evidence in my favor, in the form of the rest of what this yahoo wrote.

…but I have to agree with Warren Farrell [who argues that women make less money because they choose to] on this one. Four years ago, I made a decision to move to a new city in search of better employment. When I came to LA, I left behind a wonderful relationship with a woman who was much too good for me. In the intervening four years, I’ve gotten on a path towards a high-earning career. However, I have also felt more emotional pain than in the rest of my life combined. I’ve hardly even had a date since working 70-80 hours a week. I recently tried crawling back to my old girlfriend, but she wanted nothing to do with me.

Well, golly gee. You’re in a career that you appear to hate, though it pays a lot of money. It requires a huge time commitment, and it’s interfering with your personal life.

And this is women’s problem how?

I don’t want to address any specific person whose email you printed, because maybe some of them have encountered legitimate sexism – which does exist. But, while women have a lot of avenues to address potential earnings gaps, men like me have no means to seek recompense for the emotional toll taken out on us by the expected focus on our careers.

I am certainly not going to argue that men are not expected to go out and earn, nor will I argue that society has a long way to go to recognize that work/life balance is not just a women’s issue. But by the same token, the women who went out into the workforce in the ’60s and ’70s, who strode into hostile work environments and stared them down, who demanded representation in the workforce — those women weren’t being encouraged to do so. They weren’t coddled by society. They went out, one by one, and they seized their own destinies.

Nobody’s forcing any man to declare that his work is his worth. Oh, society sends that message loud and clear, but each of us is free to say, simply, no. Men can and should state forcefully that we should have an equal role at home, just as women have an equal role in the workforce. Indeed, there’s a philosophy and political movement that encourages just that. It’s called feminism.

Of course, even if tomorrow we woke up to a truly egalitarian society, that wouldn’t mean that all men and all women lived their lives in perfect balance and harmony. There would be men and women who chose to be full-time homemakers and those who chose to work 95 hours a week while they moved up the corporate ladder. They’d just be freer to make those choices. And yes, they’d have to deal with sacrifices along the way.

Note: those sacrifices are yours. Not anyone else’s. And here’s where our correspondent really goes off the rails.

Should my old girlfriend be legislated to take me back? Should women be required to date me? Of course not, we would all say. I guess I’m just expected to suffer in silence as all the attractive women my age date older guys with more money and nicer cars, and I have no opportunity for intimacy. And that’s actually okay with me. I’ve made the choices I’ve made, I am the person I am, and one day I’ll be on the winning end of this equation, assuming I’m mentally and emotionally capable of sustaining this pace for more years on end.

Dude, you are so not okay with this. You simply have bought into the patriarchy, hook, line, and sinker. You hate your job, hate your life, hate that what you really want to do is work a normal schedule and date a nice girl, settle down and raise a family.

Instead, you’ve convinced yourself that the patriarchy is right – that all you have to do is work hard and make money and then, when you’re fifty, all the hot twentysomethings will want to date you because you drive the right car. And sure you’ll have wasted thirty years of your life when you’d rather have been doing something else, but when your kids are graduating college when you’re eighty, it’ll all be worth it.

And women are the problem? Please. Women are fighting the battles that you’re too afraid to fight. Feminism has been fighting for work/life balance for decades. Moreover, feminism has been fighting for guys like you to have the right to live a life that makes sense to you. Maybe it pays a bit less. Maybe you drive a Hyundai instead of an Audi.

But then, maybe you see your wife by six every night. Maybe you get to coach your daughter’s soccer team, or go on wilderness retreats with your son. Maybe, just maybe, your worth isn’t defined by your bank account. Indeed, there are many, many, many women out there — women who have their own careers, their own goals — who would be happy to find a guy who really, more than anything, wanted to have a family.

These women, by and large, are feminists.

But fella, you’re too blind to see it. Too tied up, bitter and angry at women to understand that they’re not your enemy.

But, I get sick and tired of women who want to treat the workplace as somehow separate from other parts of life. There seems to be an attitude of: “I’m going to party all through my twenties while I’m young and hot, then have a family and be a mom and have a full-time career as well, and I’m owed a dollar for every dollar anyone else makes, regardless of the priorities each of us has set up until this point in our lives.” That ain’t life.

There are a hell of a lot of men who party through their twenties, too. And, call me crazy, but they aren’t criticized for that nearly so much as women.

As for what women want, all any feminists have argued is that if they do the job a man is doing, they should get paid the same as men do.

This whole discussion started with a Newsweek study that showed women — with or without childrenmake 77 percent what men make a decade out of school. Top-end female M.B.A.s make $4,600 less in their first job out of business school than male M.B.A.s. Is this a case of women “making choices?” It sure doesn’t seem like it. It seems like a case of sexism, pure and simple.

Buddy, here’s the deal: the women working 80 hours a week in your department? They’re doing the same work as you, for less money. They’re making the same sacrifices as you, for less money.

That’s the problem. That, and the fact that you’re blind to your own pain.

I wanted better career prospects, so I gave up love to get it. If I had made the opposite decision, nobody would say that I was owed anything. But if I do get successful, it is virtually certain that I will be regarded in some circles as just another beneficiary of a system (Hollywood, in my case) set up only to promote or benefit white men. Nobody will give a shit about the sacrifices I made.

Well, actually, I do care about your sacrifices, because they’re sacrifices you don’t want to make. It’s clear as day — you hate what you’re doing and you don’t want to do it.

That’s not women’s fault. It’s your own — your own fault for believing, deep down, that you are your paycheck. That’s why you’re threatened by women making as much as you — because when women make as much as you, those twentysomethings who should throw themselves at you when you’re fifty…won’t. Because they’ll have their own money, their own job prospects. They can make their money on their own. They don’t need you to do it for them.

That’s how I, as a man born in the mid-eighties – long after the high-water mark of sexual discrimination – perceive much of what passes for feminism these days. It’s an excuse that women have that men don’t. I’m forced into a box (the “earn lots of money” box) just as much as a woman is (the “have a family” box), but women are given tons of sympathy for the things they miss out on.

You know why we recognize that women being forced into the “have a family” box are missing out? Because women fought for us to see it. And they’re still fighting for things like, you know, equal pay.

Are you really going to tell me you’re upset that women aren’t fighting your battle as well? Get over yourself. For one thing, women have fought for men to be full partners in the home (and have been criticized for it; men cleaning? Quelle horreur!), fought for men to be seen as having emotions more complex than lust and anger.

But more to the point, women have focused on women’s battles, which are still legion. Rather than complain, why don’t you step forward and start fighting for the idea that men are valuable with or without a fat wallet? Why don’t you step forward and say, you know what? Feminists are right — we shouldn’t be put into our neat boxes. People should be free to pursue their own destinies.

Of course, that’s hard, that fight — feminists have been vilified for decades for daring to speak the truth, that women are as capable of rational thought and hard work as men. Much easier to sit in the box and stew, and blame women for your own complicity in being caged.

I’m not given any sympathy at all. Instead, to the extent that I can even bring myself to talk about my personal problems, I’m thought of as a loser for not having (or wanting to have) casual sex with multiple partners. I’m somehow inadequate. And you know what? I FEEL inadequate. I just don’t have anyone to officially blame for it.

Yes you do. You have the patriarchy — the same system that’s oppressing women. The same system that’s telling you that you should want sex with multiple partners, that you should want fat wads of cash, that your only hope for domesticity is to work in a job you hate long enough to attract a pretty-enough woman who doesn’t mind that you’re comparatively old. You’re fighting against the exact same system that women have been battling for generations. You’re just too deep into it to see it.

I pity you. But I can’t free you, and neither can women. Only you can free yourself. And I misdoubt that you won’t. That you’ll just spend the next thirty years bitter at the world. And when you finally retire, you’ll look back on the years wasted and blame anyone but those responsible. Because to blame those truly responsible is to admit your own failure.