by Jessica Critcher
The Good Men Project has been heralded as “a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century,” and “a cerebral, new media alternative” to glossy men’s magazines. That’s great. Masculinity needs to be talked about differently. Men need to do this. A good deal of feminism’s work can and should be undertaken by men and boys. But the premise of The Good Men Project still bothers me.
The idea of being good men is actually nothing special. Not raping, not beating, not oppressing, not objectifying, is not some phenomenal feat deserving of praise. That should be every man’s basic commitment to humanity. Anything further should not be done for applause, but as an effort to offset vast inequality.
Saying you’re one of the good guys doesn’t mean you’re exempt from male privilege, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you feel. It also doesn’t mean you’re immune from misogyny or making sexist statements.
So there’s that. I generally try to ignore The Good Men Project. Neutral is a fine place to be in my book. Continue about your business, I would say, if I thought about them. Continue to not actively oppress us, and I shall leave you in peace. But recently they managed to capture my attention and enrage me. And the behavior that caused it was definitely what I’d think of as “good men” behavior.
The article was titled Women Are Like Cats. I thought it must be some sort of joke. I tried to guess the punch line. Prior to the 20th century, neither of them were allowed to vote. There is still not a constitutional amendment to protect either of them. You can find naked pictures of both of them on the internet. Depending on how cute they are and what continent they’re on, people don’t care if they go missing or die in childbirth.
Alas, this was not a joke, but an actual title for an actual article with an actual list of actual tips for how a man should “treat a lady.” This “advice” includes:
“There is nothing worse than having sex with the woman you adore and realize she is indifferent to what is going on. Think of it like roasting a marshmallow. Too close to the flame and that puppy is going to burn up. It takes patience and a steady hand to get it just right.”
“With a dog, you can pet them whenever you want. A cat can be very affectionate as well, but they will let you know when they would like to be rubbed. At the right time they will purr, arch their backs, and show great satisfaction in physical attention.”
I have decided to create my own list, countering each point mentioned. Notice some of them don’t make much sense. That’s because the initial advice doesn’t make much sense either.
How to Treat a Human Being with Whom You Are (or would like to be) Romantically Involved:
- Don’t assume that silence means consent to anything. Don’t stare creepily into someone’s eyes unless you know them pretty well and are sure they like that sort of thing.
- Listen when this person talks, not because you read it on a list of things to do, but because you care about what this person is saying. If you don’t care what this person is saying, maybe you two should just stop hanging out.
- Don’t follow advice you read on a list on the internet on when you should call a person back. There is no magic number of time between phone calls. If you’re clingy, it will show no matter what.
- If you like dancing or horseback riding, that’s great. Do those things. If you don’t like physical activities on dates, that’s fine too. Ask your partner for ideas of fun things you can do together.
- If you think your partner would like poetry, maybe you can read some out loud. Be mindful that many famous Romantic poets were often white men, and sexist jerks to boot. Also, if you are trying to read romantic poetry to trick someone into liking you or sleeping with you, you are probably a jerk.
- Don’t make a move for public displays of affection without checking to make sure this okay with your partner. You can still be romantic and spontaneous, but never kiss or grab someone, especially out in public, without knowing where your partner’s boundaries are. Also, because I don’t want to make a PDA pun, if you don’t want to be bothered by alerts from your phone, turn it off.
- If the two of you would like to watch a movie, talk about what genres you like. Don’t just assume anything about your partner’s taste, in movies or in general. You might have more in common than you think, and even if you like different types of movies, you can take turns picking what to watch.
- Sex can be fun and meaningful if you’re into that. Always practice safe sex, and when in doubt about anything, ask. If you’re not sure what your partner likes, ask. If you’re not sure if your partner is enjoying it or even in the mood, ask. If you want to try something new, ask. Always ask. If your lovemaking is anything like roasting a marshmallow, I’m not certain but I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong. Ask your partner and always ask your partner. Communication goes a long way.
- Don’t gawk at other people on the street or make it obvious that you are staring at them in a sexual way. That sort of leering is really creepy, and it contributes to a larger framework of rape culture in our society.
- How your partner dresses is not any of your business. There’s nothing wrong with getting dressed up for someone, but if you don’t like your partner’s outfit, oh well. On a related note, if your partner looks very nice, don’t use objectifying language as a compliment. There is enough societal pressure on us as it is. As this brilliant post from Dressaday.com reminds us:
You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
Last but not least, don’t compare women to animals. Maybe an individual trait here and there, about an individual person if you really feel compelled to make a point. But don’t make sweeping generalizations about an entire gender. If you find yourself about to type a sentence such as, “Women are like cats” then take your fingers off the keyboard. Just stop. Aside from it not being a nice thing to do, when women are objectified, it contributes to that nasty rape culture I was talking about earlier. Also, I’m upset that I feel the need to say this, women aren’t like animals, they are human beings. If you needed to read that on a list of dating tips, I am very, very worried about the future.