January 01, 2008

I Have Been Called Out As a "Serious Misogynist"

READERS MAY WONDER – as I first did – just what exactly I said to justify someone calling me a “serious misogynist.” Last time I checked, I hadn’t called for the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment, hadn’t called for ending the WIC Nutrition Program, and hadn’t called for women to be restricted in terms of their employment. So as you can imagine, I was a bit confused at why I was suddenly being derided as someone who hates women.

However, I soon discovered the reason. Apparently, my July 31 post in defense of “ladies night” promotions was so shocking and beyond the pale that it puts me in the same league as men who beat their wives, who want women’s jobs restricted to teaching and nursing, and who consider the idea of women voting anathema. At least that’s the conclusion one blogger drew upon reading my defense of the institution, viz:

One writer – who is a serious misogynist in “gentleman’s” clothing – says that men are not men if they can’t saddle up to a bar ready to pay. He goes on to say any man who presses such charges should lose their “status” as a man, and should no longer have the privilege of sleeping with any women. Wow. One can’t be a man if they feel that one way to stop perpetuating sexism is through the abolishment of such women-luring tactics?

What would be interesting, perhaps, is to do undercover work on what the bar considers a man to be – does it matter if they are straight or gay? What do these bars consider a lady? Are they only those who will catch the male gaze, maybe donning a skirt and cleavage-revealing top? Are they only feminine females? Are they heterosexual females? What happens if a masculine-identified lesbian woman walks up to the bar…does she get treated the same?

Important questions.

Just for the record, I would like to say how much I enjoy being in arguments that I really can’t win. You see, if I defend myself too fiercely, I’ll be condemned as a misogynist because my response would be seen as an overly harsh attack. Yet if I’m overly polite in my response – following the old dites vous quand vous parlez une dame principle – I’ll be condemned for supposedly not taking the argument seriously enough and thus belittling my opponent. But as I do consider my position right and just – and I am somewhat annoyed at being unfairly maligned as a misogynist – I have no choice but to respond.

First things first: I really don’t understand how I became the bad guy here.

I mean, my God. The guy who filed the lawsuit in New York, and thus sparked this whole debate, clearly has issues with women -- and Issues with a capital I. That’s made perfectly clear in my opponent’s post, in which she notes his anti-female ranting. But somehow I end up being the “serious misoygnist.” How’d that happen? Is it because I’m wearing a necktie in all the pictures on my blog’s front page, and thus representative of the male privilege-supporting Establishment?

Anyway, I daresay this argument reminds me of Kissinger’s old dictum that in academia, the infighting is so fierce because the stakes are so small. We are, after all, discussing “ladies night” promotions. We are not talking about the matters of equal pay for equal work, career advancement or leave policies – things some might consider marginally more important in terms of the battle against sexism in American life. We’re talking about whether men should complain about women getting into bars for a slightly cheaper price when the practice is clearly to the benefit of men. The answer is clearly No – as I explained here.

Now, our complaintant says I argue “men are not men if they can’t saddle up to a bar ready to pay.” Let’s be clear in that this not a question of can’t, but rather a question of won’t. To me, not offering to buy a girl a drink is gauche and unclassy. It is one thing if the recipient of the man’s largesse decides to pay for her own drink, but another entirely if the man does not first make the offer. As counterintuitive as it might seem, though, sexism doesn’t enter into this situation. To suggest that it does is confusing the real issue – which is the standards and behavior expected of men in this day and age.

Indeed, to paint the issue as solely a matter of sexism obfuscates a fundamental truth behind the matter: that men and women are different. Men are not simply women with different plumbing and vice versa. Arguing otherwise ignores the clear reality that men and women approach many things differently in life, ranging from conflict resolution to how much time should be spent getting ready to go out. That’s how things are. Now, those differences shouldn’t be used to disqualify a man from being a nurse or a woman from being a fighter pilot; that, as one can see, is sexism at its very core. But those differences do mean there are some basic standards for men and women that go along with their draw from the gene pool.

As it happens, we men have our own set of standards for each other that we’ve developed over the years, and it is in those that my argument is founded. That’s what this is about when one gets down to brass tacks. It’s not about whether men and women are being treated differently; indeed, at the core of this, women don’t enter into the equation at all. It’s about the fact men really shouldn’t complain about penny-ante “injustices” where they suffer no harm, should be willing to at least pay lip service to the provider ethic – which is hugely important to any man, whether or not he’ll admit it – and should deal with their problems coolly and rationally. In this case, that involves going to another bar, not making a federal case out of the deal.

Thus, our writer errs when she accuses me of suggesting, in her words, that “one can’t be a man if they feel that one way to stop perpetuating sexism is through the abolishment of such women-luring tactics.” This isn’t about stopping the perpetuation of sexism; this is about soft and weak men with chips on their shoulders. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the men who oppose "ladies' nights" probably aren't all that keen on other practices that help women, such as initiatives to boost female participation in the sciences.

As an aside, I don’t follow our writer’s complaint about “women-luring tactics.” Either the practice hurts men or it hurts women; it can’t be both when one has put forward a zero-sum argument.

As for the second half of our writer’s critique, I have not heard of any complaints where homosexuals are treated differently than their straight counterparts during these promotions, so that’s kind of a red herring. I would also suggest that any establishment that did so would find itself in a world of pain rather quickly, considering our society’s public intolerance for intolerance when it comes to those types of things.

One final point before I close. It seems to me that women who are frustrated with the supposed unfairness of “ladies night” promotions can help rectify the situation on the ground when they’re out partying. All they have to do is buy a man a drink, which should repair the supposed economic injury the man sustained while paying the higher cover charge. Then, if he offers to buy the next round, you’ll have at least one indication he might be a keeper.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at January 1, 2008 11:30 AM | TrackBack
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