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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

You're Calling Me a Woman? Cool Insult, Bro.

It would seem every young man, regardless of background, or whether or not they desire to possess such knowledge, has the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in interpersonal male conflict by the time they reach the age of 21.

Men are taught to be competitive and aggressive from the time they're tots, and even if they shun this machismo culture from a young age, they're still very much apart of its expression as the targets of those boys (soon-to-be men) who embrace it.

Machismo has various manifestations: playground fights, competitive sports, merciless mocking of themselves and anything around them breathing (or inanimate, for that matter), and the rather impressive ability to make anything a contest, measure of self-worth, and yardstick for manhood.

I've spent my life straddling the line that separates two worlds within boyhood and manhood: those who care about presenting themselves as men in various ways (most males) and those who really don't give a shit (everyone else).

I loved playing football in middle school and high school (machismo), but that didn't stop me from doing pep squad in 7th grade and choir for most of my time, growing up (anti-machismo).

I liked playing with G.I. Joes and video games (machismo), but that didn't stop me from playing with Barbies or reading "The Baby Sitter's Club" without reservation (I sooo wanted to be Kristy Thomas).

As I grew older, I liked listening to Nirvana and Metallica and any other "hard" band you could think of, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the Spice Girls, Mariah Carey, or Regina Spektor.

I looked up to strong, male figures in society, but I also admired Hillary Clinton and Tina Fey (I was around 14 when she became big on "SNL").

Simply put, I never understood why it's wrong to do "feminine" things, especially when I saw girls and young women my age, throughout childhood, do "masculine" things without any sort of backlash.

A woman who "acts like a man" may across as a "bitch" (one of the more indicative terms of ignorance in society), but she can still often be portrayed as strong and confident and effective. We wouldn't exactly say a girl who wants to be like her daddy is in the wrong.

A man, on the other hand, can never "act like a woman," which is thinly-veiled code for being weak, emotional, and ineffective. We would never encourage a boy who says he "wants to be like mommy" when he grows up.

This sentiment easily seeps into male culture from a young age. The go-to insults for any man (and often, many women) against another man is to slam him for being feminine.

"Stop being such a little bitch."



"You're such a girl" or "You fight like a girl" or "You throw like a girl", etc.

On the other side of the coin, it can be implied you're not being "man enough." There are "man laws" and "man cards" to describe guys who aren't living up to another man's expectation of what it means to be a man.

Some really do think of this as just a humorous outlet and nothing to take seriously.

Others take it incredibly seriously and indicate their own insecurity behind a habit of being macho and describing other men in feminine terms.

Well, I do have a penis, and I am straight, and I'm not transsexual or transgender, but if you call me a woman, I really don't feel insulted.

Women have to work far harder than men in their fields just to hang and, more often than not, it's because of cultural obstacles rather than ability or talent or potential. Not being "one of the guys" is a surprisingly effective deterrent for keeping women out of the boardroom or general's stars off the uniforms of female military officers.

It's also been surprisingly effective at keeping women out of the Senate (80% male), the House (82% male), and the Oval Office (100% male).

How many CEOs on the Fortune 500 are women? 4.2 percent.

And this is before you consider the fact that the chips are stacked against women from birth: fewer leadership opportunities, fewer competitive opportunities, less interpersonal rivalry and political strategy (yes, even 3rd grade squabbles are a great primer for budding politicians).

Note again: this is far less due to ability in women and far more about their difficulty in assimilating into a male-dominated field.

To be a woman and successful means you not only took on the challenges inherent in simply being a woman but all the obstacles presented to your male peers, as well, and guess what? You conquered it all.

Now, this is not to say women are better than men. I absolutely don't believe that or vice-versa.

I'm just saying that if you're going to attempt to insult me, try using something that doesn't imply the overcoming of greater hardship and challenge.

Because if I'm putting my best face forward on any given day, given our culture and the obstacles presented by gender, I'll proudly call myself a woman in a heartbeat before I claim to be a man.

And not for nothing, but my "masculinity" is not for you to define. Even if it were something I care about (I don't), it's not yours or my father's or my friends' or my girlfriend's.

It's mine, and I will define what it means "to be a man" in my own context, any way I want, even if that means shirking it completely and being at peace with "being like a woman."

So, when you're ready to let go of your insecurities and take off your Tap-Out shirt, stop drinking Dr. Pepper 10 ("It's just for men!"), and talking out your ass about "man cards", I think you'll find yourself being far more at peace and being a far better human being and being far more attractive to wonderful, intelligent, and gorgeous women, on the inside and out.

Just try it. Trust me.


  1. At 21 or 22, you have not yet attained an age where your "worldview" is very valid. you're barely out of college with a journalism or political science degree and surprise, you know everything?

    when you have experienced marriage, childbirth, divorce, hiring, firing, pain, suffering, ridicule, heroics, victory, defeat, a proper shave, a surprise kiss, good sex, bad sex, no sex, no job, responsibility, leadership, courage and fear - from a man's (or even a woman's) point of view in today's society - then your words might have some merit.

    until then, try to experience being a man, instead of just talking about not being a woman.
    just try it. for a weekend. for a day. for a minute. some day you'll see they are very different things.

    and true, your "masculinity" is yours to define...just don't define it along with other men. You don't have it yet. Maybe some day you will.

    art of - try it out, and learn.

    1. Hahahaha... I'm 26 and served in the Army for six years, but please, tell me more how I lack life experience.

      Nice try, and better luck, next time.

    2. I was just passing through, and wanted to comment on this diamond of a reply.

      "At 21 or 22, you have not yet attained an age where your "worldview" is very valid. you're barely out of college with a journalism or political science degree and surprise, you know everything?"

      How can a world-view be wrong? How can one's subjective experience be "wrong"? And furthermore, why would anyone have to quantify their experiences in such binary ways? Open up your own world-view and you'll see that throwing away negative gender roles will benefit the many genders that exist today.


      per your linkedin page...

      You haven't served in the army for 6 years - you've spent 6 years in the Military academy, excelling in ceremonies and funerals, and haven't graduated yet. That's like saying you've been a lawyer for 6 years excelling in traffic tickets while still in law school.

      you've gone from privileged home to cocooned environment to college - all on someone else's dime...not exactly hard times.

      my statement remains - you are still just a priveleged boy in a cocoon wearing men's clothing.

      once you step out into the real world, then we'll see

    4. Yeah, you didn't read very carefully, or I wasn't clear enough in my profile. I served 3.5 years enlisted infantry and spent 2.5 years at the Academy before being medically-retired.

      And no, I'm not privileged. I came from a poor background and worked my ass off to get there.

      So, again, better luck, next time.

    5. Argumentum Ad Hominem. Attacks against the arguer mean nothing in terms of the content of the argument.

      I don't quite get it either way though. How does his age affect his point that 'woman' is not an insult?

      In other news, Brett McKay, founder of Art of Manliness, is only 4 years older than Charles here. Must have been a hell of a 4 years to make up all the difference between Brett's Validity and Charles' lack thereof.

    6. I don't understand why linusvanpelt keeps coming back to read what you've written, day after day. He clearly has nothing better to do, which is sad. I'd say, with respect, ignore him. You're just fueling the fire.

  2. I love this article and I totally agree!

    Though I would like to caution against your invoking the feminist yardstick of progress as total parity with males in high-power positions in government and the private sector. A self-identified feminist myself, I am all for role models for young women who strive to make it into the upper echelons of any traditionally male-dominated sector. But the fact is that, left to their own choices and absent any discrimination, women are still disproportionately likely to choose to take time off work in between the ages of 25 and 35 in order to raise children. (I'd also like to say that, we should totally encourage stay-at-home fathers, too. Every parent should make those choices on their own without the pressure of conforming to gender-stereotypes.)

    In order to become, say, the President of the United States or the CEO of Fortune 500 company, you need to hit the ground running after college graduation and put in the hours required. Because men are less likely to choose taking time off to raise children, they are more able to put in those hours. This, of course, is not a result of any inherent superiority of men - just that women tend to make different choices. And they should feel free make whatever choices they want.

    This, of course, makes the feminist goal of "50% male/50% female" representation in high-power positions a little problematic, as I would venture to say that more women than men prefer to take time off work in those key career-building years in order to care for young children.

    That said, we should totally dismantle old boys networks and gender discrimination. And we should do all we can to encourage women and girls who want to succeed in the upper echelons of the workplace.

    1. That's a very good point that I didn't consider. Thanks for the insight. :)

  3. The comment above makes no sense. I've experienced all of those things in Linus' list (except for childbirth), and I don't feel like a man at all. I suspect I never will. Oh, sigh!

    Great post, Charles.

  4. Interesting article, do you remember the day you lost your testicles Charles?


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