I got caught up in the tailwind of a discussion the other day…
on whether feminism had ruined dating.
The thrust of the argument was this:
Feminism is rude to men, and men deserve more respect.”
It felt like getting too close to an oven burner you didn’t realize was on.
I offered my two cents:
What do politics have to do with dating, anyway?
Men, if you don’t like women who are feminists, don’t date them.
Women, if you’re a feminist, then date a man who’s a feminist.
That’s the only political dating recommendation backed by science. Singles find other singles most attractive when they share the same religion, ethnicity, education level, and political affiliation.
If you want hard numbers, having the same political affiliation as a potential mate will increase his interest in you by 9.5%.
But these things aren’t about science in the end. They’re about beliefs. And beliefs keep people apart.
One of the most powerful books I read in 2017 was Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. In it, she discusses why we feel more divided than ever. When we dig into our beliefs, we don’t change other people’s mind. We short-circuit the possibility of connection.
So I started to wonder what would happen if a feminist and a man who didn’t like feminists walked into a bar…
The result was this story.
A Feminist and a Red-Blooded Male Walk Into a Bar (A Parable)
A woman is standing with her girlfriends at the bar.
The brewpub is humming with the afterwork crowd. She’s finished the one and only drink she allows herself. She glances at her watch. It’s about time to get home.
A man comes up to her and her friends. He’s wearing a dark jacket with a company logo on the breast pocket. He strikes up a conversation with them. His manner is easy and practiced. Then he turns to her.
“People like us know the right places to be seen,” he says, and winks.
Affronted by the presumption of an ‘us,’ she asks, “Do I know you?”
“No,” he says. “I’ve seen you in here a few times. I thought it was time we got to know each other better.”
As he leans forward, his jacket falls open. She gets a look at his t-shirt. It’s black with white block letters: “Feminism is f-ed.” Except spelled out.
Her manner turns to ice. “You’re not the kind of person I want to get to know better.” She gathers up her coat and purse.
“Hey!” he says. “What’s up with you?”
Her back is already turned. “My son is a feminist,” she spits back over her shoulder. “I wonder if your boss knows what kind of message you’re sending.”
“Hey!” He raises his voice. She’s pushing through the crowd and almost to the front door.
“Hey! We haven’t finished talking yet. You want to know what this t-shirt means? Then ask me!” He’s almost shouting now.
“But you’re just gonna walk away, huh? Because you can’t take a real conversation. You’re just going to threaten me and walk off, huh?”
He can see her through the glass windows. She’s striding across the street on a head of fury.
Making a sound of disgust, he looks around to see who noticed. If anyone heard, they’re not meeting his eye. He scoffs again, then pushes his way through the crowd back to the table where his friends are sitting.
“Man, I can’t believe that woman,” he tells them. “You know what she did to me?”
He proceeds to explain what happened.
“Then she said she was going to go tell my boss on me. That somehow my shirt was setting a bad example. Can you believe it? Like, she wouldn’t even talk to me!”
“Crazy man-hater,” his best friend drawls.
“You betcha,” he says. “I mean, hey, you want to talk to me about misandry, I’m open. Just like a feminist to not even want to hear the other side.”
“Her kid is going to end up totally screwed in the head. She should be saving for therapy,” another guy adds.
One of his female friends speaks up. “She doesn’t even know you. Like, she’s judging you based off what?”
“Exactly!” he says. “Thank you! You guys know me. You know who I am.”
“Feminism is f-ed. So I don’t know what her problem was. Anyone with eyes can see that,” another says.
“You’re so totally right,” he says. “I mean, feminism had its place back when women didn’t have the vote, but women have nothing to complain about now. So why are they still griping?”
“Don’t worry,” his best friend reassures. “She isn’t going to have any more kids with an attitude like that. No guy will want her.”
“Drink to that?” someone asks.
They all clink glasses. Conversation turns to other topics.
Now imagine this.
Imagine that there’s a woman sitting at a table halfway between the bar and the table where this man and his friends are sitting.
She’s heard everything.
She heard his conversation with the woman. She heard his conversation with his friends.
And she’s sitting there by herself, thinking about what she just witnessed.
She feels a little sick inside. She’s not a fan of conflict. And that was kind of ugly.
If you were that woman, what would you be thinking?
Don’t tell me just yet—hold that thought.
The bystander gets up. She’s seen one of the woman’s friends standing at the bar.
“Excuse me,” she says. “I couldn’t help but overhear what happened. Is your friend okay?”
“Yeah, she’s fine.” The friend waves away her concern. “She’s used to dealing with this kind of thing.”
“Guys yelling at her?”
“Uh, yeah.” The friend raises an eyebrow. “She’s not from here. In the country where she grew up, women were treated like dirt. Basically, any woman who couldn’t get a man was cast out. So she managed to scrape together enough to come to America. She’s doing well now. She’s got her own company. She doesn’t take any shit off anyone.”
“Well, that’s good.” The bystander nods. “Thank you. You put my mind at ease.”
“No problem.” The girlfriend turns away. The bystander goes back to her table.
As she sits down, she notices that the man and his friends are still there.
Their conversation has circled back to the way men are being mistreated.
“It’s no wonder the marriage rate is dropping,” one says. “With women like that, who wants to get married?”
“They just want to paint themselves as victims,” another man says. “I know a friend who got accused of sexual harassment by a woman who was just out to get him. He lost his job. He’s having a hell of a time finding work, because the minute HR finds out why he was fired, they won’t touch him. He’s got a wife and two kids depending on him. And that’s progress?”
“You can’t even go up and talk to a woman anymore,” another says. “And kiss one? Not worth it. Get too close and she’s calling the cops.”
“All these women supposedly want to find husbands,” the man says. “Well, they should look at how they’re going about it. They think men are going to want them when all they do is trash-talk men?”
“I wish we could go back to the days when men were men and women were women,” the girl at the table offers. “I miss real men.”
“Well, men can’t be real when they keep getting their balls cut off.”
The bystander is getting up to leave.
She wonders if she should go up to the table and tell the man what she learned about the woman he’d spoken to.
Would it make a difference if he knew she’d come from a place where American feminism was a bright and steady light?
But then again, what good would it do? Their minds were made up. She’d just be putting her nose where it didn’t belong.
And she was a woman. She wasn’t sure they’d listen to her.
Especially considering she’d probably call herself a feminist, too.
She picks up her phone and purse. She hesitates.
The man said he wanted a conversation.
Was she passing up an opportunity to build bridges? To help them see the other side of the story?
She looks over. The man is laughing. He’s got curly hair, and he seems kind of cute. Surely it doesn’t have to end like this, with silence and a bitter taste in her mouth.
What should she do?
If this were your story, what would you have her do?