A dear friend of mine is a smart, witty, fun, upbeat, attractive, hilarious, and successful woman. While she has no trouble getting dates with men, things often start to spiral downward after a few dates as the men realize how strong and independent she is. She’s not just smart, as in, she’s good at amusing you in a conversation. She’s a doctor in private practice and was the chief resident during her days in training.
She made the “mistake” (her words) of putting her career first through her 20s and then once she was well established, started to think more about finding a partner and starting a family. It has not been easy.
Well, getting dates has been easy. Men are eager to meet her and to sleep with her. But when it comes to making it a committed relationship, they always get squeamish. She has tried hard not to accept my explanation that most men are intimidated by a woman that is as strong and independent as she is. “Some of them, sure, but not all of them. There must be something wrong with me,” she sighs.
Unfortunately for her, she finally found a sleaze ball to say it openly. In hindsight, he did telegraph his pathetic insecurities right from the start. Here’s a message he sent before they even had a date:
Right from the jump, he shows how fragile his ego is and even calls it out. Obviously, she moved on, but for some reason, he kept pursuing her. She went with it because, well, it’s slim pickins’ these days so she was optimistically hoping that maybe, having shown some inkling of awareness, he could grow up a little bit and become comfortable with dating someone who considered herself his equal.
After lots more talking and the building of some promising chemistry, the real man showed himself. Brace yourself for some A-level misogyny.
Wow. This dude-bro just comes right out and says, “Please protect my ego from the fact that you may be smarter than I am by concealing your job at every turn.” The word “surgery” is clearly a trigger for his insanely fragile masculinity.
He’s not done…
Hey, I didn’t make the rules. This isn’t personal. This is how we guys are. We need to know that we’re more powerful than you. You need to “downplay your success” if you want us to be comfortable.
Of course everyone knows that many men feel this way, but it’s stunning how aware he seems to be of his own fragility and yet sees nothing wrong with it. There is no work here for him to do. It is SHE who must change if they are to go forward.
He’s still not done…
C’mon, “girl,” you gotta put yourself in my (pathetic) shoes. You can’t possibly be hot AND successful. That’s way too much to ask me to put up with. I’d love to surprise you at your work, but can you please be scrubbing the floor or doing some kinds of arts and crafts? Something I can roll my eyes at preferably. K thanks.
(Just to be clear, women who scrub floors or do crafts don’t deserve an asshole like this, either.)
STILL not done…
Okay, why the F%$#@ does he keep calling her “girl” in this context? That was rhetorical. The answer is obvious. He needs to infantilize her to maintain some semblance of power differential in his favor.
And yes, embarrassment. That’s what she needs. Because she needs to be knocked down a few pegs, clearly. She needs this “even if [she’s] not interested in [him],” because this is really about her growth as a person. She’ll never amount to anything if she doesn’t shrink down that obnoxious personhood of hers. I mean just look at her blatantly existing as a professional woman using words like surgery just like a man would.
Just in case we weren’t clear about his need for dominance over her, there is this gem…
This man is not some uncultured Neanderthal. He’s an investment banker, very successful, and highly educated. He believes, somehow, that because he’s mildly aware of the misogynistic dynamic he’s bathing in, he’s more evolved and honest and therefore it’s okay. Hey I didn’t make the rules. No, you just enforce them. I take it back. He is an uncultured Neanderthal.
In fact, this asshole is actually way worse than the millions who simply aren’t aware of why they hate strong women. He sort of knows what’s going on, but instead of challenging himself, or gawd forbid some of his fellow men, he wraps himself up in the misogyny like the security blanket that it is. He owns it, declares it, and says, sorry, this is how it is, so can you please hide your strength so that I’m comfortable?
As a man, I totally understand the temptation to write this man off as just a lone asshole, but I have shown these texts to a bunch of women and not one of them was surprised. Angry, frustrated, depressed, but not surprised.
Dear men – if you feel the temptation to write this dude off as just an asshole or a kook, please resist that. Sweeping this under the rug enables it as inevitable or even acceptable. As men, it is our responsibility to take misogyny seriously. We cannot leave the work of destroying patriarchy to women. It’s our problem to fix. (Truth be told, patriarchy cages and hurts us, too, but that’s a topic for another day.) Don’t dismiss or normalize this. Call it out when you hear it. If you are an enlightened man, that’s great, time to step up and explain it to your fellow men.
And before anyone starts with the whiny “not all men” crap, take a minute and ask the women around you. It may be true that it’s “not all men,” but it certainly is all women that have to deal with misogyny like this, whether they have high-powered careers or not. No woman deserves this.
Dear women – I sincerely apologize on behalf of my fellow men that you have to deal with men like this and for my role in perpetuating the patriarchy that enables them. I promise to do better.
The dude continued to pursue her! When she failed to respond, he lashed out some more, unsurprisingly.
Did you catch that? “Why would you think I want you to change?” Then followed by, “Yeah, maybe you’re too old to change.” And of course, “There’s lots of younger women out there,” so you really should know your place and subjugate yourself before my enormous (but fragile) ego. How dare you not accept these terms!
This goes beyond standard male chauvinism and even the all-too-common casual misogyny of men who insist that women accommodate them. This is the MO of an abuser. Tear them down, establish dominance, feign tenderness, tear them down again, and if they refuse to put up with it, hit them where you know it will hurt.
This F$%#@ing guy.