The #YesAllWomen hashtag  popped up on social networks like Facebook and Twitter in 2014 as part of the social media campaign about women in response to the tragic May 2014 killings in Isla Vista, California by gunman Elliot Rodgers, who posted a lengthy diatribe and a YouTube video detailing his misogynistic reasons for committing the murders.   #YesAllWomen was an attempt to show that, while not all men participate in what has come to be called “rape culture” — the culture which objectifies women and regards them as merely subject to the desires and attitudes of men — all women do participate, whether they want to or not.

If you’re a rational, intelligent, empathetic man, the #YesAllWomen hashtag and the discussions surrounding it make for heartbreaking, eye-opening and — if we’re being honest — depressing reading. It can certainly make you question your own unintentional complicity in the rape culture it describes — are you truly innocent of sexism and misogyny? And frankly, it can make you terrified of even attempting to engage romantically with women…particularly if you’re a recently divorced dude who hasn’t had to really think about it in a long time.

The Language Has Changed 

The world changes, and we must change with it. Attitudes and behaviors that were once tolerated or even acceptable — even a few years ago — are unacceptable now. When I was a kid, growing up in the 1980s in suburban Texas, for example, we thought nothing of using terms like “faggot” and “homo” as catch-all playground insults against one another. But dropping those words into conversation at a cocktail party in polite urban society these days is a pretty good way to ensure you don’t get invited to the next one.

It took me years to stop using “gay” as a synonym for “lame”, as in “Dude, your car is so gay.” There was never any real homophobia behind my language — I grew up in a family that went through the AIDS struggle in a very personal way and I never had any hatred or even dislike of LGBT people. It was simply the way I learned to talk from those around me. And many people still use that as an excuse — that it’s simply the way they were raised.

The truth is that how you or I were raised is, frankly, irrelevant. In a civilized society, where we interact with people of all races, cultures, genders and sexual orientations, we refer to people the way they want — or do not want — to be referred. We treat them with the same respect we’d want for ourselves. There’s nothing political or religious about it, by the way: it’s simply good manners, the hallmark of a true gentleman.

And that most certainly extends to the way we talk to and about women.

A Sense of Entitlement About Women 

When you’re a boy, girls are weird. They look different. They act differently. They care about different things. As you grow up, so do they…and rather than being weird mutants, they become heart-wrenching, otherworldly creatures, targets of our purest desire. I mean, they have boobs, for God’s sake.

It is a cruel joke of evolutionary biology that boys become desperately interested in girls right at the moment that puberty turns them into awkward, insecure, cracked-voiced, acne-ridden meatballs. But that’s the way it goes. For most men, our first attempts at romance are metaphorically accompanied less by sexy saxophone solos and more by the sound of a drunk hobo playing a sad trombone.

Unfortunately, a lot of us go into adulthood still thinking that women are a mystery, that we have to somehow trick them into liking us…especially if we’re not conventionally attractive or charming. Worse yet, we’re taught by society and media that we deserve their attentions and affections.

This sense of entitlement gives rise to a particularly noxious subculture, typified by the PUA (or “pickup artist”) movement, who treat seduction as a sort of sleight-of-hand trick that anybody can learn if they practice from the manual long enough. For these men, women are marks who must be conned or tricked into having sex. It never seems to occur to these men that women might be actual humans with their own agency or that the reason they perpetually fail to attract the opposite sex is because they’re just really creepy and gross.

Being A Nice Guy Isn’t a Free Pass 

Many men go the opposite route: they try to be as adoring and accommodating and caring as possible to the women they want…only to be dismayed to discover that simply being nice to someone doesn’t automatically mean they want to have sex with you. These are the men who complain about being “friendzoned” or — like Elliot Rodgers in his pathetic imbecile’s memoir — that “women don’t like nice guys”. They fail to understand that they are not nice guys. A nice guy is nice because he’s nice, not because he expects a reward for his decency.

Women don’t owe men their love, or their bodies. They don’t even owe you a conversation. If you try to talk to a woman at a bar and she ignores you, she’s not a bitch. She just doesn’t want to talk to you, and it doesn’t matter how convinced you are that she might find you fascinating or intriguing or sexy if she just gave you a chance. She doesn’t owe you a chance. She owes you nothing at all.

Finding Love Is Like Finding a Job 

If it’s any consolation, you can think of finding love — or even sex — as being like finding a job. You may think you’re the ideal candidate for the position: after all, you’ve got every possible reference, you’re totally qualified. But that’s not your call to make. It’s the person on the other side of the desk’s call, and all the whining in the world about women isn’t going to change that. (It should go without saying that the opposite is true as well; you may be the dream applicant for the job, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it.)

If a job interview goes badly, you don’t go home and get drunk and whine that all HR people are jerks because none of them want to hire you, do you? So why would you do that when a woman turns you down?

Here’s how you treat women in the 21st century: with the same respect and courtesy you’d treat a man. Do that and you’ll receive the same respect right back from women. Yes: all women.


(c) Can Stock Photo / rmarmion

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