One more for the road: the impossibility of raising a non-sexist male

November 14, 2017 • 2:30 pm

From PuffHo, which is converging with Everyday Feminism (click on the screenshot to see)

I’ll just give quotes:

Of course, we all want to raise feminist sons. I wrote an article a few months ago detailing the ways I try to do just that. But my efforts are starting to seem like grains of sand against a steady wave-crash of misogyny and rape culture.

In my previous article, I wrote, “In my sweat-soaked, sit-straight-up-in-bed feminist nightmares, I can imagine a future in which my own spawn makes some woman feel as voiceless as the boys in my high school once did, a world in which he blithely argues against the existence of male privilege and shit-talks the latest all-female remake on Twitter.“  Lately, I can imagine it even more clearly.


Children never fully belong to their parents. I started losing mine to the world of men years ago. My voice is strong, but what chance does it have against the chorus of voices ready to drown me out every time he steps out the front door or turns on the TV? Being told to “raise a good man” is starting to feel like the devil is telling me to keep cool while steadily raising the thermostat in hell.

and the kicker (my emphasis):

Worse, when I look around at the adult men I know, I’m not sure exactly who I’m supposed to be raising him to emulate. Even the men whom I love and trust seem tied up in knots about this gender business ― one gets the impression they are constantly fighting against their instincts, carefully choosing their words while I carefully arrange my face to receive them so that we can all feel good about remaining friends. To be intimate with these men is to always be waiting, a little, for the microaggression that may or may not come.

The author seems to believe that there really aren’t any good men out there. But if she can find one—just one—that’s who she should use as a role model. I guess most of us don’t qualify.

She hasn’t considered that perhaps she’s looking for offense or, worse, wanting it so she can confirm her biases.

It’s not, of course, that I object to a woman trying to raise a non-sexist son. That’s a great thing to do. It’s that Ms. McCombs sees all men as sexists, and so has no good goal for her childrearing. Chalk one up for #YesAllMen.  The attitude that all men are misogynists, with the “good ones” simply better at hiding it is, of course, sexism.

53 thoughts on “One more for the road: the impossibility of raising a non-sexist male

  1. Go ahead and keep saying that — eventually sufficiently many men will decide “F*** it, I’ll be labelled and treated as a sexist pig no matter what, I might as well indeed behave as one, what difference does it make?” and then it will actually become reality.

    1. I hear what you’re saying.
      The only saving grace in this sordid mess – so far – is that the average man doesn’t look to HuffPo or Everyday Feminism, or their followers, for validation.
      But if I were to see that article in my local paper, I’d be cancelling my subscription as quickly as I could get to the phone.

    2. I recall learning about the Dazexiang Uprising via Scott Alexander. As the story goes, when an officer and his followers were delayed from a rendezvous due to very inclement weather, they looked at their situation, considered that the penalties for being late and the penalties for treason were both to be put to death, and decided to go to war against the government.

    3. The only useful outcome of the misuse of terms like sexist, misogynist etc, towards people who are NOT sexist or genuinely misogynistic has been the devaluation of these insults.
      A few years ago such an insult would indicate a terrible stain on your character. Now it’s the equivalent to getting called a Nazi by Dan Arel or Steve Shives.
      Literally anybody can (and does) get called a misogynistic white supremacist for even the slightest disagreement with the moral gatekeepers of the online world.
      Now when I get labeled as such I think to myself, ‘well, I guess I can live with being as racist as Majid Nawaz, and as misogynistic as Ayan Hirsi Ali’.
      The only bad side to this is that there are some real misogynists and nazis out there. If 99% of those accused of those behaviors are guilty of nothing more than ‘wrongthink’ (and most of these are fellow lefties who differ in only minor ways from their accusers) aren’t we devaluing a useful mechanism to identify genuinely bad behavior?

  2. One might make a slim modest case that all men are latent, dormant misogynists, having the ingredients for it.
    But at some point, one had to distinguish dogs from wolves and cats from leopards.

    1. One might also make a slim modest case that all women are latent, dormant misandrists, having all the ingredients for it.
      But I wouldn’t make that case any more than I would accept the case you pose, for the reasons you give.

      1. Excellent reply to the monstrous “all men are rapists and all women are their innocent victims” lie, which, having taken hold, may never die. Do these women not know that you can’t malign and hurt men without hurting the women in their lives, their daughters, sisters and mothers?

        The “mote and beam” analogy in the Bible is so apt here…

  3. However it would be totally wrong to characterize this type of ideology as misandrist. That is of course an impression created solely by Men’s Rights Activists, with no basis in reality. 😉

  4. Perhaps this just tells us that if one is going to choose feminism as a profession, one needs to learn not to bring one’s work home, just as a bus driver needs to refrain from always talking about buses around the dinner table.

  5. I think the old Blank Slate fallacy is operating here. Ms. McCombs is surprised to find that men “constantly fighting against their instincts”. Well, yes, we men are always fighting against our instincts. As are women.

    I think she’s just dismayed at the idea that we are biological beings largely behaving under the influence of our genes.

  6. If she’s concerned that she’s incapable of raising her son, perhaps she should let people better suited adopt him. There are plenty of people who would cheerfully adopt him and work to the best of their abilities to raise him well.

  7. Hush now baby, baby, don’t you cry.
    Mamma’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true.
    Mamma’s gonna put all of her fears into you.
    Mamma’s gonna keep you right here under her wing,
    She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing.
    Mamma’s gonna keep baby cosy and warm.

    Hush now baby, baby, don’t you cry.
    Mamma’s gonna check out all your girlfriends for you.
    Mamma won’t let anyone dirty get through.
    Mamma’s gonna wait up till you get in.
    Mamma will always find out where you’ve been.

    Mamma’s gonna keep baby healthy and clean.
    Oooh babe
    Oooh babe
    Ooh babe, you’ll always be a baby to me.

    1. Lyrics apply to boys and girls alike. There are as many mom’s out there who can provide an unnecessary amount of adversity for a son’s or a daughter’s life.

      A parent may have good intentions but kid’s very rarely understand the protectionist attitudes borne out of generalized ideologies. The outcome usually leads to repression and regret and unnecessary anger.

  8. This makes me sad. My husband is a good man. My brother is a good man. You, Jerry, are a good man. I know many good men who would never try to shame or hurt a woman — and certainly not molest or rape one. It’s too bad that society has allowed some men — especially men with just a teeny bit of power — to get away with disgusting, oppressive behavior for so long. The current explosion of accusations makes it seem like all men must be horrid creatures. It ain’t so.

  9. Sounds a little like the black father who doesn’t think his kids can ever be friends with whites.

    Horrible part is, they both may be right.
    But, I don’t know. I have two sons, both in their forties, who don’t act like that.

  10. What a nasty and juvenile attitude to men and what an appalling approach to parenting. This behaviour really is “toxic”.

  11. I think it’s impossible to raise a non-sexist male.

    Because biology.

    But of course it all depends on the definition of “sexist”.


    1. Indeed.

      Now, I think there is a cultural problem, i.e., that it is more acceptable than it should be for men to treat women only as sexual objects and/or as inferior in various ways. I think we need to work, in our conversations about the issue, to try to effect a change in how acceptable this behavior is.

      I do not think, however, that we will effect that change by ignoring what biology means for what goes on in (most?) men’s minds. How is one to help one’s unbidden instincts? What you can help is whether or not you act on them. We all crave fat, sugar, and salt, but no nutritionist argues that these craving mean no one can really be healthy. Instincts do not a sexist make. Actions do.

      I also get the impression that this author would classify any assholery directed at her as sexism or misogyny, not appreciating that people are frequently just assholes for reasons other than sexism.

      I’d like to add that in my experience, most women don’t not think like this author.

      1. “I also get the impression that this author would classify any assholery directed at her as sexism or misogyny, not appreciating that people are frequently just assholes for reasons other than sexism.”

        Part of the deal with feminism being the realization that women are people too, is the realization that women can be jerks too. They can lie, manipulate, parasitize and control others. It’s called being human. There is nothing especially morally fine about being a woman. Fortunately, a great many women, like a great many men, are good people who have acquired a moral compass and follow it.

      2. Well, it’s entirely possible to firmly believe in equal rights and equal pay for women – and still be turned on by attractive women. And most women seem to feel the urge to make themselves look as attractive as possible.

        So where does that leave sexism? Buggered if I know.


  12. This seems like the ultimate in making perfect the enemy of good. I’m not going to rend my shirt and beat my chest if my son turns out imperfect in terms of how he treats other people. Because he will. We all do. My job as a parent (aside from giving him a safe, loving, prosperous etc etc. home life)
    is to try and make him constantly better than he would otherwise be. And to get a bit meta, it’s to instill in him a desire and a pride to better himself, so that when he is on his own, he pays attention to his mistakes and learns from them how to be a better person.

    Are there no perfect men? Correct, there are none. Should this fill parents with angst? No. No more than it should fill us with angst that we won’t be able to cure our kid’s old age, or that we won’t be able to deliver them world peace, or any other such idealized dream. Do the best with what you’ve got, to make the world a better place. Nobody can ask for more.

    1. Indeed. Is there no one perfect role model for your children? Likely. So find them lots of people to emulate, and help them figure out what parts to adopt from now here, now there.

  13. So, (on this author’s account) all men are to be slandered as suspected misogynists and supporters of “rape culture.”

    And women think they are judged unfairly by the opposite sex????!!!

    When I read all these feminist scare stories, where all men are to be feared and harbor misogynist tendencies, I’m left wondering…who…exactly?

    Not that there aren’t men who treat women badly. Of course there are.

    But in my own experience I simply don’t recognize the bogey-men in these stories.
    Unlike these feminists, I KNOW what goes on in my head and I KNOW how my male friends and I talk about women when women aren’t there.

    And virtually no male I know espouses misogynist views. If I did…my male friends would start to look at me differently, and the same for me if any of them started dissing women when we talked.

    1. By the way by “all these feminists scare stories” I’m referring to the ones of the character being discussed. I do not for a moment think all feminists agree with such articles and I don’t automatically roll my eyes when I hear someone self-describe as a feminist, because (at least in terms of promoting equality), it’s a very laudable endeavor I heartily endorse.

      1. (As Sam Harris also says) I am a feminist.

        I do my level best to treat women the same as I treat men (except when I try to treat them better).

        When I speak to my women colleagues, I look them in the eye, not some other part. I don’t talk down to them. I actively encourage them to promote themselves. I do my best to always do that as well (I have a not-insignificant influence at my workplace). I ask them for input at an equal rate (all things being equal such as relevant experience).

        Some of this, I suspect, may derive from the fact that my very first boss was a woman — when I was 16 years old at a retail store. Perhaps also from the fact that I was born with the capacity to and raised to value kindness and abhor cruelty – in all forms.

        1. Same here.

          I work freelance, on too many projects for me to count, and have worked for women plenty of times. In fact I started a new company as the assistant of a woman who went on to become a large, hugely successful company (for which I worked many years). Not once do I remember thinking any less of women “bosses” vs male “bosses.” We are just people collaborating. (Which is another reason why I know the claims of the feminist author in Jerry’s previous post are b.s.)

    2. That is correct. I have worked in a male dominated area, the wharf’s, all my life and I have very rarely heard anything that could be called misogyny.

      Gender stereotypes early on, yes, but actual misogyny, no.

    1. Sexual selection works both ways: the males inherit the traits their mothers were attracted to, and the females inherit the attraction to those traits. The result is a positive feedback loop. Hence, the peacock’s tail (per my understanding…)

  14. I’m not giving up ― in fact, I’m this close to having a man-to-man real talk moment with a 6-year-old about how he should never masturbate in front of strangers or co-workers

    Please, for the love of God, get a grip before you psychologically damage your son.

  15. She’s looking through high-prescription injustice-colored glasses. She sees injustice where it is. She sees injustice where it isn’t.

    And, I promise you, there is no quicker way to find yourself genuinely walled off, ostracized, and viewed as harmful, even as a lesser human being, than to spew unjust accusations against those who are trying to give you the equality you demand.

    Just imagine being a male child of such a hateful, twisted human being.

    The lesson, which such people have missed, is that perfect equality will never happen between flawed human beings. We each fight, hard, for fairness and equality, but by focusing on only one subset of humanity, she throws fairness and equality out just as surely as our misogynist fore-bearers.

  16. I have met and known many more good, kind men (and women) throughout my life than a**holes of either sex. I have been lucky. Two examples: 1. Several years ago, I almost rear-ended a vehicle on the highway but was able to swerve into the blackberry bushes in the divider strip to avoid a collision. I had 8 to 10 relatively young men stop to ensure I was O.K. and to help me get the car back on the road. That’s just one example of many where males have been kind to me (and it wasn’t because I was young and beautiful, as I was in my 70s.) 2. I was in Monroe, LA on a work project a number of years ago and had been told to avoid the black part of town as it was dangerous. One evening, I went to the mall and managed to lose my wallet which had my motel key, driver’s license,credit cards, other ID, and money. I went back to the motel to see about getting another motel key, and while I was at the counter, a black woman and her daughter went out of their way to come return my wallet to me.

    Culture seems to be a primary determinant in how children turn out as adults. I’ve known quite a few middle eastern, oriental and hispanic families in which boys are raised far more permissively than girls. They tend to get away with more, and some of them treat their mothers badly.

    I find it terribly sad that the mother of a male child would view him as a potential misogynist when grown, perhaps instilling her negative concerns in him. But, assuming a father is present in the home, he has as much or more impact on how the boy turns out as an adult than the mother does. If the father doesn’t treat the mother or other women well, his son is likely to behave similarly as an adult.

    1. Since you mention adventures ‘on the road’, I’ve been pulled out of ditches or towed to the nearest garage by quite a few complete strangers in my time. And I’ve given lifts, jump-started or towed quite a number of strangers myself. It works both ways.


  17. Oh dear Rowena, you’ve embarrassed me. I almost hope that was ironic. (Is there an emoji for ’embarrased grin’?)

    I wasn’t claiming that as a personal attribute, just noting that probably most people like to be helpful most of the time.


    1. (That was of course a reply to Rowena).

      (Wanders off muttering uncomplimentary things about WordPress’s formatting).

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