One of the things that I find constantly amusing about covering the right is how defensive most of them are about being racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. There’s a unique kind of cowardice to it, both wanting to push the idea that some people are naturally better than others, but not having the courage to admit that’s what you’re doing. Instead, you always get hilariously inept assertions that the bigoted opinion is not bigoted because reasons.
Hat tip to Jesse Taylor for drawing my attention to this amazing post at a Christian right website called Family Share. Titled “5 ways you are unknowingly destroying your husband and killing your marriage”, the piece is typical sexist fundamentalist garbage that teaches women to flatter and tip-toe around the man in their house in a dutiful manner. But you can just tell that the editors at the site were all worried that this would be perceived as sexist. Which is 100% correct, because it is sexist. But instead of simply not publishing the sexist tripe to avoid accusations of sexism, they try to have it both ways, with a disclaimer at the top and bottom. “Here are just a few ways you might be unknowingly destroying your husband and killing your marriage (as a caveat, please understand that although this article is directed toward women, it applies to men as well)” it reads at the top, caveat bolded for extra protection against accusations of sexism. Then, at the bottom, attempt #2: “UPDATE: Men, this advice applies to you as well. Check out 5 ways you are unknowingly destroying your wife and killing your marriage.” See?! It can’t be sexist, because they say the advice is samesies!
But is it? Your intrepid blogger read both pieces, the latter titled, for pleasing symmetry, “5 ways you are unknowingly destroying your wife and killing your marriage”. Differences in these supposedly identical and totally non-sexist pieces cropped up immediately. The one telling wives how to behave has 8,659,754 views and the one telling husbands a paltry 501,187 views, suggesting that the notion that the men who read this site feel it’s beneath them to expend effort doing women’s work of actually caring about your spouse. (This problem, that men think noticing the woman who waits on them is beneath them, is acknowledged in the post, in fact.) But let’s dig into this supposedly symmetrical, identical advice to see how non-sexist it is.
1) For women: “Living outside of what you can afford”. For men: “Not providing the basics for the family”.
Right off the bat, a huge gap appears, because the first article is strictly aimed at single income families with housewives.
But the sexism doesn’t even stop there, because there are some ugly misogynist stereotypes about women being gold-digging bimbos to work through first, from the women’s piece: “Constantly complaining about not having enough to fulfill your lavish desires or racking up astronomical amounts of debt on your credit card is a poor way of saying ‘thank you’ to a faithful spouse who works hard every day to provide for the family.” There’s also mention of a “Kate Spade bag” as a signpost of the ungrateful wretch who thinks her husband is made of money, which ironically is something he’d have to be to be able to keep a housewife in this day and age. It’s not a luxury available to most men, you know.
For some reason, the one aimed at men does acknowledge that women work, but seems to suggest that they should not: “As a man, it is your responsibility to provide for your family, regardless of whether or not your wife works.” A nice reminder that Patriarchy Hurts Men Too, in this case by telling them they are failures unless they make so much money that they can treat their wife’s income like it’s pin money—or ideally, pressure her to stay at home.
Side note: Right under item #1 is a link to an article titled “Why a 50/50 relationship is a bad relationship“. Again, ostensibly offered to both sexes, but since the people who read these sites tend, by their own admission, to be women, the message that one should give and give without expecting in return is aimed at women.
2) For women: “Constant negativity”. For men: “Pessimism”.
This one is weird, because it seems the same on the surface, but already we see how women are scolded harder than men and hit with uglier stereotypes, this time of the harpy. But when you dig in, you see the differences really come out. Women are told to STFU: “You hate your hair, the messes around the house, the neighbor across the street, your dumb co-worker, the old dishwasher, and everything in between. As soon as your husband walks through the door, you launch into action and dump every negative and angry thought that’s crossed your mind throughout the day.”
The advice to men, however, doesn’t really seem to follow from the title: “Your relationship will need to rally from all kinds of challenges, failures, hurt feelings and health problems. Your wife doesn’t need someone to tell her to stop crying, she needs a shoulder to cry on.” That’s not being an optimist. That’s just listening and being there for someone. Which he won’t have to do, anyway, because she’s been told to shut up and serve with a smile, as no one wants to hear her female prattle.
In all seriousness, it is draining to live with someone who bitches about every little thing. But men are equally capable about droning on for hours about bullshit, and it’s telling that no one at this site is interested in telling them to prune it to a minimum.
3) For women: “Withholding physical affection”. For men: “Withholding physical affection”.
This seems like it’s symmetrical, but needless to say, it’s all about how women never want sex and men can’t be bothered to dirty themselves by pretending to like women for anything but sex. For the women: “It is a great blessing to be wanted and needed by a loving, romantic husband who wants to share something so beautiful and important with you — and you only. Even though you might not always be in the mood, it’s worth it to give in (when you can) and spend that time bonding.” No, I’m not making that up.
For the men: “Physical affection is more than just sex. It includes giving her hugs before you leave for work, holding her hand in the aisle at the grocery store and pulling her close to you when you’re watching a movie on the couch together. If you’re withholding these things from her, you’re withholding physical affection that she thrives on. The affection you try to show inside the bedroom will never make up for the physical affection you show her outside the bedroom.” As noted above, the assumption that men think it’s a little degrading and beneath them to show care for women is built into the article. Sure, they’re telling them to suck it up and give up the hugs once in awhile. But both articles carry with them the assumption that women are languishing about, starved for affection, and that men have to be poked and prodded to consider touching their wives outside of sexual release reasons.
4) For women: “Putting everything else first”. For men: “”Putting other things first”.
Women are told straight up that their husband should be the most important thing in their lives at all points in time: “When your children, mom, best friends, talents, or career in front of your husband, you send a clear message to him that he is unimportant. Imagine having that message sent to you every day for many years. What would that do to your self esteem?”
Probably less than what having your partner hug you only sporadically and with extreme reluctance would do to you, but hey, believing women deserve less is built into these articles.
Men are not told that their wives come before everything else: “Of the hundreds of girls you knew and dozens that you dated, your wife was the one you picked to spend the rest of your life with. She needs to know that you still pick her. Every time you check your smartphone when you’re out together or every time you come home late from work without calling you’re sending her a message that she’s not important to you.”
So ladies, if your mom is sick, your kids have to go to soccer practice, or you have a big project at work you need to stay late and finish, too bad: Hubby comes first. Needless to say, men are not expected to always put the wife first so much as to try not to forget her completely. Also, remember to feed your pets every day. Men, you can do it! (Why feminists are considered man-haters when sexists consistently assume men can’t meet the same standards as women, I have no idea.)
5) For women: “Not speaking his language”. For men: “Not speaking her language”.
More faux symmetry that falls apart when you read the text. Women are stereotyped again as needlessly difficult people:
Women love to drop hints. (I think it’s part of our DNA.) But men just don’t get them. (I think that is a part of their DNA.)
Don’t waste your time giving subtle hints that he won’t understand: Speak plainly to him. Be honest about your feelings, and don’t bottle things up until you burst. If he asks you what’s wrong, don’t respond with “nothing” and then expect him to read your mind and emotions. Be open about how you really feel.
How that comports with STFU because no one like a complainer advice, I have no idea. But it’s telling that she tries to blame this on DNA. If women drop hints and use passive aggressive behavior, that’s because they were socialized to do so. Which, in turn, suggests not that men—or people in general—adore direct women, but the opposite. Women avoid being direct because they learn, through experience, that being direct means that people get mad at you and think you are bitchy. If men really did respond warmly to direct women, women would start being more direct.That’s psychology 101: When we get good results, we do it more often.
The one for men is just more of the same assumption that men are so repulsed by having to remember they supposedly love their wives that they need constant prodding to act like it:
Women need to know they are loved and that you are grateful for her. You think you’re showing love by going to work every day and bringing home a paycheck, so most of the time you don’t do much more than that (except maybe on Valentine’s Day).
But, she needs more than that to see your love and she needs you to show her that you’re doing it all for her. So take a little extra time and do something special. Send her a couple texts during the day or bring her home some flowers from the grocery store. You might be surprised at the reaction you get.
They mean you might get laid, which is what I gather Family Share thinks all men want out of women.
You know, I often get accused of having some kind of preformed ideology and that, when I write stuff like this, I’m trying to “shove” it down people’s throats. But honestly, looking over this, I would say the exact opposite is true. Long before I really had a feminist identity, much less intellectual framework, I had a deep, emotional reaction to these kind of gender expectations. The expectation that women live and breathe for drops of attention and affection from men, while men in turn find women to be nuisances who must be tolerated for sexual gratification? I just rejected that. I knew that I was more than that, that I had more interests than man-pleasing and wanted more dignity than to be treated that way. These kind of traditional ideas about gender were just limiting and degrading. Those are the feelings that lead you to feminism, not the other way around.