Response to Single Dad Laughing

A friend on Facebook recently linked to a post called “Worthless women and the men who make them” from a blog called “Single Dad Laughing” in which a (straight) guy laments about how the men of the world have destroyed women with this notion of the perfect woman. So many women are praising him for being amazing and wonderful and sensitive, and it’s just not sitting quite right with me. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s nice that he’s realizing that when women feel insecure about their looks, it’s not just on them individually. I just . . . don’t really like the post.

Perhaps it’s the blinding heternormativity.

If men never stopped. If men never looked. Do you honestly think women would have this problem? Think about that. Would these magazines even exist if men weren’t interested in the fakeness splashed across their covers? Women would not care. They would feel no need to live up to a digital standard of beauty because there would be no reason to do so. Not if it was something we didn’t want.

He also argues that women should be clothing that is less revealing: “maybe if women gave everybody a little less to compare, this whole thing would be a little easier for us all, no matter what our chromosomal make-up.”

And then: “None of this is to say that men should or can stop appreciating beauty. That would be unnatural. That would be impossible. It is not to say that women shouldn’t make themselves as attractive as they can be.” I think he’s missing the point. (By the way, the word “unnatural” just bothers me. Maybe it’s the philosophy major in me.) And why would saying that men “should or can stop appreciating  beauty” be so “unnatural” and “impossible”? I mean, I think appreciating beauty is a grand thing (beauty in rivers, rainbows, trees, puppies, people). But it seems that he’s just talking about men appreciating beautiful women, and that’s rather heteronormative.

Why should attractiveness be so emphasized in society? That, perhaps, is the real issue (not that the standards are unrealistic, although that’s also definitely a problem) — that one’s attractiveness is tried to one’s worth. And why should women need to “make themselves as attractive as they can be”? Seriously? I’m not against people being, or wanting to be, attractive by some standard, but I definitely disagree with the idea that women should make themselves as attractive as possible.

He’s just so . . . overdone. “I ask you seriously, men. Do we not realize what we have done to the women of this world? Do we not recognize the atrocities we have committed? We have destroyed the very beauty that women are.” “Can we not discover the very pulchritude that each womanly imperfection carries?”

Another problem is that he makes it all about the individual man — society as a whole has no part in making women feel lesser. It completely absolves social institutions from having any part in the subjugation of women, and that’s just b.s. Sexism is systemic; it doesn’t exist simply because individual people decide that women are different/less than men.

Even though he’s trying to stand up for women (or something like that), I feel that he’s actually disempowering women. He writes, “A woman can tell herself that those images [of the ideal, airbrushed woman] are fake until the sun goes down, but at the end of the day, her self-talk will barely matter. Not when men think that they’re real.” Great, so, really, women can’t feel good about themselves unless men think they should.

And lastly, a reason why I personally just feel incredibly disconnected from his post — I don’t think he’s talking to me. Like, I’m really pretty sure that I’m not one of the guys to whom he’s addressing the post. But I’m also just as certainly not one of the saintly women who bases her self-worth on whether men thinks she’s sexy. It’s so incredibly women vs. men. He raises women up on some kind of pedestal, and it’s . . . not actually as positive as it might seem:

Can we not express our excitement over the things that day in, and day out, they so selflessly accomplish? Can we not keep from questioning whether a woman could have done more? Can we not see that oftentimes, women do much more than you or I could ever, or would even want to do? I can’t speak for you, but as I ponder on the women in my life, a truly lazy or lacking woman has been rare indeed. Men, on the other hand… we have some things to work on.

Actually, I just read an article that would probably call that “benevolent sexism.” The whole post just pits men against women: he draws a very, very clear line between men and women as though they were deeply, intrinsically different — two very clearly defined categories that do not overlap.

He is obviously well-intentioned. There are many, many women who think he is just the most wonderful man ever. I’m not actually trying to criticize his blog post so much as I’m in favor of a more nuanced, more inclusive view of society, sexism, and gendered relations. This blog post is almost intended as more of a reaction to the adulation his post has received than as a reaction to him specifically.

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4 responses to “Response to Single Dad Laughing

  1. Have you considered writing to him? It’s possible he hasn’t considered the kinds of things you talk about here. I know, for example, that prior to attending BMC, I wouldn’t have either–I hadn’t yet been educated about concepts like ‘benevolent sexism’ and ‘systematic sexism/oppression’, etc. and I think an understanding of those things in larger society is still very much lacking. It might be an interesting dialogue to start, and you’re just the sort of eloquent, genial person a potentially complicated discussion like that warrants!

  2. My base instinct is that this guy needs a really, really good shaking by a real live woman. I feel like he’s apologizing for a thing that isn’t necessarily happening; even as a queer woman not terribly interested in male-gendered people, individual men very rarely make me feel like I am not the excellent and handsome lady that I am. (Usually the opposite–my best guy friend sometimes stops and says, with no agenda, Hey, Bones, you look really nice today.) It’s instead the societal system that tells all of us, men and women, that there are certain ways we should act towards and with each other, because after all we are terribly, terribly different.

    –it’s not necessarily the post, yes? It’s the mindset that leads to it.

    …hi, my name is Bones, I found this because A, I was looking at posts tagged ‘rambles’, and B, I also like to squeal about gender and heteronormativity.

  3. I think Jill makes a good point that he hasn’t considered the many things you discuss here. I’m glad you acknowledge that you think he seems to be trying, because I also think he is. While he does have a very heteronormative perspective in his post (and I apologize if I use gender terms wrong, but I am also learning about these things), I think that even realizing that women have worth and are human and allowed to make mistakes is a big first step for him. Hopefully in time he will come to realize the many things that people are (or that people can be).

    That aside, I didn’t have a huge problem with his post until he got to the part about women wearing less revealing clothing. Let me first say that his whole attitude that women are beautiful is still very focused. I am glad that he thinks women are beautiful, but its very heavily focused on women’s appearance. While he does mention other things, he focuses so heavily on their appearance instead of appreciating women’s intelligence and strength more. He still does not have a complete picture of what makes a woman (or a person, for that matter, but leaving it within the confines of his heteronormative perspective). A woman may be beautiful but it’s still largely focused on her body – the “womanly imperfection[s].” Just to pick an example that always annoys me – children – he asks men to “find sexiness in a woman’s breasts that have selflessly given nourishment to their young.” Women are still babymakers and caretakers. Beautiful though they may be, he cannot see them in a different role. Why does he not suggest that men make sure to take on some of those child rearing roles so that women can have time to explore and develop other sides of themselves? Isn’t that a more productive way to shift the focus away from their bodies and onto other parts of themselves? To bring this full circle, perhaps some women do need to wear different clothing that flatters them more. But shouldn’t his point be that women should alter their clothing not to help these weak willed men avert their gaze and stop thinking about sex, but to tell women to have more respect for themselves. I suppose I see his point, but women do it because they know they will get attention, and until men just suck it up and don’t look, women will keep doing it. If you take this mindset of looser, less revealing clothing to an exteme, you arrive at burqas and face veils, which we as Americans have certainly decried in recent years. Perhaps the author of the post intends a two way street on this point, but that is not necessarily clear.

    Next, you bring up the point about attractiveness. My first reaction that attraction cannot exist in isolation (feel free to correct me here) – something/one is attractive TO someone. When he allows women to be as attractive as they can be, does he not create an impossible standard? How can we as attractive as we can be when for the heterosexual population, our goal is to be attractive to the opposite sex. I don’t want to open up a debate on Darwinian topics here, but attractiveness in general is probably tied to sexual attractiveness to some extent (and perhaps heterosexual reproductivity, but that’s another debate I won’t open here). Even you say appreciating beauty is a grand thing, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps you can change what the beholder values somehow so that he values wrinkles and saggy breasts, but I feel that it is drive by soft factors – perhaps a long marriage, strong connection, even children, not by merely asking men to view all women differently. I don’t necessarily have a problem with wanting to be attractive or beautiful, but my view is always that we should be the best we can be, inside, outside, sideways, however you can be. We should develop all parts of ourselves to the fullest and have all parts of ourselves reflect the amazingness that each one of us has.

    I think I agree with your other points without having much to add, at least right now. But in conclusion, he seems to see this view men have of women as very low, and he wants to raise them up high (the pedestal idea), but aren’t women really just people. We have our successes and our failures, our virtues and flaws, our happy and sad moments, just as every man does. Why can we not appreciate people who are not like us for who they are? Perhaps we need to realize how very much like us they are before we can really value their differences.

  4. I agree with Jill. I’ve also seen some of his other posts and, while the intentions I think were good, sometimes no matter how hard we try, we don’t see other perspectives until they are shown to us.

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