Why You Should Be Friends With A Misogynist

17/03/2016 2:59 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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When I first realised I was friends with some misogynists I shouted a lot.

You see, when you inhabit a world where men are feminists and rape jokes are frowned upon (university tutorials, the comments section of Daily Life), it hits you hard in the ovaries when you meet someone whose attitude towards women would not be out of place in a particularly gutter-mouthed episode of Mad Men or an Eminem video clip.

Once I had finished shouting at them (not the most rational response, I'll admit), and then crying (I had stormed off by this point), and then fuming (for at least a week), I came to the realisation that being mates with some misogynists might not be a bad thing.

Of course, they're not all cat-calling and rape-joke making. They have some redeeming features, like the ability to give warm bear hugs, play the guitar and make toast. And the definition of misogyny has changed in the last few years -- we're not talking "pathological hatred towards women" anymore, but rather an "entrenched prejudice against women" -- a slightly stronger version of sexism.

But my main rationale for remaining friends with people who don't understand why it is offensive to use the phrase "sucked him off" when referring to someone pandering to another person for their own benefit (for example: "Now that he is famous, everyone is always sucking him off", as if oral sex performed on a man is some kind of degrading, submissive act with a manipulative motive) is that being friends with feminists is the only way they're going to hear about feminism.

The misogynists I know don't exist in the world of Germaine Greer, Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham or Clementine Ford. They're not sitting in university subjects called Gender and Power debating equality and unpacking feminist essays. They aren't clicking on headlines about domestic violence statistics or scrolling through opinion pieces on the pervasive nature of everyday sexism. They don't email women violent, obscene messages, or troll them on twitter.

The misogynists I know aren't grabbing girls on the arse when they walk past them in a sweaty, Kings-Cross nightclub or yelling gross slurs out of car windows.

The misogynists I know have girlfriends, wives, daughters and sisters. They read Hemingway, support drug legalisation, watch Game of Thrones and listen to Kanye.

The misogynists I know have never hit a woman or hurt a woman. They believe they would never hit a woman or hurt a woman. They'd never rape, bully or coerce. They believe in consent -- proudly so. Unless, of course, they're really drunk, or high, or stoned, or she is, in which case "no" does sometimes mean "yes" because sometimes she actually does want it, deep down. #justkidding.

The misogynists I know think it is okay to make jokes about women in the kitchen, or the bedroom, or the laundry. Their girlfriends laugh at their jokes, so they think they must be funny. They don't realise that their girlfriends, too, have been brought up in a culture where sexist jokes are 'funny'. That their girlfriends, too, have fathers and brothers who make these kinds of jokes and it's easier to laugh than to call them out.

The misogynists I know feel discriminated against because they are straight, white and male and are no longer allowed to determine what gay, non-white or female people find offensive.

The misogynists I know 'love' women. Obviously. They are friends with heaps of chicks. They 'believe' in equality. The problem is, they misunderstand what it is.

Sure, we need women who will stand up on a stage/podium/milk crate and yell about violence against women. We need women who will call out vile, sexist abuse at the risk of further threats. We need women who will write opinion pieces and go on television to promote equality. We need women who remind us about the gender pay gap (18 percent), rates of domestic violence (one woman per week at the hands of her partner), and the pervasive nature of workplace discrimination.

But we need to recognise, too, that many of those misogynists switch off when they hear us yelling. It is as if their ear holes suddenly close over when they hear the word 'feminism', the same way mine do when my partner tries to explain quantitative easing.

For them, feminism is too strong. Too man-hating. Too scary. Too hairy.

For many of us, it seems like this topic has been debated to death. But they haven't been paying attention.

So as well as shouting equality from the rooftops, how about we also sit down with our misogynist mates, pour a glass of wine (you may have to fetch) and have a good old chat about equality.

Listen to their perspective. Process it gently. Calmly explain your own. Bring statistics.

Because if we eloquently explain that feminism simply means equality between men and women enough times, it is eventually going to stick. And that is something to shout from the rooftops about.

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