I was having a conversation with one of my male friends, and he was telling me about his day. It was a pretty typical conversation for us- we usually text every night or every other night, the things we discuss ranging from typical (work, family, gym) to more elaborate (politics, religion, feminism). This conversation started typical, then took a turn for the worse, simply because my male friend did not realize that in discussing a specific thing that happened at the gym, he had crossed the line into misogyny.
I try and be more understanding of my male friends, because I know none of them (or I’d hope to believe that) are actual misogynists. Sometimes they say things that seem funny, or inoffensive, when- in fact- they actually are very offensive. Sometimes I point it out, and sometimes I let it go.
I could not let it go this time.
While describing his workout for the day, my friend referred to the thigh abductor machines as the “good girl/bad girl” machines. At first, I overlooked the comment, because I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I personally had never heard anyone use those terms in a gym to describe any machine or exercise. When prompted, he explained which machines they were- the ones where you spread your thighs open against weights, and the other when you press your thighs together.
My mouth actually fell open at these descriptions. He thought it was funny.
I did not.
To have such a disgusting view of a machine at a gym stems from a much bigger problem than just the name. Think about what those terms indicated: a “good girl” would close her legs, while the “bad girl” spread them apart. See the problem?
Why are we still valuing and labeling women by their sexual lifestyles? Why do we place such disgusting labels on women in the first place? Do we do that for men? No. We don’t. Yet somehow we think it is ok to continue to label women in this way.
I pointed out as much to my friend, and his initial reaction was laughter. He thought my response was funny. Why? Because he felt I was overreacting. He said “it’s not a big deal” and that I “take things too seriously” and “that’s just what the guys at the gym call them.” Ohhhhh, ok. My bad. Since everyone seems to call them that, I MUST be overreacting! Let me test that theory.
I asked three male friends of mine if they had ever heard of those terms before. They said they had not. And they are avid gym-goers. However, it doesn’t mean that my other friend was lying- maybe it’s a regional thing. Regardless, those words were said. And while my friend laughed, the fight for women’s equality was set back another 10 years or so.
What people don’t seem to realize about feminism is that true feminism- not white feminism- believes that women should be treated with respect, and be afforded the same opportunities and rights that men have had for, well, ever. It really gets me when men feel they have the right to tell you how to react or feel towards something. And that is exactly what my male friend was doing when he laughed and told me I was overreacting.
We need more male allies; we need male feminists. Actually, it perplexes me why most men don’t say they are a feminist- if you are human, why wouldn’t you support such a movement? But when I brought this up to my friend, he said that he couldn’t stand against these types of comments because “the other guys will laugh at him and call him a p***y.”
Seriously? That word had always triggered something in me, especially because how is it an insult to be called a woman’s private part? Come on. Seriously. Stop it.
But to all the males out there, why do you care so much if your fellow “bro” makes fun of you or calls you names? Do you think what they are doing is right? Do you AGREE with them? No? Then it’s simple- stop them from continuing this. The problem with male allies isn’t that they join in and continue this misogyny. The problem is that they stay silent- and some think that staying silent is a form of support. In a way, I’m glad you aren’t dumb enough to join in these conversations, and that you somewhat respect women.
However, that is not enough. When you hear a guy make a comment about a girl as she walks by, and you see her uncomfortable with his cat-calling, maybe you should tell him to stop. Maybe you should tell him that it isn’t ok to treat women this way. Because honestly, that is what we want to see. Not to see you stand next to him, staring at the ground as he harasses me as I walk on by. You, at that moment, are just as complicit.
Imagine if one guy in each group stood up to their friends and said stop. Imagine how many more women would feel safer walking in the street. How many more women would not feel insecure working out in the weights section at the gym. I always feel insecure doing my squats because the guys openly stare. Why though? Never seen a woman in your life? Maybe you concentrate on your reps on the rowing machine, and try to keep your back straight instead- because dude, you’re doing it all wrong.
I have a lot of guy friends. And if I cannot see any support from them in regards to feminism, then they can no longer be a part of my life. I said as much to my friend towards the end of our conversation, and he told me I was being “dramatic.” How is wanting your social circle to be filled with positive people who uplift you being dramatic? I cannot be friends with someone who laughs at my pain. Who seems my offense as an overreaction.
After a few days, my friend came back and apologized. He said that after thinking about it, he realized why those terms were offensive. He promised never to use them. He won’t stop others if they use it, but that’ll be the next step. I was just happy to know that he finally understood me. And that is all I wanted.
Someday soon, he will be a feminist. He just doesn’t know it yet.