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How To Pick Up Chicks: Try Talking to Them! And, Not Being a Douche

This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to a party, and speaking therein with someone who reads, and apparently does not hate, my blog. You will never guess what happened next: it turned out he was a dude!
Artist’s representation

Yes, friends, a dude. A dude who specifically wished to speak about this post, which is about dudes who excuse themselves for not getting involved in changing sexism, because they are dudes! This was a learning experience for me: a sign, if you will, that I need to do more outreach to the dude community.  

I would argue (and am arguing, right now, in fact) that dudes can both learn about feminism and affect feminist change. Radical, I know! I believe I am the first person who has ever thought this incredibly revolutionary thing; please feel free to credit me in all your many dissertations. Also, here is another thing dudes can do: fuck up big time. 
So, inspired by President Barack H. Obama, I am forming the Tiger Beatdown Council on Men and Guys. In my very helpful pieces, tailored for those of the manlier gender, you will learn about common fuck-ups, and how to avoid them. 
TODAY’S CONCEPT: SPACE

The final frontier! These are the voyages of you not being a total dick, for the space of which I speak is specifically conversational. One of the things that comes with privilege is the ability to take up space within conversations: to center them on yourself, to express yourself within them safely, to position yourself as an expert or judge of conversational merit, to define “appropriate” expression, and to decide what does and does not matter (or, who does and does not matter) to the discussion. Here is an interesting thing about taking up space with your privilege: it tends to push other people out of the discussion! Also, makes you an ass! 

As you may be aware, I myself have privilege, of the white-straight-suburban-middle-class variety, and therefore can unfairly Take Up Space depending on the conversations I find myself in. Having fucked up enough (and heard enough about it) to have learned a bit about it, I will now share with you three common dick moves related to Space.  

#1: STOP! A MAN HAS BEEN OFFENDED!

This is what happens when somebody challenges your privilege, and you decide that they are mean, and then you require everyone to stop the conversation they are having and instead have a conversation about how your feelings have been hurt. (OR, how they’ve made you mad: this is maybe more common for dudes, since you all are not really allowed to admit that you have feelings other than “anger” and “horny.” Poor victims of the patriarchy. I’ve had over five feelings in the last half-hour alone.) As I have mentioned, I myself am privileged, and have even had this reaction in the past – when somebody says something about straightness, or whiteness, or middle-classness, I get the urge to mount a defense of my bullshit, which goes along the lines of “but I’m trying, and why would you say I am doing this on purpose, and anyway my privilege doesn’t really benefit me to the extent that you say it does, and you are lumping me in with hateful people, and also, wahhhhhh.” I have learned a lot from others about why it is obnoxious! Renee at Womanist Musings writes about it, and you should read that, because she is very, very good. 

Here is the short version of what I have learned: conversations about the hurtfulness of privilege are not always entirely and exclusively about you. Unless the conversation begins with, “hey, Karl, we need to talk about why you are single-handedly responsible for the suffering of all women, everywhere,” that is probably not what it is about! Making the conversation all about you, and using your privilege to Take Up Space therein, however, means that if you were not the assily privileged person folks were discussing before you did that, you definitely will be thereafter. 
SOLUTION: When I am in a situation like the one described above, I like to practice a special, secret tactic, known as Shutting the Fuck Up. It is like yoga, or meditation, except that it consists entirely of not talking and listening to other people until you understand what they have to say, which is usually on point, or else you wouldn’t be defensive. Try it! 

#2: WHY CAN’T I TELL A JOKE, DARN IT?

This is the flip-side to the Stop Everything tactic, wherein you say something that is actually offensive to a less privileged person and then insist that they have no right to object to what you said. This is typically because you are “joking,” and/or they need to “lighten up,” and/or they are attempting “censorship” or “being too P.C.” or (a dude once actually said this to me) “accusing you of Thought Crime.” As folks my age all know, from watching TV in the ’90s, there is nothing worse than being too P.C.

Except, as it turns out, being a fucking douchebag! Also, using your privilege to once again center your own voice and insist that it be heard, while defining what is “acceptable” and “unacceptable” within the conversation to align magically with what does and does not make you comfortable! Those are both worse. As we have seen, privileged people get to derail entire conversations when their feelings are hurt; yet, in a whimsical little twist, when they hurt someone else’s feelings they reserve the right to insist that feelings are inappropriate, irrelevant, or wrong. This is not about your “freedom of speech,” it’s about the fact that your speech is privileged, and that you have more freedom than anyone else does to speak up, and to make people uncomfortable with no repercussions while never leaving your own comfort zone. See also: Rape Is Hilarious, an ongoing series by the incomparable Melissa McEwan.  

SOLUTION: Here are two tactics you can use to avoid this form of assiness. The first is our good friend Shutting the Fuck Up. Listen to the people around you until you lose the urge to be defensive; learn from them, because they are actually doing you a favor. Secondly, after you have Shut the Fuck Up for a while, you might want to try a little thing called “apologizing.” Ask your folks about this, as they should have taught you how to do it in kindergarten.

#3: RUN ALONG, THIS IS MAN TALK

Of course, in order for either of the above to happen, you would actually have to be talking to women in the first place. This, I have observed, is a problem for dudes! In many – even, perhaps, most? – of the mixed-gender interactions I have taken part in, there occurs a moment in which the dudes retreat to a special land wherein they speak only to each other, sometimes without even leaving the room, leaving the ladies of the crowd to stare blankly at each other and wonder if we should construct some sort of crude menstrual hut. This is not to say that I, a lady, don’t enjoy talking to ladies! Nor do I fail to understand why dudes enjoy talking to other dudes! However, when gender segregation occurs within a conversation (a) only when dudes wish to discuss something Serious, such as Art or Politics or other spheres from which women have historically been excluded, and (b) the dudes rebuff, ignore, seek to invalidate, or somehow, mystically, actually fail to hear the women who attempt to join the conversation, it leaves the sphere of Dudes Having Dude Time, Isn’t It Cute, and enters the sphere of Dudes Being Sexist, What the Fuck. 
I have observed that this can even happen in one-on-one conversations with dudes! I have no idea how, or why, but it does: a gentleman will suddenly succumb to the illusion that he has been invited onto a podium to give a special lecture on Why He Thinks What He Thinks, Which You Should Think Also, and will quite blithely cut off or talk over the woman who tries to address his points due to her unfortunate belief that she is taking part in a conversation which goes both ways. If the woman in question should actually penetrate the wall of talk, and make points – especially, the sweet Lord forbid it, points that challenge the dude’s argument in any way – then she, my friend, is in for some bad times of epic proportions. Note, to the former boyfriend who curled up in a fetal ball and refused to speak for a good half-hour when I challenged his thoughts on the electoral college: I don’t miss you, dude. In fact, I tell people that I lost my virginity to the dude who came after you. If I met you on the street, I would pretend not to know you. That’s how little I want my life to be affected by the fact that you exist. 
I mean: you know why this is a problem, don’t you, dudes? You know, somewhere, deep in your manly hearts, that unless the topic you are discussing is the specific technique or undergarment or brand of lotion you use to avoid ball chafing, there is literally no good reason why you should forbid women to participate in the discussion. You know, deep down, that expecting a woman’s participation in a one-on-one discussion to consist only of “ohhhh” and “ahhhhh” and “tell me, how did you come to be the smartest man alive, and also irresistible to women?” is some fucked-up Betty-Draper medieval-tymes bullshit. So why are you doing it? You know, still? 
SOLUTION: The solution to this is actually not Shutting the Fuck Up! It is far more complicated. The reason women try to talk to you in the first place is because they might be interested in what you are saying, and might therefore want to participate in the discussion. In fact, try to assume that is the case! You can also assume that women have been exposed to the phenomenon of Man Talk often enough that they might feel insecure or weird trying to talk to you freely, openly, and passionately. They are probably expecting you to treat them like they are kind of dumb, honestly. So the solution for this, when you notice your conversation is excluding women, is to seek out the viewpoints of the women around you. Try asking them things! Things like, “what do you think?” Or, “I know you have an interest/some thoughts concerning/a Ph.D. in this subject: I would be interested to hear your thoughts.” Or, “your facial expression and body language indicate an interest in, and perhaps even an opinion on, the subject matter of our conversation: would you care to share it with us now, especially given that we have promised not to act like jackasses?” Then, you actually listen to them, and respond to what they have said, rather than just continuing along with your original thought as if they had never spoken in the first place. It is crazy, right? You talk to women… as if they matter! Over time, they will become more comfortable, and you will be having conversations with them, almost as if they are your friends or something! Yes, that’s right: friends, who are girls. It is a radical concept. But that’s what this is all about. 

4 Comments

  1. rt wrote:

    this is pure awesome

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    i am trying to find a way to make some of the dudes in my life see this without, say, posting it on their Facebook walls…most of them have not mastered the art of Shutting the Fuck Up about their dudely hurt feelings…

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  3. Sady wrote:

    Haha, do it! Facebook is a tool for social change!

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
  4. antiplath wrote:

    this is soooo going on my Facebook page.

    Friday, March 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink