How to Not Be a Misogynist

How to Not Be a Misogynist May 15, 2017

Men at Work
Shoveling: What Men Are Good At

Guys. Here’s my quick ‘Don’t Misogyny’ list.

If you have had any interest during the past decade in understanding how you can make your immediate environment safer and in making yourself a less arrogant, less hostile, less misogynist brute, the following will seem elementary.

But actual-factual incidents in My Mormon Church today demonstrate that too many of us still have too little interest in becoming less arrogant, misogynist brutes. So, here are the elementary ‘don’t’s for your information:

  1. When a woman makes a perfectly legitimate point during a group discussion, don’t trip over each other to assure her that she just doesn’t get it. This is called ‘mansplaining’. Rest assured that these days mansplaining demonstrates more clearly than a fart that you do not know how to engage in civil discourse.
  2. After the discussion is over and people are moving about on their own, don’t confront the woman to whom you have mansplained everything by stepping into her path and grabbing her arm.
  3. If she pulls her arm away and tells you not to touch her arm, don’t continue to touch her arm.
  4. If she points out that you have continued to touch her arm against her expressly-stated wishes, and if she tells you that this repeated refusal to acknowledge her right not to be touched by you is patronizing, don’t tell her that this repeated touching is not really patronizing, but only a weakness in her interpretation of the situation. Really: very don’t do this. This is really just straight-up clodhopper behavior.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t step across the line that marks the natural boundary of her personal space. You do not have a right to this space, no matter what. I have it on good authority that putting your face too close to her face will not be less threatening than taking a step back.
  6. If you have backed her up against a wall so that she cannot take a step back, don’t not don’t do that, immediately.
  7. Don’t tell her that you know what she’s going to say next because you’ve read her husband’s blogs. This is a super-duper don’t. You do not have any idea what she’s going to say, and claiming that you do—for whatever reason—claims authority over her very thoughts. If you have already pulled her arm, backed her against a wall, and invaded her personal space, also insinuating that you have invaded her mind is breathtakingly hostile. Like, restraining-order hostile.
  8. Don’t bellow. Volume is not a rhetorical strategy. It’s a method of intimidation.

I do hope that you will all take note of these very simple ways not to act like an entitled thug.

I would also point out an important, if ancillary, issue. The actual-factual incident to which this list alludes involved a person whom the LDS church has ordained to a position of ministerial authority.

From time to time, people ask me exactly what my problem is. No doubt, I have too many problems to enumerate. But one relevant problem I have is the assumption that I have a problem.

In a typical workplace in these United States, this actual-factual incident would be grounds for a very solemn lecture from HR, if not disciplinary action. But neo-orthodox LDS Mormons will not only shrug off this gross misconduct, will not only blame the victim for misinterpreting or exaggerating or simply lying, but will cast the victim’s challenge to ordained authority as sinful. That is a problem.

A problem is the neo-orthodox LDS-Mormon dogma that obedience to authority obviates all other ethical concerns. The tolerance that this dogma demands that we extend to malfeasance by church management—that is a problem. The inclination to stigmatize those who won’t tolerate such wrongdoing—that is also a problem. A problem is that neo-orthodox LDS-Mormon leaders too often presume that they own everyone’s religion—that they are free to act according to their own inclinations without always-ongoing effort to identify their own blindness, nor to deepen their understanding of people, cultures, histories, science, art, nor to deepen their understanding of even the very religious tradition that empowers them, nor to search out ways by which to make their religious tradition more joyful for more people. A problem is that too many neo-orthodox LDS-Mormon leaders insist that their own ignorance marks the boundary beyond which no one else may go. When that ignorance is particularly profound, and when that insistence is particularly coercive, an entire congregation can be damned.

A problem is that neo-orthodox LDS-Mormonism does not condemn misogynist aggression, but clings desperately to a social ethos that was outdated in the 1950’s, swings its wagons around to defend leaders’ baldly improper and abusive conduct, and vilifies perfectly faithful believers who simply must live the ethics of their understanding.

Neo-orthodox LDS-Mormons like to say things like, “If you don’t believe (as we think you should), you can leave the church.” Those of us who can’t abide the neanderthal mores of a dead generation belong right where we are. The LDS church is crying out for principles. Pushing people who make you uncomfortable is perfectly hateful and cowardly, and I wouldn’t seriously tell anyone to get out. But, perhaps the folks who cannot bear principles, but who, instead, measure goodness with an antique obedience stick, would feel more comfortable, more safe, somewhere else.


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