In Defense of Men.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Mar 10, 2012
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When did it become okay for women to be sexist?

I like men.

Oh, I don’t mean just like that.

I value men. I value my friendships with men, the contrast of masculinity to femininity. And yes, I know we all have both. And yes, we’re all equal. But I don’t pretend that being of equal value means that we are the same. We are different. And vive la différence!

I’ve noticed something disturbing lately.

A male friend was telling me a story about when a female yoga teacher told him in the middle of a class that no shirts were allowed. Everyone laughed and he rolled with it, and made a joke about not wanting to make anyone feel insecure. No big deal, right?

Another friend told me about a female colleague who routinely puts him down and tells him his work is “mostly dumb shit.”  If he says nothing, she keeps tearing him down—often in front of other co-workers. If he speaks up for himself, he’s told he’s being too sensitive.

I asked another friend I consider a gentleman, a good guy, if he had ever experienced anything like this. He sort of sighed and looked uncomfortable for a minute. Then, he reminded me that our mutual friend was in the habit of calling him “dumbass” and “f*ckface” instead of his name most of the time. He said he’s thought about telling her it hurts his feelings, but didn’t want to deal with the confrontation and more ridicule.

I started asking around and realized most men I asked had some anecdote about being verbally slammed by the women they knew, and then often called “too sensitive” if they bothered to stick up for themselves.

The sharing of these anecdotes all ended the same: a shrug. A slight bite of the lip. A “this kind of sucks but I’m not sure what to do about it” expression. Maybe they don’t seem like a big deal to you. Men can take it, right?

But what if the genders were reversed?

What if a male yoga teacher told a female student to strip down to her sports bra if she wanted to stay?

What if a man routinely disparaged his female co-worker’s ideas and put her down?

What about a man calling his female friend “bitch” or “c*nt” instead of her name?

How do we feel about it then? Starts to feel like a bigger deal, doesn’t it?

I’ve also noticed an ever increasing tendency—particularly among feminists or equally empowered women–to treat men as targets, not equals. Man up. Suck it up. Idiot. Jerk. Bastard. And it goes downhill from there. When did women being empowered start to equal beating up and devaluing men?

Why did God make men? Because a vibrator won’t take out the trash.

Why can’t men get mad cow disease? Because they’re all pigs.

Why do men name their penises? Because they don’t like the idea of having a stranger make 90% of their decisions.

All of these—and these were a few of the kinder ones—were from a chain email from a woman I know considers herself a feminist. Why the hate? Why does female empowerment have to go hand in hand with emasculation?

What’s even worse than the blatant, tacky jokes is what masquerades as mindfulness. A woman writes about her sexual experimentation–she’s empowered. A man does the same—he’s a pig. If a woman posts pictures of a shirtless guy, the comments are “more, more, more!” If a man posts pictures of a woman in provocative dress, he’s likely to have a mob of angry commenters after him. If a woman speaks up about rape, we rally behind her. If a man speaks out—it’s often a joke. Women being stalked or victims of domestic abuse? We react in horror and want to help. If a man…oh that’s silly! How funny, poor guy–hahah!

Being strong should have nothing to do with cutting someone else down.

I’ve learned a few things from the men I know. Things that make me pause before I respond to them as if they were made of bricks and steel instead of flesh and blood like me.

1. Men want to be listened to and heard. In our culture, many men have this need filled exclusively by the women in their lives.

2. Men want to be valued. It doesn’t feel good when your opinions are met with a slap in the face–verbal or otherwise.

3. Men are vulnerable and insecure and our society says it’s not okay for them to be either of those things. They want friendships and relationships where it’s okay to be vulnerable.

4. Men want to be respected.

5. Men want lots of different things and can’t be pigeonholed into any bullet-pointed internet list of what men want or who they are—any more than women can.

Most women I know want the things on that list too. Men want many of the same things we women do. And they aren’t from Mars or Venus or whatever the hell that book was. And they aren’t just women with penises and more body hair. We are different. But it isn’t the difference of silk and steel. The ways that they are stronger don’t mean they can’t be broken. The ways that they are different aren’t flaws.

(Photo: Pinterest)

Men aren’t made of bricks any more than we are delicate flowers.

It’s about complementing each other. It’s about being stronger because we work together. It’s the yang to the yin. It’s the jigsaw puzzle edges where each of us are different and the same. Beyond gender, beyond sexual orientation–it’s about respecting each other and delighting in the ways we come together and move apart. Enlightenment and empowerment are not about making anyone feel like they are less.

Let’s stop tearing each other down.


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


172 Responses to “In Defense of Men.”

  1. Ben says:

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  2. karlsaliter says:

    Just posted to Elephant Spirituality on Facebook.

  3. Robert says:

    Wonderful, Kate. Thank you for this. 🙂

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Awesome, Kate.
    Very perceptive.

    Have you read "Stiffed" by Susan Faludi?
    She wrote "Backlash, an early bible of feminism, then later took a solid look at male culture.
    Her message, essentially, is that money drives the bus, and it knows no gender.
    Men no more have a handle on this thing than women, and the "man's world" is a farce.

    Great article, hope it seeds some discussion.

  5. yogasamurai says:

    Feminism is largely a white middle class women's movement, with a distinctive ideological twist. So is the American yoga movement for the most part. Generally speaking – and I'm generalizing – Black, Latin and Asian women don't "diss" their men the way White women do. They come from "we" cultures more than "me" cultures, and they know their people have been divided and disempowered enough? Of course, there are real issues of sexism in every culture – but often discussed and fought over very differently.

    I would also say that there's generally a real rise in "Hate" speech of various kinds in our culture – and whether women, including feminist women, want to admit or not, they are now very much a part of that new culture. There's also a new coarseness to our culture that those of us who are a bit older are constantly surprised by. Just part of the ongoing moral entropy of our times perhaps.

  6. yogasamurai says:

    The basic answer to your question is easy:

    Every "out" group that wants more power proclaims a "universal" ideology – that is, "our liberation from oppression will free everyone, including our oppressors" – to rally support behind its new system of domination.

    Kind of like the rump Anusarans thinking they're going to free the entire Yoga World now?

    This is human nature – our lack of "intrinsic goodness" – or perhaps our inability to access and consistently preserve that goodness, which is there.

    Evey "ism" – Marxism and feminism, no less than any other – is about power, first and foremost. And it's always one sub-class or demographic slice even within the signified group that carries the torch – to install itself on a throne of self-glory.

  7. Oh, I haven't! Good suggestion though, I loved Backlash. Thanks Karl.

  8. This. And i'll tell you where it hurts the most – sitcoms. I can't begin to tell you how sick I am of having women assume that I'm Homer Simpson.

  9. Kevin says:

    Very well put, you said what I have been struggling to put into words. I have been fortunate to have been spared some of the blatant abuse you outline in the examples, but I have seen it happen. Some women (fortunately, not all) seem to feel that to make it in a so-called "man's world" they have to behave like the men whose very behavior they decry. It is boring at best and supremely degrading at its worst. I don't appreciate being insulted by my male peers in an 'alpha-dog' environment, so I fail to understand why some women would really think its okay. It isn't. That one group (in this case, women) has traditionally and unfortunately been subjected to degrading behavior by another group (in this case, men) does not justify, excuse or validate the reversal of the degrading behavior.

    It is about power, and the pursuit of power, of dominance, is ugly no matter who is pursuing it. I'm not Ted Bundy, I'm nit Superman, I am me…and I am fortunate to have a woman in my life who thinks that is just fine!

  10. Yes!!! I agree. In fact, growing up my parents made a big deal about not wanting us to watch shows where the dad was portrayed as an idiot (ie most every American sitcom). It's awful!

  11. I agree 100% Kevin. Women don't like when men act like that, so why would we think it's okay for us to do it? It should be about humanism, not a power struggle.

  12. I don't know if I agree with your first statement (being for white middle class women) but I think that feminism looks different in different cultures/demographics. I wish we all could see it as a "we" culture.

  13. Thank you for reading it!

  14. I think there are times where it's necessary to seek to re-balance power. I'll use the analogy of labor unions. They have been a tool for necessary change at some times and in some situations. In others, they've become a hindrance. I think the same is true with feminism.

  15. dulcy says:

    give me your list of poor names that originated in being used to slam men…then give me your list of names that originated to slam women…I love men dearly but I don't tolerate racist gender games…then take a look at the percentage of violence towards women sexually verses towards men…I warn my daughters about men…men you trust sometimes will rape you…that is true…also look up domestic violence…which sex is being murdered more in America in domestic disputes…which sex is totally judged about numbers of partners…be honest…sexism needs to be called racism…because that is what it is…go to Egypt…or India…see how you are treated as a woman…I guarantee you will notice a difference…I'm proud to be an American woman…and proud of the women and men in this country who have fought hard for equal rights and equal pay…now google the percent of female governners…female presidents…female senators…female representatives…we are not represented in congress in correlation to our population…racism towards women is accepted and so inbred into our culture it is hard to recognize…there are more women in America that speak out about poor behavior of men because our country has amazing freedom of speech culturally…in many countries it is accepted not to ever speak out…but to ignore impunities against women…almost 100% of the time when a woman is raped there is victim blaming…I read recently of an 11 year old being gang raped and the authorities claimed she dressed more like a woman…so…when things chAnge for the better for women…I expect to hear women speaking out…god bless the men and women who work for women all over this world…sexism is the only acceptable racism left…and that indeed is very sad~

  16. Dulcy says:

    ps your cmments about male and female rape absolutely make no sense at all…almost all rape victims are treated are blamed…no one I know of has ever thought that the rape of a man was a joke…perhaps those that do do not know what male rape includes…it is gruesome…

  17. Dulcy says:

    I do not appreciate the assumption that people who are feminist are anti male…that is ridiculous! I've many male feminist friends….as far as I know they are not male haters…

  18. yogasamurai says:

    Be the change you believe in?

  19. oz_ says:

    "It is about power, and the pursuit of power, of dominance, is ugly no matter who is pursuing it. "

    Very nicely put, Kevin. And in fact the significance of this notion goes far beyond how women treat men – it is also at the heart of how humans treat the rest of the natural world, how government treats the citizenry, etc. Dominance hierarchies are dangerous and cause harm.

  20. Have you ever watched any show or movie where a man goes to prison? What's the first joke that always gets made at his expense? I think it does get treated as a joke. Not across the board, but too often.

    And rape is gruesome regardless of gender.

  21. I agree—I'm a feminist and have male feminist friends. Just commenting on something I see happening among *some* feminists.

  22. Shadowgirl says:

    This is not sexism. It's people being assholes to one another. Sexism — in speech — is insulting some one in a way specific to their sex. Instead of calling a guy a fuckface, you'd call him a dick, a cock, fag, fairy, a cocksucker, pussywhipped, etc.If it's a woman, then instead of calling her a fuckface, you'd call her a slut, cunt, pussy, twat,dyke, dumb blonde, whore…. ever notice there are more sex-specific insults for females than for males? No accident there.
    I would call the fact that it's become more socially acceptable to see guys as "just being dumb guys" or "clueless guys" a better example of reverse sexism. However, even that was a stereotype mostly created and promulgated by male-produced tv: "The World According to Jim," etc.
    And, feminism is of course not a white middle class woman's movement. Feminisms — plural — originated out of the abolition movement, and the second wave orginated from the civil rights and New Left movements of the 1960's..There HAS been plenty of racism and classism among feminists, and many of them are brilliantly critiqued in the 1987 book This Bridge Called My Back.

  23. ? I'm very confused by your first sentence. Do you mean slurs? I'd be happy to respond but didn't quite understand.

    I'm not advocating against feminism. I'm advocating for equality for all.

  24. Yes Oz…exactly.

  25. yogasamurai says:

    It's hard not to become part of the problem once you become mainstreamed and institutionalized. It's been called the "iron law of oligarchy." We also live in a pretty strong entitlement culture these days. Everything's taken as a right, as something there "for me" by law – and that affects a lot of people's thinking. They're in a hurry to get to …..nowhere.

    I think feminism has also become angrier in some ways because frankly, many women have gotten what they say they want – and on the soul plane, they're not necessarily happier for it, either.

    I do think in your own generalizations about men – and the validation that you seem to think that we need from women – that you may be missing another large trend – male disengagement.

    Many are going their own way – and quite happy about it. Others are just disconnecting. And the number of men – and women – who are literally "disappearing" into pornography, cable TV, and other escapes – ahem, social media (lol) — is truly staggering.

    Relationships are more balkanized by race, gender and class than ever. We have "diversity" but we don't "have" unity, just a kind of "tolerance" that can easily spill over into conflict. Happy Sunday!

  26. oz_ says:

    Dulcy, are you maintaining that it is legitimate for women to disparage, belittle and devalue men? This is the general sense I'm getting from your comment, which I'm frankly having a hard time connecting to the article above. Hopefully, I'm misreading you. To be honest, more than anything else, I just get the sense of deep rage from your comment.

    The history of the world is a history of the mistreatment – often savage – of many groups of people, certainly none more so than women. And mistreatment and oppression and tyranny continue to be prominent features of even our modern world, and not just of women. however, this comment you've written appears to wish to create a sort of 'victim pedestal' for women to stand on all alone, and this doesn't seem to me to be likely to lead to healing, but rather to becoming the wound and causing further damage to all concerned.

  27. SQR says:

    Really enjoyed this piece. The stuff you mention seems pretty obvious to me and most of my friends, but it wasn't always. When I was younger, I noticed more of the behavior you're talking about, and though it seemed like an intellectual trap, I didn't have the means to articulate that to some of my friends who were caught up in it. I think the analogy to labor unions you used in a subsequent comment is a good one. As I (and my circle of friends) aged, these things more or less worked themselves out, so I guess in addition to addressing social norms we're talking about basic emotional maturity.

  28. yogasamurai says:

    Sitcoms started as therapy for bored housewives who could get their revenge on screen, while toiling away in the home. Now we have sitcoms about bored feminists toiling away in the office and wondering what happened to the men.

  29. I agree Oz. And I think it's this unaddressed rage that lies underneath this problem. Make peace with yourself, make friends with yourself, and all your other relationships become much easier.

    One of the things I hated in some feminist/women's lit classes in college was that they chose to highlight only authors who wrote about being abused and marginalized. Yes it happens. It happens too much. But let's work together to stop violence (verbal and otherwise) on all sides.

  30. Let'sdobetter says:

    It sounds like your classes reduced the experiences of women with victimization TO their victimization. Maybe there should have been a better balance re: the empowere activism of women and men to stop violence. However, now you go into the opposite direction: post-feminist minimization of the gendered nature of even verbal violence. Your arguments are specious. Who is the "we" you write about? The examples you cite have no instances attached to them. Who is that that sees male rape as a "joke? And yes, the display of male or female bodies IS still more controversial for men to do b/c it IS still women, statistically, being used to advertise products (incl on this site), and still women, not men, who are the primary victims of more serious sex-selling, such as slavery. Yes Virginia, there is a patriarchy. Everything is context.

  31. heather says:

    LOVE THIS! I don't like bullying in general, but it's horrible when women emasculate their men! Really irks me.

  32. Let'sdobetter says:

    Then maybe, Kate, write more specifically about those behaviors from those feminists….or take it to them. This article is all over the place.

  33. guest says:

    I am surprised the poster who felt J Peters post "condescending" didn't show up yet. Because he thinks men are ok and don't need any help or support. Your post is a great example that he is wrong. I consider myself feminist and I will stand up for a man if he is treated the way you mentioned here. just like I would help a woman.

  34. Let'sdobetter says:

    …..Well, except that if we're only emphasizing the "obstructive" nature of labor unions, even as an anakogy, that's pretty stereotyping. I'm a feminist AND a union member, and it was ONLY the presence of my union rep in the room that kept me from getting fired, recently, when I had spoken up about problems in our workplace. Nothing against you, SQR….I just wish Kate had written a more sharply pointed and well-thought-out commentary. While many of these verbal abuse behaviors do have to do with emotional immaturity, many people in positions of power have very little emotional and social maturity. Also, those systems of power still favor men over women, white over non-while, rich over poor, ownerclass over worker. So let's not be too quick to label either feminism or labor unions "obstructive." Particularly in dealing with work issues, etc, we still need unions and feminisms to fight back. I truly doubt Kate has ever even been in a union or needed one. Thank the gods for mine!

  35. Thank you! Exactly—we should all stand up for each other regardless of gender.

  36. Me too Heather. Maybe it's because I am big sister to two younger brothers, maybe it's just because I appreciate my male friends. Either way—I don't like it.

  37. Actually, I was in a union as a teacher. There were times that the union was tremendously helpful, and times where it felt like more of an obstacle.

    I feel it was well thought out on my part. If you have an alternate perspective to share, write it up and send it in.

  38. timful says:

    One of the biggest challenges I feel as a man is the expectation that I will play a traditional masculine role in romantic relations. Of course, socially skillful people have no problem adopting different roles in different situations. But, this is hard if you are trying to live from the heart. One or the other must be a charade. What does this do to us?

  39. It sounds like I hit a nerve. The "we" I am writing about is generally women in Western cultures, or more specifically female elephant journal readers.

    The examples I cite do have examples attached if you click the links. Obviously, the personal anecdotes do not. If you don't believe that American society treats male rape as a joke, clearly you've never watched a television show or movie comedy where a man goes to jail. The immediate joke is about whether or not he's been raped.

    There are many feminists (myself included) who don't hate men. There are also many millions of men who don't commit violent acts, are incensed by sex-selling, exploitation, etc. and truly believe in equality. If there is still a patriarchy (which I would argue, but too long for a comment) how is bashing men the way towards change?

  40. melodie says:

    Thank you for writing this. I feel like sometimes I tear down the man in my life. Expect them to man up and so on. I want to change that. Thank you

  41. Let'sdobetter says:

    You never got that argument from me, Kate.

  42. Let'sdobetter says:

    But anyway. One, I don't see television as "society." I see it as the constructed imaginary of an extremely small sliver of the population — and, as anyone in Hollywood will attest, tv writers are still predominantly white men..Judging by that, you should take your arguments to those male writers. Two, there is no such creature as women "generally" in western cultures. You need to go back to college and take a composition class about generalizations. What hit a nerve is your unbelievably bad writing. Don't rely on links to demonstrate your points; make GOOD arguments that stand on their own feet. Three, patriarchy is political power. How many women in Congress, etc etc? Don't be ridiculous. This is silly post-feminism on your part.

  43. That is beautiful Tim. I think we get too easily caught up in stupid rom-com scripts of how we are supposed to act in relationships. Here's to being socially graceless, unsophisticated and completely genuine instead.

  44. Hmmm… not sure why you think it's all over the place. I started with specific personal examples I had seen and moved to trends I see in society at large that I find disturbing. You not agreeing with me is different than the article being all over the place.

    If you'd like to "do better" write it up and send it in!

  45. Needbettersources says:

    "What’s even worse than the blatant, tacky jokes is what masquerades as mindfulness. A woman writes about her sexual experimentation–she’s empowered. A man does the same—he’s a pig. If a woman posts pictures of a shirtless guy, the comments are “more, more, more!” If a man posts pictures of a woman in provocative dress, he’s likely to have a mob of angry commenters after him. If a woman speaks up about rape, we rally behind her. If a man speaks out—it’s often a joke. Women being stalked or victims of domestic abuse? We react in horror and want to help. If a man…oh that’s silly! How funny, poor guy–hahah!"
    All the links posted here cite EJ articles,. This is a completely insular endeavor. You're even quoting yourself? And something Waylon posted about frat boys' attitudes towards male rape? Is that what you call backing up an argument?

  46. Hey thanks! When I edited a blank space just now in my post I noticed the email address behind these comments and noticed you were one of my old pals who loved to beat up on me in the Anusara comments. So I'm all set. Agree to disagree.

  47. Let'sdobetter says:

    Huh? Big sis is watching? No, Eight people share that email address. But thanks, babygirl, we've learned a lot about you too.

  48. heykate says:

    Don't take things so personally…WOMEN! What CAN you expect!