Seven Hundred and Thirty-Two “Men” to Stay the F*** Away From

I had big plans for today (Wednesday). Really Big Plans, in fact. I still do have those plans, and I worked a little bit on them today, and will probably work a little bit more on them tonight. I’m excited about these plans, and hope they become a Thing That Happens, and that I can share with you soon.

But it turns out that tonight (Wednesday night) is not a night for Big Plans. Today (Wednesday) was a day of untimely deaths; of way too much hate, generally; of bizarrely crappy deniapologies; of incredibly blasé and casual celebrity racism; and of a bit of personal stress and discouragement (nothing major, but overall: oy, today). Tonight, then, is a night for family, and beer, and baseball, and possibly video games. There will be better days for Big Plans, and probably soon.

Instead, I want to talk for just a second about this. If you missed it, on Wednesday morning the internet very suddenly became aware of a Kickstarter project called “Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women,” through which a mouth-breathing and probably badly deluded little lump of diseased chipmunk feces named Ken Hoinsky sought $2,000 to finance his book doling out advice regarding how to successfully get women in bed. He ended up raising over $16,000.

It sounds innocent enough, if incredibly dumb; these “pick-up artists” lurk in creepy dark little places everywhere, and while stupid and probably not strictly harmless, they aren’t exactly Public Enemy No. 1. This is a lot worse than that, though. Hoinsky wisely wiped the existing segments of his book from the internet, but a wiser blogger/comedian named Casey Malone (who appears to also deserve credit for calling this to everyone’s attention in the first place) was able to archive some of his words. There are too many atrocious bits for me to pick big chunks to share here, but the gist of the worst bits were: first, always be “escalating,” making more and more intrusive physical contact with the woman you’re creeping on, and don’t stop until she shouts “NO” or pushes you away (and even then, maybe just take a break and try again later).

A bit later (all emphasis Hoinsky’s): “Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”

Later still: “Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.”

That’s sexual assault. All of it. It’s sick, and it’s quite reasonably very illegal. It’s a step-by-step manual for dehumanizing and sexually assaulting women, and it leads you right up to the doorstep of rape. It plainly violates Kickstarter’s guidelines, which bar offensive content (specifically listing hate speech, which I’d argue this is, as an example). Kickstarter must have received thousands of “reports” through its own website and thousands of tweets bringing this atrocity to its attention.

Kickstarter did nothing.

As I write this, Kickstarter’s twitter account hasn’t tweeted in more than 24 hours, and the company has allegedly directly refused comment to at least one media outlet. No action, nothing to justify its inaction. (Later update: they did eventually issue a kind of milquetoast statement. Malone has it, and a bit on why it was the wrong call, here.) It’s a disgrace all around. I was happy to participate in one Kickstarter project (both as a writer and a “backer”) a while ago, and this probably won’t keep me from using it again, but it’s terribly disappointing.

Think about this, though: there are 732 people (almost all men, of course) who backed this project. Now, I don’t actually believe Hoinsky has ever followed his own advice in any meaningful way — both (a) because the people who espouse this sort of nonsense tend overwhelmingly to be sniveling inarticulate lying dullards who aren’t actually capable of talking to or making eye contact with a woman and (b) because I have enough faith in humankind to think that these tactics would lead to arrest and incarceration at least as often as they’d “work” — but I could be wrong. Regardless, though, there are now seven hundred and thirty-two* cripplingly self-conscious, dim-witted little boys (of all ages) out there in the world who will be receiving Hoinsky’s book and reading his mental diarrhea.

Some of them are bound to try his tactics. I still don’t think they’ll “work,” by and large, but I wouldn’t want to be any of the women at whose expense they fail, either.

The thing is: the backers are listed right here, and though they’re not required to, the vast majority appear to provide their real names (first and last), their location, or both.

Kickstarter backers

I think if I were a woman who is likely to go out…anywhere, ever, I’d look through that list for guys near my area. If I found one, I’d find out as much as I could about him, through Facebook, Twitter, Google, whatever — and let’s face it, if he’s leaving his whole name on a Kickstarter for what is basically a criminal instruction manual, there’s likely to be a lot of info on him out there. And then I think I’d make sure all my friends knew everything about him that I now knew.

(Just for instance: one of them is Frank Galatis, who lives in Chisago City, Minnesota, not at all far from me. This is his Facebook page. This is his LinkedIn page, which identifies him as an owner of Fallout Shelter Arcade, a video gaming center for Battletech:Firestorm and Red Planet games (Facebook). If I were that kind of gamer, male or female, I’d probably avoid that place on account of one of the owners being like super creepy.)

These are 732 guys who may or may not themselves be the same sorts of loathsome puerile woman-hating fuckwits that Hoinsky is; they could also just be insecure, desperately lonely and shockingly gullible boys. But either way, they’re going to be unleashed on the world with this nonsense in their heads, and in that case, is the second possibility really that much better than the first?

* Roughly. A few of the backers identify themselves as women, weirdly enough, and not all of them actually pledged enough to get a copy of the book.

[Hey, there’s a follow-up now: In Which Kickstarter Rules the (Corporate) World]

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Tattoos, and Misogyny, and Dumb Kids (again)

I didn’t think I’d write here this week, for several reasons. But there’s a certain kind of garbage that crops up on the internet now and then that’s great at pulling me out of my little mindless stupor.

I don’t have any tattoos, and neither does my wife, and I can’t say there’s any sort of void in my life there. List off the usual reasons for not being interested, and I probably have all of them. I hate pain, of all types (I’m a real weenie about it). There’s not much that I’m so passionate about now that I’d want to display it 24/7 on my body, let alone stuff that I’m confident I’d feel just as proud of 50 years from now. It’s just not the kind of thing that I’d spend real money on, somehow. And so on.

I kinda dig them, though, on others. I had a woman who cut my hair a few years ago who I hope doesn’t read this (that’d be weird), but she was, and presumably still is, vibrant and spunky and friendly and frankly adorable and did all kinds of awesome and creative things with her time when she wasn’t cutting hair, and she had both arms and her back absolutely covered in highly colorful, completely absorbing art. Not my thing personally, never my thing, but they were her, totally, and I really admired them. It gave me a new appreciation for the whole idea, really; if you’re passionate about something, and that’s what works for you — for whatever that means — I think it can be a pretty beautiful thing.

What I guess I’m trying to say with all this is that OH HOLY HELL PEOPLE ARE AWFUL, as evidence of which I offer the following:

Tattoos and Other Easy Ways to Ruin Your Body” [EDIT: I seem to have a knack for this. He’s deleted the post and replaced it with an apology that actually seems reasonably sincere. EDIT AGAIN: Now the whole blog is private. But it seemed sincere!]

You may have gathered from the title alone that this was written by a man, and a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist, one who claims the right to speak to all women and on behalf of all men based on his own extremely ill-formed and unsupportable opinions, maybe even one who’s exceptionally young and just head-splittingly naive.

And you’d be right about those things. But you still wouldn’t really have a firm grasp on exactly how dumb and offensive this is.

So here’s a taste:

Women, let me tell you something that your friends and many guys will not. Your tattoos are ugly. We do not like them. We respect you less for them. We think you’re a pawn without a sense of solidarity in a world that pressures you to conform.

Note to all male bloggers and writers, the younger and less experienced the better: always start everything you write with “Women, let me tell you something.” They love that!

Also: all men, everywhere? Even me, even with what I just said above about kind of loving them sometimes?

Yep!

Even if we’re not conscious of this belief, we hold it. Men who gush about the sexiness of girls with tattoos do this because they are culturally trained to do so.

Culturally trained. Culturally trained! You either agree with the opinion that this author has formed across what must so far have been just a depressingly sheltered 23 years — an opinion which is in large part about aesthetics, the most subjective thing in the world — or you’re a pawn, a victim of the great cultural indoctrination.

There’s a ton of ignorance in this, but I love the idea that “culture” is something that exists separate and apart from people, or from men. Like there’s a thing that all of the 49% hates, but we put up with it, and some of us convince ourselves that we like it, because this headless monster The Culture instructs us that we must! Cruel mistress, The Culture.

So we’ve been informed that all men hate women’s tattoos and that the men who don’t hate them are just too stupid to realize they hate them. We now get the parade of horribles, the reasons why a woman getting a tattoo is the worst thing. Might as well:

1. Because it’s where another man left his mark on you.

This is exactly what it sounds like: her tattooist was probably a man, and letting him put a thing on her (that she’s asked him and will pay him to put on her) is “lending him a level of familiarity over [her].” And I can’t decide how refreshing/terrifying it is that he actually recognizes the thing he’s doing here:

Does this fall under the category of what the mainstream media calls “jealous men calling normal things cheating?” Yes. Does that make us wrong? No. A man has marked you and you will always carry his handiwork.

asdfadsfkj.

Forget for a moment that the whole idea of a man “leaving his mark” on a woman, like cattle, is repulsive, and pretend that this kind of pathetic sniveling emasculating fear and jealousy is ever even arguably okay. A guy she doesn’t know (if it’s a guy; she’s apparently in the clear on this point if she finds a female tattooist) carried out a job that she asked him to do, maybe even just transferring something she designed herself on paper, because it’s important to her, and she paid him for the service. If this is the kind of thing that makes you jealous akin to the way one might react to a cheating spouse (worse, since this apparently applies to all women who may ever be in a relationship with a man, whether they’re single when they get the tattoo or not), please just don’t bother with human contact of any kind, ever, for the rest of your days. It’s not going to go well for you.

2. Because tattoos were primarily a symbol of prostitutes.

Well, okay. He cites to an Amazon page selling a book containing a highly unscientific 1933 “study” that’s apparently available nowadays as kitsch, like those little yellow “How to Make Love” pamphlets from the 1940s. But even if it’s true, it’s a good bet — and I’m not going to look this up — that earrings and other piercings and many modern hairstyles and clothes were once a symbol of prostitutes, too. Anyone who sees a tattoo in 2013 and thinks “WHORE!!!” (and he’s very clear that he’s talking about all tattoos here: butterfly on the ankle, the whole bit) might just possibly have some issues that don’t really have much of anything to do with body art.

3. Because your desire to participate in the counter-culture betrays a rebellious heart.

That’s a sentence, I guess, barely, but it doesn’t appear to mean anything. The point is apparently that the purpose of all tattoos is rebellion against something (patently ridiculous), but that they’re so commonplace that getting one makes you a “sheep” — even that it’s not getting one that really makes you a rebel, because everybody’s doing it!

Now, assuming they were that commonplace (and he later moronically cites a study that supports none of his points and in which about 13.5% of female participants had a tattoo — and this is outside my scope, but he apparently hasn’t had time in his 23 years to learn about the whole correlation-does-not-imply-causation deal), the unspoken assumption that “getting a tattoo” itself is the expression, rather than what that tattoo displays or means to the person, might be the single most braindead mistake in this whole braindead mistake of a post.

4. Guys and tattoos

Well, this isn’t a reason anymore, he just wants to really carefully spell out what he’s saying here, in case you missed it: that he hates women, essentially. That men can have tattoos (though he doesn’t like it), because, in essence, they’re not subject to being owned and dominated by the other sex. (In his actual words: “Like sleeping around, the detrimental effects of a guy doing this are much less severe. It’s not fair, but neither is child leukemia or Cystic Fibrosis.”)

The conclusion might be my favorite part: “We will never respect you for having [a tattoo]. You will lower your social value by having one and limit your choice of potential suitors.” Hi-larious. The next study I’d like to see is a comparison of the “potential suitors” of the average tattooed young woman to the “potential suitors” of one karamozov1989. Really. I’d buy a ticket, if they could sell tickets to a study somehow.

One of my first posts here reflected on some incredibly dumb things that had been written by a college senior for his student newspaper, and wondered if it wasn’t a really bad idea to make the half-formed opinions of some poor college kid whose whole outlook will probably change nine times in the next five years freely available to anyone who wants to read or mock them on the internet. The author here is 23 — out of college, presumably, but not substantially different from the roughly-22-year-old there. It takes some of them a while to figure out (and some never do) that their set of ideals and beliefs, no matter how fervently held, just can’t be applied to and forced on everyone generally, or to figure out that they haven’t actually learned everything they need to know yet, and that some of those ideals or parts of them might ultimately prove to be among the stupidest things it’s possible for any person to think.

Ultimately, though? Shit this stupid is out there, and sometimes when you’re reminded of that, you have to take it apart. It’s like intensive therapy for the world’s general awfulness. And dammit, it feels good.

Why Catcalls Feel Threatening

I saw a long, superb rant by my internet friend Emmie on Twitter that referenced an old post she’d written on catcalls, and I had to go find said post.

It’s wonderful. You should read it. And then you should read as much as you can stomach of the comments, where she is soon joined by a self-assured young gentleman who feels the need to mansplain away all her petty concerns with what he calls “loud compliments.” The farcical-and-disgusting-term-that-exists-for-some-reason “misandry” comes in at one point, which is how you know it’s good.

Emmie and another woman who joins in do a great job of parrying the arrogant asswipe’s half-considered arguments…but I couldn’t get through more than about half of it. There’s just nothing I enjoy less than a man telling a woman how she should feel about a thing that — however many parallels he might try to draw — can really ONLY be experienced by a woman. Nothing at all, at least that I can think of right now.

Anyway. It’s a fabulous, eye-opening read. This is my first reblogging (and from my phone)! Hope I’m doin’ it right.

I walk to work fairly often. I do it to save petrol and for the exercise, because I live a brief ten minute walk from where I work.

Barely a day goes by when I manage to walk that ten minutes without one of the scenarios depicted above occurring. Sometimes more than once.

I’ve had guys try to get me in their car. Guys try to get me to come over and eat their leftovers (seriously). I have guys holler all sorts of random “compliments” my way. I’ve been pestered. I’ve been interrupted. I’ve even been followed.

More than once.

For men, this sort of thing is just a non-issue. (For the most part. I acknowledge and understand that there ARE cases of street harassment where the targets are male.) But it’s different when you’re a woman.

Here’s why this subject matters, and why it should be talked about.

It’s…

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Feminism and Dumb College Kids

My now-wife and I in the student newspaper office, ca. 1999.

My now-wife and I in the student newspaper office, ca. 1999. Photo by Trevor Anthony.

I was editor-in-chief of my college newspaper for my senior year. It was a weekly paper, serving a tiny liberal arts school, but it was a ton of work, and generally pretty rewarding.

Early in that year, we had an opinion article come in from an enthusiastic, slightly awkward, impossibly young-seeming freshman girl; I’m going to call her “Abby” (I legitimately have no memory of her name, not that I’d use it if I had). I remember it was riddled with typos and muddled sentences, and I helped to fix those, but paid little attention to the content — it was opinion, so couldn’t Abby say basically whatever she wanted to? I also had an opinion-section editor I trusted with this sort of thing. And at a school that size, you kind of have to take what you can get. Wouldn’t running this be better than a giant opinion-article-shaped white space? I don’t know if I thought even that much about it, but if I had, that would’ve been my thinking.

And as it turned out, the piece was awful. Truly, disastrously, unconscionably poor. This would’ve been the early fall of 2000, and enthusiastic Abby had written an article enthusiastically endorsing Reform Party candidate (and enthusiastic racist, misogynist and xenophobe) Pat Buchanan for president. And it endorsed all the most horrible things Buchanan had said; I don’t remember the specifics now, and he’s said so many horrible things since that you’ll have a hell of a time finding them, but I believe there was one about abortion being like slavery, there was something else compared to Hitler, and there was, of course, a whole lot to be said about those damned illegals. I think there was a condemnation of homosexuality, too, but I can’t remember.

This wasn’t a simple matter of someone assuming an unpopular political position at a hippy-dippy West Coast liberal arts school (it certainly was that, but that’s a big part of why small-liberal-arts-college newspapers exist); it was a column that had overtly offended, in one way or another, very nearly everyone in the school. Nowadays, being smarter than a college kid, I’d have chosen the white space instead, or ugly comp ads for various student organizations, or I’d have written a ten-minute editorial on why ‘N Sync was better than 98 Degrees and Backstreet. Something. Anything but that piece.

The fallout was huge, for a school that size and a paper nobody usually cared much about. People wrote letters. There was an emergency meeting of some kind with professors and assistant deans. I somehow escaped the fate I feel like I probably deserved (or any repercussions at all, really, save some discomfort), but she was, for a while, the laughingstock of the school.

Long story short (long story entirely skipped, actually, because I never really knew it):

By the end of that year, Abby had discovered she was a lesbian — immersed in what seemed from a distance like an awesome, loving, serious relationship with a fellow freshman — and something between a Marxist and an anarchist. I’d love to say she went on to teach yoga and take vegan cooking classes and tutor immigrant children in San Francisco or Portland and never had another day of trouble in her life, but I have absolutely no clue what happened to her after that year; the point is, she became an entirely different (and certainly happier, kinder, and far more comfortable-with-herself) person. That’s the kind of thing that happens. College kids are stupid, and most of them eventually get smarter; sooner or later, almost all of them become themselves.

And that’s a long-winded way of saying I can’t get as upset as I thought I was going to about this: NOLD: Feminism Hurts Modern-Day Relationships. It got some wider attention and became kind of a big internet deal on Friday. It’s written by a college senior named Zach Nold, for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s daily paper, and it starts like this:

Feminism has met its goals and women are now equal with men as they should be.

Yes, he really said that, and no, there were no commas, and the rest of the article is exactly as incoherent as you’d expect anything that started with a preposition that ridiculous to be. It seems that his evidence that men and women are equal now (it’s so hard to even freaking type that) is total number of jobs, with no mention of income or any of the non-employment-opportunity based ways in which men continue to dominate women. Because men and women are equal, Nold says, feminists continuing to be feminists are doing so with the goal of becoming more than equal, of “pushing men off the platform,” and are “ruining modern relationships.”

It’s pure shit, all the way through. I guess the one saving grace is that it’s almost completely incoherent shit; I assume if he’d been more capable of saying what he really meant, it’d really piss you off. Jezebel was really pissed off anyway, understandably.

I was all set to rip into him too, but it turns out I can’t (or not any more than I just did), because Abby.

Now, Nold is a senior, not a freshman, and there can be massive differences between 18 and 21 or 22. And it’s not just one misguided piece, like Abby’s; here’s one that says poor people shouldn’t get to vote, and Jezebel found some pretty disgusting tweets. He’s clearly pretty set in his ways, and those ways are pretty terrifying.

He’s also a college kid, though, and college kids are stupid. I was stupid at that age (in softer but not altogether different ways). People change all the time, and completely; that’s a big part of what I think college, and the few years after college, are for. Considering that — remembering Abby — I’m not comfortable condemning this kid for writing a crap article he’s completely unqualified to write and of which he will probably be completely ashamed in a year or five (and with Abby, of course, it was a few months). I mean, even Limbaugh would struggle a bit to get away with this sort of drivel; this is the stuff of awful websites hidden away in the mildewy corners of the internet where men complain about how women are sluts because they (the men) had a spouse who wouldn’t deal with their abuse anymore, or because women seem to them to be willing to sleep with everyone but those men, that sort of thing (if you want to just hate everyone forever, google “misandry” and scroll down past the Wikipedia and dictionary entries). He might turn out to be one of Those Guys, but I’m not going to assume he is now. Too young, too dumb. It’s a problem that he’s a senior English major who writes this poorly, I suppose, maybe that can’t be fixed, but he’s still got time to figure out the bigger things (that’s pretty much a life-long deal, not that he’s not much farther behind right now than most).

I’d rather ask a few different questions. Like: why are newspapers still doing point/counterpoints (the article by the young woman representing the inarguably correct side can be found here; it’s pretty solid)? They work only when both writers firmly, legitimately believe their side of things and both sides can be competently argued with a straight face — I’m sure the first was met here, the second clearly was not. (They also work if the publication is The Onion, which is just another way of saying that serious point/counterpoints are almost always stupid.)

Second: the Nebraskan is a daily serving a school with ten times the enrollment of my alma mater. Shouldn’t they have a faculty adviser who (if he or she glances at these things and is even halfway competent) might have noticed, even if multiple layers of student-editors didn’t, that a point/counterpoint wherein the white conservative dude argues that feminism is over forever probably isn’t a great idea?

Third, maybe most important: does everything need to be online? I suppose it does, but if so, does it need to be quite so freely available? These are not journalists; they’re college students, and with maybe five or six exceptions a year nationwide, they’re not capable of saying anything that educates or informs or even really interests anyone beyond the students, faculty and alumni of their own schools. Slap a password on that thing, at least. There’s no likely benefit to having this stuff out there in the larger world, and there’s a lot of potential harm to the dumb kid who, let’s say, writes a terrible and senseless “opinion” article that gets picked up by Jezebel.

We weren’t on the internet in 2000, or barely (it wasn’t searchable; I think it all went up in PDF-like format on the student government site). Make it five or ten years later, and Abby, briefly the laughingstock of the school, may have become the laughingstock of the whole internet; that itself may have forced her in a different direction, stifled all that awesome growth she experienced almost immediately thereafter, changed the whole course of her life.

It’s important to address horrible, laughable-on-their-face ideas like the ones that show up in Nold’s article. I just don’t know how I feel about making the school’s issue the entire internet’s issue, and I know I don’t like taking it all out on the kid himself.

On the Multitudinous Beauties of Women

BOAWIntroductory note: Hi! My very dear and since-basically-forever friend August McLaughlin is hosting, for the second consecutive year, a thing called The Beauty of a Woman Blogfest, and I’ve decided to finally inaugurate this blog by taking part. It’s an odd topic for the first public non-sports writing in six years or so from a straight-dude lawyer and baseball writer, but that was kind of the point — get out of my comfort zone and just write a thing. If you’re interested in more about who I am (and what this blog is likely to be about), look here.

Here are five things I know are true:

  1. There’s a problem with the way women are presented in certain segments of popular media. Film, TV series, commercials, the internet, whatever. A very clear suggestion persists, somehow, in 2013 — and can be found in large parts of each of those places — that a woman’s value is in her face, her body, her capacity to make men happy in one way or another.
  2. This attitude seems to have a correlation with the active mistreatment of women, well beyond the passive diminution of the entire half (well, 51%) of a species that flows naturally from our behaving as though they exist primarily to make things more pleasant for the other half (well, 49%). This is where a lot of harassment and assault and rape comes from.
  3. That passive diminution is plenty harmful on its own. This is where a lot of self-loathing and self-harm and resentment and eating disorders come from.
  4. It should go without saying that in fact, women on the whole are at least as capable as are men on the whole when it comes to thinking, feeling, explaining or doing things. In my experience, most women are better at most of those things than most men are.
  5. But: women can be damned sexy. I find that most women are attractive in one form or another, but also find that some are more physically or visually attractive to me than others are, generally based on characteristics the taking notice of which our society likes to think of as shallow, base, piggish — and the very same ones, basically, that our society glorifies in 1. above.

The biggest gender-related problem we have right now is probably some better-worded combination of items one through four. Once you’ve identified and started wrestling with that problem, though, a secondary issue — and one I think a lot of very intelligent and progressive people really struggle with — emerges: how to reconcile number five with those other four.

Once, I struggled with this a lot. I’m not proud, but the truth is that I’m a solidly, maybe overwhelmingly heterosexual male. I love women, and I mean that in every way. I love the way they look, I love the way they smell, I love their curves and their hair and their relative smallness. I love sex with a woman, I love lingering for just a moment (usually just a moment) on the idea of sex with a woman, and I love looking at a woman — certain women more than others, of course, distinguished, by and large, by characteristics that have nothing whatsoever to do with their talent for songwriting or carpentry, their contributions to medical science, or their capacity to love their fellow humans. Sometimes women are just reeeeaaal purty, in essence, and sometimes I think that’s really awesome. I like pretty smiling faces. I like legs. I like boobs.

And the biggest step I’ve taken as a person over the last year or two, the one thing that’s taken me farther along than anything else on this ceaseless trek toward becoming a happy, well-adjusted, comfortable-in-my-own-skin sort of human being, is the realization that that’s totally fine, that my noticing those things (and thinking they’re really awesome) doesn’t by itself conflict with my deeply-held feminism, doesn’t make me a pig or a neanderthal or an adolescent or a freak. I like what I like because the chemicals in my brain work in a certain way, because the Creator or series of accidents that brought me into being made me in exactly that way, and that’s as it should be. People were made to appreciate all kinds of things in each other. Hetero women appreciate men in the same way, even if they tend not to think about it quite so much (or it’s not quite as socially appropriate for them to acknowledge it). Our faces and bodies have developed as they have in large part for the purpose of being attractive to other people. You’re supposed to notice shit like that.

I’ve always been this way (or since like age eleven), and finally becoming more or less okay with that has been incredibly freeing. Sure, my coarser impulses make me do things (to myself) I wish I wouldn’t — like watch every single episode of Two Broke Girls, for instance, one of the worst and most cringe-inducing shows on television, solely to watch the wonderful Kat Dennings do things in high definition — but the impulses themselves are just a (relatively small) part of who I am, which is not entirely different from who everybody else is, and that’s cool.

Where I think the confusion comes in — and this is an essential companion to the liberating realization above — is here: those things you and I have, those preferences, the likes and dislikes, the “interests,” come with certain responsibilities. The responsibilities can all be summed up this way: these things are totally our own issues, and absolutely no one else’s. Nothing wrong with being a bit superficial (everyone is) or with noticing those things (everyone does), but there’s a lot wrong with “noticing” them in a way that makes another person feel uncomfortable or less human, with expecting another person to strive to fit some ideal you’ve cooked up in your own brain, with treating your own idea of beauty as the single definition thereof, with faulting anyone for not living up to those ideas (or for not attempting to), with patronizing media figures or outlets or types that attempt to impose similar ideals on women (or men), with valuing those features above or to the exclusion of qualities like wisdom, competence, wit, creativity and compassion; with, more generally, anything that fails to recognize at all times that all other people are people, not little collections of lips and butts and eyes and waistlines and so forth.

When Walt Whitman wrote: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well, then, I contradict myself; / (I am large–I contain multitudes),” he probably meant a lot of things (he did contain multitudes, after all), but one, certainly, was that he was capable of holding many different thoughts — even contradictory thoughts — and of being many different things — even contradictory things — all at once. Everyone is, which I suppose is what has made “Song of Myself” a classic poem, and not a long-lost diary entry or something.

Women can be both beautiful outside (pretty gorgeous alluring sexy: in your eyes, in someone’s) and beautiful in (brilliant generous creative thoughtful and valuable in any of hundreds of other ways), or either or (rarely enough) neither. It’s a great mistake to conflate the two, which is essentially what our culture does when we tie a woman’s value to her ability to approximate some preset physical ideal. It’s a not altogether dissimilar mistake, though, to treat them as mutually exclusive, as we do when we equate any appreciation at all of one’s personal concept of superficial beauty with a demeaning attitude toward women — or as can be seen in things like the Olivia-Munn-on-TheDailyShow backlash. I used to be able to appreciate what I see as Jenny McCarthy’s physical beauty, but I really wish she’d stop trying to kill our children; can’t say I’ve ever lost myself staring at Hillary Clinton, but I think that what I know of her is pretty damn beautiful. While I’m on the subject, my wife of nearly twelve years is beautiful in every way, and getting more beautiful all the time (d’awww, but it’s true).

Just about everyone is beautiful in more than one way, I think. We contain multitudes. 

Whether you’ve had similar experiences or think I’m totally full of it, I’d be happy to hear from you below. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll check back again sometime.