The “Benevolent” Sexist Man, How To Spot Him And How To Defeat Him

Posted on - in intersectional feminism

In the age of viral video feminism and in a world where (some) explicit acts of misogyny are not socially acceptable anymore, misogynistic men have had to adapt. They must adapt to shield themselves from any criticism, to preserve their fragile sense of self-importance and to gain a one-up on the women around them without getting the unfortunate label of “sexist” or “misogynist” slapped on them. As expected, their tactics are crude and it’s not too difficult to see that although misogyny might wear a different disguise, it’s still the same old BS. Put a dress on a pig and it’s still a pig.

If you’re a woman (especially a feminist), you’ve encountered these men and you might find yourself confused, frustrated and generally questioning yourself. Here I’m going to teach you a few ways you can spot these “benevolent” misogynists and how you can defeat them, keeping your self-assuredness in your experiences as a woman in tact. It’s also not surprising that many of these benevolent misogynists apply tactics of emotional abusers including gas lighting and crazymaking. So learning their modus operandi is important to keep yourself safe psychologically (and possibly physically).

Remember, your experiences as a woman are valid. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone who would deny sexism in 2016, the age of Google and the Kindle Store.

Here are five things that “benevolent” misogynists do that you can use to identify them in the wild.

1) Women Must Always Be Held Accountable But Men Must Never Be Held Accountable

One of the ways that this brand of misogynists shows their true colors, is their need to prove feminists “wrong” by holding women accountable for crimes that are more commonly committed by men as some sort of “gotcha” to women, while never holding men who commit the same crimes accountable. The message becomes “See! Women do this too!” and in their minds, they’ve proved that feminism is useless because women are REALLY the evil ones all along.

All documented sociology, gender studies and psychological findings are thusly proven false because they’ve found out that women sometimes commit crimes too. Impressive.

What this does is it serves to silence women who either identify as feminists or might consider identifying as feminists by delegitimizing the women’s issues they bring up. YES, we know that there are female sexual predators who prey on young men. YES, feminists should (and they do) take these stories seriously. But this does NOT change the fact that millions of women have been rape victims and victims of abuse. It does NOT change the fact that women have a right to demand justice for these women and to point out sexist bias in our culture that allows for these sexual assaults to happen.

And of course, this is just one example of an arena where benevolent misogynists force women to be held accountable where they don’t force men to do the same. They perform their same faux-concern when stories break about women physically abusing men. Or when entertainment news covers women who cheat on their boyfriends/husbands.

How can you tell these people are secretly holding onto deep sexist beliefs about women? Because they don’t actually care about the male victims they claim to support. They might feign caring (like any good sociopath) but they don’t actually care about the crimes or injustices committed against men. As long as they have silenced women, they feel self-righteous and satisfied for discovering that gender biases are false. They show no interest (or perhaps they don’t have the capability) to engage with feminist literature surrounding these men’s’ issues (bell hooks has many books on the subject).

Imagine. All it took was an idiot with a Twitter account to prove sexism wrong…

2) He Makes False Comparisons Between Women’s Issues vs. Men’s Issues To Invalidate You

Another way these misogynists function is by making false comparisons between women’s issues and men’s issues. This point is very similar to my first one in that it also encompasses the misogynists who only yell “men get raped too” when it’s convenient to them.

These are the same men who deny that the societal pressures for women to wear makeup, weave, etc. exist because “men have pressure too”. Because this brand of misogynist lacks nuance, he is usually unable to see something as simple as the context surrounding the social pressures that women face compared to the ones that men face. Women are punished severely for not conforming to a patriarchal (and white supremacist) world.

There is nothing that women/femmes can do to avoid being punished for simply existing the way that they are. This “punishment” isn’t theoretical. There are economic consequences to being a woman. Being a woman means inherently that you will be subjected to various unavoidable negative social consequences. Additionally, being a woman/femme who doesn’t conform to certain gender roles prescribed by society can lead to poverty, sexual violence or death.

YES, straight, cis men can die. They can be poor. And they can face sexual violence. But they typically do not face these consequences because they are men. 

(Note: I use men here mostly when I mean straight cis men because they ARE the benevolent misogynists I’m addressing in this post.)

Using men’s experiences to invalidate women’s experiences is sexist. Delegitimizing women’s experiences as a whole is sexist. Women in the Caribbean do have a right to discuss and dissect our oppressions. Being more likely to have a female boss or being raised by a single mother doesn’t negate institutionalized oppression of women. Sorry, not sorry.

3) Expect All The Benefits Of Patriarchy With None Of The Work And Pass It Off As Progressive Thinking

The benevolent misogynist is lazy. Yup, I said it. One of the things that benevolent misogynists love to do (especially on ye olde social media) is to feast on all the benefits of patriarchy while picking and choosing the parts of “feminism” they want to enjoy.

“Down with men paying for dates!” They might say. Only, they don’t say this because they believe that women should be financially and economically on equal footing to men.

They say this because they’re broke. Or because they simply don’t want to pay. Watch this same misogynist crumble when he encounters a woman who makes triple what he makes. Watch this same misogynist ascribe to gender roles “like a boss” the moment he realizes that not doing so means that he actually has to change.

The same men who think that “men shouldn’t always have to pay” always seem to be the ones with twenty-million impossible standards for women that totally coincidentally line up with the exact type of thinking prescribed by West Indian patriarchy. Incredible! Unique! What fresh thinking!

Don’t let these men fool you. If you notice that some man is always speaking about the “progressive” things he believes in only when they directly benefit him, you might be looking at a benevolent misogynist in action. The type who likes sexually liberated women… only when he thinks he might benefit. The type who thinks men should get paternity leave… because it “isn’t fair that only women get time off”. The type who thinks uncritically about every damned thing related to feminism unless he sees a way he can kick off his shoes and relax. And let women do all the work.

4) Casual Homophobia/Transphobia Disguised As Jokes

Homophobia/transphobia is never funny. (It actually pained me to write such an obvious statement). But a lot of these benevolent sexists get their rocks off on these “just jokes” while ignoring the fact that in our countries (in the Caribbean), homophobia and transphobia literally results in death. 

Are these jokes really funny? Can you really be a “good person” if you think they are? These men will think it’s okay to laugh and kiki about homophobia and transphobia because they “know someone gay”. In the Caribbean (and everywhere else honestly), knowing someone gay isn’t a free pass to make homophobic jokes.

“Knowing someone gay” doesn’t mean you’re contributing a single thing to undoing the violent homophobia/transphobia in our society. It’s cruel, it’s not funny, but it’s another part of the benevolent sexist’s repertoire. They disguise their oppressive attitudes underneath half-assed humor and unfortunately, a lot of women let it slide.

Stop this! Don’t let someone’s homophobia and transphobia slide because they once said something nice about women. Or because they know someone gay. Call for everyone in your circle to do better.

5) Use Condescending And Patronizing Tones Towards Women, Especially Women Who Are Actually Smarter Than They Are

Another way that benevolent sexists show themselves is their obsessive need to correct women to “prove” (to themselves and no one else) that they’re smarter than them. It’s one of the sadder tactics that’s rarely successful as a demonstration of intelligence, but a very successful demonstration of arrogance. This benevolent sexist will leap at any opportunity to show a woman that he knows more than she does, even when he doesn’t.

This one is harder to spot in action, but it’s one of the more common ways you’ll know if you’re dealing with a sexist man  who might even be hiding under the cloak of feigned progressiveness. If you feel like this person is specifically targeting you to “correct” because you’re a woman/femme, you’re probably right. Give weight to your instincts here because it’s so common, I’d venture to say 99% of the times you suspect that’s happening, you’re correct.

So, now that I’ve shed light on a few strategies that they use, how exactly do you “defeat” someone like this? I don’t believe in trying to educate, debate, discuss or argue with someone who is being willfully ignorant. These types of people will waste your time with pleasure and use all types of nonsense arguments just because they want to be right. These sexist men are NOT interested in learning, even if some of them say that they are. The best way to defeat these men is by recognizing them and avoiding engaging with them if possible. 

It sounds simple but honestly, it’s the best thing for yourself! These are not people interested in education so benevolently educating them or trying to discuss with them is likely to not be fruitful. Block, ignore and move on! Do something except expend your precious energy pretending that these benevolent sexists are anything other than sexist. They will suck the life and energy out of you riling you up guilt free. Defeat them by not giving them the satisfaction. Defeat them by screenshotting their texts, tweets, posts and laughing at them in the group chat. Defeat them by making fun of them. But don’t let them take a damn thing away from you!

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