the spectrum of hostility

Hostility toward women is a spectrum, not a binary state.
It's not as simple as "I help women," or "I hurt women."
You do both.
I do both.

This hostility is a seed that is planted in all of us: you, me...

even him

i mean
he's not a monster
he's actually
a goddamn national treasure
and his wife is the tits

but yeah
he has a seed of hostility

don't hate me for being a truth-teller

Some people nurture that seed of hostility with frequent and generous applications of horse shit, and it grows into a giant, shitty oak tree of hostility toward women. I'd argue that we all live in the shade of a grove of shitty oaks that are constantly getting in our way, tripping us when we try to take steps forward.

(Exhibit A: Dr. Radhika Mothafuckin Jones:


A ferociously qualified woman of color promoted to editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair. What are we saying about her? Not that she's the first Indian-American woman to lead a major magazine in the US. Not that she's a graduate of Harvard and not that she has her PhD in comparative literature from Columbia.


Oh, and she's reportedly going to be making 1/4 of her predecessor's salary. #GraydonCarter #IsNotAGirlsName #WowWhatACoincidence.)

But most people don't actively or consciously nurture this hostility seed. Some people have a tiny hostility sprout that they might not even notice among all the other plants that they did choose to nourish to lushness: professional success, education, sense of humor, a loving family that looks like the family they grew up in (or determinedly does not), etc.

But whether your hostility toward women is a sprout, a sapling, or a mighty shit oak, all of these behaviors spring from the same seed that is planted in all of us.

Which means that every woman you know

exists 24/7/365 as the object of some level of hostility

that has nothing to do with her actions, choices, or worth,

and everything to do with merely existing while female.

Rape, sexual assault, and murder live on one end of this hostility spectrum, like the cul-de-sac where you DO NOT TRICK-OR-TREAT.


But lesser transgressions -- manspreading, interrupting, diminishing an educated and qualified woman to a single purchase of tights, using the term "Friend Zone" -- live on that spectrum as well, albeit all the way down on the other end.

Those smaller assertions of hostility are like the cul-de-sac where you actually live, vaguely angry and not sure why the people around you keep saying that everything you do is wrong.

oh man
look at her face
i think she would be much happier
with her foot on your throat
lumberjack preacher chad

malibu chad's last words
before his throat was crushed
by this woman's foot
"a woman loves to hear how pretty she is."
oh please
go on
tell me about the diversity
chad damon
ya pink-cheeked millionaire
while we lace up
our throat-stompers

All those gifs are (hopefully) pretty clear examples of how women feel when dudes swagger into a conversation about literally anything, and begin to talk loudly out of their asses. This is what the sprout of hostility toward women looks like, and given the right growing conditions, it has the potential to grow into sexual assault, rape, and murder.

Hostility is a spectrum. Don't believe me?

Here's an example of this kind of spectrum...
outside of gender dynamics:

Your coworker Todd bumps into you.
You spill coffee on your shirt.
You think, Fuck you, Todd.

What do you do next?

Well, that all depends! You get to choose from the "Fuck you, Todd," menu, a spectrum of hostility toward Todd.

Whether you go full Gone Girl, or smile and say, "Bless your heart," what you're saying is, "Fuck you, Todd."

The gesture's size doesn't change the message.
Whether you whisper or shout it,
you still said "Fuck you."

Now, you're not gonna frame Todd for your murder. You're not a monster.

But are you the kind of person who might forget to pay Todd back for the group gift? Sure, I am. I'll own that.

We all have different ways that we are willing to say "Fuck you, Todd," and ways that we are not willing to say it. Each of us draws a line on this hostility spectrum that is uncrossable: I'll do something passive-aggressive... but nothing outright confrontational. I'll exclude Todd from thoughtfulness... but I won't damage his property.

And remember that your personal Fuck-you-Todd line has been placed not just by this single coffee spill incident, but also by hundreds of other factors, like:


- how many times you've had to stain-treat shirts after a bump/coffee spill over the course of your life

- whether you can afford to buy a new shirt if this stain doesn't come out
- whether you can afford to be punished at work by making a big deal out of this coffee spill


- how your parents/caregivers responded to coffee spills
- your first memories of coffee spills
- whether you've had a really bad coffee spill in the past
- how many Todds you have known in your life


- your social currency in the environment where the coffee spill occurred
- Todd's social currency in that environment
- your understanding of the expectations of your peers regarding how you'll respond to coffee spills


- how you see people like you respond to coffee spills in real life
- how you see people like you respond to coffee spills in media
- how you hear cultural criticism of other people's responses to coffee spills
(i.e. Holy shit, that was a batshit crazy overreaction to a coffee spill! Chill out, he didn't mean to! OR Wow, you didn't even say anything? I would have said something. That was a really nice shirt. No wonder he felt like he could just spill coffee on you. You should have been stronger.)

OK have we beaten the coffee spill example to death?

Core point: you hold certain behaviors and attitudes that are both perfectly acceptable to you and objectively hostile. To Todd. And also to women.

Your hostility toward women exists on a spectrum.
You draw a line for yourself on that spectrum, in a place
that's determined by your financial, personal-historical, social, and cultural experience of what's acceptable and unacceptable.

You and I agree that rape, sexual assault, and murder are flat-out unacceptable.

But see, I also think that male entitlement to my time and space is unacceptable.

Which means that while we agree (hopefully, for fuck's sake) that rape is a HARD NO, as we move down the spectrum, you and I may, at some point, find ourselves on opposite sides of the line.

Where is that point?

Let's look at a sample spectrum of one facet of hostility:
male entitlement to space.

You might think that you're a good guy because you don't lick strange women. And listen, if you don't lick strange women, like, that's so great. Definitely keep that in the playbook. I'm super happy to hear that.

But there are thousands of other ways that you could be (and likely are) sending the same message:

I want/I deserve/I can have
anything I want at the moment I want it, 
regardless of whether you want to give it.


And entitlement to space is only one place to consider this spectrum of hostility to women.

A spectrum of hostility through dating might force you to ask yourself: 

It's not okay to catcall a woman... but is it okay to call her fat if she rejects you on Tinder?

It's not okay to call her fat if she rejects you on Tinder... but is it okay to resent her for not putting out after you paid for dinner?

It's not okay to resent her... but is it okay that sex ends when you come?

A spectrum of hostility through work might force you to ask yourself:

It's not okay to pay men more than women... but is it okay to exclude her from a work lunch because the client seems like a man's man and she has a sweet voice and demeanor?

It's not okay to exclude her from a work lunch... but is it okay to ask her how she manages her work-family balance, but not ask your male coworkers the same question?

It's not okay to assume she's the only one who struggles to balance work and family... but is it okay to work for a company that has all-male leadership and no motivation to change that?

A spectrum of hostility through pop culture might force you to ask yourself:

Do you just happen to only watch shows that are primarily about men, and feel that they are important to the general cultural conversation?

Do you balk at shows primarily about women, by women, and feel that they are fine for women to watch? Do you think Mad Men is more important than Broad City?

Defaulting to maleness is an act of hostility; it reminds women that your story is appealing to everyone, while our stories only appeal to people like us.

Where is the line for you?
Or perhaps I should ask, where is that line today?

The line moves. It's not carved in stone. If I'm tired, or hungry, or wearing a shirt with an itchy tag, my line might move further toward framing Todd for my murder.

If I've just met a really interesting person who is different from my regular crowd, I might expand my empathy to include that person, and therefore a whole new category of person: disabled people, WOC, women in hijab, single mothers, sex workers, etc.

As a result, I might suddenly find something unacceptable that I've done my whole life up to this point. For example, using the terms "blind" or "deaf" to describe a person who is just being a willful prick. When I meet someone who lives with one of those disabilities, suddenly I understand why using their disability as an insult is extremely shitty. My line moves.

Conversely, guys, if you just had a really bad date that cost you $300 and ended with her taking all the leftovers home and texting you that it's not gonna work out, your line might move up the hostility spectrum. You might start casually throwing around gendered insults like "gold-digger," or "crazy." Your line moved.

Or if your female boss just had to warn you about missing deadlines, you might incorporate words like "ball-buster," or "bitch" into your vocabulary. You might start gravitating toward more men in the workplace, networking with only men, offering opportunities to only men.

You might laugh at memes like these:

oh my god
what a bitch
she talked to you
and listened to you
and possibly even smiled at you
while she had a boyfriend?
she should have sat silently in the corner
until her boyfriend arrived
possibly wearing a hood
or a prosthetic ogre nose

talk about false advertising
she was female
and attractive
and ALSO unavailable to catch your d?
she shouldn't be allowed out of the house
without a t-shirt that says

i actually,
could never,
laugh at this
not because,

Guys, I don't know what goes on in your head, and I don't want to know. I want you to know.

And I guess that's the point I want to make:

Nobody is immune. You aren't guiltless just because you've never committed the most heinous expressions of hostility toward women. That's like saying, "Sure, I punched that guy in the face, but listen, I didn't stab him in the neck." OK, thanks for not stabbing him in the neck, but you still punched him in the face, and that really sucks.

Everyone is capable of hurt. Everyone is capable of growth. And we have to keep growing.

Our goal isn't just to move the line down the spectrum; our goal is to become aware of the spectrum. Our goal is to create a personal, social, and cultural tornado that will blow the spectrum the fuck away.

Our goal is to look for the little hostility sprouts we didn't know were there, stinking up our gardens.

Our goal is to stop feeding them, then yank them out as they surface and toss them in the trash where they belong.

Or, you know, compost.

Yeah yeah yeah, compost them.

That's better. Because then you can use your yanked-up, decomposed hostility toward women to nurture other things that you actually want to grow in your garden and OMG THIS METAPHOR WORKS FOR SO LONG!!!

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  1. Thank you,I understand my behavior better after reading this.

  2. I think the Cliffs Notes version I grew up hearing (while simultaneously gnashing my teeth/eating chocolate/plotting my escape or how to get my tubes tied before 40):

    "Are you going to (choose one or all): wear, eat, say, do that?"

    Because I all I wanted was to have some arsehole breathing over my shoulder getting all judge-y on me as I planted fuck you seeds in my 'none of your fucking business' garden.

  3. Thank you for this addition to your good and necessary work. Please keep it coming.

    Also, how is TODD not one of your tags on this? :P