know your chad
We’ve all been there. Someone posted an Earth-shattering study that just dropped the doomsday bombshell that men spew terrible all over women throughout our whole lives. That’s right, bros. The Dust Bowl never ended for some of us.
Suddenly, there he is.
Mike. Dave. Steve. Bryan. And sometimes, on Christmas Day, if you’ve been very, very good this year, his name is actually Chad.
As soon as you see the masculine name — Rick, John, Jerry-with-two-r’s-and-a-y, rather than Jeri-with-one-r-and-an-i — you get that clench.
The two critters appear on your shoulders. Not an angel and a devil. More like a possum and a hippo. The possum trembles, washing its bony little paws and thinking, “Oh gosh, oh golly, I hope he’s nice…” but is already preparing to go belly-up and foam at the mouth.
And on the other shoulder? The hippo? She wishes a motherfucker WOULD wade into this particular pool. Oh my God, PLEASE. PRETTY PLEASE. PLEASE WADE IN, CHAD. NOTHING WOULD MAKE THIS HIPPO HAPPIER. Let me show you what’s waiting under this quiet water.
You read what he says. It should be a “correct answer.” And yet… is it?
What he says, whether he’s conscious of it or not, and whether you can explain why or not, immediately shuffles him into one of three categories:
He could be The Real Deal, a genuine, thoughtful, humble, nontoxic ally.
He could be a Faker, someone who wants to look like an ally in order to be admired.
Or he could be a Rookie, someone with good intentions who still fucks it up.
In this post, we’ll cover how to tell the Real Deals from the Rookies from the Fakers.
Yes, this post is educational, but it also makes fun of guys who try to look like allies on the internet, so if you think that’s going to ruffle your feathers to the point of #notallmenning me or messaging me words that start with a c and end with a t, two things: first of all, thanks for rapidly identifying yourself #faker.
Second, you can just catapult your ten-cent chest-thumping counterfeit outrage concert into a cabinet where no one can hear you because I CAN’T with you. CHRIST.
(See what I did there?)
Part One: The Faker
A Faker wears his wokeness like a giant Native headdress at Coachella. He thinks he’s working it, but he has no idea that everyone can see exactly who he is, who he’s trying to be, and how badly that costume fits him.
His comment is about himself. No matter what the conversation was about before, it’s about him now. It’s about a time he heroically saved a girl from a guy in a bar. It’s about a time he took his date home and didn’t even lean in for a kiss, even though he bought her lobster for dinner. The conversation has just become entirely about his exculpation, his legend, his creamy center, his Jesus aura.
Oh, he might drop some social justice lingo. But he will always do it in a way that showcases (1) his own wokeness, and (2) his unquestionable right to take the seat at the head of the conversational table.
Move over, Rebecca. Pipe down, Mary Anne. Chad’s here now. He’s going to tell you all about the feminism. HEY EVERYONE! Come look how good Chad is at the feminism!
He might say, “I’m so thankful that I don’t practice ‘toxic masculinity.’ I always give up my seat on the bus for women, even when they don’t say thank you, which seems like the polite thing to do. It’s so sad that chivalry is dying.”
He might say, “Actually, the thing about ‘mansplaining’ is that men are almost always explaining things to women that they already know, which is so frustrating!”
The red flag that will help you identify a Faker is that he does not talk about women. He talks about himself as the protector, savior, and champion of women.
He does not say, “I’m sorry that happened to you. It must have been so scary.” He says, “I’m going to raise MY daughters to be strong and fight back.”
He does not empathize with women. He does not say, “That sounds awful.” He says, “I’d never do that and neither would my friends.”
The Faker enters this conversation with a single goal: to collect your adoration. To “aw shucks,” at your gratitude. To gargle your joygasm whenever he speaks.
The Faker uses women as a points-gathering system in his personal video game fantasy. He calls the game “The Chad Chronicles,” or possibly, “#ChadLyfe” and in it he is barrel-chested and strong-jawed and never runs out of bullets. And us? We are the collateral damage that give him a reason to run faster. We are the bearers of bruised faces whose dignity he restores when he punches that dude (triple point bonus!) and we are the wearers of torn dresses who fall crying at his feet when he rescues us from the dark, dirty room. We’re the people whose pain he uses to level up his heroism. And if we don’t hold up our end of that bargain, if we don’t thank him for existing, welcome him to save us, and defer to his narrative of how shit is gonna go down, then we become his enemy. We broke his game. He needs sexism to continue to hurt us in order to justify his value. He’s a fucking faker.
If you’re ever unsure whether you’re dealing with an online Faker, you can always do the thing that we can’t always safely do in real life: push back. Girl, you don't even have to push back. You can just ask him to hold on for a second. I’m not even exaggerating.
When he says, “I’d never do that and neither would my friends,” you can say, “Cool thanks, but this conversation isn’t about what YOU would do, it’s about the experiences of these women, who DID in fact get hurt, and whose story is important to hear. You need to listen, please.”
If he’s a Faker, you won’t be able to crack your beer or your neck before he fires back with one of the following responses:
1) Well EXCUSE ME for participating in the conversation but I was just exercising my freedom of speech here in America.
2) I’m so sick of outrage callout culture. Why can’t you just accept that there are nice guys out there? Or are you too busy being a man-hating victim to notice?
3) Wow, you know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar (or) If you weren’t so hostile/shrill/rude/aggressive, you’d probably be doing a better job with this whole women’s rights thing.
4) I GOT HURT TOO YA KNOW MY DAD WAS REALLY MEAN.
5) I guess I'm terrible and I'm not even worth your time. Sorry for being such an irredeemable asshole...
It happens that fast. You just became his enemy. He despises you immediately because you didn’t cooperate with his head-of-the-table mandate to build his legend as Chad: Defender of Grateful Women Who Shut The Fuck Up When He’s Talking.
And that’s the thing about the Faker. No matter how long he tries to fake it, he’ll never be able to genuinely support anyone else’s right to speak. Because women only play one of two roles to him: satellites caught in his orbit that reflect his light back to him, or missiles that are coming to destroy him.
He can’t think of us as independent and neutral bodies, suspended in the same universe and yet unaffected by his gravity. Because his life is the force that is most important to him, and because he has never even considered broadening his perspective to look beyond his own fucking hot gas, he doesn’t understand how we can exist outside his orbit.
He can’t understand how we could want to exist in a place that he doesn’t own. He doesn’t think such a place exists. He interprets our independence as rejection, a defection, a secession.
He can’t just let us be. Away from him. In our own complex lives, populated with wonderful and terrible organisms, where we feel joy and pain and fear and boredom and sometimes itchy and sometimes just quiet, and fucking none of it has to have anything to do with him.
The Faker can’t handle that.
Because more than anything, The Faker really, really, really needs us to be happy to see him, every day, everywhere he goes.
Short answer is, I have no fucking idea. It might be that he’s afraid of something, of being unmasked as a shitty little man baby. It might be that he’s hurt and he’s looking for someone to heal him. It might be that he’s just accustomed to our smiling faces; in the same way that when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality looks like oppression, so when you’re accustomed to delighted, chirping women, neutral DGAF women look like stone-faced bitches.
Short answer is, the “why” is not my job and it’s not your job either. His shit is HIS job. But until the Faker makes the transition into Rookie, which requires a profound shift in perspective and willingness to take responsibility for his own shit, he’s not gonna do his job and he’s gonna be mad if you’re not willing to do what he thinks of as yours.
Part Two: The Rookie
Gonna TL;DR this real quick:
Unlike the Faker, the Rookie has good intentions.
Unlike the Real Deal, the Rookie thinks his good intentions are the same as good work.
The Rookie follows feminists on Twitter and Facebook. He shares their shit a lot. Like, possibly too much, but it’s cool, baby. Rock out on those Ijeoma shares. We’d never fault him for that. He wants to spread the word? Great.
He knows enough about the nature of online discussions on feminism to understand that he needs to be humble, supportive, and very, very careful. But he still fucks up a lot.
That’s the thing about learning empathy... EVERYBODY fucks up. The more you learn, the further along you might get before fucking up, but fuck up you will, mon frère poilu. What distinguishes the Faker from the Rookie is the post-fuckup recovery.
The Faker’s fuckup is merely the preface to a great American novel of defensive sexist bullshit that spins a tale as old as time about how hard it is to be Chad, and only shows us how thinly he’s applied that mask of empathy and how easily that shit flakes off under pressure.
The Rookie’s fuckup is the cover flap in a pamphlet entitled, “Oh shitting shit shitballs, what did I do… I know it was wrong but I don’t know what it was. Help!?”
The Faker wants everything to be about worshipping his awesomeness; the Rookie knows he isn’t awesome (sweet!) and wants to learn about women’s experiences (yay!) and believes that since he’s trying so hard (um…) it is your job, woman, to teach him about women’s experiences (wait…) so that he can become awesome (and here we are again.)
Politely inform a Rookie that he needs to become aware of his sense of entitlement to your time and energy, and he might get huffy and perturbed.
“Well I’m here to learn. How do you suggest I learn if you won’t teach me?”
He’s used to your constant availability. He’s used to your grateful attention. Even though he MEANS to be supportive, he isn’t yet fully aware of how comprehensive his entitlement is. He will not necessarily be pleased when you inform him.
Cheerfully (or, you know, NOT) let him know that there’s a world wide web of freely-given and freely available education that he can get his damn self while you’re living your life making 78 cents to his dollar (if you’re white), and you’ll find out if your Rookie is a Faker at heart, or if he has the makings of a Real Deal.
Where the Faker doubles down to save face and grows testier, grumpier, snarkier and meaner, a true-hearted Rookie who just didn’t know better will say, “That makes sense. I’ll do my own research.”
Where a Faker is haughty, a Rookie is humble. Where a Faker insists he is right, a Rookie asks you to explain why he’s wrong. He still feels entitled to your time. He might still come in and take the seat at the head of the conversational table, as a Faker does, but when told to move, the Rookie moves. When notified that he’s been mansplaining again, he apologizes immediately.
I’ve known a number of true-hearted Rookies in my time as a blogger. A few of them have offered to help me write blog posts. You know, for the male perspective. I didn’t flame them but I didn’t coddle them either. It doesn’t do anyone any good to delay the delivery of honesty. And I am fucking done paying for other people’s comfort with my time.
How does a Faker become a Rookie? Well, he has to start to give a shit. He has to start to understand that women feel feelings at the same depth and with the same breadth that he does. He has to understand that women smile because they’re uncomfortable at least as often as they smile because they’re happy. Women have to become real to him. He has to recognize that we are more than an assembly of pleasing soft things to be groped, fondled, catcalled, pet-named, massaged, tickled, stroked, touched, kissed, licked (ugh), sexted, followed, forced, or passed around. He has to recognize that he’d feel scared and humiliated and angry if he had to take that shit. He has to recognize that we feel those things too.
And here’s the kicker, folks. It’s really, really, really, really fucking hard for men to learn about sexism from women. When a woman explains sexism to a man, he gets defensive immediately because he is the only man in the conversation they’re having, and he cannot help but doubt what the woman is saying because he’s never experienced what she’s talking about.
If you’re white, imagine having a conversation about racism with a black friend. As soon as she starts talking about race, you’re intensely aware that you’re white, and you feel panicky, ashamed, and like you would rather get unmedicated dental surgery than continue with this conversation. You want it to end quickly. You try to minimize the problem because that will end the conversation. Right? You might also think, “Wait, I’ve gone to Starbucks and I’ve never been arrested. Are we sure we’re getting the whole story here?”
But if a white friend told you what went down at that Starbucks and said, “Seriously, they were just sitting there. They didn’t do ANYTHING,” you’d be like, no question, “WTF that’s such bullshit.” It is easier to learn about empathy from someone who is like you. So when one man explains it to another, suddenly that shit makes a whole lot of sense. This phenomenon is real. It’s why we need allies. (It’s also why we need to BE allies. As white people, we are able to start conversations about racism with other white people in a way that doesn’t scare the shit out of them, as when a person of color starts talking about race with white people.)
The growth spurt that brings a Faker to a Rookie is a fundamental shift, a big bang of situational awareness that, yes, creates a whole new world and a substantial mind fuck for these people.
Imagine you were born covered in powdered sugar. You aren’t aware that you have powdered sugar all over you or how that powdered sugar impacts the people around you, because that’s just who you are. It’s who you’ve been your whole life. You’re powdered sugar guy.
Everywhere you go, you create extra work for the people around you. They have to clean up after you. They have to carefully navigate around you. What else can they do? You’re powdered sugar guy. It’s not like you meant to. That's just who you are.
And one day you realize that everywhere you go, you’ve been creating work for people, leaving smears and speckles of fucking powdered sugar on people’s desks, on their clothes, on their lunches, and they have to either clean it up or find uninsulting ways to avoid you.
A Faker doesn’t know he’s powdered sugar guy yet.
A Rookie knows and wants us to know that he's sorry. But he still forgets, and he still doesn’t understand exactly how to stop, and his most important thing is still showing us how genuinely SORRY he is. He still wants us to notice how good and nice he is. He still wants us to give him hugs for showing up, and he’s proud of himself for never sexually assaulting anyone.
And he still thinks, just a little, that sexism has to be visibly violent to be real. He thinks that sexism is scary and remarkable and surprising when it happens. It’s very hard for him to grasp the everyday, humiliating, minimizing, boring sexism that bleeds us. He doesn’t notice the way a male columnist describes a female politician. He’s a little skeptical of a feminist’s read on the language. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,” he might say, certain that because he didn’t pick up on it, it’s not a thing.
Where a Faker outs himself quickly and can be a lot of fun to fuck with (sorry not sorry), a Rookie who is trying to learn is earnest, energetic, and can suck up a lot of free work from the women around him.
A Rookie may—who are we kidding with this “may” bullshit-- WILL also stray into the danger zone, as when he insists on overlooking blatantly sexist malarkey to give some bro the benefit of the doubt (maybe because he can imagine a time in the not-so-distant past when he would have done the same thing and he’s embarrassed by his proximity to such blatant sexism now that he’s aware of it, and he’s mortified to be now included in the same conversations that he suspects had been conducted about him in the past by people he loves.)
Or when he double-checks the work that the women around him have done for him. Or when he talks for fucking days about what he MEANT to do and what he didn’t INTEND to do, as if we’re all here to talk about what’s in his fucking heart.
But regardless of all of these fuckups, oversteps, lane-swerves, mansplains, and begs for snuggles, the Rookie demonstrates tolerance for learning, humility when checked, and openness to other perspectives. He still takes up too much space, but he’s quick to sit down when reminded. The Rookie is clumsy, but he’s headed in the right direction. He’s tripping over his feet but he’s pointed mostly north, and hopefully someday he’ll make it all the way to the Real Deal.
Not all of them do. Some people get sick of noticing other people’s pain. Pain sucks and it’s tiring. They remember that this pain is optional for them and check out, promising themselves it’s just a break.
But some of them…
Part Three: The Real Deal
Gonna TL;DR this once more with feeling:
Unlike the Faker, the Rookie has good intentions.
Unlike the Real Deal, the Rookie thinks his good intentions are the same as good work.Unlike both the Faker and the Rookie, the Real Deal has good intentions that he KNOWS are less important than his good work.
(Quick note: we’re sliding up the scale from worst possible “male ally” to best possible male ally, and a lot of the differentiation between Chads exists only in comparison to other Chads. Kind of like how you have to hold something black up to a pair of pants to see if they’re actually navy blue. Like that, but with humans on the internet.)
HOLY SHIT! YA FOUND ONE?
A Real Deal? A really real Real Deal? Someone who doesn’t respond to women’s experiences with the Faker’s “I don’t believe it,” or the Rookie’s “I can’t believe it”?!? Someone who actually says and means I BELIEVE IT AND YOU?!?!?!?!?
I’d be happy for you if I weren’t gagging on envy bile. You’re lucky, you know. A Real Deal is rare. He is as wished-for and elusive as a pair of leggings that you REALLY don’t have hike up every 8 minutes. Hey! Let’s stay with that legging metaphor for a minute.
Because so many leggings promise so much: I won’t fall down! I won’t pill! I won’t be thin and clingy! I definitely won’t go stealth-mode and betray your assets when you bend over! We’ve heard the promises so many times from so many leggings. “Sure, yeah, I’m sure you’re different from ALL the other leggings, bro,” we think. “But what’s the fucking return policy.”
So many guys seem like they get it: I won’t talk over you! I won’t assume that you’re wrong about your own experiences! I definitely won’t freak out and call you a cunt when you challenge my point of view! “Yeah, yeah, Chad, I’m sure you’re different from every other man on the internet,” we think. “But you should know two things: I’m taking screenshots, and I am not one of those nice people who blurs out people’s names. I’ve already Googled you and I got your boss’s email address from LinkedIn. It’s not a great time for white dudes in the news, Chad. Be careful.”
The Real Deal walks the walk: he listens when we talk (not a high bar, guys. You can start anytime) and uses his maleness to translate our lady jibber-jabber for his friends who can’t hear voices without wieners attached to them.
But more importantly, the Real Deal CRUCIALLY, understands why we take those screenshots, why we’re cautious and sometimes blunt or even rude. He isn’t fragile. He doesn’t ‘roid out on us when we say, “Hey, you need to Google that instead of asking me.”
The Real Deal not only believes that we’re threatened, he also understands that HE looks like a threat. And GLORIOUSLY, instead of getting angry with us or mocking us for recognizing that we need to be careful of him, he is RESPECTFUL AND SELF-AWARE.
He is, in short, a magnificent bastard.
Fun fact: THE LEGGING METAPHOR JUST KEEPS GOING, PEOPLE, because a lot of the time you don’t even know that a Real Deal is there. You know why? Because he’s not performing his shit for you. Because he’s legit listening and thinking and reflecting and you’re just… comfortable. Hallelujah.
Here are a few more things the Real Deal DOESN’T do!
Tell us how many vaginas are in his gene pool!
Play devil’s advocate!
Tell us how many lady books he’s read!
Only talk to women about feminism. We see you when you do that, Rookie!
Ask us to find out answers that he could Goog!
Dirty delete something he fucked up!
Here are a few more things the Real Deal DOES!
Share information written by women and tags his male friends!
When he feels the impulse to start explaining, minimizing, or assuming he knows more than a lady voice, he waits. He just sits and waits. He doesn’t talk. He takes the time to recognize that what he’s feeling is an old habit, the ghost of a cigarette pack in his pocket, and he will sit and wait until he remembers that he. quit. that. shit!
Offer to be of service!
Pay women who perform emotional labor for him, or who spend their time educating him!
Acknowledge when he fucked up and leaves it there so people can read it and see how a Real Deal takes responsibility, doesn’t fall apart, picks himself up, and tries again!
These. Leggings. Don’t. Pill. Girl.
A version of these posts originally appeared in a three-part series on the KatyKatiKate Facebook page. For I am a modern-day Dickens.