Friday Feminism on the run: Nice Guys (TM) redux and what makes an ideal husband and father

Over at Feministe, Jill dissects a particularly loopy column/movie review from Jill Stanek (dialled up several notches even from her notoriously loose grip on what passes for analysis), where Stanek ends up in her column’s comments thread being reduced to claiming of Godfather II‘s Michael Corleone that “as husband and father, he was ideal”, because he “didn’t drink, refused to womanize” (she argues for his ideal manliness because he is angry at his wife Kay for aborting her pregnancy, thus he is “pro-life”, thus he is a good man).

The Feministe commentariat dissect the idea of describing the cloying sociopathic possessiveness of Michael Corleone as being “affectionate and attentive” to his wife with all the ridicule that missing the entire point of the Godfather saga deserves, but there is a second important point, and commentor Deborah nails it:

the second-craziest comment is admiring Michael as a good husband because he doesn’t booze or cheat. Geez Pete, are their standards so low? He’s “ideal” because of that? My idea of an ideal husband has to do with love and kindness and attention, as well as, oh, say”¦not murdering people. It’s an affirmative list, not just a list of crimes the husband doesn’t commit!

But that’s part of the anti-female rhetoric. If a husband doesn’t booze or cheat, a wife has no right to complain, because she has no right to human decency as long as these major lines aren’t crossed.

She’s just hit the nail on the head with what bothers me about the Nice Guy (TM) rhetoric, those whines from some men about how it’s so unfair that women won’t flock to be with them when he’s a “decent” bloke who doesn’t do nasty things to women, and what more do they want? Well, colour us as unreasonably demanding, but women do tend to want a little bit more than a guy who simply refrains from being nasty like it’s some great sacrifice (which implies that he might just stop refraining from being nasty if he doesn’t feel appreciated enough, so watch it).

Not doing nasty things to women is the lowest bar to hurdle, it’s the basic standard for being someone women don’t actively seek to avoid, it’s not all that’s necessary for women to find a man trustworthy and likable. A man who doesn’t commit crimes against women may simply be a man who is unwilling to risk being caught rather than being a man who would never dream of enjoying such a thing, and if a man does not have that basic empathy and respect for women it shows.

As Rebekka Deborah says, an ideal man affirms women in his interactions with them, he doesn’t feel entitled to congratulations and rewards simply for not being horrible. Not being horrible is the basic standard for being a good citizen, it doesn’t entitle anyone to special doe-eyed regard. A Good Man doesn’t just not bash or not rape or not murder women, he is also a kind and thoughtful person who is interested in women as people and not just bodies.

Blatant “players” can still be Good Men if they are kind and thoughtful and interested in the women they are charming into their bed without making any false promises, while men who desperately want to be married can still be just wearing Nice Guy(TM) masks if all they really want is the convenience of wifely services rather than a partner they genuinely find to be an interesting person whose opinions and desires they respect. Being a Good Man is really not all that high a bar, although it is definitely higher than the Jill Stanek ideal of not-a-drinker and not-a-womaniser. Be kind and thoughtful and interested in people, including women. That’s what makes a Good Man, and eventually the Ideal Husband and Father. All that needs to be sacrificed is a selfish sense of entitlement.

Categories: arts & entertainment, relationships

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14 replies

  1. Fair cop – insipid tastes like?

  2. Not quite with you there, Grendel. More context?

  3. I said that? Gee, sometimes I come out with stuff that actually sounds quite intelligent!
    I surprise myself. Particularly on a Friday afternoon where I drank wine at lunchtime and now my brain doesn’t work.

  4. Oh, good catch, it was indeed Deborah I meant to name there. Oops. I’d better fix that.

  5. Oh my Gahd.

    On one hand he was a serial killer no better than Dahmer and Gacy.
    On the other, he was pro-life.

    Right. A serial killer. Whose redeeming feature is that he’s, y’know, pro-life.
    Shame about all those born people. Still an’ all, borned people get ugly and old and wrinkly and they’re just not as much fun as little foetuses.

  6. ”All that needs to be sacrificed is a selfish sense of entitlement.”

    That is the problem. Right there. Summed up in that little line.

  7. I’ve long believed that if every man tried to be the sort of guy he’d want his daughter to marry, the world would be a better place. (NB: That doesn’t mean the daughter HAS to marry, just that her dad would want someone worthy of her.)

  8. Fair enough.
    What about a good wife, then.
    Not enough to be faithful, a hard working mother to his children, a good cook and an attentive lover, she should strive to positively affirm her husband’s masculinity in all that she does.
    Is that how it works?

  9. S’alright. Was quite happy to take credit for obviously intelligent and erudite statement about men.

  10. Kip,
    you seem to have a thumb on that logical equivalence scale.
    Corleone was held up by a twerp as an ideal husband because he didn’t drink or womanise (i.e. refrained from two negative behaviours), and Deborah and I said “it takes a bit more than that” (referring to a few positive behaviours).
    You are holding up a woman who is “faithful, a hard working mother to his children, a good cook and an attentive lover” and saying “oh, so it should need a bit more than that from her too”. I see one negative behaviour to refrain from on your list, and three positive behaviours already being performed.
    You’re comparing apples and oranges here, Kip.
    Also, your suggestion that a good wife needs to affirm her husband’s masculinity? I’m guessing you drew that from my statement that a good man is one who “affirms women in his interactions with them”, and I find your conclusion that it is women’s femininity that should be affirmed (rather then women’s individuality) a rather troubling demonstration of Totally Missing The Point.

  11. Truthfully, I think of some of the modern women I’ve met over the years and the disgraceful, spiteful way they’ve treated their men, inspired as they were by feminist philosophy; and I think they should regard them as the finest husbands imaginable simply for not walking out on them.
    …sadly, the men usually do leave in those situations. (I count a couple of relatives in there, so it is genuinely sad.)

  12. You seem to be using people’s responses here to go off on a prepared anti-feminist rant. That is usually called derailing the thread, and it’s irritating.
    To keep it on topic. Some people, both men and women, are selfish jerks who treat their partners badly. Sometimes treating a partner badly is not just the obvious spiteful and deceitful stuff, sometimes treating a partner badly is adhering conspicuously to the dutiful stuff as a status thing and neglecting the kind, caring interest stuff.
    There’s a particular traditional view of marriage wherein a husband is considered ideal if he refrains from the deceptive and spiteful stuff, performs the dutiful stuff reliably, and that women have no right to expect anything more. I think that refraining from deceit and spite and being reliable are the minimum standards that make an adequate husband/father, and that a good/ideal husband/father should be kind and caring and interested as well.
    Obviously this goes for what men should expect from women as well (and for what same-sex couples should expect from their partners too). Why on earth wouldn’t it?

  13. Slightly OT – the hubby last night had a spit at John Howard for calling the victorious Australian Netball team ‘girls’ instead of women. He commented that JH wouldn’t call the Socceroos ‘boys’. I was so proud!

  14. Kip – I don’t find I need to affirm my husband’s masculinity. He isn’t frightened by my feminism. We work as a team. Maybe the men in your family were frightened of their wives? Maybe it takes two to tango? I wasn’t party to the intricacies of their marriages, but then neither were you so I think blaming it all on feminism is a bit silly. But then we all blame things we are frightened of.

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