Repost: Nice Guys (TM) redux and what makes an ideal husband and father

This post was originally published in 2007, and is getting a lot of hits all of a sudden (presumably there’s yet another Faux-Nice-Guy rant getting some kickback out there on the interwebs). I’ve decided to repost it so that some of the new readers (and veteran Hoydenizens too!) can discuss the post if they want to.

screenshot of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone from The GodfatherOver 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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31 replies

  1. Oh my lord!
    *Spoiler Alerts* for anyone who’s not yet seen the trilogy.
    Now I loved the Godfather trilogy – well the first two anyway. But holy fuck. Michael Corleone as the ideal husband? It was Michael in charge by the time they set up the politician to think he’d brutally murdered a prostitute right? Which entailed BRUTALLY MURDERING A PROSTITUTE! It was Michael who utterly ignored his wife and then HIT HER right? He was cold, calculating, ruthless, controlling. It may have been what he had to be in that role, but it is like a DEVASTATING portrayal of a domineering distant but possessive husband absolutely capable of the most coldly brutal violence. And yes, not murdering a prostitute simply as a prop for your revenge scenario? That would be an ideal fucking minimum for a HELLO let alone a marriage. And an ideal husband who smacks his wife around? Fuck me dead!

  2. Wow, that is setting the bar low. Glad I snavelled MyNigel when I did, when obviously standards were a bit higher.

  3. Well, it was Jill Stanek who wrote the original Corleone-praise, so for her all he had to do to be a hero was be angry about his wife’s decision to abort a pregnancy.
    All those other grown people whom he had murdered were nothing compared to being righteously outraged about a fetus not becoming a baby, in Stanek-land.

  4. Stanek really did tear off her own “pro-life” mask with that piece, to reveal how very Orwellian that choice of label actually is.

  5. The chap who did a WATM in comments on the first version of this post was also very revealing: his attempt at genderswap for my
    ”an ideal man affirms women in his interactions with them”
    ”[a good wife] should strive to positively affirm her husband’s masculinity in all that she does”
    which encapsulates way too many overlapping examples of entirely missing the point.

  6. Wow. Way for this dude to present a totally fragile and paranoid masculinity – I have other things to do with my day that cannot (and should not have to) all involve Affirming the Manliness of my Man!
    Hehe – to negatively affirm does appear to be an impossibility. Unless you were to be like ‘You’re SUCH a man! And I HATE IT!’. Not that ‘affirming’ is it?
    My 14yo was like ‘How can you say the Godfather is pro life??’.
    And perhaps if he’s the best example they can find of a ‘pro-lifer’ that says something about the pro-life position??

  7. @tigtog, @doubleantandre:
    That, right there, is the kind of hyper-fragile masculinity that makes me really apprehensive about re-entering the dating scene. I shudder to think what kind of ground some blokes think I have to/should make up in order to “affirm their masculinity”.
    Do I have to atone for being booksmart? Direct about my needs and desires? Not especially feminine? Vegan? A bit racial?
    The vetting process is going to be a long one, folks!

  8. Good luck Perla. My Nigel might not always be a perfect feminist, but I’m still pretty glad to have him, and I don’t envy you.

  9. @Alien Tea:

    Thanks Alien Tea.

  10. @Perla – internet dating came into its own for me there – I felt like I could get a bit of a sense of who people were without having too much invested

  11. Mmm. An ex of mine once told me “I don’t understand why you’re not happy! I treat you well! I don’t hit you!”
    In this case, he had so devastated my self-esteem and my sense of what I was entitled to that I stayed for far, far longer than I should have – well beyond him telling me this – crying a lot. Eventually I cheated on him (I used to feel bad about it; now I think that it was one of the few ways out of that situation, given the emotional manipulation, and given that it reminded me I actually had agency, was extremely inmportant). I think he was glad I cheated, because it let him maintain his Nice Guy persona whilst breaking stuff of mine before returning it to me, and telling me that his friends, who lived in the same neighbourhood as me, were planning to punch me if they saw me on the street. Why yes, it did make me twitchy about walking around in public. But lots of people – lots! – still believe he’s an ideal partner. The avowal of feminism doesn’t go astray, I guess.

  12. Ugh, WP. 😦
    I’m sorry you went through that, reminds me of an ex too. What do these guys do, have meetings where they share catchy lines like the not hitting one?

  13. @ doubleantandre: I’m not sure I could set up a profile – I’m too scared of people finding my profile in a job or pisstaking situation!
    Sorry to hear about how your ex treated you, WP.
    TW for abuse:
    Sadly, abusers being “re-imagined” as top blokes seems to happen a fair bit. I heard secondhand about a bloke I used to go to school with, who physically abused another ex-schoolmate of mine. She moved hundreds of kilometres away in the hope of creating a feeling of safe distance.
    Anyway, in the months leading up to his release from prison, he had accumulated a number of Facebook friends eager to meet him on the outside – including some possible romantic prospects. Because he had “served his time”, was really a nice guy, the judge was harsh on him, his ex wasn’t a good girlfriend, etc, etc.

  14. Aphie: perhaps they just listen to Nick Cave? Remember, “I tried my very best not to abuse her”? Oh, so it’s an EFFORT?
    This all puts me in mind of Bettina Arndt and her round of laments that married men are being cheated out of the sex they’re entitled to. According to the articles I read, these deserving men seemed to be deserving because they held down jobs and didn’t sleep around. This made at least one “a martyr to his family”. Because no man would be showing up for work if it wasn’t for his duty to support his wife.

  15. Thanks everyone; unpleasant times indeed!
    Perla, I know of very similar stories, many of which involved impugning the honesty of the woman (she lied, it wasn’t that bad, she’s just a crazy bitch, she was hanging out with too many feminists, etc, etc) in order to sustain the imagined ‘Niceness’ of the dude in question. The combination makes me feel a bit ill, sometimes…
    And as for dating websites, I have to say they’re pretty anonymous these days! 🙂 Strange beasts, but fairly anonymous. Though you do get some massively sexist bullshit sometimes, I have to say. My profile now warns off those who can’t handle feminists, which seems to work!

  16. I would like to address that Michael Corleone is meant to be a tragic character. He indeed does have redeeming characteristics but he has tragic flaws that leads to his down fall.
    Anyway, good men or good people shouldn’t be rewarded for simply not being horrible. However, they should be punished for it either. To believe that we don’t live in world where nice people are constanly overlooked and/or taken advantage of in very naive. When someone is constanly giving and never getting anything in return ti will cause bittereness and reasonably so. Yes, people should give just for sake of giving and not always expect something in return. But good people are only human they’re not saints. To think that someone will always be virtuous and always give when there is nothing in it for them is quite unrealistic. Good people aren’t entitled but they are just as deserving of happiness as anyone else.

  17. @ Scientific Exorcist – I’m trying to sift through what you’re saying there to connect it to the comments in the thread…I’m not sure anyone here has suggested that ‘good people’ who aren’t ‘perfect’ are less deserving of happiness, or indeed that anyone is less deserving of happiness.
    Is it the objection to Michael Corleone as an ideal husband that is making you think that’s what we’re saying? Or that we’re discussing that there seems to be a willingness to explain away abuse because you want to continue being able to think of your friend as a ‘good guy’ so that the ‘nice guy’ thing covers a bunch of ‘not nice’ behaviour?
    It might well be that I have the wrong end of the ‘stick’ about what you’re saying but I’m confused because you seem to be suggesting that what is being discussed here is the behaviour of people who gave and gave and got nothing in return so they ‘snapped’ and were abusive and that we should understand them? Why are you reading in to the stories above the idea that the person abused *because* they ‘gave and gave’? Again, if I’m misinterpreting I apologise, but having read the comment a few times I can’t see what else it is saying/how else it connects to this thread.

  18. @Scientific Exorcist – please do not leave your replies to the points I make here on an unrelated post at my blog. We are having this conversation here. I’m not posting the comment on a post at my blog on a completely unrelated topic. If you care to copy and paste it here I’ll address it.

  19. @doubleantandre, he did leave a reply to your comment here, but I’ve left it sitting in moderation because something about it didn’t sit right with me, and now that he’s gone and done that I guess it was a spidey-sense about him generally not grokking netiquette and appearing to aim for a derail.
    @ScientificExorcist, please address doubleantandre’s reply to you at #18 directly and concisely, without including any unwarranted personal speculations about the commentors here within your arguments, and providing it doesn’t breach any other guidelines of our Comments Policy then I will publish it.
    I’m particularly intrigued that you seem to be equating what most people would see as a neutral behaviour with punishment.
    When the best somebody can say of themselves is “I don’t do anything horrible” then they’re only meeting minimum decent-human-being standards. You have agreed that nobody deserves a chorus of thrilled admiration for simply not being horrible, but then you seem to be referring to this not-thrilled reaction as “punishment”. How exactly is that so?

  20. BTW, highly relevant post at Captain Awkward regarding the perennial NiceGuyTM question: Question #116: How do I seduce women? (Yes, this was an actual question).

    Before I translate all of that back into “seduction” for you, let me just state that I don’t give a shit about whether you get to sleep with lots of women. Women aren’t some reward you “get” from the universe for surviving gawky teen years. “Not being a rapist” isn’t a credential you present to get a pat on the back from ladies everywhere, it’s literally the minimum standard of human behavior, and there is no formula – no set of behaviors, no outfits, no Sex Panther cologne, no “Game”, no system – that is guaranteed to turn you into Don Draper. So I advise you to forget the word seduction and think instead about connection.
    To review, my personal rules of dating go like this, and I think they are true whether you’re looking for serious relationships or more casual affairs.
    1. The other person is just a human
    2. Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
    3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
    4. Be cool with rejection.
    5. You can’t control whether someone will like you.
    6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
    7. Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends. (I’ll waive this one if you’re just looking for Casual Encounters….I guess. Maybe I’ll replace it with “Use good spelling, grammar, and photos OF YOUR FACE” for your circumstances.)
    8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.
    It basically boils down to “Meet a woman (singular). Talk to her and figure out if you like each other. Maybe she won’t like you. Maybe she will. You can’t really control it, so you might as well just relax.”

  21. [aggressive challenge deleted ~ moderator]

    ”I’m particularly intrigued that you seem to be equating what most people would see as a neutral behaviour with punishment.
    When the best somebody can say of themselves is “I don’t do anything horrible” then they’re only meeting minimum decent-human-being standards. You have agreed that nobody deserves a chorus of thrilled admiration for simply not being horrible, but then you seem to be referring to this not-thrilled reaction as “punishment”. How exactly is that so?”

    And what is your definition of neutral behaviour? When someone treats you nicely then you treat them horribly in return. Then say “well, I don’t owe you anything just for being nice” then how is that neutral behaviour? It’s really about common decency your position advocates treating nice people badly because as you say you don’t deserve anything just for being nice. Not saying this is intentional, but that is I believe is result when you look at your argument. You don’t have to reward them just treat them with the same respect and consideration. They don’t deserve to be demonize which is what I believe you’re doing. If someone is generally a nice and generous person then they deserve to be described as such. Saying that a person is a good or nice of enough person that is not the same as admiration.

    ”@doubleantandre, he did leave a reply to your comment here, but I’ve left it sitting in moderation because something about it didn’t sit right with me, and now that he’s gone and done that I guess it was a spidey-sense about him generally not grokking netiquette and appearing to aim for a derail.”

    In other words you don’t allow difference of opinion on your blog.

    [blockquote formatting added by moderator for readability – please use the formatting buttons in future ~ moderator]

    • And what is your definition of neutral behaviour? When someone treats you nicely then you treat them horribly in return.

      How is being “not thrilled” by somebody in any universe the same thing as “treating them horribly”?
      ETA- and once again – how is “not being horrible” in any way at all the same thing as “treating you nicely”?

      If someone is generally a nice and generous person then they deserve to be described as such.

      Can I remind you that this post is about somebody claiming that Michael Corleone is ideal husband material? Michael Corleone is not a nice and generous person, and does not deserve to be described as such.

      In other words you don’t allow difference of opinion on your blog.

      I don’t allow aggressively insulting opinions on my blog. Rewrite to be less of a jackass about it.

  22. [Comment content deleted.
    Using a different email addy to bypass moderation shows that you don’t respect the boundaries we have set for acceptable interaction on this blog. We choose to refuse interaction with those who do not respect our boundaries. You are hereby banned. ~moderator]

  23. Will it surprise anybody to know that a woman defining her social-interaction boundaries and then sticking to and enforcing those boundaries provoked further whining from Mr-You’re-Demonising-The-Nice-Guy?
    Hey, if he wants to keep on giving me more email addresses for the banhammer bucket, I’ll keep on adding them, but continuing to butt up against someone’s stated social boundaries is not behaving nicely, and undercuts claims from him which attempt to define “nice” behaviour for the rest of us.

  24. I really appreciate the commenting and moderation policy on this site. I imagine wading through trolls must be really difficult. I appreciate the high standards that are maintained on this blog. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Perla. I’ve just had to drop the banhammer on SE’s IP address, because SE is trying to get around the bannination with new email addresses. If a new IP address appears, I’ll just ban that immediately to save time on the rest of it.
      For the record:
      When the topic is how some people will hold even notoriously manipulative abusers up as Great Guys just because they meet some other standards of social propriety, ranting about how this post is really telling women to be ungrateful harpies to genuinely Great Guys is either obtusely or vexatious missing the point and derailing the topic, not just expressing dissent. When the moderator identifies the argument as off-topic derailing, that is a boundary being stated. Refusing to either acknowledge or respect that boundary marks one out as again either obtusely or vexatiously missing the point.
      I’m not going to mention SE’s efforts again no matter how many new attempts to bypass moderation are attempted. I do however find it very, very interesting that this case of a marriage where the wife was emotionally and ultimately physically abused by a violently sociopathic control freak husband (Corleone) somehow got twisted into her/us? not being grateful enough for the nice things provided by generous partners.

  25. Given that I have a feeling that at least some of the vitriol was directed at me, I’d like to echo Perla in thanking tigtog for saving me from it!! Also that’ll learn me to talk about personal experience online, won’t it just?

  26. @Perla – No really give the online dating thing a go… you just make it clear in your profile who you are and then it helps people self-select themselves out of your way. And you don’t have to put up a photo if you’re worried about the piss-takers!


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