The conundrum of a skilled feminist response to fratastic misogyny

I was on a plane last week behind a group of dudes, all appearing to be in their late 30s or early 40s, hell bent and determined to get trashed at 11 in the morning so they could launch into their bachelor party weekend in New Orleans sufficiently blitzed and, apparently, super sexist. They loudly regaled one another with some of their favorite stories from the past–that night they invited two strippers back to their room in Vegas and went into back rooms for extra money, coming out and smelling each other’s fingers (I couldn’t make this shit up) and that “bitch” who rejected them at the bar last weekend, but they didn’t care because she was ugly anyway. Every woman was introduced by the fitness of her body and/or the beauty of her face.

Appropriately enough, I was reading Kay S. Hymowitz’s new book (review to come), Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. I gave one dude the death stare, but it really didn’t feel like there was much else I could do to burst their fratty, craptastic bubble. I tried to think of ways to make fun of them, but nothing came to mind in the moment. I hate that feeling of benign neglect when I’m witnessing absolute bullshit in public spaces but I can’t figure out how to intervene, how to name my values so that they can stand up to the anemic, sorry excuse for conduct that I’m witnessing.

I was reminded of that feeling while reading the latest frat boy buffoonery via Jezebel. Basically some guy decided to coddify all of his -isms into one incredibly offensive little email and send it to all of his friends. And, of course, they sent it to all of their friends, including school authorities. Whoops. Here’s just a tiny taste, because I refuse to give this guy much more air time:

Please send me all of your hook-ups in Tucker Max format (for those unfamiliar with this legend, google will suffice). These renditions should be elaborate and interesting. I want raw data on who fucks and who doesn’t. In conclusion the gullet report will strengthen brotherhood and help pin-point sorostitiutes more inclined to put-out. From my experience when a female goes Ksig shes typically repeats…Note: I will refer to females as “targets”. They aren’t actual people like us men. Consequently, giving them a certain name or distinction is pointless.

I’m struck, once again, by the conundrum of how to respond. What would it really look like to change the hearts and minds of this desperate little boy, trying to seem cool among his friends, annihilating women’s humanity in the process? What would have made those guys on that plane check themselves and recognize that they actually didn’t want to offend one half (and, God, I hope more) of the population trapped on the plane with them and their stinking misogyny? Shaming these dudes is not the answer, I know that. Humor sometimes works, but when things get seriously offensive, making fun of someone feels anemic, and at worse, even complicit. Is it just all out, feminist guns blazin’ anger that these guys must be met with? It’s how I feel, but I’m not sure that’s really persuasive. In fact, I fear it reinforces their sexism by making them feel targeted and like their worst stereotypes of feminists are true.

There must be repercussions for these frat fucks, no question, but will those consequences, impressed on them by authorities on high, really make any kind of long term impact? I thinks not.

Join the Conversation