Op Ed

Takedown: All Guys Need to Read This

This week’s crapdate shows up in all sorts of ways, in a variety of forms, and it’s the kind of post that seems innocuous and silly. The more of them I see, though, the more they rub me the wrong way. This one showed up on my feed this week:

All guys
All guys need to read this! All of them!

The reason this seems harmless is because it is so far removed from anything that makes any sense to me that my instinct is to not pay attention. Therein lies the danger, though. I pay it no mind because it is so absurd; it is so popular because other people (apparently a lot of other people) think it is pure truth. And that “truth” is frightening.

The crapdate itself is nothing if not a reflection of our current culture, and it speaks volumes about the assumptions and beliefs held therein.

As a linguist, language is the first thing that jumps out at me. The word “guy” refers to human males past puberty, whereas “girl” has no lower age limit; this crapdate is discussing women of a sexual age, and the language within it infantilizes them. Imagine if it were titled “all boys need to read this,” or if it said “Women, SHARE This” at the end. It would have an entirely different feel. This is not the fault of the graphic, but instead, a reflection of our culture. In the very language that we use, women who have hit puberty are still treated as children, while men who have hit puberty are no longer boys.

The very concept of the crapdate – that all guys should read something and learn how to make all girls happy – tells us what society expects from “guys.” Not all men are interested in women. Not all men who are interested in women are interested in a list of arbitrary rules that paint every woman as wanting and needing the same thing. By starting out with “all guys need to read this,” the crapdate poster sends a clear message that any guy who might think differently is not a valid guy. The crapdate poster thinks that they are addressing all men, but what this really shows us is that they are blind to the fact that not all men are heterosexual, or sexual at all, or believe in strict gender roles, or think that there is a formula for relationships. If you aren’t the kind of “guy” who wants to read this, you are invisible. Invisible to the crapdate poster, yes, but apparently also to society, since this nonsense is so prevalent.

Some of the pieces of advice are not terrible, if you can get past the fact that this is supposed to be read by all guys and wanted by all girls. “When she tells you a secret keep it safe and untold,” and “Treat her like she’s all that matters to you”: decent advice for anybody who is in a monogamous relationship with one other person. If somebody trusts you with a secret, better not to tell it. If you love somebody, better to treat them like you love them. I’ll grant those.

The rest, though, fall into four categories, ranging from stupid to downright frightening in what they say about our culture.

Category #1: Wants and needs are universal

The entire post is based on this idea – that all guys can read this, do this, and then all girls will be forever happy. Some of the statements don’t take it any further than that. You’ve seen movies, right? So has the creator of this graphic. Kiss-me-in-the-rain-spin-me-around-win-me-a-toy-at-the-fair-live-happily-ever-after. “Kiss her in the pouring rain,” “When she grabs at your hands hold hers and play with her fingers,” “When she looks at you in your eyes don’t look away until she does.” I got caught in a rainstorm today, and if somebody had tried to kiss me in the middle of it, I would have been highly, highly irritated. Rainstorms are irritating.

The truth is that there is no formula for happiness, there is no formula for romance.

Category #2: Girls play games and are manipulative

This next category is mostly just annoying. Bitches are crazy, amirite? It’s a tired trope, and the fact that it is peppered throughout this crapdate shows that it is still prevalent in society. Even with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Even with Angela Merkel as the Chancellor of Germany. Even with more women earning PhDs than men. Girls play games! They are manipulative! But don’t worry, guys can outsmart them. “When she steals your favorite hoodie let her wear it,” “When she says she’s ok don’t believe it,” “When she says that she loves you she really does mean it.” Girls! They lie! But sometimes they don’t! Luckily this graphic helps you decipher their games.

Category #1 was superficial, category #2 is tiresome.

Category #3 Boys do boy things and girls do girl things

Category #3 is when we start venturing into dangerous territory. “When she’s scared protect her,” “When she runs up to you crying, the first thing you say is: ‘Whose butt am I kicking baby?'” “When you see her start crying just hold her and don’t say a word.” Men protect women, men rely on physical strength, women cry and are emotional.

Stereotypes in and of themselves are not dangerous, but when they permeate society, they become so. The flip side of the “boys do boy things” coin is that “boys who do not do boy things are unnatural/uncool/unfit to do XYZ.” Men face a lot of pressure in society to be macho; these beliefs provide fertile ground for violence and hatred against those who don’t fit in. Want your day to be ruined? Look at the Wikipedia page about violence against LGBT people in the United States. Then come back here and think again about how dangerous Category #3 is.

Category #4 No means yes

And it gets worse. Category #4 is an integral part of rape culture. “When she pulls away pull her back,” “When you see her walking sneak up and hug her waist from behind,” “When she’s mad hug her tight and don’t let go.” No. NO. When I pull away, do not pull me back. I’m pulling away because I am a human being with my own agency, and if I want to be pulled back, I will let you know. Do not sneak up on me and hug me from behind, not unless we have a very clearly established relationship and we are in a safe spot, because you know who sneaks up on people and grabs them from behind? Attackers. And I do not want to be made to feel like I am being attacked because some Internet meme told you that it would make me feel romantic. And that last one? If somebody is mad, and you hold them tight and refuse to let them go, that is what is known as assault. Men tend to be stronger than women. What feels romantic to an unwitting strong man can easily feel like assault to an angry, less strong woman who is powerless to stop it.

This last category is so awful that I can’t believe it’s being paraded around as romance. It is not romantic to hold somebody weaker than you and not let them go. It is an abuse of physical power, and it is disgusting.

I’ve always discounted these “everybody wants a man who” type of memes. But the thing is, I’m not the only one seeing these. 13-year-old boys who share these are using them as checklists, learning “how to be romantic,” figuring out “what girls want.” 13-year-old girls who share this understand that this is how boys are, this is how boys show you that they love you, and it is one more message telling them that men who are physically controlling you are really just doing it because they care.

There is no formula for being the type of “guy” that every “girl” wants. It is not possible to go through a list of actions and suddenly become the man of everybody’s dreams. But these messages are not just absurd; they are dangerous. They feed the beast, add cement to the status quo, make it harder for people to question strict gender roles. They also encourage people who are prone to using violence as a means of control to continue to do so, and for victims of said violence to see it as a form of love. All guys do not need to read this graphic. Nor do all girls. Or all men, or all women. As long as this stuff is being liked and shared, it is an indication of how far we still have left to go.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

67 replies on “Takedown: All Guys Need to Read This”

Ye gods and little fishes, YES.

I’m not a touchy person, except with a few individuals (one of whom is the Fella). But he’s already figured out that, if I’m pissed off or upset, I don’t want him to “comfort” me (or to “fix it”, unless I ask for help). And hugs are only okay when I see them coming. AND, if I say one thing (like “sure, Moe’s sounds like a better option than Pricey Burgers Place”), I’m not ignoring what I want because I know he has a coupon to Moe’s. It means I want Moe’s.

And, damn it, my hypothetical situation is making me hungry. FOR MOE’S.

I agree completely with this post, I just wanted to add:

“When you see her start crying, just hold her and don’t say a word”. Um, when I cry it is usually because something happened, and I think the least my SO can do is ask me what happened or, if he knows, try to comfort me (of course in some cases that’s really hard, but you can still say things like “I’m here” or “You can talk to me if you want to”). They way it is phrased makes me think that the author of the list thinks that women girls just sometimes cry, you know, for no reason whatsover, and that’s just how girls are, so the guy has to just keep quiet and wait for it to be over like a child throwing a tantrum or something, which is altogether pretty infuriating. Actually, like was said above, the whole list reads like women girls can’t be taken seriously.


Persephone Magazine might be rubbing off on me because this

Category #4 is an integral part of rape culture. “When she pulls away pull her back,” “When you see her walking sneak up and hug her waist from behind,” “When she’s mad hug her tight and don’t let go.”

immediately started off an alarm in my head. It’s a bit of a scare when even a loved one suddenly grabs you (talking as someone with a big, older brother) and I really can’t see any fun, romantic or loving about it at all. There’s a tongue in your mouth, how hard would it be for you to use it?

Alarm, alarm, alarm!  Me too.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I have overanalyzed things and romance isn’t possible for me anymore, to be honest.  But no, it is possible.  Just not when it involves making me feel powerless.

If I’m reading right, the danger in the fourth category is 1. teaching men that this is romance and 2. teaching women they should pretend to like it, but I think that second point is actually more sinister–it teaches women that their instincts are wrong, if they want to pull away from a man who says he loves her who is hugging her, or if she’s uncomfortable with his staring contests, because that’s what romance is. A culture that discourages women’s instincts and posits a view of male/female relationships based on strict gender roles and physical and emotional power imbalances is one where it’s really hard for women to have very much control of their sex lives, and one in which it’s really easy for them to have a lot of sexual encounters they’re not actually comfortable with, and all of that is part of why this is a rape culture.

You might have been suggesting all that already, but I thought it merited cashing out a little more.

Great post–you’re such an organized thinker, and it’s so valuable in unpacking these scary implications in cultural messages!

A culture that discourages women’s instincts and posits a view of male/female relationships based on strict gender roles and physical and emotional power imbalances is one where it’s really hard for women to have very much control of their sex lives, and one in which it’s really easy for them to have a lot of sexual encounters they’re not actually comfortable with, and all of that is part of why this is a rape culture.

Yes, indeed. It’s awful enough to be teaching men that this is how they ought to behave, that this is what constitutes romance. But when women are being taught the other side of that same coin, it removes the ability to even recognize the danger for what it is. It’s cultural Stockholm Syndrome, FFS. And it occurs along a continuum. When you accept this dynamic in a million little ways every single day, it’s hard to recognize the tipping point at which you stop going with the flow. This article, posted here earlier, I think is really grappling with this underlying concept. It’s not as simple as “what you’re doing is wrong/bad/shame on you,” it’s that we have a cultural narrative folks are trained to follow, rather than to stop and think about the context.

Those were the ones that were the worst to me at first (and still are the worst, really), but once I started looking at everything, I realized the entire thing squicked me out.

Also, I have a physical reaction to the idea of being angry and somebody holding me and not letting me go.  Just the thought of it makes me really upset.

This has been drifting around the internet since I was 12 ( I’m 22) and I remember loving it back when I first read it. Then, I grew up, I learned to think critically,I had guy friends, girl friends, and realized this was a steaming pile of horse shit.. The sad thing is,this still pops up on my newsfeed from my contemporaries.

Listen, I may be slightly uncomfortable with being referred to as a woman, but call me a girl and I will smash your face into a jukebox. Don’t do that.

Re: needing protection. In my house, I am the resident spider killer and pest chaser-awayer (yes, I did just make up that word, why do you ask?). The only thing I need protection from is my klutziness, but I’m pretty sure nothing short of living in a bubble can save me from that.


Okay okay okay, Mr. Nonsense does kill the roaches for me (while I’m freaking out in another room) but I blame that on my Midwestern roots of not having to deal with HUGE ASS roaches.  I, however, kill the spiders.

It’s an equal pest chaser-awayer partnership. :-)


When I was having ridiculous PMDD-inspired mood-swings, I had a group of about 10 guys I went to school with, who were my wrestling teammates, who knew that if I started having a meltdown, the best thing to do was give me a hug, and by hug I mean put me in a body lock, so that I could not hurt myself or others, until it passed after about 2 minutes.

And then I got meds.

Yeah, if I’m mad and someone holds me tight and won’t let go they’d better hope they belong to the group of people I don’t want to hit. I am not a terribly violent person, but the combination or being angry AND helpless makes me lash out with everything I have.

As a lady who 99% of the time likes other ladies, I do have a soft spot for almost-body-builder-but-not-quite menfolks. Not because I expect them to protect me, but because their pecs make great pillows.

[/only admitting this because zomg lots of wine happened]

Being physically overpowered AT ALL drives me fudging nutballs! Even when there’s no ill intent and it’s from someone I trust. I’ve always been short and I HATE being picked up, for example, even as a joke. A simple thing like thumb wrestling can bother me if it turns into a person bigger than me holding my arm down. But a lot of men don’t seem to understand that just because something’s meant innocuously doesn’t mean it feels benign. Even Gary Blonde, who is 6’3 to my 5’3, needs to be reminded once in a while that I DON’T LIKE BEING PICKED UP.

I’d also appreciate if men would stop walking in my blind spot. When you’re behind someone, you don’t walk directly behind them where they can’t see you and sense what you’re up to, you walk slightly to the side so your non-threateningness can be observed. This is how we all go about our business, big hulking men who don’t realize how creepstery you’re being when you absentmindedly walk directly behind women with about a foot of space in between.

Urgh! I have seen this graphic make the rounds of Facebook a few years ago. A boyfriend of mine actually tried the “when you see her walking, sneak up and hug her waist from behind.” It was in the city, night time and I was on my way to our arranged meeting place, a stranger much taller than me bounds up behind me and, yeah I screamed. Loudly. I have no idea why anyone would think grabbing someone when they can’t see who it is would be charming and romantic. It’s also just a really awkwardly written sentance.

Also? The “when she’s mad, hug her tight and don’t let go”– because she’s struggling to get away from you?  I think I remember my mum doing that to my little sister while she threw tantrums, ended with her getting an elbow in the face. I cannot imagine someone considering doing this to an another adult, the infantilisation of this crap– “when she runs up to you crying” Why? did she fall off the swing set and scrap her knee? ‘when she’s scared protect her” from what? Gigantic gas bills? Deadlines? Unamericans? Monsters under the bed?–  turns my stomach.

“When she looks into your eyes don’t look away until she does.” try that with your cat. it really freaks them out.

Your take-downs are one of my favorite things about PMag! Spot the fuck on.

That last category is so awful. The only reason I can believe it’s being paraded around as romance is because its there in, like, every crappy rom-com ever. Stalk the girl, get the girl. No. Fucking no. This shit needs to die. Slowly. In a fire. Because if I ever have to put up with a Nice Guy TM stalker again, it will be too soon. And being taught to regard women as some tricky, manipulative “other,” whose ways can never be understood so you just ignore what she says and go ahead with these “rules” is a big, big, part of the problem.

The insisting on physical contact without regard to what the other person wants is particularly awful. As in, terrifying. I genuinely cannot handle this type of thing, and I know I’m not the only one.

(And on a shallow note: they even fucked up the shirt “theft” thing. Who takes their SO’s hoodie/jacket?! No, you take a t-shirt when you’re in a long-distance relationship. Duh. These people know nothing.)

Well, to be perfectly fair, I live in boyfriend’s t-shirts and shirts because they are ridiculously comfortable. But since we live together I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count as stealing. Do people really do that? I’ve always asked if I wanted to borrow a boyfriend’s sweater or whatever.

The last category is the WORST. And if it’s done to me would likely end in physical violence because that’s my usual reaction to attack, as a lot of high school male friends quickly found out. UGH.

This was really interesting, though there are a couple of points that I keep coming back to. The first is #1. Certainly, wants and needs aren’t universal, but I’m not sure what is “wrong” with the suggestions made. The other is #3. In that, yes, stereotypes can be harmful but that I’m wondering how the points quoted in #3 are in themselves harmful or particularly indulging certain stereotypes – I guess I don’t see them as inherently negative points, as it were.

Again, this really was an interesting read.

What’s wrong with the suggestions made? That it’s better to listen to a bunch of stereotypes than to listen/pay attention to what your partner actually likes and wants.

As for category #3, I tend to feel like encouraging gendered roles is always a bad thing.

I mean, there are individual points here that may not be awful – if taken on their own and with greater nuance and flexibility. But this image taken in its entirety definitely presents certain picture, and it’s one I find chilling.

Ah, okay. That makes sense with regards to #1. With #3, yes, that makes sense too – the point of the encouragement being a bad thing. Looking at the “bigger picture”, too, is yes perhaps the way to be looking at this, where as I found myself initially looking at the components more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this with me.

I think the components are what makes it so sneaky and insidious. I mean, this isn’t blatant propaganda; it’s not obvious, mustache-twirling evil. It’s sincere, and it’s got things on it most of us can point to and say “Well, but if…” I mean, hugs are frequently a good thing, right? That makes it a lot more challenging to call out than MRA-rant style misogyny.

The problem I have with the third category is not in the statements themselves – it’s that they are presented as a handbook.  “All guys need to read this” says that this is what guys should be like.  And *that* is what is dangerous to me.

Why does no one say “gals” anymore? Life would be much simpler* if we could get a little parity in our language: girls and boys, gals and guys, women and men (marked vs. unmarked terms aside), and ladies and gentlemen.

I once attended a high school basketball game in a small town gymnasium where the bathroom doors were marked “Men” and “Girls” (AHHHHH!). I nearly stormed the court, opting instead for a strongly worded letter.

*Simpler for heteronorms, that is. We obviously have even more work to do in using respectful terms for trans people.

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