Supporting Women While Tearing Them Down: #NowWhat

Supporting women should be the norm for every man. Unfortunately, that support tends to wax and wane depending on the female in question.

ColumnAsk most any father what he hopes his daughter will accomplish when she’s grown and he’ll most likely say something like:

“I want her to accomplish all her goals, support herself, and find a partner who compliments her personality and doesn’t try to change her.”

So, why is it that many of these men—again #NotAllMen—don’t want the same for their wives, colleagues, and friends? Why is supporting women so conditional?

I don’t have the answer to those questions. That’s mostly because I was raised by a father who wanted me to remain independent, and also married a woman who was (and still is) incredibly independent. And partly because I don’t understand how men, in general, can expect certain women to fill particular roles in their lives while requiring them to behave a certain way.

This past week, we ran across two stories that touch on this subject. So, we’re going to try and figure what—if anything—these men are thinking when they box women into becoming stereotypes.

Donald, Ivanka, and Melania

We’ve already discussed our frustrations with how Donald Trump addresses women. Trump has publicly called women fat pigs, ugly and worthless. He also said, at one point, that women should be punished for having abortions. As far as I can recall, Trump hasn’t adequately addressed the wage gap or women’s health during this election cycle, either. Sure, he may have said something like, “I love women and think they can do great things,” but that sentiment rings about as true as “I love Mexicans.”

We’re equally bothered by how Trump treats his former wives and current wife, and one of his daughters, Ivanka.

A recent New York Times piece examined how men like Trump tend to expect one thing from their wives and another from their daughters.

For example, time and time again, Trump has married women who fit a certain, very traditional mold. And let us clarify: We’re not bashing these women for filling this role in Trump’s life. We’re irritated that Trump wasn’t/isn’t a better husband.

“[Melania] is wife No. 3, and No. 2 was the woman with whom he cheated on No 1,” the Times reports.

“Mr. Trump has children with three different women; he blames giving his wife too much responsibility in his business for his first divorce, and his wife’s wanting him to spend too much time at home with her and their daughter for his second.”

“The qualities Mr. Trump seeks in his romantic partners are remarkably retro,” the Times adds.

“Melania Trump is a former model with her own QVC jewelry line and skin care brand who emphasizes that her role as a mother comes before all else; Mr. Trump has spoken disparagingly of working women, does little in the way of child care, and expects women to be more aesthetically appealing than intellectually substantive.

‘We know our roles,’ his wife has said. ‘I didn’t want him to change the diapers or put Barron to bed.’ Mr. Trump agrees: ‘I won’t do anything’ to take care of the children, he told Howard Stern in 2005. ‘I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids.’”

However, Trump tends to feel different about his daughter Ivanka. He’s repeatedly discussed her entrepreneurial success while applauding her bright personality and motherly abilities.

Apparently, this strange divided way of thinking isn’t all that uncommon.

A survey from Maria Shriver’s Shriver Report revealed that American men listed intelligence as the most important quality a wife and a daughter could have. But in that same report, men had a few opinions that were rather, well, depressing. “More men said they wanted their wives to be attractive and sweet than said the same about their female children,” the Times reports.

“For daughters, men ranked being independent, strong and principled as more important qualities than those same characteristics in wives. Two-thirds of men want an independent daughter, but only one in three wants an independent wife. Fourteen percent of men said they wanted a wife who was a homemaker; just 5 percent said the same about their daughters.”

This divided way of thinking is incredibly troubling. After all these years and work that women have done to achieve gender equality, some men still don’t view all women equally.

However, hope is not lost—it never is. With each generation, more men seek women who are fierce and independent, and want their daughters to retain that unique, fiery sense of self, too.

Note: Although Trump does acknowledge Ivanka is smart, he also has repeatedly commented on her looks in the past; not a very progressive trait.

That one lesbian ad

You’d assume an ad that encourages the end of discrimination would be positive. Unfortunately, there are varying degrees anti-discrimination rhetoric. For example: campaigns that call for marriage equality so everyone can share their love, finances, and rights equally are great. But campaigns that try to prove equality by saying that lesbians are hot, so countries that discriminate against them are bad, aren’t great.

Recently, the Canada Oil Sands Community released a poster that said… brace yourselves:

“In Canada lesbians are considered hot! In Saudi Arabia, if you’re a lesbian you die! Why are we getting our oil from countries that don’t think lesbians are hot?! Choose equality! Choose Canadian oil!”

The image on the poster? You guessed it. Two thin, attractive women kissing.

As with most things that are this tone deaf, Robbie Picard, the organization’s founder, was surprised by all the negative feedback.

“(We used) a random stock image, but the point was to draw attention to the bigger issue,” the National Post reports.

“I was surprised there was so much response to it. When I say lesbians are hot, I don’t think there is anything wrong about saying that. I think all lesbians are hot and I’m not opposed to putting a picture of two guys up there. It was just to strike up a conversation. I find anybody is hot. I think two women kissing is hot. I think that something that is part of the fabric of our city — that we can do whatever we want in our country—that is hot.”

Nice try, Picard. But we all know that this type of awareness campaign doesn’t make people think about a cause—it just objectifies women and puts them in the male gaze.

It’s that gaze that’s put women “in their place”—in kitchens, as sex objects, as random body parts—for years. Sure, women are in a better “place” now—we can openly speak out about these ridiculous injustices rather than being jailed or called hysterical. But we’re far from getting treated equally because, well, re-read the stuff we just wrote about.

Luckily, we live in an era where more men than ever aren’t misogynists and are willing to learn about women’s varied experiences. This type of education is not only great for women of all ages and ethnicities but beneficial to men and society, too. Because after all, when everyone in society is treated equally, the world becomes a more tolerant place.

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Image of women working together via Shutterstock

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.