How to Make a Misogynist

I have a theory that the men who hate, objectify and attack trans and cis women do so because they were denied access to beauty when they were little. This theory was born out of my experiences of the past five years: campaigning against page 3 while watching my son and his friends grow from newborns to schoolchildren. This is how it goes.

The only beauty you are culturally permitted to admire is the beauty of a woman’s body. The female half of the world can have everything lovely, from the day they are born, but you can only have them.

Step one

When you are little you see that girls’ clothes, pictures, toys and books are all pretty. Grown ups have divided up the world and given all the beautiful and gentle things, the bright colours, the glitter, the flowers, and butterflies, to the girls. Before you can walk, talk, or even support the weight of your own head, your clothes are covered with images of speed, power, death and violence: skulls, superheroes, grinning sharks, roaring bears, lions and dinosaurs are all given to you, before you have any idea what they are. You gradually discover that you are not allowed to like anything else.

Even if you have parents full of good intentions, you will never be rewarded or praised for noticing the beauty of the world around you in the same way that little girls are. When you start school and make new friends, you quickly learn to stick rigidly to the things assigned to your gender. Your and your friends constantly police each other’s preferences and behaviours. You start to veto your own interest in anything sparkly or pretty. By the age of five, you have learnt to keep any admiration of anything you see as female a secret from your closest friends. Your parents might try, with varying levels of conviction, to tell you that it’s ok for boys and girls to like the same things. The evidence all around you says the opposite, and it’s impossible to fully believe them.

Your world shrinks.

If you are unlucky, you also go through the next few steps as you grow. This doesn't happen to every little boy, but every little boy is surrounded by the rigid codes that make it possible.

Step two

When little girls admire a pretty flower, the grown ups coo approvingly. When you do it, they laugh in your face. When you notice or comment on anything beautiful, people around you openly laugh and mock. You learn fast. No, you can’t cast yearning glances at your sister’s sparkly clothes, and you definitely can’t put them on. No, you can’t play with her pretty pink toys or look at her pretty pink books. These things are all utterly forbidden to you. The people you love will tease you, humiliate you and deliberately make you feel ashamed for wanting anything to do with anything beautiful. The lesson you learn is a deep and bitter wound.

You wait it out, banished to a world of ugly clothes, ugly books, violent toys, secrets and shame.

Part of you dies.

Step three

When you are older, you are allowed to admire beauty in the girls themselves. They don’t notice you.

When you are grown, you are still only allowed to admire beauty in women and girls. You can never walk into a pub, sit down, and tell your friends you just saw the most gorgeous sunset. This cannot happen. You can never buy a bunch of flowers to cheer up your flat, just because. You can only talk about or think about beautiful things if those things are naked female body parts. Nothing else. The girls and women, still, often, don’t notice you. Sometimes, when you try to talk to girls, they laugh and walk away.

Even then, women and girls can have everything beautiful, and can choose to reject you, while you can only have them. It isn't fair. You learnt to look down on them long ago, and now you start to hate them too.

Step four

If you are straight, your bitterest hatred is awakened by feminists, those horrible women who want to take away from you the only good thing you were ever allowed to want. Who try to shame you for admiring the only beauty you were ever allowed to admire. You have had enough of shame, and your response to their arguments is visceral and brutal. To them, the violence of your passion is disproportionate and frightening. To you, it is entirely just.

If female beauty is nothing your heart ever truly wanted, your deepest hatred is saved for anyone who escaped the same traps that are permanently forged around you. The people who are visibly, courageously living a different kind of life: men loving men, men transforming themselves into women, women transforming themselves into men, people living the lives they choose and loving the people and things they choose to love. You can’t comprehend how their lives are even possible and you can’t bear the freedom and the joy they have found. You are not as brave as those people, and you know it. You are not even brave enough to look inside your own heart to find out where the anger and hatred began.

Step five

You want revenge on all the women who reject you, revenge on the feminazis and freaks. You want to crush them. To destroy their freedom, as yours was destroyed. To make them afraid of you. You want them to disappear, to back down, to shut up and go away. You set to work.

Step six: epilogue

I'm not hopeful about the chances of healing you, of unmaking what was made. It would take you a great deal of courage and a lot of therapy, and I can’t see you being up for that.

But I know we can collectively choose to stop repeating this story over and over again, generation by generation, if we are honest enough and brave enough. Honest enough to stop selling children the lie that there is only one type of boy, and one type of girl, and that they are more different than alike. Honest enough to see the damage we do when we try to increase sales figures by making half the toys, clothes and books pretty and sparkly, and the other half ugly and violent. Brave enough to really change the products we make for children and the choices we foist upon them, the choices that set them off on these narrow, life-limiting, soul-destroying paths from the moment they are born.

#lettoysbetoys #letclothesbeclothes #letbooksbebooks

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