Why It’s A Big Deal When Men Say Terrible Things About Women In Secret

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Feminists are harpies, buzzkills and man-haters.

 Those old stereotypes about gender equality die hard, no matter how fashionable it is to proclaim your feminism these days (Hi Emma Watson and Beyoncé).

Even White House adviser Kellyanne Conway can’t help herself from indulging in those tropes, recently tossing that tasty red meat to a conservative audience by describing classic feminism as “very anti-male.”

But can you blame a girl, or anyone really, for seeing the patriarchy as alive and well? After all, with Donald Trump overseeing the least diverse cabinet in decades while championing policies that could harm countless women, not to mention the fact that women make up only 19.4% of congress, it’s a little odd to suggest we live in a post-sexist society.

Beyond politics, there’s also the bitter truth of what some men actually think about women, revelations that often become public by accident.

Consider the scandal that has erupted over an invite-only Facebook page used in part by Marine Corps service members and veterans to post images of clothed and nude female Marines.

The comments, according to the New York Times, were lewd and sometimes sexually violent. Random dudes thought it was appropriate to suggest raping women who, by the way, didn’t even know their picture had been taken and posted.

The page was dedicated to humor and military news, and apparently provided support to people experiencing mental health problems, but among its 30,000 members, only a handful seemed to try to stop the routine degradation of women serving dutifully in the Marine Corps. (Officials condemned that behavior and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service opened an investigation into its activity.)

The rest of the page’s members, it appears, just looked the other way. They probably shrugged their shoulders and said to themselves, “It’s just locker room talk.” If that defense worked for the president of the United States, it’ll probably work for a bunch of patriotic Marines.

Which is precisely the problem we face in trying to achieve gender equality. People can pay lip service to the idea, not do much to change their own behavior and either feel great about themselves or think accusations of sexism are basically the equivalent of unintelligible shrieking from Debbie Downer man-haters. SNL’s recent terrific take on progressive men trying to pick up a feminist in a bar — and then calling her a bitch when she rejects their sexual advances — is a perfect example of how saying you’re an ally doesn’t really mean are one.