Pax Dickinson and Robin Thicke recently defended their misogynistic actions by saying, “I can’t be sexist, I’m married.” Emily Heist Moss explains why married men can still be sexist assholes.
Excuse me, married men, may I please have your attention? (I’m looking at you, Pax Dickinson). From this moment forward, I declare a moratorium on using the fact of your marriage as a shield when you are accused of sexist, misogynist, or otherwise piggish behavior. It’s lame, it’s predictable, and it doesn’t even make any goddamned sense. Claiming the allegiance of one member of the group you oppress doesn’t prove anything.
Marriage is not some magical cloak that prevents you from behaving like a jackass. It is not an impregnable shield against all allegations of bad behavior. It is not a cave from which you can emit derogatory remarks with no consequence. I’m glad your wife thinks you’re aces, but you can still be a sexist asshat. You’re just a married sexist asshat.
Last week, as we watched another misogyny-in-tech shitstorm unfold on the Internet, I held my breath waiting for the “I’m a married man” defense to rear its ugly misguided head. Pax Dickinson, the former Chief Technical Officer of Business Insider was finally called out for his sexist and racist tweets and promptly fired. His twitter feed was a potent mix of obnoxious bro humor, classist put-downs, racist slurs, and old-fashioned misogyny. For example, “In The Passion Of The Christ 2, Jesus gets raped by a pack of niggers. It’s his own fault for dressing like a whore though.” Yikes.
We’ve been through enough of these altercations by now to breakdown the anatomy of a firestorm and its subsequent defense:
1) Man is accused of doing/saying/tweeting something sexist
2) Man claims it’s all in good fun
3) Man says “I’m a nice guy, just ask my wife!”
And right on time, days after losing his job and being lambasted by the press, Dickinson pulled out the wife defense. While being interviewed by New York magazine he wielded his 15-year marriage as counter evidence against the string of nastiness he’d unleashed online.
When the interviewer asked how his wife responded to the attacks against his character, he said, “She thinks it’s bullshit! She knows me, this is ridiculous. The worst part about it is, for me, the people who love me are very upset.” You see, she knows him, while the rest of us only know the persona he performs on the Web. Just so happens that the persona he puts forth is super sexist (and racist, classist, and homophobic).
There are two things wrong with your defense, Pax. First, stereotyping, misogyny, slut-shaming, sexual harassment, and undervaluing female contribution are not the unique tools of men. Your wife, by virtue of being female, is not immune to being sexist. If she thinks your horrible jokes are funny, and has no problem with your attitude toward ladies in your chosen field, there’s a good chance she has bought into the patriarchal structures and gender myths that govern much of our society. Women who fail to see sexism when it’s floating in front of their faces are typically the ones who’ve found ways to make it work for them. There’s a term for this: It’s called a patriarchal bargain and it sounds like your wife may have made one.
Second, the fact that you have found one woman who appreciates your jokes (or even five, or 10, or 20), does not mean you are not sexist. You know what is sexist? Thinking women should just learn to deal with leering objectification because that’s “the way men are.” Thinking women don’t populate the ranks of the tech community because we don’t like computers. Thinking that anyone who critiques your offensive tweets is a “feminazi” on a “witch-hunt.” That is some sexism right there, whether your wife agrees or not.
But Pax, you’re not the only offender. Robin Thicke pulled this crap just a few weeks ago. While being interviewed by GQ about his controversial video for “Blurred Lines,” Thicked argued that he and co-conspirators Pharrell Williams and T.I. were ideally suited to deliver degrading material to the masses. “We tried to do everything that was taboo… everything that is completely derogatory toward women,” he said. “We were like, ‘We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this,’ because all three of us are happily married with children.”
Ohhhhh, I see, you’re married! You’re fathers! You think that because you’re a dad everything you push into the world is blanket-protected from accusations of misogyny? That’s not how it works, guys, dads can be sexist with the best of ‘em. So can husbands.
So what to do now? Husbands, fathers, someday husbands and someday fathers, listen closely. Getting married does not prove that you believe in equality of opportunity for women. Having daughters does not show us that you want a safe world for girls free of scrutiny and harassment. Being a “family man” does not mean you oppose hypersexualization that devalues our achievements and limits our potential.
Want to prove that you’re not sexist? Stop being sexist. Don’t just love women, respect them. Don’t just desire women, desire for them opportunity and unfettered choice. Don’t just lust after women, lust for your daughters’ lives of unlimited possibility, and then help make it happen.
Role/Reboot regular contributor Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works in a tech start-up. She blogs every day about gender, media, politics and sex at Rosie Says, and has written for Jezebel, The Frisky, The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.