"Chill out, dear": An open letter to the New Age Dude

Many of you have probably had the misfortune of meeting one of these dudes. They come from the island. They grew up in some hippie community. They live in a bus. They are sooooo free that they don’t even see gender! Only humans. These dudes are so progressive you it’s beyond your comprehension, little lady.

While many of us see red as soon as the New Age Dude starts talking about “all the beautiful women of the woooorld,” many women and men alike, somehow, fall for it. Maybe we’ve even fallen for it at one time or another, thinking, “Hey! He seems like a nice guy! He isn’t in a fraternity and he claims to be ‘sensitive.’ He says he loves women and hates Maxim. What a treat!” Unfortunately we often learn the hard way that this seemingly progressive, sensitive guy is a misogynist in disguise.

Maybe you dated one, maybe they’re a friend of a friend, maybe you met one on the ferry. Maaaaaybe he had drum? A more innocuous guitar? Liked surfing? Trees? Gardening, even? It’s possible you crossed paths with him at a festival and he tried to give you a massage. They’re everywhere these days and sometimes hard to spot.

At times the red flag will go up when he starts talking about how women were so beeeautiful and nuuuurturing and in touch with the cycles of the moon, but the trouble with the subtlety of the New Age Dude is that they tend not to come out of the closet as the insidious sexists they truly are until you actually call them on it. But when that happens be sure to take a step back. Because this is when they snap.

These men are used getting pats on the back on account of their “open-mindedness.” They are absolutely convinced that saying things like “all women are beautiful” or “I’m just so jealous that women are able to give birth. TO HUMANS.” makes them the most progressive men in the universe, deserving of female adoration and love. I mean, they like their women “all-natural” (but thin, shaved, plucked, and young, mind you. Just NO CHEMICALS PLEEZ.) and have spent years telling themselves they are open-minded because they are into girls who wear flat shoes too (but, you know, if she wants to wear stilettos, for her, he will “appreciate” her hot ass, also. Because the New Age Dude doesn’t discriminate).

When you don’t buy their little persona they’ve become so proud of, they usually freak the fuck out. That’s when all the true and magical colours of their misogyny really start to shine through.

Because he really, truly believes that seeing all women as beautiful things for him to look at or molest in his tent (because he’s at peace with that so you should be too! Just relaaaaax, prude.) is a compliment, this New Age Dude (these dudes are usually white too and conveniently, their open-mindedness also allows them not to see race. Handy, right?) usually snaps back hard if you mention to him that women don’t actually exist for his boner stoner fantasies.

In fact, if you do mention to him some fairly obvious, feminism 101 facts such as: we live in a patriarchy, or, it isn’t a compliment to talk only and obsessively about how “beautiful” women are (because, hey! Our end all be all isn’t that *squee!* you want to hump us), or that, just because you, as an individual have decided you have mysteriously escaped the white male privilege that all other white males experience (it’s the magic of the new age lobotomy! I’m not like other men! I’m above all that. And if you tell me differently I’ll probably call you a bitch.), it doesn’t make it so, the dude will attack.

He will likely engage in gaslighting, tell you to “calm down” or “relax” and then, possibly explain to you that actually it is YOU who is the sexist (see how that works? Twisty!) or the racist! HA. Bet you didn’t see that one coming!  Because actually if you were really, truly, evolved like this New Age Dude you would get over all this systematic oppression crap and just relax and enjoy life (read: play nice and keep quiet unless you’re agreeing with him or showing him your boobs. Because that’s what forward-thinking ladies do).

As you may have guessed, I encountered another one of these fine men just the other day. His response to my (very brief) attempt to explain that women are, in fact, more than just beautiful ‘things’ and that, alas, society is actually very limited in terms of who they deem ‘beautiful,’ was, surprise, surprise, some classic crazy-making maneuvers, including that which was recently outlined by as a special form of emotional manipulation reserved for women and used by the men who want to silence them called gaslighting.

His response to me?

“Chill out, dear.”

Truth be told, I was feeling pretty relaxed up until that moment.

The rest of his response was a humorous romp through New Age Dude manipulation. He told me I was “shallow and sexist” for “only thinking about physical beauty” (because, you know, he was actually talking about women’s inner beauty, stupid) and that he didn’t only like “barbies” (dingdingdingding! He’s progressive ladiez!! Sometimes he likes women with real boobs! Swoon.), and finally, that if he is “not allowed to salute” women’s beauty, “then the world really is a sad place.”

It’s always a fun time being called a sexist by a man who uses porn, frequents strip clubs, and thinks that buying sex from women is totally cool. Mostly though, it’s fun to be told to “chill out” for mentioning that, indeed, out there in the big, bad world, sexism does exist and society tends to value women, primarily, for their physical appearances and their ability to be sexually appealing to men.

In conclusion, New Age Dudes, I have a message for you: telling women who name sexism, or racism, or privilege to “chill out” makes you an asshole. Not only that! But it also makes you a grade A sexist.

Yes, your other New Age Dude-bros (and, sadly, some of your new age lady friends who find it easier to function in this life by pretending that everything is just peachy as is. Possibly because if they felt otherwise you and your dude-friends would shame, attack, and humiliate them for daring to question your progressive righteousness but also, possibly, because these ladies have also drank the feminists-are-the-real-sexists kool-aid) will cheer you on for these kinds of responses, because they, like you, want to be considered sensitive and progressive without having to actually consider how your own behaviour might be perpetuating inequality.

But their support, nor your success at shutting women up by condescending to them, nor the simple fact that you’ve elected to deny that systematic oppression exists and then deny your own, very active, role in perpetuating sexism, does not make you progressive. It makes you an idiot. And it makes you part of the problem. You feign concern for OHTHAWORLDITSSOSAD, and yet you can’t see past your own nose to address the role you play in all this.

Next time try this: “Oh hey? A woman is pointing out how she sees and experiences sexism in this world, as discussed by many other feminists for the past four decades or so. Instead of getting my boner into a knot and attacking her, I suppose I could use my big old new age brain to, for once, shut up and listen.”

Yes, New Age Dude, that would be the most progressive and least oppressive thing you could do.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.