“Are you going to save my brother?”
Early on when I was dating my ex, his brother asked me this question. At the time, I think I probably thought it was sweet. But the three years that followed, wherein I desperately tried every tactic possible — loving support, ultimatums, tough loving, couples therapy, obsessive monitoring, Al-Anon, etc. — in order to convince my partner at the time to get clean only resulted in misery. While substance abuse and addiction is sort of an extreme version of the “you can fix him if you just love him/work on him/are patient enough” thing that’s fed to women, it’s all part of a larger system that allows men to remain boys forever — free from any accountability — while women are forced into motherhood, whether or not they choose to reproduce.
When I saw a post titled, “10 Reasons The Best Relationship Of Your Life Will Be With A Girl Who Likes To ‘Fix’ People,” I kind of wanted to scream. (And no, I don’t make a habit of reading Thought Catalogue, but this one slipped into my feed via another angry sister.)
Like, as if we need more messaging that tells men that women’s role is to nurture and care for them — even after they’ve moved out of their parents’ house. I fight this shit enough in my private life, dealing with men who refuse to take their own emotional well-being into their own hands — like, do we really need women writers publicly reinforcing this garbage?
I reject motherhood, in every way possible. I don’t want a baby-baby and I don’t want a man-baby. So actually, here are six reasons men can fix their own damn selves:
1) Despite what Rania Naim, the author of the post says, women do not exist to waste their lives on shitty, immature men. Naim writes, “A girl who likes to fix people doesn’t stop trying and she will not quit you if she loves you.” Fuck that. Quit! If a man isn’t interested in fixing himself, there’s nothing you can do to resolve that. Convincing women to stick it out forever with men because if you just love him enough he’ll change is exactly what keeps women in abusive relationships. This is not to say people don’t make mistakes or that they shouldn’t be forgiven for mistakes, it is to say that, actually, women should quit men who don’t take responsibility for their own behaviour or take real steps towards addressing their problems.
2) Same goes for “seeing the best” in a man. Enough with the excuses. If your dude cheats, pays for sex, is a porn addict, or says sexist things, call him the fuck out. Don’t just tell yourself “Oh, but he’s a good dad.” Or, “But what about all those other great things he’s done.” Respect is not math. Good deeds don’t erase misogyny. You cannot subtract “Bitch” from “Well, at least he hasn’t abandoned his child” and call it even. In any case, do you really want a man who doesn’t respect women to raise your child? Too many excuses, not enough accountability = entitled men who have no incentive to change their behaviour and will, consequently, pass that behaviour on to future generations.
3) “She will never stop trying to fix herself too,” Naim writes. Of course she won’t. Because women never stop trying to “fix” themselves. Women have learned to see themselves as perpetually flawed: they are too fat, too accommodating, too pushy, too picky, not picky enough, too judgemental, and too gossipy. They are bad mothers, they don’t push hard enough for raises at work, and don’t say no clearly enough or behave uninterested enough to avoid rape. They eat too much sugar, too much bread, and they drink too much. We think too much, we talk too much (but also don’t talk enough!), and love too much. We have too many emotions and we are nags. When we aren’t kind and “sensitive” enough, we are cold, hard, bitches. We never fuck our husbands enough and are constantly failing our families by working too much (but also failing at work because we focus too much on our families). Our bodies are wrong, our homes are wrong, and our brains are wrong. Women are pretty much always doing everything wrong, from baby-making to working outside the home, to responding to systemic sexism. All we do is try to “fix ourselves” — to acknowledge and address our never-ending flaws. (Like, why do you think the self-help industry is driven by women?) Here’s a radical idea: Stop telling women everything they do and think and say is flawed. Actually, stop trying to fix yourself all the time, stop blaming yourself for everything. Let men do that for a change.
4) The actual worst points on Naim’s list are these: “She will heal your brokenness… She will not let anyone discourage her from trying to help someone who is broken.” NOPE. Noooope. I am not your nursemaid. When I wanted to “heal my brokennesss,” (something I also call, “healing from the trauma of male abuse,” “recovering from living with a drug addict for three years,” and “learning how to set boundaries so as to not end up in co-dependent relationships”) I went to therapy. For years. This did not make me a perfect human being (believe it!), but it did help. Like, it helped me. Dudes tend not like my independence or my priorities (and, by “priorities,” of course, I mean “things that are not them”), because dudes are babies who… wait for it… think their girlfriends should be their mothers! (See how we’ve come full circle now?) If men wish to “heal their brokenness,” they too have access to therapy or books or whatever (maybe men could take up the job of “fixing” one another, for once?), just like women do. Beyond that, the problem with “brokenness,” when used in reference to men, is that it too-often is code for “abusive.” Sure, men who are abusive might be so because they are “broken,” but that doesn’t excuse the abusive behaviour. Women, in our society, are very “broken” — probably much more so than men, seeing as they are the ones who’ve been subjected to centuries of systemic oppression and male violence — yet somehow they don’t tend to take that “brokenness” out on their families via sexual abuse, beatings, and murder. This leads me to believe that men are equally as capable of ending the cycle of abuse, if they choose to. But they need to choose it. If women could somehow “heal” men, they would have done so already. God knows, they’ve tried hard enough, for long enough. Enough. Heal yourself, brah.
5) Actually, we are afraid of men’s “dark side.” According to Nain, we aren’t afraid and we actually love it, but we really, really don’t. Men’s “dark side” tends to look a lot like sexualized sadism, pedophilia, and violence. Men’s “dark side,” apparently, manifests itself in the form of voyeurism, objectification, rape, and masturbating to gang-bangs. Women have very good reason to be afraid of men’s “dark side.” I mean, their “good sides” are bad enough, amirite? I know more than I am comfortable knowing about the “dark sides” of supposedly “good” men, never mind the rest of ’em. I am not going to “look for the light” in that muck or learn to love it. I don’t like it, I don’t want it. Unlearn your gross man-brain. Then we can talk.
6) Be more forgiving is actually the last thing a woman needs to hear. My advice? Be less forgiving. Like, maybe if women stopped forgiving men over and over again, they’d get a clue. Too many men think that calling women “cunts” or monopolizing conversations or objectifying women are simply honest “mistakes” (“mistakes” that are actually unavoidable because boys will be boys) that should be “forgiven,” over and over again. This is partly because other women in their lives — from past girlfriends to their mothers — believed this stuff was also “natural” and “unavoidable” and so never called them out, but it’s also because this is the behaviour modeled to them by other men. It has to stop somewhere. Again, I am not advocating to never forgive people for mistakes or failures. But contrary to what Nain tells us, “people” don’t “always come around.” Especially not if we keep forgiving them for the harmful behaviour they repeat over and over again. Remember that forgiveness is a gendered behaviour. Women are always meant to be the kind, compassionate, forgiving ones who suffer in silence, hoping that if they just believe in men enough and think positive maybe he’ll change. No. Enough. Put your collective feet down. If not for yourself, for other women. We need solidarity on this one.
Motherhood is not just about literal mothers. It is about how all women are seen. Femininity, in and of itself, is connected to “motherly” characteristics: tolerance, gentleness, caring, nurturing, sensitivity, nurturance, deference. Mothers are always supposed to put everyone else first — they are not to be selfish or demanding or aggressive. They are also, traditionally, held responsible for not only their children’s behaviour, but their husbands’. When men cheat, it’s his wife’s fault for not sexing him enough, or loving him enough, or paying enough attention to him. Women are responsible for doing all the emotional labour in heterosexual relationships — constantly “working on” things like communication and connectivity. Reinforcing the idea that a “good” girlfriend or wife is one that constantly tries to “fix” a man is not only gross but harmful, as it teaches women to accept male behaviour that is unacceptable — to just stick it out.
Men are parasites, as Marilyn Frye put it so pithily. Until they are willing to behave like accountable, emotionally mature and responsible, adult men, women need to do less “fixing” and more cord-cutting.