As somebody who played an instrument in the low brass and was even low brass section leader in marching band for two years, and also as somebody who is aspiring to work in male-dominated industries (web design, academia) I have been lucky enough to meet a variety of men and get to know many different male minds. I would never say that I have a full understanding of the way men think, but I would say that I know some general male traits and actions, and I know what men have said to me. Everything I say in this post is directed at the group of cis-gender, heterosexual men who identify as “Nice Guys,” and believe me when I say that there are many, many of them.
The “Nice Guy” is not necessarily defined by his actions, which may include being a good listener to the females in his life, “always being there,” and other things that are supposed to set him apart as “better” than the other cis-gender, heterosexual men that a woman may meet, though these are what a “Nice Guy” would use to define himself. All of these things may seem nice, and they will probably earn him many good, female friends. He just loves women so much, you see. However, once the female he has been “nice” to informs him that she’s not interested in him romantically or sexually, all of this love seems to fall away. Suddenly, she’s a bitch who is obviously going to go bang some asshole instead of you and that makes her stupid and ungrateful.
Why does this happen?
Because, under the surface, Nice Guys are “nice” because it’s their way of trying to attract women. They believe that if they treat a woman “better,” that she will sleep with them, perhaps go out with them, marry them, or any other reward they are seeking. When the woman doesn’t immediately realize how much “better” he is, the man becomes immediately enraged, suddenly assuming that she isn’t smart enough to see that she only likes assholes.
If you don’t see what’s wrong with being a Nice Guy, it’s this: despite your “nice” actions, you are still living under the assumption that how you treat a woman entitles you to some sort of appreciation, or some part of her body. If you haven’t noticed by now, this makes you an asshole, too.
I understand that, for many men, it’s difficult to imagine what makes a woman upset when she gets whistled at/yelled at when walking down the street. “It’s a compliment.” For many men, it’s also difficult to see why getting hit on feels degrading in some circumstances. “It must be so difficult to be wanted.”
Obviously, voicing an interest in another human being isn’t just understandable, it’s essential to our survival. At some point, a person must show interest in another person, and if the second person reciprocates interest then a lot of good can happen. But that doesn’t make all attention good; context is key here. If a person is at a place that signals their availability/desire for finding attraction (e.g.: Speed Dating, an online dating website, a singles mixer, a singles church group, etc.) and they are approached, and then if they voice reciprocal interest, then asking for a date/later meeting time/coffee/etc is perfectly acceptable. If you already know a person and have grown feelings for them, and then present your feelings and they reciprocate, then you probably have the go-ahead to ask for a date/later meeting time/coffee/etc.
From my perspective, there are very few other scenarios in which getting hit on doesn’t feel like an invasion, or inappropriate, or rude, or just downright uncalled for. Getting yelled at on the street isn’t fun; it’s frightening, especially if the car circles back to do it again (this has happened to be often), and it’s also giving a clear message of “I’m going to assert my dominance over you and make you out to be a purely sexual object because it’s culturally acceptable for me to do so.” Being listened to/treated “nicely” by a man who gets angry when you turn him down sends the message: “I’ll be nice to you as long as you reward me in the end.”
And, for the record, if a woman spends her time giving a panel about treating women well in the atheist community, then later makes it clear that she is going to bed, this isn’t an invitation for you to ask her to have coffee with you in your room whilst in an elevator. Whatever the intentions, this is still a power play, and it sends the message of: “I’m going to show my interest in you while you’re vulnerable and I have the ability to trap you in an enclosed space with me.” I’m not saying that Elevator Guy had intentions of hurting her, and I can perfectly imagine him thinking of himself as a nice guy, if not a Nice Guy (“I’m so much better because I like her for her brain and not just her body”).
I wish I could call him an Uninformed Guy, but the fact that he attended her panel says that he isn’t uninformed, he’s just clueless. As are many men. Because, for the record, what we need to be fighting for is eliminating all forms of oppression, not just the most extreme forms. Yes, Muslim women being mutilated and stripped of their rights is tragic, and we should be fighting against it. But we should also be fighting against all forms of sexual oppression, even the most clueless forms, the forms that Richard Dawkins himself is perpetuating. I personally don’t understand the paradox of any atheist man viewing himself as oppressed for his (lack of) religious views, and fighting for more awareness- and then having no compassion or understanding for sexually oppressed persons, some of whom live in a society that has a more active role in limiting women, and some of whom live in a society that has made some changes but still has a long way to go. That would be like somebody saying “hey, we have one atheist active congressperson, and also there have been books about atheism that were successful, so we’ve made it and we don’t have to fight anymore.”
My rambling thoughts are rambling, so I will end with: as a cis-gender heterosexual man, please #listenup. If you want to go from being a Nice Guy to a nice guy, then look at your motivations for how you treat your the females in your life. If you find that your intentions are less than genuine, then congratulations: you’ve listened, and hopefully learned.