Attention, #AllMen: The gay man’s guide to not being your everyday misogynist

Attention, #AllMen: The gay man’s guide to not being your everyday misogynist

Misogyny is an unavoidable as air. The fact that you are into men doesn’t mean that you aren’t a tool of patriarchy.

It’s the middle of November, and I am in the middle of a conversation with a friend I haven’t seen in months. He’s a head at a big consulting firm, touring the city for the weekend, replacing business deals with beers. He tells me he’s between projects, just like we are between drinks.  As we scout the bar for seats, he spots a girl sitting by herself at a booth.

‘Do you want to go sit with her? We are out of her league, but hey, it beats standing here by the bar, right? Maybe if we flirt a bit, she’d even buy us drinks,’ he laughs, chugging the last dregs of his beer in one fast gulp. His eyes glance over the football game playing on the big screen, before squaring back to our target in her lone, far away booth.

My friend is an out-and-proud gay man who hates sports and like everyone else that I know, hates himself.

Knock knock. Did you think that only straight men could be unpleasant to women?

We are only a few metres away, hogging for second place. It’s unsettling how socially acceptable it is for gay men to treat (or want to) women like doormats — no, she doesn’t want you to tell her that she’s gained weight. No, she doesn’t want you to buy her a drink because you think she’s pretty.  No, she doesn’t want to be called your bitch. No, she doesn’t want to know that she’s ‘not slaying it with those stilettos’. And no, she especially doesn’t want you to tell her that ‘her areolae are like cute little buttons you’d love on your shirt’.

Misogyny is an unavoidable as air. The fact that you are into men doesn’t mean that you aren’t a tool of patriarchy.

Or just a tool.

This attitude seeps in everywhere, from generations of ‘boys-are-better-because-girls-are-weaker’ stories we hear – lies that are reinforced at school, the work place, home, and even film — making its way into everyday conversations and harmless banter at parties, just like this one:

‘I can see the bra straps on that one.’

‘Those legs cannot pull those leggings off.’

‘Eww, why would anybody want to be a lesbian? What do they do in bed anyway?’

‘Ugh, I’ll pass. There’s too much estrogen in this conversation.’

‘Look at this! Honk honk!’

‘She is so turnt, she’s going to get some action tonight!’

It only takes two glasses of champagne and forty-five minutes for all of the above to unravel at a friend’s house party — a party peppered with gay men.

‘Can you see the rack on that?’ adds Arjun, a famous painter who I bumped into just minutes ago — he paints mythology and the woman form. His art is laced with irony. It’s a little difficult to take him seriously when five months ago, his template reaction on seeing a beautiful woman was, ‘She’s pretty, but eww, I am not into vaginas.’

His target lies unaware, sipping on her red wine in a corner.

‘That’s pretty misogynistic,’ I call him out — talking endlessly about women’s bodies in a possessive, objectifying manner is not cute; it’s creepy.  ‘Oh, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t disrespect women. In fact, I have so many fag hags,’ he slurs into my ear, ‘I can start my own battalion of bitches,’ — two of his girlfriends squeal at us in unison, as if to prove his point. He beckons them over and hugs them both, his hands tracing the ninth symphony on their backs. ‘Didn’t I tell you I had my hoes on priority?’ he giggles, his manicured beard nuzzling at one of their necks. Sexism isn’t sexy.

I stifle my revulsion in my pizza slice. It tastes of dill pickles and disappointment.

Remember this. You might love seeing straight women at pubs on queer nights, but that still doesn’t give you a reason to cozy up to them without their consent. Friends or not, your general idea might not be sexual, but the entire belief that men are entitled to women’s bodies is…

Misogynistic.

Using your sexuality as an excuse to grab at a woman is the same as saying, ‘but her clothes asked for it’ — it’s as silly as the term ‘Feminazi’.

You might not mean it in a certain way, but you are still indirectly asserting dominance over a woman because you are a man, simply because you can — the fact that you don’t inherently want to get into the girl’s pants doesn’t give you the validation to be a feminist and make it okay. There are multiple ways to treat women like scum without trying to think of ways to get them into bed with you. Calling a girl a whore in jest is the same as being called a girl in school for not playing football.

Just like that, you become the bully that you despised ten years ago, and you don’t even realise it. We owe women, and ourselves better.

In so many ways, it’s the same when gay men refer to each other pejoratively as ‘she’ or ‘guurl’ (spelled exactly that way). Do you want to be derogatory towards your gay friend? Simply prefix a feminine pronoun — that should take care of it! But then again, referring to your guy friend who’s getting drunk at the open bar, as the ‘hoe (who) looks like she’s tanked!’ reflects more on you than it does on your poor friend — even though he’s the one who’s going to wake up tomorrow morning with a bad hangover and (an even worse) reputation.

It’s sad that whenever a gay man has something critical to say about a woman, it’s dismissed as a gay stereotype — ‘But that’s how they are! (Gay) boys will be (gay) boys,’ Being bitchy and brutal is our trump card — how else would a woman function without her gay fairy godmother?

Surprisingly well, boys. She might be your friend, your girl or even your one true love, but being derogatory towards her (even if you are doing it in humour) puts you in the same bracket as the self-entitled men that you’ve grown to despise. Masked by our Italian shoes, French perfumes and expensive dinner jackets, can we even pretend that we don’t reek of the same patriarchy that our straight counterparts do?

Not really.

But the least we can do is try. And that’s what I aim to do.

Months after my long forgotten drinking session with my consultant friend, I am on a date with another. It’s 27-year-old Aneesh, the management whiz who doesn’t get bisexuals.

“I don’t understand the term feminist, it’s so pointless,’ he says midway through another rant, his eyebrows furrowed. Does he really get anything (apart from getting cuter every time I meet him)? The topic of misogyny among gay men has always been difficult to bring up — we just deny that it happens (I respect women because I identify with them, okay?).

Not Aneesh here, though — he seems to have his opinions set in stone. I am seconds away from calling for a cab — if I am lucky, I wont even get surcharge.

‘What do you mean?’ I narrow my eyes, like his mind. I might be calling a cab, but I also want to have the last call on this conversation.  He laughs — it’s a nice tinkering one.

He’s kidding, he tells me — ‘Everyone should be a feminist, which is why the tag shouldn’t exist. It should be the new normal.’ That’s a great place to start. We have a laugh over it, as we walk off into the misogynistic sunset to the bar.

Only this time, I find a booth.

Aniruddha Mahale