Almost 100 years after being granted the right to vote and several decades after the Women's Movement, it seems there are still many, many men — especially in the sweaty boys' locker room of internet nerdery — who don't quite grasp the fact that women, like them, are actual human people with intelligence and worth. But maybe the key to the winning battle against internet misogyny that the forces of Gloria Steinem, the Spice Girls, and Beyonce couldn't win lies in the tiny hands of baby girls, and their fathers' subsequent attitude adjustment toward women.
Male nerd culture has a problem with women. From Reddit's creepshots and MensRights subpages to male gamers who were excited to see Tomb Raider heroine Lara Croft get almost raped in the game's impending reboot to a low-on-the-totem-poll tech blogger attacking prominent female gamer Felicia Day and accusing her of being nothing more than a glorified "booth babe," even though her gaming credentials surpass those of most men, male nerdery breeds an especially hateful type of anti-woman sentiment. But what's the solution?
Earlier this week, one Reddit user asked other forum participants if having a daughter changed their attitudes toward women, and most male respondents with daughters replied that yes, having girls made them see ladytypes differently. Like actual humans! Humans just like men! Imagine that! One father remarked that he no longer lusts after barely legal women, because they look like girls to him. Another said that he doesn't think it's funny to watch strippers almost get hit by cars as they try to cross the highway on their way to work anymore. Women are people! Wrote one user,
I've never thought of myself as mysogynist, and still don't think I was, but there were a few issues I had to realize and get over. Namely; dating, sex and drugs. I was worried about when my daughter would eventually start dating, and how to keep her safe, and then I suddenly realized;
My daughter is a human being. Soon (sooner than I'd like), she's going to be a human teenager. And that means she'll be experimenting with things outside of her every day experience. Probably she'll try drinking, probably she'll try drugs, maybe she'll try smoking. And she'll almost definitely have sex before I think she'll be ready. And yet, these are normal things, things almost everybody goes through. If I had a son, would these things bother me? I thought not, and I told myself that was bullshit. If it's OK for a son to do it, it's OK for my daughter.
Reddit users' testimony is consistant with findings of a study conducted earlier this year, one that found that once men have daughters, they're not so keen on limiting all women's choices with rigid gender roles anymore. Progress?
It's dismaying that we're patting men on the back for exhibiting a basic level of empathy, sort of like how we lavish praise on professional athletes who manage to not cheat on their wives or sexually assault college students. Obviously, it would be better if every man were able to see humanity in others regardless of how they looked or whether or not they had a vagina, but it's easy to see how a prevailing anti-female sentiment could have been sharpened and intensified by the isolation the internet offers. While technology can allow a person to exist in a world where they're surrounded by people of their choosing and opinions that don't challenge what they already think, immersion in a world designed completely around a user's preferences can lead to the sort of intolerance that makes a guy think it's okay to anonymously attack a woman who challenges his preferred view of the world; too much intense nerdery allows people to alienate themselves so far from diversity that when they encounter it, they're no longer capable of recognizing commonalities, or even seeing the other as an actual human being.
So, will handing every misogynist nerd a screaming baby girl with a poopy diaper alter the fabric of society as we know it? Probably not. But in lieu of an empathy-building Skyrim expansion pack, adorable gurgling babies may be the best feminist ambassadors we have.
Image by Jim Cooke, source photo via sheff/Shutterstock.