Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Friendly" disrespect

Today I will answer another interesting question from dear Margaret. Margaret describes the following situation: she has a male friend who believes all women are only after exploiting and taking advantage of men, and doesn't hesitate to say it out loud, together with expressing a disrespectful attitude towards women in general.

Margaret writes:

"For some time now, I have been reflecting on whether or not to bring the friendship to a close. Sometimes I feel that that would be too harsh an action to take, but on other occasions, I realise that he could be a bad influence, because he is always talking about how women are all liars, are all manipulative etc. My question is this: should I bring the friendship to a close, or keep it going, and practise ways of keeping the conversation away from these unpleasant subjects?"

Dear Margaret,

First, allow me to say I definitely share your concern. The situation you describe is disturbing, and I believe one question should be asked here in the first place: how wise is it really for a young lady to have a male friend? Please know I don't presume to say this is a black-and-white issue, or that I know the one and only definite answer. I'm just questioning something our culture marked as unquestionably obvious.

Neither am I saying that a young lady should never be friendly with a young man. When I see a male co-worker, I'll definitely stop by for a friendly conversation. But my own experience made me very cautious about being bosom friends with a young man. I know many would disagree with me, but I believe many such friendships are based on concealed attraction from at least one side, which can lead to an unhealthy situation.

What you describe sounds disturbing for another reason: it certainly seems as though this young man has a very unhealthy, disrespectful attitude towards women. Now this is something we might ask ourselves as well: why is it that an entire generation of young men are women-haters? I believe this is another devastating effect of our culture. It was drilled into men's heads that women don't need them, that women can get along just fine without men, and that it's better if no man stands in a woman's way to progress (as in, for example, marrying her, providing for her, and giving her children...). Is it any wonder that the noble, protective side of men's nature remains undeveloped?

I'm not saying that's an excuse to behave like this young man does. It really isn't enough to justify what he says about women. But I do believe it's interesting to take the time to think where such attitude is coming from.

The bottom line is: only you will decide, of course, whether to stay in touch with this young man or not. Nevertheless, I believe that the very fact you asked yourself (and me), means you find his attitude uncomfortable and disturbing (and rightly so!). It is, of course, possible to reason with him and most importantly, give a real life example of what a good woman should really be like. But first, I believe you should make it very clear that you will not tolerate this kind of behavior ("I will not hear comments that are disrespectful and derogatory towards women"). I think I would also suspend all contact until your friend learns to be respectful towards women.


USAincognito said...

Unfortunately, there are some men who think like this man. If I were this woman, I would most definitely end this "friendship!" He does not view her as someone of worth so why waste anymore time trying to be a "friend" to someone like this.
And on a side note, there is nothing wrong with being friends with the opposite sex. Most of my friends are men. And that is all they are - friends. I tend to get along a lot better with men than with women because the women around here are not into the same interests that I am (hiking, camping, rock climbing, etc.). My male friends are able to share my same interests and we have a blast getting together!

Kimberly said...

I can't help but point out that if this young man really does think all women are liars, after his money, etc, then what does that say about what he thinks of you?

I suspect you wouldn't dream of saying something such as "all men are lazy", or any other gross generalization, especially in his company. You probably wouldn't do this because you know it would be hurtful to him, and he is your friend, so you don't want to do that.

I guess I equate that to someone making "jokes" about dumb blonds in front of, or to, their blond friends. It may seem funny, but I think it is emotionally abusive.

I suggest you tell your friend that while you understand his frustrations about gender issues in our (or your) society, making hurtful generalizations that include you are hurtful. If he can't alter that behavior in order to protect your feelings, then I think you have your answer. A true friend would apologize and curb the behavior.

singlemomforgod said...


She needs to end the friendship. It's not healthy for her, plus in the end if she ever wants to be married her future husband more than likely won't approve of a platonic friendship.

Remaining in a platonic friendship while single can have it's advantages and disadvantages but more disadvantages than advantages.

For instance, long before I started my courtship one of my closest friends was male. I thought he was a good catch and was very hard on women he chose to date, in the end we both came to the conclusion that we say so much good in each other that we were comparing other people to each other. I had to let him go.

God was preparing someone for me and I couldn't use my friend as a comparison of what a good guy should be, so I had to back away from the relationship.

These are things that happen, and there may be some sucess stories but I wouldn't chance anything that could distract a person from God's blessing for them.

yoshi3329 said...

I agree with what you said about not having any male friends. I can't tell you how much trouble and dangerous escapades I've gotten myself into over the years. My family thinks I'm nuts and that there is nothing wrong with having males friends. When I hear this, I just keep looking back in my life and I wonder, "Would this have happen if I didn't have male friends?"

In my opinion, I think that you shouldn't get "friendly" (of course you can say hello just not get to “know” each other) with a male unless you are ready for marriage. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. I am grateful though that I know now and I hope to pass this knowledge to my future (g-d willing) children.

p.s. I'd end the "friendship"

Lydia said...

I would cut it off as well. Speak from experience, it doesn't sound as though anything good is coming from the friendship. His opinions are unfortunate, but there's nothing that she can do to change them.

Terry said...

I tend to agree with your assessment of close male/female friendships. I know a lot of people will disagree, but in my experience, it is just as you said: someone is attracted their "friend"- even if its only physically.

As for Margaret, I agree with USA. She should kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. End the friendship (avoiding any possible awkwardeness in the future), and free herself from this hateful rhetoric. She has to keep in mind that when he says "all women", he is including her in the mix.

As for why so many men have disdain for women, once again we can thank the feminist movement for getting the ball rolling on that, too. Even if they aren't totally to blame, the problem definitely started because of the bra-burning, man-hating, anti-male rhetoric they espouse.

Michelle Potter said...

I once knew a young man who, frustrated in his attempts to find a girlfriend, would constantly make negative remarks about every woman he met. At one point he became quite angry that a young lady had been pleasant to him on two separate occasions (talking to him in class) before mentioning her boyfriend.

At first I sympathized with him, but at some point I realized that it couldn't be possible that every woman he met was in the wrong. Obviously he was at least partially to blame.

Relationships -- even friendships -- with someone who always blames the other person are never healthy. Eventually you are on the other side of that blame, and it isn't pleasant.

Secondly, I am on the side that it isn't quite smart to be close friends with the opposite sex. Most of my friends are couples, and I do consider myself friends with the men, but moreso with the women. To do it the other way around seems like trouble to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't have advice for this young woman, but on another note, I do not believe men and women can be friends. There will always be a sexual aspect to it, and I don't think this is right. My husband and I have married friends and I like my friends' husbands, but they are not my friends. I would not call them just to chat, or have coffee with them, or really anything, unless the wife and/or my husband were present. God designed men and women to be attracted to each other and there is no such thing as a "safe" friendship between the sexes.

I know many people will disagree and I certainly do not have all the answers, but this is what I believe.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Anna. I question how wise it is for a young lady to have a male friend. As a married woman I don't consider any man a friend. I don't refer to my dear friend's husbands as friends. I call them "my friends' husband."

I wonder also, if this man thinks all women are liars, etc. why he would want to be friends with this woman. He contradicts himself. Maybe he sees her as different. I do believe part of her being different is to not tolerate his behavior.

Hope this made sense. :)

Ewokgirl said...

If this guy were my "friend," I'd be telling him that since he thinks I'm a liar and manipulative, I wouldn't bother wasting my time with him any longer. He did say ALL women are that way, after all.

Personally, I don't have an issue with guy-girl friendships, but there's no excuse for being treated badly by any friend. It's not a friendship worth keeping. What is there to be gained by spending time with someone who hates an entire gender based on the actions of a few?

Michelle said...

I agree that it is not wise to have friends of the opposite gender. Whether you are married or single.

As for this particular friendship, I would advise a woman in this situation to end the friendship.

Rebekah S. said...

You are so wise, Anna, and your wisdom shines forth so plainly in this really awesome post.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on what the reason more than likely is as to why he has this view of women. Feminism has brought about this sort of thought in men. I'm not saying this as an excuse for them at all, but I do believe firmly that this is where this sort of thinking stems from. These men are responsible for their own thoughts, words, and actions, however. While it is definitely untrue for this man to say that all women are like this, the sad truth is that many are, thanks to feminism's influence. Of course, that doesn't give him the right to say this, or to treat women wrongly because of this belief of his.

I agree with the advice you gave this woman. My heart goes out to her, as this must be a hard situation that she finds herself in. I will pray for her, and suggest that she do the same as well. The Lord is faithful and will reveal to her what it is that He wants her to do.

Also, I agree with you about boy-girl friendships. While I do not believe at all that it's unBiblical to be friendly with young men, I believe wholeheartedly that this sort of action must be discreet, guarded, and under the protection and authority of a girl's father. I'm a living testament to the fact that these "friendly acquaintance-type relationships" can very quickly develop into something more-something that an unmarried young lady should not be partaking in. When I say I'm a living testament to this, it's because I've experienced this myself. At our old church, there was this boy that I began doing nothing but smile and say hi to each Sunday. We soon became close friends, and my feelings very quickly became overwhelming. I had a HUGE crush on him, and without realizing it, was giving pieces of my heart to him(which was a sinful thing for me to do!). Thankfully, nothing phyical happened(as I was not allowed to date yet; however, now my family and I are committed to courtship, praise the Lord!), but the problem of giving bits of my heart away still remains. Because of this unguarded friendship, I will now be unable to give my future husband my complete heart, for I've already given pieces of it away. I'm not saying that all "friendly acquaintance-type relationships" will develop into this, but we commanded by God to be oh so careful! That's why I appreciate your wisdom on this subject so much! If only more young ladies had your wisdom! Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin also see the danger in these types of relationships as well. Their father takes his responsibility as their protector very seriously, and does not allow his daughters to become buddy buddy with young men. They are free to say hi to them, to be Christ-like and kind, but are definitely not encouraged to begin deep, close friendships with them! If only I had had this wisdom a few years ago! It would have saved me from so much heartache.

Thank you again for this great post!


Judi said...

Hello. I don't think the big issue here is really whether Margaret can be friends with this fellow in spite of his views toward women. The big issue is this -- Margaret is choosing to be the audience for someone who gives a regular performance on a topic she finds so uncomfortable. Why is that? I know that to Margaret, and lots of others, it will seem significant that her friend's gender is male, and his subject matter is his negative opinion of females. But really, her friend could just as easily be a female, talking on and on negatively about some other subject dear to Margaret's heart. The point is, Margaret is allowing herself to be taken advantage of by someone, and life is too short for that. There are too many other people out there in the world who are upbeat and positive and quite willing to talk about a subject that won't seem so purposefully chosen to make Margaret uncomfortable. She would be wiser to invest her time in them, rather than this fellow. Let him find someone else to bore with his ridiculous drivel.

I say this because I, too, have spent time in the company of men who made negative comments about women, and felt somehow beholden to attempt to still be their friend in order to show them that they were wrong about women -- see, I'm nice, so, obviously, all women aren't bad! But, did that help the fellow out? No, he didn't want to be helped out of his view, it only reinforced his opinion since he saw me as someone who was trying to manipulate him into changing his view! See, I was one more manipulative woman!

But, I also have spent time in the company of women who had some view I didn't agree with, say, on a political issue, and they'd drone on about it in a way that pointed out the apparent ignorance of me and others who shared my view. Did my willingness to listen and attempt to have a friendship show them that people with my viewpoint were not as bad as they thought? No, they took my willingness to listen as a sign that I was simply a weakling, as all people who held my view must be.

People like Margaret's male friend are just bullies. Doesn't matter what they talk about, their intent is to find someone who submits to their garbage so they can feel stronger. Don't hang around them.

Katy said...

Where do you believe the man hating attitudes of many today spring from?

Karen said...

Hmm...I don't know how I feel about men and women being close friends. I suppose you should always guard your heart. But I would definitely not stick around to hear so much hate-speech. After much experience trying to take the "nice" route, I've learned it's almost always best to end such friendships as quickly as possible.

Mrs. Bethany Hudson said...

Very wise advice, Anna, as ever.

Lindsy said...


I'm so glad you not only addressed that this was wrong of the man but also called women to account for their role in this.

"Now this is something we might ask ourselves as well: why is it that an entire generation of young men are women-haters? I believe this is another devastating effect of our culture. It was drilled into men's heads that women don't need them, that women can get along just fine without men, and that it's better if no man stands in a woman's way to progress (as in, for example, marrying her, providing for her, and giving her children...). Is it any wonder that the noble, protective side of men's nature remains undeveloped?"

A very important question, and a preceptive one at that. And the same goes for the explanations you follow the question with. It's very important to reflect on how our words and actions help and hinder men in becoming what they ought to be. And it's also important to realize, when tempted to complain of faults in others, how we might be part of their problem.

Thanks for writing this! Mind if I stick the quoted part in my Google Notebook to remind myself of this, as well as perhaps put it in my journal (near self-examination questions, perhaps) and put it typed somewhere where I'll see it (like on a wall)?

Catherine R. said...

To Margaret: Even before I became a Christian, I realized, through experience, that males and females can simply not be friends without something "unexpected" happening. It never fails. Also, why do you want to be friends with someone like this? Are you really in love with him and that's why you stick around someone so offensive?

Anonymous said...

I hope Margaret is able to find the strength to end an unhealthy relationship. It is unfortunate that this poor young man is afflicted with misogyny, the hatred of women. This state of mind is detrimental to all women, and she should know she should not take it. Now, as to the role feminism has had in developing his misogynistic attitude, it's quite possible, even probable, that there is a correlation. However, we must not forget that feminism is not the only source of hatred towards women. Cases have been well documented throughout history and literature of both men and women adopting a negative and even hateful attitude towards women. Feminism may exasperate these attitudes--fan the fire so to speak--but misogyny did exist prior to feminist movements. And, regardless of the cause, we must not excuse a man for such an attitude, for he is not acting in his own role. Does feminism make it difficult for him, yes, certainly; however, adopting a hateful attitude is not the appropriate way to go.
Margaret, I wish you the strength and the faith to face this challenge. You might pray for a change of heart in you young friend, but pending that change, I'd advise you quietly distance yourself from him. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Judi: "Let him find someone else to bore with his ridiculous drivel."

I just wanted to say I love that quote :D

Coffee Catholic said...

I feel the same way about women having male friends: it's risky! I've gotten along well with male co-workers in a "male" type of job but as for friendships they always end up rife with sexual tensions. We start our love-relationships with men as friends so it's kind of like playing with fire when you get too platonic with a male. That's just my opinion but it stems from having been there and done that and getting burned by male friends that I've either fallen for - or they've fallen for me. That seems to be the common outcome!

emma said...

I just wanted to say something abt men and women "shouldnt be close friends" part. In school I got along with classmates of both sexes. Perhaps I should mention that I was raised in asia but back then, it was stressed that us girls and boys are like brothers and sisters. Clearly, some didnt buy into that but I, and other classmates did. We went on school trips together, movies, dinners.. it was such a supportive non sexual type friendship we had. I miss those days of having several protective "brothers" (I dont have any at home)who would crowd around us if we cried or got hurt. We were all in our teens by the way. I viewed them as my brothers and I knew better than to act in a certain way.
Well, I dont have such r'ships anymore now that Im in my 20s. Its different.
For margaret's situation, I believe everyone has given pretty sound advice.. the only wise thing to do is to end the friendship. I wouldnt accept certain behaviours even from female friends. Ha! Anna, perhaps you could do a post on this (after the wedding of course!) :D

Andrea said...

I don't feel comfortable making personal judgements about the wisdom of a woman having male friends; I've never been in that position myself, so I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion. I trust Margaret will exercise her judgment to the best of her ability, and leave it up to her to do so :)

I do disagree, however, that feminism is responsible for the general virulence men express against women (being manipulative, liars, etc) simply because even the most cursory examination of mens' writing and speechmaking over the course of recorded history will turn up these same sentiments again, again and again, from Aristotle to Martin Luther to . . . well, really, take your pick! It is deeply saddening to be sure, but ladies, please do not for a moment believe it is any sort of new phenomenon. It is in fact a pervasive attitude in clear evidence throughout history, and research will demonstrate that second- and third-wave feminism have, at the very most, only served to spark this latest form of expression of an ages-old view of our sex. This is not to suggest even for a moment that all men are so disrespectful or hateful toward women, but simply that some men always have been, and some men always will be-- just as we women throughout history have had more than our share of shortcomings too ;)

The good news for Margaret is that we live in a time period when it is no longer widely considered acceptable to spout such derogatory comments, and she is free to end this relationship-- at the very least until her friend can realise how hurtful he is being. Judi, I agree with you-- hurtful and hateful comments from any friend on any subject so close to Margaret's heart would be just as inappropriate.

Margaret, for your friend's own sake I hope you can lovingly confront him about how inappropriate his remarks are, and how disrespectful it is of him to make such comments to you (or, indeed, at all).