Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

I Don't Have To Be Hateful, I Can Just Say 'Bless Your Heart'

essietee's picture

Miranda Lambert - "Only Prettier"

There are a few things that I always do when I go home for academic breaks: I spend time with my family, I catch up on sleep, and I swim laps at the local YMCA. Before coming to Bryn Mawr, I was a competitive swimmer for twelve years and swam in both club and Y leagues. When I was in high school, I brought a lot of my academic and pesonal stress to the pool, and my coach and I had to make an agreement: my nightly two-hour practices would be a time when I couldn't think about anything other than the set. The pool was my sanctuary, and I still view it as such.

Last week, I met my dad at the pool one afternoon to swim for a little while. After saying hello to my old coach, I hopped in and did a warmup. While stretching before completing my main set, another swimmer a few lanes over randomly called out to me. Now, when I swim, I'm in my own world and don't appreciate being interrupted; though a little bothered, I answered the gentleman's question about whether I was the new coach (I am not), whether I swam there on the swim team (I did), and where I went to school (Bryn Mawr). When I said the name of my school, I was greeted by a strange yet familiar expression: he had never heard of it. "It's a women's college outside of Philadelphia, one of the original Seven Sisters," I went on to explain, thinking that would be it.

"Oh, so you must be a man-hater," he responded. "You're anti-man, right?"

WOAH. I'm sorry...WHAT?? I go to a women's college, but I'm not anti-man. I date girls, but I'm not anti-man. The majority of my friends are women, but I'm not anti-man. In fact, several of my closest friends are men. I was admittedly quite taken aback and didn't counter with anything; the "gentleman" said nothing else and swam toward the opposite end of the pool. I'd like to say that I was able to shake off the comment, but that would be a lie. In less than five seconds, one comment was enough to penetrate my bubble of safety and throw off the rest of my day (so much that I'm dedicating an entry entirely to the subject).

As my dad would say later when I told him about my experience, this was a case of too much testosterone. It's the same thing that my mom would say when the high school boys would zoom down my tiny street at over 50 MPH as the last bell of the day rang. What did this guy get out of saying something so outlandish to a complete stranger? The satisfaction of my stunned expression? I do wonder if that was, in fact, the case. Maybe he had too much machoism flowing through his veins. Maybe be was just a jerk. And I might not have had the balls to counter his statement (pun intended), but, like twelve-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres, I'll let my actions speak for me.



S. Yaeger's picture

The idea that being a student

The idea that being a student at a women's college, or that identifying as a feminist, can indicate a hatred for men is one that I bump up against very often, and I often wonder what causes it too.  I find it interesting that your family point to testosterone as a possible cause for rudeness, since my family does the same exact thing, only they tend to phrase it as "well, boys will be boys."  In fact, I recently had a frustrating conversation with my own father and brother about sexism in general, and sexism in the Philadelphia Fire department specifically.  My brother is currently studying to take the Fire Department entrance exam and I have been helping him by printing out his study materials and writing questions and flas cards based on the print outs.  When we came to the section on sexual harrassment and the acceptance of female firefighters by male firefighters, both my brother and my father (who was a member of the department for over 30 years) were startlingly dismissive of the idea that women may face increased harrassment within the department, despite the fact that my father has witnessed instances of women being treated poorly  in their respective firehouses.  When I reacted to their attitudes, they basically told me that my status as a student at a womens' college precludes me from being allowed to comment on their desire to keep the fire department predominently male.  At the time, I think I reacted by stomping away and slamming doors, as my mother told me not to be so sensitive as they were only "being boys".  I was in capable of understanding why they were behaving that way at the time, but in retrospect, I think that the idea that we hate men is often used as an excuse for misogyny, which is extremely unfortunate in light of the fact that the very act of using imaginary misandry to justify being hateful toward women undermines the percieved validity of actual misandry complaints.