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On Sunday night, Maggie Gyllenhaal delivered an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that spoke to the complicated nature of feminism in the current zeitgeist. Bruce Wayne’s dead girlfriend mentioned that people are all pumped up about the “wealth of roles for powerful women in television lately,” but she threw subtle shade at that notion, instead choosing to celebrate the roles for women in which they are not always powerful, or always sexy, or always in control. She celebrated the idea of a woman as a villain and a hero. Essentially, a complicated character. A human. What I believe she was saying — and I’m expanding here — is that to place women on a pedestal as a reaction to sexism is no different than celebrating the noble savage as a reaction to racism. It’s a “pat on the head,” condescending form of justice. “You’re a girl, and you can do anything,” is a harmful statement, because why does it matter if someone is a man or a woman? It’s reverse sexism. The feminist truth is that man and woman are equal in all things. This is to say that a woman can be a nice person. Just as likely, she can also be a complete dick.
There’s a certain phrase I’ve said since college: “Dudes being dudes!” I exclaim it after a beer bong, or a public makeout, or during faux tough guy talk. I said it throughout my wildly popular video at the Carolina Cup (feast away, trolls). I say it with a wink and a smile, because of course I do; it’s a ridiculous thing to say. In fact, the less manly the action is, the more I say it, letting the contradiction form satire. For example, if we’re just hanging out watching The Holiday again, I might turn to you and say, “Dudes being dudes, amirite?” and you’ll say, “you know it,” and we’ll have successfully lambasted society’s expectations of masculinity. Boom, high-five, better world, put it in the bank.
I happen to run a show every so often in New York and I call it, you guessed it, “Dudes Being Dudes With J-Train.” I got a message last week from a woman running a comedy show in New York with a similar title, requesting I change the name of mine to avoid confusion. I knew about her show already; she and some friends dress up like bros and not so subtly suggest we’re all subhuman waste. Apparently, if you prick us, we don’t bleed, we just rape. Anyway, she took a break from lobbing grenades atop her moral high ground to ask me to change the name of my show — she’s been running hers since 2013 and received a 500-word writeup in a free local paper. As a response, I sent along the links to some articles and videos going back to 2011, a podcast I started in 2012 (guess the name), and if that wasn’t enough, I’m actually in the process of trademarking the phrase. (It’s a cold world out there, you guys. You have to protect yourself.) “Argument over,” I thought. She could keep the name of her show, I just wasn’t going to change the name of mine. Glad we got that settled, thanks for reaching out. Yet she persisted, “Change the name.” I refused, so her coup de grace was to then insult my show and suggest that my comedy was morally beneath hers.
Now, that’s pretty annoying, but whatever. You can’t sweat it; you can only do better and hope it works. My real issue here is that she handcuffed me. I am automatically the offensive party here: a single white male in a baseball cap and a button-down. On the other hand, she’s the armchair feminist in a vintage sweater. My style, my preferences, and this goddamn epic strut make me a villain before I can even open my mouth to offer her a shot of Fireball. I CAN’T come out of this looking like anything but Niedermeyer’s gorgeous Jewish son. If I tell her to fuck off, all I do is fulfill her Women’s Studies 101 notion of sexism. I mean, I’m trying to TRADEMARK “Dudes Being Dudes.” That’s classic movie bad guy shit, using “business” to ruin everyone’s good time. And I get it. This is an unfair, male-dominated society and I happen to dress like I just finished stuffing someone in a locker. Nobody is arguing that. Except in this case, I’m not the aggressor. Convenient notions of “good” and “bad” don’t apply here. So I make my argument: using a perceived role as an underdog to make an unfair grab at something is morally bankrupt. You can’t invite me to the feminist rally just to pick my pocket. You are not better. You are equal, so I refuse to give you what you want simply because you asked for it. That would plunge us all back a decade and contrive your ideals not to a righteous gnashing of teeth, but to a childish stamping of feet.
Therefore, I am blameless — progressive, even — in the most feminist of assertions: you are a total dick. Fuck off, asshole.