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Let’s Play Smear the Queer

smear the queer

Several years ago, I attended a high school football game in which the fans on both sides of the field stood with hands over hearts as the band played our post-9/11 national anthem — God Bless America. This largely Evangelical, conservative, Republican crowd views religion and patriotism as one and the same. In their minds, the United States is a uniquely chosen and blessed nation, a people whose God is the deity found within the pages of the Bible. I doubt that any of these uber-patriotic Christians thought, as they stood to praise Jesus, that what they were doing turned faith into a political football to be tossed to and fro, according to the whims of our political elites. From their perspective, the United States has always been God’s Country®. Other religions are grudgingly permitted, and even atheists are allowed the freedom to live as they please, but no one should ever doubt that there is one true God, and J-E-S-U-S is his name.

Once the crowd was finished masturbating to the American flag and our country’s phallic “greatness,” they settled in to watch two-plus hours of rock-em-sock-em, mano-a-mano organized violence. Christianity quickly faded into the distance as each side cheered their team, calling on them to pummel their opponent into submission. Players were encouraged to hit hard, incapacitating their enemy. So much was on the line: future tales of gridiron glory and a conference championship awaited the team with the most points at the end of the game. As the game wore on, one team got the upper hand and handily beat their rival into the ground. From both sides of the field, the people who just an hour or so ago were singing praises to their God were now screaming and cursing at the officials. One offended fan even went so far as to attack one of the officials because he was fat, leading my son to say, what does the official’s weight have to do with the call he made?

After the game, as I walked to my car, a man and his son passed by me. As they did, the father asked the son what he had been doing during the game (many children “attend” football games, but don’t actually watch the event). The boy replied we were playing smear the queer. I thought, oh my God, here we are in the 21st century, and a boyhood game is STILL called, with nary a thought, smear the QUEER. The boy’s father said nothing, giving tacit approval to his son’s disparaging use of the word “queer.” I suspect the boy has never bothered to consider that using the word QUEER (or any other pejorative word for LGBTQ people) might be offensive. But the father knew better, and yet he said nothing. (and I know some LGBTQ people call themselves queers. That doesn’t mean non-LGBTQ people should use the word in a pejorative way.)

I am not surprised by the things I observed. After all, I live in rural northwest Ohio, a land primarily inhabited by heterosexual white Republican Christians; a land that gives white preference its color; a monoculture proud of its ignorance and simplistic view of the world. While I thoroughly enjoy watching (and photographing) high school sporting events, I find the cultural trappings surrounding these contests to be disheartening. I know that most fellow locals have never ventured far from the farm fields, manufacturing facilities, and Christian churches of northwest Ohio. They are simply living out what they know, rarely, if ever, exposed to the complex, contradictory world that lies outside their borders. When those who live in a particular locality never come in contact with people different from them, and when the few who are different are dismissed and marginalized, it is no surprise that the locals think and behave the way they do. In their world, smearing a queer is just another childhood game; a game, however, that says much about place where it is played.

It goes without saying that not every local is as described above. I am deliberately painting with a broad brush. Over the past fifteen years, I have met a few liberal-minded locals who value pluralism and multiculturalism; people who know something about life beyond the flatlands and cornfields of rural northwest Ohio. Personally, I love the place I call home, even if I am not loved back. I appreciate the slowness of small-town life. I love living in a town where I never have to worry about being burglarized or murdered, and if I leave my car unlocked it will still be in the drive come morning. I don’t want readers to think that I hate where I live. I don’t. This is my home. My children and grandchildren live here, and it is for them I continue to confront local bigotry, racism, and religious extremism. I want them to have a better tomorrow.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    You know, I’ve lived in different states, and not all in the Midwest. I’ve also lived in Massachusetts and Minnesota. Both had quite different cultures even though Bob and I were Adventists and living in either an Adventist “ghetto” or running an Adventist church. Even though we lived in what became Michele Bachmann’s district (gag), it was a relatively nice area (St Cloud MN) with a 4 yr university there. We lived in a small town in Massachusetts but close enough to the liberal Boston metro area.

    I grew up in the Dayton metro area, so I have lived in some places with more cultures and classes. Certainly more people of different ideas. Bruce, you said this area had”…a monoculture proud of its ignorance and simplistic view of the world.” Before I read this, I described it as provincial. It makes for a lot of stability but a great deal of ignorance of the other.

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      Becky, I agree that both terms apply to the kind of closed circle Bruce is describing. The internet is bringing more information to the ‘town’ and allowing for more back-and-forth indeed and I am very grateful to know that people who are able to question and try out answers in their youth and later in life, have the internet to go to for everything under the sun. I do not subscribe to censorship of ideas, of opinions, and feel confident that people are able to make ‘better’ choices when choices are presented. They also choose poorly sometimes and reflect in their shallow choices, the damage in their own lives. Smear the Queer is a good example of this being done and passed through generations.
      The hateful combination of religion and patriotism is a virus. It infects Islam and Christianity, world religions and spreads extremes wherever it goes.
      The stability of provincial life is also the mediocrity of narrow, dull experience and I think that Bruce captures that with clarity in this entry. He uses the word, masturbatory, and there is no better way to describe it, although I do fear he may be maligning ‘self-pleasure’ in a way here, kind of like an old preacher might do? The point may be to denote the feelings that are evoked in God Bless America, the shallow denial of the reality of a Trump in the White House. Mencken said, almost a hundred years ago: “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.” (Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920) By ‘plain folks’, I don’t think that he was referring to only town and village folk at all but to a good portion of the land, like the majority who sing God Bless America while under the influence of religion and patriotism, the ‘us and them’ Americans. If they are not simply dull, they are certainly brainwashed from birth.
      I live in the country because I prefer to be among trees and hills. My wife and I love the quiet song of a solitary day and the occasional visit to the mad Mall in the city not too far away. Why anybody would attend a football game, as Bruce enjoys doing, baffles me. I once went to the horse races and found myself completely entralled…. by the audience. I did not watch the horses at all, just the people: What a wild bunch we are! After that visit to the track, I had had enough and never wished to repeat the experience. It was even moreso when I attended football.
      Now, driving around in circles and taking pictures of church signs, THAT, I completely understand and would love to be aboard but football? Bruce is very well-rounded, I guess, and some of us are not;-)

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    I’ve lived around majority conservatives and also around majority liberals. My experience is the ones I’m near at the time are the most annoying. Lol the sanctimony of both sides is off-putting. Yet both sides are full of wonderful people. And stinkers. Also my favorite Harvey quote-“you know people are people wherever you go” and the reply is “that is very often the case”–it’s one of those quotes that works for any situation. At this point I like President Obama’s idea of having a beer together and being generous in our attitudes toward others as we want them to be toward us.

    Bruce I think if you moved to a very liberal area you’d have a similar experience. People as you know are both fascinating and damn annoying-and are certainly not logical.

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    Bruce, I know what you’re saying about religion, patriotism, and sports in northwest Ohio. It seems to go along with a reverence for that area’s pervasive authoritarian/hierarchical mindset.

    Most of those folks have been exposed to other cultures and ideas. They’ve watched movies and tv shows depicting the horrors of inequality along with the benefits of compassion. Examples: Roots, Ken Burns’ documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, E.T., Schindler’s List, Dirty Dancing, A League of Their Own, The Goonies, Groundhog Day, Rain Man, Toy Story, Mississippi Burning, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Charlotte’s Web, The Karate Kid, Field of Dreams, Footloose, Born on the Fourth of July, Good Will Hunting, Blazing Saddles, Driving Miss Daisy, The Elephant Man and Chariots of Fire.

    They also know Jesus’ teachings involve being kind and giving.

    I think most recognize that they’re behaving unfairly and selfishly, but they have lots of self-justifications (Fox News and the Republican political party rhetoric) which allow them to excuse their conduct.

    Perhaps I’m being too harsh seeing that we’re such an irrational bunch of primates.

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    Thought I should add that there is also a portion of conservative Midwesterners who attempt to live compassionately but are truly frightened of Muslims or other non-Christian people taking over America. They think they’re saving good people from sharia law or some other scary thing they’ve been led to believe (again, thanks to Fox News, the Republican party and also various religious leaders). These people may benefit from experiencing religious and cultural diversity though they’re so indoctrinated, perhaps not.

    There are open-minded people (like Bruce & Polly) in NW Ohio, but they’re a minority.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      This is an area where diversity is hard to come by. I’m in favor of some sort of post-high school mandatory service, be it in the military, Peace Corp, or some other group that would expose recent graduates to other cultures.

      Most Americans will never cross our southern border into Mexico. I was 18 — on a date — when I did for the first time. It was a real eye opener. I want local young adults to learn early that the world is a diverse place, that how life is here is not life everywhere.

      I’m a big advocate of high school students being required to take a World Religions class. This would expose them to other cultures and religions. Such knowledge is an effective antidote for Fundamentalism.

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    I remember playing that game growing up in Colorado. From what I recall, we equated the term “queer” with being sissy or something of that nature, not having a grasp of its true derogatory intent. I too was surprised recently when playing outdoors with my nephews, and they suggested playing smear the queer. Didn’t know it was still a thing.

    On a related note, I just finished reading the Wizard of Oz book from 1900 to my 7 year old daughter. It frequently uses the word queer in the traditional sense, meaning unusual. So that is her only exposure thus far to that term.

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    I’ve never played “Smear the Queer”…it is a good way to get hurt. I remember it being played in elementary recess and it had no other name and to us the “queer” was just the guy with the football with no sexual connotation. I suspect you’re being a bit over sensitive in condemning the name. After all we still refer to a “sun rise” and “sun set” long after we’ve learned that this is not what is happening. It is better to change people’s attitudes rather than force politically correct terms. I had to look up and find what the game is called (I had heard it called “hustle” though Wikipedia calls it “muckle”)
    Is that kid going to grow up to be a man that is cruel and hostile to gays because he played “smear the queer”? I kind of doubt it.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      We can’t know how the boy will grow up. That said, words have meanings, and I suspect the boy knows what the word queer now means.

      I was taught as a child several cute rhyming songs that use the word nigger. I may have not thought twice about the negative racist connotation then, but as an adult I know better and I want children/grandchildren — especially my own — to be taught that words can and do harm people.

      The all-white High School my oldest granddaughter goes to doesn’t permit the use of sexual/racial slurs. The students, not permitted to say “my nigger” have come with a word they use to mean “my nigger”, — turning Monica into MO-NEE-KUH. Two of my grandchildren thought this was funny. Are they deliberately being racist? No, but they do need to taught the meanings of words and show their usage can be racist/bigoted.

      Words change with time. People play the popular game corn hole. In my younger days, corn hole meant two faggots/queers/homos having anal sex. As someone who was a child with Down Syndrome, I don’t like it when people use the word retarded in a pejorative way. Mongoloid was the term used years ago.

      I feel the same way about the use of pussy to describe weakness or inability to complete a task. I used to use the word in my writing until a woman schooled me about why I shouldn’t be using the word.

      Another word is homosexual, a word primarily used by religious people as a slur or negative description of a class of people.

      I’m no fan of political correctness. That said, words have meanings, and we adults should model to children proper speech and insist they not use disparaging words to describe people different from them.

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    Smear the queer = “The whole premise of the game is that all the students run around and throw balls at the student designated as the queer … very similar to the old idea of stoning,” joked Whitt.

    “The word was being used in U.S. newspapers by 1914 mostly to mean “strange,” but also occasionally to suggest homosexuality. By the 1950s, the “strange” usage began to fade, and the word was being used more often as a homophobic slur in the U.S.”

    It doesn’t sound like the nicest game or name for a game.

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    We unthinkingly say things to kids that are downright awful. I heard a friend jokingly say to her son “Hey Spencer are you going to let a GIRL beat you?” three or four of us spoke up, saying that it was sexist, the friend? it rolled right off her like we had commented on the weather or something!

    Every time we equate weakness with femininity or homosexuality we reinforce stereotypes that we should be leaving in the past.

    instead you can tell a child to stand up for themselves, to stick to it, to get aggressive, to dig deep. none of these admonitions are sexist, they don’t malign anyone.

    It drives me up the wall when you call someone out on being a sexist or racist jerk and it’s you that winds up looking like the bad guy!

  9. Avatar

    Hi Autumn, your comment has been on my mind since this morning when I read it, because I found it very interesting. One thing-as far as equating weakness with femininity-if you’re talking about physical strength, isn’t it just a fact of life that most women are physically weaker than most men? I don’t see that biological fact as a put-down or a stereotype. It’s just a fact that my husband can pick me up, but I cannot pick him up.

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        Good video, except at the end where it’s sponsored by Always feminine products-that cracked me up for some reason.

        Actually, this video strikes me as putting girls down. Why? Because women in general probably do run like a girl, throw like a girl, etc. We generally tend to do it in a feminine way. For example, one of my sons was a naturally great baseball pitcher. He had a very good, strong arm. Very cool. Now there are also girls and women who are good at throwing a baseball or softball-WAY better than me. I say good for them. If I were them, and some boy said I throw like a girl, I’d laugh and show him that I actually throw more like a boy-a boy that’s good at throwing.

        Anyway, what I’m trying to say is if you are a girl who is better than most girls at sports, then good for you, get out there and compete and laugh at the boys making fun of you. If you’re good, then you’re really good, because boys have the advantage of more upper body strength naturally.

        If you’re the average female and do run like a girl, throw like a girl-are you supposed to be ashamed of that natural feminine thing? I don’t think so. I mean do most girls want to be like boys? I think most girls appreciate the differences. When I watch a major league pitcher throwing a baseball at 100 mph-it’s a turn on. It doesn’t make me feel inferior that I can’t do that.

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          You are missing my point.

          You don’t insult or cajole a boy to do better because his opponent is a girl, you push him to do his very best at the task at hand, pitching, throwing a football, winning a chess game. Sometimes he won’t win, that’s a life lesson, that his opponent happened to be female is beside the point! And maybe the girl who beat him at whatever happens to be two years older? Maybe they’re evenly matched…

          It’s not about the abilities, it’s about the language we use to encourage kids to do their best. I heard a soccer coach pushing a boy who was slacking, he said “C’mon get in there, you don’t want ‘Smallville’ to get the better of you, Right?” gender didn’t enter into it even though ‘Smallville’s” offence was largely girls.

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            As I tried to say below, I think boys are motivated to be different from girls. They want to be different. Just as girls want to be different from boys.

            I understand that you’re saying about how they can be motivated by other ways, but I think the fact that they want to be different from girls is a natural motivation also. And if their opponent is a girl, I’m sure they are very aware of that fact whether you want them to be or not. If they get beat by a girl, they lose status with the other boys. They don’t like that.

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            The problem with this line of thinking is that it does not recognize or account for the fact that many people aren’t just male or female. There’s a gender spectrum you must account for. Take gay men and women. How do you account for them in a strict male-female dichotomy? Gender is messy.

            When we disparagingly label certain males as effeminate or certain females masculine we cause psychological harm.

            Granted, gender and sexuality are complex issues, but their complexity doesn’t excuse us pigeonholing people based on our own gender/sexual identities and preferences.

            As a Christian, I denied such gender differences existed. Men/boys were male and women/girls were female — just as gender is defined in the Bible. People who didn’t meet this standard were considered deviants, abominations before God and man. Such thinking is harmful and a denial of what science tells us about gender and sexuality.

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          The point is that there are clearly delineated psychological effects from insults that imply girls are weak (“like a girl” or “are you going to let a girl beat you”). The Always social experiment demonstrates that the younger girls don’t have these preconceptions until they are exposed to this type of language. They run, kick, punch, swing without the stereotypical exaggerated motions.

          Just because females are on average somewhat slower or less strong than a typical male doesn’t make them physically slow or weak; anymore than the average male being somewhat slower or less strong than the typical male athlete makes them physically slow or weak.

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            Girls are gonna eventually learn the biological fact that boys are physically stronger than they are. It’s nothing to do with inferiority. Girls ARE generally physically weaker than boys. I don’t understand why they would find that insulting to them. Girls have plenty of advantages over boys. And as they all get older, they like the differences and appreciate them.

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            Girls don’t have to actually perceive it to be insulting for it to have a far-reaching negative subconscious impact. When the concept of girl = weak and inferior is implanted in the background, it doesn’t limit itself to a merely physical context. It often produces notions (in both girls and boys) that girls are likewise emotionally weak, mentally inferior, the lesser party in a relationship, and have poor self-esteem/self-confidence. In my mind, that’s the deeper problem.

            As Autumn pointed out, there are plenty of positive ways to affirm maleness without putting down another group of people, so why even go there?

  10. Avatar
    Bruce Gerencser

    All of us have physical traits that affect our abilities to do certain things. I am 6 foot tall, but I have a long body and very short legs — 29 inch inseam. I played various sports until I was in my 30s. My short legs weren’t much of a problem when playing basketball or baseball. However, when running track, my short legs hindered my ability to run and win. The man with longer legs had the advantage because he could take more steps than i could. This didn’t mean I was weak. My physical trait limited my ability to succeed in some track events.

    When boys are called pussies, sissies, girls, etc. there is often more inferred than just physical traits and differences. Take sports injuries. Boys are generally taught that “real men don’t cry.” Thus, when a boy gets hurt and cries, he is often viewed as acting like a girl. The implication is that females are emotionally inferior or weak. Any man who has watched a woman go through vaginal delivery of a baby knows women are not inferior/weak. Are males and females generally different? Sure, but that doesn’t mean females are inferior. They are just different.

    I’ve got ten granddaughters and one grandson. Believe me, I still have a lot to learn about girls/women. ?

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      I think the point is that men don’t want to be thought of as being like women; just as women don’t want to be thought of as being like men. It’s nothing to do with inferiority. Men are sure tougher in a lot of ways, but they also aren’t tough enough for childbirth either. I don’t think men or boys should have to live in fear of insulting women with their every word. We don’t want to have to tiptoe around men, they don’t want to have to tiptoe around us.

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    I don’t think most men want to be considered womanly, and I don’t think most women want to be considered manly. Each sex has sort of an ideal image that we like to think we get close to at least in some ways. I like it that boys are expected to be strong. I’m sure they find it motivating if they are told by other boys or men that they shouldn’t be like a girl-it motivates them because they want to be like a man. I don’t know, it just makes sense to me. As a girl, I didn’t want to be considered manly-I wanted to be thought of as womanly.

    Boys talking amongst themselves about how to be manly is not a put-down of girls, in my opinion. It’s their standard for themselves. Boys certainly like girls, and the things they say between themselves is not about girls-it’s about being a man. They want to be manly to impress and get a girl. Girls are not attracted to feminine men.

    It’s not about being inferior-it’s about natural differences.

    I think boys/men have a standard for themselves re what it means to be a man, and I don’t think they should be made to feel guilty about that. They know that girls are different from them, and they sure like that difference.

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      Hello Lynn,

      It “makes sense” to you because you’ve consciously and unconsciously been taught sexism from an early age; it’s the result of social conditioning in a patriarchal society.

      “…complementary hostile and benevolent components of sexism exist across cultures. Male dominance creates hostile sexism, but men’s dependence on women fosters benevolent sexism—subjectively positive attitudes that put women on a pedestal but reinforce their subordination.” (Beyond Prejudice as Simple Antipathy: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism Across Cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)

      Sexism teaches superiority and inferiority; it’s a way of maintaining male dominance and power.

      To “throw like a girl” is meant as an insult. It says you don’t know how to throw correctly or well; using such a phrase hurts all genders.

      Sexism is exceptionally ingrained across cultures worldwide. We are all human, and strength comes in varying forms and degrees, regardless of male and female designation. Respect is what we should be aiming for, and it should not be rooted in gender.

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      Lynn123, the stereotypes you are speaking of are at least as much cultural as they are biological. Being the daughter that was supposed to be the son, I saw this first-hand growing up. I come from a DIY family and with no son to teach, my father indulged my curiosity and taught me some of what he had learned from his father and from experience. My two sisters couldn’t have cared less, but I preferred watching my grandfather, father or uncle work on some project at the lake instead of trying to get a suntan like they and my cousins (all girls) did. I took great pride in being “treated like a boy”.

      To this day I take great pride in having skills few women and a fair number of men lack. I can do plumbing with pvc, install a subfloor and linoleum, and could do most work on my own vehicles until electronics and accessibility issues passed me by. I can drive a clutch, ride a motorcycle, and know what an “offsides” call looks like in football, hockey and soccer. I played tackle football and baseball growing up, not softball and volleyball. I’m only 5’2″ but can still play a mean game of horse on the basketball court. I learned to shoot pool when “nice girls” didn’t get within ten feet of a table at a bar, let alone go to a pool hall, which I did anyway. I can fish and hunt too. My oldest son’s dad says I’m still the best roadie he’s ever had in 50+ years of playing in local bands. All that shows is that I do lots of “manly” things.

      At the same time, I can wear a pair of boy’s jeans and a man’s shirt and I still look like a girly-girl, even though I don’t even have any make-up anymore. I write poetry, do calligraphy and crochet. I played flute and recorder. My hair is still waist long, though streaked with grey now. No one mistakes me for male, not when I still wear a C-cup bra. Nothing I listed above leads me to being perceived as “manly”.

      Yes, there are differences between men and women and yes, most humans are heterosexual and relish those differences. But when we tell boys to “man up” and not cry, we are crippling those boys just as much it infers that girls are “less than” and “the weaker vessel”. They learn that their emotions aren’t “manly” and so they hide them, even from their spouses, leaving them isolated and suffering in silence when pain inevitably strikes. This leaves them vulnerable to mental illness as well as substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate. It is also so many men express pain as anger; male anger is acceptable, a man’s pain is not. No one is trying to make males feel guilty about being a man. It’s is how we as a society define “manly” that is the issue.

      We are all human beings, each with a unique range of talents and emotions. We should celebrate the uniqueness that is that person, regardless of sex, gender, race, class and faith (or the lack thereof). Until we can do that, no religion can ever bring this world peace.

      • Avatar
        Becky Wiren

        Thank you anotherami! I was working on a comment very much like this yesterday. But I couldn’t word an answer without a great deal of snark or irritability. I haven’t the mechanical and fixing skills you have, but have always had a great interest in the maths and sciences and back in my younger days did very well in them in school.

        And yet, I always looked and felt like a woman. Rigid gender roles are harmful and constrict our full potential. I’m happy to be a woman (and my husband is also happy I am!) but I don’t think about being the best WOMAN I can be, but the best person, period.

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    In most cultures today, being female comes with a 2nd class designation. It is a fact that overall women do not make the same pay as men performing the same job and women are under-represented in positions of authority.

    In our society, doing something “like a girl” means they are doing it non-efficiently and non-effectively; until we address our culture’s lack of egalitarianism, “like a girl” effectively insults females and reinforces male dominance.

    Interestingly, it is thought that archaic hunter-gatherer societies were fairly egalitarian. What happened?

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      What happened? I don’t know. I could guess, but it would be extremely politically-incorrect. I don’t want it to get upsetting for me or anyone else. I think it’s been a nice discussion so far. But, I think your second sentence might hold a clue.

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    I don’t perceive girls as weak and inferior. I have no idea how many girls and women do feel weak and inferior. As far as males getting affirmed w/o comparing and contrasting themselves with females-I doubt that will change, but maybe it will, who knows. I don’t like seeing the sexes as one big blob of sameness. I thot the whole male/female thing makes the world go round. It’s those lovely differences that make it all so very interesting.


    I guess I’m not into the whole sexism thing. Of course women get treated unfairly sometimes; and when they do, complaining about it makes them appear quite unpowerful. As an example-Hillary Clinton doing a book tour explaining why she lost the election. What self-respecting male candidate would do that? Men are expected to “take it like a man,” accept responsibility for the loss and move on. I think sometimes it’s women who make themselves look weak when they take her approach

    . As far as maintaining male dominance and power-I’m for that. I like it. Doesn’t make me feel inferior in the slightest. And I would vote for a woman president if I liked her and found her impressive.

    I think all people should be respected and the differences in genders makes up much of what life is about.


    You should be proud of all your accomplishments and skills. As far as men crying-yes they are taught to keep it together. I think that’s an ability that many women find comfort in-in a crisis where they are very upset, they like having a rock to lean on. On the other hand, I have no problem with a man crying. I recently experienced that, actually. I respected the man and was glad he felt comfortable enough and supported enough that he could do that in my presence. Do male tears make females uncomfortable? I’d say yes. Because we know that if even they are crying, it’s a serious situation, and that’s a little unnerving for us. Well, I’m speaking for myself in all this, don’t know how all women feel about it all.

    I guess my overall point is that male/female differences are good and complimentary and serve a good purpose and make life what it is. I don’t see why there needs to be inferiority felt.


    I think it was you who said you felt like you were made to be the bad guy when you explained to someone that they were making a sexist statement. And you said you didn’t understand that. Could you explain further?

    I’m enjoying the discussion (so far-lol) and it’s a little hard to answer so many people. Is there no one on here that agrees with me? lol

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    It makes women appear quite unpowerful because we ARE UNPOWERFUL compared to men in our culture, explaining that should not be perceived as complaining. A large part of why H. Clinton lost IS due to misogyny; to not recognize that is a part of the problem.

    “Take it like a man” = sexism.

    “Accept responsibility for the loss and move on” = Shut up, so what if you lost unfairly? I don’t want to hear what we could change to make life fairer or better.

    She invested a lot of time and hard work into her bid for election; she has a right to be heard.

    “As far as maintaining male dominance and power-I’m for that.” = That attitude helps perpetuate women not being treated equally and with respect. In the long run, it hurts all of society.

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      I think it is perceived as complaining, and complaining can be seen as weak.

      I don’t think misogyny is why she lost.

      I totally disagree that women are unpowerful compared to men in our culture. Women are extremely powerful and provide much of the motivation for men to do what they do.

      “take it like a man”-Men generally do take it like a man-that’s why they get the respect they do from women and other men.

      What exactly do we need to do to make life more fair?

      I’m sure Bernie, Romney, McCain, etc. all invested a lot of time and hard work into their bids for election also. I’m simply saying that I don’t think it helps her or anybody else to explain.

      Re women not being treated equally and with respect-I think it would help to have specific instances to discuss so we know what we’re talking about exactly.

      Liking men being in power generally does not equate to me being against women in any way.

      If this sounded curt, I don’t mean it that way. I appreciated your clarity and wanted to do the same.

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        Bruce Gerencser

        How about the #me too campaign? Millions of women admitted being sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped, and it is likely that millions more were too fearful or ashamed to publicly say anything. Then there’s the daily news reports about men sexually taking advantage of women. Oh, and then there are the millions of Americans who think there is nothing offensive or wrong about voting into office a man who bragged about being a pussy-grabbing sexual predator.

        So, no, women are not treated equally and with respect.

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          Yes, that’s certainly a good example of women not being treated well. Sexual harassment is illegal and certainly assault and rape are serious crimes that should be punished. I totally agree.

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        Hello again Lynn,

        Sex is the biological distinction of being male and female. Gender is a structural feature of society, which it uses to control its members.
        What you’re describing when you talk about men being less emotional than women is a social construct. It is gender-based; not biologically based.

        In our society boys are usually taught to suppress physical or emotional weakness. This suppression can cause many health issues throughout life: heart disease, high blood pressure, and a growing body of evidence show it may contribute to cancer, asthma, higher levels of cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and insomnia.

        The belief that women are kinder, more nurturing, and more virtuous than men may seem positive on the surface, but these assumptions are wrong and harm both men and women.

        Females do not enjoy the same amount of power as men do in our culture. Bruce brought up the problem of sexual abuse and assault. I’ve already indicated women make less money on average than men do for the same job.

        I believe you think the gender roles you were taught work well and perhaps they do for you. For a large number of women and men, they do not, and they don’t work well for me either. I have been the recipient of sexual harassment, unfair pay practices, and prejudice simply because I am female. I’ve seen the harm that arises from the cultural belief that men shouldn’t express fear and sadness. I saw it in my father. I know from vast experience that cultural norms should change.

        Kind regards.

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    Here’s what I’d like Lynn:
    Awareness of problems and the implementation toward treating all humans fairly. Men and women would hold each other with equal respect while appreciating differences and unique contributions. Men would be able to show sadness, fear, kindness and nurturing behaviors without repercussion. Women would be able to show strengths without being thought of derogatorily. Women’s thoughts and values would hold the same weight as men’s. Women’s pay would be the same as men’s when performing the same job.

    I’d like to see child-rearing further appreciated in our society and children taught respect for everyone, regardless of sex, physical ability, or race.

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      That all sounds great; I’m all for it. But what methods would be used to achieve all this? For example, Autumn said that she and several others pointed out to a friend that the friend had made a sexist remark. She was frustrated that the friend just let it roll off her back. So, that method didn’t seem to be effective for achieving change.

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        Teach children that fear and pain are acceptable behavior for all humans; that nurturing, kindness, strength and certain types of intelligence aren’t gender-specific and should be encouraged in everyone.

        Call out sexist behavior and explain why it harms, as Autumn did; even though it rolled off her friend’s back, it may have planted a thought seed. Also, while it won’t change some, it may others.

        Support women and men harmed by sexism; sometimes lending an ear and caring makes a huge difference.

        Discourage sexist behavior and encourage fairness; support legislature, education, businesses, and programs that endorse equality and justice.

        Gender conditioning has been ingrained in us since we were babies. Some of it is relatively harmless, but much of it isn’t.

        The bottom line is that we can make a positive difference, we just need to try.

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          The reason I just said thanks was that I didn’t know what else to say. I appreciated your answering my question, because I truly did want to know how these changes are going to happen.

          Re your first point-it sounds good except I thought men tend to be better at math and science generally. I also thought women tend to be better verbally. Maybe I’m wrong.

          Re calling out sexist behavior-do you think it should be done even if it’s considered impolite? Even if someone’s in the wrong, I think if called out they could feel embarrassed, hurt, offended-which wouldn’t attract them to your cause.

          Can you always tell the difference in a situation re if it’s sexism or some other reason?

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            Hi again Lynn123. I really appreciate your engagement in this discussion. Without discussion we’ll never get anywhere. Your willingness to “talk” here is one of the most encouraging things I’ve experienced since the 2016 election. Thank you for that; it’s been sorely needed. Now on to my comment.

            You wrote: “I think if called out they could feel embarrassed, hurt, offended-which wouldn’t attract them to your cause.”

            When I first read that, I was angry. Really angry. Really, really angry. So angry that I probably could have made the most seasoned Navy vet blush. (I have a wide and varied vocabulary of profanities.) Don’t worry, my anger isn’t at you personally, but at the attitude itself. One which I shared for far too many years. My anger is likely mostly at myself for that. I’ve “sat with it” overnight and my anger has cooled. You are not the perpetrator of this attitude, not at all. You are likely a victim of it yourself.

            Can you see the problem in what you wrote, looking at it again? You are worried about the person in wrong, but say nothing at all about the victim. Isn’t the victim’s pain, embarrassment and feeling of being offending equally important, if not more so? You are advocating silence in the face of a wrong. This only perpetuates it.

            For years I wouldn’t speak out either, because it often made things worse. That was a lack of courage on my part. But “go along to get along” is how fascism overtook Germany. It’s why racism is still such a problem; white people sat silent in the face the racism of their peers and family. When we are silent in the face of sexism, we are effectively telling the victim that their suffering is not important enough to address. Their pain doesn’t matter. Their embarrassment isn’t relevant to the larger group but the embarrassment of the misogynist must be avoided, no matter the cost to the victim. Someone who is truly a misogynist will never be attracted to the cause of gender equality. But the person who is simply repeating what others say, who has never thought twice about how inappropriate their behavior actually is? Can we maybe reach them and inspire change? Sure they are likely to be embarrassed, but isn’t that actually appropriate? Shouldn’t we be ashamed when we denigrate others? I think so.

            Regarding how to tell is a bit easier. Sometimes, it may be hard to tell if a person’s bad behavior is sexism or something else. In those situations what is wrong with something like, “Wow, that sounded really sexist! Did you mean that to come out that way?” This gives them a way out; they can deny it. But they were called out on it, so the next time, if it really isn’t sexism, they can be more careful in how they behave. It’s that seed Janf8 was talking about. Every time they get called out for sexism, that seed gets watered. Even just looking at them and saying “really?” will help.

            Thanks for the conversation, Lynn123. I hope you have good day.

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            Hi, Lynn, thought I would chime in. I totally agree that there are some innate differences between women and men that go beyond cultural conditioning.

            For me, I think we have to choose our battles. I would call someone out concerning a sexist comment depending on the situation, but I would do this privately, and even gently if I didn’t think deliberate hurt was intended.

            I definitely don’t feel that Mrs. Clinton lost the election due to misygony. Agree with you there.

            But, I can’t agree that it is good for men to always be in power. I think we are better off to have the most qualified people in positions of authority apart from gender. (Although, I may be misunderstanding you in this.)

            Appreciate hearing your ideas and the good discussion.

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    “… boys and girls understood math concepts equally well … belying the notion of a fixed or biological differentiating factor.” “Data from 165 studies revealed a female advantage so slight as to be meaningless” ~ American Psychological Association

    Use your best judgment in determining whether something is sexist; if it is, gently explain how it harms others.

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    Interesting. I happen to be reading a book about math right now. I had read several books about Bernie Madoff. A quant on Wall Street figured out his scam way ahead of 2008 & told the SEC five times over the years but they did nothing. Anyway that got me into my current math interest. As for telling someone they were sexist–i couldn’t do it.

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    I, too, feel good that this conversation hasn’t gone bad yet. lol I was kinda shocked that my statement could cause extreme anger in someone; that’s kind of frightening to me, and my intention is not to get anybody all riled up. But I appreciate very much your honesty. What comes to mind is that in our discussion of sexism-it’s not a passionate subject for me as it is for you. Actually, I think your anger vs. my nonchalance is a big factor with some of these subjects. To one side, it’s very important and serious and about being a good person, while the other side is thinking “good grief, what’s the big deal”–which would be quite frustrating for the serious person. And I think you’ve just demonstrated a good way to handle that-you honestly explained your feelings, but you made me want to keep talking with you instead of making me want to once again head for the hills.

    I see what you’re saying re what about the victim. Obviously if someone is greatly harming another, we should not stand idly by worrying about politeness. I think we’d have a have a particular situation described in order to decide if something should be said at all or how to say something in an effective way. In the situation that Autumn described, it sounded like it was a group of women that were comfortable with each other and liked each other, so comments could be made without someone getting all upset. And she was frustrated that the offender didn’t take it seriously-which again shows that the offender thought it was no big deal and Autumn thought it was very important.

    One reason Autumn’s comment stuck with me is this very thing of confronting someone. I’m a sensitive person, but I try not to take things personally. But I hate confrontation and am easily embarrassed. So embarrassing me in public is like the unpardonable sin. If someone does that to me (I’m talking about in real life, not the internet) I will not like the person, I will feel humiliated and tearful and will forever avoid that person. So imagining someone saying I’m sexist brought all those feelings to the forefront. And it made me wonder why someone would think it a good idea to confront someone like that. But as a couple people have said, you’d want to say something in the right way, which I agree with. And the other big factor is what was said to the victim and was it minor or drastic-which of course could be a matter of opinion. It gets complicated!

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    I agree the most qualified person should be in power. There are many very competent women, and I’m all for them. I just think men generally have an advantage as natural leaders. Take churches for example-are women generally successful pastors? I mean, just take this blog-it’s a man’s blog.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Well, women are barred from being pastors in many sects, and those that now ordain women started doing so in the last three or four decades. The two largest sects in the United States — Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention — do not permit the ordination of women.

      I am clueless as to what the blog comment means. Must be because I am a man. ?

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      I think it just depends on the church. My last church had a female pastor. The bishop at that time was also a woman. Since I’ve moved to be closer to grandkids 🙂 , we’re in a congregation where more of the leaders are men. Although, the last pastor of counseling and visitation was a woman…Every situation is different.

      There is definitely alot of variety and diversity out there. We had a speaker in church last week who works with our youth who is in law enforcement. This man was sharing his support for those kneeling during the national anthem, as a protest against systemic racism within the ranks of the police force, and what he feels are the marginalization of minorities in our country. I personally could not agree with most of his views, but the message certainly gave food for thought. But, what surprised me is that this guy did not at all fit my preconceived notion of someone who would take this position. I mean he is this big, strapping he man looking police officer. I had to repent on the spot. It was quite convicting.

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        I tried to do a little research on women pastors. It seems they feel like they are criticized more than male pastors. Do you know if your female pastor felt this way? And I wonder why they would get more criticism from the congregation?

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          I’m not certain if she felt this way in general. I remember my priest sharing that early on in her ministry she did have problems with two older men intentionally talking during her message, and generally being disrespectful. She was a very strong woman, and able to address this.

          I think it might depend on the congregation. If there are men who have problems with women in spiritual authority in the church, there are going to be issues.

          Being a pastor is a very challenging position in general, male or female. I think it takes a tremendous amount of grace and compassion to care and to relate with this wide assortment of people with tons of problems and insecurities, as well as difference on so many issues.


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    That’s true-women can’t be priests or Baptist pastors. Of those that ordain women, my impression is that those women don’t develop large congregations. I could be wrong; I haven’t looked at statistics on it. I’ll try to do that.

    I’m basing my opinion on my gut feeling that the majority of women and men prefer to follow a man. I do think there are probably women that the majority of each sex would want to follow, but I just think it’s the natural set-up of things that men are preferred. Given this, any woman wanting a large following in religion or politics or business is gonna be less likely to obtain that-because of the natural tendencies of people.

    My saying this is a man’s blog was kinda dumb to say to make a point. There are plenty of women’s blogs with lots of followers. But you have to consider the subject matter. Of course I guess we’d all agree that there are more men leaders in religion and politics and business. The part where we’d maybe disagree is when we ask why.

    I think it’s an interesting subject. I’m not a feminist, and I have no agenda. My interest is in the whole male/female relationship thing, the biology part, the psychology part-trying to figure out why people act or think the way they do.

    As far as my experience with churches-I’ve visited a couple Methodist churches with women pastors. One was small in a small town; one was small in a thriving college city. Of course I know the Methodists move their pastors regularly, so I guess any Methodist pastor wouldn’t be able to get a large following.

    Bruce, you obviously know more than me on this subject of male and female pastors. Have you had a woman as your own pastor? Have you heard pastors of other denominations (that have female pastors) give opinions re what they think works or doesn’t work and why?

    I guess there are a couple famous women teachers at least. I used to go to Kay Arthur Bible studies-she was very popular. And then there’s Joyce Meyer-she was very big.

    • Avatar
      Grammar Gramma

      Lynn, re your comment ” I just think it’s the natural set-up of things that men are preferred,” it’s only been in the last century or so that women were even allowed in positions of authority. With a very few exceptions, men were the “natural” leaders because men ruled the world. Women are still dissed just because they are women. Check out this piece about a guy who signed in using his female coworker’s email for a week. See what happensa to a woman, just because she is a woman.

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        Hey, that was interesting, Grammar Gramma. Love your name, btw. I totally believe it; to me it just illustrates that men value the thots of other men more than the thots of women. I don’t see that changing, but maybe it will. I think it just shows that men want to have a club, a part of their world that does not involve women. They love women and want wives, but they also want male-only areas. As this situation demonstrated, it’s not that the woman’s advice was inferior-it was not-it’s that men value a male’s advice over a woman’s -even if it’s the same thing!

        This reminds me of George Elliot. She wrote this great, great novel under a guy-sounding name. I think that’s the story anyway. Middlemarch. It’s a truly great novel. So maybe that’s the answer-do business under a male-sounding name to overcome the natural prejudice of guys.

        So I agree that women can be dissed because they are women. But how to best overcome that?

        Just off the top of my head-there was Margaret Thatcher and there’s Angela Merkel-how did they do it?

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    “Can you see the problem in what you wrote, looking at it again? You are worried about the person in wrong, but say nothing at all about the victim. Isn’t the victim’s pain, embarrassment and feeling of being offending equally important, if not more so? You are advocating silence in the face of a wrong. This only perpetuates it. ”

    Love this comment you made, anotherami; you have immense insight.

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    Here’s just one example of a woman who didn’t receive the credit she deserved for a discovery she made:

    Although the discovery of the DNA double helix is often attributed to Watson and Crick, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962, it was not actually theirs to claim.

    Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist, was the first person to capture a photographic image using a technique she had honed: observing molecules using X-ray diffraction.

    Why was she never credited for this?! Well, without her permission, an estranged male colleague of hers showed her photograph to competitors Watson and Crick, and the rest, as they say, is his-story. ~ Guy-Allen

    The past and today’s world were/are full of oppressed people, whose ideas and possible contributions were/are stolen, discarded or silenced; how much more productive and kinder our world could be if we’d just adopt a mindset of equal respect, regardless of gender or skin color.

    • Avatar
      Justine Valinotti

      Jan–I never knew about Ms. Franklin. Thank you for sharing that.

      Here’s another woman whose work is not acknowledged: Sophie Germain. She was a mathematician and physicist whose theory of elasticity made the Eiffel Tower possible.

      I learned of her when I was living in Paris and chanced upon a street named after her in the 14th Arrondisement. I hadn’t heard of her before then, so when I had some time, I looked her up in the nearest library. (This was in the days before the Internet.) Had I not had that chance encounter, I probably never would have known about her!

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    I have friends and family in the LGBTQ+ community. They are great people and highly productive in society. One is a minister, one is a (retired) engineer and construction owner, and the last I’m close to did such a good job at her new factory job she was trained to be a machinist. So I don’t want to hear ignorant “smear the queer” comments anywhere.

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    I read the post, which states things quite well, then read the comments. I wish I hadn’t read the comments.

    Lynn’s view and ardent defense of men being masculine men and women being feminine women, and questioning if hurtful remarks should be called out, first upset me, then as I read more, made me angry, and finally just left me extremely sad.

    Most people here know I am non-binary. And in my youth, being non-binary, or gay, or bi, or lesbian, was just not acceptable. Especially in the home of a Christian minister. The closet was a very real and dark place back 50 years ago.

    Words matter. Telling men to man up, or not let a girl beat you, don’t be a sissy, don’t cry, be strong, etc, is can have horrible impact. Her claim that men just want to be strong men, and women want that strong man to look up to perpetuates gender stereotypes. This can create a terrible life long trauma for many people.

    Her words took me back to some dark times in my life. Words like hers, used on me from youth, and repeated throughout adulthood, lead to decades of self doubt, self hate, religious trauma, and mental health issues. I tried to be what I was told to be. I did all the manly things. I was strong, tough, but it was all a facade.

    In reality, I was in a dark and horrible place. I was none of those manly things. I ended up withdrawing, shunning friendships, especially with men, because none of the manly stuff made sense to me. I was too feminine, I enjoyed to many non-masculine things. I felt too much emotion and could not fit that manly masculine mold.

    Instead, I was a deviant, a horrible sinner, a freak, a weak person who could never be a proper man. Words like Lynn’s, used daily in church and society, only made the dark feelings worse. Obviously I was a sick person and would never be a real man. These were very dark times in my life, but no one knew it. I hid it well, but still there were these words, these strict gender roles, these constant reminders. I wasn’t a proper man and I was a proper Christian. As a result, there were a lot of very dark days and weeks. A few times I was certain that the current dark day would be the last dark day, because there was one sure way to stop them.

    But I made it through those days, survived many decades of dark days, and was slowly, over the last 10 years, able to overcome the gender mantra in which I had been immersed. It’s not all perfect, but today I am stronger and better by being the person I truly am. I now can give a big double fuck you to traditional gender roles.

    Lynn’s world does not allow her to see the real pain and trauma her words can cause, even as innocent as they may seem to her. Words, especially when they are used to belittle, control, or manipulate can be very damaging, even if they seem innocent to you.

    Words have meaning. Even smear the queer, to a queer person, is clearly about beating down the queer person. Of course, we are told to lighten up, that it’s just a game. But it’s not. Deep down everyone today understands the meaning. These types of things – any bigotry or hatred or ignorant comments – must always be confronted if any true equality is to be achieved.

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      Sage, I don’t see her posting her now. Hopefully we argued her into a better view than she held, but I’m not holding my breath.

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    When I was a teenager one of the pastimes of the yobs used to be ‘gay bashing’. I remember hearing people refer to it, without properly appreciating what it meant. In fact, I’m not sure I actually knew what being gay was, though the standard way of referring to it was ‘puff’ (you ‘big puff’ is still a pretty normal thing to say, jokingly, to people who, for example, can’t keep up when cycling). This is why it’s essential that children are educated in these matters as early as possible. It isn’t teaching them to be gay, it’s teaching them to understand it in others.

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    Damn, why can’t people just respect other people? Somehow I knew while growing up that I was different. I didn’t fit into stereotypes about females. I never have. And I completely realized that when my church was teaching us about biblical womanhood. I thought God had made me wrong. When I got outside evangelicalism my not fitting stereotypes about females wasn’t a huge issue. I have a handful of good female friends, but I am definitely more comfortable hanging out with men – always have been. Most of the time it isn’t an issue, and I present physically as female so no one cares. Inside, I don’t feel like I am a gender – I am just me. Honestly, I am privileged to just be able to go along, just being ever so slightly weird for hanging out with the men more often in social situations. It must be awful for people just to be themselves in bigoted environments. For parents to allow that bigotry is horrifying.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    I find this discussion so interesting, and recounting the statements like ” you hit like a girl,”etc. Puts me in mind of my SIL, who at 5’10 herself is pretty strong, and once knocked a wisecracking movie patron to the ground( he said something snarky about her weight). I never had an issue with males who cried for one reason or another, people just cry. Generally, most men are about twice as strong as women, due to hormones and muscle structure, once puberty is underway. Read that somewhere. I do wonder if the progress made during the 60 ‘s and 70’s reverted under Reagan, who worked tirelessly at doing exactly that. It seems like we in this country haven’t changed for the the better all that much. Witness the homeless crisis, and now the Sheriff is going to relocate them off the beaches and out of the parks. No interest in building enough housing for all the residents,for 40 years created the housing shortage we have today. But instead of addressing this fact, most would prefer name- calling, threats, even some violence over solutions and ending corruption in the housing industry. We devolved big time under the Trump Administration, here’s to hoping to bring better times.

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Bruce Gerencser