Finding Feminism: How Pantsuit Politics Helped Me Think Like A Woman, And Become A Better Man

Editor’s note: This is a rare forum for a man to speak, and it’s a rare time in our political climate where just about nobody wants to hear from another man. Let me preface this post by saying "I get it." But I’m asking you to stick with me in hopes that perhaps these words on how Pantsuit Politics has transformed my life can inspire more men to join our listenership. I know our show is doing wonders for women, I see it every single day and I believe the show is more important now than ever. I’m here to talk about what it can do for men, and more importantly, what it’s done for me. Thank you, and I love you all.

Curious minds tend to wander. I, luckily, have always had a curious mind. Perhaps it’s why I pursued journalism in college, or love outsider art, or watch so many documentaries, or why I've battled insomnia most of my adult life. In a mental walkabout one day through the farthest corners of the iTunes podcast directory, my wandering mind stumbled across a faded red logo with white serif lettering and a name that instantly popped out like the hyper bright bulbs on a Las Vegas marquis  – it was Pantsuit Politics. I rarely ever seek random podcasts, I’m a big believer in word of mouth, but let’s consider it a leap of faith.

Little did I know the moment I clicked subscribe, I would get more than a pipeline to a piece of media, I was boarding a bullet train to a feminist political world where most men are afraid to travel. Here’s the thing, they should. All my life I’ve been surrounded by young, feminist women. My wife, my friends’ wives, my coworkers. I thought I knew what it meant to see the world through the eyes of a woman, but what I mistook for clarity was really a telescope with a cracked lens. My relationship to the female experience was as far as a star’s gaze, because I had never been truly immersed. How could I be? Outlets like Pantsuit Politics are rare, and rarer still are voices like Sarah and Beth who speak confidently, intelligently, without fear of male repression and sometimes defiantly so. Rather than run from this world that most certainly was not created in my gender's image, I decided to stay for a while. And you know what? It felt familiar.

You see, I’m not an alpha male. I’ve never liked “locker room” talk or felt comfortable in breastaurants or felt the need to identify with the more brutish tendencies of my gender. That's not to say I don't express typical masculine traits, but I’ve always been someone who favors complexity over convention. Naturally, Pantsuit Politics seemed like the kind of community where convention mattered little, and I liked that. The more I listened and conversed with Sarah and Beth and the other women in the PP community, the more I disliked what I’d hear outside of it.

For example, I was at a pregnancy class with my wife, and the instructor said “Ladies, if you don’t like your OBGYN, fire him.” Literally it would have never crossed my mind to consider the pronoun in that sentence 5 years ago. Instead my mind jumped to “him?” Who says the doctor has to be a him? And the teacher was a woman! I'd recognized woman-on-woman crime! I found myself reading more female writers, like Rebecca Traister after listening to her as a guest, following female listeners on Twitter, listening to more female musicians, and exploring more female art, not out of guilt, or obligation but out of curiosity. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it was the beautiful guidance that comes from hours upon hours of mental investment in a perspective I wasn’t born with. I was being led to true north by not one bright star, but two redheaded ones.

Now, the lenses on my telescope are newer, stronger, and more clear. All the corny quips and backhanded, insecure attempts to put down men who “get in touch with their feminine side” are nothing to me. All the hacky comics who make fun of the female experience with trite jokes about wine, brunches, rom-coms, and “girls night” are even more painful signs of discomfort in a world they wished they could know, but don’t. That’s what’s puzzling to me – every man wants to know what a woman’s mind/experience is like, but very few want to put in the work necessary to do it. They want it easy. And in the most extreme cases, they rebel against their insecurities, and that folks I’ve learned is misogyny. Misogyny comes from fearful, pathetic men who think that a presence in the world with a woman means they lose their membership to the boy’s club. Only the difference is that the boy’s club is everywhere. Shows like Pantsuit Politics have to exist in spite of it, and they shouldn’t have to.

A podcast is a listener’s medium. It’s theater of the mind in many of the same ways radio is, so the only way to really absorb the information is to hear it. That’s why Pantsuit Politics is so powerful. It’s quite literally a medium in which female voices must be heard. Sarah and Beth aren’t looked at, gawked at, pre-judged (maybe by political affiliations only), put down, graded on a scale of 1-10, described as objects to be groped, grabbed, or anything of the sort. They are brilliant minds whose ideas are only delivered directly into the ear.

So when I listened Sarah cry yesterday morning as she said there were millions of women out there who in the wake of the #trumptapes thought to themselves “your locker room talk HAPPENED TO ME” I heard her. I heard that pain transfer through my headphones, jolt each hair on my arm (and there are lots of them) at attention, and produce tears of my own. The faces of many people rushed through my mind like a slideshow, and none of them were men. Face after face after face after face slid across the screen of my eyelids and they were all faces of women. Women I knew, women I didn’t know, women I hoped NEVER had to endure what men like Donald Trump put them through. For once in my life, I was thinking like a woman. And that realization has helped make me a better man.

Men, you may be thinking to yourselves, “I’m in touch with women, I talk to my wife or daughter or mother or sister or aunt or cousin.” You may be thinking to yourselves, “I’m not a bad guy, I treat women with respect.” But here’s where that breaks down. The women in your life are too easy to dismiss for that exact reason. I'm not saying you don't love them, but it’s too easy to look at them and think, “well I don’t see them struggling with misogyny or being sexually harassed or assaulted.” It’s at that point where you decide, either directly or indirectly, that because the problem doesn’t exist or persist in your own bubble, that it’s someone else’s problem. It’s some other man shutting out a woman’s voice or taking advantage of her body. It’s some other woman disconnected from me who has to deal with this, not the people I care about. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

And what I can tell you is that line of thinking is nearly impossible when you’re engaging in substantive, often difficult political and social discussions with women every day. Sometimes relative strangers will tell you more about the world than you’d ever hoped to know. Most of the time we men like to keep our world small, and it’s a big reason as a society we’re in the places we are today with rape culture and gender equality.

You may like the fact that you're a man, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'd never ask you to change if you didn't want to. But we can change our minds, our interactions, our perspectives, our culture, our ways. Guys, finding feminism is one of the best things that’s ever happened for my personal development. But you’re never going to find it if your mind is contented and at rest. Wander into a woman’s world – they just may accept you.