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Girls Matter

Girls Matter Feature Paleo Parents

Looking back, I would describe my childhood as a testosterone fueled madhouse. I’m the oldest of four boys, the son of a father with three brothers. Days were spent in intense physical struggle as three boys literally wrestled for dominance. I pursued a lot of typical male hobbies, like sports and building, read about typical male interests like history and computers. These days, I’m the dad of three boys of my own and I see the exact behaviors in my own children.

So when I started tearing up when I saw this commercial in my father-in-law’s basement during a certain football game, it was a surprise even to me.

I’ve been a feminist since I was about 10 years old when I first encountered the term. I think, as someone who was bullied and outcast from an early age, often by other outcasts to boot, I’ve developed a very strong reaction against any kind of belittling. So when I hear someone doubt and make fun of someone just because they are female, I get upset.

Real Men are Feminists

In my life, despite plenty of male role models, I’ve always gravitated to women who are strong. I think of my mom who felt compelled to become an at home mom, but ended up graduating college in later years with a GPA that would make most people jealous. And of course I am constantly inspired by my wife, who often times doesn’t realize that she is doing anything extraordinary because she decided early on that she would refuse to hear “no”.

Girls Matter by PaleoParents

I often think of how many amazing women with limitless potential are stymied by a culture that does not value them because they are female, or that does not encourage them to pursue their talents because of an antiquated idea about gender roles. We hear all the time about those pioneers who exceeded the expectations of their day, but it’s a bit chilling to me to think of all the talent that was left behind because they had just a tad less force of will. How many other Hypatia of Alexandrias or Hedy Lamarrs did we leave behind?

And in the wake of a string of antifeminist, antiwomen incidents, I’m concerned that there’s a growing movement to throw women back into “their place”. I find that to be repugnant. It seems the tactic of these groups is brutal violence or brutal speech in an attempt to intimidate people into silence. People really seem to hate it when women speak, don’t they?

The Unfortunate Truth

While I’m not a father of daughters (true story: although we cannot imagine it now, Stacy and I both wanted girls before Cole was born but realized it was unlikely given my family history), I do have boys that are learning how to treat women one day, and I’ve tried my best by both words and deeds to show them not to ever consider girls to be lesser. After all, they have their mother as an example. Unfortunately, a lot of sexism runs so deep we don’t notice it.

The fact is that most people don’t realize what they’re doing is harmful. Like when they asked the boy in the video about whether he was making fun of all girls and he had a moment where he realized he was implicating his sister, on accident. Most people aren’t trying to insult the women they know, it’s those other women! But every time you say something about a whole gender, you are wounding them. I know from experience how much it can hurt to be told you’re not good enough or worthy enough, and we do that to girls and women every day.

Women in Paleo

Five years ago there was only one or two women in the paleo movement with any sort of popularity. Today, they outnumber the men! I remember, though, a moment 2 1/2 years ago when someone commented and set off a bit of a controversy about the women of Paleo. Stacy has caught a lot of flack from people about her size, goals, and dedication to the lifestyle, but the topic is constantly coming up and having to be addressed. To me, it’s just another example of people telling people they’re just not good enough. After all, it’s not like all the male leaders in paleo are that lean, a fact I’m reminded of every morning when I look in the mirror.

Another example is reviews of female paleo podcasts: The Paleo View, Balanced Bites, and Everyday Paleo. In each case, there are many negative reviews that simply state that they cannot take the hosts seriously due to the use of uptalk in their speech patterns. Mind you, Robb Wolf does the same thing. There’s a significant number of people who have decided that speech patterns or vocal inflections (the most recent bugaboo is “vocal fry”) are what explains the fact that they are unable to see a woman as a voice of authority. Likely these people have no idea the statement of sexism they’re making, because it’s just engrained in them to not like something – without wondering why.

Be the Change You Wish to See

And there’s the role model problem in entertainment. As a man, I have no shortage of other men being portrayed as heroic and worthy leaders anywhere I turn. But it takes flukes to get people to realize that girls want that for themselves, too. Why was Frozen a surprise? Why did they go right back into production on more boy-centered movies right after? Bridesmaids was a hit. Where are all the female centered comedies? And why when they try something new is the male response “STOP RUINING MY CHILDHOOD!“?

Words have Power, Paleo Parents

The hardest thing to do in life is change how you unconsciously act. It’s even harder to change the way people have been acting for thousands of years. But I’m starting with my boys, who are learning that words have power. And with great power comes the great responsibility to shape what message people hear.

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  • Thanks for this post Matt! Someone complained that they couldn’t stand listening to Kelsey and my podcast (www.theancestralrds.com) because of our vocal fry tendencies. Actually I don’t even think our voices are that “bad” but it’s pretty hard to change your vocal pattern without a lot of practice and training! It’s frustrating to be criticized for something you have little to no control over and has nothing to do with your knowledge and expertise.

    Stacy is a great role model and I’m so glad y’all continue to promote the message that it’s okay to not look like a perfect Paleo specimen and still be an advocate for a healthy lifestyle. Hopefully those of us who believe in this message can be loud enough to overcome the unfortunately messages most other people are getting about body image and personal value/achievement.

    • Don’t even try, Laura. Listen to the This American Life episode linked here. People did not start complaining about this until an article was published about it very recently. It’s just another attempt to justify ignoring women.

    • Squatchy

      You can’t make everyone happy, and it’s just going to make you less happy if you try. Just keep doing what you’re doing 😉

  • Suzie

    Thank you! Love, love, love this post!

  • I love this. Thank you, Matt, for your support and wisdom! <3

  • phoenix1920

    LOVE this!!! We need to BE the change we want in the world.

  • suzie_q75

    This is so great! So many people think we’ve made it, there is no need for “feminists” any more. But you speak the truth, misogyny is alive and well and pervasive in our society. Violence against women, the wage gap, the conservative war against women’s reproductive rights and so on, as well as the excellent examples you mention. Thank you for raising feminist sons! That is the way to make a difference for the future!

  • Karen

    Such a great post!

  • Marielle

    I appreciate this post a lot, but I do want to comment on one thing that always bothers me – saying “REAL men are feminists” removes the responsibility for the brutality and oppression perpetrated toward women from men, and onto some nameless faceless group of entities that aren’t REAL men. Real, actual men catcall and harass me. A real, actual man raped my sister. Real, actual men pay my mother less than her male coworkers. A real, actual man abused me. Real, actual men assaulted my friend because she’s trans. The list goes on, right down to the more “mundane” acts of misogyny like body-policing and slut-shaming and assuming we’re weak and the use of gendered slurs. I could go on, and on, and on!

    The entire reason feminism exists as a concept and a movement is because it is in direct response to the actions of men, both as people we know and love and as people who have used their power against us both systematically and individually. If you are a man and identify as a feminist, then you need to not separate yourself from the problem by making implications that the reason misogyny exists is not ACTUAL men. If you are a feminist and wish to help those suffering under the patriarchy then you need to embrace that you are a part of the problem – recognize that you, even if you hate and wish it weren’t this way, benefit from our patriarchal society in ways that women never will. I trust that you, Matt, wouldn’t hurt a woman, not intentionally, but don’t protect the harmful effects of pervasive and enforced masculinity by relieving men of responsibility for misogyny. MRAs and other misogynists are, unfortunately, just as much of a man as you are. But you can use this for good! You can use your male privilege to identify misogyny in your fellow men and help try to change their minds like you have in this post (because, unfortunately, misogynists kind of as a default don’t listen to women, so we do need your alliance to even begin to change some types of people). GO FORTH AND HELP DISMANTLE THE PATRIARCHY FROM WITHIN. *waves sword triumphantly*

    I leave you with a comic by Séamus Gallagher that is a bit relevant.

    • You know what? You’re right. That’s a dividing line added after I had finished writing and wasn’t really a sentiment I was going for.

  • Sound Body Life

    This is a great article and especially poignant coming from a male perspective. As parents, Stacy and Matt are setting the right example by teaching their sons while they are young that just because a way of thinking it pervasive and seemingly ubiquitous, doesn’t mean it’s right. It is most difficult to remedy the sexism and misogyny that we have unconsciously been inundated with from birth through the media and our male-lead society. Therefore while some of us may have deeply ingrained stereotypes based on female roles in society, it is up to those individuals to realize these sexist thoughts as they arise and recognize them for the fabrication that they are. And then replace these beliefs with a gender-equal way of viewing the world.

  • Jess @ Jess Does Paleo

    This is so important! And it’s even better coming from a man. So many men think that this isn’t their problem or that they’re not affected by feminism (unless they think they’re affected negatively…ugh) but it’s a problem that we all have to come together on.

  • Beth @ Hooked on Health

    Hey Matt, I always love your posts and this one is no exception. I remember seeing this commercial when it came out and I just remember hating the “like a girl” and loving the message. I agree with everything you said in your post. I also believe that “brutal violence” is typically a last resort for the haters of a particular group. They resort to this type of base behavior because they are terrified, terrified of losing the battle but by the time they act this way, the battle is usually already lost.

  • You rock, sir. Thank you.

  • Awesome post, Matt. I know there was a lot of thought and care put into it. Thanks for what you do! 🙂

  • Kim Respass Miller

    As the mom of another feminist son I agree that it’s extremely important to instill the “right words” and beliefs and open mindedness early on. My son knows that strength comes from within, and it doesn’t matter the gender package in which it’s presented. Everyone has something to contribute, based on their own strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention, he remembers that time mommy was able to “sweep” him in karate class!