Thursday, January 17, 2013

Attention Engaged Couples: Read Before Marrying!

Update #1: Please read this article from Science of Relationships related to the topic of this post. It is a concise and incredibly on point research-based assessment of what is needed to make a marital relationship work as told by what you should be vowing to each other when getting married/entering into a union. I also recommend this post: How To Craft An Empirically-Supported Marriage.

Update #2: Also read this article, "How we end up marrying the wrong people," which goes into great detail about why we marry the wrong people, and what we can do about it so we can work on preventing it. It really echoes many of the things I have discussed throughout LOVEanon's posts.

Marhaba LOVEanese! Since my last post was a bit heavy, I want to steer the sentiment of this post back to the normal paradigm of serious content supplemented by humor (or cute animals, whatever). I do appreciate the wonderful comments on the previous post, and do hope that I fostered meaningful--if not just interesting or thought-provoking--discussion.

As usual, I just want to give you some news/updates/cool articles. What I want to bring to your attention in this post is an article that was shared with me a few weeks ago (that I also shared on the LOVEanon Facebook Page), written in 2010. It's called "Is the Arab World a Graveyard for Love?" It actually hits on many points I made in my thesis, and I know that a lot of people in Lebanon will be able to identify with her feelings. Check it out, and let me know what you think. What I said is simple: it doesn't have to be [a graveyard]. You can change it! And if you can't do it with your parents, you can do it with your kids. Teach them how to love, how to respect each other, appreciate difference, and embrace the similarities in others. I challenge you to make this happen!

The second thing I want to share is a big announcement that I also shared on the Facebook Page. This week, just a year and a 5 months after I launched LOVEanon, it's hit 20,000 page views!

 Screen shot from the blog on January 13, 2013

Now... to get to the substance of this post. Ahhh, it's 2013, the year of love!

See? It's true because the Internet says so!

I don't know if this is happening to you, but it seems like everyone I know is getting married. In fact, if you're single or in a relationship, but not engaged, I think this Buzz Feed story captures a feeling many of us share. Seriously, please click that link, it's hilarious and surprisingly accurate.

Wait, what's that? OH! YOU'RE getting married!? Well... how convenient, because this is what this post is all about!

How we really feel. JK!

Marriage is kind of a big deal. I've written in the past about the connection between jealousy and monogamy and how it relates to marriage, and I've I written about why we love and the importance placed on it in a past post. However, marriage does a lot. Especially in the US, being married is less expensive than being single (that piece got a LOT of passionate commentary on Facebook). It's also generally good for your health and well-being, especially for the groom (e.g., see this article and check out my thesis or the same past post for more on how romantic relationships impacts our health and well-being). Moreover, a couple months ago, I wrote a little blurb about marriage in the post about Hitch.

This post isn't meant to be a case for marriage or a case against it (that's a topic for the future post). And I'm not going to discuss civil marriage in Lebanon (or as we all know, the lack thereof) either, even though the first civil marriage has reportedly taken place after jumping through many bureaucratic hoops and interpreting older laws from the French Mandate (pending Ministry of Interior approval), and even President Sleiman has publicly endorsed it and stated that Lebanon needs civil marriage. (Update: it wasn't approved initially, but now it has been, yay!). However, I'm not talking about it now mostly because I don't know much about it, save for what is advertised on the autostrad billboards. I could do some research, though, and perhaps do a future post on civil marriage in Lebanon.

On the contrary, since I'm directing this post at engaged couples, I assume you've already made up your mind to wed. And if so, listen up. If you're getting married, all kidding aside, I WISH I didn't have to remind you that this is one of--if not THE--most important decisions of your lives. Think about it, everything from this moment on now directly affects at least one other person. And if you have kids, your happiness affects their happiness. Including over the course of their entire life (for instance, see: Amato and Keith, 1991; Wallerstein, 1991). In other words, IT'S A BIG DEAL! Now, I'm not insinuating or trying to imply you aren't taking it seriously. But I do think there are a lot of people out there who: 1. Don't take it serious enough or think about their long-term consequences of their actions, and 2. Don't read enough, take the time to educate themselves, and really prepare for both marriage and (most likely) parenthood. Speaking of, let me show you probably one of the most profound things Keanu Reeves has ever said (fun fact: he was born in Beirut!):

This scene is actually from the movie, Parenthood (great movie! Also stars one of my favorites, Steve Martin). Honestly, though, he's right. At least in most places, you need a license for anything. Yet, when it comes to the most important job you'll ever have, you don't so much as spend a second in a formal classroom. When did they ever teach you about love, sex, romance, intimacy, how to manage personal finances, how to resolve conflict, how to grow old together, or raise kids together in school? In between history lessons, or in calculus homework? For the most part, they don't. Life and experience teaches you, and unfortunately, that's not something that's readily available in most school's curricula. And not everyone has the best parents to use as an example either.

So, what can you do? The first is to realize that love is not enough to make a marriage or long-term relationship of any kind (married, or long-term partners) lasting and successful. There are multiple factors at play, including life goals, family, relationship dynamics, and a host of others. The article I linked to at the beginning of this paragraph explores this concept in greater detail, and I suggest you read it, especially since there are even more considerations to bear in mind as well. The fact is, most Westerners are obsessed with the idea of love, whereas people from Asia are obsessed with (social) compatibility. I believe there is a healthy in-between though!

The second and incredibly important thing to do is educate yourself. You're not going to be taught the various ins and outs of your marriage--and I'm DEFINITELY not the person that's going to try, it's not my place. But, you can know that you'll make mistakes, but learn from them, and you can see what resources are out there for you. Like this: 7 Divorce Myths Debunked. It's a short article backed up by relationships experts, statistics, and research. The seven myths include: 

--Myth #1: One in two marriages ends in divorce
--Myth #2: Living together before marriage lowers the chance of divorce
--Myth #3: Second marriages are more likely to last than first marriages
--Myth #4: Divorce is incredibly expensive
--Myth #5: All ex-wives get alimony
--Myth #6: The mother almost always gets custody of the children
--Myth #7: The US's divorce rate is higher than every other country's divorce rate

Never saying "your butt looks bigger," or "you've gained weight," however, is NOT a myth

This article also covers other marriage myths including pursuing your own individual needs is incompatible with making a marriage work, and the goal of marriage is for both partners to get exactly what they want (these are two big myths!). 

Another good series of articles comes from Dr. Terri Orbuch. She wrote an insightful article taken from some of her longitudinal research following couples who were married in 1986. 46% were divorced by 2012. The article itself is offering ways a marriage can be successful by taking a closer look at why those marriages failed. Take these lessons to heart, and don't brush them off! Some of the issues included the decline/lack of affection and intimacy, not taking responsibility, using ineffective communication or having incompatible communication/conflict resolution styles (she has some great tips for dealing with that here), and not moving on from past events and relationships. However, what was the number one issue? Money. Do you currently share a bank account? Will you keep separate ones? How will your file your taxes? Do you both have student loans? Remember that after you tie the knot, those debts are your debts. Dr. Orbuch offers some great tips for discussing money and finances in a relationship and in marriage in this article, and this article (written by someone else) offers even more suggestions.

"I ain't sayin' SHE'a golddigga..."

Aside from the resources presented above, there are a host of great resources available. For instance, this article gives nine great tips on how to keep your marriage healthy. This one out of the University of Maryland outlines the qualities of a healthy marriage. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center has wonderful resources, statistics, and other useful information. One of my favorite sites, Science of Relationships, has a small, 10-question Sustainable Marriage Quiz you and your partner can take together and interperet your results. Moreover, the legal-oriented site Expertise has some great information and resources pertaining to divorce, specifically questions you must ask before filing for divorce and information on divorce and child custodyEven within this blog, there's many good resources for you to check out, whether it's getting to know your partner's Love Language, how you work together as a team, going on dates after you're married (don't forget that you should still do that, especially after you have kids!), how to keep the passion in your relationship alive, and the ever importance of loving yourself to be able to love someone else completely. Whatever you need, it's out there!

But what if you could go into it with a little bit of training? Beyond merely reading articles and maintaining active and open communication with your partner? Have you talked about everything? What exactly is everything? Something I am personally a huge proponent of is premarital counseling. Many couples are required to go through it before they are married within a religious institution (I know some churches require it anyway). According to

"Premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship--giving you a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage. Premarital counseling can also help you identify weaknesses that could become bigger problems during marriage. Premarital counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees, and many choose to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Premarital counseling might be offered through religious institutions as well. In fact, some spiritual leaders require premarital counseling before conducting a marriage ceremony."

As this article on the "Rules of Engagement" demonstrates, premarital counseling is on the rise, and has many positive, but also practical, benefits. When asked if it's generally good for you, beneficial, and positive, the overwhelming answer seems to be yes. For instance, CUNY--Brooklyn College has a whole page dedicated to answering questions about it as well as providing answers to FAQs, links, and resources. Moreover, much of the research conducted on premarital counseling concludes that it does positively benefit a couple such as by reducing marital distress and decreasing the chances for divorce (Stanley, 2001), and that  participation in premarital counseling generally yeilds higher levels of marital satisfaction and commitment, lower levels of conflict, and the reduced odds of divorce as well (Stanley, Amato, Johnson, and Markman, 2006). Furthermore, Carroll and Doherty (2003: 105) reviewed 26 studies examining premarital counseling, and found that: 

"The average person who participated in a premarital prevention program was significantly better off afterwards than 79% of people who did not participate. Stated differently, the average participant in a premarital program tends to experience about a 30% increase in measures of outcome success. Our findings suggest that premarital prevention programs are generally effective in producing immediate and short-term gains in interpersonal skills and overall relationship quality and that these improvements are significantly better than nonintervention couples in these areas."

Other studies also encourage and advocate for more premarital counseling citing its beneficial effects on average, yet also affirm that more research is needed, specifically for non-religious or "at-risk" couples (e.g., Sullivan and Bradbury, 1997), and more diverse samples (that is, couples that aren't white, American, and and middle-class) (Stanley, Amato, Johnson, and Markman, 2006). Bear in mind, premarital counseling isn't a panacea for relationship success though. These studies are mostly quantitative--meaning, they rely on statistics and numbers to generate trends and relationships. And as this narrative points out, premarital counseling doesn't always work for everyone. You have to be honest and realistic about your relationship, your needs, your expectations, your future lives together, and your marriage. Additionally, as another study confirms, it also depends on the quality of your premarital counseling (Schumma et al., 2010). 

There are many additional resources out there for premarital counseling. has an entire list with books and resources. Some other interesting tools I found where this one, a short and fun test based off of curriculum from FOCCUS (a premarital relationship resource, inventory, and counseling website). Another is 10 Must Ask Pre-marriage Questions, which are very relevant and on point. Similarly, this premarital questionnaire offered thought-provoking questions to consider before tying the knot as well.

If you're looking for a premarital counselor, you can find one in many ways. If you're in Kentucky, check out this link. However, you can also find a licensed AAMFT counselor here, no matter where you are in the United States. Alternatively, you can try this site. If you're in Lebanon and elsewhere, try doing a simple Google search to find someone in your area. If that doesn't work, I suggest contacting a local psychology or sociology department (for instance, the one at AUB, LAU, Lebanese University, or the social work program at USJ). I'm not sure what the options are in Lebanon outside of religious counseling, but they may be able to point you in the right direction. If you need help finding one, take advice from the aforementioned CUNY article I posted above. It has some pointers for choosing the right program for you. And of course, this isn't to necessarily replace a religious program if you are going through one. But it can supplement it, or offer different perspective.

In general, I would encourage everyone to discuss these topics, and although premarital counselors should addresses them, make sure you stay diligent about talking about the following topics:

--Your expectations of your marriage and how they compare with each others
--Discussion of your life together (including your careers, housing, managing your cars if you share, where you're going to live, how you'll take care of your aging parents/in-laws, etc.)

--Conflict resolution and how to manage fights, arguments, and conflict, and how to better communicate (effective communication is one of the biggest pillars of marriage!). The fact is, conflict is often unavoidable. But conflict is also healthy. How you deal with it/manage it makes the difference. This article has some great insights for how to manage conflicts, and what is worth discussing (I put it on my Google Drive/Docs account so everyone could access it).
--Negotiation techniques and your individual negotiation styles
--How to collaboratively problem-solve, and understand how you normally solve problems and overcome difficulties
--Independently and collectively discuss personal and professional growth and development. What kind of people are each of you, and how are you/will you change?
--Sex in marriage (how much, how often, etc.)
--Kids (how many do you want, how will you raise them? Where will they go to school? Who will take care of them? etc.) 
--Religion. Will you go to/join a particular religious group? Will you raise your children with a certain religion?
--How to spend time together--even after you have kids 
--Focus on building a better team between you two 
--Brainstorming retirement including do you want to stay or move? How will you manage a 401K or save for it?
--How to handle your finances
--What are your fears and insecurities, and how do you handle them? Do you have doubts? Where does that doubt stem from?
--Again, I also encourage you read this article that discusses other ingredients that make a successful marriage/partnership, as well as the potential things that can seriously harm or destroy a relationship.
Remember, as I said, we spend years preparing for a career. We start in elementary school, then move to middle, then high school. Then maybe you go to college, perhaps even further. Yet, for the most important role you'll have--husband/wife, father/mother--you really don't get any kind of training. You're kind of just thrown into it, and if you're fortunate enough to have good parents, maybe they can help you. But for all of those who don't, you're on your own. So, take the time to invest a little bit of time, money, and energy into a program that can hopefully help your relationship develop further, iron out some of the kinks before you get married, and build a better foundation for your lives. It's fun, insightful, and hopefully, you'll come out as a better couple as well as better people. And considering the time and money spent on your formal education, it's a fraction of that!

Please, don't be this couple.

Look, if you're engaged or about to get married, I wish you the absolute best, I really do. I wish you happiness and success. And every relationship is different. In the end, you both should know each other well enough by now, and have realistic expectations of both each other and your relationship. But don't get caught up in this fantasy that marriage is all sunshine and daisy's. It's really hard work, a work in progress. You will fight, you will disagree, you will bicker, you will go to bed angry sometimes (not that that's necessarily a bad thing). They say "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" for a reason. The work isn't the wedding, it's the marriage! The work doesn't stop after you say "I do," it starts! But you will also love, and laugh, and travel, and make so many new memories, and most likely, raise kids, and visit the principal's office, and attend PTA meetings, and visit family on the weekend or at Christmas or Eid, and hopefully be happy together.

Never forget this!

Once again, I am not going to lecture anyone on how to be in a long-term relationship. I've never even made it to six months! I am well aware of my own limitations. But do NOT take this commitment lightly.
And while it might seem self-evident, I think it's important to not enter into a marriage thinking of divorce as an option. Yes, sometimes divorce is necessary. However, all too often I see people taking a very blasé approach to marital commitment (in Kentucky/the U.S. where I grew up specifically), and I just think to myself that doing so is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, breathe, and be patient with one another. If you're prepared going into it, you can often work things out. This is why things programs like premarital counseling exist, and why you shouldn't rush into things. Take the time. Talk about everything beforehand--I know so many of you do. If it doesn't work, there is also marital or pre/post divorce counseling. And don't get married because you feel pressure either--from a partner, family, friends, life, society, or a biological clock. Do it because you really want to build a life with the other person. I don't mean to come across as offensive. Perhaps I'm also pushing too many of my own values. I really don't mean to preach. You don't have to believe in monogamy or marriage. And that's fine if that's what you both want. But marriage all too often these days is looked at as a joke. However, it is NOT child's play (especially when children are involved). It is very serious. Sometimes, life just doesn't work out. But make sure you're prepared going in. Do it for each other, do it for your families, do it for your friends, do it for your kids, do it for yourselves. Because no one, none of those people I just listed want to see you turn into this.

Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA

P.S. If anyone wants to read one of the articles I link to (whether in this post, or any other), but can't, just let me know. I'll try and send it to you. Tweet me, e-mail me, or send me a message on Facebook.


Amato, Paul R., and Bruce Keith. 1991. "Parental Divorce and the Well-being of Children: A Meta-analysis." Psychological Bulletin, 110(1): 26-46.

Carroll, Jason S., and William J. Doherty. 2003. "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Premarital Prevention Programs: A Meta-analytic Review of Outcome Research." Family Relations, 52(2): 105-118.

Schumma, Walter R., Anthony B. Walkera, R. Roudi Nazariniaa, Darwin A. Westa, Cynthia Atwella, Annie Bartkoa, and Angie Krileya. 2010. "Predicting the Short- and Long-Term Helpfulness of Premarital Counseling: The Critical Role of Counseling Quality." Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy: Innovations in Clinical and Educational Interventions, 9(1): 1-15.

Stanley, Scott M. 2001. "Making A Case for Premarital Education." Family Relations, 50(3): 272-280.

Stanley, Scott M., Paul R. Amato, Christine A. Johnson, and Howard J. Markman. 2006. "Premarital Education, Marital Quality, and Marital Stability: Findings From a Large, Random Household Survey." Journal of Family Psychology, 20(1): 117-126.

Sullivan, Kieran T., and Thomas N. Bradbury. 1997. "Are Premarital Prevention Programs Reaching Couples at Risk for Marital Dysfunction?" Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(1): 24-30.

Wallerstein, Judith S. 1991. "The Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children: A Review." Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 30(3): 349-360.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What About The Good Men?

"If we want rape and sexual assault to stop, we--society--need to stop subtly reinforcing and encouraging hyper-masculinity."

Happy New Year LOVEanese. I really hope 2013 will be a better year than 2012 was. I know for many--including myself--it was a tough year.

I find it fitting that I want to open my first post of 2013 by discussing something I wrote  about exactly a year ago in my first post of 2012: Rape, sexual assault/violence, and gender. It's not a happy post, nor is it as upbeat of a subject as I usually write about. However, it is incredibly important. The context for this post arose out of the infamous December 16th, 2013 gang rape, assault, and murder of a 23-year-old female physiotherapy student in India. You can get the details of what happened as well as the aftermath on a good friend's Tumblr page. She also describes some of the protests taking place in India, South Asia, and across the world in solidarity against rape. But I do not need to lecture about gender/sexual violence either in India or in Lebanon.

No, what I aim to do with this post is remind. And talk about some people who never get the kind of recognition they deserve. I'm talking about the good men out there.

A few days ago, I posted this Tweet:


As if the article I posted describing an old, beautiful love story--(I love the quote: "None of the five daughters and four sons have been divorced, either, which is a feat [credited] to the loving relationship they had as a model.)--there was a great slide show at the end highlighting some really great dads out there. But it's not just those dads and men. It's these adorable men who were "blown away by their beautiful brides." It's the Indian male feminists struggling for gender equality in a country fraught with sexism and patriarchy. It's the dad who dressed up as a princess because his daughter wanted to be the prince. It's Dan from Single Dad Laughing. It's this dad who never gave up on his son. It's this dad who wrote an open letter to Victoria's Secret urging them not to develop a proposed lingerie/underwear campaign aimed at adolescent girls. It's this dad who gave heartwarming advice to other dads about how to raise and treat their precious daughters. It's Tony Porter and Jackson Katz who, in their TED talks, call on men to reach higher standards and be better people. It's the brave father of Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and current Super Woman who was shot in the head in Pakistan by the Taliban for going to school, for his perseverance and die-hard conviction to educating girls in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and encouraging them to become great leaders and professionals. There are countless examples of good men, whether it's good dads, good boyfriends, good brothers, good husbands, surely these men are not representative of the exception!

But what do I mean by "good?" Urban Dictionary has some humorous definitions, but I'm talking about those men out there that respect a woman's body. Doesn't assume that sex is the only reason why she exists. Good in the sense that he tries to live a life of integrity, honor, and respect, and is filled with compassion, empathy, kindness, and love. It's unfortunate that I have to even define or outline what a "good" guy is. But this is not the point of this post.

My point is that sexuality and masculinity are and always have been so inextricably tied together that being a good man is a struggle. This post isn't about feminism per se, or even rape and sexual assault. On the contrary, I only mean to highlight how many good men feel in relation to all the bad and the crap in the world--specifically perpetrated by other men. It can be isolating, frustrating, dis-empowering, and despairing to say the least. This post is for all those kind guys, who feel unappreciated, unloved, or invisible, just waiting to be noticed.

Let's examine a wonderful article I read calling for ending rape culture in 2013. In one point in the article, the authors write:

"Gloria Steinem and I have written about how a cult of masculinity is behind the constant violation of women around the world--that some men brutalize women against their own self-interest because of an addiction to control or domination. To put it plainly: Rape is not about sex. "Rape is about violence," Steinem says, "proving 'masculine' superiority; often inserting guns and other objects into women's bodies; playing out hostility to other men by invading the bodies of 'their' females, including old women and babies; occupying wombs with sperm of a conquering group; owning female bodies as the means of reproduction; and raping men and boys to make them as inferior as females.""

These authors aren't bashing men at large at all--nor do they intend to do so. On the contrary, they are merely pointing out that rape and sexual assault is a prevailing element of reinforcing masculinity, especially in a time when men and masculinity is on the decline and power is shifting from male dominance to greater gender equality. Furthermore, no matter what, if you're male--regardless of location, class, or geographic location, you are part of rape culture (see the hyperlink for an explanation of why. It includes, but isn't limited to: defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive, defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive, pressure on men to “score,
perpetuating sexually explicit jokes, tolerating sexual harassment, exposure to gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television, and much more).

As I told the same friend who authors the aforementioned Tumblr, it's a struggle for many men to prevail over all of the selfish men out there who do these horrible things, as well as even struggle against ourselves when we are trying to be better men. I told her that good men are also a victim of these crimes, as they often get engulfed into the umbrella of vilification that happens to men as a whole. That's not trying to say that women don't do bad things too, but I am so tired of seeing rhetoric that bashes men-at-large or unintentionally attacks men. The men who raped that girl, they are not me, nor are they the other men I know. I don't mean to take what happened personally, nor am I accusing anyone of "male bashing." I just think it's time to really, critically think more about the way we talk about being a good guy.

Take Isabelle for example:

Oh Isabelle... #Fail

Given, this is not the best example. But how many times has someone said, "Oh, but tough guys are more attractive," or "Nice guys finish last." While women are often caught in a "double-bind" because of conflicting messages from society and there is a certain biological affinity for tougher guys (translates to more testosterone which is a signal of being stronger, and perhaps a better mate), how do we change the idea, the language surrounding "nice guys?" In case you haven't noticed, being a nice guy isn't exactly a good thing. Sure, we may say it is. But do a Google search for "Nice Guys." Well, actually, I already did. Look at the results of just the first page:

You know, it's just a Google search, true. And this isn't scientific in any way. But it's not exactly encouraging for a good male to be considered "diseased" for not being a selfish asshole. Why should you ever strive to be a good person when society at large creates an entire new type of alienation geared towards emasculation and making you feel inferior? The fact is, men aren't exactly "rewarded" for being good, decent guys either. They're called weak, unattractive, feminine. Socially speaking, what incentives are there to be decent? Of course, you shouldn't have to have a reason or an incentive to be good. But in reality, men also struggle against sexism, as it hurts us dearly as well (both as victims and as individuals with relationships with victims). The fact is, there are punishments for those who are good (e.g., being told no woman wants a "nice guy"), and not many, it seems--particularly depending on what area of the world you live in or what culture you come from--for those who choose not to be a good, respectful man (e.g., whether it's the lax enforcement of laws against rape, or the blame that's attributed to women as opposed to men). And as a friend pointed out, it makes sense since society dictates that femininity is inferior; thus, its tantamount to that stereotypical story of a high-class person in love with someone from a lower-class, and their friends saying something like, "What are you doing mingling with THOSE people?" Just replace gender for class, and its obvious how gender value, stratification, and misogyny are both reproduced and perpetuated.

Take, for instance, the Latin American concept of machismo (and its various synonymous counterparts in other cultures), or being "macho." It includes cat calling women, looking, acting, and being "tough," basically personifying hyper-masculinity, emasculating other men, and constantly emphasizing aggression, hierarchy, and control. In many cultures--especially Arab/Middle Eastern and south Asian ones--this kind of "macho toughness" isn't just emphasized, it's expected. And what does that do, in turn, when it comes to gender relations? Women become objectified even more, and the only time you treat a woman nicely is if you're related to her. Aside from family and perhaps older women, every other one is a sexual object and, thus, "fair game." To harass, follow, or otherwise make her feel that she is nothing by a means to an end for him.

I'm not saying that this is applicable to every single male out there, but honestly tell me that this does not reinforce the idea that being a decent man is wrong? And when you're pondering that answer, just think of all the harassment that has ensued women of all colors, cultures, and nationalities in Cairo, Beirut, Delhi, Bogota, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rabat, Lagos, Mumbai, and so many others. Think about how it's unsafe for a woman to go out alone at night in Bangalore, for fear of being assaulted. I DARE you to tell me there's not something wrong with this!

Another example is of the now-defunct Tumblr, ""Nice Guys" of OkCupid" (the fact that it is no longer active does say a lot). It was basically a site that sought out guys on OkCupid who claimed to be nice guys, but then made generalizations about them based on the answers they gave to OkC questions (which is summarized well by the negatives showcased in this Buzzfeed post). You can see what I'm talking about by looking at multiple sites that supported this Tumblr, including Daily Mail and Huffington Post. They are particularity condemning of these individuals, and while I'm not trying to defend every one of them, their motives, actions, intentions, or presentations, I do agree with both this writer who wrote a sympathetic piece related to this topic for the Atlantic, and this article from the Good Men Project. Basically, it is easy to judge someone based on their cyber-identity, and it is unfair to humiliate these individuals in this way. Moreover, what I think is more interesting, but yet is also irritating is how "nice guy" is being used here. Some individuals who genuinely are good men, are trying to don the "nice guy" persona. Others--perhaps with malicious intentions or at least ulterior motives--are using this persona to try and garner sympathy, which they then take advantage of (for sex and/or selfish reasons). Either way, 1. it is only contributing to the further (negative) objectification of what being a "nice guy" is, 2. arbitrarily passing judgment that may be a fair assessment, however as likely, may also be unfair and inaccurate, and 3. hurting the image of the sincerely nice men out there who are just trying to find love (though I don't think OkC is your best choice, but that's another story).

I'm not trying to speak for every guy out there, but I just find the hypocrisy of shunning good men or forgetting about them altogether is incredibly disadvantageous to not just creating better relationships, but also leads to alienating these men from the larger struggle. Whether it's through discourse or action, or in many cases, inaction, there needs to be better recognition for those kind guys out there who bear the blunt of all the guys who selfishly weigh down our gender. And when women in the U.S. are being sexually assaulted every two minutes, and one in four American women will either be raped or have had rape attempted on them by the time they reach university, we have a serious problem. Internationally, it's just as big of a problem too. Take this story for example. These are our sisters, our mothers, our cousins, our daughters, our wives, our lovers. Why do we want to see them suffer?

Sexism and patriarchy hurt EVERYONE! (Via Tickld)

You see!? Where are the "Fathers Against Rape" groups, or the "Brothers Against Sexual Assault" groups? Am I being too harsh? Obviously, I have a certain bias, and I have seen many individuals who I would consider good guys really hurt in the past--sometimes, multiple times. I realize the entire nature of this post deviates slightly from both the theme and the paradigm of my blog. But I felt it's something that needs to be said more. In no way do I want to change the focus from the victims of rape and assault--absolutely not. But rather, to make a point that if things are going to change, more men need to be involved, and the good men--the kind men out there--need to be given more credit for the way they live their lives. Don't tell women to dress "appropriately," tell men, teach men not to rape. At the same time, the language we use to describe the good men out there do respect women, who wouldn't commit domestic violence, or sexual assault, or rape needs to be more positive, and they need to be given more chances. No one is perfect, and maturity and experience often dictates both attraction as well as understanding what is better for us.

"Don't harass women; they are our lovely mothers, sisters, and daughters."

Indian activists protesting against rape
"Gender equality will come when MEN become part of the solution!"

My friend said it perfectly vis-a-vis good men:

"We silence them. They exist, but it's almost as if we don't want them to."

Simply put, I want to emphasize the importance of empathy--understanding how others feel, especially men who may feel helpless and frustrated by both their character and what they can do. This post is a call for all of you to give more voice to those good men in your life, whether they are romantic partners, friends, family, or anything else. Just appreciate them more, give them the time of day. Good men are not some kind of pseudo-Jesus-saviors, but just love the fact that they love you and respect you, and take some advice from this guy who really spells out what it means to be a "nice guy."" There are so many good guys out there, real gentlemen. I've already made so many related points in last year's post that I don't need to reiterate here, and I'll also remind you that this post isn't to say men are just part of the solution or that we shouldn't do bad things. They are, but help involve them more! Give them more reasons to stand up and defend the fact that they aren't striving for hyper-masculinity--actively fighting misogyny, sexism, and the objectification of women. Men, ourselves, have to help to continue to change other men as well as institutions like marriage, family, fatherhood, and the mass media. And I'm not just saying date nice guys or read up on the "tips to land a good man guidebook." That's the tip-of-the-iceberg, and I can't tell you who to date or whom to be attracted to. They also need to get out of this expectation of preference--that is, don't feel that just because they are "nice" means they are owed something by society, or a women are obligated to notice them. However, I can suggest that we advocate for painting a different picture of the "nice guy," challenge hyper-masculine hegemony, and be more inclusive of men in the dominant discourse of how to uphold human dignity without alienating the real allies through coercion, shame, language, or exclusion.

Give them some more credit, I think they deserve it. At least for knowing that rape doesn't make someone a man, love does. Assault doesn't make you strong, integrity and honor do. For knowing respect is not a weakness.

So, let's stop treating it like it is, and spread the love,

-Ogie, MA

P.S. If anyone wants to know why nice guys really finish last, here's your explanation:

Need I say more?