This Twitter Thread Criticizes The Way Society Talks About Women In A Truly Glorious Way
While it’s true that gender equality has come a long way from where it has historically been in our society, sexism is definitely still a thing — and it’s often reflected in the language we use every day. Indeed, a tweet posted on Sept. 1 by the satire account @ManWhoHasItAll asking for recommendations for a token man to include on a list of great historical figures highlights exactly what’s wrong with the way our culture talks about women. That’s not all, though; as more and more Twitter users jumped into the conversation, it became increasingly, hilariously obvious how absurd the way our culture talks about women is.
It’s still the norm in our society to describe women based solely on their relationships to men, rather than according to their own merits and achievements; furthermore, we often dismiss women and bolster men for reasons grounded in sexist assumptions and gender essentialism. When the script is flipped, though — that is, when it’s men who are being described based solely on their relationships to women, rather than according to their own merits and achievements — the ridiculousness of the whole situation comes through loud and clear.
According to the Huffington Post, ManWhoHasItAll originally launched in May of 2015 as a way of satirizing specifically how our culture talks about and treats working mothers. Indeed, the name of the account itself is a flipped version of the “Can Women Really Have It All?” debate that plagues women in the workplace (which, notably, had received renewed interest in 2012 with the essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” written by Anne-Marie Slaughter and published in The Atlantic). Tweets like this one:
Wife back on the playstation? Kids asleep? This is YOUR time to relax. Did you know that ironing can help you to de-stress and de-bloat?— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) September 18, 2015
And this one:
TODAY'S DEBATE: Is fatherhood the end for career men?— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) October 10, 2015
And this one:
Working father? Feeling overwhelmed? YOUR FAULT. Go to bed earlier, drink more water, wear colourful veggies & don't forget to smile!— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) October 8, 2015
And so very many more drive home exactly how ridiculous our expectations for working mothers are — or, as one Twitter user put it:
Loving @manwhohasitall feed. Stuff we're used to hearing said to women suddenly sounds shocking/ridiculous/patronising when said to men...— Laura Cowen (@lauracowen) August 3, 2015
Over time, the account has expanded to cover gender inequality more generally, as seen in this gem:
"I'd really like to hear the reasoning behind men who won't take their wife's last name," says genuinely curious Claire, CEO.— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) August 25, 2017
And this one:
TODAY'S DEBATE: Are men too emotional for politics?— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) September 2, 2017
And this one:
TODAY'S QUESTION: Is it right that women decide what men do with their bodies?— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) August 25, 2017
This, then, is where the “historical figures” thread comes in. Here’s what ManWhoHasItAll originally posted:
My friend is a history teacher. She's compiling a list of great historical figures and she needs a male to add to the list. Suggestions?— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) September 1, 2017
So, who were their Twitter followers able to come up with? How about these fellows — remember them? I mean, if you think back hard enough to your high school history classes, surely some of their names sound familiar… right?
That Writer Guy
not a lot of people know, but Mark Twain was actually a man— G Swain (@Swainwalker) September 2, 2017
Wait, seriously? I had no idea! Although...
I think that's been debunked though. How could that wonderful writing be done by a man?— Kate Holly-Clark (@AntikaNueva) September 2, 2017
Hmmm. Good point.
The Dudes Who Were Lucky Enough To Work With Katherine Johnson
I think Katherine Johnson worked with some men at NASA. It's surprising because space and maths ect. is really more a girl thing.— Kitty Em (@ChaosKittyEm) September 2, 2017
She clearly did all the work, though.
The Guy Who Was Married To All Those Queens
Oh! That was Queen Elizabeth I's father, right? I seem to remember he went to church a lot or something. Rather a pious type.— Bryn Greenwood (@bryngreenwood) September 2, 2017
Etta you cannot be serious. He was just one man. There were SIX women who reigned during that time. It makes more sense to look to them.— Mrs. N (@BtwnThesePages) September 2, 2017
Six queens > one king. Just sayin’. Also:
3 children by 3 different mothers? Hardly a role model - definitely shouldn't be on the list IMO!— Daryl Wood (@daryly) September 2, 2017
The Fellows Who Worked With Rosalind Franklin
Watson Crick i think his name was...Crick Watson... i don't know, he wasn't even attractive— April (@SpringMorning74) September 2, 2017
I mean… I guess they did… something? (But, like, didn’t they try to steal her work? Not cool, dudes. Not cool at all.)
That Other Curie
Marie Curie's hubby was very important to her work. Can't remember his name but he'd be good. You do need some men in there to show willing.— Wordbird (@Wordbird) September 1, 2017
Oh, right! I forgot that there were two of them!
Those Guys Mary Shelly Knew
Who is that guy that was so boring Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein so she didn't have to hang out with him? I think there were two of them?— Maggie (@blondnotbomb) September 2, 2017
I mean, hey, at least one of them gifted the world with Ada Lovelace, so… there’s that.
Ginger Rogers’ Dance Partner
Remember that Fred Astaire did everything Ginger Rogers did, but in the easier position and in shoes that weren't hard to dance in.— Gayer Th🏳️🌈n Thou (@Gayer_Than_Thou) September 2, 2017
Pffft. He had it so easy.
That Fellow Who Created That Show About Spaceships
Was Gene Rodenberry - the TV writer Lucille Ball discovered- male? Star Trek was pretty successful.— Justin Beach🇨🇦🇺🇸 (@justinsb) September 2, 2017
Someone’s got to boldly go where no woman has before.
Simone de Beauvoir’s Main Squeeze
Didn't Simone de Beauvoir date a guy for a while who was also into philosophy? I mean he was probably just trying to impress her but still.— karaspita (@karaspita) September 2, 2017
She just kept him around because he was hot, right?
George Eliot? Oh wait... uh, James Tiptree Jr? Hmmmm, never mind. George Sand? Damn this is tough.— Kat Sweet (@TheSweetKat) September 2, 2017
Wait. Nope. Sorry. Those are all women. My bad.
Ah! These Guys!
Wow. It's really impressive you can name so many, even if I've never heard of most of them. Did you study proper history as well?— Jack Valentine (@JVWritesStuff) September 2, 2017
Yes! Those are some! Good work! They're just so obscure, you know?
What a shame that in 2017 we haven't moved past tokenism. It's time male contributions were recognised. They're not just sperm factories.— Corinne Podger 📱🎓 (@corinne_podger) September 2, 2017
The thread doesn’t just address the men who have been left out of the history books, though; it also addresses other important cultural issues. Things like…
That Time Of The Season
Or day.— Kate Holly-Clark (@AntikaNueva) September 2, 2017
I mean, men are just so emotional. You can't reason with them at all, especially when it's That Time.
I think you'll find that men DO feature in history books.— Alice Evans (@_alice_evans) September 2, 2017
Sure, it's not 50%.
But that reflects REALITY.
They had a marginal role.
Men’s History Month
Also, isn't there already a special month for men's history? We shouldn't have to pretend to care about it the rest of the time too!— David Rafferty (@portusprince) September 2, 2017
They're such special snowflakes, am I right?
As an archaeologist I can confirm that there were men in the Stone Age, even though we say cavewomen. Women did all the artwork though.— (((Kim Biddulph))) (@kimbiddulph) September 2, 2017
I mean, of course there were men during the Stone Age. Can't they just accept that we call the people of the time cavewomen, though? That's the way it's always been.
Btw Daniel,— Alice Evans (@_alice_evans) September 2, 2017
Even if you do research men's historical contributions,
Only men will read your work.
Zero mainstream interest.
Too niche. pic.twitter.com/X4lCFhYdgc
Men's history is just too specialized for the general public to care about.
The focus on princes creates unrealistic expectations in boys. A princess isn't going rescue you! You need to learn to shift for yourself.— Shaula Evans (@ShaulaEvans) September 2, 2017
This one, by the way, popped up during a discussion of Queen Victoria and that guy she was married to. Alan? Alphonse?
Albert, as in the V&A. The story of his introduction of the Christmas tree helps boys see what they can contribute through their family role— Avril (@DocAvvers) September 2, 2017
Albert! That’s the one. Thank you for the reminder.
Boys In The Workplace
I half wonder whether men should be allowed in labs. Could be a distraction to hard working women. They at least need to dress appropriately— Lucy Sherriff (@sherrifflucy) September 2, 2017
I mean, how is it that it’s 2017 and we’re still dealing with this stuff? It’s bananas, right?I can't even. Even ManWhoHasItAll and their teacher friend ultimately had to throw in the towel:
Thanks all, but she has decided not to add a male historical figure to her list just for the sake of it. History should be gender-neutral. https://t.co/eXVQrSQRj1— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) September 3, 2017
On a more serious note, though: How is that it’s 2017 and we’re still dealing with this stuff? For real. I mean, it sounds ridiculous when you frame it in terms of men — but this is how our culture still regularly talks about women (and, y’know, everyone who’s not a white, straight, cis, wealthy, able-bodied man). What’s more, the fact that we’re only able to identify how problematic it is when we flip the script is an issue in and of itself. No matter what some folks might think, sexism isn’t over; it’s still alive and very, disappointingly well.
And so, even though we really shouldn’t have to, we keep having to call out problems when we see them. But as ManWhoHasItAll points out, there’s no reason we can’t have a laugh while we’re doing so. Good comedy always makes a point — and this is very good point to be making, indeed.