Drunk Patriarchy


4/26/19 - We open our topic suggestion box and talk about women's drinking and sobriety, lifehacks, therapy, and friendship with men. Note: in discussing alcohol and Men™, we mention sexual assault.

Transcript below.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Spotify.


Producer: Gina Delvac

Hosts: Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman

Theme song: Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Composer: Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs.

Associate Producer: Jordan Bailey

Visual Creative Director: Kenesha Sneed

Merch Director: Caroline Knowles

Editorial Assistant: Laura Bertocci

Design Assistant: Brijae Morris

Ad sales: Midroll


Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

The real reason why women drink (2016)

The new face of risky drinking is female (2013)

Our favorite life hacks right now:

Resources for affordable therapy:

Tips for friendships across differences of race and/or gender:

  • If you’re a person of color, female, and/or trans, you don’t need to center someone else’s perspective, especially when a topic of discussion may touch on your identity or experiences.

  • If you’re white, male, and/or cisgender, don’t expect your friend to center or cater to your needs and perspective. Especially when your conversation touches an aspect of your friend’s identity.

  • The price of intimacy is listening, learning, and opening yourself up to making mistakes and hearing your friend’s perspective. Don’t rant in public, listen.

  • It’s perfectly okay for you to dislike Men™ and still love individual men.

  • It’s perfectly okay for you to dislike White People™ and still love individual white people.

  • It’s perfectly okay for others to dislike Men™ and engage with you, a man. However, no one ones you their attention.

  • It’s perfectly okay for others to dislike White People™ and engage with you, a white person. However, no one ones you their attention




Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.

Aminatou: Hi Ann Friedman!

Ann: Hello! As we have discussed our brains have completely run dry as we put all our ideas into this book.

Aminatou: Right. Right, right, right. But the great thing is that we asked for some questions from the listeners and in true great CYG listener fashion they delivered big time.

[Theme Song]


Ann: Y'all are the best. Okay, let's play the first question.

[Clip Starts]

Sarah: Hi! My name is Sarah. I'm calling from Denver. I'm not a millennial, I'm 41. I just left an AA meeting. I went to AA a year ago. I went to AA 20 years ago. I think talking about drinking and I just finished Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Affair or something like that and it's so my life, and how you can cross over an invisible line from being a drinker, heavy drinker, into actual alcoholism and what that means. What are the signs? And what should we be looking for? And talking with women. It gets us. I love Rose and Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and was not someone who drank in the mornings but it fucking got me.

That's what I think we need to be fucking talking about: how does that sort of fall in line with self-care and self-compassion? You know, all the things that we're trying to nip in the bud as kind of youthful and impossible, right? Right? Right? Bye.

[Clip Ends]

Aminatou: This is something that we -- I don't think we've ever devoted a full episode to but it's definitely something we have talked about here and there, correct?

Ann: It is. And we certainly have for a long time -- like every time we have an annual retreat we make this big list of topics that we really want to devote episodes to and we get to maybe a quarter of those ideas. And I think drinking and drinking culture and sobriety and staying sober, all of that stuff has long shown up on that list and we -- so we're very interested; we just have not gotten to it for a full episode yet.

Aminatou: Yeah. Talking about alcoholism and drinking culture generally is very important and talking about it specifically as it relates to people who identify as women is also really important because it presents differently, right? And so you had noted before our call, for example, that we used to . . . you know, we used to be really big on the show about drinking while we recorded.

Ann: Back before we were professionals like we are today. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Right. Now I know that that sound and having my equipment near wine, probably not a great idea. But we definitely drink wine when we do our live shows and it's part of the shtick of the whole thing. I think that for me personally a couple of things have happened. I've gotten older so drinking in social settings, not as exciting as it used to be because it does involve leaving the house which that's a huge barrier for me. [Laughter] LOL. But I also think I went at least to a college that had a very huge culture of just like very performative drinking which I think is probably most universities. And then I got older and things changed.


I do enjoy a drink at home or whatever but another thing that has happened is as I've gotten older a lot of my friends have gone into recovery programs. And that has been a very eye-opening experience for me because I realized I just didn't know anything really about alcoholism beyond some people have it and some people don't. And I think that watching people that you are very close to deal with it, it's . . . wow, I can't believe I was going to use the word sobering. Bad pun.

Ann: [Laughs]

Aminatou: It's just, you know, eye-opening is the word I'm going to use because I realize that the conditions for me to be somebody with a problem with alcohol are there. It's just that genetically it's not an issue that I have to deal with. Sometimes that's really the difference. It's not that I'm a healthy drinker; it's just truly that my genetic makeup makes it so that I don't have to deal with this. That was also something that I had to have a huge reckoning with.

And I also just realized that there's something in our culture where so many of our activities are just tied up around drinking. In order to have fun with your coworkers we go to happy hour. When you go on a date you go to a bar. So much of life is just structured around booze in ways that sometimes don't make sense. That's just something that for me personally I've really been trying to deal with. So it's like one-half of it is how can I be a better friend to my friends who are in recovery? But also another part of it is truly just why am I around so much booze all the time? Because I don't feel like drinking all the time.


It's hard. It is like very -- it's a thing that if you told me at 23 I would've rolled my eyes about. And a decade-plus later I am really confronted with the fact I'm surrounded by alcohol and I'm somebody who socially I don't drink that much anymore.

Ann: It's interesting this listener mentions Caroline Knapp's best-selling book Drinking: A Love Story because women in particular who I know who have decided to stop drinking have cited that book a lot as something that was key to a shift in their thinking.

It's hard to separate for me sometimes a lot of what is aging, what is personal preference, what is shifts in my social milieu, that sort of thing. But I really like at the end of the day being able to ask the question of what is the effect this is having on my life? How is this making me feel? When am I deciding I want a drink? Because I think for me that's one of those things where I actually don't feel amazing if I want a drink because I've had a hard day for example, you know? Or like oh, this is because something really difficult's happening and I essentially want to numb out. I want to drink because it seems like it would taste delicious or because I am really loving some comradery, ritualistic, warm, posi feelings. That feels different to me too.

And so I think some of what books like this are designed to do is to help you pick apart what is something you've just been conditioned to do, like when I go out with my friends we drink, for example, versus what do you really want to be doing? And what is it really bringing to your life, your pleasure, your social circle?


A couple of years ago there was this viral article that courts published about women and patriarchy and drinking. Let me see if I can find a paragraph to summarize. "There's no easy way to be a woman because as you may have noticed there's no acceptable way to be a woman. And if there's no acceptable way to be the thing you are maybe you drink a little, or a lot." So the thesis of this article is basically like it is really difficult to forge an identity and live a fully-realized life as a woman in a patriarchal society.

Aminatou: What?

Ann: And drinking is a coping mechanism/drinking to excess is something that happens because women are alienated in this particular way. That is sort of my high-level summary of this essay which we will link to. I am sort of like literally women are trying to cope with living under patriarchy. It's like you could apply that to any negative behavior or anything that's bad for you in the world. I mean part of me is like sure, I'm sure this plays into it for some women or it's some kind of factor. But it's I mean just how would you tell? You know what I mean? How do you know what's a result of living under patriarchy and what is genetic and what is your particular friend group? I mean these threads are impossible to separate in my mind.

Aminatou: Right. You know, I just think that it's always interesting that women's drinking gets scrutinized in a very specific kind of way. I remember it was years ago, I think it was a New Republic article. Hold on, I might be lying. No, it was a Wall Street Journal article called The New Face of Risky Drinking is Female. There's always all these debates and they always -- you know, they percolate around campus sexual assault for example about the role of women drinking and how that -- you know, it creates conditions for assault essentially. Which is something that's really . . . it's like a very infuriating kind of trend piece to write because campus drinking is a problem for all students. It's not a particular problem that only affects women. And yet here's patriarchy trying to tell women that their drinking is a factor in why they are at risk for being assaulted on college campuses. That is a harmful statement and it's also ludicrous and it's very infuriating.


And so when I think about the ways we just talk about . . . the ways we talk about alcohol and women, to me that's actually what creates ripe conditions for women to feel change about not talking about how drinking is affecting them. Whether it's the question of like hey, I can't quite interrogate why I have a drink in my hand. Is it that I actually want to or is it the pressures of patriarchy? Or, you know, is it that I'm conditioned this way? Or, you know . . . Like I went through a phase where I realized most of my drinking was at home. I was very much Olivia Poping it. I would come home, hard day. No, truly. 

Ann: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah.

Aminatou: I'd come home, very hard day at work. And it was when I started becoming a manager. And so it meant that you know what managing is, right? You coach everybody all day and then you go home and you have to do your own fucking work now. And so I would come home and I couldn't leave the house and I had all this work to do and I would just drink wine working at my computer all the time. And that's the thing that on TV is very much like look at this fancy thing. And then I realized that I was actually taking out my recycling really late at night because I didn't want my neighbors to see how much wine one person was consuming. And it took me months to admit that to myself. I was like oh, I am forever doing two bottles a night. Why am I doing this?

I never got wasted at home. I woke up fine. You know, tolerance levels popping. But still I was like why am I -- why am I so ashamed about this? And that took me months to really come to terms with myself. And so whenever I see that on TV it really drives me crazy even though Olivia Pope's stemware is gorgeous. It is truly like . . .

Ann: So is your stemware TBH. Having sipped from your glassware it is very gorgeous as well.


Aminatou: Thank you Ann. Thank you. I'm glad that everybody now knows that Olivia Pope is imitating me. I'm the real inspiration for Olivia Pope. But, you know, it's just I think about all these things where because you don't create conditions where you can just talk about it. You carry a lot of this like weirdo baggage.

The other side of the alcohol conversation too is that it's very limiting in scope. So whenever people were like ugh, women and alcohol, I was like women aren't the only people who want to curb their alcohol drinking. Some religious people do not drink. Some people don't drink because they're expecting children. Some people don't drink for medical reasons. Some people don't -- you know, there's so much . . .

Ann: Some people just don't like it. Yeah.

Aminatou: Right, some people just don't like it. It's not like you have to have a problem with booze to not drink booze and yet we've created a culture where drinking alcohol is a . . . like it's a norm that if you don't adhere to something must be wrong with you. For me at least that's how I like to think about it. It really costs me nothing to accommodate people who do not drink and also I would like to be creative enough in my activities that they do not all have to revolve around booze.

Ann: I was just about to say that I actually think that I still derive a lot of pleasure from meeting someone for a drink and I derive a lot of pleasure from the occasional drink at my house alone as well. Like I would not fully identify as Olivia Poping it. But I think for me just having a broader sphere of options for myself and with friends is where I've really settled at. So if you're in an exchange about making plans to do something offering one or two options out of three that don't involve drinking. And then the other person doesn't have to be like "No, I don't want to meet for a drink because XYZ." Like you don't know what's going on with them. They can just choose the non-drinking option, and I am always fine with that too.

Aminatou: Right.


Ann: Like if someone is my friend I can definitely hang out with them sober because the presumption is I like their company. And I think that's part of it too is oh, if I have to be drinking with this person does that mean I really like them enough to be hanging out with them? And the answer is no.

Aminatou: I know.

Ann: If you need booze to lubricate a friendship, hmm, I don't know. Consider the friendship.

Aminatou: Judge Amina says "Next case!"

Ann: [Laughs] Gavel bang.

Aminatou: Bang.

Ann: Okay, let's take a little break then we'll listen to the next voicemail.



Ann: Let's listen to the next voicemail.

[Clip Starts]

Beth: Hi Team CYG, this is Beth Pickins, long time, first time. And I have a question for Ann and Amina and everybody behind-the-scenes for a potential future episode. And that is -- so a thing I love about Call Your Girlfriend is I get a lot of information about people and experiences and ideas, a lot of critical thinking, and tips for living which I really appreciate. Tips for money management, business, friendship, travel, work, I love that stuff. So a question I have for an upcoming episode is can you all think of some of your favorite tips for any part of living? What's really working for you now? What have you learned recently or what have people told you "Hey, that's really smart when you do that thing?" I've gotten so many of those from CYG and I'd love to know more. Thank you.

[Clip Ends]

Ann: Ugh, Beth Pickins.

Aminatou: Beth Pickins, love this lady.

Ann: I also love the emotional low-stakes of this question. Thank you Beth for hearing the subtext of our call for prompts and questions. [Laughs] Do you have a top life hack that you want to share?

Aminatou: I have many life hacks but they're all very specific to me. One that is making my life very happy right now, and this is not an ad at all, and I'm sure that there are many services who do something like this, but I've been using this app called Digit. It examines the way you spend money in your bank account then it just helps you put a couple dollars away every day. You know, it's like money that you won't miss. They're usually like well, if you spend like 25 dollars every day, the day that you spend 16 dollars, they'll put the nine dollars -- they'll suck it away for you.


The reason that I love this is because you know how I feel about automation. When it's replacing jobs I don't like it. But when it's replacing tasks that I have to do myself manually I love it. This is how I've been able to go on vacation basically the last like two years where I just look at this weirdo rainy day bank account, and it's not parts of my regular savings or parts of how I do retirement or whatever. It's just this is truly what my play money is. And every year I've been able to go on one really nice vacation from this thing that the computer does for me so that makes me really happy.

Ann: I love that. I think I signed up for Digit but I was intimidated by the automation aspect of it. I was like oh, I can handle telling an app to sock away a dollar a day for me or whatever but I am scared to have it analyze my bank account. And also my spending is spread across different accounts and credit cards and I was just like I don't know. I downloaded it and then got scared and never used it. That was my Digit story.

Aminatou: That's why I'm telling you this is not an ad. I'm pretty sure there are many apps that do something like this. And also from a privacy standpoint it's probably not great to give an app access to your bank account.

Ann: Right.

Aminatou: But I just use the account that I do most of my everyday spending on and then it's fine.

Ann: Got it. Okay, well let me tell you what's been a life-changing thing for me lately is actually using the screen time settings on my iPhone which allow you to set -- you can essentially group apps together. So whatever apps are your vice you can group them together and then declare a daily maximum number of minutes or hours. So I have Twitter and Instagram grouped together and I'm like I want an hour max across both of these apps every day.


And the great thing is Instagram also has an in-app one that will tell you you've been on this app for 30 minutes or whatever. But the iPhone settings screen time thing will, once you've hit an hour, just fully white-out the screen and say you've reached a limit. And then every time you go try to re-open the app which, you know, I'm hitting that hamster feed me pellet button so often, every time I go to click it it's grayed out with a little timer next to it so I know I've already hit my limit. And it actually is very effective for me in not letting me go back in after I've spent my hour.

And I think that that . . . also when the thing pops up sometimes I really realize what I'm actually doing. I'll be like I am doing what on this app? How many clicks deep am I on something I don't even care about? And so that's the other thing I really enjoy about it. It's not like a little popup notification. The whole screen whites out and interrupts whatever cycle is happening in my brain and I appreciate it greatly. So god bless if you have an Android, good luck. I will link to the iPhone one. It has changed my life.

Aminatou: What's another good life hack? Obviously getting a library card so you can listen to free audio books. That's my number one way I've saved money this year.

Ann: Libby!

Aminatou: Libby app forever. Another good life hack is you should always kind of shake the ATM card slot before you put in your money so you know the credit card machine is not . . . it's not a skimmer. That's a thing.

Ann: Wait, what?

Aminatou: What? That's a thing a banker friend told me and it's been amazing. Do you not do this?

Ann: I don't know what you're talking about.

Aminatou: So a lot of ATM machines are really shady. Before you blindly put your card into the ATM card you should shake it to see -- the reader -- to see that there's not a credit card machine skimmer on it.

Ann: Whoa.


Aminatou: Do that one. And you know my favorite money saving life hack that I only do at LAX because I think LAX is the airport that I go to that frustrates me the most weirdly is how I refuse to call an Uber or take a cab from the airport. I just hop on one of -- because it's always . . . for some reason I notice how expensive it is in LA. But I always take one of the hotel buses to a nearby hotel and then call the car from there.

Ann: I love that.

Aminatou: And it's always been -- that's been a savings in an order of magnitude of many, many dollars. So it's probably low-key inconvenient but it's my favorite thing that I do at LAX.

Ann: Okay, what else do I have? My list is a thing I've done for a long time that really helps me as an extrovert who wants to do all of the things with all of the people all of the time, I have one or two nights per week on my calendar where I'm just holding them, like I'm not allowed to schedule something social on top of it, and that way essentially I protect it so I don't get to the end of the week and I'm doing too many things. And I'm allowed to move them. It recurs on the same date every week but I can -- you know, if I want to make plans on that Thursday I can move it, my whole date, my stay at home night, to Monday. The point is to make sure I'm also getting the time I need in my home.

And that's one of those things that's like it's not an app. It's not really that much of a trick. But for me my whole brain lives in my schedule and so protecting things that I want to protect, using the schedule as a tool, is generally something I have gotten more and more dependent on.

Aminatou: Perfect.

Ann: And I have one last little one and this is an extremely non-digital . . . you know I am someone who loves snail mail and written correspondence. And honestly just keeping a Google spreadsheet of my friends' mailing addresses, so if they send you that wedding invitation or that thank you card or whatever, making note of their physical address so that I have one place to go and look to send them something is something I love. I mean the digital address book that's just like -- it's a spreadsheet, it's low-tech, but I find that to be really great. And then you don't have to always send the email to friends that's like "What's your address?" when you actually want to do something nice or send something.


And it really comes in handy when friends are going through something difficult like if someone close to them dies or they have a health issue. You don't have to bug them and be like "Where do I send you a thing that I'm supposed to -- that I'm trying to show you support and solidarity with?" You can just have the address setup and send it. That is my old-fashioned Mrs. Manners correspondence advice. Put it in a Google doc.



Aminatou: Let's take another question.

[Clip Starts]

Jessica: Hi, my name is Jessica and I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am calling with a question for Ann and Aminatou. I would love to hear their thoughts on the accessibility and affordability of therapy whether it's for depression or personal issues, just what they think about that. Thank you!

[Clip Ends]

Aminatou: Oh man. This question definitely near and dear to my heart and I think that I can speak for both of us when I say that our thoughts about accessibility and affordability for therapy is that yes, therapy should be more accessible. In fact to everyone. And it should be more affordable. If you've even started the process of looking for this kind of help you know how overwhelming it is. So that's the top level like yes, somebody should run for president and make mental health affordability and accessibility like a big platform.

Ann: Ugh, the free therapy ticket. I would vote for that so fast.

Aminatou: I would vote for free therapy ticket. Oh my god, it's very, very necessary. Because the thing is most people start looking for therapy and counseling when they're going through something very, very big. And like any kind of doctor when you're looking for a specialist when you're going through it is the time you're not super excited to do that.

Ann: Right. When you have like the lowest level of -- I mean speaking for myself, of capability or bandwidth to be doing that is like . . . is the exact point in time when you're like ugh, I wish I had done this a year ago or two years ago.

Aminatou: Right. And so just to say we are not doctors here so we don't have specific advice about how you can find the right kind of therapist for the treatment that you need to be in and how long your treatment is or whatever. But generally for me as somebody who interfaces a lot with these kinds of counseling services I will say that there are a couple things that you can do to figure it out. And you should probably try to do them when you have some time, a.k.a. when you're not in crisis.


So the first thing that I would say is if you have health insurance, if you're one of those lucky people who has health insurance, you should find out from your health insurance what your options are. Because even some very shitty insurance plans have a couple of options for people that you can talk to and you should have that list on you. So if you have health insurance some of these places like your copay will take care of it for example.

The other thing that I will say is if you find a therapist, even if they're not in your network or you don't have insurance or whatever, you should just straight-up ask them if they have a sliding scale. So sliding scale therapists are basically -- they're like psychologists or social workers who they will adjust their hourly fee to make the therapy more affordable to you. So that's something that's always available to you and you should 100% ask for it. And there are a ton of -- not a ton but there are some directories where you can find this stuff out. So I think Psychology Today has one and goodtherapy.org are two online that people talk about. But I also think that this is where the friend network really comes into play.

Ann: Yes.

Aminatou: And this is why not having shame about talking about therapy is so important is that, you know, probably the best therapy recs you'll get will come from your own network, not from some like, you know, therapy magazine on the Internet. So that's something to think about.

There are also some believe it or not free or low-income mental health services and those are usually community clinics and, you know, they're also mental health professionals who just offer a bunch of services. So I think -- I know that you could definitely in the Obama era go to mentalhealth.org and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, are also places that you can look to find this kind of stuff in your community.


There are also therapy apps. I have personally not used one so I cannot speak to them but I know that for some people it's really that's a lifeline that they have that wouldn't be available to them otherwise. And they're also like -- there are crisis and suicide prevention hot lines, right, that you can also avail yourself of depending on what your crisis is. So all this to say there's not one great solution but I will say that probably being a little vulnerable and talking to your friends about it is super important because I guarantee you that you know someone who goes to therapy or someone who knows someone who goes to therapy. And one of those people will have the key for what is the best way to figure it out? So this isn't to punt and say like "Personal responsibility over the fact that our healthcare system is really shitty." But I think that generally you don't know what your options are or whether therapy is affordable to you or not if you don't actually look into it, so you should probably look into it.

Ann: Yeah. And I think also -- I mean this is essentially what you're saying is yes, sometimes it is inaccessible and unaffordable but also sometimes accessibility or affordability is an excuse to not pursue it or a way to kind of say I'm not going to take charge of this part of my life because I feel stretched financially already. And the answer is it is expensive and also it's something that there are options if you want to prioritize it. So it's asking that question of how much of this is based on information I have about the options available to me and how much of it is me kicking this difficult task down the road a little bit further? I think that's the real talk difficult question.


Aminatou: Next question.

Ann: [Laughs] Moving on. Check, check, check. I love that we are definitively solving everyone's problems. I always feel . . .

Aminatou: Yes, that's us. That's us solving problems.

Ann: I always feel so sheepish about these mail bag episodes for that reason, just like uh . . .

Aminatou: I'm always like my life is on fire. I'm not here to give anybody advice. That's crazy.

Ann: That's why I -- I'm just generally more comfortable thinking about these as prompts of stuff to talk about rather than questions that we are definitively answering because I'm just like we don't know. [Laughs] Yeah.

Aminatou: I don't know anything.

Ann: Exactly. Okay, that said, let's listen to one more voice mail.

[Clip Starts]

Allie: Hi, this is Allie. I'm calling from Columbus, Ohio post-Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford thing. When that happened I just didn't want to talk to any guys, friends, romantic interests or otherwise. I feel like I need to have more conversations about how to get over that and become friends with men again and not be so annoyed with them all the time and try to forgive them. Because they are, you know, 50% of the population. Thanks.

[Clip Ends]

Ann: Okay, wow, a thing we almost never talk about: men. And rightfully so. What I think is interesting about this is it doesn't feel like a new question post-MeToo or post-Kavanaugh hearings or anything like that. I just feel like there are always going to be things that maybe make me feel distant from or not fully seen by some of the men in my life and especially in the past few years there have been some, I don't know, more prominent or extreme things in the news that have forced some of those divides out into the open in terms of conversations with friends.


For me one of the big questions I ask myself is not like do these men in my life fully understand and appreciate every aspect of my experience as a woman and more like are they willing to be in conversation with me about it? And I don't think that means I'm always there to help edify them about my experience in the world but it is very important to me that if we experience something differently or we are reacting differently to something in the news or if something dramatic happened IRL in our friend group and it bothered me but it didn't seem to bother them that I feel like my friendship with them is a space where I can mention that and we can talk about it. And it's not just something that I hold on my own and feel like maybe it wasn't that big of a deal.

Like for me that's the bar. The bar is not expecting that men are going to get it all the time. The bar is can I talk about it if I feel like I want to with them? And does that conversation feel productive? How are they engaging with me? That is for me one baseline way of thinking about these divides. I don't know. How do you approach your friendships with men when it comes to this kind of shared experience or non-shared experience divide?

Aminatou: I think generally I approach my friendships with men in the same way I approach my friendships with people who are not people of color in that yes, those friendships do happen and some of them are really meaningful to me. I refuse to center my experience around their identity, you know what I mean? So -- because when I hear questions like this a lot of times . . . and it's interesting, I always hear questions like this from women. Like I don't have any experience of, you know, reading something really deep or hearing from men (TM) in general that they're like "Oh, in this post-MeToo world does anybody want to be my friend?" [Laughter] You know, I'm not really hearing that kind of introspection from the men in general. So I think that my approach to it is, you know, my experience is not here to be an a-ha moment or a teacher to anyone. I think about my relationships with men specifically as the relationships with men that I already know, not of men in general.


Ann: Right, specific men, not men (TM). Yeah.

Aminatou: Right. It's not like -- I don't care about men (TM) but I don't care about a lot of people (TM), you know what I mean?

Ann: Right.

Aminatou: I don't think . . . like yeah, I was like that's not my responsibility or my job. But I think that for the men who are in my life who I actually consider friends or family or more than friends they're the ones that have huge bars to clear, right? I was like well it's just like you approach every other friendship. I was like can we be fully realized in this relationship? Or can we talk about things that are hard and things that are not hard? And also does the friendship fully -- does it just revolve around you or a part of your identity? And if the answer is yes then it's probably not a real friendship. The dudes in my life, I'm generally happy. I'm happy about how we talk about these things. But yeah, do better all the time.

Ann: Yeah. And I think it's interesting that this question comes with this implication that there is inherent value to having men in your life, right? There's the sort of I need to get over all these feelings I'm having about men (TM) in order to have healthier relationships with the men in my life. And my feeling about that is if the feeling is obligation what does that say about the men who are already in your life? Like if you're feeling like oh, god, I've really got to steel myself to work really hard to be in this friendship what you say is so true in terms of centering. It's how are you both showing up equally? And how does that look differently for them than it does for you? And it's probably going to look differently, right? It's not like they get to just ignore the fact that you might be feeling not super excited about spending time with men when all you do is read articles about the bad shit men have done. It might be on them to say oh, let's talk about this or initiate a conversation about how they are also thinking about these issues.


Because, you know, for me that is a bar. I want to know that the things that are important to me -- like with most friends -- are also on a core level something that they're thinking about or that is important to them. And if it's not, fine. It doesn't mean that person has to be centered in my life at that moment either. I mean that's the other thing I think about this framing of obligation and the question is honestly it's okay based on something that you are feeling or going through to not invest as much in your friendships with men during that period. And if they notice your absence and want to raise it with you and are able to handle a real conversation about it then you get to make the next choice. But I don't think that there's some inherent reason that you need to prioritize their feelings or prioritize those friendships if they are not already there and not already feeding you. Like the objective good of get some men in your life is . . . I don't really see it.

Aminatou: That is not advice I would give anyone. [Laughs]

Ann: Exactly. Exactly. So I think I'm just reacting almost tonally to that sense of, you know, they're 50% of the population. I should probably make sure that they're integrated in my life in frankly intimate ways, right? Or that they are close to me. And I'm just like you know, if that's the feeling we all . . .

Aminatou: But that's also my point of are they asking themselves that?

Ann: Exactly.

Aminatou: And if not, hmm, you know? And also why are you asking yourself that? And I think that is some very deep lady-gendered stuff. And even the frame around MeToo. I know that MeToo is a huge, big, explosive conversation that we're having but I would say -- and I'm not saying this to be flippant -- but I would say that a lot of women, if not most women, know about the issue of sexual violence outside of MeToo. Like MeToo is not how we . . . that was not like a ding, ding, ding, welcome to men and women.

Ann: Right. If anything we're surprised.


Aminatou: Here's a thing that's different. Right.

Ann: If anything we're surprised some men are actually paying attention to it at this point.

Aminatou: Right. Like the conversation of MeToo for me honestly is a conversation about scale. It's not a conversation about discovering something for the first time, right? And not even just about scale. It's a conversation where it's like oh, this is the first time that -- all MeToo really is is women whispering to other women that the same thing happened to them. It's not some kind of witchcraft convention we're having where we're making plans to . . .

Ann: Well it's also headlines taking that seriously.

Aminatou: Right.

Ann: It's like external sources taking that seriously too.

Aminatou: I would say that the reason that feels differently to me, and it's the reason I brought up having friends of other races, is that's a dynamic that I feel very acutely in I would say the last couple of years of police violence against black people being in the headlines. And really feeling for my white friends that yes, probably they're discovering something for the first time or here is a news thing that, you know, is dominating a lot of conversations that your other friends are having. So again you don't get to be a center of that part of the conversation and your realizing that something is different for you also doesn't get to be the center of the conversation.

Ann: Yeah. And it's interesting hearing you talk about that parallel too because one thing that I think about when it comes to men in MeToo is I'm just like you can take all of your status updates and shelf them because I actually -- I don't care a ton about what you're saying publicly about what needs to happen and things like that. The way that you show me that you're a man who is worthy of my attention and friendship is that like I can feel some level of confidence that these are issues that you're engaging in when I'm not present, that there are things that you care about when I'm not forcing the issue or the headlines aren't forcing the issue, and feeling some degree of security about that for me at least only comes from things I pick up on in the conversations that we have together about this stuff.


Because the thing is if you're actually thinking about this being able to say like ugh, listen to this conversation I had with three other men at work this week that relates to this or whatever. Like because that is front-of-mind for you and you just want to talk about it, like to me I have more confidence then that oh, I can come to you with my feelings about something fucked up happening in my own workplace or in my own career because I can see that this is something you care about when I'm not waving it in front of your face. And it's just like it's a very hard thing to articulate that sense of where do I feel comfortable? Or what bar has been met? And I think it's different for everyone. But I also think that that is the price of intimacy, being able to sort of assure the person when there is this external structural privilege differential that you are aware of that and you are thinking about it and you are centering the experience of your friend.

Aminatou: Well said. Whew.

Ann: All right. I want to thank everyone who sent in questions and prompts and if you want to send one for an upcoming mail bag episode, because let's be real we will probably need to do this again as our book brains fail to come up with episode topics on our own, you can leave a voicemail at 714-681-2943.

Aminatou: That's 714-681-CYGF.

Ann: Yes!

Aminatou: You can find us so many places on the Internet: callyourgirlfriend.com, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, you name it. Wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. You can subscribe, leave us a rating or a review, and tell all your friends. We're on Instagram and Twitter at @callyrgf. Sophie Carter-Kahn runs our social accounts. Our theme song is by Robyn, original music composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenesha Sneed and this podcast is produced by the amazing Gina Delvac. I'll see you inside the Google Doc.

Ann: See you in the Google Doc.

Aminatou: Bye boo-boo.

Ann: Bye.