What’s in a Name?

Vox linked to and commented on a piece by Rollo about the dangers he sees in the “First Mate” paradigm suggested by Athol Kay’s Married Man Sex Life.  As often happens in such discussions, people soon got bogged down in worrying about the specific words and batting anecdotes back and forth about one phrase or another.  So one guy says calling your wife your “bride” is pedestalizing her, and another guy counters by saying he’s been doing that for 40 years and his wife still dotes on him.  If we looked long enough, we could find good and bad marriages using every possible term.

We should all know by know that the words don’t matter; it’s the attitude behind the words that matters.  Your choice of words might be a reflection of your attitude, but only you can know that for sure.  So if “my bride” makes you feel studly and makes your wife blush and giggle, keep right at it.

As far as the “first mate” thing, here’s what I see happening — not just on this topic, but in general in the manosphere:

  1. Many guys are trying to have equalitarian 50/50 marriages and failing.
  2. A guy comes along and says, “That won’t work; you need something more like a Captain/XO relationship, where your wife is your most trusted assistant, but you are the ultimate authority on everything.”
  3. Many guys say, “Hey, that’s really helpful; I never thought of it that way.  I’m going to try to bring that frame into my marriage.”
  4. Tradcons and other white knights become uncomfortable, because while they might agree with that paradigm in theory, it’s too rigid for them, because: “What if my daughter marries a shitty captain?”  They therefore need to reframe it so it still looks traditional and patriarchal, but leaves the wife a veto.
  5. So the tradcon says, “Hey, this First Mate idea is great, because, you know, a smart captain knows he can trust his First Mate and the First Mate often knows more than he does about the situation at hand.  In fact, if his First Mate disagrees with him on something, a wise captain will go along with his First Mate’s opinion.  If he doesn’t, that just shows that he’s not man enough to deal with any threats to his command, or that he should have done a better job of picking a First Mate.”

See how easy that was?  In three sentences, I reframed it so the First Mate is really the one making the decisions after all, and if the Captain objects, he’s being a whiny bitch.  That’s what they try to do with every idea the manosphere comes up with that challenges the female imperative — twist it around until the man is responsible and the woman is in charge.

That’s what we have to watch out for.  We’re not going to find some perfect vocabulary that they can’t subvert.  These are people who can turn “wives, be subject to your husbands” into “assign your husband a to-do list,” after all.  We have to keep our focus on what we mean, what frame we’re projecting, not particular words.  That way, when they try to twist our words around to serve the female imperative, we can recognize it and say, “Nope, that’s not what we mean; you’re doing it again.”

3 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Agreed. No reason to get bogged down in semantics when its the attitude/philosophy that’s important.

    As far as Captain/First Officer, it was a revelation to me when I realized that when my wife asked my opinion on something, it wasn’t because she wanted to know what I thought, because she’d already made up her mind. No, what she wanted was to be able to share or put the blame on me if her decision turned out poorly. If I didn’t agree with with her, she’d unsuccessfully try to change my mind, and get upset if I wouldn’t budge. So to all newly married or struggling husbands out there, the key phrase is “The man will always be held responsible, no matter what”. Better get used to it and act accordingly.

    I’ve told my boys (both 10 and under) that I’m the boss, but when I’m not around that they have to obey to their mother. My youngest is all boy and needs a strong guiding hand, but I’m proud of his energy and sense of adventure, which seems to be more than his mother can handle some days. She’s very poor at slowing him down before he gets too wound up and just ends up yelling at him, which he shrugs off. I’ve tried to coach her on this, but it mostly falls on deaf ears. I’m at the point where she can jump ship any time she wants, but that will be on her. I’m here for the kids.

  2. Well said Cail. Simply switching what you call your wife, and what she calls you, without a deeper change in the marriage is no better than throwing a new paint job on a rickety old boat. It may looker nicer to you, but it is still one mild storm away from sinking.

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