In March of 2020 I moved to Texas and stayed with my in-laws. In the first week I arrived, my mother-in-law took me to a dealership to get a car. The salesman refused to budge on the price of the 2019 Mazda 3 until she said “if I went home with this car at this price, my husband would kill me.” The salesman quickly went to speak to the manager and came back with a lower price. I’ll never forget this. Since that instance I’ve used that phrase in conversation with men and even now without a husband, it never ceases to get men to listen.
Here’s why I think it works:
Men believe in violent men
I believe men are fully aware of how violent other men can be to women. I believe men expect violence in a marriage and are prepared to pretend not to notice if they are made aware of the violence. I believe the violence is quietly applauded by their eagerness to oblige the mentioned husband.
2. Men believe only men deserve respect
This imaginary husband that I bring up is given more respect than the person standing right in front of them. They’d jump over mountains just to gain the approval of this man and he isn’t even real. Men believe men deserve respect and by aiding me in giving my imaginary husband respect they are affirming this belief through me.
3. Men believe they live for other men
“To say that straight men are heterosexual is only to say that they engage in sex (fucking exclusively with the other sex, i.e., women). All or almost all of that which pertains to love, most straight men reserve exclusively for other men. The people whom they admire, respect, adore, revere, honor, whom they imitate, idolize, and form profound attachments to, whom they are willing to teach and from whom they are willing to learn, and whose respect, admiration, recognition, honor, reverence and love they desire… those are, overwhelmingly, other men. In their relations with women, what passes for respect is kindness, generosity or paternalism; what passes for honor is removal to the pedestal. From women they want devotion, service and sex. Heterosexual male culture is homoerotic; it is man-loving.” ― Marilyn Frye, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory
Basically, it’s “bros before hoes” all grown up. Full blown misogyny and misogynoir but at least it gets me a cheaper car? Knowing my ex-father-in-law, I believe my ex-mother-in-law was very serious when she said it. When I say it I am not and I kind of liken using this phrase for my “benefit” to code-switching. I’m “successful” in the moment but it’s harmful overall and truly depressing when I think about it. One day I hope not to bring my imaginary husband with me when speaking to other men.
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