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Sexism Reddit Is an Unexpected Beacon of Hope in Our Cold World

The oddly effective catharsis of reading about someone else’s bad relationship

A photo illustration of the Reddit logo, displayed on a mobile phone.
A photo illustration of the Reddit logo, displayed on a mobile phone.
Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

BBefore I go to sleep at night — after spending the day writing about women’s rights, sexual assault, and misogyny — I like to scroll through Reddit’s advice forums and read about the weird ways sexism pops up in people’s lives.

The 29-year-old man who demands that his girlfriend sleep in uncomfortable lingerie because run-of-the mill pajamas make him feel “sick to his stomach.” The boyfriend who wants to reschedule a vacation in order to avoid his partner’s period. The woman who is desperate for her 27-year-old boyfriend to stop farting in her face. The 25-year-old who wants his fiance to undergo a gynecological virginity test the night before their wedding… performed and attended by his own dad, brothers, and uncle.

Unlike most cases of terrible misogyny in the United States — issues that have no easy answers or quick fixes — there is a solution when a guy is acting like an absolute piece of shit in his relationship.

There tends to be a predictable rhythm to most of the queries I follow in Reddit forums like “relationships” and “Am I the Asshole.” More often than not, the post centers around a woman who is subject to some awful behavior by a boyfriend or husband — “He’s a necrophiliac!” “He gave me chlamydia!” — yet who, despite her unhappiness, is reluctant to end the relationship. (The second most popular post: a man ready to dump a girlfriend over something hilariously minor.)

I admit there’s something vaguely unhealthy about staying up late to read stuff like this. My husband thinks it’s a bit bizarre: Why subject yourself to more terrible people or situations? But there’s something incredibly cathartic about reading about sexism that’s actually fixable.

Unlike most cases of terrible misogyny in the United States — issues that have no easy answers or quick fixes — there is a solution when a guy is acting like an absolute piece of shit in his relationship. You get to watch in real time as people post updates about leaving their abusive spouses or controlling boyfriends. You can see the original poster start to take commenters’ advice seriously and begin to understand that, no, it’s not really normal for your boyfriend to throw a fit because you didn’t make his sandwich “correctly.”

Sure, it’s not fun to remember that there are men out there still acting like sexist jerks — but we sort of knew that was the case anyway, didn’t we? And the truth is it’s not all bad. There’s the wholesome teenager who wanted to make a good impression on her boyfriend’s dog and wanted advice on how to win him over, for example.

And who knows: Maybe some of those clearly terrible people will reexamine their behavior once they see commenter after commenter taking them to task.

Good or bad, for me it’s an escape — something I think we could all use at the moment.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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