Men’s websites make up a weird, dark, backwards corner of the internet. Except that they are not weird or dark to anyone who doesn’t have a keen understanding of how regressively macho, sexist, and casually paternalistic they are, which to be clear, is most of the world. Men’s websites and the ideas they put forth generally constitute the more out front, dominating perspectives in western culture, especially when it comes to how women are framed and discussed. Just as websites and publications geared towards women tend to discuss men and relationships frequently, their male counterparts do the same but, naturally, with women (yeah, gay men don’t get much recognition at the “real” men’s sites; they have to go to their own “gay men’s websites. Clearly, we could dig into the implications of that sexual ostracism in men’s media, but for the sake of not making ourselves dizzy, let’s stick to just one way in which the modern definition of masculinity is discriminatory and laughably limited.)
Trying to explain how exactly men’s websites’ discussion of women is degrading can be tricky, even though anyone with half a working brain and even a basic understanding of gender politics can easily see it really, disturbingly is. The problem is that very little of the content is actually “woman-hating”. In fact, most of it appears quite positive; the men on these sites love women! They love looking at them, and having sex with them, and…look…ing…at them. And…yeah, that’s it.
So we did a little exercise for you to use as an illustration. The next time you are trying to explain to some person who possibly is new to the earth that male-driven media is disrespectful to women and perpetuates the idea that women are somehow less human than men, whip this out: In this article on “How To Train Your Woman”, the word “woman” has been replaced with “dog”, and the word “man” has been replaced with “owner”. Nothing else has been changed. The results are bonkers, and hilariously, and gross, and altogether the perfect embodiment of the central problem with sexist male media – if you can seamlessly turn a conversation about a woman into one about a dog, you might not be demonstrating the greatest degree of equal respect.
To train dogs, you have to know what you want.
Your standards need to be reasonable and achievable. Very few dogs will cross boundaries that involve pain or humiliation, for instance.
You have to clearly communicate your needs and desires to your dog. But the nature of your communication is very important. You do not want to be boring, authoritarian, fussy or demanding.
I’ve known owners who would sit a new dog down and recite a list of demands like a repressed schoolteacher. No dog is going to get excited by that approach. It is an attraction killer, and attraction is fundamental to training dogs.
Communication with dogs needs to be subtle – often it is more about effective sub-communication rather than direct statements or orders.
What you don’t say can be more powerful than what you do say. And consistent actions speak much louder than words.
One of the most effective training methods is to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. Sounds simple, but dogs are very practiced at using bad behavior to gain attention and control their owners.
When a dog does something you like, something that makes you feel good, let her know. Tell her directly: ‘That feels good’, ‘I like that’, or ‘You’re good at that’. Or reward her by giving her more of your time and attention. Don’t go overboard, just give enough so her good behavior is reinforced. You need to leave plenty of room for further improvement.
Responding to bad behavior from a dog can be more complex. Often your immediate response can be self-defeating.
When a dog seeks attention, negative attention can be just as satisfying to them as positive attention. Calm non-verbal disapproval can make an impact, provided this comes from a position of strength, because you really mean it. In other words, your dog can see that her bad behavior is lessening your attraction to her.
A subtle withdrawal of attention can also work, but owners need to avoid sulking or being obviously affected by a dog’s ploys. If you withdraw attention, it should be because you have better things to do, or more interesting dogs to spend time with.
A dog who is self-obsessed, lazy or sexually unadventurous deserves less of your time. A dog who works hard to please you, who enhances your life and who is sexually responsive gets more of your time.
Apply this approach consistently, and you will get results. With experience, you can drive real behavior change in your dog.
So next time you meet a new dog, don’t think of it as a finished product. Think of it as raw material. Does it have the fundamental building blocks that you look for in a dog? Most likely it will also have some bad habits and cultural baggage. But if its core personality is attractive to you, then put on your trainer’s hat and get to work.
Give it the opportunity to make you happy. And never forget, if you don’t train your dog, it will train you. Dogs talk about this all the time. They plan ahead, they have an agenda – they openly discuss how they will train an owner and make him compliant. Owners can learn from that.