The Ways the Scalzi Women Are Better Than Me: An Incomplete List

Last week, as part of my general “try to lose weight and get a little healthier because you’re middle-aged now and you don’t want to die” thing, I started going to the local YMCA to use its weight room and indoor track, with my daughter as my workout partner. She’s been on the powerlifting team at her school for the last three years, so she’s knowledgeable about the weights in a way I am not, and is thus a good person with whom to work out. At the end of our first session, I tweeted the following:

This naturally aroused the derision of the hooting pack of status-anxious dudebros who let me live rent-free in their brains, prompting a predictable slew of tweets and blog posts about how this is further proof of my girly-man status, hardly a man at all, dude do you even lift, and so on. I noted this to my daughter.

Should it be a surprise that my daughter, who has been on a powerlifting team for three years and has taken medals at competition, can lift more than I, who has not seen the inside of a weight room since high school? I don’t think so; I think it would be mildly surprising if she couldn’t. She has training and endurance that I don’t. It’s also equally possible that even if she had not had her previous training, if we had gone into that weight room, she still might have been able to lift more than me. I would have been fine with that. If I keep at it, over time it’s possible I’ll lift more than she can. It’s also possible, however, that I won’t.

And if I never lift more than my daughter? Well, and if that happens, so what? One, I’m not sure why I should feel threatened or belittled by my daughter’s abilities of any sort. Call me nutty, but I want my daughter to be accomplished and capable, and even more accomplished and capable than me, whenever that’s possible. It’s a parent thing. Two, I’m not using the weight room to express my manliness, or as a zero-sum crucible to measure my personal worthiness against other human beings, because that seems, I don’t know, kind of stupid to me. I’m using it because I want to be in better shape than I am now. I fail to see how collapsing into a testerical pile of insecurity over the fact my daughter can lift more than I can will help me with my actual goal of becoming more fit.

Of course, it helps that I’m not one of those quivering bro-puppets who lives in constant fear that a woman might actually outclass him in something, and that if she does, it means that his balls have shrunk three sizes that day. This is a good thing, because in point of fact the Scalzi women, Krissy and Athena, are better than and/or outclass me in several ways. For example:

1. I’ve already noted that Athena out-lifts me. Krissy, it should be noted, is stronger than either of us; she is in point of fact unusually (I like to say freakishly) strong. I will note that I am perfectly capable, strength-wise; childish dudebro taunting online aside, I do fine for myself in that department and always have. Krissy has always been substantially stronger than I. It was never even a point of contention.

2. Krissy also has more physical endurance than I do. I was just joking to her today about the fact that if she lived 10,000 years ago, she would run down gazelles on the savannah because, like the Terminator, she would just keep coming. Again, I do just fine in the stamina department (anyone who has seen me dance for three hours straight can vouch for this). Krissy outclasses me by a mile.

3. Both Athena and Krissy are better shots than I am, Athena with a bow and Krissy with guns and rifles. And I’m decent with a bow.

4. Krissy is the financial brains of the Scalzi outfit, since both by inclination and by training (she has a degree in business) she has an analytical mind for numbers. I do my part on the business end — my very first published book was on finance, and I was a consultant for financial services companies over the years — but the day-to-day adminstration and planning fall to her, with good reason.

5. Athena writes better at her age than I did at the same age. It’s not even close. She will point out that she has the benefit of a parent who writes, with whom she can talk about both the craft and business of writing, and I cheerfully concede that point. Nevertheless, I’ve read her stuff, and I re-read the stuff I wrote at her age. My work at that age is pretty good. Hers is better.

6. Krissy is one of the best “straight-line” thinkers I’ve ever met; she can examine a situation, crystalize the issue and offer a solution quickly and dispassionately — and correctly. This is such a useful and critical skill that I actively spent years learning from her how to do it. I’m pretty good at it now. She’s still better, enough so that whenever possible, I always confer with her to double-check my own thinking.

I could go on — I could go on and on — but I assume you get the point.

Now, no doubt the status-anxious dudebros will delight in my shocking admissions here, because they are silly little boys who apparently think that a man who can happily live with, and help raise, women who are better at various things than he is (including things they entirely erroneously suppose to be inherently masculine) must be therefore weak and inferior and girly. Two points here.

One, there’s the obvious point that in the Scalzi household “girly” means strong and smart and capable and better than decent with ranged weapons. All of which I would happily be. So yes sign me up for girly please.

Two, and to repeat, these sad, frantic lumps of manflesh are proclaiming that a man who is pleased to share his life with women who are strong and smart and capable, and who has no problem acknowledging when their skills are superior to his, is somehow actually lesser for it. This should tell you all you need to know about the intelligence and sensibleness of such a world view.

I’m going to let them keep that silly, stunted world view. I’m going to keep mine. Because among other things, my world view has allowed me to share my life with, and share in the life of, the two best people I know: My wife, and my daughter. I am delighted in all the ways that they are the best, and also, better than me.


127 Comments on “The Ways the Scalzi Women Are Better Than Me: An Incomplete List”

  1. This post is highly likely to bring around at least a couple of status-anxious dudebros who will try their luck at trolling, so be aware the Mallet is out and in play. So be excellent to each other as you comment, please. Thanks.

  2. I’ve met Krissy, and she rocks. D00D, you got lucky.

    You’ve met my son, who can only be explained by understanding that my Chrissie is smarter than I am.

    I got lucky.

  3. I’m a middle-aged woman who still calls her father Daddy, so you might say our relationship is good.

    He specifically reared me to be tough, capable and self-reliant. (And yeah, I’m still his little princess. You know how these things go)

    So, while I know damn well you don’t really need encouragement, being proud of your wife and daughter and glad of all their skills makes you more of a man than any dudebro could possibly be.

  4. Whether repeated trips to the Y make you stronger than Athena would miss the point, of keeping up with the effort. The increase in stamina may, for example, increase your writerly output and that’s something that smart people can agree upon.

  5. It works both ways. You have the superior beard, yet I’m sure they do not begrudge you.

  6. There are fathers who cannot abide being surpassed by their children (or “their” women.)

    Without exception I find that they’re either incapable or unwilling to improve themselves, so instead they put their efforts into tearing others down.

    I’m with you, John: what parent worthy of the title would not be delighted to be surpassed by his/her children? Not that it’s a good thing to make it easy for them, mind — but that means working harder ourselves, not holding them back.

    Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to get back to studying statistical methods in research. I’ll be visiting my daughter soon …

  7. I wish the dudebro attitude was rare.

    But it is encouraging that (a) it’s mostly in decline and (b) there’s an increasing note of desperation in what’s left of it.

  8. My father was of the opinion that you could judge a young man by the quality of the woman whom he married, and an older man by the quality of the daughters he raised.

    (Before anyone attempts to dis my old man (for which I will knock you down) for not talking about the quality of sons (or for focusing on traditional forms of marriage) – he took it for granted that a man would do his best by his sons. Some men had a hand in the raising of very fine boys, but it really said something when a father raised up capable daughters.)

    I’ve traveled far enough to sadly learn that not all males will see to the raising of their sons, much less to the maintenance of partnership with their women, or to the raising of their daughters. Nor all females, either. I still think my dad was on to something.

  9. I recall reading 40+ years ago that Robert Heinlein frequently commented that he was quite proud that his wife was more capable than him. He felt that having someone at that level willingly associate with him was very flattering.

    – Tom –

  10. My six year old daughter is stronger than me. At this point she needs both legs to overcome one arm, but that’s not going to last. She’s already far, far more willing to fully commit than I am,and if I end up ‘losing’ in the process of teaching her how to not hold back when appropriate, well, my manliness can take it. Hell, I might even shed a proud tear or two.

  11. I love the image of you living rent-free in dudebro brains: puttering around rearranging the furniture, flipping what they sadly consider artwork around to face the walls….

  12. I caught a little of the reaction you mention (in passing) and had the same thought you did– which is to say, “Wow. How insecure do you have be to feel threatened by a woman’s ability to lift more weight than you / run faster than you / be smarter than you / whatever?”

    Answer: Pretty insecure.

    Really kind of sad, both for them and their families. You can imagine how small their wives and daughters have to keep themselves, all the time, just so these men can always feel bigger and stronger and smarter than they are.

  13. Children would not be (as) amazing if their parents were not also good people. How about this though; competent people in the house = more resources = less for me to worry about = more porch time with an ice tea. I mean, how could ANYONE not like that?

    You have a great family John

  14. I loved reading this article SO much. I’m definitely kind of verklempt, sitting here.

    I was a very intelligent girl born to pretty dumb and mentally ill people. They and the people they knew were the type of blue-collar workers who are frightened by intellectuals and what they saw as the effete “culture” of boring symphonies, dull ballet, stupid opera. They did everything they could to hold me down, put me back, and make sure I knew that, even though I thought I was better than them (I didn’t), they would pull me down in the end.

    When I said I was going to college, they told me no. I had to stay and take care of them because I was the girl, that was my role. I told them I was going to college anyway. They said they would never give me another penny.

    So be it, I said. And so it was.

    Actually attending college and eventually moving from the Upper Midwest to the West Coast helped a great deal. My whole life has been difficult like that, though. Some of the people I had to interact with (many of whom had some kind of power over my situation) hated women, some hated intellectuals, some hated both. Thank the gods I found at least a few friends who were smart, or liked intelligent people, anyway.

    Now, at age 55, I am getting into a relationship with a man who is smart, but not well educated. I don’t care about it, and neither does he. He’s told me he admires my brain and doesn’t want to hold me back. He really seems to be okay with it! It almost feels like a miracle.

    So to read Mr. Scalzi so full of love and pride in the accomplishments of his womenfolk is a balm and a blessing. I’m so glad the world is changing! Mr. Scalzi, and others of his ilk, are helping change it more quickly with posts just like these.

    Culture warrior, I salute you! Thank you for your service, so to speak, and for essays like this.

  15. Daughter #1 is a Marine LtCol who is a tough combat veteran and will catch me with her next promotion. Daughter #2 was a national champion in D I soccer and according to her friends can take you on at her game and thrash them and then take you on at their game and thrash them as well, My wife is the most compassionate, gentle, and giving person I know. Each of them is better than me at something and usually a number of somethings. They make me enormously proud.

  16. yesh, dudebro’s need a learning, oh wait that is not possible.

    Met my wife 25 1/2 years ago, 25 years ago she started taking care of the finances, 24 years ago all my debts were paid off and we started saving….

    Its simple possible to think that its not the gender, its the person…

    At least its possible for people who are not dudebro’s…

  17. My wife took up Olympic Lifting (clean-and-jerk, snatch; she also competed in bench press) late in life — her 50s. She eventually won several championships and set several records in Senior Division. What was interesting, though, was seeing her reactions to competitions and tournaments. I’d done football, wrestling, and track in high school and wrestled in college, so I was used to the atmosphere and the emotional rollercoaster of a big meet or tournament; she’d never done anything remotely similar. I find it tremendously heartening that female-type Kids These Days, such as Athena, aren’t shut out of that kind of experience.

  18. As a father of a delightful twelve-year-old daughter, I always tell other parents that you only get to spend the first year keeping them safe. After that, your job is to make them dangerous. Well done, sir.

  19. That’s awesome. (Your wife sounds like an Amazon, and I mean that in a totally admiring way.) I’m a total ectomorph. I could lift til the end of time, and I’d never be truly muscular (although I could be strong by my own standards). Good thing there were dance classes–and I think I had to develop my charm in order to be picked on a P.E. team, since it wasn’t for my athletic ability!

  20. It seems like your family will do well during the zombie apocalypse :)
    I don’t think you caught typical dudebro ribbing though. They just hate your guts and will stop at nothing to insult you.

  21. Shoeshineman:

    I am aware they hate me, of course. It’s why I enjoy antagonizing them from time to time, and then otherwise not thinking about them at all.

  22. Ah trolling the trolls, but does does that hammer hand just get bored?

  23. Really this demonstrates less that you are Secure with strong women than that you are yourself far below the threshold of competence for all these tasks. But i’m sure you’ll pretend you love the attention.

  24. NateM:

    That’s adorable.

    Not exactly world-class trolling, though. Hardly twitched my Mallet hand.


    I thought it up a while ago, having not seen it elsewhere, but I will note other people thought of it before I did. I just wasn’t aware of it.

  25. If your offspring don’t pass you on at least a few things, you’re not doing your job as a parent correctly, as far as I’m concerned.

    My 16 year old daughter is working on her third-level black belt in taekwondo. She’s taught herself braille, sign language and morse code. She’s memorized about 600 digits of pi, because she wanted to. My wife and I aren’t slouches (we met while getting our PhDs from MIT), but our daughter’s way ahead of us in certain areas. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  26. The only way Nate’s comment makes sense is if it’s completely impossible for any woman to be any more than just barely at the mere threshold of competence at any of those tasks. Which is, on the face of it, laughable.

  27. This comes at an excellent time. I just read an online conversation (in response to a TED talk about street harassment) in which too many of the participants insisted that “males’ are inherently attracted to beauty and “females” to power.

    It’s good to see something written by an articulate, evolved man so soon after.

  28. As a mom raising two daughters and two sons (with their father), I salute you. I think you are among the most manly of men. Thank you, my sons need role models and you make a fabulous one.

  29. I appreciated reading this encomium to the women in your life. It’s something I would like to see more men doing enthusiastically.

    What seems so striking to me is that there’s a lot about their skills and abilities, not just how they look.

  30. Congratulations to the Scalzi women on their achievements! John, congrats on catching your wife and convincing her that you are worth keeping around. Also on raising a great daughter.

    Eventually you will worry more about carrying in the gorceries, not pumping iron!

    Happy Summer, 2014! Here’s hoping no Derecho this summer, the last one sucked for so many people.

  31. You may very well surpass her in weight lifted. Each of the three powerlifting lifts have a technique to be learned. For me, it took a while to get the correct foot placement with squats before I could get proper form and my squat weights close to my deadlifts. Also, your body goes through a period of recruitment where your muscles learn to really work hard. You’ll typically increase your weights quickly at first, and then plateau. After six months or so, you really begin to grow muscle.

    The YMCA is a pretty bad place to lift. Our Y is full of muscleheads. They tend to hog the squat racks to do curls, which is a double sin in my book. When I was in powerlifting, I worked out in my garage. It was dangerous to do alone, but you have Athena to work with you.

    My father and I lifted weights together at home when I was Athena’s age. It was a good bonding experience. The only piece of equipment that would be tough or expensive to get is a squat rack. You can get a weight bench cheap at Play-It-Again Sports, and Dunham’s usually has a sale on 300 lb olympic weight sets for $100.

    Also, I posted this about 18 months ago here.

    Is Athena still powerlifting? I know that someone already mentioned powerlifting. When I was Athena’s age, my father and I lifted weights together. It was a good bonding experience.

    As far as the dude-bros go, just hang out with the powerlifters and they’ll leave you alone. I’ve never met a dude-bro at a powerlifting meet.

  32. Chris Sears:

    One of the nice things about working at home (and Athena being on summer vacation) is that we can go to the Y during the work day, when there is almost no one else there. And when there have been other people in there with us they have been uniformly nice. So far, anyway.

  33. Other comment aside Scalzi, it IS to be commended to better yourself/ improve your health. I’d agree with Chris, the hardcore weightlifters aren’t as bad as you might think, usually once you get to know them they’re friendly helpful dudes. (of course not ALL but you’d be surprised).

  34. Admit it, you married an amazon and fathered another so you can hide behind them when the Zombie Apocalypse happens.

  35. Martin:

    Athena has been hoping for the zombie apocalypse for years. If it happens, I’m inclined to tell her, “Well, this is what you wanted, right? Have fun. I’ll be inside with a book.”

  36. Out of curiosity, why the term “dudebros”?

    I ask this because, well, bros don’t read Science Fiction, and certainly don’t tweet at sci-fi authors. The closest thing to nerdyness they come is things like playing Call of Duty with their buddies while guzzling beer and/or watching football while talking about cars, or something.

    Do you mean neckbeards? Fedoras? The wierd strain of nerds that think they’re alpha-males when they’re really just fat quivering lumps? (I don’t have a term for them, other than “assholes”, but I guess that is too general for use here)

    Just saying, most guys who say “Dude, Bro” probably don’t even know you exist, and probably have never picked up a book since high school,

  37. I was just joking to her today about the fact that if she lived 10,000 years ago, she would run down gazelles on the savannah because, like the Terminator, she would just keep coming..

    Yeah, but could she beat up China Mieville?

  38. That’s a good place to be, knowing what you’re good at, knowing what your bad at, and knowing where you kick ass. Some people never learn that little lesson.

  39. I was just joking to her today about the fact that if she lived 10,000 years ago, she would run down gazelles on the savannah because, like the Terminator, she would just keep coming..

    Interesting factoids: long-distance running is indeed our species’ only purely physical advantage over other animals. So chasing after gazelles or whatever until the prey just got too tired to outrun us anymore was precisely what our ancestors did to stay alive.

    Also: long-distance running is one of the few areas where women, on average, perform equally or sometimes (in extremely long distance races) outperform men.

  40. I would happily accept some education on how a dude like me…..who is kinda a dude like you….can woo/win-over/charm a gal like you have….. I bet i bench even less than you……(he sobs)…..

  41. MRAL:

    Krissy is actually friends with China. Beating him up is probably not in the cards.

    Everyone else:

    I’m heading to sleep now and turning off comments for the evening, so I will not have to clear out troll spoor in the morning. I’ll reopen comments when I wake up. Have a good night!

    Update: Comments back on.

  42. If Athena’s into fitness blogs at all, might I suggest she take a look at Kat Whitfield’s Making Sense of Modern Fitness and/or Fit and Feminist? Both have a great approach to being a woman and an athlete and are highly supportive of “women lifting heavy things”; I’ve learned a lot from reading them.

  43. Men who require women to be dumb and submissive arm-candy tend to be showy, loud, all-hat-no-cattle types who are worthless in any actual bad situation. In my experience, men who are partnered with smart/strong/capable women tend to be pretty awesome themselves, but they don’t need to climb the nearest lamppost and shout about it. I feel bad for the dudebros, who are basically saying that the only women who will have them are incompetent.

  44. Such silliness. We have an active family. I’m a black belt in karate. My oldest son is a black belt in karate. My wife is a 1st-degree brown belt in karate. I bike. I lift. My wife lifts and bikes and runs. My youngest son, 16, is a varsity swimmer, runner, and a major lifter. It’s a joke to compare us. My wife can out-run me. My oldest son’s approach to karate is very different from mine and has expertise in areas different from mine. I can’t even do the butterfly and my youngest son has school records in the butterfly. I might be able to out lift him on something basic like a chest press, but then all I have to do is watch him do unassisted chin-ups in a pike position. Dudebros, there’s ALWAYS someone stronger. Sometimes it’s your kid or wife.

  45. “Should it be a surprise that my daughter, who has been on a powerlifting team for three years and has taken medals at competition, can lift more than I, who has not seen the inside of a weight room since high school?”

    That can’t be answered without knowing how much she can lift.

    It would be surprising because men generally have a higher strength baseline than teenage girls.

  46. As a father of two (now mostly-grown) girls, I love the article and the ideas expressed. I’m commenting, though, because I’m still chuckling at “testerical”. I’ve never seen that one before, but now I’m thinking of ways to work it into conversation this week :)

  47. Mr. Scalzi, you are just about the luckiest dude in the world, you know that?

    On another note, my mother, who’s in her mid-40s, has an autoimmune condition, and can’t eat basically anything but soymilk and certain gluten-free crackers without severe indigestion, can outrun, outlift, and basically out-anything me.

    And I’m fine with that. I’m a 17-year-old straight white dude (almost 18), and I don’t care. I prefer books, rocks, and really old bones.

    (I should note that I’m no slouch in the physical department either; I can bench-press about a hundred pounds and I’ve been doing half-marathons since I was 14. My PR is just over 2 hours)

    Anyway. Long, half-awake story short, I am laughing my pants off at the pathetic dudebros, and I’m ridiculously envious of Our Host.

    And Mr. Scalzi, I don’t know HOW you keep the guys away from your daughter. She’s…well, a girl who has good aim, wins powerlifting trophies, and can write well? That’s, like, EVERYTHING worthwhile, man.

  48. Josh: men are “generally” taller than women, but it’s not “surprising” that Krissy is taller than John.

  49. It’s not John Scalzi’s to keep the guys away from his daughter. It’s her job to decide which of all these guys she wants around her, and to send the rest away.

  50. @Floored by… : “And Mr. Scalzi, I don’t know HOW you keep the guys away from your daughter. She’s…well, a girl who has good aim, wins powerlifting trophies, and can write well?”

    Obviously I’m not speaking for Scalzi (nor for Athena), but it seems like you answered your own question. I’m guessing she’s generally pretty capable of keeping them away herself if she wants.

    Also, most dudebro type are probably scared away by her. (Though of course that’s not how they’d rationalize it.) So there’s a certain amount of convenient self-selection that happens.

  51. @ Mr. Scalzi: Sorry, sir.

    Heh. Now that I’m awake and I’ve had some tea (caffeine, it is the stuff of heaven), I want to go back and edit that last comment so that it actually MAKES SENSE.

  52. Just writing to comment that your post was great. All fathers should want their children to do better than themselves, all husbands should want wives with talents that they don’t have, and we (husbands/fathers) should recognize their talents and accomplishments. This post made me think again about the wonderful things about my kids and wife that so often I overlook. Thank you for returning my attention to some of the things that make the people I love great.

  53. The testerical (love that word) aren’t just threatened by women, they are threatened by anyone who can do anything better than them, it’s just that (gasp. shock horror) if one of the feak and weeble womens can do anything better than them, it invalidates their false feeling of superiority so they must be destroyed. It upsets the natural balance in their fedora, or something.

    And as for the basic competence above – yeah, I’ll be sure to mention that to the woman at work who runs sub 2.40 marathons as she blasts past me in the park. I’m sure that will go down well.

    My wife is awesome, too. She puts up with me, for a start :)

  54. As someone who started weight training at about the age you are now, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

  55. I have the most marginal sympathy for the dudebros and their ilk who have these issues with what a Man Should And Shouldn’t Be. The world, happily, has changed a lot. Huge domains that used to be their exclusive playgrounds are now shared equally and they have a lot fewer ways they can point to and say “this is what it means to be a man,” something they’ve been well indoctrinated to believe is significant.

    The obvious solution to this “problem,” of course, is to say why does it matter if there’s ANYTHING that you can point to that makes someone a “man” at all, other than our dangly bits? (And for our trans friends, not even that) The wimmins can lift, earn, run, fight, belch.. and what the shit difference does it make outside of anyone’s preconceived notions and invisible framework?

    It’s not an excuse for them to be such jackasses, but the social constructs about gender run deep, and it’s an order of magnitude harder for humans to question an underlying question rather than just shove the deck chairs around. People will argue for a long time about the way to solve a problem before they even question whether something IS a problem.

    Thankfully plenty of people, including your family, are just demonstrating that this way Works Better and we’re just going to out-evolve them. A shame they make so much annoying noise as they sink into the tarpits.

  56. I usually like you quite a lot, but today I love you just a little bit for your use of “testerical.”

  57. Congrats on your daughter lifting and winning competitions! Only started lifting (or any exercising for that matter) 18 mos ago. First day (Starting Strength book), I could only manage 3 body weight squats. But unlike previous exercise attempts (gym machines, running, biking), I kept with it. Turns out that’s the real trick: keep doing it. Two weeks ago, squatted my body weight (1 goal!), dead lifted 2x body weight (2nd goal), and– ok, need to work on my bench press. Is still just 60% body weight.

    Thing I’m most proud of (not losing 10 lbs and 6″ around waist) is that I’m still doing it. I decided that, just like making coffee in morning and brushing teeth regularly, I would be lifting weights for the rest of my life. I may have peaked at this point (46 years old) but I’m still upping my goals: 3x bodyweight deadlift and 2x bodyweight squat. Gotta keep striving for something in life.

    Oh yeah: I work with my wife running super computers. She has a memory for details, past fixes, people and who does what and can fix x, y, or z that is unreal! Me, I can figure out problems pretty good from existing data points but am frequently rediscovering a previous solution. Together, we make a perfect problem solving team.

  58. “The obvious solution to this “problem,” of course, is to say why does it matter if there’s ANYTHING that you can point to that makes someone a “man” at all, other than our dangly bits?”

    Because testosterone can be either a powerfully destructive or powerfully constructive force. A society that fails to tell its young boys “this is what it means to be a man” is choosing to not channel their energies towards constructive activities. To me that’s one of the reasons this is the “end of men” per Hanna Rosin.

  59. If I have a daughter, I hope that she’ll be able to out-lift me. I would be proud as hell.

    I feel that this quote is somehow appropriate for this thread.

    “There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” – Homer

    May you continue to confound the dudebros and delight your friends, Scalzis.

  60. “Dudebro”, “dudebrah”, –time for a religious war.

    But the proper spelling is j.a.c.k.a.s.s.

  61. This is a message for John’s Daughter: You have an ethical responsibility to get your father into shape. Lets face it, he isn’t getting any younger. It would be morally wrong for you to let him decline and keep going the way he has been going. You clearly understand physical activity and training. Training also includes diet. Since you are home for the summer its time to crack the whip. No diet coke, no sweets, no greesy food. Egg whites only. Lots of kale. Cottage Cheese. Cauliflower (boiled only to maintain nutrients). He needs to eat heart healthy.

    He seems to ‘sit’ alot. You really need to get him out of his chair and start moving. I recommend a whistle and a bullhorn. Just to make sure you have his attention. You could try the Homer Simpson route, get a large stick, put a string on it, and tie a donut to it. Then he can chase the donut. Look at it like exercising the dog.

    You owe this to your father and your family. Its for his own good. He may cry and complain that he is in pain. He is just exaggerating. Guys are like that. We like to talk about our scars. Also, puking from a lot of cardio is very healthy for guys as they get older. Its gets the toxins out of their bodies. Remember, this is for his own good. This is how you show the world you love your father.

  62. I married a Marne. She is better with rifles; I am better with pistols.

    When we were dating, and i learned she was a (former) Marine, that was two things on the critical list: had to do something with her life; had to be strong willed. We do not marry weak women into our family – they do not last.

    My son can do amazing things with technology – better than me in some areas, and I do embedded systems. He is a much better writer that his parents.

    I love both of them, Rock On, Brother Scalzi!

  63. I would be remiss not to link to this, which is mandatory in any discussion about lifting on the internets.

  64. I really don’t miss the era when mothers whispered to their daughters “Just let him win, dear.”

  65. Out of curiosity, why the term “dudebros”?

    I thought this was a just pretty funny term, until I had a rather bad experience in Chicago last summer. I was there for work and took the opportunity to knock one off the bucket list. I got myself a really nice seat at Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs get beat by whoever was beating the Cubs that day.

    The guys behind me sounded like this:

    “Dude! Do you remember when we were in college and we were so cool!?”

    “Bro! Man, we were the coolest people around! We could lift! And the chick still dig a guy that lifts!”

    And they never shut up. Not once. NEVER. Seven innings of them yapping into the back of my head about how awesome they were! Dude!

    We got to the seventh inning stretch, and I left, wondering if Scalzi had identified art imitating life, or the other way around.

    As a note, 40+ year old men should not wear ball caps backwards like the kids do. The kids shouldn’t, either, but I’ll forgive ’em for their youthful indiscretion.

  66. I’m all for channeling energies and setting expectations, Josh, but why does that have to be done in a way that distinguishes the folks with asymmetric chromosomes as personalities or people any different than women? You can identify different hormonal drives and issues if necessary – which I am not really convinced of – without saying that their fully-formed state has to be something different.

    Rosin’s “end of men” stuff reminds me of the things David Lozell Martin says about black and white fragmentation and how the poor could think that no matter what they were at least better than a [redacted]. The idea that men aren’t something if they’re not better or different than women in some way strikes me as a very sad thought. The idea that it’s an age better suited for any gender seems to me to keep up the unnecessary binary.

  67. I love how specific your list is, because it shows that you appreciate Krissy and Athena themselves. The title of your post in my RSS feed made me wonder if it was going to be full of benevolent sexism. So very happy that it was not.

  68. Lamont Cranston:

    I am sooooo tempted to say “The Shadow knows.”

    My answer: I don’t know, actually. It’s summer. School is a haze.

  69. I’m currently dating a woman who has a mind that amazes me. Nearly every time I spout off a bit obscure trivia, she already knows about it and adds details that I did not know. I’m not threatened by that in the least. I think it’s kind of sexy.

    If you have never been with a partner who challenges you, either on a physical or intellectual level or BOTH!, you don’t know what you’re missing.

    (She’s probably stronger than me too, buts she’s cute and has big boobs, so that doesn’t bother me at all. Alas, I’m still a man who likes to look at tall women with big boobs.)

  70. I loved this.

    My 4 year old daughter just beat me at Mario Kart for the first time this past weekend. I couldn’t be prouder. I will readily admit that lifting and gaming are probably not equivalent life skills. Also, I might be a nerd.

  71. Heh, who knew – people are different and have different skills.

    It would be boring if we were all identikit Kens and Barbies wouldn’t it?

  72. I’m so glad to see this post. So many people want to “win the competition” but that’s not the point.

    Children SHOULD be better than their parents. Students should get better than their teachers. Employees should get better than their bosses.

    As a parent, teacher, and boss, my main job is to give them a head start so that they don’t have to take the time to screw up all the ways I have. That’s how we progress as a species. I’m always so surprised and saddened to hear teachers say, “Oh, no, I think they’re better than I am.” That’s the WHOLE point! And as parents, if we insist that our children be no better than we are, that’s a recipe for going backwards.

    And choosing mates/partners/coworkers that are better than you at some things shows intelligence. If I’m better at everything, why don’t I just go out on my own?

    I’m sure they appreciate you for your amazing qualities as well. Your family seems to complement each other well.

  73. I really wanted to add “Its OK because you’re the pretty one” but realized that it might not come off as the sarcastic joke it was meant to be, full of the sort of fake soothing women often get. So I’ll stomp on the joke by explaining it in the comment.

  74. So Dudebros are all Peter Griffin? Always makes me think of this scene:

    Joe : Face it Peter, sooner or later you’re going to have to pass the torch. I remember the first time Kevin beat me. Ha. I was so proud of him. I gave him a little congratulatory punch in the arm. And then another. And then everything got a little hazy. Kevin went to live with a foster family for a while… Anyway, its inevetitable.
    Peter: Aw don’t feel bad Joe. I, I, I think I know why your son beat you. A-Ap-Apparently you’re a twelve year old prepubescent girl. Wh-Which is good, cause I finally have someone to give this training bra to. Here you go Josefina. [putting the bra on Joe] Does that feel good on your new budding bosoms? Ahaha eh?
    Joe: Get the hell off of me!

  75. My dad–career Marine, now retired–still brags that I can outshoot him. I was 12 or 13 the first time I consistently did so, and when we realized it, he got all choked up, hugged me, and told me how proud he was of me. It’s one of my most cherished memories. He’s a big, ol’, manly-man, still called “Gunny” by family and friends, and he has always celebrated his daughters’ accomplishments and rooted us on, encouraging us to surpass our parents, in all ways. As a result, I measure all men by him. Dude-bros don’t even come close.

  76. @Jerome

    Right, they’re pretty annoying and dumb. At sporting events or at the movies, where they always have to comment on everything. I wasn’t disagreeing with that at all.

    I’m just saying, Bros don’t read science fiction. They’ve never heard of Scalzi and don’t even know he’s alive. So it’s always a little wierd to see him talking about “dudebros”.

    @mintwich. Your dad sounds awesome. But there are plenty of combat vets who are rather misogynist and have pretty backwards, medieval views about women. That doesn’t make them any less brave/manly/heroic for defending our country than any other veteran. (Matt Best, the Ranger who does the funny youtube vids, would be an example)

    It’s possible to be two contradictory things at the same time. To have to extremely admirable and extremely detestable qualities, in the same person.

  77. MrManny:

    Apparently you’re unaware of the number of sexist manchildren who read science fiction, and know perfectly well who I am. To which I say: Lucky you!

  78. Your daughter also has you beat in the category of “number of Grateful Dead songs named after her”

  79. This is what being a real man is all about. Not mindless posturing and insulting, but encouraging the people you love to be the best people that they can be.Thank you, John, for writing about this. It is a lesson that I will keep in mind as I raise my son (due in December!)

  80. Why is this the slightest bit controversial?

    Needing to be strong to be a real man went out with the invention of the lever and fulcrum.

  81. Just so those dudebros understand, women being better than males at supposed male activities is nothing new. Back in the the 1930’s as a child, my mother was a much better shot with a rifle than her brother. My grandpa loved the fact that she knew how to handle herself. Grandma used to have a fit because it wasn’t fittin’ for young girls to be shooting rifles. heh.

    also dud-bros, since you so manly, climb in a cage with Gina Carano.

  82. John, Dude(dudebro intentional)… the guys posting this stuff are just doing it for marketing to get eyeballs on their blog. I know you know this which is why you don’t post links to them. I doubt they really care. They are just playing up the ‘rage’ as marketing. Its the same thing that Jim Hines does to Larry Correia. Drives eyeballs to his site. We are at about 100 posts of people going all liberal on this. The liberals have made their point. Those guys suck. They are evil, evil sexists and big meanies too! You have successfully defended John’s honor.

    Now… lets redirect this to some non-sexist needling of Scalzi. Lets engage in some peer pressure to get John to allow his daughter to be his personal trainer for the summer and get John into shape. She can get him ready for a triathlon in the fall or at a minimum shuffleboard season(see picture of Scalzi’s new birthday shoes).

    Look if John wants to show that he is a true feminist he will recognize that his wife and daughter are in much better shape than he is. He is slacking. Is it really fair that his wife has to open all the peanut butter jars? Scalzi is really just pawning off work. He should show that he is a true feminist and allow his outstanding female family members to create a rigorous and hardcore training regime to get John into shape. If he doesn’t do this it shows that he is just pretending to be a feminist. A man truly in touch with his feminine side will not be afraid to allow them to train him to get him into top notch and outstanding shape. Then he would record the training on youtube to show the world he is a true feminist and is not ashamed to show how hard it is. Its ok if John cries due to the pain. He is a real man.

    seriously guys… we covered this to death. This would be way more fun…

  83. Guess:

    Inasmuch as my daughter is already my workout partner I’m not sure you’re really suggesting anything more than she’s already doing. Also, I think you will be utterly unsurprised to find that Athena’s opinion about anyone who is not directly engaged in her life suggesting that she do anything matches very closely my own, i.e., “who are you and why do I care what you think, exactly?” So, I would not recommend attempting “peer pressure.” It will not do what you think it will do.

    Likewise, I’m well aware of the reasons the various status-anxious howler monkeys do what they do as regards me. You should recognize I occasionally have fun poking them with sticks, especially when it serves my purposes to make a point. You are free to ignore the posts in which I do this, of course; no one’s forcing you to drag your eyeballs across them. I don’t mind if you skip them entirely.

  84. @DigitalAthiest

    Gina’s old news, man. Ronda Rousey is the new queen of face-punching and arm-breaking.

  85. “Needing to be strong to be a real man went out with the invention of the lever and fulcrum.”

    Some would disagree, and others would disagree that there even needs to be a definition of a “real man”.

  86. Roleholes: self-proclaimed arbiters of the behavior of others who become upset and mouthy when said others do not conform to their expectations.

  87. “Athena’s opinion about anyone who is not directly engaged in her life suggesting that she do anything matches very closely my own, i.e., “who are you and why do I care what you think, exactly?” ”

    Applause. That is all.

  88. Watch out for those YMCA body-pump classes; I tried to lift as much as the little old Asian lady in front of me and now I need shoulder surgery!

  89. I suppose that one isn’t worth kittening. Sigh. It’s been a while since there has been a good kittening.

  90. Possibly too far afield, if so I apologize, but this kept reminding me of a post a read not too long ago about gender-swapping comic books.
    For some reason, the poster and comments kept suggesting that it would work BUT only if they find some way for a male love interest to be somehow equivalent to the superhero or add some kind of power dynamic where you didn’t when the exact same character was a woman.

    There are so many ways to be strong and it’s stupid to hold a definition that cuts out most of them. There are so many ways for different kinds of strength to work together that’s it’s foolish and limiting to believe that only one dynamic works.
    And, most of all, it’s flat illogical to believe that one gender should or does have a monopoly on any kind of strength. That’s as true of real people (and authors) as it is of superheroes.

    Also reminds me of the ill-fated would-be boyfriend in college who told me things would work better if I let him “know things first sometimes and not embarrass him.” I suggested the better solution was for him to get better informed if it bothered him. Turns out we weren’t made for each other.

  91. Too funny. For pretty much everyone out there, there is ALWAYS someone (usually many someone’s) who are better at EVERYTHING you do. Given that fact, at least some of those better people are going to be of the opposite gender. So, yes, there are plenty of women who can outlift every one of the bros that tried to mock you. You just happen to have one in the house.

  92. Well, hear hear. You know, I hear athletic teens are often strong, and fast too.

    I love the word ‘testerical’. You may not have been the first to use it, but this is the first time I remember seeing it. And it should be used everywhere.

    As for the writing…the late Judy Harrow used to say that the teacher’s job is complete when the student surpasses them. I’m sure you haven’t been prouder of Athena since she sprang from your forehead was born!

    mintwitch, that’s wonderful. What great dad!

  93. I have nothing to add except to say that it is always a joy to read teh stuff you write about your family, and how much YOUR joy in your family comes shining through every word of it. Beyond that, I think “dudebros” are best left to fester in the soup of their own devising. Cheering both you AND Athena on in the weightlifting department. You’re BOTH better than I will ever be. :)

  94. This is really meant for Miles Archer – Do you mind if I use “Needing to be strong to be a real man went out with the invention of the lever and fulcrum?”
    I might change “man” to “engineer”. My students need to hear this.
    I’m linking to the whole story but most people are afraid of comments and won’t read that far.

  95. This reminds me of Nike’s “run like a girl” ads (wasn’t always running, IIRC). Usually I would object to describing females over the age of about 18 a “girls,” in this case using the taunt just made it better. I wish I could run like Jackie Joyner-Kersee or even Mia Hamm.

  96. Now, no doubt the status-anxious dudebros will delight in my shocking admissions here, because they are silly little boys who apparently think that a man who can happily live with, and help raise, women who are better at various things than he is (including things they entirely erroneously suppose to be inherently masculine) must be therefore weak and inferior and girly.

    Now, much as I hate to admit to having ever read any Piers Anthony (I was young, and foolish, and had but a peanut for a brain), there’s one bit he wrote that stuck with me as making a really really good point. During a musical competition, the individual musicians had to perform a duet. Due to this duet, one of them demonstrated a great improvement in an already high ability; the professional judges awarded the point to the other musician.

    The reason being that the purpose of the duet was not to show how great the individual was, but how well they worked with others. Their success was marked by the OTHER person’s improved performance.

    Having a child that exceeds you isn’t a blow to your masculinity; it’s a demonstration of your parenting. You have to be a complete idiot crippled by anxiety over your own inadequacy to think otherwise.

  97. “these sad, frantic lumps of manflesh are proclaiming that a man who is pleased to share his life with women who are strong and smart and capable, and who has no problem acknowledging when their skills are superior to his, is somehow actually lesser for it. This should tell you all you need to know about the intelligence and sensibleness of such a world view.”

    Oh, mostly it tells me a lot about the women (if any) who choose these men.

  98. Linus Torvalds (original creator of the Linux operating system kernel) is married to a six-time Finnish national karate champion. Somehow, despite being married to a woman who can almost certainly *literally* break him in two, he managed to remain “manly” enough to have three lovely daughters. And chances are high, given their mother, that they are or will be able to break him in half too. :)

    I mention this in part because of the obvious analogy with John’s situation, but also because I’m hoping this will inspire any dudebros and their ilk who read this to stay *far away* from Linux and the Linux community! Bad enough they’re infesting some parts of the SF community I grew up in. Dudes: Linux is for guys who like strong women, and the women that love them! :D

  99. This is my favorite story about my dad: In 1965, my parents had three kids under the age of four, including me. My dad worked nights, and had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. On his days off, he told my mom to go out, visit friends, or do whatever she wanted without children. Dad watched us all day, fed us, bathed us, and yes, changed diapers. Keep in mind that these were not wussy-ass Pampers, either. These were cloth diapers complete with pins and plastic pants. My dad was in his 20s at the time. Rather than be concerned about what anyone might think of him, he only wanted to share in the care of his children any way he could.

    In 1965, Dad’s actions were considered unusual. I am heartened by the majority of the comments here, and I am pleased to think about the upcoming generation of girls being so lovingly raised to be confident and exceptional women.

  100. Turning off comments for the night; they’ll be back on in the morning.

    Update: One problem with turning off comments for the night is sometimes I forget to turn them back on. Whoops. They’re back on now.

  101. You should send this to Sheryl Sandberg. If she writes an updated edition to Lean In, it should be included as an example of an evolved male, who is a great example for his daughter.

  102. Update: One problem with turning off comments for the night is sometimes I forget to turn them back on. Whoops. They’re back on now.

    I did wonder about that.

  103. I applaud y’all being indifferent to peer pressure – it rarely comes from a good place – but in this case, I think the motivations are fairly clear.

    1. Scalzi readers want Scalzi to keep on being around to write stuff for a long, long time.

    2. Mildly sadistic teasing of the people you like is still kind of fun when the underlying motivation is more positive than mean-spirited.

    So yes, I’m also happy to vicariously encourage some health related whip-crackings from the Internet peanut gallery, for whatever fraction of 0.02 they’re worth as an expression of “Please stay on this planet and keep writing”.

    This said, I bet an experienced powerlifter who loves you already has that stuff covered pretty well, and you don’t need anyone else to school you since it’s clear you respect her expertise.

  104. Wow, I thought you just decided you’d had enough of this thread. Of course it only happens with threads you need to watch closely, because they’re the ones whose comments you turn off for the night!

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