I’ll admit it: I used to be different. A real guy’s guy, more interested in knocking back a few beers with my buddies at the local tavern and politely complimenting the barmaid on her perky honkers than I was in watching women’s gymnastics, or reading Elena Ferrante. But then something happened that changed my life forever.
The miracle of childbirth—the sublime beauty of the womb in action; the searing power of a new life to irrevocably alter the way one sees the world—is impossible to understand for anyone who hasn’t been there themselves. That includes me: I am not a father. But based on what I’ve learned from my friends who have taken the plunge into parenthood (I respect them greatly), I believe I had a similar experience three weeks ago, when I accidentally chose the “female” style avatar for my Pokémon Go character, instead of the “male” avatar.
I did not understand the significance of the moment until much later. First, I was just angry and confused. Would I have to give my character a sweatshirt that was lavender or pink, the colors that girls like? Would she be weak, frightened, prone to bouts of hysteria? Would she swoon and lose her composure upon seeing a handsome Pokémon like Machoke? How would she perform on the battlefield during her time of the month?
Reluctantly, I set about customizing the look of my character. While I couldn’t help but notice the round shape of her sweet meat balloons as I swiped through the available outfits, I also found something unexpected. There were maroon clothes for her to wear, and blue, and a bold electric yellow. She wore not a teensy-weensy dainty little bow in her hair, but a baseball cap, the brim curved like a major league pitcher’s. Could it be that she was capable of more than looking pretty and dancing the French ballet? I was not yet ready to consider the possibility, and I hurriedly put the thought out of my mind.
I named my character BreastyBazoingasBabe9—a chauvinistic choice I’ve come to deeply regret—and went out in search of some Pokémon. My first stop was the local park where I play touch football with my buddies on weekends. I came across a Nidoran. Something simpler might have been more BBB9's speed—a Doduo, say, or Zubat—but I decided to give it a shot. Together, BBB9 and I tossed our first Pokéball, and missed. Small wonder. We tossed another: same result. Ready to give up on the game entirely, I tossed one more ball out of sheer frustration, and to my great surprise, BBB9 scored a direct hit. The Pokémon was ours! (Later, I noticed that my clever little girl had bagged a male Nidoran, no less.)
This unexpected victory, I think, was my first step on the path to becoming the male feminist I so proudly am today. But before I got there, I still had a few more lessons to learn.
A few days, later, I met up with my buddies at the touch football park to play Pokémon Go together—the first time I’d revealed BBB9 to the world. Oh, how they whistled and jeered! “Baby, I’d like to get a closer look at those juicy cantaloupes on your chest!” howled my best friend Steve. “Hey toots: I’ve got two extra Pokéballs I can give you, for a price, if you know what I’m saying!” chimed my second-best friend Mark. Ordinarily, I’d encourage this kind of behavior in my buddies, even give them a high-five. Lord knows I’d said the same sorts of things to the trusty barmaid countless times. (As I mentioned before, I am unfailingly courteous and polite in my flirtations, and I am still wrestling with whether it is acceptable to publicly compliment the barmaid on her sweet bahama mamas, so long as I am not crude about it. Feminism is a journey, not a destination, and even a good man like myself must tread carefully.)
I was surely just as surprised as Steve and Mark were when I heard the words coming out of my mouth. “Stop it!” I shrieked at them. “BreastyBazoingasBabe9 is more than a pair of hoo-ha’s. She’s a real person, and I respect her.”
I’d undergone a transformation without even knowing it. BBB9 had challenged my assumptions: first about women’s style of dress, then about their ability to perform the types of serious tasks that I’d always thought of as man’s work, such as entrapping and training imaginary monsters. The fact is that before I brought a woman of my own into this world, it was hard for me to see the struggles of being a woman, to understand their strength and inner beauty. Frankly, I’m not sure how any man who hasn’t accidentally selected a female avatar instead of a male one on Pokémon Go could possibly understand it.
Since that outburst to my buddies, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading. I nearly cancelled my Playboy subscription, until I learned that they would no longer be publishing nude photographs, a decision I applaud. I’ve taught myself to enjoy womanly things, like shopping and drinking white wine. I’ve stopped telling the joke that goes: Want to hear a good joke? (pause) The WNBA. I’ve thought about trimming my pubes. And it’s all because of my sweet BBB9, and the lessons she taught me.
I’ve been eager to talk to the barmaid with my new male feminist enlightenment, and I’ve made multiple entreaties to her about grabbing a drink together after her shift. I fantasize about the two of us sitting together, my gaze locked not on her incredible jugs, but her eyes, discussing the new Ghostbusters movie, which I thought was hilarious. She hasn’t accepted my offer yet, but now that my eyes have been opened to this new world, I can see clearly that anything is possible between us. Maybe she’s a feminist too, and she will complain about sexism, and I will say, “I understand, thanks to my beautiful girl.” If I’m really lucky, she’ll do her part to throw out the ugly traditions of the patriarchy, just as I have done, and offer to pick up the tab.