Columns > Published on November 24th, 2017

How To Be A Dude, And Not Terrible

I love Game of Thrones and I used to use the joke valar morgulis (for those who don’t speak High Valyrian: all men must die) when discussing bad dude behavior. For example, I am walking my toddler to the bus stop and a man pulls up on the side of the road and shouts NICE PUSSY at me and my child.


This hashtag has gotten me temporarily banned from different social media platforms countless times because masculinity is fragile. A man publishes poorly-written rape fantasies about women and why can’t you just ignore it? If y’all can give a shit about me using a dumb hashtag and making a joke about misandry, you can give a shit about this.

—Diddle Knabb

Listen up, bros. We need to talk.

You may be thinking to yourself: Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose and Eddie Berganza and John Lasseter and Roy Moore. It’s a dangerous time to be a dude!

Well guess what?

You’re a dumb fucking asshole if you think that.

Seriously. It’s not a bad time for dudes. It’s a bad time for shitbirds.

This is, in fact, a great time for society, because the walls that have protecting powerful victimizers are tumbling down. No one is irreplaceable, and we have accepted this as a powerful truth.

Before the Weinstein story hit—the nudge that sent the stone tumbling down the hill—I was planning to write a piece for LitReactor about a toxic figure in the literary community. This dumb shitbird who wrote a collection of poetry imagining the rape and murder of several female writers who made him sad, or something. 

To my mind, it raised an interesting question: Was it worth calling him out?

Someone who does something that lame and shitty is obviously doing it for the attention. So to shine a spotlight on him is to pretty much give him what he wants, right?

Not that I think there’s going to be a rush on his shitty self-published book. Still, why give him the attention?

But I’ve been of the mind that if someone is a shitbird, I want to know. I don’t want to work with that person. I don't want to give money to that person. If I see that person at a conference, I don't want to shake his hand. 

At the same time, this isn’t my story. This story belongs to the women who were targeted. So I interviewed two of the woman featured in the collection—Leza Cantoral (author, head of Clash) and Diddle Knabb (publisher of Fem Rag Lit Mag). Plus my pal Tiffany Scandal (author of Shit Luck), who has dealt with a number of onerous fuckers in the lit community.

This sparked an editorial debate behind the scenes at LitReactor—whether we should publish a story like this. Whether it opened us up to legal issues or other problems. Whether we should leave well enough alone. 

Or if we should use our status as a public voice to bring attention to the issue.

Then shit kinda went sideways, with the passing of our tech lead, Kirk. In one of our last site-related conversations, he spoke in favor of writing this piece. He said it was important. Plus, I feel like I owe it to Leza and Diddle and Tiffany, who took the time to talk to me about a sensitive subject, and then I disappeared on them.

After the Weinstein news hit, the conversation changed. Names are being named almost daily. More of these stories are coming. It's like The Purge: Toxic Masculinity, except instead of a movie it's an ongoing television series with an open-ended commitment. While a lot of the attention has been paid to movies and news and media and television, we’re probably about due some reckoning in the publishing world.

So, dudes, back to what I was saying—let’s talk. Some self-flagellating dweeb asked Diddle Knabb on her page, wondering what we can possibly do to make things better. It was an immensely stupid question to ask but I’m going to answer it anyway.

‘Cause if I didn’t have to answer it we wouldn’t be where we are, would we?

Read and champion diverse books

Consider the last ten books you read. If they were all written by white dudes, you have some work to do. If more than 75 percent were written by white dudes... you could do better. And I don’t just mean reading women. Read minority authors and LGBTQ authors, too. Read authors who look and think different from you. Trust me when I say it’ll make you not just a better writer, but a better person.

Champion diversity in all areas

Are you editing an anthology and your TOC is all dudes? Work harder. Are you putting together panels on a conference and you’re sticking in random women here and there because you feel like you have to hit a quota? Work harder. Just work fucking harder. This isn’t about tokenism. This is about your ability to reflect the world around you. The way to do that is to present the world as it is: diverse AF.

Don’t show your dick

I can’t even believe I need to say this: Don’t show anyone your dick unless they’ve made it abundantly clear they want to see your dick. The reality is that 99 percent of people do not want to see your dick. It sucks that the dick pic has become the mating call of our modern times. We need a new one. Maybe just say 'hi', like you're not a dumb asshole. 

Consider your conference behavior

Conferences can be tough. It’s like sleepaway camp for adults, with booze. Sometimes shit gets silly. Sometimes people hook up and smoosh parts together. That’s fine, when it’s between consenting adults. Alcohol, though, can make things wonky. Have you ever drank too much and woken up and thought “Man I shouldn’t have done that thing I did last night”? Have you? Well then you have a drinking problem and you need to fucking drink less. Seriously, getting drunk is not an excuse. If you’re getting so shitfaced that you lose control, you shouldn’t be getting shitfaced in a group setting. Sorry! Get yourself some water in a rocks glass, pretend it’s vodka, and spare everyone your bullshit.

Call out shitbirds

His name is Jay Sizemore. The guy with the poetry collection that I mentioned earlier. Fuck Jay Sizemore. See how easy that was? You see the dude, avoid him. He’s a sad little coward who does lame shit for attention. Now you know, if you see the guy out and about, he’s a piece of shit, feel free to walk the other way.

Don't write poetry collections imagining the rape and murder of women in the literary community

There's 'art' and there's 'what the fuck is wrong with you?!?' Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you?!?

Call out your friends

This is an important one. And it’s a hard one. But it has to be done. There is a very real chance someone you love could be a shitbird. They get a load on and get a little handsy. They say inappropriate shit they think is clever but is in reality creepy and fucked up. Step up. Call them on it. Don’t apologize for them. Don’t protect them. Set an example. Be better.

As per Diddle: 

Men, you really need to step up here. Women cannot be the only ones demanding respect and equality—all the while being harassed for it! Asking women to teach you how not to be a misogynist is not okay. Educate yourself. Do your own emotional labor. Don’t invite the one coworker who rates women’s breasts to lunch. Make it uncomfortable for your friends to be problematic. Make yourself uncomfortable. Confronting our own complicity is terrible and growth hurts. It absolutely has to happen for things to be better.

Don't work with jerks

Is someone a jerk? Don't work with them. That's a pretty simple one. 

Keep your damn mouth shut and your damn hands to yourself

Most bad behavior—the inappropriate comments, the hand on the lower back, the dick showing—it takes effort. Nothing just happens. You make a decision and you do it. You exert effort. You know what’s easier? Not doing it. Not saying the thing. Not showing the dick. It is the path of least resistance.

Live in your truth

You are not suave. You are not a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm. Just because a woman speaks in a frank manner or shows a few square inches of skin does not mean she wants to fuck you. Just because she’s a woman does not mean she wants to fuck you. Not everyone wants to fuck you. If she wants to fuck you, you’ll know it. If it’s impossible for you to pick up on those signals, then have a long think about how you perceive things like sexuality and power dynamics.

Believe women

You know that woman who accused Roy Moore—a candidate for Senate whom our president supports!—of molesting her when she was 14-years-old? She's been harassed. Gotten death threats. Had to dredge up some pretty heinous shit from her past. Seems like the fame and fortune that comes with sexual assault claims have really eluded her! Seriously though, believe women. 

Rethink masculinity

This is a longer conversation but I am so tired of tough-guy bullshit. Seriously. The measure of your masculinity is not the circumference of your bicep, it is not the notches on your bed post, it is not your ability to crush your emotions down until they disappear. It is being open and honest. It is about doing the right thing, for yourself and the world around you. It's about wanting to do those things because they're right. Not because you have a daughter or a mother or a sister. They don't give you skin in the game. You have skin in the game because you're a human and you live in a society. Full stop. 

"But not ALL men…"

Fuck you. Shut up. You’re an idiot. We're all complicit. My dudes, all of us—every single one of us—has made at least one mistake. Has done or said something stupid or inappropriate. Has stood by while someone we know acted like a damn fool. We all have to atone. We all have to be better. 


I’ll let Tiffany finish this out:

I know that's almost silly to ask, because it's a very fundamental problem at the root of society, but... how do we be better about this?

We do better by listening. We let victims speak. And if we have the power to stand up and do something, we do it without thinking we’re some sort of fucking hero for taking action.

An issue I see constantly is a lot of well-intentioned people interrupting with anecdotes and solutions instead of listening. Like, it’s cool that you have ideas and you’re a total ally, but sometimes those ideas and ally-confirmations overpower the conversation and the victim feels like they can’t even get a word in.

And on that note... I'm done. 

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at

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