Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at Washingtonpost.com.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Sept. 14 2009 3:04 PM

Will Therapy Change His Woman-Bashing Ways?

Prudie counsels a woman with a sexist fiance—and other advice seekers.

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Emily Yoffe: But the letter writer observes he has that reaction only to women. And it's not clear that he is reacting badly to obnoxious women, just that he just finds assertive women (but not men) to be intolerable. The "b--ch" appellation is a give-away that there's a problem here.

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Bethesda, Md.: My daughter loves drawing very much, but every time she draws, her father will say "art is useless." That is definitely wrong and hurts my daughter's feelings.

How can I make my husband stop making comments like that?

Emily Yoffe: Is this the first inkling you've had that you're married to a troglodyte? It sounds as if your husband needs some parenting classes so that he can learn ways not to crush your daughter's spirit—ask at your school or look online for some recommendations. He also needs to start reading about being a father. Get him some books by T. Berry Brazelton, Penelope Leach, and Haim Ginott for the basics on being an encouraging, supportive force in your daughter's life.

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Anywhere, USA: Lately I have been dismayed by the tone that political "discussions" have taken. Perfect strangers get nasty with each other on public transportation, friends get rude at outings, etc. It isn't like I, too, don't have strong opinions about the hot topics of the day (health care and immigration), but man! I am so sick (and, frankly, embarrassed) by people's lack of civility that I don't know what to do. Any tips on how to either stop angry "discussions" or respond to people who want to engage me (or others) in a heated argument?

Emily Yoffe: Definitely move to the back of the car if someone on the subway starts ranting about immigrants or health care. I agree it is too bad that people can't engage in lively discussion—and learn something from one another—without having it degenerate into name-calling and sloganeering. When things start getting heated, call a time out and say, "I'm actually interested in the policy arguments of people who have viewpoints other than mine, but if we're going to start shouting at each other, neither of us is going to learn anything." Then, if that doesn't get things back on topic, just say you need to drop it, and look for a more neutral topic—but stay away from the weather unless you want to go at it over cap-and-trade.

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Winchester: Help! My husband and I have no money, and our anniversary is tomorrow. Any fun ideas to celebrate that don't involve money (or a lot of time to plan?). We also have to work, although we might be able to leave early. We are both out of ideas but feel the pressure to celebrate somehow.

Emily Yoffe: Let's see, what is it that a happily married couple can do together to celebrate their union that doesn't cost any money and can be done spontaneously when they get home from work? I'd better try to remember because my 15th anniversary is the day after tomorrow, and we haven't made any plans either.

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"And what's with saying you're not a feminist? I assume you believe women should be able to exercise their full capabilities in the world, which is the essence of feminism": Bless you for clarifying that, Emily! I can't tell you how many times I've heard young women say while they support equality, they're "not feminists"—someone has been very successful in creating a nasty definition of a basic good ideal.

Emily Yoffe: I agree it's unfortunate that "feminism" seems to have been hijacked to mean a certain set of political principles. I'd like to see more young women—of every political stripe—say they're feminists, instead of, "I'm not a feminist, but ..."

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New York: To Harrisburg: My father used to be a lot like your fiance, and my mother sometimes worried, too, about what would happen if they had daughters. Well, surprise, they had two, and my sister and I are two of the most assertive, feminist b----es you can imagine! And he loves us to pieces and cheers us on every step of the way. So, yeah, counseling is in order, but just wanted to give you some encouraging words!

Emily Yoffe: Let's hope the fiance here turns out to be a cheerleader for strong, assertive women like your father.

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Hurting, USA: My husband and I are separating. I know it's best for the family (we have a young son). It's hard but I can see the better days ahead.