Take Hitler (please). Yes, the guy definitely had some backwards ideas about genetics and race, and some pretty serious hatred, but this doesn't explain why the rest of the country followed along with this, does it? It helps to remember that Germany was poor as fuck at this time, and Hitler and everyone else was trying to survive. What would you do if you didn't have enough food? It makes sense to start a war, get the economy mobilized, and try to get your hands on some sweet, juicy Czech farmland. And, it also makes (COMPLETELY IMMORAL AND TOTALLY EVIL) sense to lower your population numbers a bit.
A lot of situations can be read this way. Paul Collier has taken some flak for suggesting that perhaps rebel fighters in countries during civil war are not noble defenders of the weak, but maybe they're just trying to improve their own economic standing. This happens a lot where countries have a "winner-take-all" type of economy or political system.
You can apply this principle of "Accidentally Being an Asshole" to little everyday things as well as big things. There are a lot of men who act like asshole towards women. Like, a lot, you guys. And they're awful, for sure. But I think the first step in opening up a dialogue and changing people's minds is to acknowledge that these assholes are not intentionally trying to be assholes.
Take a look at this ad from 1951, declaring it to be "a man's world" with a subservient blond offering breakfast in bed (to a guy wearing a tie when he wakes up? I don't understand this.) The idea here is not that they were intentionally trying to be sexist or demeaning to women, but flattering and ego-stroking to men. I should clarify here, even though it's not intentional doesn't mean that it is also not fucking awful.
If I'm being totally honest here and ignoring every single moral principle in my body, then yeah, having a hot blond serve me breakfast in bed would be nice. It doesn't mean that every women needs to do this; It doesn't mean I expect this from anybody; It doesn't mean that every woman needs to be an attractive blonde lady. If this was a robot butler and not a human being, it would be perfect. But it's not. It is a human, and it is bad to have this going on, even if the intention was just to stroke my ego.
And think about it, there are only certain types of people who need their egos desperately stroked. These people are called losers. People that, perhaps get rejected and then feel like the world has wronged them, somehow. Like a schoolyard nerd, people like this tend to want to escape into a fantasy world where they have more power than the real world. Only instead of dragons and swords, these guys want boobs and also more boobs.
Take a look at a sample google search of men's rights activists:
Not one of these assholes are good-looking. Don't believe me? Search for yourself.
And then, none of these assholes for being ugly. They are assholes because they have such tiny, fragile egos, and feel like their lives are threatened. They have been rejected and put down so often that they feel their lives are worthwhile. I'm not saying these guys are in any real danger or that women should jump into bed with them to make them happy, but they imagine that this is the case. Is it a stretch to compare these schmucks to the Germans in the 1940s. Oh god yes. But, I hope the comparison can offer a jumping off point for changing the way we deal with idiots -- They are not trying to be oppressive or disgusting; They are just trying to survive. The sooner we accept that people are being accidental assholes, the sooner we can implement this in conversation and hopefully start off on a better foot.