So I posted this thing yesterday to my Facebook that I liked a whole lot, a thing from the Awl that purports to offer a primer to young dudes about this thing called Feminism that might, just might, give them the tools to be more decent human beings, specifically as relates to Having the Relations with the Ladies:
The crux of the matter is that while you are out there enjoying all this freedom, you’re not really — if you be completely honest with yourself — affording the same to the ladies out there. You do things like convince yourself that every time you sleep with a girl, it’s her first time. I’m not going to go into some long diatribe about Christianity and the fetishization of the virgin, but you know what I mean. It just sits weird if you know or think about her being with another dude. You put it out of your head.
Now this is a pretty tame example, because it gets worse. Like, take a dude who’s dating a girl but it “hasn’t gotten serious yet.” They’re “just talking” and “have hooked up a few times.” Dude is free as a bird, right? He’s sleeping with an ex, flirting with some ladies at the bar, just hanging out, being a dude. But introduce to him even the idea, the unsubstantiated, perhaps wholly illusory idea that this girl he’s just talking to is sleeping with someone else. His stomach turns. He gets visibly, perhaps violently, perhaps morosely upset. The word “whore” may start to crop up in bar stool conversations.
When I read this I spit out my tea giggling and was like, OH MY GOD HIGH FIVE, DUDE WHO WROTE THIS. I WILL BE SURE TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO YOU IN THE FUTURE!
Whereas my friend Jeremy said it was like watching a priest ride a skateboard: all this “dude” and “bro” talk made it sound like the author was trying to get on a level with the kids. Which actually just tells me that Jeremy spends too much time reading Overcoming Bias and other libertarian blogs he sometimes links me to so he can wreck my day, and not enough time reading funny, bitter feminist blogs, which refer to dudes and bros all the time in slightly endeared and slightly embittered ways!
However, he made the additional excellent point that almost all the pop culture references are 15-plus years out of date. Which is funny, because the first time I read this thing, I thought, Man, I wish every guy I had ever dated had been handed a copy of this on, like, his 16th birthday. Or maybe they could have had it waiting for him on his desk at his first dorm room, along with all the orientation folders and student handbooks and ads for Student Advantage cards and such. When I was a freshman, they also had these bags of trial-sized toiletries sitting on our desks when we moved in; I assume the boys got something similar, only it was full of aftershave and manly-scented deodorant instead of tampons and pink disposable razors. So, right underneath that bag of Axe deodorant, a nice little guide to feminism for the dudes.
Except that Jeremy is right. The tone is all wrong here for actual converting anyone. This thing would totally not work on today’s 18-year-old male, about whom I admittedly know very little, to the Way and the Path of maybe not being a total shitbag to all the ladies he meets. And I suspect that is not why it exists. Instead it exists to make women like me laugh and say, YES. HIGH FIVE BRO.
“Women like me” meaning women who are right around 30 (thus the pop culture references are relevant to the years we were just getting these things figured out ourselves, and in many cases remain kind of fist-pumpingly relevant), and who still find ourselves tearing our hair out and screaming, “JESUS. SERIOUSLY. HOW. DO. YOU. NOT. GET. THIS” at the various dudes we meet, and then drinking wine in the bathtub and texting our best friends, “I’M GOING TO DIE ALONE LIKE DOROTHY PARKER,” while still reclining in said bathtub.
We’re being hyperbolic and funny of course (OF COURSE WE ARE! BEING FUNNY IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DOROTHY PARKER ALONE-DEATH SYNDROME, AS EVERYONE KNOWS). And we probably aren’t that freaked out by the idea of dying alone anyway.
But still it can be really dispiriting to encounter dude after dude who does not seem to grok that there are people walking around who have 1) vaginas 2) brains AND 3) feelings, and that most of us actually make use of all of these things on a pretty regular basis. It can be really dispiriting to, again and again, explain that you do not need to be given a speech about “crowding” or “not wanting anything too serious” simply because you asked for – or better yet, AGREED TO – a second or third date. It can be really dispiriting to explain again and again that it is not ever OK to use the expression “been around the block too many times” in reference to the prior dating life of a woman you are interested in — ABOUT whose prior dating life, by the way, you have no actual information, just that it exists. WHAT. If I had bothered to tell him I was not just dating and such for the previous 10 years or so, but also that I did lots of other stuff for the almost-30 years before he met me — that is, that I did not just spring to existence right there in the bar the night we met — I think his head might have exploded. Good thing I didn’t do that!
It can be easy to just write these jerks off individually, but when they stack up like this, you start to think, OK, things are just getting effing weird around here. This is a fairly diverse crop of dudes I’m talking about here. I mean, not actually. They’re all white and I think most, maybe all, would consider themselves liberal; it’s almost like I live in Portland or something. Ha ha!
You start to think, OK, there are a lot of individual jerks running around, who hold some pretty backward sexist beliefs they really ought to have shed by now, but it’s like…it’s like something got into their heads and totally messed them up and made them think messed up things about themselves and the women they spend time with.
What could that thing be? Oh yes. It’s you again, THE PATRIARCHY. How have you been, THE PATRIARCHY? You’re looking quite dapper, by the way.
The nice thing about reestablishing THE PATRIARCHY as a target is that while it’s a little clumsy and a lot vague, it’s a lot more fun to get mad at THE PATRIARCHY than at individuals who behave in rather sexist ways or say rather sexist things all the time. Because that just gets exhausting. Yelling at them gets exhausting. Writing them off gets exhausting. Egging their cars gets exhausting. Actually, a lot of the men I know don’t even own automobiles, and what am I going to do? Egg their bikes? Torch their bus passes? That’s just mean.
Instead, I am going to ask you READERS a question. Ladies, what are the things you wish the dudes you know had been debriefed on long before you got to them — the things you are surprised to have had to explain? Dudes, what are the things you wish you had been debriefed on when you were a youngin’, specifically as relates to Gender Relations?