I know you all must be tired of all this football talk being as it’s a bunch of yammering about men’s interests on a purportedly feminist website. (I can tell by my hits, but come on, that header image of the idiot football fans whooping it up like monkeys over the Jets was pretty funny, right?) I figured I’d compensate by talking some more about men, but in a much less charitable tone (not that I was all that charitable about football, but I did allow a bit of male perspective onto the site, which I suppose I deserve a fine for). And hence we resume the Why I Hate Men series.
You remember Airport Asshole, don’t you? He was the muse, as it were, that inspired me to write the Why I Hate Men series in the first place. Now, I know I haven’t exactly whipped this series out, but the important thing — according to me — is that I’m getting to it now. Anyway, Airport Asshole exhibited so many of the characteristics that make men such a generally repulsive bunch that I’ve decided to go ahead and use him as an example to illustrate the subjects of each of the posts in this series. He serves as a particularly fine case study for this post.
Have you ever seen Just One of the Guys? It’s probably my favorite 80s movie — if not my favorite movie of all time — and if you haven’t seen it you’re missing something very major in your life. The story is awesome. Terry Griffith (played by the world’s greatest actor, Joyce Hyser), a popular teenage girl at an Arizona high school, determines after overhearing her journalism teacher and some old perv who also teaches at the school discussing the old perv’s desire to bang her that the reason she didn’t win the school’s journalism contest was because she’s a girl. Because her only dream in life is to enter the field of journalism, and because the contest winner will compete against the winner from a rival high school for a summer internship at the local paper, Terri decides to disguise herself as a boy and enroll in the other school in order to submit her article there. Luckily for Terri, her parents are out of town at the time, her name is Terri, Sturgis-Wilder High School has lax paperwork requirements for incoming students, and the school’s journalism contest’s deadline is two weeks later than that at her original institution, Pearl High School (otherwise the whole thing would never have worked, har har). Hijinks ensue as Terri attempts to pass herself off as a boy while partying her way through two unsupervised weeks with her sex-crazed younger brother, Buddy. I won’t ruin the rest of the story for you, but you need to see it. It’s got Billy Zabka (the bad guy from Karate Kid) as the greatest 80s movie bully of all time, it’s got Billy Jacoby (Brad from Silver Spoons) as the pervy little brother, it’s got Leigh McCloskey (who was unfortunately in Fraternity Vacation with Tim Robbins, retch) as the asshole college boyfriend, it’s got Arye Gross (Gordon Bloomfeld — of the Marina Del Rey Bloomfelds — from Soul Man) as one of the school’s nerds, it’s got a custom title-track written and performed by Shalamar, and the soundtrack features one of the greatest songs ever made, “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham. Seriously. See it.
What in the hell, you must be asking, does this have to do with Nine Deuce hating men? Not much, really, but it’s essential set-up for the following clip in which Buddy, on the occasion of Terri’s first appearance as a dude (in a KILLER wing cap), teaches her how to pass for male. I’d recommend watching the whole seven minutes or so, but the essential bit starts at about 4:37.
Buddy, though he may be a little asshole, is right about one thing: guys take up space. Airport Asshole took up a LOT of space, using seats as luggage racks, sprawling out over several chairs, sticking his legs out into the aisle so that anyone walking past would be forced to squeeze by him and all of his personal items. Men take up space. They take up space on the subway, in restaurants, at the library, everywhere. They spread out. They make themselves at home. They take up as much space as they require and, often, much more without regard for anyone else’s existence. It’s not exactly ground-breaking to say that men take up more than their fair share of space (I mean, what woman who has ever lived with a dude hasn’t had to tell him to get the fuck out of the middle of the bed so she can lie down), but that’s really only the most obvious manifestation of the underlying problem with most of the male products of our culture (and most others): a turgid, overflowing, completely unexamined sense of entitlement. And is there any more repugnant personality characteristic than an obvious sense of entitlement?
That sense of entitlement encompasses much more than just a requirement for a lot of physical space, it also includes an expectation on the part of most men that they be free to take up as much of several more abstract forms of space as they want to. Men grow up believing that the world revolves around them (because it does), and that cannot but lead to boorishness. Just think about the behaviors that the average parent and society at large encourage in children. Little girls are taught to take up as little room as possible, to be nice to everyone, to be quiet, to be sweet, to emulate the demure and coquettish behaviors they see adult women exhibiting around them and on television, to keep their opinions to themselves unless they’re handing out compliments, to think of everyone in the world’s needs and wants before their own. Little boys, on the other hand, are encouraged to be rambunctious, confident, and bold. They’re rarely told how to sit or how to walk or how to talk unless they’re exhibiting absolutely egregious behavior, and they learn to emulate the behaviors of the adult men they see around them and on television. And current male role models come in two general types: the imposing, intimidating man’s man who frowns at everyone all the time (think Don Draper and Keith Olbermann) and the bratty asshole “man-child,” the positive portrayal of which has made it possible for Kevin Smith to afford the world’s ultimate gaming system and as many of those Japanese sex robots as anyone could possibly want (I’m guessing — I suppose he could be into collecting Warhammer 40,000 figurines and hanging out with strippers).
What both of these types have in common, and what boys generally absorb as they’re squished into the male gender mold, is a sense of entitlement to take up space on every possible front. Let us look at a few examples:
- Men expect to get to talk, and they expect everyone to listen to them, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Now, I see no problem with anyone expecting people to listen to them in discussions in which they possess relevant knowledge, but this goes far beyond that. For example, I have an advanced degree in a certain subject and am in the process of obtaining an even advanceder one. Still, there are men I know who have not taken one course or read three books on the subject who think they’ve got a thing or two to tell me about that subject. Despite the fact that they’re almost always completely factually and analytically off base and despite the fact that I have several pieces of paper from universities (the bastions of the white male-centric epistemological order) people in other countries have heard of that prove that I know more about the subject than these dudes do, I am expected to endure their sophomoric proclamations and to prove to them that I am not wrong for disagreeing with their ill-informed conclusions. Then there are the “intellectual” types who come to this and other feminist blogs to explain things to us womenfolk, operating on the presumption that, even though we’ve been thinking, reading, and writing about these subjects for longer than they’ve been ruminating on the majesty of “alternative” internet porn and how “rad” Nietzsche was, we could never possibly have conceived of what they’re bringing to the table and thus ought to take their uninformed and painfully banal opinions-disguised-as-fact as gospel. They feel entitled to sap the energy of feminists by forcing us to repeatedly explain to them why feminism and not humanism, why the feminist movement does not need male leadership or consulting services, why the female gender role causes more psychic harm than male privilege, why bukkake isn’t a feminist act for the recipient. In short, men, whether they are qualified to or not (and they are most often not), take up too goddamn much intellectual space.
- Men expect women to give them the benefit of the doubt and to waste our time considering possible excuses for their stupid behavior. When I talk to people I know about porn use, without fail dudes tell me that men can’t help but use porn because ____, ____, and ____ make it impossible to do otherwise. When I note that this or that dude is a homophobic, misogynistic asshole, some other dude will tell me it isn’t his fault, he just grew up in a culture in which he was expected to act like a Pantera fan. I get it because I have also spent my entire three decades in a culture that expects me to behave in ways that I find absurd, but I don’t engage in those behaviors because I’ve realized that they’re absurd and have decided not to engage in them because I am responsible for my own behavior. Weird, I know. But where does all of this empathy go when it comes to women’s behavior? Why aren’t these dudes brainstorming excuses for women’s actions that they don’t particularly like? Because men are entitled to empathy and women aren’t. Doi. Men take up too much emotional space.
- Men feel entitled to unfettered access to women’s bodies. Men coerce women into sex they do not want by means of emotional manipulation, physical and psychological terrorism, and plain old brute force. They push their partners into sex acts that they might not want to do. They refuse to stop when they’re asked to stop, pretending not to know the difference between yes and no. They grope us, harass us, leer at us, and threaten us, and expect us to take it as a compliment. Men also think they’re entitled to use pornography despite the fact that women and girls are abused in its production and despite the negative effects their and others’ porn use has on the women they are close to and on women as a group. The world is awash in images of what men want; advertisements, porn, movies, television, strip clubs, women’s fashion, and the female sex role in general all exist to cater to men’s sexual wants to the detriment of women’s free sexual expression and our bodily and mental health. Men and their aggressive, oppressive sexuality take up too much social space.
- Men feel entitled to use the language that ought to be reserved for discussing real oppression to equate their petty, individualistic grievances with much more serious and widespread phenomena. Men think they ought to be considered equally put upon simply because they can come up with an example of a time a man suffered. They, from their loftily oblivious position, don’t have to think very hard about the issue at hand. If they can come up with a single example to show that they, too, have at one time or another been victims, then they are off the hook and don’t need to acknowledge their privilege. They argue that if women want equality, then women have to be willing to give men equal room to whine about what they’ve been made to suffer. They don’t see the big picture, but rather each tiny incident as if it weren’t connected to larger social forces. Hence, you have men complaining about some overblown case of a false rape accusation but unwilling to confront the reality of what it means to be female in a culture in which women’s sexuality is seen as the property of men. Or you see men suing bars that have ladies’ night because it’s not fair to make men (who make more money than women) pay a cover when women don’t have to, taking no account of anything other than the “unfairness” of unequal cover charges. It’s similar to the old, “If black people can say nigger, why can’t I?” argument. It’s utter tomfoolery, but it’s the crux of every MRA argument, this conception of equality that’s completely myopic (at best) and/or dishonest. Men take up too much discursive space.
Feel free to add to this admittedly short (because of lack of time, not material) list.
Now, I can already hear the complaints of gender essentialism here. I am not claiming that these traits are inborn, or that all men exhibit all of them, but rather that our current cultural construction of masculinity encourages them in most men to varying degrees (translation: I hope I don’t need to say this, but if this isn’t about you, it isn’t about you). I’m also not claiming that the feminine gender role is superior to the masculine one. I have quite a few objections to the feminine role, as I’m sure everyone knows. No, it’s masculinity AND femininity that are the problem, because we don’t need two gender roles arranged in a hierarchy maintained by sexualized violence and political and social repression. The behaviors I’m outlining in this series are bad because they are boorish, aggressive, emotionally violent, and lead to unnecessary suffering on the part of women and the men who have to deal with alpha male bullshit. That these behaviors are associated with maleness reflects badly on the concept of masculinity, yes, but my response isn’t to say that femininity should replace masculinity as a hegemon, but rather that both should disappear, as should the stupid practices associated with them. There are valuable things associated with femininity (caring about people, knowing how to do practical tasks in order to take care of yourself and others, etc.) and with masculinity (I’ll think of something), but only those things associated with maleness are valued because devaluing women’s contributions to the world allows for women’s continued economic and social subjugation. My suggestion is that we do away with these stupid ideas of masculinity and femininity and start judging characteristics based on morality, utility, etc. and THEN decide whether something is worth doing. The behaviors I’ve outlined above fail the test, and not because they’re associated with masculinity, but because they’re rude and destructive. The answer isn’t to “feminize” men or replace masculinity with femininity in the hierarchy, but rather to get rid of constraining gender roles AND the hierarchy so that we can all just be human and display whatever characteristics come comfortably to us. I still have some faith in the idea that human nature in its natural state isn’t quite as shitty as it is in the current hierarchical order. If you’re a dude and you think this reads like a portrait of an asshole and doesn’t reflect your behavior, then don’t give me shit, do something constructive and go tell it to men who do behave this way. I promise you won’t be hard pressed to find them.