Let’s All Be Human(e)!

I want to first give a little disclaimer–this is really long and kind of rant-y. Maybe at some point I’ll clean it up. Who knows. But I would love to hear feedback.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about gender roles, relationships, how we should related to one another; all of that stuff. Firstly, I want to express my outrage at this crazy woman, Kay Hymowitz, who thinks that we should all go back to men and women behaving as though we were trying to win some prize–marriage–instead of just relate and form partnerships with one another. I’m confused by this. I have read He’s Just Not That Into You and watched Sex and the City. I think I’ve experienced a lot of the cultural indoctrination of how relationships are supposed to be; here I’ll get a little personal–at the same time, I think my parents are sort of a-typical. My mother does have a bit more of a traditional bent on males than I do. I refuse to believe that men are really all that different than women. Obviously they have different anatomy, different hormones, which change the way they react to things emotionally perhaps, but all-in-all, I think both men and women are capable of being honest, rational, and communicative with each other. I think the Rules are stupid. I also recognize, however, that we are in a transitory phase of gender roles. Things are unclear (all the more reason to be communicative). So sometimes it is nice to just relax and let the typical gender roles drive things. I’m not totally averse to this but I do think it is something we should be aware of when we’re doing it. Ok I’m onto analyzing someone else’s argument.

Hymowitz wrote a piece previously about the whole concept of the child-man, and how men are putting off serious relationships because they’re basically too immature. She got all of these responses and explains:

Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he’s immature but because he’s angry. He’s angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He’s angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He’s angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

So, right off the bat, I’m having issues with these men playing victim and claiming that “young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging.” I’m all about re-defining gender roles. I don’t think we should “diss” all things male. In fact, I am a huge proponent of men being able to be themselves instead of having to play into ANY stereotype at all. I’ll come back to this, because it is basically my problem with all of this–that any general statements can be made at all (that women are slutty, shallow gold-diggers, or that men are lazy, commitment-phobic child-men; either is ridiculous because some women may very well be slutty, shallow gold-diggers, and some men lazy, commitment-phobic child-men, but certainly not all of them) is sort of missing the point of relationships as I see them. To me, a relationship is a very individual thing–it is a partnership, a connected agreement betweent two people, not either person trying to manipulate the other into losing so that they win.

Hymowitz claims that the problem is that men are left wondering “what (or, as they might put it, WTF) women want.” Why don’t you ask them? That’s really all I can say. She claimst that men and women are mysteries to each other and that “one reason people developed so many rules around courtship was that they needed some way to bridge the Great Sexual Divide.” I’m so confused by this. Can we not speak to each other? Can we not ask each other what we want? Is our communication so hindered that we must rely upon the “traditional” rules of courtship? At least I agree with her on the point that men are “wooing” women who “are, at least theoretically, their equals—socially, professionally, and sexually.” But I do have a problem with the idea of “wooing.” Can’t women woo men? Isn’t that part of the equality? Is there really actually a problem with that? Why do we need the expectations?

Here is the real problem:

But then, when an SYM walks into a bar and sees an attractive woman, it turns out to be nothing like that. The woman may be hoping for a hookup, but she may also be looking for a husband, a co-parent, a sperm donor, a relationship, a threesome, or a temporary place to live. She may want one thing in November and another by Christmas. “I’ve gone through phases in my life where I bounce between serial monogamy, Very Serious Relationships and extremely casual sex,” writes Megan Carpentier on Jezebel, a popular website for young women. “I’ve slept next to guys on the first date, had sex on the first date, allowed no more than a cheek kiss, dispensed with the date-concept altogether after kissing the guy on the way to his car, fucked a couple of close friends and, more rarely, slept with a guy I didn’t care if I ever saw again.” Okay, wonders the ordinary guy with only middling psychic powers, which is it tonight?

This guy doesn’t need psychic powers, just those of communication. Ask this woman what she wants. I agree that this is pretty typical–what women want at any one time will vary from woman to woman and from time to time. Is this not also true of men? God forbid women be nuanced and complex human beings with different desires depending upon her position in life, or even how she’s feeling that day or week, how her other social connections are at the time. God forbid you have to ASK HER what she wants. That we have to be HONEST with each other about what we’re looking for.

Hymowitz says many women have “personal scripts” that they believe their date must follow. Once again, though there is this issue of communication. Here it’s the problem of women having some sort of expectation that she failst to communicate. I, as a human, cannot expect someone to do something so specific as opening a door when I have not expressed that this is important to me. Or at the very least, I do not think I should not fault them for not doing it unless I ask. I also take issue with the fact that people act as though everyone wants the same thing, and you’re wrong if you want something and someone doesn’t do it. If someone’s “idea of a date is that the man plans the evening and takes the woman out” and the guy you go out with doesn’t do this, don’t go out with him again! Or TELL him that and see how he responds. That will tell you a lot more about him relationally than if he had done what was expected of him from the beginning.

I understand that we have certain social expectations, and when they are changing it is challengeing because we do have to communicate in explicit ways that we are not used to. But I actually think that is a good thing; I think it makes fore a healthier relationship. But what is WRONG with this woman not liking the guy because he didn’t open the door for her? If that’s what she wants, the guy should find someone who doesn’t mind. Because there are plenty of women who do not care. He should be with one of those women. There is often this attitude (take people in the Bachelor/Bachelorette, for example) that you can win anyone over. That just does not make sense to me. While I don’t believe there’s The One, I believe there are various people who you will work with, but that that number is finite. No one can be a good match for everyone, and we shouldn’t expect to be. This is perfectly exemplified in the whole idea of the Game–as in men learning how to pick up any woman he wants because “women want alpha males, the Seduction Community agrees.” What??! How is this possibly true for ALL WOMEN?

So since all women want the same things, but it’s changing all the time, this is indecisive. Evidently men see women’s “indecisiveness” (I would see this a complex, nuanced personality with complex, nuanced desires as a positive thing, but whatever) as just too confusing, frustrating and therefore clearly it is just women being entitled.

Sure, girls can—and do—ask guys out for dinner and pick up the check without missing a beat. But that doesn’t clarify matters, men complain. Women can take a Chinese-menu approach to gender roles. They can be all “Let me pay for the movie tickets” on Friday night and “A single rose? That’s it?” on Valentine’s Day. This isn’t equality, say the male-contents; it’s a ratification of female privilege and, worse, caprice. “Women seemingly have decided that they want it all (and deserve it, too),” Kevin from Ann Arbor writes. “They want to compete equally, and have the privileges of their mother’s generation. They want the executive position, AND the ability to stay home with children and come back into the workplace at or beyond the position at which they left. They want the bad boy and the metrosexual.”

I do not condone women bitching about things that they haven’t talked about (the whole “A single rose? That’s it?” is a little whiny for my tastes). But wanting to be able to stay home with your kids when they’re young and then return to working is not entitled–it’s what BOTH men and women should be able to do. I’m not sure about this “bad boy and the metrosexual” stuff, because I think it’s weird to have some sort of “type” that you’re looking for in the longterm. But I do think it’s funny. But women DO deserve it. We all do–men AND women. What these men fail to realize is that the traditional script of relationships fails both men and women. At least that’s what I think.

Next, Hymowitz goes on about how women want bad boys. This is just too ridiculous to respond too much to, but here’s what I think: men interperet groveling at a women’s feet as being a “nice guy.” So no, don’t worship me–treat me like a person who you respect. And maybe some of us “want” bad boys because we’re just so used to being treated as an object–either one men adore or admonish–which makes us expect to be treated that way. I think a lot of guys’ ideas of the “nice guy” are actually just the flip side to the “bad boy” coin. Let’s treat each other as fellow human beings. I think that will work best.

But this brings Hymowitz to her thesis–that men are forced into a position of becoming a pick-up artist because women are just so confusing, men need to write their own new rules. These rules are based on Darwin–natural selection. And women like alpha men. These men don’t have to respect women because they can “get laid anytime [they] want.” And now I’m confused because I thought this article was about love. Evidently, men are really uncomplicated–all they want is sex. Hymowitz goes on to talk about this newly developed attitude towards “dating” (I use the term lightly), which I just refuse to go into more in-depth because it is so inhumane.

That is the real problem I have with all of this–as I keep saying, there is a lack of nuance, or recognition that we all need connections to other human beings. Men need them. Women need them. None of us is perfect, but if we were more honest and upfront about things, I think we would be a lot better off. This is the easy way out–to just look for sex, to treat the other gender as a commodity to be “had” instead of people to relate to. But we lose so much when we fail to recognize and comfort other’s vulnerabilities, as well as share our own.

Thank god there are men like Will Wilkinson. His response argues that

annoyances and disappointments suffered in the process of realizing fundamental conditions of a decent society don’t call into question the desirability of those conditions. All this vexation is a very, very small price to pay for equality. For men, it is a very, very small price to pay for the opportunity to share a life with a peer, a full partner, rather than with a woman limited by convention and straitened opportunity to a more circumscribed and subordinate role in life. Sexual equality has created the possibility of greater exactness and complementarity in matching women to men. That is, in my book, a huge gain to men. But equality does raise expectations for love and marriage. The prospect of finding a true partner, rather than someone to satisfactorily perform the generic role of husband or wife, leaves many of us single and searching for a good long time. But this isn’t about delaying adulthood, it’s about meeting higher standards for what marriage and family should be.

That is what I thought! And he rightly points out that “many men aren’t angry and confused because they don’t know what women want. They’re angry because they want what their fathers or grandfathers had, and they can’t get it. They’re confused because they can’t quite grasp why not.” I also appreciate that Wilkinson recognizes gay culture as a place to look for some guidance because it offers “a wide variety of templates for manhood that are at once unmistakably masculine, playfully ironic, aesthetic, emotionally open, and happily sexual.” I have found this as well, as a heterosexual female. But for real–it’d be great if we could all just be human beings, treating each other as equal people. Really, isn’t that what relationships are all about?

Love in the Time of Darwinism [City Journal]
The “Menaissance” and Its Dickscontents [Will Wilkinson]
Is There Anything Good About Men? [American Psychological Association Presentation]