Friday 5 December 2014

Hope to Heal the War Between the Sexes

I hope to return to this topic today, but meanwhile here is some reading material. 

I think it safe to say that this stuff pertains only to North America and Europe. The "war on men" doesn't make much sense in the context of Africa, Asia and, quite possibly, Australia.


I identified with feminism from the age of twelve until twenty-two when I was thrown bodily out of Toronto's International Women's Day parade. Had there been police around, I suppose I would have had the two large women who carried me out charged with assault. But at least they dumped me in front of campus media types, and I burst into tears. Until that moment, I honestly thought International Women's Day was about women, all women, even women carrying signs reading "Pro-life is Pro-woman."

It isn't.

That said, I have been arguing with men about women since I was eighteen years old, and the arguments are depressingly similar.

Man: Women are dumber than men.

Me: I think that depends on the individual woman and on the individual man.

Man: You're such a feminist.

Me (reading): "Feminism is the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes."

Man: Quite obviously a feminist wrote that.

Me:  That's from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

The problem with arguing with men about women is that they automatically perceive me to be a feminist which is, in their minds, a woman with all the charm removed--indeed, a sort of man, second-class. And although it is, of course, possible to win an argument with men, according to men's rules, they do not thank you for it.

At least, not here in the West. If you are a Western woman caught by the Taliban, like Yvonne Ridley, and scream and yell and carry on, the men all laugh and think you are a marvel. They say to each other, "Look at this Western woman, yelling and screaming and using big words. Hilarious!" If, however in the West, you scream and yell and carry on, the men feel like you are about to attack their genitals with an X-acto knife. In Toronto, they curse and sulk. On the Edinburgh streets, they punch your lights out. In Afghanistan, no matter what you do, you're a wee girlie. On Princes Street, you raise your voice and you're just a shorter, weaker guy who needs a lesson. Whammo.

And why is this? It is because codes of maleness have not changed in Afghanistan whereas they most definitively have in the West. In Afghanistan, men know how they are supposed to behave, and women don't really get a say. In the West, men are no longer sure how they are supposed to behave, and women never shut up about it, and some women are actually men with stuck-on breasts, and Chaz Bono, y'all. Plus no-fault divorce, limitless free porn, AIDS and women throwing their underpants at rock stars.

Honestly, you have to see it all from their point of view. After a half-hour conversation with Polish Pretend Son about Women Who Ask Men to Dance at Tango, I am never asking a man to dance AGAIN.

The way to get along with men who are all riled up about feminism is not to let them engage you in arguments about women. Do not rise to their bait. Disarm them.

There are various ways to do this.

1. The most effective is flattery.

Man: Women are dumber than men.

Women: That's because when you talk to them, they become nervous and don't know what to say.

Man: Really?

Woman: Yes. I mean, you're so tall and ferocious.

Man: No, shut up. Really? No, shut up.

Woman: No, it's true. If I were ten years younger, etc., etc.

2. Another thing is to find them something to do.

Man: Women are dumber than men.

Woman: That reminds me. Could you get the lid off the pickle jar?

Man: (delighted) See, not only are women dumber, but they are weaker too.

(Gets lid off jar.)

Woman:  That reminds me. Could you un-stick the window while you are here? It sticks.*

Man (delighted);  What am I, your handyman? (Joyfully unsticks window.)

Woman: What would I do without you?

Man (smug): Wither away and die, I expect.

Woman: Have a cookie.

Three. A friend of mine swears by outwardly laughing merrily and inwardly despising them.

Man: Women are dumber than men.

Woman (says) Ah ha ha ha!  Oh, you. You're a hoot. (Thinks) I hate you. I hate all men like you. I wonder if men from [Culture X] are any better. I think I will meet some.

I'm not a fan of that one myself. Nor am I fond of 4. passive-aggression although I can see how this could stop the Women are Dumb discussion in its tracks.

Man: Women are dumber than men.

Woman: Well, I'm pretty dumb.

Man: I didn't mean you specifically.

Woman: No, that's okay. My dad always talks about how dumb I am. There was this time my father and my brothers and I were on a canoe trip, and my brothers dared me to carry the canoe by myself, so I gave it a try and tripped over a root. They all laughed their heads off. Pretty dumb, eh? I still have a scar. Want to see? My dad calls it my Idiot Tax.

Man (breaks into a sweat): Oh, um. You like canoeing?

I underscore that I prefer Techniques 1 and 2 to Three and 4.  The trick is to not take your male interlocutor too seriously. So 18 year old guy, or 24 year old guy, or 40 year old guy thinks--or says he thinks--women are dumber than men. Who cares? The right woman, i.e. any woman he has a crush on, could turn his brain into a pretzel. Meanwhile, what kind of man says something like that to a woman? A man who treats human discourse like a chemistry set, which is to say, a man who is testing the woman. Is she a feminist?  

Incidentally, I have never in my life witnessed a woman  "testing" a man in anyway whatsoever, or heard women talking about testing men, or planning to test men, or anything having to do with testing men, whereas the Pick Up Artist movement believes with religious fervour that women test men. With its usual subtlety, it labels this s**t-testing. Personally, I think this is a classic case of transference. In short, it is an example of men thinking that women think and act like men, e.g. aggressively.

Man: Can I buy you a drink?

Woman: No, thank you.

Man: Whoa! Hostility!

Woman: I'm not hostile. I just don't want a drink.

Man: You're s***-testing me, aren't you?

Woman: You're scaring me. I'm leaving.

Man: Think of me when you're fat, forty and lonely, baby. Whew! What a b*tch.

I have spent six years of my writing life telling women to stop expecting men to think and act like women, and I think I may spend the rest asking men to stop expecting women to think and act like men. The great majority of women do not actually dream of slaying all the men, stealing their horses and seeing their women flee before them. Men who think this are projecting their own inner Genghis Khan onto women.

My hope for the healing of the war between the sexes is that men and women will rediscover all the time-tested techniques their grandparents or great-grandparents (or, if they fought like cats and dogs, their great-uncles and great-aunts) used to get along. As a married woman, I believe in constant praise, thanks and appreciation for my husband, and outrageous flattery for all other worthy men (they have to be worthy, and the flattery has to be rooted in some solid fact, or why bother?), plus food. And gin. In the UK, men need gin.

*If you don't have a sticky window, give him one of those puzzle-things. Say, "Since men are so smart, could you show me how to figure out this puzzle?" One of the things I have found out about men-in-general is they love challenges like this. Unable to multi-task, they forget all about arguing and direct their boredom and aggression onto the Rubik's Cube, or Magic Knot, or Viking Nail, or whatever it is.


  1. I think you are right - I don't sense that things are that extreme in Australia, although I could be wrong.

  2. The feeling I got from that article is that this is somehow just a self-perpetuating cycle (and maybe self-fulfilling prophecy) between men and women. The worst, however, is when men and women complain to each other (in mixed groups) that they want to get married but they seem to forget they are talking to members of the opposite sex.
    In terms of the article, though, about men "dropping out" of society, there have been reports from Asia, mostly Japan, about men doing the same - and just going celibate (not necessarily chaste).

  3. Yeah, I hope to never have a marriage like the marriages of either set of my grandparents. Bad matches in both cases. Great aunts and uncles? I don't know any of them well enough to know whether or not their marriages are worth emulating. My parents have a good marriage though.

    Perhaps I have been living under a rock, but I don't remember ever having heard a man say that women are dumber than men. Is this something that non-Australian men just go around saying all the time or something? I mean, how prevalent is this really?

  4. Julia, I don't know how prevalent this is. I am going through my high school diaries, and I found detailed descriptions of myself arguing with men who tell me how dumb women are, and I recalled similar episodes later in life.

  5. Wow, I don't think my high school diaries are as interesting!

  6. Julia, I've definitely known several guys that have thought (and said to my face) that women are not as smart as men. From my experience it's usually the conservative Christian guys that do this. I don't remember boys in my public high school acting that way, but they certainly did in my Protestant Evangelical university.

  7. Same here. It's conservatives. That said, Jian Ghomeshi in Canada is a super-liberal full of feminist platitudes, and he actually BEAT women UP. In fact, beating women up seems to have been central to his sexual interests. So in terms of actually treating women decently, conservatives are probably no worse than liberals. It all depends on the guy.

    Something else to consider is that it may be an age thing. As far as I can recall, I haven't heard men over thirty announce that women are dumb (etc).

  8. Nope, haven't heard any man of my (personal) acquaintance ever question if men or women were smarter. I've heard whether women were less funny than men, and whether women were suited to 'male' jobs, but never concrete intelligence.

  9. Out of curiosity, what were the male jobs?

    1. Engineering was specifically mentioned. Actually, since you've asked, I've realized that most questions men asked the women about their jobs tended to be fleshing out whether said women would gleefully cast off employment and become SAHM (in their thinking, anything that required education was a bit scary; teaching and nursing were okay though).

  10. Ah, yes. Teaching-and-nursing.

  11. Except...teaching and nursing require university education...

    1. No one ever said that way of thinking is logical.

  12. Oh Seraphic, I've missed you and posts like these. LOL. Seriously, I'm really glad you started blogging again!


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