theferrett: (Meazel)

One of the biggest problems that nice guys have: they think women want men who don’t want sex.

I think this attitude, unconsciously developed, stems from listening to women complain about the fuckheads who hit on them.  “All those assholes want is sex!” is what they hear their female friends lamenting, so they go, I’ll be the opposite.  I’ll be very quiet and never ever mention sex, or that I desire it.  This will make me a gentleman.

No.  It will make you a loser.

I think this attitude springs from this sad view of nature where they believe that women don’t really want sex, they just sort of endure it for the sake of the species.   So you have to sneak up on sex.  You can’t just mention it around women, because at the first hint of cock they’ll run like zebras from a lion.  No, you have to sort of sneak in the penis, waiting for the proper moment to, uh, bring it up.  This may take months.  And all the while, you’ll never ever mention sex, or if you do you’ll discuss it like you were handling a dirty diaper. Because that’s what women want.

So how’s that working out for you, chum?  Well, you’re probably standing by the sidelines while your ideal woman is going out and fucking these horrible behemoths, feeling resentful because you’re doing everything right and there they are – falling into bed with an oaf!

An oaf who actually expressed his desire for her, and she responded!  Carnally!  Why, it’s like she wanted to get fucked! But that can’t be the case, so these brutes must be, I don’t know, hypnotizing her with their gold chains and their Axe body spray and their abs or something.

No, dude.  What you heard was “All these assholes want is sex,” and came to the erroneous conclusion that sex was bad.

What she was saying was, “All these assholes want is sex.”  As in, “Remove my vagina, and I’m worthless to them.”  That doesn’t mean her vagina is some sort of null zone to be ignored. She wants to fuck, but she wants to fuck someone who wants to fuck.

And what are you doing?  By conspicuously not mentioning sex ever, you’re sending the impression that if she wants sex, well, it shouldn’t be with you.  You’re taking the default stance that as a guy you naturally desire it on occasion, like some sort of cyclical Pon Farr, but it’s not anything you need.  And if she really needs it, why would she want to fuck a guy who’s never said he really wants to, loves to?

Look.  What women like – what people like – like is passion.  And you being a wishy-washy huggabear will just make it clear that when you get into bed with them, she’ll have to tell you everything to do, making you kind of a voice-activated vibrator.  So she finds other guys who may have less attractive qualities but at least will satisfy her in the sack, and leaves you firmly in the friend-zone.

Why?  Because you never told a dirty joke, or shared an embarrassing sex story, or even told her how fucking gorgeous she is.  Not that she’s pretty, but fuckable.  And yes, there are creepers who make women feel awful by slathering them in filth, but the fix is to not go the opposite route and sanitize yourself so you’re as sexless as a Hello Kitty.  Yes, it’s awkward finding that fine line between “no sex ever” and “creeper sex maniac,” but if you squash your desires altogether then you’re lying to her about what you want… and you can’t complain when she doesn’t respond to a desire that she doesn’t know exists.  (Or that you’ve given the impression that you’d be bad at it.)

A lot of guys have this terrifically sad dance, wherein they never mention sex ever and if they do, certainly it’s not something they’re really interested in, no!, and then they wind up with women who aren’t that interested in fucking. Don’t do that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I usually don’t link to comments of mine, but if you scroll down and look at my response to Colin here, you’ll see what I think of as one of the classic “nice guy” traps: the idea that because you want more than sex, that somehow this interaction becomes not about sex.

Look.  The reason I get a reasonable amount of sex is because I don’t care if sex happens.  If I’m talking to a heartbreakingly beautiful girl, I’m doing so because the conversation I’m having is interesting on its own merit.  I’d be getting this much satisfaction out of the talk if I was having it with a girl I found unattractive, or a guy, or a genderless voice over a telephone.  And people respond to that genuine enthusiasm.

But the “nice guy” will talk to a girl, and pretend hey, this is a great conversation, aren’t we having fun, OH BY THE WAY WHEN WILL WE HAVE SEX.  And that delay between “Such a good time!” and “When’s the fucking start?” may be months, but don’t fool yourself that most women can’t feel it.  They know that you’re eventually going to be dissatisfied with just conversation, and they’re going to excuse themselves.  Or be furious when you bring it up after years of dormancy.

It sounds weird, but what women – what people – want is genuine interest.  The feeling that they matter.  And you can say “Oh, it’s more than that,” but that ignores the fact that without that, it’s pretty much worthless to you.

It’s the paradox.  I like you whether you’re going to have sex with me or not.  Some of my greatest relationships have informed me they find me as attractive as a tub of day-old lard.  That’s great.  I’ll still text to say hi every once in a while.  Which means whoever I’m with knows that I dig them for them, not some act they can perform, and as such ironically they’re more willing to perform that act.

Or not.  I don’t care.  I can’t always have Teh Sexx0r, because I’m in two satisfying poly relationships right now, and though I’ll flirt scandalously, who knows what permissions I can actually get?  But that’s the point, really.  Anyone I’m talking to, I talk to because I think they’re awesome in the absence of anything else they can provide to me.

If you’re telling me that this isn’t sex, it’s a relationship you’re trying to start, well, chances are good this relationship involves sex.  And if that’s the case, don’t tell me it ain’t about sex.  Sex is firmly on the agenda, even if it’s buried halfway down.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

When I wrote my essay about buying coffee as a metaphor for sexual harassment, men started asking: “Well, what do I do if I can’t hit on women?  Do you expect me to live my life in a closet, wandering alone through my tie racks forever?  Why, if no man ever approached women, our species would go extinct!”

The panic is understandable, to some extent.  It’s scary meeting new people, let alone asking them out on a date.  There’s a lot of upsides to being a guy in modern society, but one of the downsides is that you’re expected to take the initiative when it comes to asking someone out on a date – which is pretty fucking scary.  It’s like going on a job interview, except they’re not rejecting your work experience, they’re looking right at you and going, “No, you suck, go away.”  I’ve had women friends who had to start asking out strangers for various reasons, and their reaction was invariably, “My God, how do men do this?  This sucks.”

But you know how you don’t approach it?  By treating it like you’re doing the woman a favor.

The overall reaction from men is a whiny, “But I’m being nice!” No, sir, you are not.  You’re buying a coffee to try to get in her pants. The whole “What a nice guy I am!” aspect makes it easier for you to approach an intimidating situation, but let’s not romanticize this moment.  You’re not paying a compliment to that old, unattractive woman, or sharing your love of Terry Pratchett books with that dude over there.  You’re trying to buy five minutes of a cute woman’s time via a combination of guilt and gift-giving.  Jeez, what a prince you are!

If you gotta, you gotta.  And there are places that’s likely to be well-received.  If you’re at a singles bar and the girl is alone, well, chances are good that she may actually want that drink.  But the trick is understanding that this is in no way a compliment. It’s a strategy.

And if you spam that attack like somebody using Ken’s fireball in Street Fighter II, people are likely to hate you.

Look, if the girl is so attractive that you just have to snag this opportunity at this very moment, then so be it.  But acknowledge you’re being selfish.  You’re saying “She’s so pretty, I have to go bother her at this very instant on the off-hand chance that she’s into me.” And maybe she likes your looks and you’ll click.  Synchronicity happens.

But think carefully, chum.  The odds are good that she’s not going to respond well. And if you keep bugging women just because they happen to be within eyesight, then you send the none-too-subtle message that “A woman showing up in public means that she’s fair game.”  Which means she’s not a person, but an antelope in a game preserve.

There are those who think you should never ever approach a stranger in public; I’m not one of them.  But if you take the attitude of, “Hey, anything could happen, might as well take my shot,” then you are being a dick to women.  What you should do is size up the situation: is this a space conducive to strangers talking to each other?  Does she look involved in something else?   Does her body language say she’s receptive?  Would this friendly approach look threatening if she had no clue as to your intent?  (Because despite your peppy smile, she does not.)

If all of those clues don’t add up, then fucking walk away.  Give her the privilege of being a person, and not some slot machine for you to take your shot at.

And even if you’re really nice about it, recognize that hundreds of men have done this before, and this may not go over well.  If she rejects you coldly, she is not a bitch.  That’s on you, chum.  You took a shot, knowing full well you might irritate her, and lo you got exactly what you deserved.  Don’t tell yourself the story that “I was just trying to buy her a present!” because you were not.  You were bothering a woman in a clear attempt to get something from her.

As I said, I don’t think you should never approach a stranger in public.  But I think you should carefully consider it, because some people do think you should never approach a stranger in public, and the rest usually don’t like to be bothered.  So the hitting on people should be a rarity, that time when all the planets align.

Will the human race die out without your botheration?  Well, maybe it would have in the past, but now there’s this thing called “OKCupid,” where like-minded people can specifically search each other out for romance.  While I appreciate your concern for the future of humanity, I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way to get by if you don’t call out, “Hey, you so beautiful!” on the street corner.

We’ll get by.  So it’s okay for you to be quiet.  Really.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“Excuse me,” she asked.  “Can I buy you a coffee?”

It was a nice surprise.  Most people don’t buy me cups of coffee, and I was just sitting at the Starbucks trying to plot my novel.  So it was kind of charming, to have a cute girl offer to buy me a free drink.  I told her sure.

She brought me a nice iced chai, and sat down next to me, and then asked, “So have you heard about Jesus?”

Now, as it turns out, I’m a Christian, so I’m not opposed to Jesus – but it was a little disappointing to realize this drink wasn’t done out of niceness, but as a sort of recruiting tool.  Maybe I’d have been into a religious discussion if she’d said, “Hey, let’s have a philosophical talk,” but as it was, I felt a little betrayed.  So I said that I wasn’t interested, as politely as I could (for I was sipping a delicious drink), and returned to my plotting.

The next day, another girl: “Hey, can I buy you a coffee?”

This time, I was trying to work out a difficult programming solution in my mind, and she asked me at exactly the right moment to have all of my thoughts collapse like a house of cards.  “Are you just going to ask me about Jesus?”

“Oh, no,” she said, reassuring me.  “It’s just that I think you’re cute.” And she was kind of pretty.

“…all right,” I said, guardedly.  She bought the coffee.  Sat down at my table.

“But if you were wondering about Jesus…” she said earnestly, and I ejected her from my table. I kept the drink, though.  It seemed cruel, but she had been stupid enough to buy it for me even though I didn’t want it.

Over the next week, it just got worse.  Two or three times a day I’d be deep in thought, trying to focus on this tangled plotting that I needed to resolve, and some woman would tap me on the shoulder to offer me a cup of coffee.  I couldn’t concentrate, because sometimes they were very insistent: “You sure you don’t want a coffee, sweetie?” they’d ask, sometimes lurking over me after I’d refused them, just in case I changed my mind.  Sometimes they just bought the coffee for me anyway, without even asking me if I wanted it, plopping themselves across the table from me and yammering on about being saved.

It was affecting my concentration.  I started to tense up at the Starbucks, waiting for the next Jesus freak’s interruption.  If it was a regular thing, like an hourly interruption, then maybe I could have worked around it, but it was erratic.  Some days, I’d have four or five at once, other days I’d be blissedly free of interruption.  But I had to be continually braced for the next hand on my shoulder, knowing that no matter what I was doing they’d be bursting into my personal space.  I wrote less, my programs were buggier.

My friends couldn’t understand my upset.  “Dude,” they told me.  “You never have to pay for coffee again in your life!  You’ve got it made!  Do you know how much money you’re saving?”

“But I don’t want to talk to these people,” I said.

“You’ve talked about God with us before,” they replied.  “Sometimes, we’ll stay up until two, three in the morning discussing the nature of heaven and hell.  You dig philosophy, Ferrett.  If you like talking about that shit with us, then why not with them?”

“Because they’re just one-note and don’t really care what I have to say,” I said.

“Just try ‘em, man.  Some of them are cute.  Maybe some of them actually want to date you!”

“I guess,” I said.  “But how do I know which ones are genuine without having to talk to a bunch of phonies?”

Eventually, it got to the point where I started bringing friends with me for cover, so I wouldn’t get interrupted.  That didn’t work, either – while it helped, the more aggressive proselytizers would interrupt me in mid-sentence to ask me if I wanted a drink.  Suddenly, the Starbucks wasn’t fun any more – it wasn’t a place to hang out, but a place where I’d just constantly be bugged by attention I didn’t want.  And the guys who weren’t getting free drinks were calling me stuck-up, jealous that I was getting all these free drinks and not even wanting them.

So I stopped going.

Okay.  Clearly, that didn’t happen.  But I’m trying to prove a point here.

One of the things that guys don’t get is why women don’t like to be hit on.  As a guy, when you get hit on, even if it’s a clumsy attempt, it’s generally a very rare and remarkable event – it puts a spring in your step, even if you’re not particularly attracted to the woman, because as an average-looking guy, scarcity of compliments is the norm.  So if a girl catcalls you and goes, “Nice butt!” and appears to be serious, there’s often this sort of strange pride.  Hey, that doesn’t happen often, she must really be into me.

So a lot of guys have this unspoken attitude of, “I wish I’d be harassed.” And they don’t get why women are so angry when hey, I was just trying to be nice, why you gotta be so mean?

Thing is, when it’s not scarce, then even the nicest act starts to get annoying.  Because you don’t get to control when people are quote-unquote “nice” to you, and it happens all the time, and you know there’s always a hidden cost behind it.  You start to question people’s niceness, because they’re not doing it to be kind, they’re doing it because they want something from you.  And maybe, yes, that’s something you like to give to certain people, but definitely not to everyone, and almost certainly not to the kind of guy who’s certain you’re going to give it to him if he just bugs you enough.

Harassment isn’t once.  Harassment comes from a lifetime of dealing with people constantly doing things to you, whether you wanted them or not, at random intervals.  You learn not to trust people.  And what might have been pleasant, once, as an isolated incident, starts to feel pretty oppressive when it’s something you deal with on a weekly basis. It changes you, and then guys call you bitchy when you don’t feel like playing along and pretending this is just about the coffee.

But I think most of ‘em would feel the same were the tables turned.  So please.  Think about what you’re spouting.

(EDIT: In response to some comments, I’ve written a follow-up, entitled, “But If I Can’t Buy You A Coffee, How Will Our Species Reproduce?”: How To Hit On Women.)


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)


I’ve found a rather interesting discussion of Brave breaking out in my comments stream - mainly, “Was Brave’s culture a patriarchy?”

The reason why this is a question is because I said, “I mean, it’s great showing a Princess fighting the power, but can we have a strong female hero who’s not defined by fighting against frilly dresses and societal expectations?”  And several people said, “Well, it’s Merida’s mother who’s forcing her into that, not the culture.  Her Mom, in fact, is the main antagonist!  It’s not really the men creating these problems.”

(Not that her mother’s a villain, but she certainly is an obstruction.  Sorta.  Go see the movie.  It’s not the greatest, but it’s interesting in how the parts that don’t work, don’t work.)

Leaving aside the historical question of “Yes, the 10th century Scottish tribes were patriarchal,” as I think we can all agree that the Scots didn’t have actual witches and magic bears, I think it clearly was.  I don’t think women warriors were encouraged, nor women generally allowed to choose their free path.  Mainly because, based on my evidence from one showing:

1)  At no point in the movie do I recall seeing a woman warrior within Princess Merida’s culture.
2)  Certainly the three tribes who show up to claim Merida’s hands are all male, with no women (or at least I didn’t see any).
3)  All the women shown in the film (aside from the two female leads and the witch) appear to be either mothers or wives.
4)  Though her dad is clearly proud of her skills with the bow, in the end he backs the mother and actively mocks Merida’s desire to be a free warrior.
5)  When the three tribes show up, full of warriors, there’s not a female warrior to be found in the bunch.
6)  They also don’t bring their wives along.  Nor any women anywhere.
7)  When Merida is dressed up in a useless, tight, form-fitting dress, not one man reacts to find this awkward.
8)  When Merida is not married off, they go to war.
9)  Despite the fact that the mother is clearly overbearing on this topic, not one person in the castle expresses the concern that the queen might be a little forward on this manner.  In other words, she’s enforcing a position that nobody else seems to find unusual.
10)  When Merida proposes a solution to the problem that involves changing the culture, it is the men who instantly approve that change and put it into practice, without consulting a single woman.

Now, the counterpoints are:

1)  The only person we see really arguing for the marriage agreement is the mother.  She proposed it, in fact.
2)  The other tribes clearly respect the mother, calming down only when she lays the hammer.
3)  The dad is the one who gives Merida a bow and teaches her how to fight.
4)  The women warriors from the three tribes could be at home, given the important task of guarding the home front.

To which my counter-counterpoints are:

1)  In medieval societies, the mothers often proposed marriage agreements, but that doesn’t mean those societies weren’t patriarchal.  Women frequently had more power than modern people believe in those days, but it was often kind of a sideways power, filtered through male needs.
2)  The practice of Chinese foot-binding was often the result of intense pressure from mothers wanting their daughters to look beautiful, but the fact that the pressure largely came from women doesn’t mean that the culture wasn’t patriarchal.
3)  I see Merida as perceived as a rebel, and as such Dad’s handing her a bow isn’t the act of a normal father, but rather a quirky King who can do what he wants.
4)  We could suppose stuff like this all day long.

The fascinating thing about this discussion is about how it’s all about perception.  Given the world we see, there’s no definitive answer to the question: after all, we while we don’t see anyone chastising the mother for her actions, we don’t see anyone condoning her, either.  The reactions of the people are a few gasps in reaction shots.  The everyday actions of women are difficult to extrapolate, given that we don’t actually interact with them.

All we can see is this strange little window, trying to judge what’s normal in the middle of a story about three extraordinary people (a King, a Queen, and his daughter) in an extraordinary time.  And yet for all of that, I think it’s clear that Brave is a largely male-run society, where Merida is not rebelling against one woman’s crazy desires, but rather a whole culture that wants her to be pretty and delicate.

Yet the structure of Brave makes it oddly hard to tell!  Which is fascinating.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So Jaym Gates linked to this piece – The Ten Commandments Of Flirting, Or: How Not To Be Creepy At Atheist Conventions.  She said, “I want to include these rules in every con packet EVER. These rules aren’t just for atheist conventions.”  So of course, I clicked, because I really don’t want to be That Guy, and was pleasantly happy to realize that (I think) I follow all of them.

This quote on respecting people’s time stuck out, however:

“If you want to tell someone else an anecdote, make it short and get right to the point.”

As someone who tells a lot of stories, I realized that there are certain tales I just don’t tell at conventions.  I’ve learned that my more involved tales (like this little doozy) won’t work, because con space really doesn’t allow a story of over a minute; people are coming and going and interrupting to say hello to old friends, and other folks are wanting their space to share, and if there’s a lot of setup then you basically have to arm-wrestle the table into listening to you.

It’s not like a dinner, where if you say, “This one takes a bit,” you can get some room for a five-minute monologue.  As people’s attentions wander, you’ll get a third of the way through the story and get to the first punchline, and people will think you’re done.  So if you’re committed, you have to either wave someone to shut up, or start up again after they tell their story, both of which are kind of dickish.

No big deal.  I just tell short stories.  And in the hullabaloo, sometimes I don’t even finish those.  It’s cool.  I’m there to listen to other people, not to spout my old tales to other people.

But it’s a little weird to realize that subconsciously, I’ve not only got enough stories to tell, but I have marked many of them as space-appropriate.  This one’s a good con story.  This one’s a good one to tell sitting in my living room.  This one’s a good one to tell in a crowd of four to six people.  I can think of a story and instantly know what social milieu I think it fits into, which is an odd thing to realize about how much I think about stories.

Then again, I’ve sat at the con when That Guy keeps going, “No, no, you gotta listen, and then – get this – this happened.”  And at a con, no tale is amusing enough to be worth hijacking an entire table’s worth of people for ten minutes.  Just trust me on that.


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The good news is, I’ve talked to Republicans, and it turns out none of them are racist.

Now, you might think many are racist, given the harsh reaction they’ve had to Obama, a black president – getting vitriolically angry at him for doing many things that they had little vocal complaint about when Bush was doing the exact same things.

But when I talk to conservatives, what it turns out is that every single complaint they have against Obama is entirely justified by Obama’s damaging policies.  They can talk for hours about how what they’re against is Obama’s actions – which, given that they’re Republicans, it seems pretty reasonable that they’d oppose a Democratic President.  And since their complaints are based entirely on the laws that Obama’s trying to pass, as are the complaints of all their friends, they assure me confidently there’s no racial component.

Certainly they’re rationalist Republicans.  After all, they’re debating me in my rather liberal journal – clearly not a comfort zone for them – and they have many long, thoughtful screeds on why Obama’s proposed laws and policies would do harm.

Therefore, all Republicans are like them.

Oh, sure, there may be a couple of racist mails passed back and forth, and a few embarrassing signs, but those aren’t representative of the true conservative party.  Most of the conservatives oppose Obama based on nothing more than sheer disdain for his policies – a sane, rationalist approach.

Which is good news.  Because what I was thinking in my foolishness was that yes, the conservatives almost certainly had some valid complaints against Obama.  But could it not also be that for many – and not necessarily those who comment here, but not necessarily not – their legitimate complaints are aggravated because of hidden racial sentiment in a way where they wouldn’t freak the fuck out if it was an old white guy in charge like Bush?  That it’s easier for them to complain about a black guy?

I thought it likely, given the consistent pattern of alienation and repetition – Obama is not a real American, he’s a Muslim, he hates the flag – that for many, these legitimate complaints are inflamed by an undercurrent that many of them aren’t even willing to look at, turning everyday gripes about the current leader into OMG HE’S RUINING AMERICA.  That there’s some ugly stuff there that might be deserved to look at, even though much of what they say is true.

But as it turns out, there’s one of two sides: either they’re all redneck racists and as such none of their complaints is worth a damn thing, or they’re all very rational people who’ve been inflamed by a particularly confrontational President.  You have to choose one.

It can’t be so complex as to that they can have both legitimate complaints and racism.

Now.  For “Obama,” read “Twilight.”  For “racism,” read “misogyny.”

Some people sailed magnificently past my comments that Twilight had some really difficult issues involved to settle, rather dimly, on the interpretation that “Ferrett thinks Twilight deserves a pass on its female issues.”  Which is distinctly not true.

Yes, I’m sure you have some good reasons to hate Twilight.  It’s eminently hateable.  It’s got some really fucked-up issues with regards to female empowerment (or lack thereof) and the prose is amazingly bad, and Edward’s stalkery creepdom.  Yes, all those are manifestly clear.  Yes, I’m sure you and all of your friends have thought it through very thoroughly, and that each of you have considered it carefully.

Yet forgive me for remaining unconvinced that the reason that everyone so easily dumps on Twilight is because of its terrible prose, and that there’s not a scrap of “teenaged girls have terrible taste and should be scorned” in there somewhere.  Because as I said, it’s not just Twilight, but Justin Bieber and Titanic and Sex in the City and a long score of feminine media, where if you tell people you really enjoy such silly things, you have to justify these silly pleasures on some level.

Because they’re girl things.

What I’m suggesting is that maybe, in addition to Twilight being deeply flawed so that you intelligent people can pick on it, there’s something inherent in our culture that allows us to see teenaged girl things as disposable.  (As witness this comment here about how the shrieking girl fans of the Beatles are presented as not really appeciating them.)  Which does not mean that Twilight is immune to valid criticism, it just means it’s more okay to kick girlish things like Twilight around because we subliminally accept it.

It’s been suggested that my liking of Batman is only acceptable in nerd cultures, and I’m just hanging around my nerdy unwashed friends too much, since any reasonably grown man would never admit to liking anything comic-booky in public.  Yes.  That could be.  It could also be clear that my reclusive nerdy culture doesn’t get out much, and the fact that five out of the the last ten years of box office annual #1s include a Spider-Man movie, another Spider-Man movie, a Batman movie, a Lord of the Rings movie, and a Star Wars movie certainly doesn’t mean that my boyhood favorites haven’t achieved, you know, global domination or anything.  Or that male power fantasy videogames like Halo and Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto haven’t outperformed even those stalwarts at the box office.

Clearly, the fact that these nerd fantasies are all massive money-makers means that every one of the millions of people who saw Dark Knight Returns never discussed it in public, clutching their purchases shamefully to their chest and never mentioning it among genteel society.  It’s certainly not a sign that my silly boyhood weirdo fantasies have actually infiltrated the mainstream culture to a large extent.

(As opposed to, say, Japan, where I hear tell the videogame development industry is suffering because men who play videogames past the teenaged years are considered childishly foolish and soon walk away.  Then again, I haven’t been there, so I can’t say.)

My point is that yeah, there are valid complaints to be had with these sorts of teenaged girl’s affections – mostly, the worrying message that a man bringing dizzying love is the only thing you need to complete you, a message hammered home again by Bieber and Twilight and Titanic and tons of rom-coms.  That’s a very legitimate complaint.

Still. A lot of women legitimately and unironically love these things.  So what then?  Do we train society that if women aren’t toeing the line of “Liking empowering things,” that it’s okay for society to make fun of them, dismissing the things they carry close to their chest?  A dismissal that further encourages teenaged boys to consider their teenaged girls as alien creatures, both mysterious and trivial?

(I wish I could find an essay someone linked to on Twitter the other day, but there was a creative writing teacher saying that when they asked students to write about what it would be like to be the opposite sex, the girls wrote long, involved essays that showed they’d clearly given it a lot of thought.  Whereas half the boys flat-out refused to do the assignment, considering it beneath them, and the remaining half made it clear that trying to think what they’d be like as a girl would be a waste of time.)

So.  Do we honestly think that everyone who’s bagging on Twilight is doing it with the same thoughtfulness that you’ve put into it…  or is it possible that the moral equivalent of Redneck Randal is riding your coattails, complaining for entirely different reasons?

I don’t have an easy answer.  But I think it’s more complex than “Everyone knows Twilight is bad because it’s disempowering.”  I think there’s something entwined in there that bears greater consideration.  (As is the concept that “changing the world,” as Katniss and Buffy do, is invariably a noble thing, and something as simple as trying to find the love of your life is not really a worthy story to tell.  I like world-changers  I just don’t think they should be everything.)

Which is why, in the end, I will – and have! – complain about Twilight.  I just won’t make Twilight the automatic punchline when it comes to choosing “the worst book in the world.”  Because some of those people laughing might not be doing it for reasons that I support.  There’s a difference between that and “refusing to criticize,” and if you can’t see that distinction, well, maybe you should write me off with Twilight.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There’s a little misogyny in the hatred of Twilight and Justin Bieber and all the other things that teenaged girls love, and I wanted to unpack that.

Because one of the things I said yesterday that Twilight was a teenaged girl’s power fantasy, which it clearly is – the drab girl goes to a new school, finds that every boy there wants her, but she can ignore all that because the most special boy in the world who’s waited his whole life for someone like her comes along to change himself in every way for her.

This may seem dumb.  But consider the teenaged boy’s power fantasy, wherein your parents are shot dead, leaving you free with your wealth to buy all the cool gadgets and go beat up clowns in alleyways, and you’ll see that almost all power fantasies are, at heart, silly.

Now, admittedly, the phrase “teenaged girl’s power fantasy” is going to get some hackles up because, yes, not all teenage girls are the same and there are many who would rather go running with Katniss than Bella.  Fair cop.  But there are millions of girls reading and re-reading Twilight because for them, it’s the dream of what they want to be.

And it is scorned.

Twilight is the butt of everyone’s jokes, the automatic punchline.  Even people who’ve never read Twilight hate Twilight.  And there are very legitimate reasons to dislike Twilight, but I think a large part of the reason Twilight slips so easily into that “Need a flavor of the month to kick?  Why not Twilight?” is because girls like it.

Because stereotypical teenaged girls also like Justin Bieber… And as I’ve noted before, he too is the automatic kicking boy of jokes.  It’s not like the metal and rap bands that boys like, with their over-the-top posturing and hyper-masculine shouts, aren’t equally as stupid, but somehow Insane Clown Posse (or even more popular bands) never quite reaches the level of “auto-joke” that Justin Bieber does.

Stereotypical teenaged girls also like romantic comedies.  And rom-coms, another female power fantasy, are widely agreed to be awful, acquiring both critical denigration and a “Eeyew, who’d watch that?”  But action films, the teenaged boy’s powerful fantasy, may not get the critic’s thumbs-up, but mostly society thinks that well-done action films are kinda cool.

Compare, say, The Transporter to 27 Dresses.  Which one’s the more joke-worthy?  Even though they’re both by-the-numbers, competently-done versions of their genre?

And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the more embarrassing versions of power fantasies are invariably the girly ones.  The quiet message here is that what you want now is not just foolish, but actively embarrassing, something to be shucked aside.  You women with your silly dreams, go discard them the moment you grow up, because what you want now is to be gotten rid of.

There’s some very deeply-rooted misogyny in there, I think.  It’s like we’re almost afraid of young females agreeing on something, as though it scares the shit out of us as a society.  And if it was just one instance, I might write it off… But the fact is that every time I see something that teenaged girls think is cool, everyone immediately jumps on the bandwagon and agrees it is only not awful, but cringeworthy.  Which sends a bulletin to teenaged girls that whatever you like, you should change that shit right away.  Because you’re kind of silly and stupid, and maybe you should alter yourself to like better things.

Meanwhile, comic books and videogames, the secret male nerd pasttimes of my childhood, have gone mainstream to the point where pretty much everyone agrees Batman’s a badass and hey, can’t we play some Madden or Assassin’s Creed?  Aw, man, wasn’t Pokemon great?

(Which is why I think YA is causing some discomfort in the nerd communities, because mostly girls read YA, but reading is cool… isn’t it!  Should we take it seriously now that girls own it?)

Which is why I don’t make them the butt of my jokes.  Yes, Twilight’s problematic.  So’s DC’s nearly female-free comics reboot, along with the inflated breasts and suddenly submissive, dully-sexual women.  And it’s perfectly okay to analyze why they’re difficult from a sexual perspective, and to discuss the bad lessons they may be causing people to internalize.

But as far as making “Edward and Bella” the butt of my auto-humor when I’m searching for “the worst book in the world”?  I’ll pass.  Because hey, those teenaged girls may be silly, but they’re no sillier than I was when I was rooting for Batman to be the most bad-ass, smartest guy in the world.  Hopefully, like me, they’ll take the best parts and leave the silly behind.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

For research into my new book, I had to read Twilight.  People had told me that Twilight was an abomination unto the Lord, a scabrous pile of poop that a talentless hack had shat out to plague the world.

I didn’t believe it.

I always believe there’s some appeal to a bestselling book, even if that appeal does not necessarily lie in “prose.”  Take the Da Vinci Code, for example.  Are the characters wooden?  Yes.  But the thing people don’t get about Dan Brown is that his characters are not the central characters.  He spends far more time describing the parquet floors of the Louvre than he does on his protagonist’s motivations.  Once you realize that Dan Brown’s priorities are inverted and his locations are actually his lead characters while his lead characters are background, the novel moves quite swiftly.

And Twilight, well, I didn’t want to read it because Bella’s character sounded like she’d annoy me… But I assumed it had some appeal.  Why would millions of teenage girls read it otherwise?

And lo, Twilight did one thing better than I’d ever seen it done, something so perfect that before I read Twilight, I didn’t realize nobody had ever captured the moment before:

Stupid, silly New Relationship Energy.

The triumph of Twilight is that there is a hundred-and-thirty-page stretch where all Bella and Edward do is talk.  Oh, they talk in different locations – they’re talking in the school!  In the car!  In the woods!  In her bedroom!

And they’re talking only about how much they love each other!

Thing is, Stephenie has that silly first-blush of love completely down, where you’re so amazed that this person’s fallen for you that you keep regurgitating your origin story back at each other, endlessly creating your own mythology of How This Happened.  You learn a new fact about someone, then slip back into “I can’t believe this is happening” and “You smell so good” and “I knew I loved you from the moment I saw you.”

She abso-fucking-loutely nails it.  Which is going to irritate a lot of people who don’t like that kind of NRE.  I mean, if you’re not a silly teenaged girl at heart (and really, I am a cuddler), then this sort of flighty repetition is custom-made to drive you batty.

Yet that does not mean it does not ring true.  Having two characters do nothing but talk for a quarter of your novel, with no other people to interrupt or interject, and still maintaining my interest?  It’s a feat few can manage.

Bella’s also far spunkier than the world gives her credit for, though – she keeps running off, disobeying and contradicting Edward, coming up with plans.  I expected a total doormat… And Bella’s not an active lead, God knows, but she’s not quite an inert object either.  (Though I dunno if her character suffers from Motivation Decay in later books.)

The troublesome anti-feminist overtones of Edward have been rehashed in depth elsewhere, as Edward Knows What Is Best For Bella And Bella Agrees… But what I find more troubling is the way all the other characters fade into the woodwork.  This is a teenaged girl’s power fantasy where the world is bent to satisfy her, no different than a boy kicking ass as Batman…

And the supporting cast just vanishes.  Bella is strangely cruel to those she doesn’t care about, and it’s disturbing me more and more that this is a classic teenaged fantasy.  Anyone who isn’t attractive to Bella is flat-out invisible and interchangeable, to the point where they exist only to be dropped from the plot.  In other words, I’m so special that I have all of these friends begging for my attention and I don’t even NEED them.  I can just discard all human interaction to be with Edward.  She seems to find the concept of “regular friends” actively irritating, which is disturbing.

jenphalian thinks that this is merely a weakness in Stephenie Meyer’s writing, that she’s not that good at keeping track of many people – but no, Stephenie handles the vampires just fine.  It’s the everyday folks who become literally invisible, the ordinary kids who want to hang with the cool new girl, and the subliminal message is “If they’re not useful to you, they’re to be discarded.”  That’s fucking concerning.

But overall, despite the Godawful prose, I can see the potent vampire heart distinctly NOT beating at the core of Twilight.  I dunno if I can get through New Moon, not with so many actually good books out there (Holly Black is calling me, and I have two novels to crit)…. But there’s an appeal.

I just wonder how much NRE I can take.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My friend was very excited, because his new novel featured a first for him: a female protagonist.  He was looking forward to the challenge of writing something long-form that had a different viewpoint character than his other, male-centered, novels.  And he was so concerned with getting it right that he’d asked a bunch of us to talk it over wih him.

Unfortunately, he made an error that I think a lot of male writers do.  And that error arrived with this statement:

“Okay,” he said.  “At this point, she’s been brought to a foreign land, and I need to raise the stakes so that she wants to stay here and fight for this culture.  So I think she needs to get pregnant.”

Cue groans from the women in the session.

Now, I’ve observed before in that in fiction, women have one of two roles: to get raped, or get pregnant.  And I think, watching my very well-intentioned friend go at it, I’ve finally understood the reason why men do this.

See, in his excitement to write a woman, he got caught up on the differences between men and women.  If women can get pregnant, and I’m writing a woman, well, I should immediately start with this biological difference!  That’ll be a plot that only a woman can have!

Except it’s a plot that almost any woman can have.  In attempting to differentiate your character, you’ve just made her like 95% of other women in fiction.

Plus, pregnancy is just one of a thousand different motivations that can get a woman to do things.  If you had a male character, would you define his sole reason for staying as being biologically-based?  Of course not.  You’d look at all the myriads of motivations that could drive humanity to fight for a cause – love, justice, revenge, obligation, pride, the challenge of starting over again, survival, redemption, hatred – and choose one that was not based on a man’s unique ability to squirt sperm.

So why do you narrow it to pregnancy?  Why?  To write a woman’s plot?  Then what you’re saying, whether you mean to or not, is that women have one role… and I gotta tell you, from the groans of protest I heard from the women, they’re getting pretty tired of that crap.

Pregnancy is just one aspect of a female character.  Look at all the emotions that might motivate a woman, and allow that pregnancy is also an option, but let it be just one option among many.  Then choose the one that fits this character.

As someone wisely said during the session, “A woman’s character is not formed from biological imperatives.  It’s formed from a difference in experience, and that experience is often societally driven.  If women think differently, it’s because people treat them differently – but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel all the same emotions that men do.”

And those emotions run the gamut to “not wanting to be pregnant.”  Yes, protecting your baby is noble – but as others noted, assuming that I was whisked away to a foreign land consumed by war, my instinct would not be to double down on fighting for this land, but to get my kid to a nice safe hospital back in the States. Pregnancy is a specific event for a woman, yes, but there are lots of abortions and lots of neglectful mothers, and not every character is going to react in the “traditional” way to the news of impending progeny.

In fact, is “traditional” even what you want?  I mean, when you’re writing a male character, do you want someone who reacts in the way that men are inevitably supposed to react?  Isn’t the point of characterization to give us something surprising?  Don’t you want something a little better than the stock-in-trade reactions that have been seen a thousand times before?

So why make pregnancy, that traditional “This is where the woman gets strong” moment, the crux of your novel?

The good news is that my friend listened to the feedback given, and hopefully changed all this stuff before he started.  As a guy, that’s the best start you can have – talking to women you trust, and listening to what you get wrong.  I sympathize.  I’m about to start a novel involving two teenaged girls, and as a guy I assure you I’m going to get it wildly wrong.  The female experience is complicated, female adolescence doubly so.  The best I can do is to write honestly, and keep listening to actual female feedback to keep me on track.

But when I write women protagonists (which I have in Sauerkraut Station, In The Garden of Rust and Salt, My Father’s Wounds, and The Backdated Romance, among others, each of which features wildly differing characters) I’ve always tried to ensure that their motivations are more than biology.  I think that’s the baseline with which to start.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

When all’s said and done, the greatest flaw of humanity is that each of us are trapped in our own head.  We’re the sum of our experiences, and even if those experiences are warped, we can come to believe they’re objective truth.

Case in point: women and speculative fiction.

I was reading Eclipse Four in the tub, a short story collection that I purchased simply because it contained three of my absolute favorite writers: Kij Johnston, Nalo Hopkinson, and Jo Walton.  Each of them are in my rare “Buy on sight” author group, where merely hearing they have a new novel means I’ll purchase it without knowing a thing about it.

Each of them also writes so well they make my fillings ache; Kij writes these ethereal, longing-soaked stories that stab like daggers, and Nalo’s mastery of tone and voice makes it feel like she’s speaking right to me, and Jo Walton has a knack for finding the emotional center of a story that pulls me through even as she never writes the same kind of tale twice.

And the more I thought about it, my personal area of the science-fiction field seems to be women-centric.  My writing mentor?  Cat Valente, she of the beauteous prose and ascension to the rarified air of NYT bestseller-hood.  My peers who seem to be having the most positive reception to their stories lately?  Kat Howard, Amal El-Mohtar, and Felicity Shoulders, all of whom are getting righteously reprinted in the “Best Of” annual collections for their wonderfully good tales.  The breakout star I think of (and hear about) the most often?  Seanan McGuire, that series-writing machine.

This isn’t me picking women to prove a point.  This is me looking around at the folks I see as writers, and noting that the ones who stick in my mind the most tend to be women.  Not all of them are, of course; Jim Hines picks up the “Novelist who I know far better for his blogging” prize, and Jay Lake is the man whose insane persistence is my inspiration when I feel like quitting.  Paul Berger gets my award for “Writer I wish would produce more,” and George Galuschak gets my “I went to school with him, why can’t I write like that?” award.

But when I think about writing, the majority of people who come to mind tend to be female.

And I don’t know.  There’s a lot of talk, as there should be, about how women are routinely fucked over in sci-fi and fantasy, and I’m certainly not saying they aren’t.  I’ve heard the tales of guys who don’t read wimmen because wimmen can’t write.  I know there’s still a lot of dumb discrimination still.  I know you look at the super-sellers of the field and it’s still mostly male with China and Neil and Scalzi. I know the majority of editors are male.

But people were pleasantly surprised when last year’s awards had so many women in the mix, and some said it was a blip and would doubtlessly vanish next year… But from my little corner as a writer hauling himself one rung up the ladder at a time, what I see is women around me.  and I don’t know whether that’s because once again, I’m back fighting The War On Jefferson Hill again, self-selecting because I’m more comfortable with women, or whether it’s the sign of a genuine sea change.

I hope it’s a sea change.  But I can’t tell.  I’m stuck in my head, from one perspective, and I can’t see the whole picture.  All I know is that whenever Kij or Nalo or Jo write something, I’m there, and I’m taking notes, and wishing like hell I had their talent.  And in that moment, I don’t care what gender is writing, all I know is I want more stories like this.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

(WARNING: This one’s a little more explicit than most of my posts.  Also, I’m exploring gender issues as gingerly as I can, so please.  Be gentle as I question and explore.)

The comedy “Yes, Minister” introduced me to the concept of irregular verbs that shifted depending on who you were talking about: “It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it?  I have an independent mind.  You are an eccentric.  He is round the twist.”

Talking dirty has introduced me to a set of irregular nouns: “Slut” and “Whore.”

I’ve only recently begun to introduce more verbal erotica to my bedroom activities, but it’s been enlightening in the sense that calling my lover “whore” becomes a tipping point.  It’s an insult in real life, but once unleashed in the bedroom – and I don’t say it until she’s sufficiently squirmy – it becomes this volcanic release.

“You fucking slut,” I say, shoving my hand down her panties.  “Look at how wet you are.  You want it, don’t you?  You’re so enslaved by lust you’ll do anything, any time.  Not just for me, you want to fuck everyone.  You are filled with filthy fucking thoughts.  In the office, on the street, a dripping dirty whore…”

And they writhe, and cry out, and suddenly the sex is ten times hotter because that was like the key.  It’s on.  Sometimes they moan no, they’re good girls, and I point out that good girls don’t do what they’re doing to me now, and oh God does it get good.

But I’ve been considering that, because it seems to be a fair constant across a number of women I’ve either been having sex with or eroticaing with.  I’ve always been loath to call women “whores,” because I like women who fuck.  I don’t want to shame them for indulging in urges I consider not only beneficial, but actively healthy.  I like women who aren’t repressed, and as such slut-shaming them in bed seemed like a mean thing to do.

As time has gone on, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reaction is societal.  It’s not mean, in that context – society is so full of contradictions for women in that they’re told they should be eternally skinny and big-titted and desirable, yet keep your virginity for as long as you can because you’re not supposed to like that and don’t sleep with men unless it’s a stop on the cattle car to Marriageville.

Whispered in the right context, “slut” is freeing.  It’s an acknowledgement that yes, you have just as many lusts as men do, not just about me here and now but all the time – and in this moment here in the bedroom, I’m telling you that’s all right.  I like that.  I want you to be depraved, it turns me on, and let’s open up this space where we admit that the only difference between you and me is that society tells you that you shouldn’t but makes excuses for me.

It’s uncomfortable, viewed from that lens – being the gateway to a temporary freedom feels like I’m surfing a power given to me that I shouldn’t necessarily have.  Is it an exercise in male privilege?  I’ve been wrestling with that for some time.  But on the other hand, they do want it, or the women who trust me enough to share their sexuality with me wouldn’t keep coming back to have me whisper it in their ear…

And I think, after a lot of thought on the topic, that it is ultimately freeing.  I think that it’s chipping at that big old concrete wall with an icepick, letting women know that yes, they not only can but actively should harbor sexual desires.  It’s picking at a knot in their psyche that needs to be untangled, and sometimes that intersection between “the dominant culture says no” and “your desires say yes” leads to fucking explosive sexual heat.

And I mean, hey, I’ll tell you that here now in a non-bedroom context, as a take from J. Random Guy: it’s good to have those feelings.  It doesn’t make you a slut.  It makes you a sexually empowered human.  And the fact that you’re looking at that cute guy (or girl) behind the movie popcorn counter and picturing all the depraved things you want to do with them?  That desire is perfectly okay, and anyone who tells you that it isn’t has an agenda designed on some level to cripple and shame you.

But saying it here doesn’t have the impact that it does in the bedroom.  Here with me, with my hands on you, you can be a slut and it is such a good thing and you are such a good girl.  I’m crossing the streams.  It’s fine.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I have a couple of follow-up thoughts on yesterday’s post on how women are not ethereal, mysterious beings:

1)  I did mention my genitalia as being my “credentials” for being a dude, which is not something that I strictly believe in.  I’m pretty much of the attitude that if you say you’re a guy, you are to me, and if you say you’re a girl, you are, too.  I can even agree with someone who says that they’re a guy when dressed in this clothing and a girl when dressed in that clothing.

That said, when I write quickly, I tend to write towards the person I think is most likely to read it – and in the case of yesterday’s rant, it was written at the douchey sort of guy who would completely freak the fuck out at the idea of separating gender from genitalia.  So I didn’t think to make that argument then.

I don’t necessarily know that I would have made that statement if I hadn’t been whipped into a foaming rant on women – I probably would have made some other reference to my dudeness.  Because I think that going into gender fluidity is a whole different can of worms, and a guy who’s having problems understanding that core concept of “Women have differing needs but are not alien beings” is not going to be able to digest “And dicks doth not make the dude” at the same time.

Both are necessary arguments, but I think if you have them both at once you just overload their little heads and they go splodey. And I was writing to a specific jackass, and as such I left out the argument for a very vital thing I believe in.

It happens.  I’m sorry when it does, because it leaves the impression that “This is what I think” as opposed to “This is what I think person X can handle at the moment,” which are often very different things.  So apologies to anyone who thought that was untoward. When I write quick, I tend to write specific, and that’s a failing.

2)  That post, as predicted, exploded over at FetLife, getting onto their global “Kinky and Popular” list and getting over 70 comments and 110 likes.  Yet not one person mentioned the anti-genderqueerness in that statement, which makes me wonder whether FetLife is secretly very gender-bound, or whether my audience here is very progressive in such an area.  Odd.

3)  Of the 110 people or so who loved it, about 80% were women.  Zero surprises there.

4)  The highlight of the FetLife post was a guy called “MrCunningLinguist” – always a good sign – who, when told by women that they found his concept of “chivalry” to be stifling and irritating, went off on this magnificent rant:

Not pleasant eh???

  • So when I leave the elevator before you, that’s pleasent for you
  • So when I don’t hold that door open so you can go thru first, that’s pleasent for you
  • So when I walk right by you going up stairs and see you have a baby in one arm and a stroller in the other and maybe a bag and I don’t stop and assist you down or up those stairs, that’s pleasent for you
  • So when you and I are carrying stuff in the house from shopping and I let you take all the Heavy stuff in, that’s pleasent for you
  • So when I sit down at the table before you, that’s pleasent for you
  • So when I walk on the inside of the street, that’s pleasent for you (although in some countries I’ve learned why men do that, but that doesn’t apply in the US..snicker)

So doing all that after a month. And not putting you on this genuine pedestal of “Womanhood” Would create this feeling???

…and went off on some more thoughts on how the problem with chivalry is that women think they don’t deserve it.  To which I said:

Basically, your entire comment breaks down to one astonished gout of, “YOU SILLY WOMEN, THINKING YOU DON’T WANT MY HELP. HOW FOOLISH YOU ARE.”

And then you wonder why someone might be offended by this.

Come on, dude. If I had a baby and a stroller and an arm full of baggage, it’d be nice to offer a hand to me regardless of any perceived gender. If you do it only for women, it’s because a) you think women need the help more, and b) you’re a tool hoping to score points with the chicks.

That’s chivalry. Don’t confuse it with the genuineness of, y’know, “Being nice.”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There are certain writings that are, at their core, all pretty much the same.  Teenaged love poetry.  Rants about work.  And, of course, the ever-popular “Women are a mystery” lament.

Here’s the latest one I stumbled across last week in a post on relationships:

“ATTENTION. any man who thinks he understands a woman is out of his mind. we have to accept them as they are in all their glory, misery, etc.”

Every time I see this, I want to yank the balls off of the poster and throw them in a river of estrogen.

Look.  I am a dude.  (Seriously.  Look between the cleft in my legs for my credentials.)  I have dated women, some say too many women, over the years.  And this is the wisdom I bring you from afar:

Women are – and this may astound you – humans.

They are not aliens sent here from another force, they are not goddesses who stepped down from heaven, they are not some mirror-universe biological force of evil sent to dazzle men’s minds.  When I talk to women, I find they are largely driven by the same psychological impulses that drive us all.

Now.  They have different concerns, and if you are such a narrow-minded moron that you cannot see that “Does not like football” is not equivalent to “Mysterious ethereal being,” then maybe you need to work on your skills.  Perhaps because men have been treating women as a distinct race all these years, their needs and desires do often diverge from what men busy themselves with.  They tend to be more concerned with appearance on the whole (I’m pretty sure that if someone told guys, “You have to hand your keys and wallet off to your girlfriend because there’s no pockets here, but your ass will look cute,” we’d laugh ourselves into a vomit-frenzy), and they often have some understandable insecurities about, you know, an entire media structure devoted to telling them that they’re only worthwhile for their tits and ass.

This does not make them unreachable.  You can understand a woman in the same sense you can understand any other human being – which is to say imperfectly, with eddies of startlement and surprise (“Really?  You like Hannah Montana, Phil?”), but good enough to be a solid friend.

But getting to that stage involves being the sort of person who is willing to fathom concerns that are not your own.  If you go, “Oh, she’s upset about me going out with the boys tonight, what a silly thing,” then guess what?  You failed the fucking test.  If you go, “Hrm, she’s someone who generally seems to be reasonable, and as such there’s probably some underlying psychological concern of hers, like, I dunno, maybe the fact that I come home stinking drunk and demanding sex at three in the morning every time I go out” – then you’re probably Winning.

The point is that this kind of talk is a bullshit excuse guys tell themselves because it’s easier.  Hey, if you just say that women are ephemeral and/or crazy, you don’t have to bother with absorbing another world view, amiright?  And you can just continue working women like safes, enduring all of their dumb stupid wimmen-things because that’s the only way to get pussy.

Then you wonder why they’re a little irritable sometimes.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Andrewducker pointed me at this absolutely phenomenal piece by Bethany Black on why only 10% of stand-up comics are women.  It’s a very personal, very insightful piece that seems to tie together so many disparate thoughts I’d had about sexism and the world – triggering some thoughts of my own:

Thought #1:
“If any part of comedy is sexist, it’s the audiences.”

This is something we tend to forget on the Internet, because we hang out with our tolerant friends and gravitate towards groups that have a lot of tolerance… But where we are isn’t where most of the mainstream culture is, and we forget that at our peril.

You see that in sitcoms a lot – how can sexist, stale, chewed-up crap like Two And A Half Men be so popular?  And the answer is, “Because the audience wants that.”  For all of the horror many of us feel at the sitcom traditions of “dopey, put-upon dad, tyrannical wife,” there’s tens of millions of people out there who laugh at that crap because they feel this reflects some fundamental truth about human nature.

And how do you address that without going broke?  It’s the comic book problem: yeah, comic books are stupid and sexist.  But the core audience that buys comics is stupid and sexist.  If you alienate that audience, the entire comics industry might collapse, and there’s no guarantee that your new and enlightened and tolerant comic will attract enough people from outside the industry to make for not selling to the trolls who want submissive women with big tits.

In other words, the people paying your salary are fundamentally bent.  And changing their opinions can be done, slowly (we’re making headway in getting gay characters into comedic situations), but it’s a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kinda thing, and you can’t just ignore them.

That gets worse when you have a lot of people who just don’t give a shit and will hand these people whatever they think they’ll buy.

Thought #2:
I remember how many of my liberal friends were aghast by the suggestion that being black might have helped Obama past a certain point in the Democratic primaries.  But while being black was certainly a hindrance in the early game, come the late game in the Democratic primary, his race had become a way of making him stand out a lot more.  And really, she sums that syndrome up:

“Because there’s fewer of us it’s a double edged sword.  If you storm it as a female comic you’re likely to be remembered more than a guy who storms it.  But the opposite is also true, if you die you’re more likely to stick in the mind than a guy who died on the same bill.  So the trick is not to let promoters see you until you’re more likely to storm it than you are to die.”

Thought #3:
“There is also the fact that male comics who are terrible will continue to perform and the open mic level longer than women who are terrible.”

You see that in Magic, too, another chronically overmaled industry.  The intense competition of Magic turns a lot of women off (as does, yes, the sexism), but one of the other things that stands out are the number of guys at FNM insisting that this deck is awesome, it beats every deck in today’s Standard gauntlet, they’re totally gonna win tonight.

And they don’t.  But this doesn’t dash their spirits.  They just brew another deck and keep going, and sometimes they do find a good deck.

I wonder what percentage of men’s dominance in any industry is due to the fact that men are, largely, culturally conditioned to think of themselves as awesome – a delusion that often hurts guys (who can’t realize why they’ve failed, and often blame external sources for blocking them from their tremendous future).

But just as often, this ignorance lets them obliviously keep going past the point that they’re terrible until they actually touch some genuine sort of talent.  At which point they begin to thrive.

It’s a weird place.  On the one hand, we don’t want to encourage talentless people, do we?  On the other hand, some significant percentage of these terrible people keep grinding until they gain talent.  So do we a) want to instill in women this feeling that NO YOU’RE SO GREAT YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE IT PAY NO ATTENTION TO REALITY, knowing that this will land a lot of women in this horrid zone where they feel like they should have made it but someone got in their way, and their entire life becomes this boiling jealousy that often erupts in strange violence, or b) try to undercut men’s confidence so they realize they’re shit when they are, thus stopping the folks who might actually get better with a lot more practice?

It’s a strange question to ask.

Anyway, it’s a phenomenally thought-provoking piece.  Go read it.


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.


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