About Me


Monday, November 8, 2010

When Your Guy Friends Say "I Hate Feminists"

I started to write about this, decided I would introduce the topic by giving an overview of the Insecure Nerd Boy, and then got distracted and ended up ranting. Sorry.

So: the point I was trying to make is that most of my friends are Insecure Nerd Boys, an identity that has a little bit of misogyny built in (on of the Insecure Nerd Boy's main points of definition is that he lusted after the unattainable hot cool girl in high school, couldn't get her, and now believes himself too uncool to get a girlfriend, even one who is just as nerdy as him. And also, although I didn't mention this in the previous post, Insecure Nerd Boys tend to comment negatively on the attractiveness of Nerd Girls even though they are hardly more attractive themselves).

How, I have a very analytical mind. I'm constantly assessing and deconstructing what's going on around me, and one of the main lenses I use is gender. So I'm pretty much always conscious of the workings of the patriarchy around me. That doesn't mean I always talk about it. It's just so intrinsic that I only mention things that really bother me.

This means that it is somehow possible for some of my friends (especially the Insecure Nerd Boys, who have difficulty recognizing and identifying emotions and opinions not explicitly stated) to not realize that I am a feminist.

In turn, this leads to awkward situations where someone goes, "God, I hate feminists."

I try not to be personally offended when one of my male friends says this. Instead of putting on my hardcore-feminist-cloak-of-anger, I usually say, calmly and reasonably, "Why do you hate feminists?"

This often surprises the dude in question. He thought his statement was self-evident. Often he will stumble through some response which you can neatly tear down ("Feminists are just whiny lesbians") or handily win a debate over ("Feminists want chivalry AND equality, that's just not fair").

Because these dudes are intelligent, generally well-read and somewhat politically aware beings, they don't usually engage in mindless feminist-hate. In fact some of them will have specific, if stupid, reasons for hating feminists. For example: "The sexual assault hotline is an all-female space, there's no place for male victims to turn. Also the women who run it are crazy misandrists." This is actually true in the city where I live. The local sexual assault hotline is run by a bunch of super-radical feminists who are seem to view all men as a potential source of sexual violence. Of course, these ladies do not represent all feminists everywhere of ever. If a dude said, "I hate the women who run the sexual assault hotline," or "I hate crazy radical feminists," or "I hate people who see all men as a potential source of sexual violence," I would not have nearly as much of a problem with that statement.

The problem is that a lot of the guys I know have a severe misunderstanding about what feminism is. They might have some idea of second-wave feminism, or radical feminism, which leads them to paint all feminists as "feminizes." Third-wave feminist ideology is completely foreign to them.

This is often accompanied by a severe lack of understanding about how the patriarchy operates, and how misogyny operates. These guys don't understand that sexism with good intentions is still sexism, and frequently engage in this "benevolent sexism." Sometimes they engage in sexism without good intentions as well, as when a friend's boyfriend, standing on the street corner with myself and two other women including his girlfriend, yelled out a slut-shamey comment to two girls walking by in short skirts, and then laughed when we stared at him like he was an alien.

Fortunately, a lot of guys are willing to listen. I actually had a surprisingly nuanced discussion about rape culture with some guy friends one evening. They had never heard or thought about any of that kind of thing before, and they were surprised and kind of horrified to hear about it. Later that same evening, I was harassed by some drunk guys in a cab while walking home. When I told my guy friends about the incident, they were suitably shaken and disgusted.

Anyway, this post seems to have gone on a bit of a tangent (a common theme today… possibly because I'm sick and on pseudoephedrine), but the main point I'm trying to make is this:

A lot of guys that I know are kind of benignly, benevolently sexist. This is largely because they don't understand feminism, and don't understand how privilege and oppression work. (Interestingly, I've found that the guys who are most receptive to conversations about feminism tend to be ones from ethnic minorities.) Most of these guys are relatively open to learning about feminism, and at least try to get rid of their sexism, especially when they see how sexism affects their female friends.

Until recently, I had very few guy friends, and one of the reasons is that I'm a little bit allergic to latent misogyny. Recently I've discovered that as long as a guy is open-minded enough to learn about the patriarchy and how it works, and as long as I can keep myself from being too offended by blanket statements like "I hate feminists", friendship with men who are not already identified as feminists or feminist allies can work.

And that gives me hope. If every woman can introduce a few of her male friends to misogyny and make them face their own privilege, maybe the patriarchal beast will be conquerable.

On Insecure Nerd Boys, and the Dating of Them

So I will fully admit that I don't have a lot of male friends, and the ones I do have sometimes tend to fall into the Nice Guy™ mode. Well, that's not completely accurate… it's more that most of the guys I know tend to be Insecure Nerd Boys.

You may not be acquainted with the species known as Insecure Nerd Boy, so allow me to give you a brief overview. Insecure Nerd Boys tend to obsess over their middle school/high school experiences, which follow a common narrative:
(1) Boy is really smart and into geeky things.
(2) Boy gets made fun of by the cool guys for not being cool.
(3) Boy feels bad about self.
(4) Boy lusts after hot popular girls who are dating the cool guys that make fun of them.
(5) Boy begins to define himself by uncoolness, nediness, and inability to get the hot girl.

Insecure Nerd Boys can sometimes be difficult to be friends with, because they are so convinced of their own uncoolness. And also they sometimes find it hard to acknowledge girl-nerdiness, because come on, you are a chick! Dudes want you! You cannot possibly have gone through the uncoolness, teasing, and alienation that smart boys go through in middle school and high school! You have boobs, which fix everything!

Most Insecure Nerd Boys would never believe you if you told them they were being misogynistic. Because they are such nice boys! It's the cool guys who do that shit! And anyway, you have boobs, which fix everything!

But the real problem comes when you try to date Insecure Nerd Boys. Firstly, they tend to be very oblivious to social cues like flirtation. Secondly, once you finally get them to realize you are into them, they immediately deny it. "But I am not cool!" they exclaim. "Only cool guys get girlfriends!"

This denial persists onto the first date. "I can't believe you're real! I never had any idea that girls as awesome and nerdy as you existed!" And beyond. "Wow you are so awesome and foxy-hot and smart, why would you ever be with someone like me who is nerdy?" And beyond. "Oh my God, I have a real live naked girl in my bed. I can't believe this is happening to me. Does this mean I am… cool? EXISTENTIAL CRISIS HAVING. SEXYTIMES CAN WAIT, SORRY NAKED GIRL." Sometimes you wonder if they're so flabbergasted by the idea of having a girlfriend they forget that said girlfriend is a person, who would like to be in a relationship and not on a pedestal, thank you.

Then comes the CLING. Insecure Nerd Boys are like, "Well, I have a girlfriend, which is clearly a rare and uncommon occurrence. I MUST NOT LET HER ESCAPE WHICH SHE SURELY WILL DO GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY FOR I AM NOT COOL." And then it's all, "I know we only met a month ago, but I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you." And, "I was never suer if I wanted children, but I could see myself having them with you." And, "Let's make plans for two years from now!" And, "I know that as a female being you are not a huge fan of sexytimes so let's cuddle all night! Look how sensitive I am!"

And then you are like, "Hey buddy I think we might need to talk about our relationship," and their reaction is "OH MY GOD YOU ARE BREAKING UP WITH ME I KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN I AM SO UNWORTHY." And you are like… "No, communication in a relationship is just a really good thing." And he is like, "NO. IF WE DON'T ACKNOWLEDGE OUR PROBLEMS THEY WILL GO AWAY. TRUST ME I HAVE TRIED THIS." And then you say, "Dude, your clinginess is scaring me. Like you, I have had few relationships. I am uncomfortable with things getting too serious too fast. Can we slow down a bit?" And then they are like, "OH MY GOD YOU HATE ME I KNEW IT." And go sulk alone on a canoe in the middle of a lake for a few hours, and don't talk to you for a few days.

At this point you realize the relationship will never work. Because you need regular sexytimes, and a dude who appreciates but doesn't fetishize your nerviness, and a dude who is at least half as secure as you are. But you can't just break up with them because then they will get all upset, and they just told you about how they're on antidepressants, and you've met their family which is really nice.

Except then you can't take it anymore, because they keep interrupting you with cutesie baby talk while you're trying to have an intelligent conversation, and trying to cuddle all the time instead of sexytimes because they think that's what you want and nothing will convince them otherwise, and talking getting married one day. So finally you just cut them loose with some kind of, "I'm just really too busy for a relationship right now," or "I need to find myself," or "I'm moving to Guatemala." And then because they're upset, they make their Facebook profile a picture of the two of you with your face cropped out, or they ask out all of your best female friends, or they insult your mother. And then you are bitter and twisted and swear to never date another Insecure Nerd Boy.

Okay, so this post turned out differently from what I originally intended to write about, but I will post about that topic later. I think I needed to rant about Insecure Nerd Boy relationships. I haven't dated one in a while, but the way it ended still left scars, and a couple of my friends going through that right now and that brings it all back.

Gah. My advice to Insecure Nerd Boys: Get over yourselves. Nerdy girls like you because of your shared interests and values and personality compatibility. Also they like sexytimes. Communication is necessary to any good relationship, so don't take it as a criticism. Your girlfriend is a person too, and probably a very intelligent person, so have intelligent conversations with her. And try to remember that you are AWESOME--just don't get too arrogant about it.