In two entries last week, I noted feminists (including Amanda Marcotte) who were warning about creepy men approaching women when the women are alone and thus making them feel cornered – a reasonable complaint in many situations. But coincidentally, the day after writing those two entries, I was reminded of another pitfall males constantly face, about which the aforementioned feminists, of course, don’t give a sweet goddam.
I walked past two women lingering near an apartment building entrance – in Manhattan, mind you, where millions of people, including but not limited to feminists, do not want to be approached by millions of other strangers who are doing millions of strange things at every moment – and only as I passed did I notice a third woman, a more brawny bodybuilder sort, begin (quite successfully) pushing a small luggage bag on wheels.
Then, I heard one of the women, behind me now, thanking the brawny one for an assist – they must have had a bowling ball in there or something, since the bag was very small – and the brawny one (whether motivated by feminism, lesbianism, hetero-chivalry, or a twisted combo of all three we can only guess at) remarked that no man would ever help out with the bags. “Yeah, like that one” one of the other women remarked, surely of the only man passing at that moment, which would be me.
(It’s one of the moments that makes you think you should be less helpful, like when you hear the homeless, a vicious lot, swearing at you. I was reminded a bit of the day when I hosted a debate on whether religion is necessary for good character about one hour after I, an atheist, coincidentally helped a blind, retarded person cross an intersection. As Superman knows, you can’t always save everyone, but you try to pick your battles. One strange Christian in the audience at that night’s debate, by the way, suggested that people are too nice and that the great thing about religion is that it makes them less nice. Earth really is a dark, terrible place, filled with profoundly evil, sadistic people, but we happiness-fostering utilitarians must make the best of it.)
So men should not play the superhero in a bustling anonymous metropolis and leap in offering to touch the possessions of women they do not even know – and who a nice feminist male would likely assume looked perfectly capable of coping with adult life and small bags on their own – except of course when women secretly want them to.
But you know, in truth, unlike many exasperated males, I do not pretend to be baffled or flummoxed by this sort of thing. In fact, the reason I usually do err on the side of chivalry, door-holding, object-lifting, paying for the meal, etc. is precisely because I do not believe for one second there even is an opposition between (A) chivalry and (B) feminism in most women’s minds. Indeed, the seemingly-opposed forces of traditionalism and political progress have nothing to do with the popularity of either of those modes of interaction. The paradox is easily resolved as soon as you notice the simple underlying truth that women, throughout the ages and by any philosophical label, expect men to be their eager servants, catering to their whims like slaves.
The matriarchy must be resisted, of course, if all individuals are to live with the dignity necessary to make rational individual decisions and form coherent lives. It won’t always be easy, given that instinct (shaped by the cheap and ready availability of sperm versus the relative rareness and thus seeming-preciousness of eggs) screams in the hearts of both genders “Protect the females!” – an instinct that has been shaped by (understandably, naturally) self-interestedwomen into both chivalry and feminism for centuries now and may go under some new label in the future, likely always with the same matriarchal results.
But we owe it to ourselves – and simply to the truth – to smash the matriarchy and try to live in a more civil fashion.
In the meantime, women – who are in some sense only doing what others let them get away with, of course, as selfish people of any gender will – will go on switching tactically between feminist and chivalrous approaches as it suits them (waxing “feminist” when they want a greater say in decision-making, say, “chivalrous” when they don’t want to be picked on for crying or being afraid of a spider or needing money – artfully ignoring stats that say that women in fact do more of the talking than men, etc., etc.).
A reasonable, realistic male no more wastes his breath complaining about this internally-contradictory tactic-switching than he does complaining about women changing their minds as they change their moods. It goes with the territory, and a mature person eventually learns not to shake a fist futilely at reality.
But he must also know when to lodge the far briefer, simpler, and more final complaint of saying “No” or simply exiting. It’s the only way the feminist/chivalry-seeking females will learn.
In the meantime, largely for political reasons orthogonal to the feminist/chivalrous spectrum (which is really no spectrum at all but rather a single point), I will, as I said, err on the side of quiet, non-ostentatious chivalry, in part because I know women (even ones who prefer the feminist label) cannot help but expect it, largely out of instinct rather than (at this late and decadent stage in cultural evolution) social conditioning. I’m strong and generous, I can take it. And men do not want to become whiners – that’s for feminists, and they do it constantly (then they wonder why our respect for them isn’t increasing).
Indeed, even admitting that we are all silently aware of the matriarchy and its constant, deeply-socially-encoded chicanery risks looking like whining – and thus weakness – and we males will suffer for an appearance of weakness, even if the feminists feel obligated by their ostensibly-egalitarian philosophy to claim that they don’t mind men “appearing vulnerable for a change.”
If we are tactically wise, we will not seek pity or sympathy in this struggle. Nor, I think, should we go the primitivist route of resurrecting the “men’s movement” of the 90s, nor embrace the incivility and cynicism of the “pick-up artist” lifestyle, which is more a sniveling revenge-strategy and shallow hedonism than strength (though one can sympathize with both these groups trying in their clumsy ways to fight back). I’d rather aim for heroism, which has benefits far beyond the narrow and fairly stupid realm of gender relations (and would even in a world of genderless robots).
But the harpies with the bowling ball in their bag and their new bodybuilder girlfriend will never know that.
Come to think of it, within twenty-four hours of that incident, I was offering to help a woman get a stroller through her door, rushing to a friend’s nearby apartment to try to help her and her daughter get into the apartment they were locked out of, and, yes, even picking up the check at a vegan restaurant – and I’m not complaining for a moment about any of it. I can keep this up all day – and even enjoy getting mocked at last week’s roast for occasionally falling prey to what one speaker called “crazy bitches” – but I’m not going to smile and nod afterwards as feminist bloggers tell me I’m a ghoul. Taking feminist bloggers seriously would be internalizing our oppression.
Better we should just try to live the decent, civil, generous lives we hope will be the norm in a hoped-for post-matriarchal world.
Barring radical bioengineering changes in human nature, ones drastic enough to compensate for the fundamental plentiful-sperm/rare-egg dichotomy (and the instincts that will remain even absent the mere mechanical arrangements that created them), that world will likely still be one in which male instincts lean toward the protective and generous, and female instincts lean more toward the parasitic (perhaps a reason they’re more likely than males to favor the welfare state and to favor belief in the idea of a generous supernatural parent running the cosmos).
But if we all admit that – and don’t disguise it with chivalry or post-hoc-rationalize it as perpetually-unfulfilled “social justice” behavior (even as female academic credentials and income begin to eclipse males’) – I am sure we can be different and still peacefully co-exist, as easily as short people and tall people.
People have a million things to worry about it, and I would not want to repeat the feminist mistake (the mistake of political people in general) of thinking that everyone ought to be constantly mulling the ways in which they are subconsciously perpetuating the matriarchy – but if and when it crosses your mind, each of you – male and female – can do just a little to overcome matriarchal thinking, to think just a bit less like a queen or a slave overseer if you are female (even a female who claims to like tough guys but likely just wants to manipulate stronger slaves) and just a bit less like a doormat if you are a male.
But don’t give in to anger, guys – they’ll just use that against you. They can go from proud strength to pity-seeking weakness in a heartbeat, as you well know. Don’t pretend we’ve already escaped the matriarchy. We must be strong and just work quietly toward its eventual eradication. I think goodness and civility will win out in the end, some distant day.
An important first step, if a philosophical language that can even address these issues coherently is to be created, may simply be to stop writing and reading about feminism. Let it vanish into the past alongside other failed philosophies such as fascism, socialism, and religion.
•In the meantime, I can admit that this column about Nazi canine super-soldiers by Maureen Dowd, who I normally despise (along with a couple other Times columnists), is very entertaining. It’s sort of got “werewolves,” too (continuing the inadvertent theme of the weekend).
•By contrast, here’s an animal who fights for freedom. And on a related note, I think that hilarious cat fighting two apples is doing so to music from Alien3, which is cool (and creepy). The popular online cat Maru is more versatile, of course, and now comes with multiple hairstyles.
•Speaking of matriarchs, I was also pleased to see that this photo of a 1970s superhero-themed waterski show (pointed out by Franklin Harris) was prophetic in depicting Mera, the female partner of Aquaman, as part of the Justice League (as indeed she will be when DC Comics relaunches its universe in September).
•And since I’ve swerved into nerdiness, let me note I’m pleased Transformers: Dark of the Moon, while by no means as big as Avatar, has at least already taken more in its combined domestic and foreign gross than Avatar’s domestic haul, about $700 million and counting. In a real throw-down between mechanical exoskeletons and blue environmentalists, I think we know who’d prevail.
And tomorrow: Superman and the case for open borders.