Men and women are travelling in different directions. Men are in a position to deliver the things which women demand. Many women are fighting for something, while many men are fighting against this. Men don’t need to fight for equality, but women do. Meryl Streep puts it differently, but in the same spirit.
Accept it or not, but our history has been overwhelmingly driven by the desires, the intentions and the decisions of men. The women who are the exception to this only prove the rule – Margaret Thatcher has been our only female PM, Hilary Clinton the only female VP. Because of this, the voices of men have far more cultural and social heft.
So when a man belittles a woman it’s the restoration of an order which our society has only begun to seriously progress beyond in the last few decades. I don’t believe that hatred of women (especially women with thoughts and opinions) is ‘taught’ by our world. But it is a clear and present reaction of people (in almost all cases men) who struggle to adapt to the shattering of that historical order.
But when a woman belittles a man it’s an undermining of that order, it’s a rebellion. It can be just as generalised or ridiculous (“men think about sex all the time”, “men are useless”, etc) but it doesn’t carry the cultural and social heft, the weight of all those hundreds of years of what a woman was supposed to be that a man’s voice, a man’s insults, do.
Look at it this way – when a man insults a woman because of her gender, he’s putting her in her place, according to social history. When a woman does the same, she’s saying that his place is laughable. A man is striking out to prevent a woman’s value increasing, but a woman is undermining a man’s value to lessen it.
The starting positions of men and women are utterly different. Women want more value, and men can’t handle having less.
All of which noodling explains why @shitgirlssay had me conflicted. It’s a Twitter account that does nothing but publish everyday female mouthnoise, the classic being “Could you pass me that blanket?”. I think it’s very well observed, and funny.
I read the whole feed, I watched the videos, and I couldn’t get any sense that it was misogynist, or offensive, or created with the intent of putting women in their ‘place’. In fact, the feed is full of the cute phrases and comments that men love women saying. But then, I’m a man, and my opinion on whether this is offensive to women isn’t exactly useful.
But what about #shitboyssay? I had a few of my own, and reading the @shitgirlssay feed gave me the formula – this isn’t about insulting women, or writing stuff which makes women look like idiots, it’s about putting down the real phrases they use everyday, just out of habit or simply because they fit with a woman’s way of thinking and communicating.
So for men, think: “We need to talk about a budget”, “Are you finished with this?”, “Have you finished eating that?”, “I know”, “Oh, is that today?”, “Guys…”, “I don’t understand”, “What’s wrong?”, “Did you lock the door?”, “Have you got the keys?”, “What do I write in this card?”, “But you said you didn’t want anything”…
I’ve said most if not all of those things. They’re honest comments, not rent-a-stereotype shit that men are supposed to say because we’re idiots. We all say stupid or inane things, and half of the comments above do nudge close to stereotypes. But they’re true, they’re real, I’ve drawn them from life. And @shitgirlssay feels the same way to me.
There is a @shitboyssay feed. Sadly, because I thought I might have a go at doing it. But I’ve got enough to do. Even sadder, it’s exactly what you might expect, a half-dead account with two posts, both of which are about boys and sex. Oh, and food. I won’t say no one has ever said these things, but they’re @shitobnoxiousboyssay, nothing more.
True enough, it could be @shitpreppygirlssay or @shitamericangirlsofacertainagesay, and some of the posts don’t ring so universally true. But “Could you pass me that blanket” is just right, it’s not ‘this’ girl or ‘that’ girl, it’s a very cute ‘girl’ thing to say. My wife says this sort of thing. I’m not about to laugh at her. But I can’t help but laugh at @shitgirlssay.
Christ, I’ve warbled on and I’ve said nothing. There’s only one thing really worth saying. When a woman says something about me which is based on my gender, I’m sometimes surprised, sometimes amused, mostly not affected. The comment doesn’t affect me. It’s the words of one woman, it’s one comment. I am not upset. Often it might take me down a peg. But I’m not about to complain that this is an experience I should be protected against.
But when a man says something about a woman which is based on her gender, it’s echoing all the other comments based on her gender that woman has ever heard. It’s supported by the history of the society we live in. There’s no equivalent, tried-and-tested, similarly impactful man-insult to the “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” comment. Because that comment comes from society, not just a single man’s voice.
I have a serious problem with men who complain that women are asking for too much. With men who believe that all femisists are misandrists. With men justifying insults aimed at women based on their gender with some bullshit, weak and pathetic excuse that it’s men who are being asked to give, to lose, to relinquish, and that women are just whining.
Men are being asked to give, because it’s men who have something to give. And any man who can’t give and see how it benefits him, who can’t understand that raising the value of women doesn’t equal a leeching of the value of men, is a ridiculous, emotionally stunted, mentally vacuous sorry excuse for a manboy, a manchild, scared of being asked to re-evaluate their own lives and feelings in the light of a changing world.