Recently I read an extract from a book called Self Made Man: One Woman’s Journey Into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent. As a lesbian, she had decided to dress up as a man and go out into the world as a man and write about the experience.
In one scenario, she joins a bowling group and bowls terribly. The other men can’t stand to compete with a “˜man’ who’s clearly not at his best and help “˜Ned’ improve “˜his’ game. As far as they were concerned, it went against the spirit of competition for the best man to win by any means but fair. Vincent couldn’t recall her female friends being so supportive and so democratic in their competition – and neither can I. Oh, we’ll look out for each other a little at first, until we know enough to fend for ourselves, but after that it’s every woman for herself. This is something that applies at sports, social scenes, men, work, anything. I’ve never seen anything like women giving up the advantage of know-how just because it’s no fun to beat a woman who’s less cluey then they are. It illustrates well how underhanded women are in their competition of one another, how they’ll do their best to hold each other down to the detriment of the greater good – women getting ahead to reach the same levels as men.
She also spoke of her experiences as a man trying to pick up women in clubs, being rejected by women’s hypercritical natures – the most common criticism she got (after she had told the women she had dated/hit on she was a woman) was that she was too small to be physically attractive. Based on my girlfriends I can testify that women tends target the flashiest, cockiest, most masculine men there. A male friend of mine, who is average-looking and on the skinny side, complains that whenever he goes out with his flashy, cocky, solidly-build friend, all the women ignore him in favour of his friend. Yes, the pub/club scene is pretty meat-markety. But these incidents illustrate that women can be just as choosy as men based on physical looks, and often more blunt in their rejection.
Vincent also spoke about her experience dating women, which was largely disastrous, thanks to the hordes of women who were desperate to find a man. It made me think how deeply conditioned we are to have a man – any man – that so many women would eagerly pursue a second date with a “˜man’ they didn’t find physically attractive, or have any camaraderie with. Women seriously need to stop defining happiness and success as having a man. Can you imagine how much happier and more successful we’d all be if this happened?
Vincent painted in quite broad strokes; at one point she talked about going to a men’s meeting, where deeply repressed, disenfranchised men spoke about wanting to kill their mothers and rape their ex-wives; she respected their frankness, but couldn’t understand how years of being treated shabbily by men had created women in the dating scene who were exceptionally wary of all things male. But the article raised a lot of interesting points about the different attitudes between men and women, and the huge gender-only barriers that have been erected because each gender feels they need to protect themselves from the other.
As a humanist, it makes me think we’re fighting a cold war, with no-one gaining anything but a lot of misery from it. It’s a pity our walls aren’t as easily knocked down as the Berlin one.