Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Links Time!

LabRat on masculinity.

For as long as I’ve known him, [Stingray] has always acted as though it were a long-since forgone conclusion that his testicles came factory-equipped and were, are, and ever shall be firmly attached to his body, no matter what happens short of a purely literal castration event.

He doesn’t feel the need to check and see if they are still there, or re-bolt them back on later if he is served an egg pie. The presence of homosexual men within his zip code, or even living room, does not cause him to curl into the fetal position and cradle them lest they scamper off over the horizon. He can wash his face with something gentler and more scented than a bar of lava soap and still rest so secure in the assumption that the testosterone-producing apparatus that will still require him to shave it the next morning is still hanging in there that he needn’t even make a few precautionary laps around the block in a pickup. Likewise he seems entirely capable of trying new and different things without needing to look up their gendered implications in a checklist or guide before deciding whether he enjoyed it or not.

I agree completely. I've always thought it was weird when people feel a need to (or urge others to) "prove" their gender. I'm a woman no matter what I do, aren't I? I think the problem is that "woman" and "man" each have two very different definitions:

1. A person who has [female/male] physical characteristics.
2. A person who is [nurturing/tough] and wears [dresses/pants] and likes [ponies!/muscle cars].

A person who fits only one of these definitions creates a weird dissonance in some people. It's not that simple, though, because it's not just overtly masculine women or feminine men who get shit about this--you can be female, be nurturing, wear dresses, and like muscle cars... and certain people will be unable to accept the muscle car thing, or you will feel like you have to suppress it and try to like ponies. As if a dress-wearing vagina-owning person could become disastrously male by that single drop of impurity.

Stingray's no one's girly-man (that's very clear if you read any of his posts...). He's just not a MANLY MAN MAN MAN in everything he does. Rejecting the full package deal that supposedly comes with your gender doesn't mean you're rejecting your gender. Just that you're, y'know, a normal person.

Secondly, even though it's a little embarrassing, I've found Succeed Socially to be surprisingly useful reading. There's a bunch of articles on social skills, pitched at a borderline-Asperger's audience; a lot of it is the guy saying (in more polite words) "other people don't want to hear a four-hour lecture on your model train collection." But a lot of it is really good, thought-through, well-written advice on how to meet and make friends and treat them well.

It's easy for someone like me, who's somewhat awkward but definitely not at the train-collection level of social disaster, to brush this off as something they don't need. Or even to feel a bit humiliated to be looking at it, an admission of dorkness second only to wearing Pull-Ups to bed. But a lot of it has been very helpful for me. I have a lot of bad social habits--"everyone listen to me!"; "I'm only making cruel fun of you because I like you"; "screw it, I'm going back to my cave"--that this site has helped with.

And more than anything, it has a good attitude. The guy's outlook on life is that most people are worth knowing and that the best thing you can do is genuinely like other people. If you're interested in someone and want to spend time with them, you should basically just say so. The site doesn't directly address dating at all, but I'd say it's the best dating-advice site I've ever seen.

If you're wondering why this post is tagged "PUA," that's a hint. (Well, okay, it's really just a cue for Eurosabra--oh lord, I said his name, he's like Candlejack--to appear and explain why he doesn't find this "treating people decently technique" nearly as effective as the Performatively Masculine Half-Neg Strength Word of +2 CHA.)


  1. I should have thought to mention this before, but I had a revealing conversation with some women about a self-professed pick-up artist and his proteges. They were really positive about the whole thing. Two of the women had dated him, and a third was considering it. They all agreed that "guys need help" and seemed to thing the PUA was providing it.

  2. Pardon the above-described awkwardness... Are you joking or not?

    Because every time I've run into a PUA-type in real life, he's been an utterly repulsive sleazeball. I mean just an offputting asshole whose alpha-male bluster didn't remotely cover his timid-geek underbelly. I honestly have never experienced one who was different.

  3. "He's just not a MANLY MAN MAN MAN in everything he does."

    ...and you should see me in a skirt. :-*

  4. Bruno, again - I'll admit that there are some good things in PUA--mostly that it teaches assertiveness, self-confidence, and "closing the deal," and much as I dislike the language and the gender imbalance, a lot of guys do need help overcoming timidity and ambivalence.

    But there's so much bullshit mixed in. Self-confidence is great; manipulation and deliberate shallowness and wacky pseudoscience are also part of the PUA package, and that shit isn't helping anybody.

    Stingray - Yes. Yes I should. My email address is right there at the top of the page.

  5. Really not joking. They liked this guy.

    Also, this is so accurate it almost made me cry:

  6. um excuse me, but I've been wondering abt this for a long time and finally decided to just go ahead and ask: what's a PUA?

  7. Yesterday I witnessed my mother and the apartment manager having a "conversation" about some furnace issues. Or rather, it was an epic battle of words between two people who are all talk, all verbal dominance, no listen, and take everything as a personal affront but are determined not to appear excessively rude in front of strangers. And, also at least in the case of my mother, seems to interpret the words "that" and "it" as referring to whatever thought is currently running through her head, which is not necessarily whatever the other person was talking about and occasionally not even very relevant to the conversation at hand. Anyway, that was the most verbally and socially dysfunctional thing I've ever seen. Is it any wonder that both appear to have no real friends?

    Also, what's a "Candlejack"? I'm aware of Candyman and Beetlejuice, but you have to say those names three times.

  8. Anonymous: PUA = "pick up artist," which has itself taken on a more specific meaning of heterosexual men whose approach to meeting women is overtly reductive, manipulative and misogynist. (Cue PUA protesting that, no, really, it's just about "confidence" and not really at anyone else's expense.)

    That "Succeed Socially" site is interesting reading (especially as I'm working on a post about shyness) - personally, I think it's a little quick to take a "that's just the way it is, some things will never change" attitude, but it's still better than a lot of shyness forums that can't get to activism because they're constantly reenacting high school drama, and head and shoulders over all the "overcoming shyness" sites that tell me I'm broken and then offer to sell me a way to fix it.

  9. Not Me - Candlejack is a villain from Freakazoid (who's become an Internet meme) who suddenly appears and kidnaps anyone who says his na

  10. Personally, I prefer my women to be tough, wear dresses, and like muscle cars and guns. But I'm weird.

    Also, I think Stingray really is a "MANLY MAN MAN MAN", it's just that the popular conception of that has gotten so confused that almost no one realizes that being one involves being comfortable enough with it to no have to be a farking jerk about it all the time.

    Thirdly, "Pick Up Artists" vs: "Rules Girls" -- FIGHT!

  11. OK, I haven't finished this yet, and I will, but I gotta say that so far it sounds like there is an implication that gay men and/or effeminate men lack balls and/or produce less testosterone and I guess I just didn't think that was really true and it is grating my cheese.

  12. I'm actually turning meek and mild with the winter, so am overdosing on the milk of human kindness. I am interested in the Succeed Socially site because I am always interested in new takes on shyness, but frankly I am hardly the expert on PUA, because I tend to wind up with absolutely scrambled results--the very pretty and very shy bond with me intellectually without attraction, the very pretty and extroverted find I can't keep up with the constant fending-off of competition, and I wind up drawing my partners mainly from solitary geeks, whom I actually pick-up using pick-up artistry. I'm somewhat good but very programmatic, and it actually makes me endorse a form of masculinity I don't easily embody. If it makes you feel better, there is a bit of a revolt in the Pick-Up Community right now against "naturals", the idea being that the MORE artificial, the better. "Natural Game" supposedly only works for good-looking, naturally socially-dominant men. My method has usually gotten shyer, softer, less polarizing, more bookish, but I am unusual in that I do Depressed-Geek-Pick-Up ("The Medicated Meeting the Medicated, at 'Star Wars in Concert'") because meeting Russian models on the streets of Tel Aviv or New York made my head asplode.

  13. Crayon- if you mean my post, then I never meant that. Frankly both notions irritate me too, but what irritates me much *more* is the notion that they represent some kind of threat to the masculinity of "real" men.

  14. There are tons of books, Web sites, etc. (of varying degrees of quality) that advise people on how to get love and.or sex, but basically none to help grown-ups make friends. Thank you for linking one.

  15. Crayonbeam - I'm pretty sure the idea is that certain people act like being less than hyper-manly will make your balls drop off, but in reality men have balls no matter how they act and shouldn't feel like their male identity is challenged by non-gender-stereotypical behavior.

  16. <a href="">Candlejack</a

  17. Holly, based on all your experiences in this blog, if you consider yourself to be socially awkward, I don't want to know what that makes me. I would imagine you are closer to a social master, based on your writing so far.

    Also, you pretty much described the entire problem of Gender Performance in two sentences. VICTORY to you.

  18. In a nutshell. Thank you, Holly.

  19. Big Tasty - I'm socially... intermediate. I can talk to people, I don't think I do anything very off-putting, but I'm not smooth, I sometimes miss hints, I'm accidentally offensive sometimes, and I can be quite timid with strangers. I'm not "HURF TRAINS" but I definitely need to work on my sensitivity and confidence.