Tuesday, June 06, 2006

So All Men AREN’T Sexual Pigs?

Note: I wrote this back in January and never posted it.

I hate when people have negative opinions about something they haven’t read. But I hate generalizations more, so here I go, voicing a negative opinion about something I haven’t read, and actually have no intention of reading.

The book in question is Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent, who spent quite a bit of time pretending to be a man so she could write this book, which is apparently all about how different men are from women.

Obviously, her observations are more valid than mine, because they are based on her experience. But the parts I have read (excerpts in magazines and quotes in reviews) seem to work too hard to push those observations further than they really go.

One that bugged me was that she said she learned to adapt an attitude of entitlement, and that women apologize a lot more. An example was that when ordering food, she’d say “Get us two filets,” where as a woman she would be more like, “Excuse me, so sorry to bother you, but when you get a chance do you think you could maybe get me a glass of water?”

A--If I were on a date with a man who ordered the waitress to “get us two filets,” that would be our last date.

B--While I acknowledge the tendency expressed in the second example, she is going way overboard in her demonstration. I don’t know any women who go that far to be apologetic about asking the waitress to do her job. And my husband says, “when you get a chance” to people all the time. He never says, “get me a filet.”

Some of the excerpts and references state that men are expressionless and hide all their emotions under armor. Sorry, but my brother (non-gay, fairly masculine, and very comfortable with himself) is one of the most emotional people I know. The references I’ve read imply (or I’ve inferred) that she took her observations of one group of men (rough-and-tumble types in a bowling league) and applied it to ALL men.

The final “big observation” that’s been discussed in the media I’ve read is about how women have sexual power. She made it sound like we have it in an unfair way, but I think how we feel when a man we’re not interested in approaches us balances with how they feel when they do the approaching and are rejected. Our power to reject directly equals their power to reject by omission.

The Time magazine article also quoted her as saying that while in recent times men have attempted to “learn our language,” women have made no attempt to learn theirs. I just gaped at the words. What about all those women who’ve battled for success in the last four decades (and longer) to succeed in traditionally male-dominated professions? I betcha anything the first female major in the Army would take offense at her oversimplification.

The bottom line, for me, is the generalization. SOME groups of women may not have attempted to “learn men’s language,” but it doesn’t apply to all women. SOME groups of men may pretend not to feel emotion, but that doesn’t mean all of them do. In my opinion, trying to give her research broad application to society as a whole does damage to her purpose.

This really turns me off to reading the book, so I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me or voice a different opinion. However strong I may feel, I always welcome the opportunity to admit I’m wrong. No, honest. I do.


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