Category Archives: personal

Women & Friendship

by cacophonies

(as I’m talking mostly from personal experience, this post is pretty hetero-centric)

Throughout my adult life thus far, the women I meet tend to fall into two categories: those who are primarily friends with men, and those with whom I share absolutely nothing in common.

It seems to be a trend among women that I encounter these days. Women are primarily friends with guys, and the women who aren’t don’t even register on my social radar. This tends to happen because I am also one of those women, the one who historically tends to only consider men as prospective friends.

In my general observation and experience, the cycle goes like this:

Girl meets boy, they become close friends, she sees him as only a friend, and he secretly pines for more. She bitches about her current boyfriend to her boy-BFF, he listens and lets her cry on his shoulder. She can tell that he wants more than friendship, but is comforted by the fact that he says nothing, because she knows that if he did, she’d have to end the friendship. Ultimately, her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves, and she and boy-BFF start dating. She acclimates to his circle of friends, mostly guys, and hangs out with them and becomes, as she sees it, a solid member of their group. She meets some new guy from work, school, wherever, he becomes new boy-BFF. Her relationship with former boy-BFF dissolves, and as a result, so do her “friendships” with the guys in his social circle. Having no other friends to speak of, save for a couple stragglers from her childhood other school years that she still maintains periodic contact with, she quickly finds herself spending all of her time with boy-BFF and his friends. She and boy-BFF start dating.

The cycle repeats.

This usually begins with a slow severing of old ties with former girl-BFFs, and swearing off other women as close friends because of the alleged cattiness or back-stabbing tendencies of other women (of course, they’re different than those other women).

This, clearly, is not healthy. The men that this proverbial woman is finding herself in “friendships” with are also good friends with primarily other men. Most do not tend to have many girl-BFFs and stick with their core group of “guy friends” that they’ve known since they were 12. Not too many guys tend to hang around solely women.

In my personal experience, I have felt hurt countless times by friendships with men that I thought were strong and real dissolve because the guy confessed that he’d always been interested in me romantically, or because we started dating. It felt like there was no real friendship to speak of, that I was being fooled, like he was only hanging out with me and feigning this close bond because he wanted to be in a romantic relationship with me, not because he really valued me as a friend and person overall. I’m sure the guy was just as hurt, thinking I was just leading them on or something. I swore them off as friends, but quickly realized that I had no idea how to be friends with anyone other than guys that I suspected might have a crush on me.

imnotme and I were talking on the porch earlier tonight and the topic of friendship came up. It was mentioned because I no longer have an expansive social circle as I did in my single days, and it’s been affecting my mood lately. I’ve cut ties with many of those people, whether intentionally or circumstantially, and while I call a lot of people my “friends,” I’m no longer the social butterfly that I used to be. Most of my friends came directly as a result of starting a relationship with imnotme. My friends are the people he hangs out with, nearly all of whom are other men.

I love his friends; don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the hearty debates over beer and chain-smoking on our glorious 3-season porch, I love the rational yet sensitive way that they all interact with one another and discuss their girlfriends or children or jobs. I like how they seem to be fond of me, as well.

The thing is, though, they’re not so much my friends as they are imnotme’s. Obviously, right? I’ll call them “friends,” but I’m not likely to call up imnotme’s best friend to hang out when I’m bored if imnotme isn’t there, too. That’s pretty much the difference that I see. It’s not a big one, but it’s enough.

I mentioned that, while I like all of his friends a great deal, sometimes hanging out exclusively with groups of males can be… well, exhausting. I like hanging out with them because they’re nice, fun, and intelligent people, but I needed to relate to someone on a more basic level. Where I didn’t have to defend my emotional reactions to something or argue about why something is sexist or fucked up, where I could actually discuss whether or not I should cut my hair in whatever style without the response being silence and looks of utter confusion.

Now I’m making a concerted effort to make friends with women. I have female friends, a precious few of them, and I manage to leech off of those ones when I can to get to know more. Most of my female friends are stricken with the same affliction, though, and are also friends with mostly males. I guess we’re the only chicks one another can stand to be around. In the process, though, I have managed to meet and hang out with many intelligent, passionate women with a lot to say and who have taught me a great deal. I’ve also managed to be at a loss for how to interact with them. I’m so used to being around guys that I feel like I can’t read women’s signals, or their hints or cues. I find myself grudgingly accepting some stereotypes as true and unable to be completely ignored because, even if those behaviors are socialized and not innate, it is most certainly not acceptable for me to attempt to convert other women to my way of life or view of the world as it is. I used to find the whole idea of close friendships with females who call each other “sister” and love each other and hug a lot to be sickeningly unrealistic and fake; now I crave this kind of interaction and just want a real, genuine friendship with a like-minded woman. It feels like too much to ask, and I envy the women who’ve maintained strong ties with other women.

Try as I might, I can’t quite figure out why this would happen more often to women than men. Is it as simple as being a product of a society that tries to pit women against each other and create competition? For one, I’m not even sure I understand that theory. But what other reason could there be? Is it the extra attention women want? I would hate to generalize like that. Why wouldn’t men seek out the same attention, if it were that important?

Why do you think that is? What is the difference? Do you see the same thing in your social circles?

Gender Equality

by cacophonies

For anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, you’ve no doubt noticed the lack of posts in the past month. Well, imnotme and I moved, we’ve been getting ready for school (imnotme transferring and me enrolling for spring) and are settling into a new routine, and blogging has just become an afterthought– although imnotme has started a side project, blogging about his experiences on Trazodone, a prescription that he’s just begun taking for insomnia.

In addition to (and maybe of because of) that, I’ve been reconsidering my motives for starting and writing on this blog.

I still “believe in” feminism, at it’s core. I am still grateful for those women and men who are activists and change minds and policies every day. But I’m also changing my focus, whether I really wanted to or not. I’m in no way saying that I no longer care about the ways that sexism and misogyny affect women and try to (and do!) hold us down. But… I can no longer say that I feel that it’s important for us to focus solely on the ways that sexism hurts women.

While it’s important and useful to personalize and identify your passions and activism, to not spread yourself too thin, feminists tend to flat-out ignore the ways that misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism affect men. You tend to hear more these days, but they’re barely scratching the surface, with their quickly forgotten, sentence-long statement about how “patriarchy hurts men, too,” before moving on to how sexism against men is really just another manifestation of misogyny.

The thing is, I tend to agree with the assertion that hatred and fear of femininity is the root cause of most, if not all forms of sexism against men. What needs to change is that we need to stop focusing on this, stop using it as a rhetorical sound-bite to illustrate to the masses how misogyny is still alive and well.

When men are discriminated against because of their sex or gender identity, when they’re being held to ridiculous gender expectations, we, as feminists, need to stop screaming “feminism!!” in their faces. Perhaps embracing feminism is one solution, but it’s certainly not the only. Ordering a man to embrace feminism when he’s been the victim of sexual discrimination at the hands of a woman isn’t going to earn you his trust right away.

Imnotme and I had an incredibly enlightening and emotional discussion about physical standards men are expected to live up to. Throughout the conversation, as I listened to imnotme talk about the pressure to be a “buff,” muscular dude, I had to restrain myself from interrupting him to remind him of how many young women struggle with anorexia and other eating disorders, how the pressure to be thin, as a woman, was, in my opinion, far more dangerous and affecting. And I’m glad I did manage restraint, because imnotme was being candid and open with his struggles with gender conformity and expectations, and who was I to make it “all about the womenz”? Feminist blogs use that statement all the time– only, of course, replace “womenz” with “menz.” Men stumble across a feminist blog, read about rape statistics, and argue that no one cares about prison rape, men are wrongly accused of rape all the time, etc., thereby making it “all about the menz.”

Trying to assert that misogyny is more significant or damaging than misandry (if you even agree that misandry can exist– some radical feminists and other left-leaning bloggers would disagree, since men are the ruling class and oppressors) is to try to split sexism into neat little categories of importance, diminishing the voices of so many other oppressed people, invalidating their experiences.

I’m tired of fighting on a “side.” There’s no sense to it anymore, and even if we finally get where we’re going, it’s taken much longer than necessary.

I’m still going to get angry when I see pictures of celebrity women that are Photoshopped beyond belief, the subjects turned into disproportionate waifs with no hips or breasts to speak of, that we are supposed to strive to look like. But I’m also going to get angry when I see Calvin Klein ads with men who are 6 feet tall and 190 pounds of muscle, huge biceps and discernible abs and square jaws, that men are supposed to strive to look like.

I still identify as a  feminist, but I’m not going to act on one side anymore. I’m for gender equality, not just the equality of women.

A Question for Men

by cacophonies

This is really meant to be more light-hearted than anything, mostly because I doubt that any of the men reading this post would fall into the category of people that I’m really addressing, but:

Men, adolescent males, etc., what, exactly, are you thinking to yourself when you whistle at a girl and say something to the effect of, “hey baby, lookin’ good!”?

After work today, I went on a short errand to pick up some beer and smokes for myself and imnotme. What happened in that 20-minute span of time was this:

I walked into the convenience store, walked up to the counter, where the young-ish male working behind the counter greeted me by name (he always does; he remembered from my card, or ID, I guess) and lamented about how I never come in anymore. This interaction, in and of itself, is not necessarily problematic. It’s more innocently flirtatious than the others, but still irritating when it happens… every single time… that I go into this store without imnotme. When he’s with me, dude says nothing.

I leave with my cigarettes, and I head next door to the liquor store, where the group of 20-something men in an idling car whistle at me. I keep looking down, knowing from experience that eye contact only invites more obnoxious comments, propositions, or whistles. The guy who left the car to go inside looks at me, and I can’t tell if it’s a glare, or somehow “appreciative.” It wasn’t a casual glance. I go inside and I buy my beer.

I leave without incident, drive home, and park in the garage. I walk through the backyard to get to my porch. Next door, a group of maybe 5 20- or 30-something men who live there and hang out there are talking and joking. When I get to the middle of my yard, conversation comes to a halt. I’m not exaggerating; the deadening silence was noticeable and incredibly awkward. I walk faster to get to my door, looking down. One guy says, “hey baby girl…” I glance up and wave with my free hand, not saying anything. He continues, “with your fiiiine self…”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at that, because it kind of seems completely fucking ludicrous for anyone to think that someone talking like that to a perfect stranger will yield anything but uncomfortable responses and quick exits.

My point, and question, is this:

Why do (some) men do this? I know this is not a universal trait that men share; please don’t read this and think I’m accusing anyone male of being guilty of this annoying and uncomfortable habit. It’s only a certain breed of weird men that do it. But I also know that, for the men who do this, it’s not because they actually think that the woman is necessarily super attractive, or because they actually want to “get with” her.

I don’t know any woman who has ever answered any such advance positively and formed a relationship, or hell, even a one-night-stand with the guy. Do men actually think that this is an effective way to meet women? I can’t possibly say that I think that to be the case. So what is it, then? If it’s not legitimate attraction, then the next motivation in line has got to be intimidation. Objectification. Etc. Most males who engage in this behavior can tell how uncomfortable it often makes the woman, and I think that eggs them on. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

I challenge you to actually find a woman who is consistently appreciative of this kind of behavior. I cannot speak for all women, but it does not make me feel flattered. I know that they say the same thing to every other woman that crosses their path, unless they say something outright mean, instead. What, exactly, is with this behavior?

Anyone have any light to shed on this?

A Brief History

by cacophonies

I’ve always been prone to being evangelical about nearly everything I have managed to be interested in, or feel any kind of passion about (astrology, Donny Osmond, Apple products, cilantro), and this has caused me to burn out with nearly every possible obsession.

I’m still bemusedly interested in astrology, but it’s more of a party or social thing (“You must be a Gemini!” “How did you know?” [A bunch of astro-ramblings for the sake of conversation and making myself look more interesting]), and I could give or take Donny Osmond these days even though I look back fondly on my 12-year-old crush, I’m about to buy a PC laptop, and, well, I can’t imagine a time in my life when I will not love cilantro. But you get the point.

I think that the same thing has happened to me with feminism. I was so utterly opposed to the idea, then enthusiastically on board, and now, I’m fizzling out.

When I was a kid, I would often notice and point out various sexist behavior among my peers, and do my best to prove that I could do anything that boys could. Growing up, that meant that I desperately wanted to wrestle in high school (I only made it so far as cheerleading for the wrestling team), that I took creatine supplements in high school to both physically and visibly accelerate my muscle growth (something that only the male athletes did), and strived to be the first female in the Geek Squad at the Best Buy store where I briefly worked (I did manage that one– poorly). I also held on to the short-lived fantasy of being the first female president. I quickly decided that that goal would require far too much effort, and I wasn’t sure I would ever want that type of responsibility. (The creatine had a lasting effect, too– my legs still have an unnaturally (for me) large amount of muscle for someone who is nearly sedentary for most of her life.)

My introduction to modern feminism came a couple of years ago, when my partner at the time told me he was transgender. It was a new concept to me, and it made me think a lot about gender, and how I felt about it. Around that same time, I was friends with someone who linked to many articles from Feministe on her LiveJournal. At the time, while still sorting through my own thoughts on feminism and gender in general, I found most of the posts on that blog to be infuriatingly over-the-top, and their bloggers to be proud victims of anything they could possibly think of.

I would often check the blog, sometimes daily, just to find things to make the subject of my own angry, ranting blogs, and try to counter their arguments. I would comment on the posts in what most people who frequented the blog would consider to be a trollish sort of tone, and get repeatedly insulted and condescended to.

Eventually, I started to “come around,” and once I ignored the majority of the commentariat, I started to understand the position from which the authors were writing. Because of my circumstances at the time, I also appreciated that they often address issues in the trans and GLBT communities. I was, essentially, a convert.

These days, I seem to have come full circle. I am not anti-feminist anymore, but I read the articles that are posted with a critical eye that I didn’t have a year ago. I can no longer claim to be on board with the groupthink style of the mainstream feminist blogs, and, similarly, I cannot tolerate the rhetoric and regurgitated, presumptuous and misguided theories of MRA-types, either. In fact, I’ve almost entirely eliminated “feminist” from my list of personal identifiers, but still hold on, just a little, hoping that other people will get why it was ever important in the first place, and how it still is, and that reacting to only radical feminists’ perspective is not productive for anyone.

Hopefully my future posts on this blog will reflect these new ideas accurately and not come across as either constant criticism, or blind faith.