I have no idea who this person is or what qualifications he or she possesses, but the analysis that will be presented demonstrates a striking lack of comprehension of human behavior, and not just in an "I disagree with this person" kind of way. It's blatant, but I'll get to that. What's important is that the reception is almost universally positive, lots of glowing comments like "this so much." I'll only be critiquing the original content, but by itself, it's unremarkable and silly. The reason I'm taking the time at all is that people apparently buy into this bullshit. And with that, we're off...
Seeing some folks I follow circulating a point that's worth drawing attention to. One of the oldest canards in low-denominator comedy is that women are inscrutable and men can't understand them. There's a reason for this and it ain't funny.Comedy, by definition, isn't serious, so I'd argue that it doesn't have canards at all. The word "tropes" or perhaps "devices" would be more appropriate. But I'm totally nitpicking. Let's not be here all day.
So, the problem here is that the trope isn't really "women are inscrutable and men can't understand them." People, especially if they're primed to accept the premise, might recall the comedy they've seen and think, "But I did see comedy that did that. I have examples." Well, the trope is really much broader, more of a "women and men are different and their differences lead to misunderstandings." And that's true! It's a true statement. It's also bland and very much old news. The way that comedy functions, it takes that truth and then draws it out to absurd lengths, elaborating on a simple concept and producing a more outlandish version of it for the purposes of humor. That's pretty much what comedy does. That's its function.
Most comedians are male and, when writing jokes about this concept, focus on the "men misunderstand women" part primarily and don't emphasize the "women don't understand men" part. This is because they are men and can plausibly bring the joke around to themselves. Sometimes it's for the purposes of self-deprecation, another trope in comedy, but sometimes it's just because the comedians are drawing on personal experience. This is all perfectly natural, while maybe not common knowledge, and it should be obvious to anyone who has made any serious attempt to analyze the nature and structure of comedy.
No, that's fucking stupid. People say one thing and mean another. Not just women. People. Women do it, men do it, and children start learning to do it at some point, although initially they do not grasp the concept. Hidden meaning, double meaning, innuendo, nuance, code words, signalling, etc. It's stuff people do. Incidentally, it's stuff that women, on average, are just a bit better at, so when comedy tackles the topic, it has to exaggerate female speech as arcane and male speech as simple and primitive. These are jokes, and that's all.
By the time a man reaches adulthood he has probably heard that women constantly say one thing and mean another, and that they are impossible to understand, at least a thousand times. To some extent he probably believes this to be true.
And to a degree it is. Women VERY frequently say one thing and mean another, display expressions or reactions that don't jibe with their feelings and so on. But it's actually really easy to decode once you understand why it happens. It is survival behavior.This is going to become one of those sneaky arguments that sounds definitive, but necessarily remains vague enough to slip away from critical analysis. On the surface, it would seem like all we have is a simple binary: either it's a survival behavior or it isn't. But, if I decided to take this claim into a debate and my opponent offered evidence against it, I could almost always use plausible deniability to deflect the import of that evidence. More on that later.
When it comes to communication and survival, the field that can actually examine things in a rigorous manner is evolutionary psychology. But I suspect that the author of this post, and most of the fans, do not like evolutionary psychology and do not take it seriously. Ironically enough, some of the same feminist pop-science pundits who derided evolutionary psychology as "just-so stories" have now given rise to posts like the one I'm critiquing, which actually is an honest-to-goodness just-so story.
While some men choose to become skilled dissemblers, men are not -required- to learn very much subterfuge at all-- looking calm while you'd like to strange your boss is the biggie. Women face a completely different situation.Well, empirical evidence shows a strong trend that females tend to score higher on verbal communication skills and that they develop those skills at a younger age. Again, this is all on average. But it is demonstrated and it does seem to account for the difference all on its own, with no need to resort to anything about survival.
Women spend their lives surrounded by people who are, on average, bigger than they are, socially privileged over them, both more inclined to immediate anger (testosterone is a hell of a thing) AND more socially encouraged to express it, and best of all? Cherry on top?People like you blather on about social constructs and and how all of the problems in the world can be pinned down to society and its horrible biases. You invoke it yourself with the line "socially privileged over them." It's been a mantra I've seen over and over, that men as a group supposedly oppress women as a group and have "privilege" over them. And that concept is used as the default tool whenever there's a contrast between men and women in any setting, setup for an argument that society is unjust and that the explanation for the difference between men and women is oppression. Been there, done that, seen it all before.
The cherry on top? Well, the cherry on top would be that as soon as it becomes the least bit convenient, even if it's in the same damn sentence in which you invoked "social privilege", you suddenly remember that testosterone exists. Yep, it sure is a hell of a thing. And there are even other innate differences between the sexes. I wonder if any subtle differences in their communication patterns could be attributed to those innate differences? Nah, it's got to be a survival skill!
Some of these dudes around them are extremely dangerous, others are not, and most of the time it is impossible to tell the two apart on sight, or even from extended contact. Often the only way to find out is to say or do something that might make a man blow up and see if he does.Contrary to this author's portrayal, men are not actually bombs.
This is not a great way of finding out what kind of guy a woman is dealing with for the same reason that we don't use pogo sticks to test for buried land mines. It's often the only one available, though. So, VERY SENSIBLY, women will generally just opt not to run the test.This is ludicrous, but it also underscores the author's failure to comprehend survival behaviors and how they actually work. As a hypothetical, if the author really were right, absolute avoidance of running this "test" would be detrimental to survival. Here's how. Violent men are, well, violent. They're not tranquil automatons that suddenly spring into violent action only when triggered by a woman running a test on them. They unleash their violence both as a tool and out of an urge to do so. In addition to the violence itself being eminently observable, there are communication cues that can be noted. An intelligent woman looking to survive would begin mapping these observations, tracking which men are known to display violence and to what degree. Men who successfully (and the success is important) apply violence are, pretty much by definition, powerful. Attaching herself to a powerful man can be an excellent way for a woman to survive. But a woman doesn't even need to be especially good at this sort of thing to survive! She could instead associate herself with nonviolent men and, in many cases, she'd be fine. She could even be pretty bad at it and wind up being the victim of violence herself, but even that would probably not be lethal or frequent. What would be even worse for survival would be to tiptoe around all men on the principle that their capacity for violence is completely unknown and that they might attack her at the slightest provocation. She wouldn't be assertive enough to have any sort of power in any relationship, and might be targeted by predatory individuals, men and women alike, who would exploit her weakness. So no, "opt not to run the test" is not very sensible.
What that means is smiling at a man's flirting in a closed or isolated space, or laughing at an uncomfortable joke because the room is full of men and all of them are laughing.Psst, men do that too. This isn't an example of women being sneaky or not saying what they mean at all. It's just a quirk of social interaction. There are jokes that I don't really find that funny, but if I was with a group of people I knew and it was a situation in which we were exchanging banter and the group was laughing, then I'd laugh. It's automatic. I don't have to think about it. I don't make a calculated decision to do it so that I won't offend anyone or whatever. It's just how laughter works. For everyone. Not just women.
Men are not only -not- required to learn dissembling, they -are- taught to seek affirmation of self-worth from women. They take these reactions at face value because they very much want to. And this can build uncomfortable or dangerous cycles and relationships.So if a man laughs at my joke, that's irrelevant, I guess? But if a woman laughs at that same joke, then my self-worth is affirmed. Because that's what I was taught. Also that's dangerous. Right. Do the people who read this stuff and comment positively on it ever think about it for more than five seconds?
Lemme be real clear on this point: Women do this because the way our society is currently set up, they have absolutely no better option available to them. They quite rightly value their safety over offering legibility to people who might seriously hurt or even kill them.I mean, men are basically tornadoes and women are basically wildflowers, so that totally makes sense. Wait? Is this whole thing comedy? Did I miss that? The author took the bland observation that men are, on average, bigger and stronger than women, and extended it to the absurdity that, at any moment, any man might just reach out and beat any woman to death who pisses him off. Ignore that some men are weak. Ignore that some women are strong. Ignore that lots of communication happens in public, with other people around. Ignore that some men are bigger and stronger than other men. Ignore that some women are bigger and stronger than other women. Ignore the effects of aging. Ignore the fact that all men started out as children and lived in a world in which they were surrounded by women who were bigger and stronger than them. Nope. It's got to be that women dissembling is the one thing holding back a bloodbath of testosterone-packed men punching them into fine red mists.
So while this may be frustrating to guys, it is not on women to behave differently as long as the social baseline for masculine behavior is a toxic stew of lionized violence and anger. They're gonna smile and laugh as long as a huge % of men present a serious potential threat.Toxic stew of lionized violence and anger? You know what? You keep talking like that and I'm going to kick your stupid face in. You like that?
But let's say that you weren't raised by fucking spiders and your reaction to this isn't annoyance but instead serious concern, because you DON'T want to freak women out but now realize you might have been reading "oh god go away" as "yes chat me up more in this elevator."Elevatorgate lives on! Ah, 2011. What a time. I look back on it and, well, anyway...
Spider are awesome. Also, my sole contribution to the carnival of madness that was Elevatorgate, the time I "won the internet," just so happens, by sheer random luck, to be the perfect response to this. Weird how that works out.
So, this was on an old ScienceBlogs comment thread (for a blog post by Abbie Smith aka ERV). This thread had already gotten pretty crazy, but at some point, somehow, the topic had arisen that some of the commenters felt that a man walking down the street at night should, before passing a woman, cross over to the other side of the street in order to make her feel more safe. Others took issue with this, calling it sexism and such. The argument was a downward spiral and so I chimed in (and won the internet) with something like...
"I don't care if it's 4 am, I'm covered in blood, and I'm carry a fire axe. If the prospect of my passing you on the same side of the street is so dreadful, then you can cross the street yourself."
I rest my case.
A few simple tells that you're doing something that's putting a woman's hackles up, which will follow outward affirmative signals: She leaves the area; she changes the subject; she moves herself or the two of you toward other people, esp. other women; she doesn't flirt/joke back;Holy shit, women have hackles? But really though, the metaphor of "raised hackles" comes from dogs, but you have it backwards. Raised hackles isn't "I feel threatened by you." It's "I am threatening you."
or, her rejoinder doesn't match what you put out there-- a compliment, for example, eliciting "Thanks" or "haha" rather than a return compliment. All of these have a good chance of translating to "you are overstepping my boundaries but I don't feel safe saying so."All of those are something that both men and women do and there is no evidence indicating that it has anything to do with threat assessment.
There's a good chance that when you spot this, your first instinct is going to be to say something like "Am I making you uncomfortable?" or "Did I say something wrong?" That's what a good dude would ask, right? Welllll it's not the worst response but it's not a good one, either.Cool story, life coach.
Those questions have a very good chance of getting back a response calculated to calm you down rather than an honest answer, because you have STILL offered no real indication you won't blow up when rebuffed. You see, those are also questions an irritated dude would ask.Rebuffed? Is that what this has been about the whole time? Is this a guide to asking girls out? Look, the problem there isn't "toxic masculinity" or whatever. The problem is that it's super awkward no matter what. You can't make it not be awkward. That's why I don't do it. But if I were to start, I don't think I'd start by taking advice from the person who wrote this stuff.
It puts the woman on the spot and makes her pull off an immediate calculation-- is this guy actually concerned or is he just feeling offended because he realized that wasn't a real laugh? Am I in more danger now, or less?Rest in peace, all the women who were beaten to death when their laughter was discovered to be fake.
If you are in doubt it's usually best to back off, provide some breathing room, and then once the situation has a low threat index (non-confined space, potentially supportive people nearby), boot up honesty.exe:So you're hitting on this woman in a confined space for some reason and you get the impression that she is worried. Looks like your next step is to extract her from the confined space and bring her to the confined space attendant and confined space supervisor, who can hopefully offer her the support she needs. Makes sense. I am learning so much about flirting and stuff!
"Hey, if the jokes about clown dicks are over the line, please let me know and I'll cut that out." Not just interrogation about her real feelings, but proactive information about the reaction that an honest response will provoke from you.Uh, I've got to be honest here, author of the original post. I'm starting to think that the problem isn't women being too coy or toxic masculinity. I'm starting to think that the problem is you personally. Women aren't afraid of you because you're a man, they're afraid of you because you drag them into confined spaces and force them to listen to your jokes about clown dicks. You should stop doing that. It's a bad thing.
That's not some kind of cheat-code to human interaction, mind. People are complicated as fuck and women don't come off an assembly line at a factory.They don't, but the story of where they actually come from will totally blow your mind because a lot of the time it involves women not really being all that afraid of men at all. I know it must sound crazy to you, but it's true.
But it's generally a better base-line set of guidelines for social navigation than either taking everything at face value or assuming the female mind was forged from the same inscrutable mystic bullshit as Harry Potter's wand.I just looked it up and apparently Harry Potter's wand is made from wood, a substance that isn't forged. You lose again!
Oh and this should go without saying but if you put forward the promise that you're not going to blow up, for the love of fuck, STICK TO IT. offering a guy candor is an act of trust, be worthy of it.Not really setting the bar high for men there, are you?
OK, OK, that's enough of that.