Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cultural Destruction

This is going to be a very difficult post for me for two reasons.

1) It is enormously difficult for me to strip down a 5 or 6 dimension idea down to 1 dimension (ie words). It always has been. But it is even more difficult for me to do so with a real topic or concept, as opposed to when I'm just joking around, which is most of the time.

2) I hate admitting weakness in any form. Hate it. So much so that one of my biggest personality flaws is my tendency to stretch the truth. Without actually lying, I constantly try to phrase everything in such a way that no blame for wrongdoing ever falls to me. This is actually something I really despise about my personality, but it always seems to happen before I realize it.

And in this post, I will attempt to do both.

Recently, on facebook, I had a sort of mini-discussion that really got me thinking about certain things. The prompt: "This isn't me being annoyed. I want an actual answer if anyone has one. But why is it that, as a very general rule, guys have no problem with non-jokingly saying stuff like "yeah, I'm pretty great" or "It's just because I'm really hot" whereas girls don't?"

I got a lot of answers. And most of them were pretty wise. One being "Girls are culturally raised to believe we're not good enough. We don't measure up to some imaginary bar of success. Guys are traditionally taught they can do anything they want to. Thus many of our cultural inequalities."

That, obviously, was posted by a girl. Then another later comment (which is far too long and wordy to repost here at the moment), pulled out the standard guy retort (which I have heard so many times I almost want to gouge my eyes out). That being the whole "Guys like that are boys, not men, but too many girls go for them anyway. Then they brush off the ones that ARE there, saying "I like you, but only as friends." and then wonder where all the men are."

Ok, so that is true to an extent, but the reason it bothers me that so many males spout it as the real problem is this: If you're claiming to be one of the "real men", and you're not chasing down those girls solely based on beauty, don't you want one of the "real women" and not the dumb girls that do act that way? So why are you complaining? Where exactly is the problem?

I'll tell you. The problem is that men stereotype the women as ALL doing this just like the women stereotype the men as ALL being idiots. When it's not true on either front.

I could write an entire post on that answer. But I won't, because this is about something different.

Anyway, at the end of the standard retort, this comment basically said "I don't agree that we raise girls to think that way. I believe it is our choices in life that make us feel this way."

Another part of the above long comment: "Most women I know and that I associate with are strong and independent women. I remember thinking when I met your mother, this is a women that takes care of herself and succeeds without a man in her life, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. She was already stable not waiting for a man in her life to accomplish these things."

I agree. Most of the women I know are all of those things too.

Well, if that's true, what about me?

Therefore, the point is not that women aren't capable, but that they don't feel they are. Because I know a lot of women who are those things in ALL THE WAYS. And yet those people are the same ones that constantly talk about how they aren't as good as everyone else, and how they suck at things.

Like me.

I was raised in a super great family. With good parents and good schooling and plenty of the material necessities in life (but not too many to make me a snot. I hope.) I feel reasonably confident in saying that I have done my very best to make good choices in my life. I have never (to my knowledge) done something so stupid that my life is forever altered by it. I try every single day to be a good person. I am smart and brave and strong and loyal and tough and happy and amusing and semi-responsible and flexible and slow to anger and good at an enormous number of crafty things and great at 3D puzzles and enthusiastic and nerdy and solid and sturdy and....

I won't go on. You get the idea.

Yet, despite being all of that, I constantly feel inferior to just about everyone I know.

Judging by the reactions of the perfectly good and upstanding men (and some women too) who replied to my earlier query, men clearly don't agree that they are teaching the girls to think this way. Most people don't agree that anyone is teaching girls to think this way.

Still, an overwhelming number of perfectly competent and excellent women are constantly degrading themselves and taking anti-depressants and live that secret stressful existence of never being up to par.

I do every single day. (Not take anti-depressants, of course. I'm nowhere near as wussy as that.) But every single time I look in the mirror, I remember how not-as-pretty-as-everyone-else I am, and somehow that trumps all of the awesome things in that earlier list I just made. Every time I fail at something, that somehow trumps every great thing I've ever accomplished. Every time I think of all the cool women that I know, I think about which things they can do that are better than things I can do. I think about which accomplishments they've achieved that I still haven't managed. I think about their sense of fashion vs. my incompetence, or their sense of humor vs. my awkwardness, or their social skills vs. my incompetence and awkwardness.

And I'm 143% certain that I am not the only one.

But if this isn't being taught, per se, why does it exist?

I have a theory. The theory of the subconscious. Because let's think about it. How many times in a movie or book or song or tv show do you hear the woman say "I'm coming with you" and the man replies "No, it's too dangerous"?

Harmless enough, right? Until you realize that when a man is talking to another man he never says "it's too dangerous" but "Get your butt over here. Stop being such a girl."

(I've lost count of how many times Arthur has done this in the 4 seasons of Merlin I've watched thus far.)

No one is saying women are incapable. No one is trying to imply it. But the implication is still there. Little girls watch these movies and get this subconscious idea in their heads that men can face danger, because men can do whatever they want. But women can't go with them because the danger is too much for them, and bad things will happen.

This would both explain why girls feel this way, and why men don't have a clue that it's a real thing.

How many times in a show or a book do you see the heroine get into mortal danger, and the only way out of it is when the hero comes to the rescue?

How many video games do you see where the main character is a man, and one of the objectives in the game is to seduce some scantily clad lady, as though a woman is worth nothing more than a bullet point on a list of things to accomplish?

How many times do you see the "strong female character" become as masculine as possible in order to accomplish her strong female goals?

How many older movies have the plot revolve around the monster capturing the helpless woman (who faints every time it is near) over and over again. If I remember correctly, in the Creature From the Black Lagoon, that woman screams and faints in front of the creature like 6 or 7 times.

And above all other things, how MANY FREAKING TIMES do you see some girl cast as "the fat character" when she is skinnier than most average women? How often are the "ugly girls" actually very attractive? How frequently do the men fall in love with the beautiful character based on a 3 second glance from across the sidewalk?

I just googled strong female character and got pictures of a bunch of scantily clad ladies in sexy poses. WHAT?

I won't go on. Again, you get the point.


I agree that this doesn't happen so much anymore. It's getting better. There are more and more "strong female characters" that don't rely on steel bikinis and seduction, or masculine muscles to be epic. There are more male characters that don't say "You can't come. It's too dangerous." There are more plot arcs where the women do as much rescuing as the men do. And I'm glad. Maybe the little girls who are growing up now won't have the self image problems that the already grown women have.

But many grown women still have it. And I think this is why.