Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who are the rules for?

I want to try and reason out some of my confusion in my current explorations into equality, doubtless spurred by my current single status. (Please note I am not judging anybody by their relationship status, I just like having a partner to share things with)

Over the past months I have been regularly reading articles written by women, specifically women writing about themselves and their lives, as well as women writing about feminism. And it hasn’t come as any surprise to find that they come in a smorgasbord of styles and ideas and hopes and experiences. What has come to mind with this though is that some of them do not seem to want the things that feminism wants, yet they all seem to have the same levels of happiness and sadness, anger and joy in their lives.

I have read blogs by self-identifying feminists, and people who don’t label themselves such, who love to bake, who loves shoes, who love cycling and real ale, and lots and lots of women who love to play computer games (so do I - that’s why I read so many gaming blogs). I have also read blogs by women who want to be in charge, women who want to be dominated, women who want tenderness and women who want excitement. Now here’s the sticker: most women want some of all of this, in different quantities, at different times.

I have also been reading blogs by men and it turns out that they are the same. Exactly the same.

So how does this link in with the gender debate and my quest for romance? It seems to me that a section of the modern feminist movement is spending a lot of time advising men on how to act around women so as not to be perceived as rapists or alternatively be most likely to win their affections. The problem here is that this advice surely only applies to certain women. I am not talking about physical assault or abuse in the street - as I have said before, I consider that to be basic humanity - but in initial ‘romantic’ advances.

Some feminists argue that men should not approach women with an expectation or not focus on physical appearance. The problem here is apparent on any given Friday night in any town. It works. Some women seem to like it (it’s not my style), if they didn’t they wouldn’t go out with those guys, they wouldn’t give them the time of day. Some feminists also argue that men should not pay for dinner (on every date), other suggest it as the way to a girl’s heart.

Now I would never claim that either group of women was wrong, but would like to point out that for each of the myriad female flavours, there is a male tone waiting to clash with it. Sure, some blokes are more forward than others, but so are some women. I have been grabbed on a night out, kissed by strangers, drunkenly approached. I have also been insulted for my looks, accused of lechery and been called cheap for not offering someone a drink in exchange for a glance at their breasts. In all these interactions I have been a constant, acting the way I act and doing the things I do, the only difference was the people I was interacting with (for the record I have had the same encounters with men too, we are really all the same).

I suppose I have just confirmed my original thoughts that as individuals we are all different and that trying to set rules for either gender is wrong. Surely it is as bad to say “all men should wait to be asked out” as it is to say “men should always make the first move”. I also know this is a lot to ask but would also suggest that if a man in a bar shouts out something tasteless, tell him to fuck off (as a precursor to ‘nad kicking should step one fail to work). He is most likely a wanker, not an attacker or an oppressor. For each one of them there is likely a nice guy without the bottle to say hello.  


  1. This is a great beginning to how to sort out this question. I was working on an audio project a couple of years ago where I asked people I met how they resolved the issue of picking up the check on the first date. I think it's a very telling moment when people negotiate something but it largely goes unsaid.

    Personally, I've come to a place where I think identifying as a feminist is important but that it isn't generally necessary to enforce some kind of rule. There was a great article in Slate on this 'Stop Calling Yourself a Feminist' (the XX Factor) which nicely described the position of a post feminist perspective. I meet men who are chauvinists, but just as many women who are opportunists. You're right in defining your own standards and expectations on this issue.

    I do feel there's a brand of (I call it) McDonalds feminism, where women just order the items they want off the menu, and leave. It's not a real commitment to equality. It's important for men who want equality to uphold feminism by having expectations of financial responsibility and the rest. Not an easy topic to discuss (especially on a first date) but you avoid it at your peril.

  2. Ele, You have a great turn of phrase, I do like the idea of Mcdonalds feminism (or anything -ism for that matter). I also like you usage of the much lost word "chauvinism". Recent conversation seem to revolve around misogyny or sexism but never chauvinism which in my understanding is not believing women are worse, but believing men are better (subtle, but necessary distinction).