Friday, July 14, 2006

You Can Open the Door, Too...

Recently I was talking with my good friend about how long he should wait to call a new lady after receiving her phone number. While this conversation seemed remniscent of a scene from the movie "Swingers", the balance was in this question: How can you be complimentary without seeming desperate? How to be casual, approachable, polite, while still being confident and attractive? How do gender-based expectations differ, in terms of time, desperation, and flirtation?
In a later conversation, I complained about my BF's wishy-washy attitude about plans: He often hints about coming over, and when I wait up, it turns out he is too tired and blows me off to go home instead. Also, I hate always shouldering the responsibility of planning the dates: What movies to watch, what to eat, what time and days to meet... I feel pressured to make plans and do the work, blamed if our experiences are not good, and pushy if I feel he doesn't want to see me. And about that: Shouldn't he want to see me? Yes, I am still a rabid feminist, but I am also tired of always wearing the pants in my relationships. Are men today tired of the mixed messages? Too lazy to be gentlemen? Too afraid of being labeled as misogynist if they exude any power at all? Confidence is always sexy. And confidently expressing that you want to spend time with me is also sexy, as is knowing exactly how you want to spend that time.
Yesterday I read this great post at Crazy Aunt Purl. Please check it out. In it, she references a current article by Tom Chiarella in Esquire about boys, and the men these boys will become.
The Esquire article outlines a growing problem with boys: Their slipping University population, discipline problems, behavioral disorders... Sure, the rabid feminist side of me says that I don't really care to help them out, or distract my feminist focus from girls until I cease to make 60 cents to the dollar these boys will be making. But I have also always said that being feminist is being humanist. Overall, we search for equality of opportunity. So do I care if these boys are wasting their opportunities? Of course I care. Our society is a balance, and the entire group benefits when we lift each other's confidence, opportunities, and economies. We just aren't used to helping boys. Instead, we bitch and moan when the men fail our standards. The quote from Esquire that really made me think:
"The masculine impulse is limits testing, even self-destructive. We don't want to extinguish it," Camille Paglia, feminist critic and cultural provocateur, told me when I called. "In the age of terrorism, who will defend us? Young jihadists sure aren't tempering their masculinity. Americans are in unilateral gender disarmament."

I remember the moment when I really decided that men needed to feel the confident joy in their masculine power. It was, oddly enough, in Cairo, where I was incessantly accosted verbally and physically by these men. I came to the conclusion that the bullying wouldn't be necessary if these men had the economic, cultural and religious freedom to be powerful, to take care of the societal elements that have traditionally been theirs. To support families, build nations, and not feel shame. I disagree with Camille Paglia on this one point: Young Jihadists have had their masculinity tempered already by their collective history and limited opportunity. They are desperately trying to control their lives and express their masculinity, and this instinct turns heinously destructive. This is the final, sick end to boys "acting out".
What is a post-modern feminist to do? I don't want to fall into that feminine thought-trap of "men are just reacting to the feminist movement, and they are unsure of their roles, and it is aaaallllll our fault!" But I do have the instinct to jealously protect the gains girls and women have made. Tom Chiarella offers:
We don't have to feel threatened by the gains girls have made. We need to study them, to use them as a model for boys. The solution may be to grab on to that which is male and use it as a means to fix the problem rather than as a symptom of it.

That which is male... I want to encourage the men in my life to be the best people they can be, to exude confidence and chase their dreams. I want them to feel the joy of masculinity without fear that they are somehow oppressing me if they tell me what movie they want to watch. No fears of my feminism: Nothing makes me feel more like a woman than a smart, confident, happy man.

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