Friday, August 22, 2008

I love women, but...

How often have you read discussions of gender begun with some claim that the speaker thinks women are just great, but, well, if only…? Every time I hear it, it makes my hackles rise, no matter how I might agree with the following claim. Either that person is about to say something not terribly well thought out or he doesn't have the courage of his own convictions. (Women, as far as I can tell, don't have to bother with the qualification. Not even if they're talking about men to men.)

Thinking about it, it is a reflexive and obligatory obeisance to an emotional component of the discussion which ought to have no place. The speaker must claim a default positive inclination towards women as a class, or it is suspected that he has a negative one instead, that he is a misogynist in the old-fashioned sense. "Women" as a class, is neutral, but not to claim some sort of pangeyrical feel-good warmth towards them all together implies a dangerous and subversive aversion.

Or, perhaps, it means that he is not interested in getting laid and doesn't care if he upsets a woman or not. Maybe these are the same thing. Now there's a thought - not being interested in getting laid as a subversive position. The only reason for that could be that the man's sex drive is a route to power for the women and his indifference to sex implies a threat to her. Must she then defend herself against this by demanding his fealty even when it is undeserved?

To my mind it is indicative of a mature woman that she does not need his irrelevant claim and can follow the line of reasoning without it.

When I think of "women", I feel the same as thinking of "people" - it runs the gamut from knowing that there are some truly good people who are worth getting to know and spending time in their company all the way to knowing there are some that are truly evil and should be avoided or fought at all costs. The same is true of gender, class, race, whatever. Why should I need to preface a less than flattering observation of my experience of women in general with some sort of disingenuous claim that I am well disposed towards them any more than I am towards any other group? It is because convention seems to demand it, because objective criticism of women is today immediately and effectively, if not rationally, vulnerable to claims of misogyny. That is, in discussions of gender, "misogynist" has come to describe anything which is not overtly and explicitly positive towards women for fear that anything that is not so, is necessarily anti-women. As such, it has so degenerated that it is only useful as a means to rouse the rabble against whomever it is aimed. Yet to begin "I love women" hints at an awareness that what is about to be said might draw such accusations and thus seems to grant a validity to them. Better not to say it, and be sure enough of yourself to fend off the accusations if and when they come rather than exhibit insecurity and invite irrationality with the first words.

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