Thursday, 5 July 2012

Neither Gods nor Monsters

I was greatly amused to read this piece in Crisis, for it is written by a theology professor at the University of Saint Thomas in Texas. There is no theology in it; it reads like one of my blogposts. Hey, I should be writing for Crisis.

(By the way, your Auntie Seraphic is rather broke at the moment. Does anyone know of any lovely magazine where they need someone to fill in a page or two? Are you yourself procrastinating at your desk at Elle or the National Catholic Register, perchance? Have you just had to fire a writer for drunkenness/incoherence? Contact ME, Auntie S, by email.)

Anyway, I found the article amusing also because it described how adolescent males don't understand women, and thus I learned something about adolescent males.

Poppets, sometimes teenage girls write in asking for advice about teenage boys, and I stare at the screen like a bunny in the headlights because I have no clue. I went to an all-girls school, and so busy were my brothers as teens that I saw them only at meals, really. I was absolutely clueless about teenage boys, whom I saw very rarely, and was wont to think of them either as gods (the few chosen by my imagination to fixate upon for months or years on end) or monsters, since everyone knew teenage boys were as horny as toads.

I was not particularly rooted in reality.

Since then, I think I have figured out adult men, but adolescent men have still been a mystery, except for the fact that many adult-looking men are actually still adolescents. And I do not mean this in a nasty, "shame-on-you" way, but as a statement of fact, as in "Some people do not get their wisdom teeth until they are in their 40s." Some people are just very young for their age. (I am very young for my age. This is good and bad: good because I retain the lightheartedness associated with youth, and bad because I don't know how to drive, am broke, etc.) Dr. Smith says in his article that he knows adolescent males aged 35.

That was not a revelation to me. The revelation was why adolescent men moan, complain, and fight with women and then wonder why the women get mad.

Young men think of themselves as treating their guy friends with respect all the time, even if they've shoved them around the basketball court, sworn at them to high heaven, and told them how ridiculous their ideas are. For some strange reason, young women don't generally see it that way. For some reason, women tend to get offended when you shove them around, yell at them, and tell them how stupid their ideas are. Strange, I know, but it's a fact of life, so we'd better get young men used to it early, or we'll find them, as we so often find them today, utterly baffled as to why so many young women in their lives are upset and offended all the time.

Baffled and misogynist. I recently heard a young man complain that he could not tell a woman that her ideas are stupid without her getting angry, which is why this paragraph jumped out at me. The young man's theory, however, was this was because women are illogical and less able to argue abstract ideas in a dispassionate way.

As I studied epistemology in some depth at theology school, and got top marks, I found his theory personally annoying, which might have proved his point. I then had a conversation with B.A., who used to be a lecturer in philosophy, about women in philosophy, and found myself getting annoyed again.

But I think this is because--like many women--I can see the far-reaching implications of ideas faster than the average man can. The average man hones in exclusively on Point A, for example, whereas the average woman immediately sees Point A in relationship to Points B, C, W, and Z. The average man might not remember, for example, that for thousands of years women were kept out of higher education, careers, jobs teaching philosophy*, etc., on the grounds that we were supposedly much stupider than men.

But that's another post for another day. The point for reflection is that young men manhandle their male friends, cuss them out and tell them their ideas are stupid, and their male friends don't take this personally. And therefore when young men feel friendly towards young women--and not tongue-tied, frightened or angst-ridden--they feel confident in a bit of rough-housing, cussing and telling you your ideas are stupid.

I find this quite a relief because occasionally young men I like very much tell me how stupid my ideas are, and I wonder if they simply despise me. At best, I assume that they think I am just some kind of token man, i.e. not a real woman. However, it would appear that young men talk like this to women not because they despise us or think we aren't really women, but because young men think this is just how one speaks to all people with whom one is on friendly terms.

Well, well, well.

The fallout, of course, is not just that young men alienate the very women whom they like best. It is also that those young women who think being told they are stupid is all they deserve are going to giggle, cling to the young men and go along with their half-baked ideas of what women are supposed to be like. Dr Smith thinks that this is a recipe for unhappy marriages, and so do I. He thinks the solution is for parents to actually educate their sons about women, and so do I.

Of course, adolescent males being adolescents, they are likely to reject what their parents say. And this is too bad because it is then up to adolescent females to try and civilize Mr Rough-house, Cuss and Insult. What a lot of work for successive girlfriends on behalf of the woman Mr Rough-house, Cuss and Insult actually does marry in the end.

Happily for me, B.A. was perfect when I got him. And, of course, he wasn't an adolescent. I don't know when he made the transition from adolescent to adult because I wasn't around to see it. For all I know, it was just before I showed up.

Honestly, I don't think "adolescent" is an insult. It's just a stage. Not everybody matures at the same rate. Whether or not you have the patience to accompany an older adolescent through his painful acquisition of adulthood is something only you can decide.

*Saint Edith Stein could not get a German university post because German philosophy departments did not accept women as faculty until 1949.


sciencegirl said...


"That idea is stupid!" he argued logically. "I guess you should just vote for Obama, then, if you think that!"

<15 min later>

"Why do women never enjoy a well-reasoned argument?" he complained, dispassionately.


And that, my friends, is why I have never really enjoyed "debating" with adolescent men.

Meredith said...

Or here's one I've seen:

"Women don't back up their arguments with studies and statistics like men do - they rely on anecdotes."

In support of which theory he just said that women he argues with on the internet do it all the time...

american in deutschland said...

And for the record, if you are a natural take-no-prisoners arguer, and spent your high school years standing up well in debates against boys who respected you for it -- still no dice! I mean, I assume. I think there were one or two high school guys who like-liked me for what my dad smugly termed my "brain like a man." But they were too shy or it wasn't mutual or whatnot.

It's funny because my twin sister and I were always far more aggressive and shove-buddy within the family than my brother was... I can't speak for his experience... but I think brothers and sisters will usually have a different dynamic than intergender relationships outside the family, and for good reason. But sometimes it has to be taught. Adolescent girls are usually more sensitive and aware of how people are acting around them, but that doesn't mean they have the tools to structure or pitch their own behavior yet... and many adolescent boys, perhaps, have neither the awareness nor the tools!

american in deutschland said...

And lest you think I took "male-brained" as a compliment... I'm sure my dad thought so, but he is no champion of logical argumentation, and whenever I disagree with him, he forgets entirely about my oh so calm and logical manbrain!

Anna said...

If everyone would just read Deborah Tannen's "You Just Don't Understand", we wouldn't have as big of a gender war problem.

You Just Don't Understand

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Oh, yes, I love the book, "You Just Don't Understand."


I wondering if, in the past, there was a cultural consensus on how gentlemen should interact with ladies and young men were taught this behavior?

But now it seems that we almost no cultural consensus on anything, and many people seem not to have learned either basic manners or simple civility. So perhaps it should be no surprise that young men have no idea (because they've never been taught) that treating girls the same as they do their buddies just doesn't work.


Anonymous said...

There are some subjects that few men can discuss "rationally"*, such as divorce, alimony, false accusations of sexual assault, or the like. It may be worth reminding uppity men that they, too, have their sore spots, and their desire to debate those points has more to do with feeling slighted by society and less to do with their inherent reasoning abilities.


Anonymous said...

Eeek, ignore the random asterisk.


Charming Disarray said...

"But I think this is because--like many women--I can see the far-reaching implications of ideas faster than the average man can. The average man hones in exclusively on Point A, for example, whereas the average woman immediately sees Point A in relationship to Points B, C, W, and Z."


Can't think of anything further to say in response to this that would be constructive.

buckyinky said...

The average man might not remember, for example, that for thousands of years women were kept out of higher education, careers, jobs teaching philosophy*, etc., on the grounds that we were supposedly much stupider than men.

But that's another post for another day.

Maybe in that post for another day you will prove that women were kept out on the grounds that they were much stupider? Nothing has convinced me from what I've read of history that this was the case, though I often see such claims raised.

Seraphic said...

Hello, Buckyinky. You're barking up the wrong tree. This is a blog for Single Catholic women and other Single women of good will. We like men, we love the important ones in our life, most of us love God and the Christian Church, and we are not interested in arguing with men with axes to grind.

Seraphic said...

And apparently you're the same guy as Um...John commenting on my July 7 post.

One thing I am very serious about: it's women-only and men-only spaces. Almost every dinner party I throw, the women and I leave the men together at the table to chat in no-holds barred masculine freedom.

And on this blog, I am very serious about giving women a safe place to air their hopes, dreams and beliefs without being chastised by male strangers, men who are neither their husbands, fathers, brothers or priests.

Mark Shea's is a great place to have conversations, but this blog is primarily for us girls.