Yesterday at Sunday Lunch I picked up an altar server's manual (published 1961) to discover its mysteries despite the jealous growl of one of the parish altar servers. Since I wrote my post about how we ought not to let men to define whether or not we are real women, or accept at face value their judgments of which women deserve what treatment, I have been pondering why it is that men make such definitions and judgments in the first place.
In general, human beings are rational so, in general, men are rational creatures. Why then are they so irrational about women? How is it that St. Gregory of Nyssa could say of his sister Macrina that she was so astonishingly bright and good a woman that it could hardly be said of her that she was a woman, but not make the conceptual jump that maybe this was because women are a lot brighter and better than his age gave us credit for?
The altar server's manual gave me a tiny clue. Although there was a hopeful chapter called "The Altar Server is a Christian Gentleman" the only women I found mentioned in this book were Mom and Sister, Sister being the Altar Server's schoolteacher. Possibly the idea in 1961 that the Altar Server would ever be tempted to snap the bra of the girl sitting in front of him (for example) was so outrageous, the author didn't think of it. And, anyway, this book seemed to assume that the fledgling altar boy was about ten.
My tiny clue was the hectoring tone of this very American book. It stressed that the Altar Server is not a weakling ("You're not a cream puff, are you?") and that he has important responsibilities and that he should be obedient and grateful to the authority figures he takes for granted. He eats because his father puts food on the table. He has clean laundry and attention because his mother loves him. Priests and nuns have given up their family and friends for him. Does he not realize all this? "When will you wake up?"
I hope I find the altar service manual for 1951, for I am sure it will give me more insight into my dad. Meanwhile, this guide made me ponder both that from a young age men are told not to be weak and that they are nagged a lot. Girls don't get nagged as much because we usually do what we are told from birth, cleverly associating love and cookies with obedience, whereas there seems to be some mechanism in boy brains that gets in the way of this connection. It is very hard for me to imagine what it would be like to be my nephew Pirate; the closest I can get is to imagine myself at his age, only high on caffeine and selectively deaf. WHOOT! WHOOT! WHOOT!COOKIES! AAA-AAA-AAA-AAA! I'M A HUMAN TORPEDO!! CAN WE GO TO THE PARK? CAN WE GO NOW? NOW? NOW? NOW?
(Imagining what it is like to be someone else is a fun activity, especially if they are in the same room as you. Try to imagine what the room looks like from their perspective, keeping in mind their height and their glasses, if any, and their lack of comprehension of things you might immediately have recognized, with a dash of colour-blindness for men, plus heightened awareness of who is wearing the lowest-cut dress, etc.)
This is not an incredibly original thought, but it strikes me that if you are brought up from birth being nagged at more than girls (which you think is unfair) and then told not to be weak (and girls are comparatively weak), you are going to be really angry when you discover one day that some of those privileged, weak girls now have power over you.
Some of these girls honestly don't know it, and you can either resent them for being so dumb or you can forgive them and feel protective of them.
But some of the girls know they have this power, and you know that they know it, and some of them even use this power for evil, which you realize even if they won't admit it (which they rarely do), but there's not much you can legally do about it, and that sucks.
That, incidentally, sums up the philosophy of the manosphere.
Men's resentment of the fact that women distract, frustrate and hurt them, and make them feel weak when the number one rule of manhood is Don't Be Weak, drives women crazy because much of the time we can't help how men feel. We especially can't help it when for whatever reason boys or men attach special sexual symbolism to us, as in the case of my poor elementary school classmate. The only sexually suggestive thing about her, as a child, was an unfortunate name, but that was enough to trigger whatever it was in the sadly influential chief class bully.
Meanwhile, I am not so thrilled that current immigration patterns mean I share public space with men who think women who don't wear Islamic dress are "uncovered meat." It's not enough just to wear knee-length skirts, elbow-length sleeves and cleavage-covering bodices anymore. Noooooo..... I don't wear a hijab, so I've got it coming to me if I walk into the wrong Parisian suburb. (That said, I got hassled yesterday by Scotsmen for what I was wearing, although presumably not because they thought it was suggestive of anything except Tory Bastards.)
And since women are just as worried about being called uncool or dowdy as we are about being called slutty, we are astonished when various men take exception to clothes we wear that most women wear, or that we wore as kids (e.g. denim shorts) and nobody complained.
Of course, sometimes we are not astonished by men's reactions because we have figured out the link between men's reactions to certain words, behaviour and clothes. It takes many of us decades longer than the rest of us to figure this out. And even then I doubt many of us really understand what kind of power we have to distract, frustrate and hurt because it is very hard for us to imagine what being a man looking at/dealing with a woman is like, especially when that woman is us.
For example, I am 39++ and was 140 lbs the last time I checked. According to almost all of world fiction plus all the fashion mags that ever were, absolutely nobody is supposed to be attracted to me any more; my husband is a lunatic, or something. And yet I got hit on by a Swedish hockey player at a party this year; life is exceedingly strange.
When it comes to dealing with women, most women are pretty smart. We know how to be cautious, we know what not to say, we know what to say, and by adulthood most of us know how to protect ourselves from women who want to take advantage of us some way. It is often a great surprise to realize that men do not know how to do that too.
And then, of course, no woman alive is perfect and sometimes we do try to control men, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. Girls used to buy love potions from gypsies to make men fall in love with them; that wasn't very nice or respectful of the men's autonomy, was it? Brighter girls figure out more effective means, and use it either for good or, as I've mentioned, for evil.
We could no doubt argue for hours when influencing (to use a nicer word than controlling) men is for good or for evil, but I would say that there is quite a difference between sounding like Princess Leia ("Help me, Ben Kenobi! You're my only hope!") and hiking up your skirt on the highway to get a lift, if anyone actually ever did that in the history of the car.