Thursday, January 26

Taking One Six For The Team

I've been checking in on Wonkette for the past week wondering when our friend Alex Pareene was going to turn up for his new gig, which meant that yesterday I ran into guest blogger Glenn Reynolds, and this:
Over at my own blog, I do podcasts, along with my wife, who’s a blogger, too. We’ve got an interview with Norah Vincent, author of Self Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back. I thought it was pretty interesting.

Undaunted by dial-up, I listened to the whole thing. And it was pretty interesting. Especially Glenn's contributions, which I'll highlight right off the bat, in case you lack my masochistic streak Classic Male Stamina:

• "I seem to remember a science fiction story where everybody had to spend some time in the opposite gender."

• "That's Scott Adams' point in one of his Dilbert books."

• "It kind of reminds me of the scene in the old teevee shows from the 60s where some well-intentioned but ignorant white guy would sit a black guy down and ask him, "What's it like to be black?"

• "But of course we had Black Like Me," which is sort of a predecessor to your book..."

The link to the podcast is in the Wonkette post, and while I don't really wish it on anybody else, the more demented among you might want to listen to it long enough to hear Mrs. Insty, "Dr. Helen", as she's styled, speak. I've noted before than on occasion my wife will come home and speak to me as to a room full of fifteen-year-olds; Dr. Helen has the same overlapping professional demeanor.

(I like to think I'm a fair man, so I'm not gonna mention the ever-lengthening chain of right-wing pundits who use "Doctor" like it's their given name, despite having a Ph.D. in Whatever. Dr. Laura, Dr. Mike Adams, Dr. Judith Reisman, Dr. Duane Gish, all bandy the thing about regardless of subject. Dr. Helen is the only psychologist in the bunch, and I think she may simply believe she's practicing all the time.)

The really interesting part of the show was the unrelenting tension between the two women, as Dr. Helen kept driving the "poor mistreated men" theme beyond the point where Norah was probably comfortable about it. Of course, Norah's trying to sell a book, and the libertarian feminism hater is her prime, if not her only, audience. But this conflicted with the sales pitch that the book is her insights based on her little charade, free of any preconceived notions. She had to do a couple of backbends to agree with everything Dr. Helen put to her, but it all turned out the way Ozzy and Harriet would have liked it, assuming you ignore what their real homelife was like.

Still, the contradictions are obvious. I stand by my offer of a bowl-off to convince me that Norah spent eight months on the lanes, and let's just say I retain a healthy skepticism about the whole enterprise otherwise. But the other mask--that this is a meditation based on experience and not a rehash of libertarian anti-feminist talking points targeted at those easily impressed by anything they agree with--slips repeatedly.
NORAH, on her dates with women: I could feel them deferring to me, you know, wanting me to take control...they wanted to lean on me and have the sort of traditional male virtues of stoicism and control.

DR. HELEN: So women want somebody who looks like a guy but acts like a woman?

NORAH: See, that's what I went in thinking, but I think that's not the case...there are a lot of women, it surprised me to find out how many, many do appreciate these male virtues and want a manly man.

Come now. How long have we been hearing that? "But women really want a manly man" is a response to Feminism as old as Feminism. This is the first time our lesbian libertarian contrarian ran into the concept?

Oh, maybe not. Later:
There was an upside to being a [stay-at-home] woman--and that's still basically true. I know a lot of women who depend on their husbands to make the money, their husbands bear all the pressure of having to get up at 5 in the morning and do half the baby work, but also go to the office in the morning and write a legal brief, and I feel as thought it's gotta be legitimate to say, hey, you know, being the guy who is the safety net for the entire family, who has to go out there and perform no questions asked, and you can't show weakness, you can't show need, that's really hard, and it should be okay to complain about that, to say, hey, listen to me for once.

So she knows a lot of women who depend on the "traditional" male, but she was surprised to find out they existed when "Ned" proved insufficiently butch. Did I miss something?

Or there's this:
DR. HELEN: Why do you think women have such a hard time seeing men just as human?

NORAH: Well, I think there's a lot of baggage left over from feminism. I think that we've all had our Feminism 101 course, Women's Studies 101, and so we have these notions about the Patriarchy.

It's not an anti-feminist book. It assumes everything from Betty Friedan to Naomi Wolf has been absorbed into the culture.

So it's about how we've assimilated the lessons of Feminism 101, which now sit like used motor oil on the pure spring water of the culture?

Even granting that everything reported in the book happened exactly as she says it did, this still smells like scam. Millions of people have actually lived the life she put on, and if there's some insight here that comes from chromosomal differences rather than political slant I'm still waiting to hear it. My college years coincide with the rise of feminism. Women's Studies were an established major program, Our Bodies, Ourselves and The Female Eunuch were on every bookshelf. I don't recall any personal relationships with women being anything other than personal. Dating and relationships weren't political acts.

I wouldn't dispute that Vincent appreciates that the lessons of everyone from Betty Friedan to Naomi Wolf are important, and far be it from me to deny her the opportunity to discuss how successfully their effect on the culture. I doubt she'd have found much agreement from Dr. Helen if it hadn't been such a gosh-all festival of perfect accord, and that amounts to pandering on her part, if not theirs too. Maybe now she needs to take a look at some of "those old teevee shows from the 60s" to remind herself of the Traditional Male Attitudes that are now so oppressed. The real shows, I mean, not the ones bouncing around in that fantasyland inside Glenn's head. Or better yet, a leisurely stroll through those comments on Dr. Helen's site.


Anonymous said...

If publishers are going to continue putting this tripe out(see Kate Moss),let's make the authors buy the trees to make the paper for this crap.From a separate(but equal) forest. Why waste our trees on their babblings!

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer a law that they have to be printed on used newspaper pulp. Recycled ideas, recycled paper. It's a natural fit.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Doghouse, I think I love you. I'd stalk you, but d. sidhe already claimed the bushes outside your house.

Thank you for calling Norah Vincent on all her bullshit. I'm getting really sick of this anti-feminist backlash, especially when it comes from women who wouldn't be where they are today if it wasn't for the feminist movement.

Anonymous said...

Ah, those halcyon days of yore. Would that those days had actually passed in this temporal plane rather than existing solely in the imagination of the conservative mind.

fulsome said...

I saw her interview on the Colbert Report and she completely failed anytime he tried to get an actual anecdote or informative nugget out of her.

Martha Bridegam said...

Any particular reason why you refer to both women in the debate by their first names?