She’s on the parade ground, hearing “Listen Up, Ladies!”
She’s on the playground, where she “throws like a girl.”
She’s in the bathroom, taking “longer to get ready than I do.”
Her name is Nancy, or maybe it’s Sissy (most any name ending in the “si” sound will do). She answers to Gay—but it’s an alias. Though rarely seen to “wear a dress” or “put ribbons in her hair” it’s frequently suggested that she ought to.
This girl is a whirlwind! She’s everywhere; everywhere that legs are crossed just so, everywhere nails are examined the “wrong” way, everywhere appreciation of romantic comedy is expressed (indeed, where appreciation of anything is expressed with a bit toooo much enthusiasm). It’s a wonder she has the energy to flit about so; subsisting—as she does—on a diet of salads, quiche, and “girly drinks.”
She’s weak. She’s timid. She’s vain, fussy, fickle and teary-eyed. In short, she’s despicable, and utterly lacking in all traditional manly “virtues.”
Who is she? Nobody really. Just a symbol, an abstraction . . . the bogeywoman. If you need to whip little boys (of any age) into shape right quick, the merest whisper of her name should suffice. When you absolutely, positively need to “make a man” of someone, a little dab of misogyny will do ya!
Sigh! Yes, the topic is sissy-baiting. The ne plus ultra bullwhip of male social conditioning!
There’s no precisely equivalent instrument of torture for the training of girls. I’d suggest that the closest match is something like threat she'll be unlikeable/unpopular if she’s inadequately accommodating and integrationist. And that’s not pretty either. Manufacturing passive, conformist women is a real social-ill. But that’s an argument I’ll leave to a more intimately informed observer.
In any case, it is nothing like the blunt instrument used to manufacture aggressive misogynist men. And I don’t use the woman-hater word lightly. It seems to me that the funny-looking wallflower girl is the principal victim of her ostracization. But slamming the pansy hurts women, as well as the boy.
How could it not? How can any man experience this without developing some sliver of misogyny in his psyche? And you can be certain that all men experience it. Most boys, most of the time, avoid being the direct victim. But all see it, and often. At one time or another, nearly all have administered the medicine. Thus, they learn the boundaries, and exert extra effort not to be “that sissy boy.”
Really, it’s the others that most “benefit” from the training, because the pansy may well be beyond redemption anyway. A single well-selected demonstration subject, can offer an invaluable lesson for dozens of boys; who themselves may become teachers in preference to being teaching-aids. It “sets a good example,” like hanging criminal’s corpses at the city gates—All Ye Who Enter, Tremble!
“Woman” is about the gravest insult you can apply to a man. Oh, I suppose there are a handful of highly specific worse things to be—like pedophile—but a mere thief, liar, thug or retard isn’t nearly so low as “woman” in the lexicon of masculine insult. Is it possible, in any us/them scenario, to define essential (even if false) characteristics of “them” as being the most shameful characteristics in “us,” without implying that these traits are inferior generally—not just when exhibited by the “wrong” group of people?
“Well, that sort of thing is alright for those people, my dear. It’s just how they are!”
It’s an infectious sport, this sissy-baiting. As I've noted, a great incentive to play is that it reduces the chances of being a victim yourself. Because, aside from physical assault, there’s nothing that buffs butch bona fides quite so well as insult and abuse. Eventually you’ll develop the reflex. Once its “muscle memory” one can perform exercises with high degrees of difficulty—like abusing people for behaviors or tastes that you share.
Recent true story: My brother asks what DVD’s I own. As there are less than 10, I can pretty much recite from memory. Only one of these films would remotely be considered a “chick-flick.” As I list them, he has no comment, except when I come to that one.
Me: Whatever! It really is an incredible film.
Him: Yeah, it is good.
Bizarre, but that’s gay-baiting, you object! Superficially it may appear so, but most of what passes for verbal fag-bashing is, in fact, accusation of effeminacy. Men are more likely to be called faggot for fancying peonies than liking penises. Boys usually become adept at slinging “homo” or “gay” at an age when they have only the vaguest notion of sex—let alone homosexuality. Anyone daring the experiment of asking an 8 year-old boy to describe a “gay” peer will likely get an answer like “shy, plays hopscotch with girls” etc. Maybe kids today are a little more clued-in, but that’s certainly the response you’d have got when I was a kid. Fag/Fem is a difference without a distinction to many juvenile minds. And, sadly, many juvenile minds domicile in adult bodies.
Obviously this cancer is most evident in highly masculine, physical rigorous contexts—like sports teams and the military. It’s practically institutionalized there, and considered highly effective in ensuring regimentation. In theory, men accused of femininity will get angry . . . anger produces endorphins . . . endorphins provide energy . . . energy is channeled into proving the accuser wrong, by hitting this with a stick, jamming a bayonet in that, or pining the other to a mat. Mucho macho! And clearly encouraging skill-sets that enormously contribute to general social betterment.
It is hardly limited to obvious environments though—or even to men. Certainly, men can insult a woman by suggesting she has masculine traits. But it’s not going to accomplish much, except piss her off. On the other hand, women understand that guys are deeply conditioned to shun the feminine. Most women are unlikely to make accusations of girlishness purely for insult, but may justify it on the basis of producing desired behavioral modification. My mother, on seeing my hair maybe ¾ inch longer than usual, asks me “do you want me to braid it for you?” The simple observation “I don’t like your hair. When are you getting it cut?” must be assumed insufficiently coercive or indirect. But naturally, if I’m compared to an icky girl, I’m bound to rush to the salon (oooops! I meant barbershop) before everyone starts drawing such embarrassing parallels.
Gynophobic conditioning is great for business too! Because fear sells, and there a few fears more profound than male fear of descent to femininity. Staying on the topic of hair—look for hair-colorant in your pharmacy. You might miss the manly hair color. For a start, it’s usually aisles away from other hair-care products. I suppose the reasoning is that putting it in the hair aisle is dangerously close to the logical extreme of actually shelving it beside other hair color! This may remind men that “OMFG! Chicks use this stuff!” An insight that would surely depress sales.
It’s also less visible because the package is smaller—less product for the same price. And because there are maybe two choices of brand and four of color, while women have five times the choice in both. But men buy it because it’s for men. Not mainly manly, mind you, but JUST FOR MEN (to prove this exclusivity, it’s got a picture of some sooo 20-years ago dude, who’s head appears boot-blacked). It’s the same chemicals. Can you imagine the situation reversed?! “Timid and illogical” women would buy the men’s product for the huge selection and the value—weird guy picture on the box be damned!
This is hardly an isolated case. The burgeoning market for men’s skin-care products is much cited as an example of men growing more “in touch” with the feminine. Hmmmm . . . maybe. I think a man who wanted facial moisturizer and was merely “in touch” with common sense could grab a tub of Olay (or any of the 100 other choices ) rather than awaiting the development of an industry that prints “MAN CREAM” on the package to ease his shame. Or rather, he would if he wasn’t a big scaredy girl.
Sure there is much “same stuff, prettier box” packaging and marketing aimed at a female audience. But I’m convinced that were pink cans of shaving gel banned, all women would have whatever was stocked. If pink cans were the only choice, all men would have beards. Why? Because a woman is the most pathetic thing to can be, and even the trivial choices carry the stain. That’s a lesson often taught him, and committed to memory.
I’m barely scratching the surface of this, but it’s enough scratching to really make me itch.
I wonder, though. How can the “stronger sex” be brought to its collective knees by even the whiff of threat of being identified with the feminine? How can the “fairer sex” be oblivious to (and sometimes join in) something more than unfair, but unhealthy for men and women alike?
You can be sure that if schoolyards daily rang with cries of “You’re such a Jew!” and parents scolded kids to “stop acting like a cringing Wop” these comments would be recognized for what they were. No claim that Italian Jews are wonderful, though naturally cowardly and avaricious (so the taunts shouldn’t be offensive to them) would paper-over the ugly truth.
Possibly (on hearing how loudly this bee buzzes in my bonnet) you might suspect that I was “that sissy boy.” But I wasn’t—not anymore the victim than average, anyway. I was never much involved in the sport—either as ball or bat. Mostly, I’d sit on the sidelines. A tiny anthropologist trying to make sense of peculiar rituals, built on vicious enforcement of seemingly arbitrary rules. Wondering “Why?” The answer is clear:
There is no reason. There is no benefit. There is no excuse.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Posted by Marisa at 7:45 AM
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