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Monday, November 29, 2004

Boy disease?

I grabbed a copy of the Bust magazine book to read while soaking in the tub this morning and inside on an article on men, Marcelle Karp singled out "boy disease" as an example of the kind of non-headline-snatching sexism that is nonetheless part of many women's lives. I had to laugh--I remember the term from Sassy magazine as well, being straight from the generation of young women that magazine was aimed at. Basically, "boy disease" is that irritating behavior where a young man comes on really strong, and once he's got you to fall for him he acts like you have the plague or that your company is barely tolerable, though he keeps coming around for sex and causing you confusion. The only cure of course is to cut him off, refusing to take his phone calls.

I realized that I had always lumped that behavior in with the common not-committing behavior, which is where you string someone along with promises and soulful gazes but never quite agreeing to a monogamous relationship because you want to keep your options open. Men and women both do this, and probably at closer rates than women's magazines would have you believe. But boy disease is a bit different, since it's motivated by an immature fear and loathing of the feminine, thus the "boy" part. I was a victim when I was young, as were a lot of girls I know. Basically, boys would woo you but once they had you the fear that some girl would rub off on them and pollute them would kick in (usually abetted by jealous and fearful male friends) and they would start the shunning process. Some guys (Bill Maher?) never get over boy disease. And plenty of guys never suffer from it at all, though I didn't realize that when I was younger or it would have saved me some pain.

It occurred to me while mulling this over in the tub that even though most guys get over boy disease, it still casts a shadow over relations between men and women. Even as adults, many women still are led to believe that men would shun us in a moment and we are instructed to put up with quite a bit to overcome our disability of being, well, female. A number of incidents lately made me realize that even we enlightened liberal types still fear that this contempt is a factor in our relationships, even when it's not. It seems a real shame to me that even women who should feel confident in their relationships with men still have to live with the message that he will bolt, or at least cheat, at the first chance he gets. And of course it's a shame that men who don't have these feelings can fall under suspicion easily.

Solutions? Beats me. People just need to be more assertive all around about their feelings that women are not especially obliged to put up with crap to compensate for their appalling female-ness. Outside of that, I don't really know what else can be done.

8 Comments:

Blogger jeff said...

This sort of sexism is infinitely intriguing to me, because I've seen it affect the people directly in my circle so much. As you note, there are no easy soluctions, but I think we can begin with some suggestions, at least:

--boys and men need to be taught to be responsible for how the act in general, and specifically how they act toward women.

--girls and women need to be taught to put up with less of this bullshit, or even to put up with none of it at all. That way, the guys who DON'T act this way, or who quickly learn not to, will be encouraged to continue to act that way.

On the other hand, I'm unconvinced (so far) that the boy disease stuff is as a result of boys' immature fear and loathing of the feminine. I tend to think it comes from fear, yes, and of the feminine, yes, but of the feminine as the unknown. The whole idea that women are 'mysterious' and men are 'simple' helps create this sort of behaviour, I think.

11/29/2004

 
Blogger Ron said...

"many women still are led to believe that men would shun us in a moment"I've had that fear a number of times as well, so maybe it is a common insecurity. If you think this way, it can be easier to push that person away or break up with them first, rather than wait for them to do it to you.

11/29/2004

 
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