Male friendships and female humiliations
Hugo, though under the weather, has a really good post today about homosociality and how, in our culture at least, male bonding is so often attained at women's expense, especially friendships between younger men. Hugo uses catcalling as an example, and it's a very good one since most women can tell you, men don't catcall when they are by themselves. (In fact, the opposite. If a man alone wishes to harass you, he'll probably do it in way that doesn't call attention to himself.) He goes on to illustrate quite well how our construction of male-bonding as an anti-female activity affects even men who wouldn't think to harass or catcall a woman. I agree whole-heartedly, and I agree to the reasoning he uses.
Homosociality (as explained so well in Michael Kimmel's Manhood in America) is the principle that all men, including heterosexual ones, are raised in our culture to be more eager to please other men than women.
It's so true that it's invisible. What men will do to impress women is a joke in our culture, but what they will do to impress men tends to go even further, again especially amongst younger men.
Of course, the sexists that linger around the comments section would like to remind us uppity feminists that men should treat other men as more important than women. JeffJP on the subject that men should be more eager to please men than women:
And perhaps that's just as it ought to be.
I'm sure he didn't think through the consequences of what he says, since this sentence was just the beginning of a lame fisking attempt that only makes sense if you buy the assumption that women are just naturally dumber than men. And I'm sure that what he thinks the alternative to the bros before hos mentality is to put women in front of men, but in fact the alternative is to treat all people as equal and prioritize the people in your life according to your relationship to them, a lesson a lot of men have to learn the hard way.
See, it is harmful to women to treat us as objects to be ridiculed and excluded to strengthen men's friendships. But it's probably just as harmful to men in most circumstances. (Excluding homosocial extremes like gang rape.) I can tell you from personal experience that the lure of putting men before women can poison heterosexual relationships. As a young woman, I tolerated it when a boyfriend would sell me out, the person in the world to whom he was closest, in order to impress his friends. We've all been there--sexist jokes, blowing off dates to go out with friends, the uncomfortable sense that they are making jokes about how dumb you must be what with the girl thing and all behind your back. As a younger woman, I tolerated it, because I too thought that the only way men could be friends was at the expense of women and I didn't want to be the bitch who tells a man he can't have his friends.
But that stuff is poison. The person you cherish the most should be the person you cherish the most. While I know that guys who do this to women don't intend to signal loud and clear that they don't give a shit about her, that's the message that's received. And, as is true with a lot of things, you're sending the message to yourself that she's not that important after all. Which can be compelling, I think, right until she's gone. My ex suggested once that perhaps he mistreated me at the behest of his friends because they were jealous. I don't think that was probably as accurate as Hugo's little theory here.
There's a third model of friendships besides bros before hos and pussy-whipped models that we are so fond of. It's one where people are taken as individuals and each friendship is special in and of itself. A lot of conflict between men and women really does disappear when this model is embraced. For men, it's a lot easier, I think, because they aren't friends with men who pressure them to treat their wives or girlfriends badly to show loyalty to their friends. For women, it's a relief to know that just because your man is hanging out with his guy friends doesn't mean he's gonna come home acting like he suddenly feels nothing but contempt for you. I know that from my own experience, that famous female possessiveness disappears when your boyfriend's friends aren't openly threatening your relationship.