Onto the mundane
Life is in the details here at Mouse Words. And after spending a couple days reading all the sturm und drang at Alas over the presence of men in the feminist movement, I'm ready to talk about silly shit. Which, weirdly enough, worms its way over to me from Hugo's blog. (I refuse to talk about how these are both male-run blogs. Well, unless you really want to start shit, which people are always welcome to do at my blog, knowing full well I never ask my commenters to be civil. Rip some shit, people. Seriously. I'm bored.)
Anyway, in the entire discussion about deconstructing male and female roles, it sort of drifted over to the one expectation that weighs heavily on men in the ever-fascinating courting process of actually initiating contact. This is actually a somewhat new expectation, relatively speaking. In the past, introducing yourself to someone was pretty much rude across the board. In our modern life, it's pretty much expected that you have to do this sometimes, lest no one gets laid ever, and the burden has fallen to men. (Don't even start to whine. You may think that it's a huge burden to work up the courage to speak to a woman, but that's like a 10 minute ordeal. Shaving, doing hair, picking out clothes, and doing make-up to make you someone want to work up the courage is a hell of a bigger time issue. And it's a bigger leap of faith.)
It's as obvious as a beehive hairdo that under the New Feminist Milieu that working up the courage to approach someone should be an equal opportunity thing. However, many heterosexual feminists like myself find that we still manage rarely, if ever, to approach men. It's not an ill will issue; it's a logic issue. Lynn Gazis-Sax puts it perfectly.
I have to confess, I didn't do a lot of initiating in my single days, even though I do and did believe, as a feminist, that that role should be shared. The reason is, when I know that all the guys expect to be initiating, it's hard for me not to assume that the reason a guy hasn't approached me yet is that he just isn't interested in me anyway, and so why bother?
She's got it. I have always felt guilty about my indifference to pursuing men with the dogged determination I have been on the receiving end of in my time. Not that this is a constant problem or anything, but even one guy pursuing me is 100% better than the nothing from my side. See, it's all relative.
It's a weird sort of feminist guilt to look back and realize that I let men initiate pretty much all dates, relationships, whatever. I mean, on an individual level, each one is not really a big deal. My current boyfriend and I met because I bitched out some dick who was hassling some random girls I was standing beside and myself at a show. Those girls turned out to be friends of my boyfriend's and so they pushed him into asking me out. As shit just sort of happens like that, it's hard to really frame it terms of 50/50 or anything like that. But looking at my whole romantic history, it becomes clear that I never really directly approached a man pretty much ever.
And it's like Lynn says, it's because the gender assumptions create these sort of hard to break patterns that have a logical intergrity. Men are trained to take the risk, so if a man doesn't take the risk, you can assume that he doesn't like you. (On the other side of it, if a woman glares at you and looks away, men know to give up. Or they should.) It's pretty frustrating, because this little trick of logic has created this odd pattern where men and women become more and more equal all the time in negotiating their relationships, dicussing their sexual needs, the whole bit. And yet getting the ball rolling is still pretty much left up to men.
I'm in a steady relationship now that has the sort of inertia anyone with a good grip on reality delights in, but I know that if I were single, I'd probably fall back into my old habits. Again, it just makes sense. If you like a guy and he's ignoring you, odds are he doesn't like you so why waste your time? I see how it plays out and it frustrates me, but I don't see a good way out of it. You can't teach guys to be more reticient--that's not fair to them. But teaching girls to be forward has only limited use, and efforts in that direction will be dashed on the first guy that strings them along and they take solace in books with obnoxiously long titles about how guys are just not going to be into a sort like you, and everything goes to shit.
It's just kind of odd to me that in so many other ways, men and women are actually making progress towards egalitarian relationships, but this is just a sticking point that seems pretty hard to unstick.