We are the borg

So, I was thinking about what I was going to submit to the upcoming Carnival of Feminists, which has a theme “loosely based around feminism and career.” ’cause I like me some feminists, and I love reading the other submissions as well–there’s always some good stuff and a juicy debate or two.

I’ll confess. I was really struggling. For some reason the Mommy Wars keep popping up, and that’s something I just don’t want to touch. Of course, there are numerous other issues surrounding feminism and career, but every time I sat down to write something, the Mommy Wars kept perversely floating into my mind, the pink elephant in the room. And nothing clears a room of elephants like a good Googling, I always say.

In my Googling, I stumbled across an AskMen article on inter-office relationships, which I won’t link to in order to spare you the agony I went through reading the “top ten ways to get the office babe.” AskMen often causes mixed feelings of rage and pain to rise within me, and my reasons for clicking on the link originally were, I admit, somewhat questionable. But then I stumbled upon the “Relationship Advice” section, which features such gems as “How to Score a Stewardess,” “Friend to Flame in Five Steps,” “Is Your Girl Born to Cheat,” and, of course, “Women You Can Easily Bed-Part 3.” And this motherlode of material got me thinking, after I wiped up all the tea I spilled.

Are there people out there who seriously believe that this sort of ananachronistic, misogynist advice actually works? That women are such simpleminded creatures that they can be easily distracted with bright shiny things while men go along more or less merrily as before? Truly?

What is it with advice columnists lumping women together as a group? I see these broadly-based generalizations made about fifty one percent of humanity and it concerns me. Are we really so interchangeable a group that we can be easily dismissed with a “10 moves to thrill her in bed” article? I’m tired of the “girlfriend advice list,” because the girlfriend advice list is always unique to the girlfriend. Tekanji says it well when she says that “when you publish lists like that, you erase our humanity by assuming that we’re all the same.”

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that “women’s” magazines are also guilty of the same sin. But it is my sincere hope that most women don’t actually believe the allegedly infallible dating advice to be found in Elle and the like. And, of course, most “women’s” publications are too busy telling us how to slim up for Mr. Right, what not to wear, and how to arrange flowers.

Yet, I know a surprising number of otherwise rational, sensitive, intelligent, pro-feminist men who tell me they read the sort of garbage AskMen propogates religiously. I’m not really sure how it is possible to be pro-feminist and read articles like these, in all honesty, because every time I read AskMen I feel dirty inside. AskMen is patriarchy, right there, in your face, no apologies. (Which is, I suppose, to be expected, given the name. It’s not called “AskHumans” or “ACollectiveCommentaryFromBothSexes.”)

“The advice is really sound,” they tell me, “and it makes a lot of sense to me as a guy.”

Well, of course. That’s the way the articles are written, by an assortment of pseudonymous characters who want the reader to be under the impression that if they follow the “five steps to a sexier evening,” or the detailed guide to “introducing her to your kinkier side” that you’re going to have women flocking to you, begging to take it up the ass. AskMen is all about sweeping generalizations of a huge section of humanity, designed to keep that portion of humanity where it belongs: sucking dick and making apple pies. I really wish that men’s magazines could stick to more interesting things, because you could cover a lot of ground with general interest articles. Say, articles actually putting forward the novel idea that women are people. Yet somehow AskMen seems able to turn every article around to exploiting women or making more money (with which to exploit more women).

Now, I’m not the sort of person to read Elle and Vogue and that lot–I’m more of an Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Policy Review, New Yorker, Mother Jones kind of girl. And perhaps all the men not reading AskMen are also reading those kinds of magazines. But something about the thought of articles like “does she want to be dominated: how to make your woman submit to you, in and out of the bedroom,” makes me seethe with rage, because AskMen is propogating an idea of women as second class sex objects, put on Earth primarily to entertain rich white men. It seems like kind of an uphill struggle for equality when 5 million readers a month apparently think of us as fembots.

My male friends often come to me asking for advice on how to approach women, and I always tell them that there is no certain answer, no magic button that can be pressed, because women are people, and people are unique. For me to generalize about other women would be a reduction of my own humanity.

We are not the borg: we are all beautiful and unique snowflakes, damnit.