Thursday, 17 March 2011

In Defence Of Guys

Recently, I read this extract:

This left me feeling a bit strange, for several reasons.
I am familiar with her concept of "guys" - males (mostly in their twenties) who fall between boys and men. They play videogames, smoke pot and hang with their buddies. They may or may not have a job. They may or may not be in a band. But the pressures of husbandhood and parenting are far, far away. But Kay S. Hymowitz seems to want to drag them back home by the ear and wag her finger at them, and I'm not entirely sure why.  Marriage and children are not mandatory any more. We learned from the generation before us that getting married and having kids isn't necessarily what makes all people happy, and the grip of social pressure - particularly on women - has loosened somewhat. Plus, around half of us saw what happened when our parents - who got married in their twenties - split up.
Something else that isn't mandatory any more are gender stereotypes. Hymowitz seems to think in them.
However, the society we inhabit is more equal than it used to be. We have plenty of brave, stoic, strong people who are faithful to their duties. Some of them are male. Some of them are female. Women are no longer expected to be quiet, unquestioning and submissive. We don't have to fit our personalities to match a dated idea people have about what our bodies mean as social instruments. So why should men?

This in particular was a favourite quote:
 "In his disregard for domestic life, the playboy was prologue for today's pre-adult male. Unlike the playboy with his jazz and art-filled pad, however, our boy rebel is a creature of the animal house. In the 1990s, Maxim, the rude, lewd and hugely popular "lad" magazine arrived from England. Its philosophy and tone were so juvenile, so entirely undomesticated, that it made Playboy look like Camus."

Haha. In the 2000s some bright spark invented Nuts and Zoo, which make Maxim look like Playboy.

Earlier this year I watched an episode of Channel 4's Tool Academy. I say watched, but it was more of a test of endurance. I decided to see whether I'd be able to turn it off when I got bored or fed up or if pure blind rage would drive me to clawing out my own eyes (I'd actually assumed that this was one of the main points of the show). I lasted six minutes. To me, these people were the opposite of everything a man should be. I must stress - it wasn't because they were men - they were the opposite of everything I think a human being should be. Disrespectful. Dishonest. Ignorant. Arrogant. Obnoxious. Bigoted. Attention-seeking. And it was this that made the viewer never want to spend so much as one second in their company. Not who their friends were. Not what they did in their spare time. But their attitudes about themselves and towards other people, which I'm pleased to tell you can be found in many different lifestyles, whether lazy or hard-working, ambitious or apathetic, married with kids or single. But it's far easier to have a go at the bland, uninspired media that's marketed at them, so...

Hymowitz cites films starring "overgrown boy" actors such as Adam Sandler, Steve Carell and Jim Carrey (she also mentioned Owen Wilson but I'm choosing to ignore that just like I'm choosing to ignore all the terrible films he's made while I re-watch The Darjeeling Ltd.).  But are the movies with juvenile, irritating, sex-obsessed male characters any worse than movies with shallow, irritating, superficial female characters? Yes, young males watch these characters and may well chuckle heartily at their antics, but that does not mean they will necessarily aspire to be just like them. Personally I enjoy an NBC comedy starring Amy Poehler being magnificent, but her character is pretty much the opposite of me. I still like her character. I still think her character is funny. But I don't want to be like her, at all. I think here Hymowitz is exercising a lack of faith that all too often stems from a few bad experiences. The overall tone of the extract seems to suggest that males are Other, an entirely different species that we can't possibly fathom (like a sort of reverse Beauvoir if such a thing were possible) and if left to their own devices the human race would simply die from sitting on their arse drinking beer for too long.

My boyfriend and friends are intelligent, respectful individuals with their own minds and interests. They joke around with each other constantly, they play games and watch movies, and spend their leisure time (of which some have more than others) doing things that they enjoy. But this does not mean that they are babies, distracted by colours and noises and the potential possibility of getting some titty.