One of the fascinating things about men and women is how often each sex fails entirely to understand the intra sex interactions of the other. Many of the men commenting on this site were initially baffled by my post Two lists every woman should make before frivolously divorcing. This is understandable, because men often only see the subtext of Team Woman, which while certainly a factor can blind men to the often more subtle reality of female intra-sexual competition.
As I explained in the comments section of that post, women are extremely competitive and often vicious with each other, which is why they try to trick other women into getting boy haircuts, sabotaging their love lives, etc. Once the woman has been tricked into sabotaging her own love life, the torment begins.
The torment will often be subtle, something most men would misread as acts of kindness. What looks to us like commiseration or even a compliment can often be pouring salt in the wound: I admire you so much. You are so strong and independent. I’m too weak and always need a man in my life. By the way, did I show you the pictures of my latest (child, vacation, date with her husband, anniversary)? It could even be framed as a complaint about a bad day: Did I tell you that my car broke down? I don’t know what I would have done if my husband hadn’t been able to come fix it for me. Or concern: It’s so good to see you get out of the house! You need to go out and celebrate your independence girlfriend! Again, men don’t see this; this is why it isn’t uncommon for a man to be accused of cruelty by a woman when he was actually trying to help. To a man it really is intended in an understanding way, but women don’t think like men, they think like women, so they interpret it the way it would be meant if they said the same thing.
It isn’t just men who misread women’s interactions though. Commenter Sean’s misunderstanding of how men interact lead to my post Lets you and him fight:
I call it a manitude. You should be able to exude enough manliness to make other men back down, especially if they know they are in the wrong…
My uncles, and brothers exhibit the same type of manitude, very few men will step to them much less be disrespectful around their families. The few who have tried usually back down quickly once confronted.
This poses a dilemma; if the average man should be able to make other (average) men back down, then the men backing down are by definition substandard, and therefore, below average. The reality is very few men have the luxury of going around forcing other men to back down. This is a combination of apex fallacy and failure to understand the context of the exchange below the surface. After much discussion Sean offered some further clarification:
Gosh you guys must live in a constant state of fear. For your information, I have never asked the men in my life to put their life in jeopardy for me, they provide protection because that is what they were taught to do. And the situations you guys described is not deadly. Since some of you think it’s a big deal to ask people not curse around your family let me give you what my husband usually says that works fine ” Yo dog, my kids?” or he has said ” can you tone it down? my kids?” to which the answer has always been “aww dog, sorry man” and guess what the foul language stops.
After this the men on the board formed consensus around my assertion that what Sean was describing was something else entirely:
I’m surprised that you characterized this as your husband “making the other man back down”. There is a lot tied up in just those few words, but I would characterize the exchange more as him offering the other men respect and asking for it in return.
The problem is worse for women misunderstanding men’s interactions because it is extremely common in entertainment to present women as interacting as one of the guys. One example which comes to mind is in the opening episode of a Canadian TV show my wife and I have been netflixing titled Flashpoint. Early in the episode we meet the lone female member of the team, who looks like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger dressed in SWAT gear. In fact, the same actress played Pink Ranger in the 1990s series. But of course we need to know she is as tough as the guys, so she is busily boasting about her rappelling prowess and calling out other members of the team in one form of challenge or another.
I’ve written previously about the danger this can pose to women who can’t separate this fantasy from fact. They don’t understand that their aping of male intra-sex challenges resembles the real deal about as much as an English speaking child who mimics speaking Chinese. Actually it is worse, because along the way they may inadvertently get just enough of the process right to get themselves into a conflict they didn’t anticipate. The example I shared is of the high school cheerleader and choir girl who joined the Marines and became a Packaging Specialist, and thought this made her one of the guys. When a member of another service was talking smack about Marines, she followed what many women learn from watching real and imagined male interactions and decided to call him out and make him back down:
Enraged, [she] rushed the sailor. “I’m going to show you what a Marine is!” she shouted, and proceeded to knock the much larger rival to the ground.
As I mentioned in that previous post unfortunately for her this was neither a video game nor a movie, and the man she assaulted had the bad taste to fight back instead of backing down from her imagined display of Alpha Maleness:
the sailor then jumped back to his feet, grabbed [her], and body-slammed her. Her head whip-lashed onto concrete.
The scuffle was broken up by witnesses, and [she] retreated without seeking medical attention. But within a few hours, she complained to commanding officers and fellow Marines of a headache. The next day, she was dead.
Once he learned about this, the woman’s father played the Don’t Hit Me I’m A Girl (DHMIAG) card:
[her] father understands the law. What he doesn’t understand is why the sailor wasn’t held accountable for slamming a much smaller woman to the ground.
Unfortunately this instinct isn’t limited to understandably grieving fathers. The problem with DHMIAG is it tends to come out at exactly the moment when Team Woman is at its strongest and Team Man is at its weakest. This happens despite the woman’s often very man like actions which precipitated the event, and despite decades of women exclaiming take me seriously!
The female Marine was an extreme example, but we see the basic misunderstanding play out on a much lower stakes scale. Women now fairly routinely use the language that one man would use to call another man out, only to be shocked at the response they receive. In other cases they don’t mimic the language but they still set themselves up as leaders while they or others feel compelled to shelter them as women. When I called Sheila Gregoire out for claiming that serial marriage was biblically justified if a woman could point to the flimsiest of pretexts, fellow manosphere blogger Morticia felt that this was inappropriate. She felt that Sheila must have been mislead by someone in authority, and that is whom I should have called out. However Sheila holds herself out as a Christian leader, referring to her work as a ministry. If anything I treated Sheila with kid gloves. Sheila had made the same biblical defense of divorce and remarriage in the case of a husband viewing pornography on her own blog. In my initial rebuttal to the Christian acceptance of Serial Polyandry I had elected to refute the idea without calling Sheila out by name. At the time I emailed Sheila to let her know I had afforded her this courtesy. I didn’t receive an email reply from Sheila, but not long thereafter she came to my blog and made the same defense of Christian Serial Polyandry. Only then did I call Sheila out directly. In a later blog post I teased Morticia about what I considered to be her expecting me to find a man to blame when a woman was out of line, and inadvertently caused her great distress. At that point she withdrew the challenge and I removed the teasing note at the end of the blog post.
More recently we saw this same dynamic play out in my post last week titled Is frivolous divorce overstated in the manosphere? Doug1 had upset Susan Walsh at her blog and she called him out man to man:
Provide stats for this or shut up.
The thing about this kind of challenge is you can’t be sure who will actually pick it up. We saw this recently with Paul Elam’s challenge to Heartiste in specific and the gamesphere in general with his post Chateau Bullshit. In that case it was actually blogger Frost who formally replied to the challenge, with as I understand it some assistance in the discussion section from other bloggers. This is part of the danger of making bold pronouncements like this; you set yourself up as having to take all comers. Often times this results in a mismatch where you have much more to lose than your adversary, who has the luxury of deciding he likes the matchup. A much more serious example of this is evident in perhaps the most famous cautionary tale to men on this topic, the story of David and Goliath. Goliath made the mistake of challenging the manhood of all Israelites in an effort to make them back down. The result of his hubris was being killed by a lowly shepherd boy armed only with a sling.
In Susan’s case she actually expanded her challenge at the end of her comment from just Doug1 to the larger manosphere:
I think this theme [wife initiated frivolous divorce] is exaggerated and overblown in the manosphere echo chamber.
It is the very nature of a challenge like this that news of it travels extremely fast. Given that I have written extensively on the topic, I doubt there was a man familiar with my blog who saw Susan’s comment and didn’t think I’ll bet Dalrock would be interested in a piece of that. In fact, given that this is a signature issue for me as a blogger in the manosphere, they could even be forgiven for seeing this as a direct challenge to me. At any rate, it should have come as no surprise that news of this challenge quickly made its way to me, nor that I chose to respond.
Yet Susan appears to have felt completely blindsided by my response. Hawaiian Libertarian has convincingly argued that Susan probably felt attacked by my responding to her challenge. Some of my own readers argued that Susan was likely speaking out of a place of emotion, and shouldn’t be expected to either back up her assertion or withdraw it as we would expect a man to do in the same situation. I have a problem with this because while Susan is often at odds with feminists, she very much strikes me as the take me seriously! type.
I don’t have an easy answer for all of this. So long as women demand to be taken seriously, I’ll reserve the right to take them at their word. If they put themselves in a position of leadership and/or make direct challenges to me or a group I’m part of, I’ll reserve the right to respond. I’ll do this understanding full well that many will feel that I’m unfairly picking on a poor defenseless girl in doing so. So be it.