About an hour ago, I got an unsolicited message from a stranger on facebook. It's your basic bar pick-up line, adapted for the youtube age. It's premised on one of the group memberships I have listed in my super-super-restricted profile. As pick-ups go, it could be much thinner -- the group is an expression of a certain pretty arcane kind of fandom for a cultish but not overly well-known American author, so the fact that this guy likes this author and knows I do too is a much more sophisticated basis for e-chatting me up than most.
His profile is unrestricted, and under Interests, he lists Women.
As a matter of gender-political hopelessness, this is not actually the most egregious thing on this guy's profile, which is precisely why I'm going to spin a little vitriol in its direction. Because really? It's not that unusual. And I'd like to have a moment of explaining, Gender Politics for Idiots style, why it makes me want to snap pencils. Or pencilnecks.
A side issue in this discussion that I'm not going to get into is that part of what's in play here is not just what people will say, but what they think it's acceptable to say. Your user profile on a social networking site is not just some things about you -- it's the things which you think are the things you'd want other people to know. If you're not trying to come off clever and witty and generally nonchalant about it, you're probably trying to come off ironic for not doing so. Part of what gets my knickers in a bunch is the remembrance that this is the context in which Mr E-Pickup lists Women as one of his interests. (Along with concrete and classic cars. Uh-huh. But I digress).
OK. Perhaps you're saying that you like having sex. If this is what is meant by having women as an interest, then it's a very lame euphemism and I take a fair amount of exception to the use of the word "women" as a euphemism for anything at all, much less your getting your end in. But actually, that's the milder and much less offensive reading of what I think is going on here. If I challenged you with this, your eyebrows are going to pucker with hurt consternation and you'll claim that sex has nothing to do with it -- it's women. They're so fascinating. So mysterious. So amazing and changeable and endlessly intuitive and passionate and gentle.
You might even add something like not like men at all. I don't even care about this idiotic and vacuous last part, which exercises a whole lot of other people. No-one has a clear idea of what ought reasonably to count as a difference between men and women and which ought to be vilified as a horrifying example of gender discrimination, and frankly I don't really think that discussion is going anywhere.
The point is that you're talking about 50% of the goddamn world population. Saying that you are interested in them has literally no meaning except as a function of your simplistic, unreconstructed, utterly, utterly uninterrogated vision of what counts as a woman. And, so help me, if you claim in response that you are interested in their very variety, realise that that only means something relative to fixing the notion of "them".
God, this makes me feel so, so lonely.
Well, that pretty much wraps it up.
3 weeks ago