DOUBLE STANDARDS: Passive-Aggressive Tactics and Female Privilege

Amanda Marcotte has an article up on the XX Factor section of Slate. She asks “Can Someone Do Me a Favor and Explain This “S&%! Girls Say” Video?
She says it’s hard to figure out how to feel about the video. She further asks:
“I want to write the creators and ask, “Could you do me a huge favor? I’m sorry, but it’s a little hard not to feel like you’re suggesting that it’s annoying that women tend toward ingratiating and apologetic. It’s a super funny video, but if it’s not too much trouble, could you tell me what you mean by it?”

Ms. Marcotte, do you really need to be told what is annoying in people who simultaneously “tend toward ingratiating and apologetic” and yet expect to be taken as equals?

It’s called doubletalk. That’s what’s annoying.

This is why I like cats better. They are a tenth or a twentieth your weight, they look you straight in the eye with frank contempt and expect nothing but predation from the world and whatever little they can coerce out of you. And even dogs – when they suck up try to lick you face and all that crap, they don’t turn around and pretend to equality afterwards.

And then there is the problem of seeing everything through the gendered lens:
“But even if you read it in the most generous way possible, I just can’t support the basic premise that these language patterns are so very female. I’m trying to imagine my reaction if a male friend or my boyfriend called and, instead of saying, “Hey, can you look something up for me?” just told me what to do. Luckily, that doesn’t come up, because as much as this is labeled “shit girls say,” men also are adept at using deferential and placating language when asking for help.”

This appears to puzzle Marcotte or to strike her as an unfair generalization. The way she frames it is puzzling and unfair, but that’s the fault of her framing and not of what she is observing. These language patterns are servile. Men in servile positions all over the world use exactly these patterns. And they read as servile all over the world, so when you use them you are announcing your servile status. Is Marcotte likewise puzzled as to why men so often treat women as underlings? What do you think? She probably is.

And here is something that she doesn’t mention – when a man in our society tries this submissive passive-aggressive pattern of behavior, he doesn’t get to be subservient, he gets his ass kicked, often literally. He doesn’t have the option of inequality, unless he has the bad luck to be in some group – read: “darker” – that is a designated servile caste. He either meets the group norm for self-sufficiency or he is ground down to nothing and expelled.

So yes, while men may use these patterns now and then, there really is gender-policing that restricts their use to the same degree. You are going to have to trust me on this, Ms. Marcotte, because there is really no way you can have experienced this for yourself.

She also seems to be puzzled or annoyed with some comments from elsewhere she quotes:

“It’s possible that this was the intent of the creators, though the vast majority of comments and links I’ve seen with regard to this video apply a straightforward, “Man, women are so annoying with the talking and the acting like they have a right to just be in the world.”

Well, Ms. Marcotte, this is what’s annoying about that kind of attitude: it’s privileged as hell. This is exactly the kind of thing people point to when they talk about female privilege. You may fondly believe that men get to act like we just have the right to be in the world. Well, all I can say to that is people from your part of the country believe the world was created in six days, and with about as much basis. It takes quite a degree of immersion in this kind of privilege to take it for granted, to think it is natural and that it applies to everyone. It doesn’t. It doesn’t apply to little boys for instance.

It applies to little girls and later to women as a function of the chivalry you claim to be so over.

You know all that male behavior you think is so Neanderthal, all that aggression and
stone-faced indifference to pain and all that other stuff you label “toxic masculinity”? That’s an adaptation to a world without the kind of protection most girls enjoy so totally that they think it is the norm, the world little boys live in, and some girls. If any of that is still puzzling to you, if you don’t know what I am talking about, then that will just have to wait, because there just isn’t room here in one post. And oh yes, women who grew up that same hard way show all the same “toxic masculinity” behaviors as men do, although you probably “admire” and “respect” those women and then have absolutely nothing to do with such rough creatures. They are probably insufficiently passive-aggressive.

16 thoughts on “DOUBLE STANDARDS: Passive-Aggressive Tactics and Female Privilege

  1. “You may fondly believe that men get to act like we just have the right to be in the world.”

    I think that men act like they have a right to be in the world because no one else is going to give them that right. Men don’t have those sharp shame-elbows to use to lever themselves in.

    Incidentally, are we talking about women who wield ‘sorry’ like a goddamn machete?

    Here’s a link to the video for those who do not want to give Amanda hits.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u-yLGIH7W9Y

  2. Gingko,

    Thanks for this post. Especially this part:

    “You know all that male behavior you think is so Neanderthal, all that aggression and
    stone-faced indifference to pain and all that other stuff you label “toxic masculinity”? That’s an adaptation to a world without the kind of protection most girls enjoy so totally that they think it is the norm, the world little boys live in, and some girls. ”

    Really captures what I find so frustrating (or downright infuriating) about typical “what’s wrong with men?” talk.

  3. Melissa Triemstra in the comments said:

    “When will the femi-nazis learn that everything inherently female is NOT also inherently desirable”

    Its not even that I necessarily agree with that statement (the femi-nazi isn’t a word i would use) . Its just that a woman made it so feminists can’t use the “misogynist” argument to just ignore it. So I hope there is at least an internal struggle that forces her to think slightly differently.

  4. “You know all that male behavior you think is so Neanderthal, all that aggression and
    stone-faced indifference to pain and all that other stuff you label “toxic masculinity”? That’s an adaptation to a world without the kind of protection most girls enjoy so totally that they think it is the norm, the world little boys live in, and some girls.

    The thing about this idea that shouted out to me was the fact that when I had these experiences there were no women or men for that matter knocking at my door to aid in my defense. The world as I learned was hard and rarely fair or equal. What benefitted me as a youth definately did not work in my favour as an adult. I wrote a post about some of our learned behaviour.

    http://titfortat6.blogspot.com/2011/07/game-face-what-do-you-present.html

  5. TFT, the game face is an essential part of this. A woman has a diffenrnet game face she has to present, the Keep-the fuck-away-from-me-you-unworthy-beggar, and she needs it out on the streeet. It shows how shallow they are that they don’t see that they are bothe the same thing. Great post by the way.

    “When will the femi-nazis learn that everything inherently female is NOT also inherently desirable”
    Its just that a woman made it so feminists can’t use the “misogynist” argument to just ignore it.”

    leta, I am working on a post on gynonormativity which goes to this. It’s a point of confusion in gender discussions because gynonormativity is a feature of Anglosphere culture but not the rest of the West, so not everyone recognizes its existence.

  6. @ Jim

    “It shows how shallow they are that they don’t see that they are bothe the same thing.”

    Okay, Jim. I’ve got to call you to task for this one.

    All women? Or the women who reserve for themselves some sort of unique role as victim?

  7. I admit that much of the context of this post sort of just flies right past me but (and as was already stated) the part about “toxic masculinity” was spot on.

    I have a lot of thoughts all working through my head and I don’t really have the time or inclination to type it all out. I hope others will though. But my thoughts involves notions of respect (entitled vs being earned), empathy (and how people need to learn a lot of it), and maturity levels (regarding notions of “me me me” vs “do do do”). That as a grown man my notions of personal fulfillment are secondary to what I can actually do for my family. I’ve realized that “doing” actually is personally fulfilling. Sorry to be so vague, but like I said I await others to write something coherent to help me gather my thoughts into something I can even make sense out of.

    So wow, thanks for this post. It has made me think about a lot. I love thinking in ways I am not normally accustomed to.

  8. My thoughts are very scattered but I will try to say what I mean by telling a story as an example of what I am talking about…

    My wife was telling me about when she was nine years old. First off, she’s a tennis player. A really good one. Anyway her dad entered her in her first tournament. My wife was tiny for her age but she genuinely thought that she would beat her opponent. Even though her opponent was 13 years old, 2 feet taller and was nationally ranked. Needless to say my wife was slaughtered 0-0. This life lesson is something not all people learn. And from my perspective this lesson isn’t generally learned by girls at all. So when they get older they still sort of expect the world to cater to their pre-conceptions about it. For some young women (I can imagine) it’s like a slap in the face to be treated just like everyone else is treated. The lesson is learning that you aren’t special. At some point getting one’s ass kicked (figuratively speaking) is just what that person needs to grow a little. And for me, as a boy, I learned that if I acted like a stuck up prick someone was gonna knock me down to size.

    Ok, very scattered. I’m sorry. Real life is strong here today.

  9. “I have a lot of thoughts all working through my head and I don’t really have the time or inclination to type it all out. I hope others will though. ”

    When you get a chance, and I know you have a million things going on, especially this tuime of year, could you maybe pull all that together in a post. I will se about talking the others around to guest posts. I am tring to buld an archive of Meta posts that explore notions like respect, privileges/rights/grace, arguing in good and bad faith and that kind of thing. Beyond that you live on the opposite side of the continent and have a different cultural background from mine and probably the rest of us – which seem not to make much real difference after all – and that is a valuable aded dimension to the conversation.

  10. Oh, I see how that was vague. Not all women and not the ones who reserve the victim role to themselves, but the specifically the ones who criticize men for behaviors that they themselves use and for equally valid reasons. I am really just referring to the stock standard traditionalist man-bashing that is basically just self-serving hypocrisy.

    In fact I think women tend to recognize this , see through it and call it ourt a lot more than men do, or used to. Specifically I am referring to you and me; I learned this from you and your comments over at FC.

  11. It’s not just men of color who experience discrimination in this society.
    It is men of any color who happen to be poor.
    It is fathers of any color.
    It’s male college students, many of whom happen to be white or asian.
    It’s a lot of men, many who do not know how things are messed up and it’s been getting worse and worse over time.
    Being a “person of color” can in some cases add to your shitpile as a man (though in a few cases it can benefit you too) but except for the very wealthiest and most powerful all men are vulnerable in America today.

  12. @Ginkgo:

    She says it’s hard to figure out how to feel about video. (BTW why do you have to “figure out” how to feel about anything? Sounds like you haven’t yet “figured out” what feeling actually is.)

    Confused as to why that was necessary. Or even helpful. I’m sure she knows what “feeling actually is”. We all have moments where we’re not quite sure how we feel about something, or feel conflicted about something.

    And it looks like a certain someone hasn’t “figured out” what proof-reading and editing actually are. ;-)

    She says it’s hard to figure out how to feel about video.

    Personally, I think video is a pretty cool technology. Not sure about Marcotte.

  13. There is a saying that neglect is the worst kind of abuse, and I consider the kind of sheltering that allows someone to get to teenage without learning that the world has teeth to be neglect of the very worst kind.

    Something else that is going on in society is the growing expectation that strangers have to care for you as if you were family. Family is just some annoying, demanding old frumps and idiot siblings anyway, right – your peers are so much more fascinating anyway, right? It’s a decadent stage of civil society in which you don’t need brothers and cousins for defense because society provides police, you don’t need uncles to get oyu a job becasuse society inists on equal opprtunity hiring, you don’t need a husband because society will either coerce money out of yor ex, regardless of actual paternity or else will hook you up with the Virtual Father in terms of other support, and you don’t need a wife because housekeeping actually only takes about seven hours a week.

  14. I read it as “the video” since it made better sense in the context. Why would anyone have feelings about a technology like video?

    “Confused as to why that was necessary. Or even helpful. I’m sure she knows what “feeling actually is”. We all have moments where we’re not quite sure how we feel about something, or feel conflicted about something.”

    Except that’s not what she was saying. The grammar of her senetence doesn’t support that reading. She wasn’t asking what she was feeling, but what she was to feel, what she was supposed to feel about something. That is not feeling.

    I think it is necessary when someone takes a superior attitude, and Marcotte does this as a part of her professional writing persona, that they be called on every pose of authority they assume. And that kind of breezy chumminess is a very standard way of reminding everyone in the room of your power. That’s what I was calling out there.

    Anyway on the snark about Marcotte’s capacity to feel, i deleted it.

  15. “It’s not just men of color who experience discrimination in this society.
    It is men of any color who happen to be poor.”

    I make this point over in the post on rape hysteria. Bieng male is the risk factor here, with being black just another added risk factor.

    Fathers are singled out for special discrimination in this society.

  16. “You know all that male behavior you think is so Neanderthal, all that aggression and
    stone-faced indifference to pain and all that other stuff you label “toxic masculinity”? That’s an adaptation to a world without the kind of protection most girls enjoy so totally that they think it is the norm, the world little boys live in”

    And that was even before feminism added its vitriol to this pool of shit.

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