Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Women and Wars

At the Emmy Awards apparently Sally Field said something stupid. Rachel Lucas has (for Rachel) a rather long and worthy comment on it. Please go forthwith and read.

Back already?

I was reminded of a discussion I've had several times with my wife, who works at a children's shelter, and has also worked in call centers doing international long-distance service, and roadside assistance, with many, many people, often from different cultures. She's told me on more than one occasion that she prefers dealing with boys at the shelter and schools for the same reason she disliked working with women at the call centers: women compete. Pettily. Viciously. Constantly. They form cliques for the purpose of deliberately excluding others. They are simply mean and nasty to other women for no discernible reason. Boys tend to cooperate.

Quoth Rachel:
It starts in about 4th grade, when girls start engaging in what can only be called a war of attrition via emotional abuse. They form evil little cliques and set about utterly destroying each other’s self-esteem and pride.


Then you move on to the nightmare-scape called junior high school, where the females carefully hone their craft and the sabotage is raised to a whole new level of hate... Sneaky and manipulative. At least when boys pick on you, it’s all out in the open. Girls? Oh god no. They use subterfuge and reconnaissance. Girls will pretend to be your best friend just to discover your weaknesses, which they’ll then employ to bring you down.
One of the books I read last year was Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man. Ms. Vincent, a lesbian author, dressed herself up with the proper clothing and make-up and passed herself off as a man in numerous situations, some of them long-term. Her first foray into being a man was joining a bowling league. She was quite surprised at some of the things she discovered, based on her lifelong experience of being female.
Girls can be a lot nastier than boys when it comes to someone who stands in the way of something they want. They know where to hit where it'll hurt the most, and their aim is laser precise. I went to a tennis camp in New Jersey that catered largely to rich princesses and their male counterparts. Most of them couldn't really play tennis on more than a country-club level. Their parents had sent them there to get rid of them. They just stood around most of the time posing for one another, showing off their tans. But I'd had a lot of private coaching in tennis by that time, and my strokes were fairly impressive for my age. I took tennis pretty seriously.

As for posing, I looked like I'd been raised by wolverines.

The instructors used to videotape each of us playing, so that they could go over the tapes with us and evaluate our techniques. One day, my particular class of about twenty girls was standing around the television watching the tape, and the instructor was deconstructing my serve. He'd had a lot of negative things to say about most of the other girl's serves, but when it came to mine he'd raved unconditionally, playing my portion of the tape over and over again in slow motion.

One of the prettiest girls in the group, no doubt exasperated by the repetition, said, loudly enough for everyone to hear: "Well, I'd rather look the way I do and serve the way I do than serve the way she does and look the way she does."

Now that's female competitiveness at its finest.

But with these guys and with other male athletes I've known it was an entirely different conflict....

These guys' attentions were like that: fatherly. And it really surprised me coming from members of opposing teams, since this was, after all, a money league. But they seemed to have a competitive stake in my doing well and in helping me do well, as if beating a man who wasn't at his best wasn't satisfying. They wanted you to be good and then they wanted to beat you on their own merits.
Here's one excerpt from that chapter that popped immediately to mind when I read Rachel's rant, and that drew me to pick up the book and write this post:
So much of what happens emotionally between men isn't spoken aloud, and so the outsider, especially the female outsider who is used to emotional life being overt and spoken (often over-spoken), tends to assume that what isn't said isn't there. But it is there, and when you're inside it, it's as if you're suddenly hearing sounds only dogs can hear.

I remember one night when I plugged into that subtext for the first time. A few lanes over, one of the guys was having a particularly hot game. I'd been oblivious to what was happening, mourning my own playing too much to watch anyone else. It was Jim's turn, and I noticed that he wasn't bowling. Instead he was sitting down in one of the laneside chairs, just waiting. Usually this happened when there was a problem with the lane; a stuck pin or a mis-set rack. But the pins were fine. I kept watching him, wondering why he wasn't stepping up to the line.

Then I noticed that all the other bowlers had sat down as well. Nobody was taking his turn. It was as if somebody had blown a whistle, only nobody had. Nobody had said anything. Everyone had just stopped and stepped back, like in a barracks when an officer enters the room.

Then I realized that there was one guy stepping up to the lane. It was a guy who was having a great game. I looked up at the board and saw that he'd had strikes in every frame, and now he was on the tenth and final frame, in which you get three throws if you strike or spare in the first two. He'd have to throw three strikes in a row on this one to earn a perfect score, and somehow everyone in that hall had felt the moment of grace descend and had bowed out accordingly. Everyone, of course, except me.

It was a beautiful moment, totally still and reverent, a bunch of guys instinctively paying their respects to the superior athleticism of another guy.

The guy stepped up to the line and threw three strikes, one after the other, each one met by mounting applause, then silence and stillness again, then on the final strike, an eruption, and every single guy in that room, including me, surrounded that player and moved in to shake his hand or pat him on the back. It was almost mystical, that telepathic intimacy and the communal joy that succeeded it, crystalline in its perfection. The moment said everything all at once about how tacitly attuned men are to each other, and how much of this women miss when they look from the outside in.
One of the clichés of war movies (or other conflict-oriented media) is the character who relishes having an opponent "worthy of them." Patton relished besting Rommel, for instance, because Rommel was the acknowledged best at what he did. But when the competition is over between men, at least in most cases, it's over, and they can set aside the conflict. The end of the Civil War is perhaps the strongest example of this.

But women? From what I have seen, Sally Field might be right. If women ran the world there wouldn't be any more goddamned wars.

Because the first one would end in a scorched-earth policy that neither side would survive. And it would start over something petty.

I can strongly recommend Self-Made Man. It's a damned interesting read.

UPDATE: Dr. Helen has an opinion on Ms. Field's comment, too.

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