My buddy Jeff was nice enough to give me permission to include his comments on my recent “Worklife” rant. He says:
…I don’t think that the remaking selves for the opposite gender thing is as one-sided as you describe. Plenty of women talk quite brazenly about ideal men, and I think perhaps the most universal male experience (judging from milennia of literature anyway) is inadequacy. Plenty of men are intimidated by Brad Pitt. I know I am. Check out Chuck Pahlaniuk’s books sometime. (He’s the writer of Fight Club) He went through a phase of working out obsessively, taking steroids, and even having plastic surgery to get Brad Pitt-like beesting lips. This is why when the book made it big and Fox wanted to make it into a movie he insisted that Brad Pitt play Tyler Durden.
I’m a big fan of Palahniuk – I’ve budgeted in his latest nonfiction collection into this week’s paycheck. He’s doing some really edgy, visceral work: not a literary genius, but somebody’s who’s really tapped into the dark places in the social landscape (particularly relationships among men and men who find themselves unable to connect with others, including women) that nobody really wants to talk about. The ravaged, mad, bizarre stuff. “Inspiration,” writes Palahniuk, “needs disease, injury, madness.”
I would, in fact, argue that a lot of the failure of sexual equality has been the conception of “equality.” Women have fought (and continue to fight) long and hard for the rights to be accepted as whole, strong, independent individuals. You can wave the flag of feminism all you want and say, “Now women are just like men,” but you know what, maybe they shouldn’t be. Maybe the social roles are the problem. I don’t know that I’d like to suck up the “Bash people around as affection and show emotion only through anger” role. There are certainly a lot of the role qualities that I like, and I’d like to be just as free to choose which ones I like and which I don’t, and until men are given the same option without threat of death or dismemberment, I still think we’re a long way off from that breezy hippie liberal “equality for everyone” ideal that sounds really good to me on paper but looks trickier and trickier the more I see people trying to put it into practice.