I was raised on a weird cusp between a crumbling World Order and several Emergent World Orders. Being born in this particular historical moment had, and has, a variety of implications. One way in which this cusp-birth affects me is my view of Women. I think it’s self-evident that Women are capable of doing, and have a right to have, whatever Men can. But I’ve also been raised to be chivalrous… to hold doors for Women, offer my seat to older women on the U-Bahn, and be generally protective of Women… which is a hold-over from the days that Women were considered to be, and treated as, the Weaker/Fairer Sex.
The fact is that I’m physically stronger than any Woman I know, but I’m also stronger than more than half of the Men I know… yet I wouldn’t consider offering a Man just ten years older than I am my seat on the U-Bahn. If a Man slightly smaller than I am were being harassed on the street by another Man (or Woman), I wouldn’t feel compelled to intervene. If a Woman is being harassed on the street, I invariably intervene (I’ve done so at least a dozen times in my life, the most recent being about two years ago). I dither between two states like some kind of quantum particle of SocioPsychology: I consider Women Equal to Men in every way, but I’ve also been raised to pay special attention to the special protection and aid of Women. No Woman I know has complained about this Double-Consciousness (to my face) and when I lived in a house with Lesbian roommates, in the mid-’90s, I suppressed my chivalry easily enough: I was the strongest roommate in the house but far from the most macho. When stuff needed repairing around the house, I never once assumed I was the best qualified to see to it and was not the least bit insulted to not be treated that way. It never occurred to me.
Raised as I was, reaching puberty at c. 1972 (I don’t think Women should do the housework or child-rearing by default; I never feigned interest in a conversation as a strategy toward Sex; I don’t think Men are smarter, more logical; I also don’t think Women are more nurturing or wiser, and so on), I entered my adolescence, and my Dating Years, as a “New Man,” an actual term that was used, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, to describe a co-Liberated Human.
What it took a few years to dawn on me was this question: where are all the New Women?
The Old Game, as it had been played for centuries, was still being played, surprisingly, when I came of age: most Women I knew were still looking for Men with “good jobs,” with cars; they wanted (short-term or long-range) to exchange Sex for Material Comfort. They were hooking up with macho assholes. My first girlfriend (we were 16) left me because I didn’t have any “career goals” (neither did she). My first Wife used to harangue me, quite bitterly, for not “earning enough” (although we were earning exactly the same amount of money).
My late-teens to early twenties (to late-thirties) were not only confusing, but, being a “New Man” left me vulnerable to abuse from the “Not Really New Women”: for example, I met a Woman in college, a Daughter of the upper-middle class, who was a toxic, neurotic mess. She had suffered mental and sexual abuse as a child. When she said she believed in “Feminism” she meant, whether she ever faced this fact or not, that anything she did, or wanted to do, was Right, by default. Is Utopia merely the freedom from responsibility as it intersects with the Last Word on Everything? Anything she wanted from me, or wanted me to do, this Not Really New Woman, I should give or do: by default… and if I questioned her quasi-Royal privilege, or reasoning, I was simply being an asshole. Which is, of course, absurd. But she was no anomaly.
I understand the temptation: Deformed Feminism is a powerful tool for any human to be handed. It’s a powerful tool and a strangely twisted one and I can see that it came about (in the innocent hearts of many) as a genuinely horrified and justice-seeking correction to millennia of primitive power relations, between Women and Men, in which Men enslaved Women. Men enslaved Women with nothing more fancy than physical force and brainwashing. Impossible to calculate how many Women have died, since Humans began, having lived miserable lives and agonizing deaths because of this Evil power dynamic. Imagine a 30,000-year Holocaust.
If Women were, on average, physically more powerful than Men, I don’t doubt that the roles would have been reversed and it would have been the Men who were being beaten, “honor”-killed, raped, objectified, treated like livestock and/or servants, et al. Just as the Third World is serially and effortlessly victimized by “The West.” It’s all about Power on the most brutal level. Life on the planet has been doing business that way for a billion years. Nature, contra Disney/ New Agers, is horrifyingly dedicated to predation, in the raw. Some of us are trying to Emerge from the horripilating shadow of all that. There are traps and blind alleys and stumbles on the way out of that shadow. Whatever fleeting, brilliant, tiny island of Power-Irrelevant-Equality-and-Justice we can establish, one day, on this planet, will be as precious and artificial… as much a product of Pure Imagination… as any lab-made isotope.
So, I understand what Deformed Feminism was originally crafted in response to, and I understand that the tool was not deformed deliberately (not on everyone’s part, at least)… this mutation was forged with the best intentions. But things have drifted, strange conditions obtain, Late Capitalism has shined its toxic radiations on the fragile SocioPsychology of The Masses and new tech (social media) is spreading metastasized worldviews like a hundred brand new plagues every day. People are now “fighting” Racism by being Racist, “fighting” Sexism by being Sexist, protesting Violence violently.
“Feminism” has now, largely, been replaced with its mutant variety, a strain I call “Frenemism,” which I derive from the neologism “Frenemy”: combination Friend/ Enemy.
I wrote a piece about the “Not Really New Woman” I met in college, and how she fucked me up, unjustly and without a moment of remorse (she fucked me up because I was nice; a macho asshole would have laughed and told her to kill herself and been done with it ), a while back. The “Not Really New Woman” had artistic pretensions but no talent, so when I define “Frenemism,” I define it through the narrow lens of Art:
the practise of idealizing unilaterally destructive relationships based on the doctrine advocating the bizarre notion that any woman is the equal of any creative husband or lover in any regard, regardless of actual qualities or qualifications, by dint of having a vagina, and is therefore obligated to fuck him up
(sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of passive aggressive dominance for women who consider themselves to be the default equal, in all disciplines, of any creative male they choose to partner themselves with (by appealing to the male’s saviour and/or orphan complex), despite an obvious lack of specific talent or general virtue on the woman’s part, while also inextricably fusing a targeted male’s capabilities with their manifest lack of same, with the express purpose of fucking the male up, to the extent that he is rendered incapable of freeing himself
-Word Origin and History for frenemism
1851, from French frénemisme; see frenemy + -ism.
Of course, that narrowly defines Frenemism in terms of the Art and Music World’s occasional Yoko Ono effect, a dynamic which occurs just as often, but far less famously, between Talented Women and Parasitic Men (the case of Margaret Keane being the gold standard example)… but you get the idea. No individual can be considered Right, or As Talented, or More Noble, or More Nurturing, or Smarter, or Special, and so on, merely by dint of having a fucking Penis or a Vagina. If this is not so, there is no use for the word Justice. Frenemism is a dangerous deformation of Feminism that merely inverts (role-switches) many of the ducal privileges, granted to Men, in The Old World Order. It differs only in magnitude; in essence it is the same.
Women who take Feminism to mean that They Can Never Be Wrong, or that Whatever They Want, Whenever They Want It, On Terms They Decide, Is A Natural Right… are taking themselves, and Feminism, and their friends/ family/ lovers/ colleagues/ acquaintances down an unfortunate, and extravagantly shitty, path.
This essay is dedicated to anyone who considers it to be just another oppressive example of “mansplaining”.