10 Reasons we Believe this is the Only Prince We are Getting (or the Misogynistic Myths Constantly Sold to Women which Feed the Masculine Entitlement Myth)

by - Wednesday, June 04, 2014

"Hey, I've been saying that for years!" Has anyone else been having that feeling a lot lately? Of course it is frustrating when it takes something so horrible to make people notice things that seem so obvious to you, but I can't say I don't feel happy and encouraged that these things are being said and internalized in whole new spaces.

Since the #YesAllWomen campaign blew up last week, all sorts of great things have been happening. One of the dialogues I am most excited about is that men who may have never noticed the dynamics of rape or entitlement culture before are registering shock that this thing exists. They also seem to want to do something about it. This is no small thing, and I think every movement needs allies to reach a new level.

One of my favorite pieces of writing in this vein is Arthur Chu's essay on the Daily Beast, which pointed to the narrative, sold to guys again and again (he is arguing specifically for nerdy guys, but you could insert a lot of adjectives there), that is they work hard enough, persist, or win the game, then they have earned the object of their lust's affection, and are therefore entitled to sex with her. He cites a wide variety of nerd fare, from Big Bang Theory's Leonard and Penny to some horrible rape scene I have never seen, to support that this narrative is a constant. To further Chu's point, Seth McFarlane put out a movie this week where he a snarky sheep farmer could possibly be attractive to Charlize Theron. Thanks Seth, for illustrating his point right on time.

It's a spot on read, but it left me with a lot of questions. The first one, and this question haunts my dreams, is why even though these stories sell such bullshit positions for women do women seem to like them? You could easily insert comic book movies into Chu's argument- in every single one a seemingly average guy becomes really special, beats bad guy, and gets heaving chested girl as a prize These movies make a disgusting amount of money and are very very popular with women. Wha??? There are some Intro to Communications explanations that are straightforward enough (and I have heard abs are a related reason), but I think this entitlement myth is not only sold to men, but is part of a larger system of narratives that are pitched to women as well.

This question leads me to a deeper one- if all pop culture sells the entitlement myth to men, what myths are they selling to women? And how do these myths actually support the endlessly repeated lie that a man can "earn" a woman "out of his league."

To be clear before I get going, I am not blaming women or even suggesting they are complacent. The point here is that Arthur Chu is right- nerdy men are told again and again through films, tv, and video games that they should get the hottest chick in the room regardless of her choices or feelings (because really, she isn't a person, so she doesn't have them), but this is only part of the story. The equally scary second half of this network of lies is that we as women are told again and again that we should settle on whatever comes along, because this may be our only chance, because we do owe it to whoever makes an effort to give them love, and because we never really have a choice in who we love and that we don't really want those pesky choices anyway.

With that said, these myths aren't always as straightforward, so we will tackle them from different angles. Let's get started, shall we? 

Myth #10. That being with someone less than we think we deserve will garner us gratitude/ get us the bigger thing we want (that they owe us something if we play into the league system)-  This makes it to the list because I have seen it quite a bit in my real life, so I know that the argument being made in film and tv must have some traction. "Our of my league" is a phrase that is entirely about a man's self-perception of his own value and assessment  of a woman's attractiveness, not her actual taste, interests, choice, etc. Sometimes in cultural narratives and real lfie, women agree to play this game, because if he is not in "her league" she feels she can count on his fidelity, his willingness to give her what she wants, etc. The best example of this I can think of is Charlotte and Harry in Sex in the City or Ross and Rachel from Friends. That rather than attending to our own wants and tastes, we could let someone continue to feel like we are better than them. This is treated as a way for women to gain power in sexual politics.

Of course, this is nonsense- Initial gratefulness never lasts long, and these tactics don't often play out like it did for Charlotte or Miranda. Not to mention it just creates a second dynamic of entitlement on top of the nerdy one Chu explained so well. A pedestal is no place to live, and in real life, couples can't negotiate power dynamics in such passive aggressive ways and come out unscathed.

from imdb.com
Myth # 9 That Nerdy Guys are really smart, that immature guys are really fun, and that asshole guys are really deep- Albert Chu notes there is a common narrative that the woman starts with the "jock" asshole, then eventually is earned over by the nerd. The other side of that coin is that in many MANY films and tv shows (not to mention Jane Austen books) make the argument to women that no matter what unattractive qualities a man might have, if you just stay around there long enough, he will reveal himself to have all sorts of previously unseen qualities. If you wait long enough, Seth Rogen will act like a man, not a video game playing teen boy. In Reality Bites, Ethan Hawke is a dick and though not always described this way a big old geek (humanities version vs. sciences). What Winona learns is that this seeming need to be the smartest person in the room gives way to incredibly sensitivity and intelligence. In romances with women, there is a narrative of tolerance that bears rewards (the other side of the persistence coin)- if you put up with his shit long enough, the him you see will blossom into a beautiful flower.

Of course, this is nonsense- In fact, it is the worse kind of nonsense, because there are enough true examples in it that you can mistake it for truth. Some nerdy guys are smart, but that is not the rule. Smart guys are smart. Even more true is that no one, I mean no one, should tolerate lines like this- "You can't navigate me. I may do mean things, and I may hurt you, and I may run away without your permission, and you may hate me forever, and I know that scares the living shit outta you 'cause you know I'm the only real thing you got"- for the flickering hope that deeper down is someone you don't want to punch in the face.

from cinema.com
Myth #8. That Holy Shit We are Running out of Time- Oh Bridget Jones, you are so cute and bumbling and OLD. I mean, just ancient. Like a thousand. Oh, wait she's 32? Not a retiree? Not the crypt keeper? Or the walking dead? Not only are we as women just supposed to wait it out (because a Firth look is coming, and let's be honest, that is pretty worth it) but we also need to know that we really don't have time to wait and see if there is a diamond in that rough. So even if he seems like an ass, we have to just go with it and hope we get to the good stuff later. Because our uteruses are ticking time bombs. Because no one wants an old spinster who is 35. Because we are better off just taking what we can get than wait it out, because apparently men die younger than women, so our odds only get worse with those weak-hearted bastards. When you are a passive object, rather than a person, you need to just settle on what will work, because you don't know if anyone else will walk by.

Of course, this is nonsense- You are never too old to reject someone who doesn't deserve you. You always have time to figure someone out and MAKE A DECISION about them. If you are really that close to death, do you want to waste the rest of your time on that loser anyway?

from collider.com
Myth # 7. That the bar for what makes a good man is incredibly, horrifyingly low-  (and guys should be offended, this is why this shit hurts everyone)- Does he seem to like you sometimes? Does he offer you presents after locking your parent in a dungeon? Does he have sad eyes? Oh, boy. Everyone has talked about the "nice guy" to death- the male friend who acts like your friend but is secretly growing hatred toward you because he feels his basic humanity entitles him to sex with you. What is scariest about this is how often the message is sent to women that yeah, he kind of does! Beauty and the Beast is a formative example- he could not be more emotionally abusive, locking her family and her up, refusing her food, and a lot of yelling. But he gives her a few presents and a pretty dress, and that is all it takes to win her over.

The scariest example of this I can think of from the past 24 hours is watching House of Cards, and The Boy voicing he felt bad for Doug Stamper, because you can tell he really likes the prostitute girl he has been terrorizing for a season. But he turned down a threesome with Chinese prostitutes for her! And he came into her apartment without her knowing just to be near her stuff! Also, I am sure every scene she is in that he is going to jump out of a closet and murder her. Because he does sketchy business like that all the time. But I think the show really wants us to feel bad for him and root for him to win over the girl who he already had sex with after stuffing money into her mouth. These narratives count on us to empathize with these male characters, so even if we know the man is bad, if they show an iota of feeling, we are expected to feel it too.

Of course, this is nonsense-  Just the slightest bit of kindness and basic human function does not make a man a catch, no matter how many times we hear differently. Men, like women, can be all sorts of interesting, kind, and good people.

Myth #6. That we are only cool if we are one of the guys- This one comes up a lot when we talk about films for men- there is usually one female character, and we like her if she gets along with the guys and we punish her if she doesn't. There is even a test, the Bechdel test, in which we can ask whether a movie has more than one female character. Basically every comic book movie only has one real female character. The Avengers, which was made by Joss Whedon who generally isn't so bad, still only has one female hero, and she is one of the only ones in the franchise to never have her own story.

Beyond their making up such a small percentage of most casts, women are established as "cool" or "badass" by being one of the guys (except one men would also really like to have sex with). Hello, the career of Angelina Jolie or Mila Kunis (two often typecast as "cool girls"), where early in most of their films we see them do "guy things" like drinking beer, watching sports, or (of course) shooting large guns in evening gowns on the hood of a moving car. They also have to be nonchalant about things, because it is embarrassing when women care. Most of all, cool girls proudly hang with the guys, because they know that women are all the worst, and it couldn't possibly be that the stereotypes are wrong, only that these feminine stereotypes don't apply us. This goes all the way back to Clara Bow (no seriously, look it up), and it is one of my least favorite archetypes that get played over and over again. Gillian Flynn describes it perfectly in an oft-quoted passage of Gone Girl:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”

The danger of this attitude being valued above all others seems pretty obvious in connection to Chu's essay. Partially, because it is the ridiculous myth of womanhood sold to men (they really think this woman exists?) and partially because women buy it. Women talk shit and say sexist things about other women as an effort to be one of the guys.

Of course, this is nonsense- Do I even have to describe why this is nonsense?It is the worst, and even though in general, I really do like everyone, I find it very hard to like a woman who proudly internalizes misogyny in a stupid way. This person does not exist- you can not not care and be perfect looking- that business takes a lot of work. It teaches us self-loathing, that if we aren't part of this "cool" image and you care about things, then there is something wrong with you and you are unattractive. That no one will want you. Have I mentioned that coolness is the fucking worst? Every woman consistently defies old tropes of femininity because it is dead wrong, but this newer concept isn't any better.

from www.dailylife.com.au
from collider.com
from tv.yahoo.com
Myth # 5. That our Physical/ Sexual Attraction to our partners matter less- Have you ever watched television? Where Louis CK has a lot of sex with girls way too young and attractive for him, then continues to complain about how he never gets any? Where Jim Belushi and Kevin James and Duckie date and marry women way out of their league while maintaining often lazy and uninterested attitudes towards their family? You remember how Adam Sandler was supposed to be married to Selma Hayak? This one can go on forever. But these shows have female viewership too, and the underlying argument that I see is that a woman's secondmost important quality, other than being attractive, is to be sensitive enough to see what is in front of her despite its schlubby frame.

On a cast to case basis, I actually don't mind this. Physical and sexual attraction matter, and it is silly to pretend it doesn't. Who is to say that the guy isn't attractive to their super hot female counterpart? But there are two problems- one, that it happens in mass and second, that we actually never know why the woman is with the man. It perpetuates this same dynamic Chu mentions, where women are earned with actions and don't just make a choice based on their own preferences. It desexualizes the woman to never mention her attraction (the only time this comes into play is when someone super absy comes on screen). If she cares about his looks, she is shallow and horrible, and if we the audience care, we are horrible too. I mean, how many "she's all that" attractiveness reveals can you think of with male characters?

Of course, this is nonsense- Attraction is a whole bag of cards, but it is an interesting bag that never gets old. Why do we like what we like? It has to do with so many things, but it always exists. Maybe (I am not entirely willing to concede this), female attraction has more variation based on wider sets of criteria (not just to what extent does the woman look like this model we've been given a 1000 times), but it's always there. Sex and the City did this really well, but it is still one of those things that mostly goes unspoken when women talk about relationships.

from www.imdb.com

Myth #4. But that how we look is really really really important- Girls are pretty. Being pretty is what helps you deserve whatever you receive. Being anything other than pretty or thin (or white) means you deserve to be the butt of the joke or to settle. The treatment I think of first is that of Melissa McCarthy, who is by everything I can see actually a beautiful, highly symmetrical, good-looking woman, but who she is often treated like the butt of the joke (I always want to give Bridesmaids more credit, but they treat Rebel Wilson the same way). She also has to be sexually aggressive or sexless in most of what she is in, whereas Kristen Wiig who is skinny gets male attention. Male attention, again and again, is treated as a reward for being beautiful, and a woman can gage her own attractiveness by the amount of attention that is given to her.

Of course, this is nonsense- In my experience, if you are vaguely friendly, somebody will come after you way more often than you want the attention. Men are often trying to measure your willingness to have sex with them long before your attractiveness. Male attention isn't a reward or a punishment, it is just a thing that happens. At the same time, women put tons of attention and effort into their physical appearance, but men are wrong to think that it is primarily to pique their interest. The issue is much more complex than that.

Myth #3. That if he is trying really hard to “wear you down,” it must mean he cares a lot (and you owe him something)- "Awww... he has been secretly filming me and is propositioning me mere feet away from my husband.... how sweet?" Well, at the very least this is sweeter than his future fighting zombies. Romantic gestures in film play off very different than in real life, because any crazy behavior seems better with some music in the background and soft lighting.

Of course, this is nonsense-  Life does not have these things. If someone is pushing too hard, it is scary not sweet. We owe that person nothing.

Myth #2.That your romantic relationship is the most important relationship of your whole life, and therefore deserves the lion’s share of your time and energy- You know what happens at the end of narrative's slated for females, from Disney Princess movies to Bridget Jones Diary to the Mindy Project? They reject their former lives and support systems, so all that is left is the lady and her dreamboat. Chu writes pretty extensively about Penny and Leonard on Big Bang Theory, and though she has lots of friends come through (mostly so someone could sleep with them), who are Penny's actual consistent friends? Where is Judy Greer and no wonder this woman keeps getting sucked back into Leonard when his social circle has eaten hers up! At the end of the little Mermaid, our girl gets some legs, hops on a boat, and says goodbye to her whole family, friends, and everything she has known for her entire life (notice Eric gives up a whole lot of nothing). The end of The Little Mermaid is sad, not happy, no matter how many rainbows you throw in.

The most disappointing examples of this are these shows that are run by women, for women, and continue to be the same kind of lame. Does anyone remember the beginning of The Mindy Project? When she had lady friends? Now, it is all dudes and a romance. Same for New Girl, where we mostly try to keep her life interesting by jut adding more guys (who are primarily friends with her love interest). This alienation is key to creating the vulnerability women are so often credited with. If

Of course, this is nonsense- Our romantic relationships can be great, but nothing guarantees misery in life like putting all your eggs in that basket. We are all meant to have more loves in our life than that. This romantic alienation, where a woman forfeits her whole network of friends and family, also leaves her incredibly vulnerable, but that never makes it into the happily ever after.

Myth #1. That you shouldn’t be mean, should always be nice, that good girls don’t start conflict of any kind- The underlying reason why women star in so few narratives is because we can't be at the center of a conflict. Nice girls don't cause a fuss. Even girls who are framed as "edgy" or "rebellious" don't often start real fights. For the same reason, let's all try to think of 3 film scenes where a woman says no to a man's advances. How about 3 where she just says no, not some variation on "letting him down easy"? Not a difficult enough task? Think of one film scene where a woman turns a man down without having another guy waiting in the wings. I genuinely cannot think of one. Just saying no to someone is mean and it acknowledges that there is an essential conflict between the two of you, and because it is that unthinkable for a girl to want to be alone over being with someone she just doesn't like. To have a woman say "I don't like you" is treated as totally against our nature.

Of course, this is nonsense- But, it's dangerous nonsense because we all internalize it. Chu points out that men get angry because women "string them along" and its the prolonged back and forth that adds to their sense of sexual entitlement. I am willing to bet that the women have tried multiple times to be clear long before the man actually hears her saying no. This is everybody's fault (but let''s blame systematic patriarchy, shall we?), because he has been trained not to really hear and she has been trained her whole life (and underlined by the absence of good examples) that they can't be mean. That it would be horrible if people thought she was being mean to them. That the person who is at fault for a conflict is the one willing to acknowledge it. This puts us in an impossible position, and it's a myth we should all fight loudly. Niceness is overrated- it doesn't mean anything anyway, and I bet we could all do with fewer "nice" guys in our life anyway.

The point of all of this is that it doesn't matter whether something is being made "for" men or "for" women, they are mostly made by the same people and the message doesn't deviate much. Men are entitled to women's love/bodies and women have so little going for us that we should just be happy someone is willing to tolerate us. We should just accept the love given to us, whether we want it or not.

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