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On Scary Ladies: “Do not forget the wit!”

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women are still terrifying. They have what I want, and I will fight them for it.’

“Are you going to women? Do not forget the wit!” In the wake of International Women’s Day, let us recall what Fred Nietzsche almost once said. He actually said “whip”, and my version would have been much less dysatisfunctional, had he but asked. Whatsoever: bring your wit! I say it now as a kind of advice to men and women both, because while Fred got the solution wrong, the problem was bang on: chicks* are scary.

And they always have been. Unbeknownst to Pandora, the contents of her box* (it was actually a jar) were all manner of ill: labour, disease, old age, and death. This was supposed to punish men for stealing fire—maybe Pandora was the first martyr. Certainly a victim of her timelessness. Nowadays I’m sure Pfizer would have her covered, with all their fancy intellectual property. What a bitch-session* Pandora could have had with Eve—copping all that blame for the men. If Adam HAD a mother, you can imagine her chastising* him: “I suppose if Evie told you to jump off a cliff you’d do that too?” If for no other reason, this confirms that God must be a man*, with his poor communication skills and old-school paternalism. I could go on with misogynistic historical examples, but we’ve all got to be places. Suffice it to say, from Aristotle to Freud, the fountain of knowledge has endorsed slight after slight upon women, even the real ones.

To be honest, it’s mainly the real ones who trouble me. As usual, it’s a bit empirical and a bit irrational at once: since my only committed relationships have been with women, I’ve simply had (and lost) many more arguments with women than with men. I submit that whichever demographic I’ve had the majority of arguments with, this group would have to form a kind of bugbear, mainly because my ego is extremely fragile (in my experience, this is not simply because I’m a man, though I’m sure I do ‘fragile ego’ in a very manly way…). What’s behind these arguments, really? Let’s generalise and say I want something from women. Hard to say in a relationship, in which the whole thing can be a slog of mutual conditioning, and even harder to say when single. For instance, if a young girl jumps into your lap late of a rainy evening and holds a phone playing her favourite song to your ear, breathing smoke past your eyeballs and stroking your moustache for twenty minutes but doesn’t want to talk and definitely doesn’t want to make out, then snaps this peculiar anonymous intimacy like a twig by racing off to her sister and pal whom she abandoned to spend that time with you in the first place, you will be afraid and deathly so. She had it and you didn’t even know you wanted it.

Or you are walking home some other evening and fall in by chance with a friend who is quite upset because yet another man she trusts and respects has told her women simply aren’t funny and this has hit a nerve because, as she says through streaky tears, “I’m not pretty, skinny or rich, so I’d better damn-well be funny.” And she is actually but can’t hear it then, and the parting is awkward because she’s flustered and late for dinner. The scary thing here is what men do to women, by wanting something from them, creating categories of accord and dismissal, and also what women do to themselves by either listening to men or creating their own categories. The recent National Press Club’s UN Women’s Forum discussed the entangled issues of how men in the workplace underestimate women but also how women can underestimate themselves, or engage in fierce defensive competition with each other. While workplaces are defined places, I wouldn’t be the only one to have seen all three of these things occurring socially. At the other end of the spectrum, someone should write a book entitled, “Ladies Who Lunge and Fuck It Up”, so, you know, women just can’t get it right either way.

The Freudanese might say the cause is genital. You’ve heard this one before: willies are obvious and out there. They do one thing more or less well. It’s easy to gauge their interest and predict their intention. Meanwhile, the vajine intimidates by virtue of its furtive mystery: like driving in the dark towards a cliff—by the time it comes into view you are already committed*. There might actually be a coherent evolutionary psychology tangent in there somehow, about sexual selection and different reproductive strategies for men and women, assessing assertive action versus sustained observation, though they’re obviously not mutually exclusive, and I’d like to avoid biological essentialists firing crossbows at my front door as much as anybody.

So there’s a sprinkling of the problem, hinting at the dysatisfunction plaguing both men and women when it comes to how we think women. I grew up getting regularly smacked over the head by a mother, sister and chick-cousins with iron wills, and I AM afraid but ‘misogyny’ doesn’t cut it, because I don’t hate women as a result. I’m fairly confident that my fear of women isn’t about to lead to domestic abuse. But the fear still informs my thinking, with all those asterisks above that aren’t quite jokes about how many feminists are needed to change a lightbulb, but are still cheapies leaping from the common stereotypes. And I do like to say ‘chicks’ a lot, especially applicable to women who don’t at first seem to qualify, like your grandma, your elected representative or nuns generally, and used more frequently around those who seem a bit uptight* about it. I put this dilemma to friends recently: “There needs to be a word like misogyny, but more positive. Rather than fear and hatred for women, the new word describes fear that comes from respect for freakish lady powers.” Interestingly, the men left it well alone, except for one: “you mean like bleeding for five days and not dying?”. I’m still not sure if that sums up what I’m talking about or not, even in Freudanese.

While I was quite impressed with suggestions of ‘vajmiration’ and ‘awegyny’, Emah Fox had it down with ‘thambogyny’. Latin for awe + women apparently, and I think it’s sweet as. Another female friend later described herself as a thambogynist, due to feeling utterly overwhelmed by alpha-chicks she would otherwise want to befriend. Predictably, I never thought women could be thambogynists too, but we used not to think of them as voters either. Another friend can’t see how it differs from ‘intimidation’, but with so many instances in which one can be intimidated, and so many possible actions open to resolving it, including some good old-fashioned domestic abuse, I’m just not satisfied with how open the word is. There’s no sense of the good will that is so crucial to the concept. At the same time, women are still terrifying. They have what I want, and I will fight them for it. Bring your wits! I’m quite happy to say I’m a thambogynist. It’s kind of liberating.

Some inspiring women:

http://madzhasrunaway.com/

http://www.genbailey.com/

http://josephinerowe.com/

http://literaryminded.wordpress.com/

http://twitter.com/#!/housingstressed

http://melcampbell.com.au/about/

http://www.culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/about/people/academic/angela-ndalianis

http://lifeatthebottom.com/2008/11/05/the-interview-series-02/

About Luke

Luke Stickels writes fiction, theory, and essays in such a piecemeal fashion as to be moving nigh imperceptibly. But he is no author-ninja. He is dysatisfunctional. Luke has written for Meanjin, The Drum Online, New Matilda, IsNot! Magazine, Small Lust Magazine, and Link Magazine. He has written on sound and cinema in several refereed academic journals, taught almost every subject at university, and was quoted in a tumblr tag for "enlightened." As if THAT wasn't due to being completely dysatisfunctional.

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