10 July 2006

Must Cry over Broken Heels?

Last week my mother e-mailed me a link to an article in Moskovsky Komsomolets regarding the pitiful condition of current positioning of the sexes. Nope! No post-Foucauldian gender theory here. Thank God. That type of publication would have been even more suspicious than my mother’s current kick of bombarding me with various relationship commentaries to both my work and home addresses.

The article was written by a 24-year old Russian female journalist who linked the fact that she is not married - no, not single, but rather - not married, to the masculinized self-representation of modern career-oriented women. Typical? Not quite.

Aesthetics were not an issue – the author herself and her case studies appeared to be the canon of femininity – form-fitting clothing, heels, makeup, hair. Instead, it is their actions this 24-year old defined as problematic. She listed her love for soccer, healthy food by choice, not by diet, her mechanical expertise, and most of all - her ability to stay clear-headed and rational in most stressful and upsetting situations, rather than breaking down and crying, as masculine and therefore unappealing to men.

The conversational tone of her article considered, this journalist failed to determine how non-excessive projection of these qualities amounts to becoming solely “one of the boys” and therefore romantically repulsive. Additionally, I must mention that she entirely avoided the subject of masculine feminization, granted it mainly applied to North America and exceeded the scope of her article, but would have been somewhat referentially useful.

Adequately grounded or not, this journalist’s principal conclusion stated that men not only understandably prefer women who posses classic “housewife” culinary, cleaning, and caring skills, but less understandably - those who are weak and evidently irrational, as a rule. This conclusion seemed to exceed a basic psychological presumption regarding males’ need to feel more intelligent and physically stronger than their female companions. After all, the author listed females’ love for chocolate and occasional public breakdowns, even if over a broken heel, as average female characteristics.

She went on to attend a class, in which she learned more about such standard behavior and faced the test of attracting a number of random men, specifically trained for this purpose. As a result, she discovered that cars and sports should not be the subject of conversation, and that mystery is preferred over honesty and candor.

Are marriage proposals soon to follow this “feminized” personality adjustment?

I found this article silly. Of course.

I kept the social context in mind: after all, Slavic women were never faced with not one, but two waves of feminist movements, as did those in North America. As a result, they’ve become a curious mixture by retaining all the necessary traits of a domestic goddess and femme fatale and gaining a cutthroat career woman status almost a century ago. But, but. Despite the lighthearted, yet nonetheless somewhat na├»ve premise, this article bothered me. I started with scoffing, but ended with a raised eyebrow and a hum.

Perhaps there is some, no - quite a bit of truth to the author’s assumption. The fact that men may prefer women who are fragile, if not weak, is not far-fetched. But why, why would they feel turned off by a woman who shares their interest in sports and understands technical terminology when they discuss cars? How can a sincere common interest exhibited moderately – no baggy clothing or butchy beer-guzzling here – possibly be interpreted negatively? Do men dislike the idea of being able to watch every single soccer game during a tournament, sans constant nagging, and then discuss the result gushing spit with someone who understands their reason for idiotic joy or blinding rage?

One man I asked told me that occasional nagging is healthy. It makes him feel needed. Another man I did not ask is dating the most irrational, exceptionally dramatic, brittle in every sense of the word, and therefore nauseating creature I’ve ever encountered. He must enjoy rollercoaster rides at least a tiny bit!

Because of its inconclusiveness, I cannot get this mistakenly primitive article out of my head. Perhaps I will even poll more men in order to reach a strictly defined explanation, although I doubt that it would help. Or maybe I should sign up for a certain class too...