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Are You SURE I Can ‘Do What I Want’…?: The Lapsed Feminist Anthem of Lady Gaga

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Assholes & Bitches

I_Gaga_pg2’m rather convinced that many if not most men (a majority to say the very least) are assholes to women in one way or another. This assholism can be as “innocuous” as a kid under the boyish assumption that appreciation equals affection—as with the naïve dimwit who expects you to fall head-over-heels in love with him when, out of the blue, he gives you a cheap deli rose and a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates from Walgreens like he’d struck upon the most original combination of gifts in the world, only to suddenly accuse you soon after for being unreasonable and ungrateful (because, surprise surprise, you’re— hopefully—not that easy). Otherwise, as we all know, assholism can simply be as blaringly extreme as the classic saturnine beatercheater.

It doesn’t take a misandrist to believe any of this. Nor does it require much in the way of genius—just a clear set of eyes and a basic capacity for honesty, enough to see plainly and admit to the ten Lord Henrys there are for every Basil Hallward, or the ten “slickers” there are for every “big man”, to borrow from F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s ten pompous and shallow and cocksure shells (all perfectly aware of how pompous and shallow and cocksure they are) for every scarecrow and tin man, who, shells they may be, at least atone for their vacuities in a journey for substance—for head and heart. The only substance sought by the rest of them is an orifice, and hopefully a consenting one. (Remember, fellas; respect consent, if only because it’s “sexy”. Good grief.) I speak of that biologically—and psychologically—necessary yet nevertheless artless and elementary sensory treasure; a form of pleasure which, in the bloated amygdalae of chauvinists, serves very simply the procurement of a superficial, primitive, and equally artless form of masculine validation. I speak of the satisfaction of sexual conquest. “Get money, fuck bitches!” as a rather frattish former suitemate of mine at NYU once barked just outside my door one Friday evening, no doubt quoting a rap song (of ‘Lil Wayne, if I’m not mistaken). A walking cliché, this utterly typical, upper-middle caste, business-studying, sports-loving, beer pong-playing, obnoxious, pseudolibertarian “guindian” just about summed up the mentality of many a cock-armed parasite.

Worse still is something to which I’ve already alluded; these manchildren are only semi-conscious of themselves. They’re wholly aware—and quite proud—of the fun they afford with their pomposity, their shallowness, and their cocksureness, albeit utterly unaware of anything else past that—i.e., anything of any real profundity (for instance, the psychological effects their attitudes and behavior have on the women in their lives, and how their microaggressions, if not their benevolent sexism, may adversely impact intersexual relations overall long after these men have done their work).

I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself—we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, this accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody when in fact everybody’s nobody.

So says Matthew McConaughey as the deep, dark, damaged, and deceptively cold Rustin Cohle of True Detective, HBO’s riveting and glorious new dip into Southern Gothic; though I’m by no means as pessimistic (he concludes his forlorn avowal by artfully suggesting we all kill ourselves), I do believe the man who penned him was on to something. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with human consciousness, nor is there anything “unnatural” about it, and that’s by virtue of its very existence; something unnatural is, by definition, not supposed to exist in the natural world. So unless you think Descartes was stretching (je pense, donc je suis maisje ne suis pas?), consciousness is natural. We, in spite of all our flaws, are natural—even the douchebags.

The problem is most of us, men and women, aren’t conscious enough.

That goes double for douches. If I may borrow the words and thinking of Theodor Adorno, the douchebag is aloof, “believing himself better than others” and “misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest”; he “gropingly forms his own life in the frail image of a true existence,” and then forgets “how little the image is a substitute for true life.” I say we haven’t the humility to question ourselves, something we all ought to do if we have any hope of admitting our deficiencies and solving most of the problems in all our relations. Too many of us are guilty of a character inadequacy, one such that prevents us from being wary of how vain and narcissistic, foolish and irrational, perpetually unsatisfied, stubbornly guarded, chronically cynical, and borderline sociopathic Sex and the City women are by no means entirely their own doing. (Oh yes. I forgot sexually misguided—if not frustrated.) I’ll go further: just as I’m rather convinced that many if not most men (a majority at the very least) are assholes to women in one way or another, I’m rather convinced that nearly every so-called “bitch” in whom these assholes indulge—and scorn just as easily and as often, ironically enough—is a direct result of these kinds of men.

I attribute the ubiquitous bitch entirely to the ubiquitous chauvinist.

As misandrist as that sounds, I am a feminist insofar as I’m a realist; if any realist with a shred of social consciousness, the most basic moral compass, and a sense of humility before facts has anything meaningful or truthful to say about women, it’ll probably be very easily construed as feminist. If for instance I say, being realistic, it’s unfair that women make only seventy-seven cents or so for every dollar men make in the same position, or that more women should be working on Wall Street and I’m delighted—relieved, even—that the Fed is now chaired by a (thankfully very prescient) woman given how study after study intimates that women are better suited to managing money and risk than men—if that makes me a feminist, or even a misandrist, I guess I am one. (And that’s too bad, since I’m simply being practical, judging, as I’ve said, on the basis of facts or at least the peer-edited word of those qualified to be read in the first place. If everything I’ve just expressed is informed by, say, Dr. John Coates’ The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, or Dr. M. Gigi Durham’s The Lolita Effect, must I be more than a bookish snob? Must I be more than he who is apparently too good to be informed by the likes of the Bible, or Mad Men, or some dime-a-dozen rapper, or Shipping Wars like every other sexist peasant? I need to be branded a “feminist”?). And speaking as this de facto feminist, or de facto misandrist in the minds of idiots, realistically that is, the only whores I’ve ever met are lousy because the men in their lives were lousy first. Even John Mayer, one of Hollywood’s biggest womanizers of the past decade, once recognized that—cue “Daughters”.

The impetus for feminism in all its waves is very real—and someone’s to blame for it.

We’re hyper-reactive creatures. What was it Christopher Hitchens once said of humankind, so humbly and astutely self-aware as he always was—that we’re a “stupid, poorly evolved mammalian spec- ies”?; that “our prefrontal lobes are too small, and our adrenaline glands are too big”? The abuse of women and in turn their self-abuse (which, by the way, further leads to the collateral suffering amongst the significant minority of truly decent men) begins with an abuse of inductive reasoning. Dumb women degrade themselves and embrace their idiocies, their glass ceilings, their inferiorities, and their second-class status under second-rate men because second-rate is all they’ve ever been given and all they think they’re good and meant for.

I no longer communicate with a childhood friend of mine—let’s call her Allie—because, at this point of my life, I’ve neither the resources nor the time, mettle, and patience to exorcise the manipulative, self-serving royal bitch out of her; I won’t patronize her, so the very best I can do for her is acknowledge that she is this way really through no fault of her own, lest I reduce myself to judging her like every boneheaded and bonedicked man in her life. She was more or less fathered by a miserable, drunken, self-centered, and emotionally abusive man (as well as an equally miserable and emotionally abusive mother, having been jaded by the latter); she was more or less raised with a degenerate and physically abusive younger brother always in her shadow; and she was more or less sexually assaulted by a number of young men—and even before I had any idea what “feminism” or “rape culture” truly meant, I could never dare to blame her for her bad choice in men. The only men Allie had ever known were bad men. I once asked her what she saw in them, why she insists on intimately throwing in her lot with such sorry excuses for men.

She all but said “I see my father.”

I guess my dad has a lot to do with it, and seeing my mom struggle with him and seeing them fight. The only relationships I’ve ever known were dysfunctional relationships, and the only guys I’ve ever been able to care for are damaged. Like, I’ve only dated damaged men because they need me; I need to feel like they need me. I need to feel like I’m working for them, I’m struggling for them, I’m caring for them. I have to feel like I can fix them. They need to be fixed.

You’d think she was perfectly aware of herself and should be held entirely accountable for her self-destruction—and yet, I don’t think she was aware enough to realize that she was essentially describing sadomasochism. It doesn’t surprise me that, on average, women leave their abusive partners anywhere between five and eight times before leaving for good. In her 2013 study of young people in abusive relationships (eighty percent of whom were female), Purdue University Professor Ximena Arriaga found that the very fear of ending the relationship—of merely being single—was what locked them into their abusive relationships in the first place; when forty-six of the participants ended their relationships thereafter, not only were they obviously happier, but most interestingly, they were far happier than they’d initially expected. In the thick of their abusive relationships, they’d only bleakly looked upon the prospect of leaving, perhaps even diffidently. “The more aggression they experienced from their partner,” Arriaga explains, “the bigger the gap between what they had expected and what actually happened.”

“So, not only are people misjudging their future happiness post-relationship, but they are also misreading how poorly they feel in the moment while in their relationship.”

(Remarking on the ignorance of the abusers and the abused, Arriaga concludes that many young people may not realize that certain common behaviors and aggressions like put-downs, negative criticisms, and possessiveness account for abuse. “Aggression can be damaging even when it’s not physical,” yet “many people don’t believe that.”)

Deductive reasoning can tell any woman the solution to an abusive ordeal, and on paper it couldn’t be simpler: Leave. Don’t go back. Stop. As simple as that sounds, however, in reality it’s seldom that easy for any number of reasons; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence can point to fifty of them. (“Fear”, succinctly put, is actually the first reason acknowledged on their list.) And while they’re all depressing and devastating (that this list even exists is shameful enough), reasons like “she blames herself”, “she loves her partner”, (“her father abused her”, surprise surprise,) and “her partner says ‘I’m sorry’” are especially nauseating. In their case, it’s not merely the fear of being single; their gullibility, timidity, and stupidity have been bred, their default and limited self-respect ingrained. The influence of the low men in the lives of women deficient of pride and strength has stuck. The culture of submission (of letting him do what he wants) is inculcated and sticky.

For a poor girl like Allie, deductive reasoning never meant anything to her. (My hope is that her psychiatrist has helped her rectify that—succeeded where I’ve failed so miserably.) I’ve blatantly violated my personal rule against the invitation of anecdotal evidence because I know as well as more than enough of the rest of you that this childhood friend of mine is not an isolated case (unless the NCADV and Arriaga’s 171 participants are all liars). I’m rather more interested in extending an invitation to sit down and ponder for a moment on your own how the problems of one half of the planet can’t in some significant way be attributed to the ignorance of the other half. I invite you to ponder the stickiness of nurture, the stickiness of our environments—the stickiness of one’s will over another.

I invite you to ask yourself seriously, Do ‘bitches’ really pop out of nowhere?

Are you “man enough” to admit you’re part of the problem?

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