Women In Guyland: Torn Between "Effortless Perfection" And Being One Of The "Bros"In yesterday's post about Guyland, the Michael Kimmel book about 20something "guy" culture, a few of the commenters asked for another post on the roles of women in Guyland. Ask and ye shall receive! To recap, women exiled in Guyland must exhibit a state of being that Duke researchers coined as "effortless perfection." They must, as Kimmel says, do it all — but without breaking a sweat. According to Kimmel, "Girls are necessary to Guyland. They enable guys' behavior, normalize it, and make it seem natural and inevitable." But! There is another facet to this effortless perfection, and it involves women attempting, as Kimmel puts it, to be "bros." "These women prove their mettle in Guyland through shirking such 'feminine' traits as intimacy, loyalty, and openness and appropriating guys' behavior: sports, drinking, and sexual promiscuity. This approach can often backfire," Kimmel says.Kimmel tells the story of Kathy, a 26-year-old Cornell Grad:
I thought the only way I was going to fit in with the guys on campus was to sort of be one of them. You know, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em? Well I joined 'em. I drank myself stupid, had plenty of hookups, and kept score just like the guys. It was ridiculous. They not only didn't like me — they had complete contempt for me.
That description, of the bro-girl (bro-lerina? broette?) was sort of painful for me to read, because it reminded me of a time when I tried to be the bro. The scenario was a bit different — I had a serious boyfriend my sophomore year of college and desperately wanted his friends to like me — but the outcome was the same: utter contempt. My then-boyfriend only wanted to hang out with his boys, so if I wanted to see him, I had to hang out with them, too. I tried to smoke pot with them, to get in on their inside jokes and schemes, to be included in their homosocial bonding. And let me tell you, I failed miserably. I still cringe internally when I recall a climactic moment in one of their dorm rooms. It was maybe 2 in the morning and I had gotten in some fight with one of my boyfriend's friends. He told me, without even looking up from his computer monitor, "We wish you would just go away sometimes." My boyfriend was there. He didn't stand up for me, but he did comfort me when I started to sob. "Certainly the goals of the feminist movement were not to enable women to be the best 'bros' in town," Kimmel writes, and what hits me now is that I was always playing by the rules of Guyland back then. I let my boyfriend dictate our social lives because I wanted to keep him. I hung around a group of knuckleheads who composed songs about "Wide Open Beavers," (I'm not even making this up) because I desperately wanted the male acceptance. This story has a happy ending though. The year after we graduated, one of my exes' friends came up to me at a party. His eyes met mine and he said, "I'm really sorry for the way we treated you back then. You were a nice person. You didn't deserve it." I forgave him, but I didn't forget, and now I have a great dude who meets me on neutral ground, miles away from south central Guyland. Michael Kimmel Official Site Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men [Amazon] Guyland Debunks The American Douchebag In Academic Terms