When the “shlubby arrested adolescent” does not get the girl

schlubby

In the wake of Elliot Rodger’s senseless rampage in Southern California on May 23, 2014 there have been many debates that made me thoughtful.   One of the most poignant issues that was raised is an age old debate between feminists and (for the lack of a better word) ‘traditionalists’. In her article, In a final videotaped message, a sad reflection of the sexist stories we so often see on screen, Ann Hornaday argues “movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire.” She used movies such as Neighbors as an example of the type of film that promotes unrealistic expectations that young men may have in regards to women and courtship. Judd Apatow, the director of Neighbors, and Seth Rogen, who stars in the film, both reacted to her article negatively. They believed that Hornaday was accusing them of inspiring this hideous, misogynistic crime when in fact she was making a comment about how media has a powerful influence to shape what people desire. I made a similar point in my unicorn chasing post. In my post, I argued that women are conditioned by the media to seek out the perfect man who will complete them, even though some of us know that we are merely chasing a mystical creature that does not exist. This tragic incident reminded me that men are also subjected to unrealistic expectations created by the media. Many bromance films, a genre Rogen and Apatow are affiliated with, paint a picture that college life should be filled with sex, fun and pleasure and that the “shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl”. Like romantic comedies, bromance films perpetuate traditional gender roles and set unrealistic expectations in love, romance and sex. Though Rogen and Apatow are not responsible for what had happened, they are a part of the racket that makes a profit by selling these fantasies. The problem is that the media is selling us these fantasies, and many of us do not have the awareness to refrain from buying into them.

Elliot Rodger represents a segment of society that has been fed with unrealistic expectations but not equipped to deal with the changing circumstances of society. Feminism has pushed for women’s role to change, but the fundamental structure of society has remained more or less intact.   Women are no longer expected to be mere housewives and mothers- we can now have a career of our own. Some might argue that we are expected to juggle motherhood and career.   Though women’s perception of themselves has changed and as girls are prepped for their changing role, men are subconsciously resistant to change because as boys, they are taught to hang on to their traditional gender role.

“Men want the sense of power more than they want the sense of freedom.  They want the feeling that comes to them as providers for women more than they want the feeling that comes to them as free men.  They want someone dependent on them more than they want a comrade.” Susan Faludi, Feminism for them? 

This quote captures the essence of how many men subconsciously view themselves.  Men as providers is the traditional gender role and it manifest itself in our popular media such as magazines, films and TV shows.  Men of course know the rhetoric of feminism, and understand how to behave in an appropriate and respectful manner in public.  However, many men derive power from being in the dominant position as provider to a woman and whether they are conscious of not, many of them still hold on to their traditional role, and act accordingly without realizing it.  There is a tension between the changes brought forth by feminism and how many men perceive themselves.  This is especially evident in the context of dating:  As a woman, I am supposed to be submissive and at the same time, engaging;  be naughty but also play hard to get. I am also supposed to  ignore my own desires because I should allow a man to dominate me.  This tension is confusing because it seems like society picks and chooses the benefits feminism brought forth in a way that benefits men.  Men are only providers when it’s convenient for them.  In the past, when I asked for emotional support from a boyfriend, I was labelled as ‘needy’ and ’emotional’.  Feminism started a public dialogue  about sex and remove the taboo associated with it (especially in urban, educated, westernized areas).   In addition, feminism pushed to make birth control and abortion available to us, which has also reduced the chances of unwanted pregnancies.   While this makes it easier for men to have sex with women, when a woman can have sex without the fear of pregnancy she isn’t beholden to a man in the same way.  This threatens men’s dominant position as a provider for women, which could make many men uncomfortable.  As a result, many women who embrace their sexuality are either reduced to mere sex objects or are slut- shamed.

Going back to Elliot Rodger, I can’t help but to think that his unspeakable crime reflects how sick our society is.  There are a lot of reasons our society is dysfunctional, and I believe one of the main culprit for our sickness is our popular media.   Elliot Rodger had a delusional view of himself and women, and our media and culture play a large part of how his views were shaped.  He decided that he needed to kill women because he perceived himself as having no power over them, and was therefore made to feel inadequate as a man.  The media portrayal of gender roles is incredibly damaging to the collective psyche and we need to have a conversation about how these portrayals are undoing the hard work of many feminists who are fighting for gender equality.  Feminism has paved the way for women to be more visible in the public sphere, to free us from the confinement of our kitchen, to enable us to engage with the world in a more meaningful way outside of our homes. However, there is still a long way to go.  As a feminist, I am not merely concerned the well-being and the rights of women, I am also very concerned about marginalized, alienated individuals such as Elliot Rodger.   How do we, not just as feminists, but also as responsible citizens of the world, teach both men and women to be more critical of our wants and needs, rather than to be lazy and succumb to the poison the media feeds us?  Feminists have given women a choice; should men also have the right to choose to deviate from their traditional gender role?  I believe that until men can view their role differently, women’s role will never change completely, there will always be confusion, conflict and inequality between the genders.  The Elliot Rodger incident is tragic, and yet this also brought important issues back into the public eye.   How do we, as informed and critical individuals, make our popular media more accountable and responsible as participants in the larger conversation about gender?  How do feminists help men embrace alternative identities for themselves?  Wes actually started the conversation in Thanks a Gay Day post.  However, I think he forgot to thank feminists, who fought along the LGBT movement to bring equality between gender and sexual orientations.

 

Plunge, Retake

Wes thinks we should blame Hong Kong’s lack of music/art scene and shitty dating on “women who consider the starving artist type undateable“.  Frankly, I disagree.

We can make these women public enemy #1, seek them out in Soho and throw rocks at them.  Actually, I also feel like throwing rocks at the douchy bankers these women sought after.   Now the question is, which came first, the douchy bankers or the women who find starving artist types undateable?

Hong Kong is one of the financial capitals in the world, expected to surpass London and New York in the very near future.  The city attracts and recruits the brightest and the shrewdest to work in its thriving financial sector.   As a result, it is a materialistically driven, superficial city.  People living and working in Hong Kong have high earning potential, they are able to afford luxury goods and have large, comfortable accommodations.  In this highly competitive environment, people have to demonstrate that they are the best of the best.    Men will flaunt their earning potential by wearing an expensive suit, driving a luxurious car, living in a penthouse of a fancy building in a trendy neighbourhood.  Women want men with high earning potential because walking around with expensive handbags and having the newest gadgets that you did not have to earn is high status.   Having a rich man provide for you, so you can sit around and look pretty, is high status.   To attract these men, women also need to play the part by conforming to the conventional standard of beauty.  In Asia, the golden standard of beauty is slenderness.  The mothers of daughters groom them to be submissive, uncritical, to dress and act conventionally in order to be pleasing to a man, with the dream that one day, their daughter will become a mute, beautiful trophy wife to some wealthy executive that will also look after them in their old age.   This is the Asian dream.

The worst thing that could happen to a woman in Hong Kong  is fall in love with a man with low status.   God forbid she might have to work so her artist husband can hopefully become the next Picasso.  An artist can only gain high status when his art sells for a lot of money, like Picasso.  Before an artist becomes famous and starts raking in millions, they are undateable.  (Note the galleries in Central and how expensive bad art cost.  It doesn’t matter if the art is bad as long as it fetches a lot of dough). Artists have poor earning potential and by default, low status in Hong Kong society.   As do people working in education and NGO sectors.  The “hipster” status, the idea of being “cool”, or the idea that you might be doing something with your career other than just making money, seems impractical in Hong Kong.  It might be desirable to have a “cool” job as a game designer because you make decent money but your career is also driven by passion or a geeky niche.    Being passionate, geeky, or cool is not practical, it does not make money, and therefore not valued in Hong Kong.  This is why the creative types in general are less likely to come to Hong Kong, and this is why the music and art scenes are rather pathetic here.

I don’t blame the women who find artist undateable.  I don’t really blame the douchy bankers either, but I find their vanity plate extremely distasteful.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

Taking the plunge and talking about dating in Hong Kong

Wes and I have talked about starting a blog for ages.  And then we’ve had this blog for ages and either of us can get over this initial fear of posting something that is not perfect.  I am taking the plunge.  I am  going to talk about what I learned from dating in Hong Kong.  First, I will share an article from The Atlantic called “Hong Kong’s Troubling Shortage of Men”.

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/12/hong-kongs-troubling-shortage-of-men/281942/

This article discusses the skewed gender ratio in Hong Kong and how that is affecting educated, local Hong Kong women to find suitable husbands who will buy them a house and look after them.  Many women in Hong Kong seem to be panicking: “Asian men seem to be attracted to girls around 25 rather than girls over 30, so if we don’t find the right man soon, our chances of meeting a future partner will get slimmer.”  The last thing they want is to end up as a shengnü or “leftover women”.

Based on my observations and experience, it’s not just the local Hong Kong men who live this foot-loose lifestyle, where they are either focusing on their careers, or sleeping with as many women as they possibly can.  Not that anything is fundamentally wrong with exploring sexually, but men tend to play these games to get women to sleep with them, and sometimes these games aren’t very nice.   They play these games on the expense of the women’s emotional/psychological well-being and self-esteem.  This is not a phenomenon that is only applicable to Hong Kong men, but  with western expat men as well.  I have been on the Hong Kong dating scene on-and-off since moving here in April 2012.  I am a bit of a racist once it comes to dating- I exclusively date English speaking, western educated non-Asians.   I had a ball when I first came to Hong Kong, there are so many attractive, single, educated and fun-loving men in Hong Kong- I’ve had some great dates, some really shitty dates.  Some dates became some of my best friends, and others were duds and forgotten.   I also met men who literally had ripped me apart- it’s not completely their fault, I was a bit of a mess, but they certainly weren’t considerate of my feelings or needs.  Anyway, I found that many expat men, who may not amount to much back home, the ones women didn’t pay attention to, became gods when they arrive in Hong Kong. This town breeds toxic bachelors who don’t need to settle down or be accountable to the women they date because there are unlimited supply of attractive, young women who will throw themselves at them.  They get used to this, and they expect this, and they become spoiled and entitled.

When I first came to Hong Kong, I just ended a long-term relationship and was feeling lost and insecure.  It’s not easy being in Hong Kong when a woman is in that fragile state, especially since she was not 25 and weighed 120 pounds.   After a string of unsuccessful dates, where I was made to feel pretty awful about myself, I started to believe that I was too old and too fat for this town.   I’ve been given an array of advice from well-intended friends.  You have to play the game, you have to be coy, you can’t just give them what they want (but what if what they want is also what I want?!?).  You are too excited, tone it down.  You talk too much, you are too fast, too crazy, too weird.  Oh, here is a good quote from the article-  apparently, we should be “gazing at men while leaning forward at a 45 degree angle and avoiding showing excitement during any conversation.”  Really?  Is this what men really truly want?

Also, I have been told that as a 31-year-old, healthy and fit woman, I am too old and ‘big’ for the men in Hong Kong.  This must be true because according to the article, “27-year-old accountant Laura recently underwent her first liposuction procedure at the Life Clinic, one of the biggest centers in the city, and is planning a second early next year. She believes that she can only find her life partner once she achieves her own ideal of physical perfection.”  Wow.  Again, really?

Lately, I realized that I don’t want the men who want women who avoid showing any excitement, and get a liposuction because they are fearful that they won’t find a husband.  Fuck that.  No way I am putting myself through that misery.  Instead, I will eat and drink what I please, run my half-marathons, and say and do what I please.   I will continue to be excited, impulsive, and start dance parties wherever and whenever I can.   I will travel the world, go diving, be free as a bird and not have some stupid guy made me feel shitty because I have a brain, and self-worth.

I suppose I will be a shengnü , and a pretty hot and awesome one.