WHY YOU CANNOT BEFRIEND MAN
AN OBJECTION BY AMANDA MUREN CEDERSTRAND
Any attempted friendship with a man consists of a constant element of humiliation. You must always be on edge, at any moment prepared to be served a – albeit thoughtless, unintentional – comment that reminds you of your subordination to him. And you must overlook it. Indulgent: woman’s eternal curse. Because if you didn’t overlook it, if you called attention to his every faux pas, every time he wronged you and violated your limits, reminded you of, and reinforced, the disparate situation that you’re in, you wouldn’t be able to just “hang out”. If you acted as a man would and demanded that he acknowledged your equality … But you know that you’re not actually equal, so you just keep quiet. You keep quiet and swallow your pride and your self-respect, and that’s what’s so horribly humiliating, because you know that that’s how he will treat you now: like a creature without pride, without self-respect – and you do it to enable the relationship! You mutilate yourself so he won’t have to see what it is he’s doing to you. And he will look down on you for what he thinks you’re doing to yourself and you will let him. You hide his evil from his own gaze. You give up some of your self-worth so he can keep his. And you know, deep down, no matter how much you love and respect him, that he doesn’t deserve it.
As a female (cis or trans) trying to socialise with a straight male, you’re always sexualised. Of course this doesn’t mean that every straight man wants to sleep with you, but rather because of the heterosexual matrix, there’s always the awareness that you, technically speaking, could become sexually attracted to each other. And consequently you’re put in a sexualised relation where you as a woman are always the inferior. To him, it’s okay to play with this tension, joke about it, make playful advances. And it’s always your job to dampen the shocks and neutralise them. Because you know that these jokes are only jokes as long as you don’t take them for something else. You are the guardian of your comradely relation, and that’s strenuous because you can never relax, you must always watch not to send out signals that may be interpreted as sexual. And that can be pretty much anything. Just being friendly for example. Offering a stick of gum. Asking how he’s doing. Listening when he talks. Acting like a normal goddamn fellow human being. You can’t! Since, in relation to a man, you can never be a full human being, but only a woman – by definition, a mutilated, incomplete thing.
When non-feminists enter into feminist discussions, or comment upon them, they usually talk about misandry. Feminists usually retort that they do not hate men but the concept of masculinity. That, however, isn´t necessarily true, either. Actually, yeah, some of us hate men. Concept or not, it is men of flesh and blood who beat, rape, humiliate, ridicule and belittle us. Misandry exists as well as misogyny, but is in no way equal to it and does not legitimise the liberal idea that “it takes two to tango”. This is an Israel- Palestine situation. The essential difference between these two is that misandry, just like Palestinian hatred for their occupiers, is reasonable and very much justifiable. “(And should, in my opinion, be armed. But that´s another discussion.)”.
To be a woman in love with a man is to be so timelessly helpless; so terribly conscious of the inherited insufficiency of your own person. You stare at a photo of him, and everything about yourself you thought solid and valuable – your intelligence, your beliefs, your courage – immediately begins to crumble, leaving you limp, impotent. You stagger at the frustration of your unworthiness. Everything you are, no matter its sum, is never going to amount to as much as him! Which means that he can never desire you as much as you desire him, simply because there isn’t as much to desire. Gender power relations work that way. Despite your ferocious capacity for passion and destruction and humour, your cruellest “doom” plans and most brilliant creativity, you´ll never be enough. And as long as we live in this patriarchy, you know that they’ll never let you forget that. Instead they give you this: you may have him. You may have him and he may want you or even love you, but it will be with an unclouded, innocent love and the devastating privilege of ignorance. It is you who will be left, alone, with the dirty, dirty knowledge. The constant cruel consciousness: you may never be him. And that’s the trauma of dealing with men.
Featured in HYSTERIA #4 ‘Antagonism’
Artwork © Julia Maddison