August 21, 2008

Asian Male-ism II: 44s Venus and 44s Mars



If PUA is just a set of social skills to make yourself better able to relate to others, they would teach you to relate to women as people, not targets.

--Tokyolovestory

...our end goal should be to capture the mainstream coverage and to change the zeitgeist.

--Jaehwan

No one on the 44s, as far as I know, embraces all PUA, but PUA has pushed our discussions in a good direction. It's helping us to see issues that cover not only the PUA/IR related issues, but other issues that are tangentially related to gender as well. It's a good thing that these PUAs have influenced our conversations because we're seeing things that we didn't see before. This blog entry will be about differences in the views of men and women that have become apparent in the course of our PUA conversations, as well as in other past conversations. Through understanding these differences, how they occur, and why they occur, I hope we can understand each other better.

I quoted Tokyolovestory and myself above. Tokyo's quote is from a response on part 1 of Asian Male-ism, while my words come from my Kingston piece. Notice the words we use. Tokyo asks us to "relate," while I use the word "capture." She uses a term in which people feel and understand other people. She decries the use of the concept of women as "targets." Meanwhile, I use the term "capture" which one would be more likely to use with war. In war, one "captures" a "target." I also use the word "change" and "zeitgeist" together, a concept that goes beyond human individuals and aims for large scale movement. In other words, Tokyo uses words and thoughts which one might characterize as typically feminine, while I use words and thoughts which one might characterize as typically masculine.

Such is the difference I see with our recent dialogue on the issue of PUA and sexism. Most men think like men, and most women think like women. Men expect that women think like men, and women expect that men think like women, which is why we sometimes why our words are fall on deaf ears with the opposite gender. Our education is so based on "gender free" politics and the eradication of gender differences that we often don't see how our behaviors usually conform with gender. We assume that men can easily act like women and that women can easily act like men. We don't see the world the same way as those from the other gender. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. This is why time and time again on the 44s, we see fights break out along gender lines.

Take my Kingston article for example. When I see an Asian American studies method that harms us, it's a cause for war. My typical male mind sees things that ought to be moved, resources that ought to be reallocated, and garbage that ought to be tossed out. I see structures that prevent Asian Americans from advancing. I don't care to hear excuses about why it's okay to say untrue things about Chinese culture; I care about results. Maxine Hong Kingston's personal feelings and the feelings of the militants who support her become irrelevant because I see the people whose lives have been destroyed by the culture. I see the pain that a pathological culture has created--an out of control female suicide rate and men needing to turn to PUA because the educational system is against them--and my male mind tells me I need to fix that culture.

When Tokyo sees the PUA discussions, she probably wonders where the compassion is. She sees men who can't see women as people. She sees the absence of compassionate relationships, the absence of love, and the perpetuation of a culture where men see women as bodies without regard of their personalities. She sees a loveless town where men rate women by their physical appearance, where men treat relationships as an economic science. She sees an Asian America where the men treat the attraction of women as a game, and where flirting becomes a contest of oneupmanship. Why can't men learn to listen to women rather than judging them on superficial values? After all, isn't that where our best relationships take place? It's an ugly picture.

In this case, everyone is right, but we're right according to our genders. Years ago on the plains of Africa, men participated in the hunt and in war. Whether we were killing for food or killing to keep the bad guys away (and bad was relative), men were task focused. Evolution-wise, it didn't help men to be compassionate with our prey; we simply had to make sure that everyone stood in the right place at the right time and executed our actions with decisiveness and coordination. This is why today in politics, when you see something bad take place, men usually focus on fixing the problem regardless of personal feelings. When Alberto Gonzales messed up by firing attorneys for political reasons, most political men called for his ouster. They didn't care about what he brought to the table, they just saw that he was a problem and needed to be removed. Compassion be damned.

Women, on the other hand, were gatherers and leaders of families. Their responsibilities involved abilities that taught them to discern good from bad, not only with potential suitors who would have the resources to protect them and create stability, but they also had to manage relationships among women in the tribe. They needed to develop the ability to understand small children, humans who were unable to express themselves with words. Therefore, they developed relational skills that men didn't need. This is why leaders like Princess Diana and Mother Teresa are lionized; they had amazing abilities to understand people, abilities that most people don't have. This is why more woman are compassionate. This is why PUA hasn't caught on with women.

Of course this doesn't extend to all individuals--Bill Clinton was known for his listening abilities, and Meg Whitman is known for her executional abilities. But over large populations of men and women, the evolutionary trends still exist. People write books like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," "The Wonder of Boys," and "Women and Leadership" because we tend to be different.

In terms of the charge of PUAs viewing women as targets, it's 100% true. PUAs do view women as targets, and they view women as "conquests"--which is an interesting term, if you think about the topic of discussion and the role of war in male history. PUAs don't try to build relationships, nor do they try to teach sensitivity. Instead, they focus on going in for the kill, a typically male way of fixing a typical Asian American male problem. Like most typically male ways of thinking, the PUA approach is results-based; you either attract a woman or you don't. You either win or you lose.

While I haven't endorsed PUA, I will say that their approach oftentimes mimics the way most men think and the way society expects and encourages men to think. Like it or not, most men are expected to approach women, and not vice versa. Most men need to deal with the possibility and probability of rejection, and most men have to be emotionally prepared to be told no. For men who rarely get out of the house, this rejection can be devastating. The antidote to this devastation is a kind of objectification, a kind of saying, "She's just ONE woman who turned you down, now you just have to ask ONE more." Women become like numbers for two reasons. First, PUAs "enumerate" them in order to protect themselves from rejection. Second, PUAs "enumerate" them because physical appearance is often the first criteria that men use when evaluating women, much the same way women use social standing to evaluate men.

From what I've seen, PUA creates a brotherhood that helps men not only to develop the courage to take action, but also to develop the resiliency to fall and get back up. It also teaches men to go after women who meet the enumerated criteria. It's very much a return to the old, more traditionally male ways of thinking. There is little subtlety involved.

Now some might say that times have changed. Men don't have to kill animals anymore, nor do women spend their time in tribes of women, gathering berries and caring for kids. Sensitive guys are popular these days, as are results-oriented women. That is true. Shouldn't we focus on eliminating gender roles? Shouldn't men be more sensitive?

I would say yes, but at the same time, I think it's unrealistic to expect that the majority of men will be able to fight biology which has come from years of evolution. It's also unrealistic to expect most women to do the asking and to face whatever public and private humiliation that may arise from rejection. Men more often than not select women for looks, while women go for power and social standing. It's just the way it is.

I was speaking with a co-worker, a self-described feminist in my office, who spoke about her son. My co-worker is a single mother who is raising a high school son. Statewide, she's one of the leading salespeople in our industry, a mega multi-million dollar producer, and she is an open supporter of liberal causes. At the same time, she thinks there are differences between the genders. During one conversation, she said that she felt education had flipped to become pro-female. "Boys learn better in motion," she said. "There have been studies that show young boys learn better when they're throwing things around. And yet we ask them to sit still during every part of class, which benefits girls more than boys. This is why there are so many male dropouts these days. We ought to make things more equitable."

I agree with her. Boys and girls are biologically different (irrefutable), and our biology causes us to act and live differently (refutable depending on context). It would be great if boys could learn the same way as girls, but in most cases, they can't.

I won't ask people to adopt my way of thinking, but I will ask people to consider that there is some truth in the idea that men and women are different. I think we can ask the opposite gender to see where we're coming from. We're no longer living in the age of hunting wild beasts or women living among other women in tribes, so things have clearly changed. Yet if the evolutionary record holds any water, it would be hard to expect all women to live the male perspective or vice versa. Most of us are hard wired differently.

Since this is a blog post about Asian male-ism, let me close with a quote about males, and let me address PUA once more. Thinking about the PUAs themselves whom we've met, whom we've heard on William's podcasts, who inhabit the 108's that I endorsed, this quote takes on a special significance:
To try to teach boys to "rise above instant gratification, "become more like girls," "be more sensitive," "not like sports as much," and so on without first teaching them personally fruitful and socially acceptable ways to do all those things is to shoot ourselves in the foot. Boys don't believe adults who don't understand boys."

Michael Gurian, "The Wonder of Boys," ISBN 0-87477-887-5, p. 12

Stay tuned for my next piece, tentatively called "The Recurring Frat Boy."

(Special thanks to Val, Jen, TokyoLoveStory, evil_FUX, Akrypti from 8A, The Stealth MC, and my anonymous coworker for helping me think through some of these issues.)

(Picture from here. The plot description of the movie makes no sense.)

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