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October 16, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

The letter "W" may "stand for women," but the numbers suggest that men are giving Dubya the edge. Garry South, a political adviser and aide to CA Gov. Gray Davis, recently told The Times that when men are asked to compare the candidates to cars, Gore's a boxy and useful Volvo, while Bush is a Maserati or Mustang convertible. South figures "[Men] are saying, 'Wait a minute, that guy's like who I'd like to be.' " Meanwhile, the forthcoming December issue of Psychology Today tries to unearth uncommon common ground in the persistent scientific debate over whether men -- and women -- can't help but be the way they are. Plus, The Times reports that experts and commentators continue to claim that -- whether by the slings of feminism or the arrows of patriarchy -- "masculinity is under siege." And in the middle of everything, BG receives the letter below, which serves to set beneath me the Maserati of soapboxes. Vroom vroom!

Gender: Mind the Gap

Dear Breakup Girl,

I started reading a serial in an online women's magazine a few months ago that has all the guilty pleasures of a soap opera (plus I've been reading it while I am "writing my thesis"). It was told from the point of view of the woman. It was fairly realistic (for a soap opera): the woman had a job, a messy divorce, a small child, friends, gray hair, a life.... interesting stuff.

Recently they added a new serial, supposedly from the point of view of a typical man. So far, this "typical male" has done nothing except lie to his girlfriend and string her along, attempt to cheat on her (twice), and try to sleep with someone barely old enough to be legal. He's supposedly a magazine editor, but he never works, or talks about it; he doesn't have friends or hobbies. Just sex. Bad sex. Sex and lies.

I submitted a complaint to the chat room (nothing formal, just some pleasant whining), expecting other people to say, "Hey, yeah! This new series is unfair. All men aren't like this. The typical man is a human being! The typical man is my father!"

It didn't happen. Men and women wrote that that's just the way it goes; men are naturally pigs, etc. One woman even wrote that it's normal for a man to go through a phase of infidelity, and that she was interested to see what would "make him" commit.

Argh! I am so sick of these dumb generalizations about men being afraid to commit, women being too ready, etc. When we were children, boys were my friends. They still are, and this stuff makes me feel bad. Not that what is said about women is any better.

I guess my question is: when did everything become so antagonistic? What good does calling anyone names do, let alone the entire other half of the species? Can't we all just get along?

-- Mary

"Can't we all just get along?" BG says sure!


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