...or so my recent experiences would demonstrate. The awful stereotypes that rotate through our culture that women are emotional, dramatic and needy while men are jerks who just want sex and space fall apart when we shift overall power dynamics.
Let me explain.
Scenario: Being that I've settled into a new place and am in a good place in my life, I decided that dating would probably be a good idea. However, I spend most of my 'going out' time with mostly men and a few women from the technology scene. This makes it difficult to find time to go out on my own and meet people outside of my field (people who I can casually date without rumors flying around). So, I turned to what most modern singles turn to in our day and age: online dating. I looked at a few sites, but they just seemed so cheesy until I came across OKCupid, a hip and fun site that is also without those awful 'sign up for 3 months to be able to talk to anyone and give us all of your information while you are at it' caveats.
This was in October. Then I got really busy with travel and work so I didn't check in for a long time. While I was offline, I had a few messages that I missed and that sort of thing, but a few of them had me baffled. I logged onto find a couple of threads where I got not one, but multiple messages from the same men. They started out sweet and chatty, moved into 'Hello? Hello?' territory fairly quickly, then spiraled into crazy, dramatic, "Listen here you snotty beotch...you think you are better than me?" depths within a couple of days. Okay, so I could dismiss these threads as troll-like online behavior.
Then as I was checking these messages, I got pinged in the IM feature by someone who had just joined the service. I was procrastinating anyway, so I decided to give it a whirl. Now I KNOW most men out there understand this, but leading with overly sappy comments is a sure fire turn-off for most women. I had to tell him, "Dude. You don't even know me. How could you say that I'm the woman of your dreams? Hell, I could be a guy!" We finally got into a regular conversation until he asked me to phone him. I told him I had work to do (I did) and that I didn't phone people I just met on the internet (I don't) and said that I had to go (I did). I woke up this morning to a similarly crazy spiraling message on how I was missing out.
There are several other instances since I've gotten to the point in my life that I have enough self-confidence to not need a boyfriend or the external validation of anyone else where some degree of this has happened. I find myself blocking texts, ignoring emails and sometimes having to sit down with men I barely know to let them know that their behaviour is not helping the situation. I genuinely try to give them advice for 'the next woman' they want to woo...advice that starts sounding a great deal like 'He's Just Not That Into You' or 'Dating Without Drama'. Advice that was meant for WOMEN.
But I'm still a woman...and the dozen-odd cases I've encountered in the past 6-8 months are, well, men as far as I can tell. Men of many ages. 20's, 30's and 40's. Varying incomes and stages in life. Good looking in general. That sort of thing. So what is the difference?
The dynamic shifted for me this year more than ever. Between doing a great deal of soul searching, CBT and just getting to a point in my life where I'm not feeling like I need someone to complete me, I have started to occupy the control position in relationships. (not controlling, but 'I make my own decisions and I will survive if the other party doesn't reciprocate' control position) Therefore, I have power in many situations. And when another party approaches someone with that power, the human reaction to that often comes from a place of defensiveness. A rejection manifests in hurt, anger, sadness, drama, neediness, etc.
What's most interesting to me is the genderedness of these situations. I am aware of the odd reaction from these guys because I don't expect it. I expect a shrug and move along. I've been completely flabbergasted. And I certainly don't advocate women en masse turning the tables, but I do think this gives a good example of how gendered behavior can be unpacked. It's not actually due to being a woman or a man at all. The reaction comes from a loss of power over a situation. A loss of control. In a world where power was balanced (not only between genders, but between cultures), drama and emotional outbursts wouldn't be attributed to a stereotyped group of people, it would be attributed to a reaction to feeling disempowered. Which is, in the end, what it has always been.
The 'men from mars, women from venus' thing and all of the other self-help battle of the sexes books out there mainly reinforce the power dynamic that already exists. They teach us to game the awful system we exist in where one gender DOES hold more power than the other when we SHOULD be questioning it. It's why we hear things like, "Men love bitches" and why women often won't date the 'nice guy'. Personally, I aim to question it and continue to experiment with it as long as I have the ability to, while at the same time being aware of where I'm at and how I can help balance the dynamic for future generations.