Hugo Schwyzer is teaching a course on men and masculinity and brings up the “Nice Guy” syndrome (which is sometimes snarkily shortened to NiceGuy™.)
I found myself thinking about the much discussed “Nice Guy” phenomenon. “Nice Guys” often cloak their misogyny behind a facade of sensitivity. “Nice Guys” often talk garrulously about gender issues, and often establish their bona fides by bemoaning the way in which “other guys” treat women. About every ten minutes, a Nice Guy will drop an “But I’m not like other men!” into the conversation. The Nice Guy becomes less nice when he realizes that despite all he obviously has to offer, women are remarkably uninterested in dating or sleeping with him. Nice Guys often lose their temper when rejected, launching into embittered, “slut-bashing” diatribes about how foolish women are for choosing “bad boys” (or traditional men). Most Nice Guys alternate between stunningly low self-esteem and staggering hubris, secretly believing that their “sensitivity” makes them the answer to every maiden’s prayer. A great many feminist women have their share of “Nice Guy” stories, and if you spend much time in the feminist blogosphere, you’ll read your share of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem.
The emphasis in the quote is Schwyzer’s and not mine but I would have emphasized it as well because the same thing has been bugging me. I’ve been wrestling with an idea that the disconnect between what others see as entitlement and men see as worthiness, where “worthiness” is something men must earn, with the added fallacy that what is earned is therefore deserved. With the added, added absurdity that we then get royally ticked off and call women “gatekeepers” when they don’t agree with our non-negotiated-with-them-anyway self-assessments.
For instance if I were to slay a dragon it might make me feel pretty good, and might even gratify the damsel enormously, but doing so in no way “earns” me a kiss or anything else. However we sort of indoctrinate ourselves to set such terms of our quest for worthiness and then ask women to judge and reward our worthiness under those terms. The problem being that outside of very specific student/teacher, athlete/coach, and maybe employee/employer relationships worthiness and judgment aren’t relevant and are probably as inappropriate in a romantic relationship as attempting romance between student and teacher. (For this reason, by the way, slaying a dragon doesn’t even earn me a kiss if she agrees to kiss me in advance! It’s still a transaction, an exchange of totally different things: in this case some sort of favor for some sort of sex.)
It’s early days yet, and maybe it won’t pan out, but I’m pretty sure that “worthiness” is to men as the beauty myth is to women Ã¢â‚¬â€ dangled as the key to acceptance but past a very low threshold not really relevant on the other party’s part. (Would another makeover really get you the man of one’s dreams? If you don’t click is it really because you’re not physically beautiful enough? And is lack of a house or a fancier income really why one can’t ask a woman out yet. If she says no is it really because I need a newer BMW? No, no, no, and no.)
Anyway while I’m still digesting I’m pretty sure “worthiness” is ultimately inauthentic and therefore our efforts to seek or, for that matter, judge worthiness are a soul-sapping distraction that we as men would need to overcome even if it didn’t cause horrific resentment/entitlement issues between men and women.