G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Hugo Schwyzer, in his latest misfire:
By now, the basic claim — that men’s aspirations seem to have diminished as women’s ambition has increased –- is familiar. What’s less obvious is another byproduct of the man crisis: the frustrating degree to which so many young men increasingly turn to the women in their lives not merely for emotional reassurance, but for direction, order, and stability. While there’s nothing new about women nurturing their boyfriends and husbands, in the past -– at least among the American middle class -– that emotional encouragement was part of an explicit quid pro quo. However imperfectly the ideal was lived out in practice, the goal was usually the same: men provided, women soothed. For a host of reasons, guys are providing less financially than ever before. At the same time, men’s yearning for comfort, reassurance, and direction from women seems to be getting louder and more urgent.
I highlighted “seems” in the passage because it is the linchpin of the piece, yet I don’t believe that the observation is backed up by reality. It is true that women are gaining more economic power and increasing in relative status and that men are “suffering” through a transitory crisis. But are men yearning more for comfort and reassurance from the women in their lives? Are both financial and emotional dependency increasing or are they moving in opposite directions at different speeds?
Schwyzer’s evidence, power-blasted to rid it of the shit particles inherited from its original domicile:
Men may not be at end, but in Girls their psychological dependency is on display like never before. Think of Charlie, Marnie’s boyfriend. While having make-up sex in his painfully neat apartment, Charlie starts begging “don’t abandon me, okay, don’t make me feel safe and then abandon me.” Marnie –- who wanted Charlie back -– is so horrified by his desperation that she breaks up with him mid-coitus. We laugh in both disbelief and uncomfortable recognition at Charlie’s childlike, frantic craving for safety. We empathize with Marnie’s disgust with this hopeless man-child who decorates -– and verbalizes — like a woman but who crumbles like a thoroughly modern dude.
That’s the same Girls created by Nora Ephron/SATC fangurl Lena Dunham. The same Girls whose lead female character, not mentioned by Schwyzer even as he does focus on the most beta character on the show, is a dependent wreck-of-a-mess who initially leeches off of her parents financially and her sideasspiece-turned-boyfriend Adam emotionally. The first 80% of the season depicts the lead female character pining and whining for Adam as he does his own thing. He then mysteriously transitions to the needy insecure lost boy. Point being, Schwyzer is citing make-believe to fit his preconceived notions.
Where does Schwyzer go from there? He rolls out some dialogue from the movie Blue Valentine where Ryan Gosling’s character is pleading with his wife to tell him what to do to save their relationship. Schwyzer writes:
“Tell me what to do.” “Tell me how I should be.” Dean’s entreaty is both heartbreaking and utterly familiar; more than an appeal not to be abandoned, it’s a forlorn male plea for an instruction manual that wives and girlfriends can’t be expected to possess. Like Marnie in Girls, Cindy knows just enough to know that for her sanity’s sake, she’s got to get away from that sweet, suffocating, neediness.
Is that how we should look at this particular movie? It seems to be something else and seems to be much deeper than Schwyzer’s just-so gut shot. Gosling’s character has become something of a loser. High school dropout who paints houses for a living. He drinks and is not happy. His wife is a nurse and they have a child together. The child may not be his. We could play the one-up game if we want, but we could also relate this to the overall transition being faced by men and women alike in this fast-changing world. Gosling’s character would certainly feel the pressure to be the right kind of man with the right kind of job. But his wife married him with full knowledge of his resume. She signed up for it. But when the failure finally comes to a head – and it inevitably would – he is the one left pleading for his life. He pleads because he has to plead. She does not. In the movie she encountered an ex-boyfriend (the one whose child Gosling’s character might have been raising, not that Schwyzer would sympathize) which sends him into a tailspin which ends in their separation. So we could reference this movie as an example of the tough transition faced by men and women alike or we could just point out that men are needy little bitches.
Schwyzer goes on:
The problem isn’t just that men may have a harder time adapting to a rapidly changing economy. The problem is –- as both Hanna Rosin and Lena Dunham (the creator and star of Girls) seem to understand – a growing number of men expect women to serve as perpetually available emotional beacons in their struggle to navigate the transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency.
To underscore, I don’t see this. Maybe it is just me. Though I see clingy men all the time (I see clingy women too, we just happen to notice a man clinging on to a woman as a “man bites dog” story), I also see men in various ways fighting their dependence on women. One way is Game, a key tenant of which is to avoid “one-itis”. But those guys are misogynist dicks, right?