The raging sexist.

Last month, someone wrote a letter to Dan Savage:

“Here’s my problem: I love women. The way they look, move, and sound. But the idea of actually interacting with women absolutely fucking terrifies me. I’m a virgin at 30.”

… (And so on.)  signed “Awkward And Alone”

Dan’s advice was standard-issue Dan Savage:  See a shrink, hire a sex worker, etc.  But what struck me were some of the comments.  Particularly comment #56 by “Flame,” (stop me if you’ve heard this before):

“Hey awkward and alone, here’s the scoop: you are a raging sexist. You act as though women are somehow different from men. They are, of course, they have tits and you don’t, etc.  But conversationally? They have minds, just like yours. Well, not like yours. Better than yours. Yours is full of stupid thoughts like ‘I can’t talk to women’.”

Okay, so “Awkward And Alone” is guilty of what, exactly?  Maybe he has some unrealistic ideas about women.  But a “raging sexist?”

A man who fears speaking to a woman should not be condemned any more than people who have different kinds of fears and phobias.  An accomplished journalist, for example, says he has trouble getting on a plane without taking anti-anxiety meds.  His fear is irrational, yet nobody would say he is “immature.”  And some people get nervous speaking in front of large groups.  We would not call them “raging misanthropes.”

As for “Awkward And Alone,” consider the inverse:  A woman meets a man she thinks is wonderful, only to discover later he’s self-centered and unkind.  Why did she think he was wonderful?  Because he was able to successfully employ a particular set of social skills.  But social skills are just that, skills, and not deep-seated character traits.  Conversely, social anxieties are not deep-seated character flaws.

You might remark that I’ve just knocked down a straw man, which is true insofar as most people would not, on the information given, accuse “Awkward And Alone” of being a “raging sexist.”  Yet subtle disparagement of the introvert is common enough in our culture to merit a look at the not-so-subtle kinds of disparagement occasionally expressed by people like “Flame.”

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