One of the lesser-discussed hassles of identifying as feminist is that people often think you'll be super-delighted to engage in some good old-fashioned man bashing. Those men, you know? What's up with them never being able to pick up their damn socks? And the belching? And like I care about whether the Red Sox will ever be in the World Series again. I should totally just get a dog—at least he'll be satisfied licking his own balls, instead of whining that I never do. Amirite, ladies?
So it's important, every so often, to stress that feminism does not equal female chauvinism. I was reminded of this when the review copy of Undateable: 311 Things Guys Do That Guarantee They Won't Be Dating or Having Sex arrived at Bitch Media HQ.
Undateable does not bill itself as a feminist text. It's a dating manual: As authors Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle write in its introduction: "There's an unspoken list of things men say, wear, or do that will pretty much guarantee that the girl you just took out to dinner won't ever want to see you again."
So, basically, it's the real-life version of Liz Lemon's "dealbreakers" book, only not funny, and also instead of urging the ladies to shut down relationships for sensible (if insane) reasons—he's appeared on To Catch a Predator, he's wearing a giant diamond "Open Marriage" necklace—Undateable encourages them to be shallow, closed-minded, and incredibly sexist.
That's not the point of the book, of course. According to its press release, it's a "hilarious and informative" addition to the "zeitgeist of today's dating landscape." But pop culture continually pits men and women against one another (you read Kelsey's post about women's grand victory over the menfolk, yes?), and real-life men literalize this battle of the sexes in ways that are both douchetastic (see Chris Surette) and tragic (see George Sodini), and Undateable is one instance in which women may "win" by lording their sexual veto power over men, but look like far bigger assholes for having done so.
The book's three sections advise men "What Not to Wear," "What Not to Say," and "What Not to Do," and each entry is coded with symbols denoting the gravity of the offense. (Wearing your cell phone on your waist, fellas, is a red flag, while sporting Ed Hardy gear is dire enough to merit a "no sex" icon.) The first section is the most brutal: Soul patches, hairy backs, tighty whities, black jeans, rolled-up jeans, sports jerseys, porkpie hats, eyeliner, cut-off shorts, "emo" hair, leather pants, hawaiian shirts, turquoise jewelry, tube socks, body piercings, Speedos, dyed hair, multiple tattoos, wallet chains all get smacked down, as having personal style of any kind is apparently a dealbreaker. This section is also where the authors choose to pick on fat men, slapping "'Pregnant' Man" with a kiss-of-death icon, and marking a picture of a chubby guy in bike shorts—a whole cycling outfit, actually, complete with helmet and, um, an actual bike—with the words "Just. Plain. Wrong." And—bonus—the authors crack a domestic-violence joke when addressing the subject of men wearing aprons when they cook: "Your pumps better match your apron or we're going to have to come in there and beat you again."
So: If you're a dude, here's the prescription: Don't wear a porkpie hat, don't have tattoos, don't take up biking if you don't have the ropy physique of a Tour de France champion, and don't cook in an apron. After all, it's better to have grease stains on whatever item of shirting the authors deem acceptable than to wear something a woman might wear! And while we're at it, what are you doing cooking in the first place? So girly—that's a dealbreaker right there!
A common thread throughout the book is that men shouldn't be macho (the "What Not to Say" section takes them to task for announcing their farts, naming their penises, or using any phrase popularized on The Sopranos) but under no circumstances should they be even slightly feminine. How else to justify putting a man who owns a cat, likes dancing, or is lactose intolerant on on the no-nooky list? (Rakieten and Coyle also warn against men with "car tchotchkes" like fuzzy dice or air fresheners, asking "You know how little girls put streamers on the handlebars of their pink Sting-Rays? This is the same thing.") I may be biased—since I married a man who has owned several cats, is lactose intolerant, and who, when I met him, was wearing tube socks pulled up to his knees (don't tell me that's not hot, ladies!)—but I'd argue that Rakieten and Coyle's Goldilocks approach just muddies the waters for men already confused about societal gender imperatives. Sure, we all have our turnons and turnoffs, but someone out there is sleeping with the guy who pairs socks and sandals, right? Implying that a man is no more than the sum of his bald spot and pleated pants is no different than dismissing a woman because she's not Scarlett Johansson.
As with many books we get for review at the Bitch office, I'm not totally sure who the intended audience for Undateable is. Ostensibly, it's men, since the text addresses them as "you," but they also seem to be courting women in the same way that mass e-mails titled "100 Reasons Why Chocolate is Better than Men—FUNNY! : )" do—in order to encourage us to shake our heads and have an awesome chuckle over how clueless men really are and how it's totally not sexist to objectify them because they've been objectifying us for years!
So if someone gives this book to you, or tells you it's funny, or sends a mass e-mail about it, and also about 50 ways to use dog-training tips to train your man, why not use it as an opportunity to say, once again:
Feminism and chauvinism: They're not the same!