Set social norms aside, try acting on those instincts
I am not majoring in sociology or women's studies; I haven't ever taken a class in either of those departments. But I think I can say pretty safely that there are some social conventions in our culture that dictate rules for men and women. Such structures may be found codified in bastions of social theory such as The Rules and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, which explain that men and women are two completely opposite creatures and do not function on the same wavelengths. According to these tomes, the two genders must play their distinct roles in society and cater to each other. While I think there is a lot of merit to acknowledging the differences between the sexes, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN GIRLS ACT THE WAY GUYS ARE "SUPPOSED" TO ACT, AND VICE VERSA?
Carrie, Talbot, and Maggie were talking the other day about guys who are earnest. "When a guy's too nice to girls, people wonder if he's gay," Maggie said. "Straight guys are so rarely genuinely happy to see a girl, unless they are trying to get with her, that if a guy is really sweet to all girls, he must not be attracted to girls in general; if he were, he'd be an asshole to them."
Does this really make sense?
Carrie agrees: "Being nice to girls-at least during sober, daytime hours-is seen as almost effeminate. But I think, unfortunately, it's other guys who perpetuate that stereotype. Girls react really well to guys being sweet, but they're not used to boys being that nice to them when they're not going to hook up!"
"And it's different than being a metrosexual," Talbot adds, showing off her command of the new buzzword for a guy who puts a lot of effort into his appearance. "It's not like he's effeminate on the outside. A guy who's really eager to be sweet is like a girl on the inside-he's actually nice!"
It seems that girls are so used to being excluded from fraternity-esque male bonding that any sort of extension of friendship is unusual. Not that guys can't have friends who are girls-they do all the time, more so in college than during any other period in their lives. But even having some friends who are girls is different than being actively nice to the female sex as a whole. Such behavior could (oh my lord, can you even imagine?) lead people to believe that a guy was not constantly proving his "guys' guy"-ness and therefore must be gay because he is being nice.
Whoa. So if a guy is acting like a girl just because he is nice, when is a girl acting like a guy?
Bob told me the story of three girls who are considered a) dirty and b) jokes because they keep score of how many guys they hook up with and have a running contest. He admits that his friends do the exact same thing and it's absolutely a double-standard, but "that's just what happens, I guess, when people defy social norms."
Ally agrees: "I think due to the fact that I hook up with random guys more frequently than a lot of other girls, guys don't think of me as a real girl, like I can't date someone just because when I'm not dating someone I go out and hook up rather than whine about being single. Guys don't whine about not having a girlfriend-they go out and get some action! So why can't I do it?"
And what would happen if single guys didn't go out and try to hook up with as many girls as they could? "At best," Bob responds, "they would be called asexual. And if they whined about being single, I'd fine them."
Roger explains that he thinks girls are too passive at Bowdoin. "They complain about guys never asking them out, but why don't they just get out there and do the asking themselves?"
I thought this sounded like a pretty good idea, so I ran it by Stuart, who said, "In theory that would work, but only if the entire female population at Bowdoin did it. As of right now, it is expected that girls wait for guys to ask them out. So if a girl did ask a guy out, chances are, he would say, 'Dude, she really, really ridiculously wants me,' and then not be as nice to her as if he had to chase her down. It's sick, but true."
Good point, Stu.
It seems that, despite our liberal-arts-college-enlightened minds, we Bowdoin students still find ourselves stuck in the rut of social conventions. Why? Because deep down, we are all insecure and afraid of being rejected, so we stick with what's easiest and expected. If things don't go well and we acted the way we were supposed to, it couldn't have been our fault.
Ideally, yes, girls would ask boys out when they liked them and wouldn't have to pretend they wanted to date them if they just merely hooked up. In the same vein, it would be just super if a guy weren't considered less of a guy just because he treated girls nicely regardless of whether or not he was trying to hook up with then. It would also be great if you could charge alcohol to your Polar Points; some things are just not in the foreseeable future.
Of course, to some extent, boys will be boys and girls will be girls, and a large part of that is natural. What's unfortunate is when someone feels otherwise-a girl isn't looking for a relationship and just wants to hook up, or a guy is inclined to be nice to girls whom he's not even attracted to-he or she can't act on those feelings due to fears about doing something unpredicteable.
No one can tell you what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable, but don't you think if we all acted on our instincts and did what we actually wanted to do, regardless of social norms, things might be a lot less awkward and we might all be much happier in the end?
For information on sending a letter to the editor, please click here.