Why I Show No Enthusiasm

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This is a very complex topic. There are too many angles and too many factors that don’t have words yet for me to comprehensively answer a deeply personal question. I could never start a hobby blog because there’s nothing I am passionate enough about to put that much time into not only doing, but writing about, and I couldn’t build up the confidence to assume authority over that matter. The same applies to pop culture and fandom, on any level. I tweeted about that very vaguely and briefly yesterday:

There’s a bit of unintended irony in there, using a Kids in the Hall joke that’s at least 20 years old by now, but Twitter is so casual and KitH, as sketch comedy, is such an easy medium to absorb and enjoy with other people. It’s also the same five men, and a five-season TV show that doesn’t give enough room to argue over which period or cast members are better.

I don’t like getting in conversations about tastes in popular culture because there’s a big chance that whoever wants to talk about it will know more. Fandom is competitive. It’s defensive. It’s idol worship. If I don’t go to the same levels of dedication that other people do, I’m so proudly defeated by the other person. And if I do match the level of enthusiasm and have something special in common with somebody, if that somebody is a heterosexual man there is a risk of things getting dark through mixed signals – assuming that me liking something means I’ll like other people who like it, and if I’m passionate about the thing that I like I will be passionate about the other people who like it. While most people aren’t like this, the ones who are can potentially get very dangerous.

A man killed several people last night after posting a video on YouTube about women not liking him even though he’s a “nice guy”. It’s not a stretch to see the embedded logic in here: because he’s nice, he deserves the women he wants. Niceness can be replaced with common interests here in the minds of many men who are taught to persistently pursue women they think should be theirs because what they think is right. That mindset is very compatible with people who are passionate fans of things – and this can be seen in places like geek subcultures creating unsafe environments for women and the “fake geek girls” source of misogyny. That’s what “nice guy” backlashes are – misogyny.

It’s a dangerous way of thinking and a common one. In male-dominated interests like sports or music genres or comic books or video games, the interest in the woman can be based on parts of her personality rather than her sex or sexuality alone, and men think that validates their pursuit. Men think that makes them “nice guys” because they like the woman for who she is rather than her body. But women are not merely their interests, nor the sum of their interests, and sharing interests does not make a man qualified to be her partner. Yesterday evening, when the weather was beautiful and the sun was still up, I went outside and lied on a blanket to read a book. Men passed by me and asked me what I was reading. One started conversation saying he couldn’t help but be curious about the book I had in my hand. Fortunately that conversation didn’t last long (as clearly I was busy with that reading) and none of the interactions amounted to further harassment…but if I were reading something in popular culture that had dedicated fandom rather than a short book transcribed from a 1990 Massey Lecture, I could’ve been in greater danger.

There is a rabbit hole we could go down here. It’s clearly not this simple; most men don’t assume common interests give them an entitlement to women, and if it does spark an attraction they can take being turned down like reasonable people. But it’s not surprising behaviour for a significant portion of heterosexual men to engage in. It’s a stereotype that is tolerated, a version of masculinity that’s accepted at the cost of women’s safety. I don’t want to interact with men on the basis of something they can measure, because they can use those measurements against me somehow. They can use those interests as a tool of legitimizing harassment, and of justifying misogyny under the name of Men’s Rights. Men do not have the right to engage in anything with me. They do not have any rights to rewards from trying to be “nice”. Niceness isn’t supposed to have ulterior motives. “Nice guys” do.

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