Instapundit is very interested in Norah Vincent’s “Self-Made Man”, a “Black Like Me” examination of lives of contemporary males. He links to a New York Times review. I found one section of the review rather revealing.
“As a woman,” she writes, “you couldn’t walk down those streets invisibly. You were an object of desire or at least semiprurient interest to the men who waited there, even if you weren’t pretty.” But in her makeshift man drag, she found that the same stoop-sitters and bodega loiterers didn’t stare at her. “On the contrary,” she says, “when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back. It was astounding, the difference, the respect they showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring.”
I find it very revealing that Norah Vincent interprets being ignored as a token of respect.
I can see how an attractive woman used to being scoped out continuously in public would find the sudden lack of such attention pleasant, but I don’t think males enjoys the very common experience of being socially invisible. It is difficult to think of any other context in which being ignored is considered a sign of respect.
I think that in public situations heterosexual males rapidly evaluate each other to see if the other possesses any kind of “threat” (usually status based in this day and age), and if no threat is perceived the other male just drops off the radar and gets ignored. With women, the situation is only slightly different. Whereas men play a numbers game and express at least some interest in any female, women play a quality game will ignore any male who doesn’t pass their minimal standards. The combination of these effects means that low-status males are simply ignored by the vast number of people they pass casually by.
A psychologist friend of mine once described this as “anonymous hell.” He pointed out that if you are a single man, older than 25, not too good looking and with no money, most women don’t look at you and most men just reflexively ignore you. He said that some of these guys might go for weeks or even months without physically touching another human being.
I think a lot of aggressive behavior springs from just a basic need to attract some attention. A quick way to attract attention is to behave aggressively, either by actual acts or by dressing and adopting the affect of someone perceived as aggressive. Being looked at as a potential source of trouble is better than not being looked at all.
I have a feeling that Vincent’s work will be more revealing of the attitudes and biases of Vincent’s intellectual subculture than of the experiences of modern men.