The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

On Adulthood And Gender

Posted by Mel Campbell on February 14, 2009

I have been pondering the difference between boys and men and between girls and women. I don’t know if I am a girl, a woman, or Britney Spears. But there have been shifts in what adulthood really means – not just the traditional milestones of acquiring houses and babies, or losing interest in hedonism, but “putting away childish things”. So many people are adults on their birth certificates but not in the way they conduct their lives.

There’s also been a fair bit of discussion online recently about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (never Manic Pixie Dream Woman). She is a stock character who whose free-spirited whimsy and excellent taste in indie culture awaken in the sensitive but emotionally constipated hero a new lust for life. She has no inner life of her own, and seems to exist purely to interact with the male protagonist. Cases in point: Elizabethtown, Garden State, Along Came Polly, Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Are there Manic Pixie Dream Boys (who are not gay)? Back in 2004 we met the whimpster – that sensitive, boyish hipster who is passive-aggressive in a relationship, draining his girlfriend of emotional energy, yet when she finally gets sick of trying to ‘fix’ him and leaves, he’s shocked and devastated, as if he never saw it coming.

More recently, Jezebel coined the term new bromantic for the more charming and masculine but still sensitive and fragile dude (eg Forgetting Sarah Marshall) who yearns for a woman to believe in him.

It’s not an especially original thought, but I can’t help feeling resentful that men are repelled by a woman with needs and insecurities, whereas women are not only expected to put up with neediness in a man but also to actively seek it out. Women quickly learn that they must hide their needs and insecurities from men, lest they be branded ‘neurotic’, ‘obsessive’ or ‘high-maintenance’.

Aren’t neediness and insecurity childish traits? Surely a key marker of adulthood is a certainty about what you want and your ability to get it for yourself, rather than a reliance on someone else, a parent-figure, to get it for you?

Happy Corporate Love Day, all. Buy yourself some flowers. Take yourself out to dinner. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you you’re special and cherished; know it in your own heart.

4 Responses to “On Adulthood And Gender”

  1. Deborah said

    Happy Corporate Love Day, all. Buy yourself some flowers. Take yourself out to dinner. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you you’re special and cherished; know it in your own heart.

    I love flowers, and I should just buy them for myself more often. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to treat myself.

    (Not that I have any quibbles with the man in my life. He often buys me chocolate – just a small bar for a treat – but he’s never been big on flowers. Oh well.)

  2. Sophia said

    Haha that’s great – “manic pixie dream girl”. And they so often exist in movies that are marketed as date movies, or quasi-indie chick flicks. Yet when you look at them closely, the female character is ‘kooky’ and ‘interesting’ yet ultimately two dimensional character – a beautiful, elaborate sketch. Impossible to understand or empathise with, but easy to ‘enjoy’. We get to see the inner tormoil/decision-making/emotions of the man, who is therefore a fully fleshed out human being, who the audience can then empathise with.

  3. Kate M said

    What a refreshing read. I’m constantly feeling as though I need to reign myself in emotionally and intellectually around men *ahem* I mean boys who are incapable of dealing with my needs/ideas/insecurities/fears/desires.

  4. Steven said

    Isn’t it a question of degrees though?

    Perhaps we’re both looking from our own point of view and the truth lies in between – but from my POV the threshold level of neediness/insecurity/fragility that wouldn’t be considered a negative is much higher than for ‘guys’ cause, well ‘real men dont do X,Y,Z’ (read in an appropriately gruff and manly sounding voice)

    Personally I’d say there is a huge difference between displaying vulnerability and insecurities, and getting lumped in the “high maintenance neurotic” basket.

    To oversimplify (and yes, its a double standard), but I don’t think you’d see many raised eyebrows at a girl doing that ‘dancy thing’ on a chair because a mouse or big spider was on the floor running around, but what if the potential next ‘man-in-your-life’ was doing same?

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