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27.6.04

Bad Judgement

While I'm posting about Hugo Schwyzer, I should jot myself a note about another topic that he writes about often -- the barriers to emotional intimacy between men. As someone who thinks of himself as getting along better with women than men*, the issue hits close to home. Schwyzer's theory is that the problem is a fear of judgement. Men hold other men accountable in a way that women don't, and so difficulty being intimate with other men is a defense mechanism against being judged.

I think there's some truth to that, but in my case -- and I very much doubt I speak for all men in my situation -- it's a bit more complicated. The reason I feared** being judged by other men is that I objected to the likely criteria of that judgement. It's not that I didn't want to be held responsible, it's that I didn't want to be held to what I saw as the typical male standard of responsibility. To put it in terms of crude stereotypes, the prospect of a mostly-male social circle raises the specter of being expected to leer at girls who meet a socially-defined beauty standard, being expected to demonstrate knowledge of and interest in professional sports, etc. Women, on the other hand, are less likely to enforce this sort of undesirable machismo. They may judge me for being rude or making stupid mistakes, but those are judgements I find legitimate. (Indeed, if I were looking for a tough-love judgement, the person who springs to mind as the best source in my current social circle is a woman.) Similarly, I tended to be more at ease around older men, because I percieved them as having a better, more mature set of criteria (and a positive judgement from, say, a pastor or a scoutmaster could vindicate me from negative judgements by peers). My gut feelings obviously overestimated the degree to which my male peers would judge me by stereotypically macho criteria, but the feeling has been with me.

*Thinking back, though, it turns out that my social circle has only been predominantly female at Clark and on the Brunching Board -- elsewhere it's been even or predominantly male. Then again, I've tended to be more emotionally distant than average from my friends of both genders.

**I speak in the past tense because, despite the fact that my social circle is more female than ever, the feelings I'm describing were strongest back in high school.

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