As I started reading David Wong’s article “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women”, I found myself startled by the (male) author’s willingness to identify and discredit certain misogynist attitudes and behaviors. Wow, what a thoughtful, self-reflective writer, one might be tempted to think. Then I got to the paragraph where he identifies himself as the author of John Dies at the End, and everything started making more sense. I started thinking over Wong’s novel again, this time with his article in mind.
In John Dies at the End, Wong (which is the author’s pen name, by the way) conforms almost exactly to what he says are five misogynist concepts that society has ingrained into “modern men”: #5, Wong (also the name of the protagonist of JDatE) not only gets “the girl”, but he gets a few, even though he, himself, admits that he’s basically a “loser” and demonstrates childish self-entitlement about sex throughout the novel, sadly without irony. #4, all the female characters in the novel are ancillary, and even those which qualify as main characters serve basically the same function that “hot babes who can also wield a sword” serve in video games like the Final Fantasy series. Once in a while a female character in the story will make some comment about how she doesn’t like being objectified or this and that, but this is for comedic purposes, obviously, as she is dismissed and then– you guessed it– sexually objectified. Wong clearly wrote this for what he thought would be an all-male audience; I probably would have ended up a devoted fan had the story not been so cholk-full of predictable, boring sexism. *yawn* Anyway, #3, this one sort of goes hand-in-hand with #4 in that during crucial moments in the action of JDatE, Wong’s sex drive kicks in and he makes random sexual comments even when he and his friends are in imminent peril. If Wong’s real goal was to reinforce every possible stereotype of how “guys think with their dicks”, he did an excellent job. #2, it seems to me that the entire purpose of both the author’s writing this noveland the protagonist’s journey in the story was to regain some kind of “lost” or “diminished” manhood. The character Wong at times expounds on ways he’s been emasculated by society (or more specifically by “girls”) in a very Chuch Palahniuk-esque way; what better way to regain one’s masculinity than by chasing monsters and getting the girl. Or several. And that plays nicely into #1, the powerlessness Wong ultimately claims the Modern Man feels, and which the protagonists of his story experience again and again in the course of the novel– but eventually overcome. You know, the whole “conquering your fears” motif. I haven’t read the sequel. (Notice I didn’t say “yet”.)
Back to the article, itself, specifically #3. I think Wong’s insights into the demonization of women as penile conspirators are quite poignant. It’s the philosophy underlying the classic victim-blaming strategies of rapists who say “she was asking for it” (i.e. “my penis made me do it”?), and which also bolsters arguments I have heard men close to me put forth: “If she didn’t always talk back/defend her ideas, I wouldn’t have to yell at her, call her names, and threaten to leave her.” (In that sense, #3 also goes hand-in-hand with the whole “endangered manhood” argument of #2.) So men hate women for being merely a pair of boobs, but when those boobs suddenly grow lips which voice ideas men hate that even more. Unfortunately, Wong lays all this out as if he’s “telling it like it is”. He, like misguided pseudofeminists who seek to subordinate the male gender on the basis of female moral superiority, reduces men to an organ– and it isn’t their brain. (Well, he does cite that supposedly comedic line which calls the penis a man’s “little brain”.) Perhaps he’s just basing this (as he did the entire JDatE novel) on his personal gendered experience, but at the end of the day all he’s doing is reinforcing ugly stereotypes. Worse, he seems to be using them as a justification, too.
I’ll skip to #1. It’s more reducing-men-to-penises, but he also reduces women to their vaginas. Well, first he reduces them to food, which is nothing new. In this analogy, sex-starved men perceive all women as literal pieces of meat. Again, Wong doesn’t say, “This is messed up,” or “Men are more than their dicks,” or “We should reject this view of sexuality that portrays women as fuck objects”, etc. More or less he seems to accept it. I did appreciate his assessment of George R.R. Martin’s writing of female characters (wherein their breasts are the sum of their parts), but if he really thought this was messed up or wrong, why would he repeat the pattern in his own novel? Oh, because he feels a distinct self-entitlement to portray the stereotypical male fantasy because it’s his book? Classic Nice Guy™.
The final blow is when he (without bothering to connect this idea to the former except to say “Do you see what I’m getting at?” as if it should be self-evident) insults our intelligence by stating that all of civilization was created “with [women] in mind”. Or, more accurately, with fucking women in mind.
See, the sad thing is that all of this is intended to be funny and ironic. But in that Wong fails, because through his writing he embodies the kind of misogyny he’s describing. Sorry, Wong, but I just don’t find sexual objectification all that amusing (which is maybe why my eyes started to glaze over during the second half of JDatE, in particular), and the only irony is that maybe on some level you see this article as actually supportive of women being treated like human beings while it excuses men from doing the opposite of that.