It’s a challenge for every serious writer of fiction: how to write convincing characters of the opposite sex.* Some writers can pull it off, some — even eminent ones — can’t. James Joyce is still getting props for the way he got into Molly Bloom’s dirty, dirty mind; Tom Wolfe was nearly laughed out of the sorority by some critics when he wrote a book from the point of view of a college student named Charlotte Simmons. (And it’s not just men who get accused of not being able to think outside their own gender: an essay in Salon not long ago suggested that Girls creator Lena Dunham “can’t write men.”)
We can add one more name to the long list of male authors who can’t write women: The fellow who calls himself fish_finger on Reddit.
The other day, Mr. Finger posted what he claimed was a true story about some women at his workplace who had been passing around a list of their male colleagues, rated “hot or not” on the customary 1-10 scale, and covered with crude sexual comments about them. The comments about the hottest guys, he wrote,
incited rape and were seriously disturbing. One female forwarded it onto HR and the rest of the department, but no action has been taken. HR have said it was just a joke and should be forgotten.
So far, it sounds unlikely, but it’s at least within the realm of the possible, allowing for a bit of the typical Men’s Rights exaggeration.
The trouble came when someone asked Mr. Finger what the comments were like, and he replied with this:
Yeah, I think it’s pretty safe to say that no woman in the history of the universe has ever uttered, or set down on paper, either the first or third comment in that list. I’m pretty sure women don’t sneak around in the alleys behind the houses of handsome dudes with turkey basters in hand, rifling through the trash in hopes of finding discarded condoms with still-viable sperm swimming around inside of them.
These aren’t comments from actual women. These are Men’s Rights myths come to life.
Naturally, the folks in r/againstmensrights are having a field day with this one. And while most of those in r/mensrights are taking Mr. Fingers completely seriously — his post got nearly 700 upvotes, and the most heavily upvoted responses to these allegedly real comments urge him to take the company to court — there are even some there who can see it’s a fake.
Still, Mr. Finger doesn’t seem like a typical troll. His account is four months old, and he seems to spend most of his time on Reddit talking with utmost sincerity about pet rats.
But he has posted previous comments in r/mensrights about his workplace that have the same air of unreality about them. In one, he claimed to have gotten in trouble “for not being courteous to a females colleagues request that only females sit next to her and men must not be within 10m [of] her desk.”
He got 86 upvotes for that one. How many offices are big enough to make this even possible?
As best as I can figure it, Mr. Finger is both a sincere rat lover and a sincere Men’s Rightser; it’s just that he apparently thinks the best way to advance Men’s Rights is to tell tall tales about men being oppressed.
That, in itself, is not all that surprising; the Men’s Rights movement is built on imaginary oppression.
But what is a little more surprising is how willing other MRAs are to accept the completely unbelievable comments he claims are from the women in his office as real. Are they really that out of tune with how women actually think?
Do they have so little empathy and understanding that they actually think the women sitting next to them at work not only look at men as little more than walking repositories of genetic material — but that they would rather steal their sperm from the garbage than have sex with them? That they think these women think of sex in terms of “engulfing” men’s penises?
Apparently for a lot of Men’s Rightsers the answer is yes.
*Gender is obviously more complicated than the traditional gender binary; I am talking here mostly about cis men and women trying to write from the point of view of cis women and men on the opposite side of the binary.