The XX Factor

Girls Have Cooties, Gimme A Sitcom

When I first read this item at Jezebel about a book called Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid getting made into a sitcom pilot, I’ll confess that it didn’t quite register what they were saying. On some level, I assumed that the title they gave was some hyperbolic satire of the title of the actual book, and that the actual book must have a slightly more sane-sounding title. But then I clicked the link and discovered that no, it was in fact possible that a book titled Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid was not only published, but popular enough to get a sitcom pilot.

To make things even worse, it appears that this book is a self-help manual , and not even a work of fiction or maybe even comedy, the natural narratives for sitcom development. (Though it does try—and from what I could tell from the excerpt linked, fails—to be funny.) This makes it at least the second self-help manual out there to be turned into narrative fiction, the first being the ill-advised movie version of He’s Just Not That Into You .

Reading this excerpt provided , the immediate question that pops into my mind is, well, “I need an antacid to deal with this.” But after that, I had to ask why so many people get pleasure out of pushing this view of men as morons and women as shrews. It’s a completely nonsensical view of gender relations, for a simple reason: If men and women are really as awful as they imply, then why bother giving advice on how to cope with it and live together? Wouldn’t it be more sensible—if our differences are so intractable that nothing but a lifelong battle of daily struggle will make them survivable—just to go our separate ways? We could still have sex, you know. It’s still legal to sleep with someone you aren’t married to or living with. Books like these have a big hole in their premise. They argue that men and women are completely opposite, that they’re natural enemies, and that they need to struggle to live together, but they never explain why . It can’t be that it’s that we’ve always done it that way. We’ve been able to stop washing our clothes by hand and crapping in the bushes, so surely we could stop living together, if it’s that miserable. It’s certainly a better solution than making really awful sitcoms as a coping mechanism.

Not that I’m saying that men and women shouldn’t live together. I have my argument for why I, as a straight woman, should live with a man: Because actually, I like him. I don’t think he’s stupid, and I’m not being driven mad slowly through hatred for his maleness. Of course, he’s not one to pretend that he’s biologically incapable of treating women like they’re human beings. Not hating someone makes it much easier to justify living with them.

Like all books of this sort, the ideological agenda of arguing that sexism is here to stay is never far from the surface. I quote:

But modern male stupidity as it applies specifically to women is far more interesting and relevant to our purposes. It actually has its roots in the playgrounds of our youth. It was there that we first became aware of girls. It was also there that we first realized that we liked these strange creatures. They made us feel funny. But good funny. A kind of warm and gushy funny. Of course in those early years it wasn’t acceptable to talk about these new feelings with our peers for fear we’d get rightly harangued about the dangers of cooties. But still, we wanted this five-year-old ponytailed goddess to know that we had a thing for her. So what did we do?


Or pushed her into the mud and laughed at her. (I’m so sorry, Susan Freyberg.)

And here our stupidity begins.

But how could it be any other way? We never had a chance. The hit and the shove (and once again, I apologize, Susie) were the only ways we knew to express ourselves! They were our way of saying, “Hey, I know it’s not cool for us to be hanging out ‘cause of the whole cooties thing, but I dig you.”

I don’t disagree that a lot of male mistreatment of women is due to the struggle between their desires for women and their absorption of the belief that women are inferiors with disgusting bodies, but what caught my eyes was the idea that it has to be this way . Why do men have to loathe women? Why do boys have to loath girls? Wouldn’t it be easier if they just liked them? Or is it because the authors are suggesting that girls really do have cooties, and therefore male disgust is inevitable? I’m guessing yes, which is why their whole act about blaming men first for this state of affairs is so disingenuous.