Having just read the amazing Holly Pervocracy’s review of Cosmo’s ‘Great Women’s Survey’ (summary: “this isn’t really “The Great Female Survey.” This is “The Great Female Survey About Males.” Activities that a woman might engage in that don’t include men (or at least don’t include sex/romance with men) don’t get much of a look in”) I decided to scurry over to the opposite ‘Great Men’s Survey’ to deconstruct fastidiously the appalling sexism and heterosexism within.
Q1. Who would make a better King?
Buh? Where’s my manly man things? Well, I suppose ruling the country is a manly man thing. There must be more later.
Q2. Which gender is winning?
It’s not a competition
This question… this question is phrased so that gender egalitarians can answer it, right? In fact, it’s phrased preferentially towards their answer. I mean, the question, in the way it’s written, doesn’t even make sense. The idea of a gender of people ‘winning’ is surely a parody of the ‘gender war’? It makes it laughable.
Q3. How should the UK reboot the economy.
Now you’re just taking the piss. ‘Is the UK still a great global power?’ ‘Should we increase our nuclear power?’ ‘When is political assassination justified?’ Really? If you genuinely had 43 questions which you could ask all men, but only men (and not, say, people), these would be it? Not, for example, ‘Do you think men should be the highest earners in a family’, ‘So, women, eh?’, ‘In ten words or less, what’s it like to have a penis?’ (Yes, all questions hetero- and cis- sexist. But the survey made me answer ‘rather not say’ for my sexuality, I don’t think they care too much).
So we get to the sexism, by and by (and by ‘the sexism’, I mean, assuming that men are men and women are women, rather than assuming that women are women and men are people, which is all over this, but doesn’t show up unless you’ve read the women’s quiz). One question asks how you work out, and somehow fails to mention dance/athletics. It doesn’t really go into the idea of ‘working out’ for pleasure, it seems like just a gruelling task men have to do. (And one of the options is ‘Personal Trainer.’ The way I understood it, personal trainers make you do at least one of the other things, they aren’t a workout option all on their own. Unless I’m VERY wrong on the functions of a personal trainer.)
(I would have loved, parenthetically, to see this question:
Q13. Which type of working out do you perform most regularly?
Maths is a man thing, right?)
A lot of the questions are just lazy. For example:
Q43. Have David Cameron and Nick Clegg changed life in the UK?
So to acknowledge that Cameron is generally bad for our health, I’d have to pretend to believe that Nick Clegg has any power and influence? My answers for the two are really not the same.
Q20. Who should have been cut some slack by the media for his sexual transgressions?
List of celebrities I have vaguely heard of
None of the above. They all got what they deserved.
This is one of several questions in the survey where the only-tick-one-box system doesn’t work at all. It might work slightly better if there was an option for ‘All of them, I think the press has no particular right to judge people for their private sexual decisions, however foolish they are’ or ‘I have no idea what these men did. The only celebrity gossip I hear is the stuff that percolates down to feminist blogs.’ And, yes, this question assumes and, in assuming, will likely seem to prove, that men are harshly judgemental of those who stray outside agreed sexual behaviour, or that they are sympathetic towards those who cheat. I think what reading about the Weiner ‘scandal’ taught me is that any interaction is complicated and multifaceted. What people saw as the ‘crucial’ thing about Weinergate was always different, for some, it was that his lying to the public, for others, it was the relevance to his job, for others, it was the lack of the hypocrisy that you get when an anti-gay politician gets caught in flagrante, for others, it was that the images were foisted on people who didn’t ask for them. It’d be easy, I expect, to make a strong case why the ‘winner’ of this poll was different from the others and assume that this is what the poll ‘proves’, when he was actually voted in for a completely different reason. In the same way that I answered ‘Charlie Sheen’ for ‘Q36. Of the choices below, which male public figure are you most tired of hearing about?’, and they’ll probably assume that my reasons for being tired of hearing about him are the same as theirs, and not, say ‘It depresses me that our media can have such mawkish glee in the recovery attempts of a drug-addicted and mentally ill man simply because he’s famous.’
There are about 2 more questions which could be argued to be specifically about men. One (and I’m including this because it would never be in the woman’s version) is:
Q33. What would you rather have?
To misquote JRRT: “That’s cheating, you snook two questions in at once.” The question makes little more sense than ‘Would you like a car, a lollypop, both, or neither?’
Finally: Q34. Which of the following best defines a “Real Man” in 2011?
Being a great leader and motivator.
Being charismatic and popular.
Being a great seducer and/or lover.
Being a great father and husband who takes care of his family.
Having manly skills, like the ability to fix things.
None of the above.
Guess which I picked? Annoyingly, this question is the heart of the ‘Tell us your sexist views now! Wait, there isn’t an option if you don’t have any? Stop whining! What sort of man are you?’ which so dominates the Great Women’s Survey. And here, it’s just two questions, both of which have options the non-gender essentialist can tick without remorse. As Holly said about the ‘sluts and whores’ question, there is no option for ‘That word you used is not a real word! Just so you know…’ but it’s not… bad.
So what takes the place of all these questions about how gender roles are awesome, aren’t they? and how you are currently trying to ensnare your opposite-sex partner? Video games.
Or, more accurately, technology. 18 out of 43 questions, close to half, are about personal gadgets. They’re questions which make me feel more isolated than even the one about how to stimulate the British economy (If I knew that, I’d bloody well be running for Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
There is a lot of repetition. Such as ‘Which screen do you spend most time behind, not at work’ and ‘When not at work, which gadget do you most use,’ both of which have exactly the same answers. There is the casual assumption that everyone has a smart phone (I’m sorry if I prize go-anywhere rigidity and the ability to last for two weeks without mains electricity. My lifestyle needs clearly aren’t sophisticated enough for you. Wait until the apocalypse. I have an app for that.)
There is a question about who you most regularly play video games with, including an option on ‘friends, in person’, and then the next question asks whether you play games on: MY computer, MY console, MY handheld gaming device. Apparently purely social gamers like me who occasionally use other people’s consoles or watch as they play don’t exist. Or they’re all women. Or something.
So this is the Great Binary Survey, folks. Women like men. Men like computers. And also have opinions about the world, including a precise knowledge of exactly how the economy works. I feel aggrieved, as a man, that my survey was far less rebukable than the Woman one. Men like important things, like politics, and cool things, like computers. I suppose if men like important things, that makes men important, which therefore means women also like important things. Nifty.
We’re just generally assumed to be people. And people who might be able to spot a really bad or misleading survey, at that.
(yes, this post was NOTHING to do with asexuality. At all! The reason is simple: I am very self-indulgent. Get used to it)
EDIT: This post now has a PART TWO. Somehow.