Meet Your Next Bad Date: The Intellectual Man-Child


The intellectual Man-Child, a species all too familiar to those who work in publishing, study the humanities, or frequent literary panels and their (often more taxing) after parties, is that “nice guy from your grad-school program who tries to cover up his hurt feelings by concocting a general theory that explains why he never got a text after his one-night stand.” Was reading that sentence more satisfying than smashing a glass of wine against the wall? Read on.

Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern’s Tiqqun takedown, entitled “Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child,” is worth a read (as is The New Inquiry‘s entire family planning issue), even if you don’t agree that the French journal of radical philosophy employs the same rhetorical strategy as Daniel Tosh — and even if you don’t know or care what Tiqqun is.

The writers posit that the hipster and the douchebag are subspecies of the genus Man-Child (We’d humbly like to submit the “Nice Guy” for consideration, as well). But these Man-Children are much more highbrow than your run-of-the-mill bro or tortured MRA, which is why they get away with sexist bullshit by sneaking it in during a monologue on Kant’s Golden Rule or what have you. (OK, maybe you should suspect it then.) “Why are so many ­thoughtful people ready to accept that a layer of irony suffices to turns hateful language into the basis of a sound critique?” the writers wonder:

When we look at the comment sections where men fantasize about violating and decapitating female bloggers, or ­OkCupid diaries where they rant about dates who spurned their sexual advances, we recognize immediately that the Nice Guy doth protest too much. Typos make it easy to call a sadsack sociopath a sociopath. But we imagine that our male colleagues at cultural institutions are aware of how women have been exploited historically.
So when one asks whether we would like to co-author a paper, undertaking all the translation for it because he does not “do languages,” we try to shake it off. He cannot ­really imagine that we spent years of our adult lives mastering foreign words and grammar just so we could do the tedious housework of gathering sources while he takes credit for the conceptual heavy lifting. (Even his verb choice—“do”—makes it sound like this was a hobby, like tourism, as if we just happened to get off on playing with textbooks.) When the co-organizer of an exhibition calls to ask, on a few hours notice, whether he can borrow sheets for the futon on which he volunteered weeks ago to put up a visiting artist—it was just coincidence that he called us and not Patrick or Andrew, right? We want to believe this. And yet, we look at the female faculty who seem to participate in every committee and conference and supervise over half the dissertations in their departments, and we feel afraid.

I asked a few friends to tell me about times they were shocked by their male contemporaries’ casual misogyny; most said they had so many stories that they all blurred together. There was the time a student in a Ulysses seminar insinuated that the chapter written from a woman’s point of view was “obviously” less of a “reality” than the male-dominated chapters. There’s Elissa Bassist’s story about a male student in her graduate-level creative writing class who, in a workshop critique for a piece she submitted about sexual violence, told her she should invent a new phrase for her experience, like “Diet Rape,” “Caffeine-Free Rape,” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rape.” There’s the Ivy Leaguer who wanted to play “devil’s advocate” with me regarding Todd Akin’s legitimate rape comments and late-term abortion, and my friend who slept with a guy famous for his “perfect Marxist politics” who slipped out of bed claiming he was on deadline to “write a column on the importance of keeping Marx central to feminist analysis,” then never called her again; he had a girlfriend.

Feeling enraged? Take solace in the essay’s deeply validating zingers (written in parody of Tiqqun’s Theory of the Young-Girl):

The Man-Child tells a racist joke. It is not funny. It is the fact that the Man-Child said something racist that is.
The Man-Child breaks up with you even though the two of you are not in a relationship. He cites his fear of settling down. You don’t want marriage, at least not with him, but he never thought to ask you.
The Man-Child can’t even commit to saying no.
Why are you crying? The Man-Child is just trying to be reasonable. This is his calm voice.

At a recent party, my friend heard a group of male graduates discussing the article; they had all read it, but were afraid to share it online because they felt directly implicated by the article and knew their female colleagues or exes would ridicule them. Go on: we hereby give you permission to subtweet your heart out.


Image via ollyy/Shutterstock.

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