Man to Man


This weekend I went clay pigeon shooting for the first time.

This is when you go to a place where you’re the only brown person and small machines shoot clay discs into the air and you try to shoot them with a shotgun.

I was a baby about it for several reasons: I am not a fan of hunter/gun culture. I associate it with the Tea Party. I assume that accidents will definitely happen and they will happen to me.

Unfortunately I did not much enjoy the shooting (the kickback was too jarring) but that is a story for another time.

This is a story about a different thing. Something I call Man to Man (M2M).

Examples of M2M:

1) A woman is walking down the street with Man A. Man B approaches the two to ask for directions. Man B speaks only to Man A, ignoring the woman.

2) A woman enters a store with Man A. The store clerk (Man B) approaches and asks if he may be of assistance. He speaks only to Man A, ignoring the woman.

3) I go clay pigeon shooting with my man friend. The white, working class, 17 year old lad whose job it is to show us the ropes, speaks only to the (white) man friend, never speaking to me.

You get the picture.

Every woman has experienced M2M. It’s old news. We’re not taken seriously, we know. I must have avoided M2M for some time however, as I was surprised to meet it again at the gun club (…though where else would you meet it if not the gun club?)

This strapping young 17 year old thing was a nice enough fellow with the pleasant demeanor usually associated with much less attractive high school boys. Few of us can escape the charm of good looking people with an incongruous lack of confidence, and perhaps this is one reason I was able to consider the situation with an uncharacteristic lack of hostility.

The instructor spoke only to my male companion.

He did say one or two words to me. He showed me how to load the gun so I wouldn’t die etc. But when it came to giving helpful tips or information on the game he addressed my friend. Even when I had the gun aimed and ready to shoot, he turned and gave shooting tips to my friend. This was especially ridiculous but I did nothing to correct him. He didn’t see me and so I let myself be unseen.

It occurred to me that this boy could very likely go through his entire life without having anyone bring this habit of his to his attention. I am making some grand assumptions about his friends and family here, but consider this: My male companion, a highly educated, upper middle class, white liberal male, was not himself aware of  M2M’s prevalence until he became involved in activism post college.

And what role did race play in my invisibility? It most definitely played some part. I am sure he thought I was Asian. An Asian-American not an Asian immigrant and I’m certain he did not think I was black. How different would his interaction with me have been depending on how he perceived my ethnicity?

Once a person has decided how they’re going to interact with you, it can be difficult to change. Changing it demands a degree of aggression. The constant fight for visibility is exhausting. Sometimes we don’t want to deal with it and sometimes we just don’t care. In this case, I was more amused than angered. But what the hell does that mean? The simplest answer is that it’s easier to feel amusement than anger. But I also I cut him some slack because of his youth and aforementioned pleasantness. I also realize only now that I felt some power over him because of our age difference and so did not feel threatened. If he had been an older white male I most likely would have asserted myself and attempted to change the interaction, forcing him to see me the way I wanted to be seen. I didn’t do that with this boy however. I saw what was happening and I sat back and let it happen. I didn’t care and I’m bothered by that. Perhaps I felt I could afford to have such an attitude since the men I usually interact with on a daily basis are somewhat aware of gender imbalances. But what a stupid false sense of comfort.

You see, when you live in a liberal state and surround yourself with “progressive” types, even those with the most cynical and mistrusting nature (like this moi) can temporarily forget that this bullshit happens all the time.

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33 Comments on Man to Man

  1. Hmmmm.

    I’ve been guilty of this, I guess.

    My reason for doing so has been so as to not “disrespect” the male, cause I usually tend to assume that the male and female are “together”, not just together.

    I’ve never done it assuming that the male was “in charge” of the situation or anything.

    Kind of a warped courtesy thing.

  2. ihsanamin on 13 April 2010
  3. you’re the third dude to say this same thing in 20 minutes! But why is respecting the male and his ‘territory’ more important than respecting the female as an individual?

  4. admin on 13 April 2010
  5. I used to get upset over this, too. Like every day of my life.

    Then I realized that men who resent or hate or ignore women are afraid of them. That’s just it. The need to deliberately exert power over another person betrays their big secret that they have none.

    Not your problem.

    Also, the most jarring response you can have to that is smile knowingly. It really shakes ’em.

  6. lilah on 13 April 2010
  7. to not address a female in order to avoid disrespecting the male accompanying her, has its basis in the presumed proprietary rights of males over females.

    correspondingly, this argument points to a belief that females have less (or lack) agency in relation to males.

  8. danielle on 14 April 2010
  9. […] Man to Man | This Moi "And what role did race play in my invisibility? It most definitely played some part. I am sure he thought I was Asian. An Asian-American not an Asian immigrant and I’m certain he did not think I was black. How different would his interaction with me have been depending on how he perceived my ethnicity?" (tags: via:kartina maleprivilege asianamerican womenofcolour) […]

  10. links for 2010-04-15 | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture on 15 April 2010
  11. I see people do this unconsciously all the time, I’m male and my female teachers always do this.
    When i’m walking with female friends women only ask them for directions, if i’m alone they keep their distance.
    And when we enter stores it varies depending on age, race, and of course the type of store.

  12. firefly on 15 April 2010
  13. I’ve had this happen a lot when I am with my female friends and even with my MOM. When my mom was looking at cars the sales man spent a huge chunk of time when he first walked up talking to me. Once I realized that he was talking to the 17 year old me over my 47 year old mom about the car SHE was looking to get, I turned to my mom and gave her a look that hopefully told him that she was in charge and the one making the decision.

    It is really annoying to go somewhere with a female friend because they are about to spend their money on something they took the time to research and pick out, and then the salesman assumes that I’m paying and making the decision. I try to let the salesmen know that it’s my friends decision and money by saying something to my friend. Sometimes it actually works and the guys will suddenly acknowledge them.

    I’ve also had this happen when I’m with my white male friends (I’m multiracial, I look Latin/Asian with an afro). People think they are the ones looking at the tech and gadgets. And then my friends start looking over at me because the sales man is trying to talk them into something more expensive than what I want.

    Once I say that I want the product with _____ storage, color, shutter speed, the salesmen’s heads whip around to look at me. People are so disrespectful sometimes.

    Sorry for your unpleasant experience.

  14. Myles on 15 April 2010
  15. the ironic thing is that he could just as easily been one of those boys who, instead of fearing and ignoring you and mostly talking to the man who was with you, spent the entire time
    overexplaining everything to you, coddling you, and almost completely ignoring your man friend
    (who he already assumed to be competent). they think ladies need to be (over)protected, and coddled ’cause they can’t handle guns and machinery. it doesn’t matter whether he’s the type of boy who ignores you because you’re a woman or assumes you need coddling because you’re a woman, he is still just trying to impress another male.
    in america, manhood is defined by boys.
    oh, and italy too.

    it’s very sad that boys like this have simply never had a real FRIENDSHIP with a woman. maybe, just maybe, all this kid needs is to have an actual healthy relationship with a female. i try to give boys like this the benefit of the doubt and think that if they could just start to see women as normal humans like themselves, that they would begin growing up.

  16. Jay on 16 April 2010
  17. I think you may be interpreting M2M incorrectly. I do it regularly when I get the sense from a woman’s demeanor or body language that she is less open to conversation than the male. Likewise, I do M2W if I get the sense that the woman is more open than the man. In other words, it is possible that you are sending signals to the speaker which, while not projecting hostility, might project a certain closed-offness. Additionally, I find that in conversations between men and women there is often the possibility of an ulterior motive and principally addressing the man can be a way of signalling to the woman “i’m not trying anything here.”
    Now in your specific example, what about the possibility that 17 year old guy thought you were cute and was simply nervous about talking to you! When I was 17 I found attractive women far more intimidating then hulking angry men. People treat people of different genders differently constantly but the reasons can range from disturbing to benign to commendable.

  18. Willie N on 16 April 2010
  19. These types of situations are always interesting to examine.I had great fun traveling in a majority black foreign country as a black woman with a white male companion (we often played the “who is this salesperson / tour guide/ etc. going to address and why” game.) I think that a number of things are at play including heterosexual gender relations and race and gender dynamics (the man2man that you refer to). As a woman, I make a point to talk primarily to the woman when addressing a couple. Too often, women perceive other women who address “their” men as being flirtatious. I am hyper aware of this, and therefore try to keep things above board as much as possible. Men do the same thing. Your future analysis of the M2M situation will be lacking if you don’t acknowledge this cultural norm.

  20. Monianne on 16 April 2010
  21. I notice M2M a LOT. My boyfriend and I have a bit of household role reversal going on, where he does all the cooking & laundry, and I do anything to do with computers / construction / finances etc. So dealing with salespeople / bank staff etc is a pain, because I have to FORCE people to deal with me. I’m sure they all think I’m an uppity bitch, but I don’t care as long as they do their jobs.

    I normally let M2M go when it’s done by someone who I think is just ignorant / uneducated, as long as it doesn’t affect me. I figure they’re probably being penalised in other ways…

  22. Ally S on 16 April 2010
  23. It’s an evolutinary thing…a guy ignoring a man who is with a woman and speaking directly to the woman rather than the man she is with seems to be trying to make a move on “his” woman. Example: women out jogging alone often get whistled at; when with a man, never.
    moral: lighten up.

  24. fred lapides on 16 April 2010
  25. As a guy, I’d avoid speaking to you directly out of respect for your guy, especially at a gun range. Of course,I would do this after instinctively measuring him in a wierd sort of male way.

    Guys at a gun range are definetly going to be used to other guys who would rather not have you checking out their women. Gun ranges are especially sensitive places. You need to act cautiously at a gun range in every way. Sounds silly maybe, but it’s not … at all.

  26. Joe on 16 April 2010
  27. Just wanted to say that when I go to MANY ‘female oriented’ places with my boyfriend, the girls working there do the exact same stuff to me. They also throw in plenty of “oh, silly boy” jokes if he dare opens his mouth.

    We all do it. I don’t know why you’re singling out guys here when girls are even worse.

  28. Janey on 16 April 2010
  29. Maybe if you weren’t so touchy about stuff more people would talk to you.

  30. Jonathan on 16 April 2010
  31. When I attended college in the late 70s, I was the high scoring member of my school’s rifle team. I was also the only female. In every competitive situation, my presence was not taken seriously until targets were scored, at which point reactions of amusement and/or surprise were the rule. Rarely if ever was I judged on the same footing with other team members, and competitors virtually never engaged me in casual banter as they did with my teammates.

    Similarly, in recent years I have often had issues when dealing with automobile mechanics. In spite of my extensive knowledge of same and my spot-on troubleshooting, my diagnoses are rarely taken seriously until verified by inspection, whereas men’s, no matter how lame, are taken at face value. Thirty years have passed, yet my forays into the heretofore male-dominated worlds of firearms and cars are still perceived as threatening.

    That said, I have also experienced something akin to a reverse scenario… situations where women treat me with conspiratorial familiarity, assuming that I will share their interests in fashion, pregnancy, etc. even though I have no desire to discuss same. I have been told things like “every woman loves babies!” or “all girls like to shop for shoes!” and when I disagree I am treated as a traitor or worse and shunned. Women have ignored my husband, whose interests have often overlapped traditional female pursuits, while engaging me, regardless of my expressed disinterest.

    Sexual stereotyping and assumptions will probably never go away. I think most people engage in same because it is simply easier than treating each individual as unique and unprogrammed until proven otherwise.

  32. kinnakeet on 16 April 2010
  33. I’m not sure what you mean by “female oriented place”, but if a woman addresses the woman first in a lingerie store for example, I don’t have a problem with that.

    The point is, M2M occurs at all times in all places. Not just those that are “male-oriented”

    There is also a major difference between M2M and women addressing the woman first: Women are not in a position of power

  34. admin on 16 April 2010
  35. alot of guys are intimidated by pretty women. poor chap – i think you should go back to that there shootin range and give him a sympathy f*ck..

    oh, and u made metafilter. eek!

  36. king_cnut on 16 April 2010
  37. Perhaps the young man understood that you were simply waiting to be offended. The negativity in your mind appears to be far greater than the actions that led to your umbrage.

  38. old_dude on 16 April 2010
  39. sympathy fuck – probably will

    metafilter – oo jeezuz

  40. admin on 16 April 2010
  41. Your viewpoint is objective, identifying something that does happen between men. Then, you apply a theory that is without context, and the underlying assumption is that men are pigs, this is what a patriarchy does to society, etc.

    Men identify with other men first, similar to the way women identify with women first, because it’s out of respect. If a girl started talking to your boyfriend, you may interpret this as flirting, regardless of real intent. Same thing here.

    You also don’t understand, that while you think men ignore you, all men are constantly checking out women around them, moreso if they are attractive. So the ‘respect’ element is elevated if you’re bangable and walking around with a guy. (You do realize, people have been *murdered* over flirting with someone else’s girlfriend.)

    You’re basically trying to tackle jealousy. Good luck with that.

  42. lee on 16 April 2010
  43. I’m male, and I’ve seen this happen when I am out with my female partner, usually when we’re interacting with a male salesperson on something that is not an obviously ‘female’ topic. Like, if our male electrician comes over to fix something, he’ll default to talking to me if we’re both here.

    We’re in Berkeley, though, and I have definitely not seen this with our garage (a particularly enlightened one, I’d guess) or with our friends and neighbors. Co-workers, too, but we work in areas where most of my co-workers are male, and most of hers are female, so it’s unclear if this is a just a job thing.

  44. social_commentator on 16 April 2010
  45. sorry, in the last para above, I meant to write “I do see the effect with co-workers, but we work …”

  46. social_commentator on 16 April 2010
  47. Sheesh, you don’t get it do you? In all three of your scenarios, addressing the woman directly without first discovering the relationship between Man A and the Woman can, and often does, lead to aggression, conflict and fights.

  48. Justaguy on 16 April 2010
  49. Admin, you argue that w2w is ok and m2m is not because “women are not in a position of power.” let’s assume for the sake of argument that your theory is correct that P2P (powerful) is bad and n2n (not powerful) is fine. let’s look at the 3 examples from your essay. The way i read the example, the person who needs directions is the not powerful one and both you and your male companion are in the position of power because you both (might) have something he needs whereas he has nothing to offer you. In the other two examples, which i see as analogous you both have types of power. The clerk/17 year old is an employee and has the power to enforce the rules and regulations of the establishment. But you are the customer and you have the right to make (reasonable) requests of the employee which he has to obey. To go further, while “the customer is always right” may not apply, since you typically walk into a business planning on following their rules your interaction with the employee will mostly consist of you making requests and him obliging them. In other words, you have more power. Thus even if we assume that p2p is problematic. i don’t see that occuring in your examples. i see n2p.
    To say that misogynistic sexism is present in society is undoubtedly true but i think to assume it is determinative of power constantly and in all situations with both men and women regardless of any other factors is ludicrous.

  50. Willie N on 16 April 2010
  51. and Moi, even if you are right and this m2m power trip is happening on the regular, remember what wise woman say: Sometimes the greatest strength is the willingness to be vulnerable.

  52. Willie N on 16 April 2010
  53. […] have heard from many people in response to yesterday’s Man to Man post (Thanks for all the comments good and bad!! This is […]

  54. Man to Man: A Matter of Respect? | This Moi on 16 April 2010
  55. “Sounds like Dovecote’s spent a lot of time in grad school and very little in relationships.”

    Never been to grad school, I’m working class and extremely poor, always have been. I just happen to have spent a lot of time around both straight people and androgynous/queer people. If I see two people walking down the street who look like they don’t cling to outdated gender roles, I feel comfortable talking to both of them. Why would I want to talk to a heterosexual couple whose relationship is invariably predicated on a hideous tangle of domestic abuse and gender dominance.

  56. Dovecote on 16 April 2010
  57. I might have missed someone else stating this, but most people gravitate to confidence or interest. I am going to assume that your interest level was not being reflected as well as your companion’s. As far as M2M, that happens when it is all men, also. Again, confidence is a magnet. I am a big guy, tats, earrings, and when I travel for work with a group of guys, I am the one our contact always jumps to because to look like I do, I must know my stuff.

  58. Stevicus on 16 April 2010
  59. how about this:
    i (female) go to the store with boyfriend or male friend, pay the guy at the register, and the guy hands the change to the male i am with. this has happened countless times, and it never feels quite right. it could be said that it is just because i am busy gathering the purchased items and my hands are busy for a split second or two. but i’ve worked at a register and i’ve never once given change to someone other than the person who paid me in the first place.
    mentioned it to boyfriend once and he said i was just being overly sensitive. am i?

  60. thealice on 17 April 2010
  61. Because men need so much more help than women do.

  62. Brian on 17 April 2010
  63. The people speak! I agree with the dude who thought the dude thought you were cute and being 17, etc., but the body language thing i’m not so sure about. Like, when this happens to me, my “body language” gets “closed” the second Man A speaks to Man B and ignores female me. Sometimes it just closes as I anticipate that this is about to happen. I wonder how much this “female reticence” is due to the fact that we assume we will not be addressed?

  64. Mary on 20 April 2010
  65. Could care less about M2M/W2W, as I’ll talk to whoever responds first. Women do it, men do it, some unconsciously, some consciously. We all seem to deal. 🙂

    Regarding guns, I as a liberal Democrat, Buddhist, and a vegetarian can say they’re quite fun! I own several with the training to match, including a nice little semi-auto AK-47 that I keep in the closet and have a concealed handgun permit (getting death threats from the local Norte chapter for reporting drug dealing operations in one’s neighborhood tends to make one consider guns a lot more useful).

    The right to arms is perhaps the most liberal and progressive right there is, as it allows women, the aged, GLBT folks, or ethnic minorities to defend themselves from those stronger or more numerous than themselves, even if the attackers are similarly armed.

    I go to my range with Obama/local Democrat stickers on my car or an Obama shirt, and I get the hairy eyeball, at least until they see that I can shoot a 3″ group at 300 yards – then even very hard core Republicans drop the schtick and realize that we both like guns a lot and it’s more fun to talk about guns than politics anyway. 🙂

  66. dingo on 22 April 2010

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