A while back I was listening to an Air-Raid podcast with the lead singer of You Me & Apollo, Brent Cowles. He gave a fairly typical answer to a fairly typical interview question, but it smacked me upside the head with something verging on epiphany.
The question was, “How did you get in to music?”
The answer was, “When I was 14, a friend told me I could impress girls if I was in a band.”
Well, everybody knows that most of the things that have ever been accomplished in the world were done to impress girls. Boys form bands, join football teams, and go off to war to impress girls. Sometimes they would do those things anyway because they like them, but they do them secure in the knowledge that girls will be impressed if they succeed.
I have never once in my entire life been told that excelling at something would impress boys.
The old fashioned advice is to look pretty to attract a man. Be interested in what he’s interested in. Don’t be good at it; just be interested in it so he can tell you all about it.
The feminist advice is do what you love and don’t care what men think. Subtext: you are obligated to sacrifice attractiveness to be successful.
Both of these messages require females to choose between getting a life and getting laid, a catch-22 of the worst sort, but the outcome is predetermined in most cases. Evolution is a pretty strong force for a girl to overcome. But can you imagine what the world might be like if girls grew up hearing, “Guys dig ski racers,” and “How come guys always go for the chemists?”
This change in messaging could revolutionize feminism. Girls would explore all sorts of fulfilling activities they didn’t have time for before. Relationships would grow as couples come together over their mutual interests. Civilization would take great leaps forward as the population of experts grows and then reproduces.
Unless the message isn’t actually true. If men really are only attracted to measurements, if they really are threatened by women who can outperform them, it won’t take long for girls to figure it out and go back to the mall looking for the perfect jeans to attract that soccer player.
But just in case, I am going to tell my daughters that excellence is sexy.