I just finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Don’t worry, no spoilers here. It’s a well written book with an exciting story, interesting characters with depth, and plot twists that actually make sense and hold together. It is generally a good read, and I recommend it. But there was a particular passage in the book that caught my attention. I clipped it out so you can read it in its entirety if you want. I promise this will not ruin any of the plot twists for you. If you don’t want to read the whole excerpt, that’s cool, too. I’ll give you the gist.
This is written in the voice of one of the characters, but I’m pretty darn sure it’s actually a rant that the author believes. Both because of the style of it, and because it’s a big part of the underlying motivation of a lot of the characters in the story. In a way, I feel like maybe she wrote this story as an elaborate frame around this one rant.
The gist is this: cool girls (the girls that guys really covet) do not exist. All those cool girls you’ve ever met are just pretending to be cool. Down deep, those pretenders hate all that guy stuff (giving blow jobs, watching hockey, etc.), but they pretend to like it so they can get a guy.
On my first reading, I thought: Yeah! That’s probably true! All those women on Twitter who appear to be so cool. I bet they are just pretending, because they love the validation and love they get from the Twitter guys who really wish their wives were as cool as these girls. These girls who say they love anal and blow jobs and hockey and baseball. It’s not that their husbands are really that much luckier than we are. Their husbands probably wouldn’t recognize these women on Twitter as their wives at all. They’d read the TL of their wife and say, “Who the hell are you pretending to be?”
And if you read that passage, I bet you had that same thought. Or maybe, “I know a lot of women who are like that. I’m glad somebody is finally calling them out on their shit.” Right?
It’s okay. It’s easy to get drawn into a rant like that. I forgive you. And I forgive me. Because this is actually kind of awful. And shame on us for agreeing.
You see, I actually know some of these women I’m talking about—some of them pretty darn well. And they aren’t faking it. They really are cool. Maybe not every single checkbox, but I’ve met women on Twitter who are into pretty much everything you can imagine. And many of them would definitely qualify as cool girl, and they aren’t pretending.
The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got about this whole construct. A lot of that annoyance comes from my time in what I’ll call “Submissive Twitter.” I’ve mentioned before that I have a bit of a following in the Dominant/submissive community on Twitter. I have a lot of followers from that group, and I follow a lot of submissive (and a couple dominant) women. I hardly follow any Dominant men, because honestly, they are the worst tweeters. They have incessant @ conversations that remind me of listening to the prattle of 12-year-old girls. They post a lot of porn pics. They issue edicts on what it means to be a “good Dom” as though they are the only one who knows. It’s like watching a bunch of peacocks. And they aren’t funny. Ever.
Okay, so I can’t stand the Doms, but I adore the subs. They are open and honest. They love each other. They love that they are understood here in their community. They talk about their wants and desires and, for the most part, their inability to have any of those needs met. But when they are met, you’ve never read such joyful, rejoicing tweets. They are at once incredibly empowered and incredibly fragile women. I love them all, and I feel very protective of them.
And as this rant percolated in my brain, I realized that really, the coolest of the cool girls is the submissive. The key thing to understand about a submissive woman is that what she wants the most is for her Dominant to be pleased. His pleasure defines her pleasure. This makes it really tricky for a good D/s (Dominant/submissive) couple to get together, because if she doesn’t actually enjoy the stuff he’s into, it can’t work. For example, some submissives are into corporal punishment. Others are not. If one who is into being “hit with a fiberglass curtain rod thingy” is matched with a Dom who thinks an appropriate punishment never involves hitting, then they aren’t really gonna click.
But suppose we have a well-matched pair. It’s easy to see that pleasing him could be very pleasing to her. That being the cool girl for her Sir is exactly the thing she likes most. That letting him make all the decisions gives her a freedom which is an amazing escape, and can leave her with an incredible euphoric high. That woman could very easily be exactly the woman that her Dom desires. Not pretending. Actually being.
And so my protective impulse kicks in. That rant is invalidating these women that I adore! Cut it out! Denying the existence of a whole class of people is really offensive, when you think about it.
On my first reading, I thought this was a feminist rant. “…they are pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.” How awful! How last century! But wait. They are pretending? Says who? Isn’t feminism about empowerment? And isn’t empowerment about letting people be whomever they want to be? If you accuse someone of pretending because you would have to be pretending to be that way, that’s not feminism. That’s using the guise of feminism as subterfuge to actually attack other women. In the rant, there is a clear competition motive involved, but it could just as easily be out of fear or ignorance.
What is it with women and competition? I can see if there is actual competition, but once a woman has settled down with a life partner, why the fuck would she even care what strategy another woman might be using to get a man? You got your man! Time to head over to the sidelines, be a spectator, and stop being all judgy, for crying out loud.
In the context of our subs, they are often pretending. But they aren’t pretending to be what a man wants. Quite the opposite. They are pretending that they aren’t the cool girl, in order to avoid the judgement of other women. I know this, because Mellifluentm (the author of the “fiberglass curtain rod thingy” quote above) herself does it. Go read that linked article. Here we have one of the most open, progressive, honest, unabashed subs I’ve ever encountered. And she pretends not to be who she is, because she can’t stand the scorn of other women.
Wrap that scorn in faux feminism and you’ve got a real horror show. Women can be just awful to each other. You all really need to give each other a break.