Feminism, Pop Culture, Sweet Machine, You've Got to Be Kidding Me

The thinking man’s circle jerk

The year is ending, which means that every website on earth is coming up with a Top 10 or Best of 2008 feature of some kind. I am reluctantly drawn to these lists — I feel utterly obligated to read them, even though they usually could be summarized as “Hey, look at my [intellect/hipster taste/class status] I ASSURE YOU IT’S ALMOST AS LARGE AS MY GIANT COCK.” So when Samhita at Feministing linked to this list of Touré’s “Thinking Man Sex Symbols,” despite the warning that it was a train wreck (Samhita: “Every line is like a work of art”), I had to look.

Samhita already highlighted this gem from the intro:

A man has two minds. The lower mind is a brainless whore excited by any woman with breasts, curves, and a thong. The upper mind, which works with actual grey matter, is more persnickety. The upper mind, when employed, is moved by intelligence, success, power, self-confidence, a smart sense of humor, and, of course, not having a castrating nature.

Unthinking heteronormativity? Check. Dismissal of men as hormone-driven walking penises? Check. Reference to castration? Check! Clearly, what we have ourselves here is a Thinking Man.

I’m not against talking about (or even listing) sexxxy people, and I don’t think any of the women featured here are anything less than gorgeous. (I mean, M.I.A.? She kicks 20 kinds of ass.) But this list embodies a certain kind of self-congratulatory false feminism that we’ve seen a lot of in this Palin-tastic year. Men falling all over themselves to proclaim how hot they think Tina Fey’s glasses are do not constitute the revolution in beauty standards that some seem to think. I’m reminded of the line in The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep’s character says (of Anne Hathaway’s character), “I decided to take a chance on the smart fat girl.”

by marttj
photo by marttj

The faults of this list are probably too dumb and too obvious to spend this many words on, but it just smells so strongly of eau de douchebag that it’s hard to resist. Congratulations, Thinking Men! You’ve taken a list of highly accomplished women and rebranded it as a list of hotties, and then you’ve given yourself a cookie for it. When the most complex thing you have to say about Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide and team Obama member, is “Sam’s a ride-or-die chick, willing to slay anyone [i.e., Hillary Clinton] for her man,” you fail at geopolitics, feminism, sexiness, thinking, and metaphor all at once. No wonder hot chicks never go for nice thinking guys!

47 thoughts on “The thinking man’s circle jerk”

  1. Ugh. Sort of reminds me of how I heard several liberal men make remarks about wanting to “hate-fuck” Palin. Misogyny is not acceptable when applied to offensive people just as it’s not acceptable when disguised in smart-sensitive-guy clothing.

  2. Oh, I’m so relieved that fierce intelligence can be sexually commodified and cutesified. I’ve been brilliant all my life, of course, but I was heretofore unaware that it served any greater purpose. Now if only I could care a lot about making my body into something that gives Touré a hard-on, I’ll be all set. Perhaps then I can service him and his clever friends sexually. Then personal fulfillment will be MINE!

  3. I nearly dislocated my eyes rolling them at the number of “thinking dudes” who talked about how they are NOT bound by patriarchal beauty standards because, like, they find Tina Fey hot! And then she discusses her weight loss in Vanity Fair that goes to show she is the patriarchally approved beauty symbol for dudes who like to pretend they’re not bound by patriarchal beauty standards! Yawn.

    None of this is a reflection on Tina Fey, just on self-congratulating dudes.

    That list is just so gross. No matter how smart, accomplished and talented you may be, the real question is–how fuckable are you?

  4. My fave is “If she’s the smartest chick in the room and she’s going home with you, what does that say about you?” – because, of course, the most important thing a woman does is ornament a man and remind other people how big his dick must be.

  5. My two fav quotes:

    “Can a woman be independent, creative, sharp, witty, strong, and self-empowering without making me feel like she wants to be a man? Ann Coulter and Judith Regan could never make the list—they’re sexy, brainy, powerful, but I feel like they secretly want to steal my manhood.”

    Actually they probably secretly think you’re you have issues with your manhood since you concoct paranoid delusions of testicular larceny. If you’re a ‘thinking guy’ wouldn’t you also have enough creativity to come up with some other reason to discount Coulter…maybe something like ‘she’s a highly educated bigot.’ Hell, I think I would have been inpressed with “I’m scared that they may have vagina dentata” because at least I would know that you’re well read and not spouting the same drivel I hear from every other guy scared of women who may do something with their time besides advertising beer, sleeping with an 80 year old bachelor, or appearing in Girls Gone Wild videos.

    ‘If she’s the smartest chick in the room and she’s going home with you, what does that say about you?”

    Actually it doesn’t say a damn thing about you. It probably just means the smart girl wants to get laid. It does, however, say a lot about your ego and attitude about women that you would even ask this question. And I’m thinking you probably ain’t got a lot of lines on your resume if you think another person’s accomplishment somehow transfers to you by osmosis.

    And you’ll notice only one of the women is blonde. It appears that to be a thinking guy’s fuckable woman you have to be a) brunette/dark haired/ethnic b) thin. So, the brunette/ethnic thing must be what makes this list different from your average list of objectified women. We really have come a long way, baby.

  6. “Hey, look at my [intellect/hipster taste/class status] I ASSURE YOU IT’S ALMOST AS LARGE AS MY GIANT COCK.”

    You. Rock.

    Also: pennylane’s dislocated my eyes rolling them and paranoid delusions of testicular larceny are serious keepers.

    Also: I went and read the Not Rape Epidemic pieces linked via Jezebel and Racialicious. Wow. Ow.

  7. Valerie, you win the AWESOME AWARD! Congrats, you’ve earned it for making me snort ginger ale onto my laptop. XD

  8. Valerie

    “…paranoid delusions of testicular larceny”

    You are officially my hero of the day. I humbly ask your permission to use this line when I’m confronted with the “stealing my masculinity” argument.

  9. First, I’m glad I found your blog. I’m looking forward to coming back to browse around. Second, almost the only thing I can say about Thinking Man Sex Symbols is, “If that’s what passes for thinking, vey iz mir, are men in trouble!”

  10. Actually it doesn’t say a damn thing about you. It probably just means the smart girl wants to get laid.


    All you Shapelings are spot-on today.

    Happy New Year, everyone.

  11. WELL THIS IS TIMELY. Geez, SP, you guys always open up the braingates. It’s good, but… man, it’s like you have psychic radar or something.

    Ugh. I keep having these conversations with and realizations about my boyfriend (a man I am beginning to become disenchanted with) that bother me. Like the other day, when I was talking about some of my past relationships. He could have just listened, or said something like “yeah, I hear ya, everyone has gone out with a lemon or two, especially when they’re young and inexperienced” (something I believe is necessary to the dating process, and frankly, most of us act like assholes at least a little in early relationships anyway until we learn how to freakin behave in that new setting… it’s not like there’s a manual ya know?!)

    He could have. But instead, his voice got all angry and he said, “ugh, see this is what is so annoying to good guys, women always go after these assholes, and never listen to us when we tell them they’re assholes! It’s like women aren’t ready to have a real relationship until they’ve had their heart crushed by some jerk first.”

    I got pissed. I didn’t even know where to start with what was wrong with that little statement. I said, “excuse me, but how are my past relationship experiences in any way something I DID TO YOU?!” I mean, I didn’t even know him then, fer the luvva periwinkle!

    And shit, so the fact that I’ve ended up in some relationships that were bad for me is, what, something I DID WRONG? You know, with one of them, we were both just young idiots, but seriously, there were others who knew exactly what they were doing and were pretty good at convincing me they were awesome and sincere until I was just attached enough to start letting some shit slide, and then they went to town. And it’s not like I felt guilty enough for getting suckered, more than once, now I also have to somehow feel responsible for hurting the poor widdle feelings of the Nice Guys of the world?! THE FUCK?!

    Actually, now I feel pretty sucky about THIS relationship. I mean, here I thought I was so much more confident and self-actualized, and that I’d learned so much from my past relationships, and would never let myself be in another situation where I was hanging on in some going-nowhere love for ages after I discovered things had gone wrong, that I now knew the signs and would be able to figure out way more quickly when it wasn’t good for me. WELL APPARENTLY NOT.

    There is a lot more gray area than I realized, and I had a harder time admitting things to myself than I realized, and certainly a harder time letting go than I ever thought possible, especially considering I still can’t decide whether to dump him or wait until I go to grad school because then I think we can still be friends (because, I guess I suck for this, but I still really like him as a person, I just think he sucks at the whole SO thing… figure that out… I can’t)!

    I guess the thing that bugs me the most is that I always thought I’d never let a guy physically disrespect me again, but now I see how much I’ve let him off the hook for being too damn rough. That’s not “boys will be boys” that’s “him being careless.” I’m really physical, and tend to wrestle around with beaus, so I expect to get the occasional accident because that’s what happens when you get physical and rough, but there’s a line between when it’s fun and when it hurts and I shouldn’t have to tell him so many times where the line is, and most assuredly when I tell him, he needs to respect it, not push at it and act like it’s funny and not be at all apologetic when he bites too hard or pinches or whatever, and certainly not just blame it on me being “a sissy.”


    And we’re not even going to get into his hypocritical, contradictory, and impossible standards for attractiveness (and despite all that, he’s dating me, and the only thing I have in common with his usual lust-fodder is big breasts). Both in a physical and mental standpoint, really. I think if he met a real woman who embodied everything he gets a hard-on for, not only would she not give him the time of day, she’d scare the crap out of him and I don’t even know if he’d like her. A strong woman, after all, probably wouldn’t put up with him.

    And here I thought I was a strong woman, or getting there.

    Fuck it, I’m throwing in the towel today…

  12. And I’m back here to cry on your shoulders, wonderful people. Sorry, hope I’m not derailing things too badly…

    The phone just rang, and to my surprise it was him! He hasn’t called since Christmas so I wasn’t expecting a ring anytime soon (and didn’t feel like calling him, so I didn’t). He said he just hadn’t talked to me in a while and thought “I should call her, because it’s been days and she’s probably mad at me, so I’ll call and see how she is doing, because I care.” I sincerely hate when he does that, it’s always in a joking voice as if he’s attempting humor, but it’s so demoralizing. He always makes it sound like he’s holding himself aloof, as if everything is about him being so awesome just bothering to do anything, but I can’t live without him or something. I’ve told him how I hate that, that when you’re kidding with someone, it’s not making fun of them or cutting them down, it’s an understood joke between you that builds you both up… he does not get this concept.

    For Christmas, he drew me a picture of the characters in the story I’m writing (he’s an artist). He pointed out that he’d finished it and posted it online, so I went to have a look. The other characters came out great but the female lead is supposed to be fat and he drew her as thin. I corrected him and then he had the gall to argue with me about how my characters “should” look or act! He said that if I drew her as fat then it changed the whole focus of the story to how fat people can go on an adventure or have love too and that was cheap or something.

    UGH. No, she’s fat because that’s what she happens to look like. The other female character is very skinny and has one arm because that’s what she happens to look like. In neither case is there any indication in the story of this being unusual or a big deal, in fact, Marah’s weight isn’t even mentioned, it just is, same with Halcyon, and the only time Halcyon’s arm is brought up is when it is relevant to the story because of how she lost it. Which was important to me, because I was sick to the stars of female characters who’s personalities depended upon identifying as the fat one, the thin one, or the one with the missing arm. They are just people with those traits, and that’s how I wrote them, and that’s important to me!!!

    Sigh. I’m just… I get it. He doesn’t respect me. He probably never will. No amount of patient explanation is going to convince him that he doesn’t, because he thinks he does.

    NOW WHAT?! Ugh. I hate this. And you know what? If I break up with him now I WILL lose him as a friend, because he has not been understanding how conflicted I’ve been about our relationship lately (and I have tried to bring it up with him). It will become “she dumped me out of nowhere, when things were going just fine, she’s obviously a big jerk!” And that will be the end of our friendship. And yes, we were both getting something out of that, at least. Creative stimulation is vital to both of us, and at this point if we aren’t speaking anymore I’ve lost the only friend with whom I could commiserate on creative matters.

    Fiddle and rot and fuck all. I am going to stamp my foot in consternation now.

    *stamp stamp stamp*

  13. I don’t know. Maybe it’s dumb to want to stay with a man for his brain.

    Actually, it’s probably REALLY dumb.


    UGH. I’m totally embarrassed. Aren’t I too old for this kind of relationship drama?



  14. SugarLeigh – Obviously the decision, whatever it ends up being is up to you. The description you’ve given reminds me of my (abusive) ex. Especially the hurting you, *accidentally* – “I don’t know my own strength/you’re such a baby…that didn’t *really* hurt” part. It also sounds like he’s pretty self-centered. I’m glad you’re thinking about breaking up with him. I wish you all the best and will keep you in my thoughts! It’s always hard when what you thought you had turns out not to be what’s really going on. I hope you find someone who is worthy of you and who listens to you.

  15. SugarLeigh, I know it’s none of my business and I don’t know the whole story, but he doesn’t sound like a supportive or respectful boyfriend… and if he can’t give you a healthy romantic relationship how can he possibly give you a healthy friendship?

    If he is damaging your confidence then *please* distance yourself from him – you deserve to surround yourself with people who will treat you well, not subtly cut you down.

  16. Thanks much, It and Dorothy. ((hugs!))

    This probably wasn’t the place to think aloud, and if not I apologize. Reading this article just opened the floodgates! Rather, was the straw that broke the camel’s back… I’ve been mulling over this stuff for weeks now. Takes me forever to come to a decision, it does.

    It helped, inasmuch as I’m getting a much needed self-pants-kicking. I just can’t think what to do with it. I am so weird about letting people go. I stayed friends with a gal for years who made me feel awful. I still feel guilty about cutting ties with her sometimes. I don’t understand why I seem to think my loyalty, once earned, can never be reevaluated or something. What the crap kind of not-taking-care-of-yourself bullshit is that?

    Supposed to have learned, Sugar. Big girl now. Or not. I guess the learning process isn’t strictly linear after all.

    Anyhow, thanks again. And you know Dorothy, I hope so too… but I hope I find myself first.

  17. Thanks, PK Tech Girl…
    huh… something to think about I guess. I have always had a lot of different kinds of people in my life. Family and friends… I’ve been very accustomed to being close with people I don’t always have a lot in common with, don’t always agree with, don’t always get along with. The funny thing is, I always thought I was lucky to have such a great, close family (and I am) but I never stopped to think that maybe having a good/close relationship with people who didn’t always get me, or make me feel good, might have been part of what’s led to me somehow subconsciously seeing that as the default or something. Family is complicated enough, starting to think of your friends as family is probably asking for trouble. Well, except your closest friends who do pretty much become family but that is different, they earned that status.

    I wonder if there are people like me out there. You know, someone who’ll actually like it when I’m nutty instead of “putting up” with it. I know one or two, they’re usually the friends that earn the family bit. Now for a guy with that trait…

  18. Hey SugarLeigh – Also, try not to beat yourself up too much – we *all* want to feel connected, and when you think you’ve found that it *is* hard to let go. And while it may get easier, it’s not like going through this stuff is limited to teenagers. We all go through it.

    It’s not stupid at all to be attracted to some one for creativity intelligence etc – just remember you have people in your life who have this too, and more will come into your life as well, but without wrapping their gifts in a flaming turd of soul-killing bullshit.

  19. (((((SugarLeigh))))) Whatever good points this guy has, it sounds like the negatives will only get harder to take.

    And just like we should get clothes that fit us, instead of trying to make ourselves fit clothes, we should get partners that love us, not partners that we have to change ourselves for so that they will love us.

    Of course, sometimes it isn’t easy to do either of those things…

  20. SugarLeigh, you sound profoundly human. No, it’s not a linear process, and it’s especially non-linear when it comes to deciding to break off a relationship that isn’t dreadfully, obviously wrong (and sometimes even when it is), but isn’t really right, either. You are strong.

    I can only offer you support and perhaps reaffirm what you already know: it’s ok to take as much time as you need to waffle over any decision either way. Being a strong woman isn’t about being sure immediately and all the time. It means being willing to delve into the uncomfortable issues and examine them, and you’re doing that.

    And maybe I can offer one of my own guidelines for relationships among other things: if I ever find myself thinking “well, it’s better than nothing”, it’s a huge signal – because generally no, it’s not.

    As for the Thinking Man’s Whatever….ptui. Just ptui.

  21. I know it’s totally easy for me to say this, but sometimes, lesbianism feels like the best revenge.

    What a duffle of shit you don’t have to pick up when you aren’t absorbed by the great task of pleasing Dude Nation.

  22. Ugh, the inclusion of Jhumpha Lahiri makes me sad. From the caption:

    Jhumpa Lahiri is the gorgeous author of three seriously literary books including, this year, a collection of short stories called Unaccustomed Earth. Those hypnotic eyes are devastating.

    She may be a fantastic writer, but what matters most is that she’s HAWT!

    Also, (((hugs))) SugarLeigh.

  23. Sugar Leigh, that man is neither a loving boyfriend nor a loving friend. He may be an interesting acquaintance with whom you can have good conversations about being an artist (though the “you don’t know what your own characters look like” thing makes me wonder if that’s even the case).

    Please believe me that there are people (men, if that’s the only gender you fancy) out there who will be fascinated by your amazingness, not put off by it.

  24. I’ve been mulling this question over:

    If she’s the smartest chick in the room and she’s going home with you, what does that say about you?

    … and I think I’ve answered it. Basically, it says that your writing is not good enough to be published in Brilliant Woman Weekly or Female Genius Gazette or even Profoundly Gifted Adult Lady Herald Tribune. Because if it had been, she would have read it, and would have known to steer very, very clear of you.

    ((((SugarLeigh)))) I was in a romantic-relationship-turned-friendship attempt like the one you describe, I think. Intellectually he was one of the few men I knew who could keep up with me and even challenge me. But he had a lot of maturing to do – and so did I, come to that, though that may not be the case for you – before we could have a healthy friendship. We had almost a year of no communication during which I really resigned myself to his just not being a part of my life. We were eventually able to reconnect, but only because the terms had changed entirely. Your situation may be different, obvs, but that’s what it made me think of, for what it’s worth, which may not be much. In any case, you deserve people who don’t cut your creativity down to the size that personally suits them, and who don’t deflect their guilty consciences onto you by attributing things to you that are really about them. If that’s not him right now… well, maybe it will be someday, or maybe it won’t.

  25. SugarLeigh your guy sounds SO MUCH like my (shitty, emotionally manipulative) ex. Everything was about him, and an awful lot of what he said had an undercurrent of woman-hate that I, at the tender age of 19 and with no real exposure to feminism, didn’t pick up on at the time. And there was a lot of physical manipulation – acting as if sex was something I owed him; insisting on popping my zits because he had OCD and liked to pop his own; really subtle stuff you couldn’t call outright “abuse” but which was abusive nonetheless. I got up the courage to leave him because a friend showed me that Heartless Bitches site Sweet Machine linked (under the crossed-out “nice” in the last sentence). If you haven’t read through that site before, I *highly* recommend it. It’s like taking Shit No One Should Ever Tolerate 101.

    One of the things they talk about is how some men manipulate women emotionally, so that even a bright, self-confident woman such as yourself can be sucked into their bullshit through no fault of her own. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

    When I left my ex, I was convinced I still wanted to be his friend. A week later, once I’d seen what life could be without him, I realized I had no desire to ever see him again. I realized that a) he hadn’t been my friend in the first place, and b) my real friends pretty much all hated him and had been biting their tongues out of politeness. Maybe you will end up still wanting to see your guy if you leave, but my point is that I had a LOT of strength, both my own and that of supportive friends, that I didn’t know was there until I left.

  26. If she’s the smartest chick in the room and she’s going home with you, what does that say about you?

    It says you weren’t talking loud enough for her to actually hear what you were saying.

  27. If she’s the smartest chick in the room and she’s going home with you, what does that say about you?

    Um, you live with your mom and she’s taking you home before you do something dumb?

  28. Since I use douchhound and douchebag so much more frequently now, I am happy to allow testicular larceny to be used by the commons. :)

    @ anaham

    And notice the use of ‘hypnotic’ eyes. Exoticism anybody?

    @ Sugarleigh

    Don’t sell yourself short, you’ve definitely done some growing since you’re seeing the red flags before you’ve been with him for years.Maintaining a friendship with someone who isn’t even a good friend when you’re dating is a waste of your time.

  29. The lower mind is a brainless whore excited by any woman with breasts, curves, and a thong. The upper mind, which works with actual grey matter, is more persnickety. The upper mind, when employed, is moved by intelligence, success, power, self-confidence, a smart sense of humor, and, of course, not having a castrating nature.

    Holy crap! Replace “breasts, curves, and a thong” with “a small waist, nice hands, and big dick” and that’s how MY mind works! I am a Thinking Man trapped in a woman’s body! HALP!

  30. SugarLeigh, the not-stopping-when-it’s-not-even-funny-anymore sounds sorta familiar, but I figure I need to be clearer on that so it’s my fault anyway. *tangent* Anyway, don’t blame yourself. It’s not always your exclusive job to make him feel better and the relationship go smoothly, if there’s a problem, it’s both your responsibility. Sorry if I sound lecture-y.

    On the Nice Guy thing, yes. People suck so much sometimes. I got talked into a relationship a while ago, (didn’t want to lose what little support I had left in a difficult time so I gave in), and after he got what he wanted (=sex) he turned into a complete ass and buggered off with my money. Not exactly the same phenomenon, but I tend to ramble.

  31. This shit is so depressing. Must every woman be reduced to masturbation material? Ugh, I have had such bad experiences with boys lately, and I am just giving up on them for now. Are there any that will appreciate that I am smart and fun and read like crazy?

    Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite contemporary authors and the fact that she gets singled out not for her genius, but for her looks, is so incredibly sad I can’t even express it fully. (This also happens to Zadie Smith a lot too, hmph) If it happens to her, what chance do *I* have at being appreciated? BAH, I am tired of being lonely, but I am tired of being objectified and then “OHHH you’re sooooo smart, wooooowwwww,” as if I’m some sort of little toy or accessory.

    Apologies for ranting

  32. Erika, since my rant was WAY bigger than yours, and was not only okay but got me some much-needed support (I can’t thank you enough, Shapelings!), I’d say yours is totally acceptable. And, as one might be able to deduce, I totally, one hundred percent hear you!

    ((super hugs and sparkle rays!))

    (sparkle rays are shiny rainbows that sing for nice people and direct little birds to poo on the heads of jerks)

    The really sad part is, I don’t think people like you and me, of both sexes, are even all that incredibly rare… I just think it’s nigh-on freakin’ impossible for us to MEET! It’s like we exist in scattered pockets or something. Frustrating!

  33. I noticed “ugh” expressed on here a few times. My sentiments exactly! “Not having a castrating nature”?? Right. I’ll be sure not to have the audacity to voice my opinions next time, lest they be mistaken for “castration”. Lol what would it sound like if I concocted my own list of desirable traits in men? “Someone who doesn’t have a raping nature. That would be great.”

  34. Sugarleigh and Erika, there are actual, really nice guys out there who are not threatened by a woman with a brain and the willingness to voice a real opinion. I know. I married one.

    In fact, I knew Mr. Twistie and I were going to be for the long haul the day I admitted I didn’t much like one of his songs and he heaved a sigh of relief because he knew that I would always be honest about my tastes.

    He’s also supportive of my writing, and gave me a Christmas present (The Sims 2 plus the Pets expansion pack) that are currently driving him up a tree.

    In return, I try to be honest but not hurtful when I think one of his songs isn’t working, and to save up my Sims playing mostly for times when he isn’t here.

    It’s called mutual respect, and it’s a beautiful thing.

    I hope both of you find it soon.

  35. LONG time lurker, first (?) time commenter to add:

    And all these years I was certain that Toure was gay. Guess he should’ve started on that list 15 years ago. Way to prove your hetero-masculinity, homie!

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