Two plus two always equals four, right? Well, except when things don’t add up. Take, for instance, an article I read the other day. I am aware that Mr. Mafioso, on a website entitled askmen.com, writes “Get Yourself a Sexy Mistress” half in jest. I get that the article is meant for entertainment–and it is entertaining–for savvy readers who recognize farce or irony. The caricature of a mafioso with his Italian/Sicilian Brooklynese appears in words like “dames” and “goomas” and his over the top machismo is both amusing and revealing that this author does not wholeheartedly advocate what he advises–to get a mistress with all boobs and no brains who poses no threats. Or does he? Of course, the writer knows that he is endorsing an “illicit” and “immoral” relationship without compunction and one with the criteria that the woman or women, as he recommends a circle of mistresses, be the receptacle of every man’s desires: to be used and disrespected willingly, i.e., cum on face, thrown money at for sex and secrecy, though not too expensive to thumb her nose at cheap motels and backs of Cadillacs. He depends on the everyman’s dream to have a beautiful woman with big boobs and no self respect to make the proposition.
Mr. Mafioso does not really mean it. The exaggerated caricature combined with his manifesto and disclaimer about his own lack of credibility–a convicted criminal–coupled with his good grammar and writing skills clearly show that he is not who he claims to be. He is not seriously a mafioso, a criminal nor an insecure man that needs to demean women to make himself feel better about himself, to make himself feel like a man. No, he is a writer utilizing a persona clearly satiric to pose behaviors that are recognizably socially unacceptable in the guise of a familiar reprehensible figure. He knows that all men are not that extremely macho type, but most men are in some part. There is partial truth that some men are excessively insecure about their manhood and need a certain type of woman, submissive with lower self esteem than he has, to make such a man feel whole, to give him an ego adjustment. To have that beautiful woman on his arm, one desired by other men, allows him to think he impresses as a big man, lover, and spender. How else could he get the girl? And if others perceive that, it makes it true. He works the outside appearance in hopes of installing some inside assurance of adequacy, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Mr. Mafioso works the stereotypes well. I read an article today on Mayor Betsy Hodge’s (Minneapolis) blog that stated this about stereotyping: it “blunts the humanity of the person making the judgment and creates unnecessary separation between two people in a world where more, rather than less, human connection is needed for us to move forward as a community.” She was referring to the unfounded accusation by some political figures that she was using gang signs in a photo that captured her and an African American get-out-the-vote street stomper pointing at each other, in an article satirically called “Pointergate.” She thought African Americans were being stereotyped in assuming the pointing was a gang sign.
I “point” this out not to get sensitive and politically correct minded about those who are stereotyped in Mr. Mafioso’s article–bimbos, machismos and mistresses–but to point to the truth about how we fall into stereotypes, not just make them. Stereotypes exist for reason of people practicing patterned behaviors over time, generations. If people are overexposed through media or in lived experience to African Americans making gang signs or being in gangs, they will use that patterned behavior to make conclusions about all African Americans. Not only that, they will look for confirmation that those behaviors exist even when they don’t just to make the stereotype true. It’s human nature.
Stereotypes are assigned by gender, ethnicity, race and age, mostly. While they are shortcuts that help in certain situations, to avoid dangerous people or for police investigative work, for example, they are so subtly a part of us that they are imperceptibly abusive. Stereotypes tap into the familiar, something most are drawn to like promise of the pillow and sleep. We want to be as comfortable as the somnambulant. It is difficult to take things not at face value but at examined value, actually having to pay attention, look closely, and withhold judgment until enough facts or evidence is present to make a determination after assessment of worth, trust, and/or truth. The sheer thought of the endeavor to be open and informed and equanimous is overwhelming. That’s why people are not so, generally. That’s why we rather stereotype. It’s the lazy person’s way of handling people and appeases our yearning for order and familiarity, for our egos. “See, I told you he was an asshole.” Stereotyping also makes for good jokes.
But let’s be good readers. Mr. Mafioso wants us to see that his persona is a jerk, that men should not merely use women as human toilets to cum into or for the sad scaffolding of their own nearly absent thin, weak egos. However, he is also showing us that his satire would not work if not based on certain truths about the human condition: there are men and women who treat each other the way he describes–using each other for sex, money and status–and we recognize and relate or recognize and hate that kind of behavior or both. Mr. Mafioso starts off with accepted notions of the mistress–having one is wrong/immoral–and builds on that idea that so long as you are going down the road of socially unacceptable behaviors, let’s go all the way. Here are some things that respectable citizens would not approve of: men who use women as their sperm banks and credit them with no self-respect and esteem and women who fuck for money and status and like those guys.
We laugh at ourselves. A friend texts me the other day with a screen shot of a man-filled sports bar with a dozen or so television screens transporting live or prerecorded football games, maybe a half dozen or more of them, where women with serving wench boob-filled bustiers serve the ever flowing beer. I text back, “When men fall lovingly into the arms of their mistresses–their own self-caricatures meta narratively.” He was mocking his own stereotypical picture of himself doing something he loves to do–watch a ton of football on a Sunday with a buddy in a boob bar. He is both amused at himself enjoying the actual entertainment and the entertainment of himself as stereotypically enjoying what men are stereotyped to like. I suppose I could counter with a snapshot of my teenaged daughters and I at the nail shop getting mani-pedis or our brows threaded. Except, we don’t do that. My daughters are smelly athletes with neglected nails, as am I. Perhaps we are stereotypes of the anti-stereotypical females.
Judith Butler tells us we should fight stereotypes with anti-stereotypes. I say, “Help! We cannot get out of the stereotype game!!” Because aren’t we merely instating new stereotypes that way? The anti-femme type becomes the stereotype of the butch type, even if only exercising a modicum of “boy-ish” behavior because just a hint will do for eager minds and attitudes. There is no way to escape that binary that stereotyping forces.
I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist. I claim my stake as a close observer of human behavior and a superior note taker. I say the key to breaking the mold is for people to think, to stop depending on stereotypes and do the work of patience, of having an open mind and being informed. Look at Mr. Mafioso. He is a stereotype in service of exposing stereotypical behavior. He expects the majority of his readers to sheepishly identify with or bristle at what he portrays and advises. That’s called irony.
Poor readers may not pick up on that. Un-exercised minds, ones not disciplined in the rigor of observant examination, of continual curiosity and vulnerability to wonder and awe, will lazily confirm their beliefs by the existing patterns without question–for their own security. It’s unkind as well as it deepens fear and separation as the good mayor states. Here’s a close cousin of the stereotype, a cliche: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Here’s another: think before you leap. No, feel compassion before you “blunt the humanity” in you and imprison your victim with a stereotype. Thanks for the reminder Mr. Mafioso that we should get ourselves a sexy mistress–and she is our own beautiful human capacity and desire to love. Unfortunately, she is still just the side chick.