MaxBarry.com
one vowel is enough

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sun 30
Nov
2008

The War on He

What Max Reckons HerI was reasonably confident we had this whole gender inequality thing licked, until I fathered a girl. I mean, I was aware things were not perfect. I worked in corporate-land; women were clearly held to different standards than men. But still: close enough, I thought. In the grand scheme, there were bigger problems.

Now I realize the smallest hint of sex discrimination is A GLOBAL CONSPIRACY TARGETING MY DAUGHTER. And it’s everywhere. Why is every animal assumed to be male? Why is “he” used interchangeably with “it” in a great swathe of children’s picture books? I’ll tell you why: because male is the default setting for everything, unless it’s soft and pink. Or a cat. I’m not sure why cats are the exception. But everything else is “he.”

I realized this was a problem when Fin began naming her teddies. I don’t mind her having boy teddies. Boy teddies are fine, in limited quantities. But she thought almost all of them were all boy teddies. That didn’t seem right. I realized I was doing that thing: using “he” as default. I had imprinted her.

So I switched defaults. It’s a simple rule: you assume that everything is female unless there’s clear evidence to the contrary. Animals, teddies, unseen car drivers: all girls. It proved surprisingly difficult. I’ve been doing it about a year and I still sometimes slip up.

I also began converting Fin’s teddies. Now, possibly I’m teaching her that boys sometimes spontaneously turn into girls. But I had to do something about that men’s club. She’s picked up on it: many of them now waver between male and female, according to Fin, and a few I think I’ve turned completely.

Just the other day we saw a dog in the street and Fin asked if it was a boy or a girl. I asked what she thought. “I think it’s a girl,” she said. That was new.

That’s why all my examples now are going to be “she.” I used to try to mix it up: a “he” example here, a “she” example there. To, you know, be balanced. But now I realize the world is full of “he.” I don’t need to add any more.

Next I plan to father an illegitimate child with a Kenyan and discover we still haven’t solved racism.

P.S. Last day of Movember! I’m so happy; I finally get to shave off this monstrosity. Look at me! I’m a broken man.

Comments

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Daniel DiFranco (#243)

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: ""I do not think that word means what you think it means.""
Posted: 2101 days ago

Hey, it seems that I finally get to be part of that elusive group known as the "first commentors." I hope I don't f this up.

Max, you're the coolest writer around because you do this.
And you are now a she. Don't thank me,..just doin' m'part.
Dan, member 243

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 2101 days ago

Fun subject, usually only broached by rabid feminists, which has somewhat turned into fringe. Still very true. Fin also looks scarily much like you Max.

Machine Man subscriber Danni Brennand (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 2101 days ago

My teddy is called Katie. She's a girl. Most people assume she's a boy.

I am glad you're trying to teach Fin that not all teddies are boys :)

Caufman (#1791)

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Quote: "The Game."
Posted: 2101 days ago

Raise the kid in Indonesia to discover religious prejudices, too!

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 2101 days ago

Loving the stash there, Ginger Pubes, err, I mean Max, sorry.

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 2101 days ago

hilarious. Shave! lol

Machine Man subscriber sean kearney (#3037)

Location: Denver, CO
Quote: "patternhunter@gmail.com"
Posted: 2101 days ago

Despite no direct reference to the nature of the "monstrosity," Google Ads lists http://www.hairclub.com the link best accompanies your most recent blog post. Weird!

Tim (#3178)

Posted: 2101 days ago

As a father of soon-to-be-three-year old twin girls, I must wholeheartedly concur. Except, you know, I was pretty sure the all male-membership of the shadowy Order of the Y Chromosone had targeted MY daughters, but now I realize that's probably exactly what they wanted to believe.

Do you ever experience that thing where your daughter says, "Look, daddy, I'm a princess!" fully half of you wants to say, "Yes, you are sweetie." while the other half wants to say, "For the love of god, NOOOOOO!!!"

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 2101 days ago

Fin is darling and the mo makes you look like you are 80. NO offense though.

Oh and on all the gender things. Ever watch Gone in 60 Seconds. All cars are women. I am a woman and all my classic cars are women.

Mark Tran (#3249)

Location: Canada
Quote: "If you lived here, You'd be home."
Posted: 2101 days ago

What about boats? Boats are always women.

Machine Man subscriber Lowly Worm (#3028)

Location: Loves Park, IL
Quote: "Insert witty quote here."
Posted: 2101 days ago

Oh woe is Max. Shaving is going to more satisfying than you can hardly believe. So satisfying in fact that you may want to send Fin out of the house to play with her transgender teddies.

Machine Man subscriber Lowly Worm (#3028)

Location: Loves Park, IL
Quote: "Insert witty quote here."
Posted: 2101 days ago

P.S. I've now changed my "He" teddie Stewie to a "She" teddie named Fin in honor of the fine work you're doing...

Fractelle (#2998)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: 2101 days ago

Max, sweetie, darling, sweetie, kudos for actually growing a mo - but why the 70's porn star look?

If I could grow a mo - am far too lacking in testosterone, but if I could I always found the slender Errol Flynn variety quite appealing - as far as mo's go of course.

On the worldwide default setting of 'he's' - a bugbear I have is that on all forms where gender is requested always male is listed before female, not alphabetical just more of the bias.

Congratulations on noticing - whenever I have brought same topic up with my loved one, he doesn't take me seriously - now I can shove your article in his face. I may even do a little dance.

Chris (#3581)

Location: Melb
Posted: 2101 days ago

This is another case of men taking longer to mature, isn't it. I went into parenthood already aware of this discrepancy, and raised my children in a world heavily populated with female snails, dogs, teddy bears etc. Life was like Wonder Woman's island, and male intruders were looked upon with suspicion. And by the time they went to school and got swept under the influence of the Common Male-centric Mindset, i had to counterbalance the influence with such aptly chosen comments as "men are pigs" and "girls rule", spoken daily. more than daily.

It works. My daughter's nighmarishly confident and my son has been beaten into submission. but she lets us out of the laundry once a day to eat and stretch our muscles, so i can't complain. And we're planning a rebellion, and expect to overthrow our despot within the week. wish us luck.

Lisa (#3622)

Location: Massachusetts, USA
Posted: 2101 days ago

Fin's lucky to have you, an awful lot of fathers of daughters don't seem to notice these things, notice but don't think it matters, or want their girls to be submissive. Seriously, well done!

Well done on the stache as well; it looks ridiculous, but in a good cause.

Nematode (#3386)

Posted: 2101 days ago

I never quite realized my "Third Worldness" until I moved from USA to, well, Australia. It's not just male centric, it's white male centric. And I have been trying very hard not to let that realization poison me. Even though damage might have already been done. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 2101 days ago

That's awesome.

Also, I'll look forward to reading more Max Barry books with female heroes and female side-characters and lots of conversations between women. It seems like in most media, all the female characters are either scarily personality-free, or obsessed with family/men/children. And, they never talk to each other. Sounds strange, but the next time you watch a movie, I bet there will be almost no actual discussions between two women. It's dehumanising. Start the revolution, Max! Or at least write an awesome satire about it.

Thankyou.

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 2101 days ago

Yes, Sophie's got it. Max, you're in the habit of writing one good female character and putting her in an all-male book, and this has probably been good for your career because it's industry-standard practice; certainly if you want to option a book for a movie, it's what the buyers will be comfortable with.

My wife and I just rented "Get Smart" on Netflix. Crappy movie, though Anne Hathaway looks great, gets to be cool, and is the only female character with a significant speaking part. And this is typical; action movies often have a half-dozen significant male characters and one woman to be the babe.

Some female intellectual, I forget who, said that she didn't see movies because she had a rule that there had to be at least two strong female characters, who get to talk to each other, about something other than relationships with men. It's very hard to come up with films that pass this test.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 2099 days ago

Of course, now that the conspiracy is tipped off that you've found out about them, you can expect them to step up efforts over the next few years. You shouldn't give away your advantage like that.
Maybe in your next book you can invent a catchy genderless personal pronoun, that'll show them.

Simon (#3192)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "I'd rather be arrogant than wrong"
Posted: 2098 days ago

On a totally unrelated note...

1001 Foods You Must Eat Before You Die

Is this the most alarming book title ever? What medical condition requires the consumption of 1001 foods to stave off death? And how quickly must they be eaten? I'd better go read that book!

Kit (#850)

Location: UK
Posted: 2097 days ago

Taking a cue from Simon ^ on an unrelated note, when are you going to let us read another contemporary masterpiece (that's what I call your books), is stroking your ego going to make you write faster or should I just give up? ;)

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 2094 days ago

Of course I'm sure you also have a plan for that whole male-preference primogeniture set-up the British royals have? What sort of world is it where a little princess can't become a queen unless she marries some dopey dude?

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 2094 days ago

I used to do the same thing. Whenever some asshole would run me off the road or blow a stop sign, I'd swear at him (quietly or otherwise) and call him a bastard or a son of a bitch. But when I started actually pursuing the thugs to shake my fist in their fist, I discovered that without exception they were women, always with a cell phone deeply embedded in one ear or a makeup kit balanced on the steering wheel. You're right, Max, our society is pervasively sexist.

Plenty of times I've heard some feminazi proclaiming loudly that God Is A Woman! (tm). Why don't they claim Satan as well? Seems like that would be equally fair, and I know it's true because she ran me off the road yesterday and gave me the finger.

Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: Austin, TX
Quote: "Hope is but the first step down the path to disappointment."
Posted: 2089 days ago

What does Fin think of the mustache?

HRJD (#3684)

Location: Northern Ireland
Quote: ""In a capitalist society, two wrongs do make a right.""
Posted: 2072 days ago

After having the kid with the Kenyan, move to Somalia and see Santa Claus being shot down by pirates!

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