No more Mr Nice Guy!

Posted: June 18, 2012 in life
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There are “nice guys” and then there are “Nice Guys”. Do you know what I mean? That genre of gentleman who defines himself by how much respect he doles out. Like he’s giving ribbon-tied gifts rather than just being a grown-up. Who talks about the “beauty of childbirth”, about his admiration of “strong women”, “real women”. About the way he appreciates not tits and arses, but minds, yeah? Here’s your award,  Nice Guy! Put it in your downstairs loo, next to your medal for paying taxes and the framed certificate marking a whole decade of not having drowned a cat.

Those guys, an army of artful goatees, downturned eyes and fallen insteps. One of them recently posted a picture of himself on Tumblr, Photoshopped on to an “outer space” background, holding up a handwritten sign that read: “Dear Girls, don’t be insecure, you don’t need make-up and nice clothes, you’re all fucking beautiful.” He thought he was offering support, presumably. A chuck on the chin to all the insecure ladies fretting over their wardrobes, a hand held out to take theirs and hold it over his heart, and then maybe slowly move it down under the duvet. But it’s a classic Nice Guy thing to say – that saccharine condescension, that patronising “Papa knows best” tone, reinforcing the suspicion that women exist only in relation to men. “Hey girl,” he says, “don’t do what men want, do what Nice Guys want!”

Happily, it went viral. And some people, their irritation levels now hovering at hazardous levels, have started photographing their own responses. “Dear boy in outer space,” writes one woman, her eyes sighing, “don’t tell me what to do.” And on it rolls. “Girls, stop doing things I do not like, and being all the things I do not want you to be. This is relevant because I hand-wrote this! Thanks.”

I blame Ryan Gosling, who confused idiots everywhere with his feminism and his fight-stopping and his mournful gaze. Because of his success, Nice Guys are multiplying, like nits on a head. See, for example, One Direction‘s double-platinum singleWhat Makes You Beautiful“. Five Nice Guys, ones so sweet they appear carved out of white chocolate, sing about the pleasures of an “insecure” girl. “Don’t need make-up to cover up. Being the way that you are is enough,” they croon, to a chorus of female “Phews!”

What a relief! Permission not to wear make-up from a muscular circle of 18-year-old millionaires. “You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful,” they end. The message to their panting fans? Stay weak – we think you look prettiest that way.

In their scramble to sound right on, One Direction reminds me of Britain’s top Nice Guy, David Cameron, and his comment that single mothers are “heroes”. If he says it loud enough, perhaps it’ll drown out the sound of childcare tax cuts, benefit cuts, the cost of paying the CSA to chase fathers for unpaid maintenance. All that. “Heroes”. Who “look better without make-up” probably.

The difficult thing is that Nice Guys truly believe they’re being helpful. These boys who have had to think no further than their knuckles really believe that by ordering women to dress down, they are liberating them from the shackles of patriarchy. But nice guys do not tell women what to wear. They don’t plaster over their cuts with empty compliments. They don’t high-five themselves for showing respect. The only difference between Nice Guys’ misogyny and that of their fathers’ is that Nice Guys’ misogyny is in disguise. It’s wearing a little hat. An eye patch. Nice Guys cuddle them tightly, then half an hour later they realise he’s nicked your wallet. Nice Guys lift up women on their shoulders, but only to make sure they don’t see all the stuff they’re crushing underfoot.

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