I'm Not Intimidating, You Just Have No Balls: Fragile Masculinity & Female Intimidation / by Jewell Bell

It's that dreaded word that looms in the background and quickly rises like a formidable shadow out of the mouths of those who seek to explain my inevitable relationship status. Or the emptiness in a guy's words who tells you "we should definitely go out again sometime" before never calling or texting you again, realizing you just may be "out of his league."  Not to mention someone scrolling through your social media with preconceived notions based off of your posts and pictures that you must be "high maintenance." 

Intimidating. 

If I had a dollar for everytime I've been labeled  or perceived as intimidating, I'd be able to successfully pay off all my student loans and own my dream loft in Toronto. In some contexts, intimidating can be beneficial and necessary. However, when it comes to dating it's a true pain in the ass, forcing you to change something about yourself you have no control over or are not even aware needs changing in the first place. For me, what makes it even more problematic is that characteristics about yourself that are actually positive, desired, and attractive to anyone are treated as problematic or some sort of flaw in their consequences.

A few years ago, I went to a bar whereby a guy who reeked with alcohol and desperation, approached me and through his liquid courage and liquor drenched rambling, he told me "You're beautiful, almost too beautiful." 

"What do you mean?" I asked. He had my attention at this point. After all, what the hell is 'too beautiful'?  

"Like I wouldn't know where to place you...how to place you in my life" he slurred.

In that moment, it was as if the clouds of heaven parted and there fell the answer to an unnerving question I've been dying to solve for so long. Prior to, intimidation was always implied without a guy ever simply coming out and saying it on his own (with the exception of family and male friends who I sought out for honest opinions). I couldn't even get mad at my drunken companion, but rather wanted to hug him for his inebriated words of wisdom. Could that be it? A woman who's deemed "too beautiful" or too much of anything, automatically be seen as intimidating or can't be "placed" in a man's life without confusion? 

Within a heterosexual frame, Patriarchy tells women that they can't be multifaceted- beautiful, brilliant, confident, secure, independent, self-assured, etc. for if they are, almost anticipate issues to arrive when it comes to dating. After all, women should be approachable, not take up too much space (physically, intellectually, vocally), and remold themselves to fit within the confinements of male comfort. Media upholds this idea in magazines with eye rolling headlines like "How to Catch The One" or "Must Have Tips to Make Him Want You".  Corporations have built billion dollar industries off of women's insecurities and affirmation from the male gaze. Laugh at all his jokes, even when they're not funny. Don't talk about the things you really like to do but more so the things that seem more relatable. Dress a little more 'basic' to look more approachable. Don't wear makeup, do wear makeup, don't be loud, don't be smarter than he is, make him feel needed, don't speak at all, show more ass, don't show anything at all...

These constant messages that we are fed as women are frustrating and ridiculous to say the least. Moreover, what it implies is that all of that responsibility is contingent on women molding themselves to comfort male fragility, simplifying and silencing parts of themselves, rather than men simply Manning the Fuck Up. Gender constructions tell men they must never show vulnerability and are not allowed to express their insecurities, although they very much have them. And this is central when it comes to dating. All of my life I have been told that my looks, my mind, my interests, the essence of who I am can come across as intimidating to a man because "it's too much". But too much for who? A guy who's masculinity depends on the subjugation of a woman.

In no way is this post meant to come across as a "Feminazi" rant against men. I love men! I would just like to see more men confident in themselves who allow women to confidently be themselves without that being some sort of indictment on them and their masculinity. Beyond the social media posts, my style, the natural confidence I may exude, is a dope ass girl who's vulnerable and a lot more awkward than you may know. Because for every passionate discussion I may have about patriarchy and Ta- Nahesi Coates' brilliant analysis of racism and black plunder, is a girl who binges on gory tv shows, downs beer, and doesn't just order a salad off of the menu. Who spends just as much time in sweats and glasses than in more stylish pieces. My point is, women should be allowed the space to be multifaceted and not tossed to the side out of fear of intimidation.

We're a lot more approachable than you may think.

You just may not have enough balls...