quinta-feira, 25 de maio de 2006

What I know about men ...

Alanis Morissette: 31, singer, lives with her boyfriend

I used to be a male chauvinist. I hadn't been exposed to much female company, and initially it was annoying and a bit of a shock. Unlike men, who are solution-oriented, there seemed to be so much discussion about everything.

It was all to do with being on unfamiliar territory. I was raised in the most male-dominated environment you can imagine, so it was probably a self-preservation thing. I have a twin brother, Wade, an older brother, Chad and a very masculine dad. Even my mother was a tomboy. On top of that we were surrounded by nephews, male cousins and uncles. I would have been in trouble, not to mention very lonely, if I hadn't connected with the male psyche. Now my female friends, and the time I spend doing feminine things, are among the biggest joys in my life. I've learned that I need that kind of nurturing.

When you grow up thinking like a boy, you gain a privileged insight into the male thought process. I wouldn't call it a head start but there were some bonuses. I learned early on that the old criticism that men can only focus on one thing at a time can be a positive. I find that focus and single-mindedness really helpful sometimes. And I'm more able to deal with the side of me that wants to go out and ride a motorbike fast - which my boyfriend and I do a lot. That type of release that helps you manage anger and frustration is an anathema for a lot of women. Men have a lot of secrets as to how to channel that energy.

I draw the line at listening to cock rock, however. A lot of women go wild for that, but it looks like a cartoon to me. I listen to a 50/50 split between male and female artists, but the men I listen to tend to have androgynous appeal, like Rufus Wainright and Justin Faulkner.

Because I suppressed that side of myself early on, it all exploded in a torrent of femininity as a teenager, for which I apologise. Looking back it was quite hard, because there's no greater indicator that you can't just hang out with the boys for the rest of your life than when you grow breasts. I was angry about it, though I don't think I ever specifically blamed men.

Because I started working in show business at the age of 10, a lot of the negative interaction I've had with men has been about the way I looked, and them wanting to exercise this kind of tyranny over me. It's more than disappointing that this continues to be a source of men gaining power over women. I remember being called in to the record-company studio when I was 15 on the premise that I needed to 'redo my vocals' when actually my male producer wanted to talk to me about 'my weight problem'. It's not surprising I had eating disorders. Like a lot of women, I've wasted time stressing over male responses and whether or not my hair was an alluring length.

I see my relationship as a people-growing machine. There are phases of infatuation, phases that are full of conflict and you need to stick it out to get there in the long run. I've been with my boyfriend, Ryan Reynolds, for four years and we've had our ups and downs. We've postponed the marriage thing because there's still work to do but it's headed in the right direction.

I don't think men are as easily scared off as they're made out to be. When Jagged Little Pill came out, I became a poster girl for some kind of post-feminist feminism. There was a perception that I was combative and angry at men through 'You Oughta Know', but the guys I went out with at that time weren't scared off at all. They seemed to like the challenge.

I deal with men in a very different way now. I cut them more slack, and expect them to do the same. I have a different emotional vocabulary and a different way of responding - a lot of this learned from men. Apart from my boyfriend, the most well-adjusted man I know is my friend, Justin Hilton. I wouldn't be so reactive now to the break-up of a relationship as I was when I wrote 'You Oughta Know'. These days cooler heads prevail.

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