It didn’t take long for me to realize that in Thailand, among expatriates, there is a certain amount of animosity between men and women. Some of it is stated, most of it is understated. The battle of the sexes is a far more bloodthirsty affair on the beaches, in the streets, and in these Chiang Mai hills, than it was back home where male and female seem to have always resided for the most part quietly flabbergasted with one another behind white picket fences and in boarded-up council flats.
Only recently, after reading one of the many male-orientated websites aimed at educating foreign men to life in Thailand, or Thai “girls”, I was reminded of the acrimony that often exists here between the brother and sister. After posting an excerpt of male wisdom from this site on Facebook – it was shared all over the place – I watched comments flying in like bullets lodging into trench walls. The ire of some of my female friends had been vehemently stirred, enough for some women to say quite nasty things about men in general. Here’s why. The author, who puzzlingly has three books published on Thailand, explains “why Thai women are better than western women”:
“Western women on the other hand seem to be permanently on the rag, they find any reason they can to torture you with their incoherent nonsense…a Thai girl doesn’t sweat the small stuff, bet you’ll never hear a Thai girl rag on you because you left the toilet seat up. If a Thai girl told me that I’d quickly put her in her place and make sure she leaves it up when she’s done so I don’t have to touch it dammit.” It turns out that there is an overabundance of sites like these, writing “nasty misogynist crap” as one (male expat) commenter wrote below my post. I also believe these sites are very popular. They could be the work of agent provocateurs making a buck exploiting feebleminded men with delusions about Thai social order, but it’s likely some of these sexual propaganda machines actually believe in their professed expertise. When you read the comments left on these sites by other foreign men you might be forgiven for thinking that quite a lot of male expats, now freed from modern social constraints and the pall of feminism, have arrived in Thailand and sunk their teeth deep into misogyny and sexist behavior with as much pleasure as they might have once derived from pulling girls’ bra straps in middle school – the ill-fated articulation of their dumb affection.
In response to the site and its sociopathic articles female posters returned fire in excess, accusing expatriate men of being silly absentminded fools, dirty old gits, men without the intellectual muscle to take on a (real) western woman, and other understandably bitter platitudes.
But as my mother would often say to me after I’d been bitten yet another time for pulling my dog’s tail:
“I’m not sure who’s worse, you or him.”
If some male expatriates harbor irrational hatred towards western women, then some western women also harbor unwarranted antipathy towards western blokes.
How did this fight get started?
I guess it’s because in part a lot of men engage in sexual activities in Thailand with (young) prostitutes, while other men engage in sexual activities with non-prostitutes but for various reasons become besotted with local women and leave their former sisters languishing in Rasta Bars pretending not to be enervated by the songs of Bob Marley (not always the case, but this has been said by many western women – some women feel they have been unfairly spurned).
It’s during this metamorphosis (Asian Fever it’s been called) of the male sexuality that some men decide they dislike their former sisters. In their new found confidence and skip-dizzy love-life some formerly girl-shy men seem to hail their rancor down on the women from back home who may have once scoffed at their Marks and Spencers assorted biscuits Valentine’s gift. In return for the rebuff some women resent the guys they used to share terra-firma with, and start calling them names like dirty old sod or love-struck fool.
Men are accused of sloppy rationality, immaturity, thinking with their genitals, and leveled at them is the curse that for their sojourn into Thai female sexuality they will become undone at the hands of wicked witches (I’ve also seen Thai women unfairly lambasted by western women who have preconceived negative notions of what Thai women are like), especially those men seeking the services of girls for pay, sometimes referred to as ladies.
The extremist site I quoted from above actually delineates for you the difference between good (Thai) girls and bad girls, something I have always found very peculiar. Everyone talks about these good girls and bad girls when you first get off the bus and talk to men who’ve been living in Thailand for a while. It kind of feels you’ve walked onto the set of The Wizard of Oz. The bad girl, it’s said, will sleep with you, but will probably never be the person you’ll be sharing strawberry milkshakes with. I guess by ‘good’ the experts mean ethical, but by that they mean someone, I don’t know, working in a bank or studying zoology. A girl that won’t sleep with you at first, but who will sleep with you at some point given you have enough time to hoodwink her into thinking you really are a sensitive guy.
The last Thai girl I dated, and slept with, left minuscule toenail clippings embedded in my rug. I’m not sure if she would qualify as a good girl. Perhaps I defiled her, as she defiled my rug. To be sure before she left for the final time I was duty bound to explain to her about Kant’s Categorical Imperative concerning toenail waste.
I have sometimes sensed in Thailand ill-feeling towards me for dating a Thai woman. I’m not sure that was because some people had felt that I had crossed over to the dirty old man side of life. The first girl I ever dated here, a university student, I took on my bike and we rode into the mountains. As we stopped at a red light close to Mae Rim a bunch of bare-chested backpackers laughed at us and shouted out, “How much for the girl?” Tourists in any country have to be the biggest offenders of generalizations, after all, in Thailand they try and understand a culture from a processed guidebook. I was embarrassed, she seemed not to care.
I also experienced on many occasions westerners, especially holiday makers or friends back home, not taking my relationship seriously. As if instead of falling in love, it was viewed that I had bought a new silly toy that I would get bored of once I relaised its embarrassing juxtaposition in my grown-up life. Although, my relationships with western women, and Thai women, have been filled with the same delights, the same arguments, the same ebbs and flows and joys and hard times. Sure, I never dated a woman with a chaperone in the west – the dating dynamic might be different – but mostly my human interaction with the opposite sex has been the same complex bag of tricks it has been anywhere else. Affection or love is hyper-translatable. But tell that to the people who have already decided all Thai women work as prostitutes, or that all English women can punch. I was neither dominator, nor supplicant in any relationships I had in Thailand, or in any other country. If you believe the myth that all western women are dominating, or all Thai women are subservient, then you are suffering from falling for your own petty fiction.
I spoke with a psychologist about this a matter a long time ago for a story I was writing. He seemed to think that some Thai women offered men a kind of old-school relationship where the men were the hunters and women waited at home by the hearth cutting up their lover’s stringy beef and separating the purple jelly beans from the pack. Maybe that dynamic exists, but it’s certainly not something you should expect, unless you find yourself living it. He also said that because money can buy you a relationship in this country more than it can in the west, due to women not having equal rights and economic security, that men who are lacking “social charisma” can be popular when otherwise they would have been thrown on the slag heap. Out-of-date men back home have revised sell-by-dates here in Thailand, he said. This might be true, but it’s also very untrue.
Generalising is junk food for the mind, and in your heart you know it, but like the occasional Double Whopper, it’s hard to resist, especially when you’re feeling down or insecure.
Some men, and women, might want to explore new avenues of love and sexuality, even if their fiery preconceptions turn out to be duds. It’s really none of our concern if a 60-year-old banker dates a 19-year-old pork-roll fryer. Should we care less if the stranger Barry left his marriage for a girl who wears Hello Kitty knickers? They are after all, the lives of others.
Nietzsche may have said:
“Thou who goest to woman should take thy stick.”
(I don’t think this was misogynistic, rather he understood the mother/son relationship and the power womankind would always hold over man)
But he also said:
“There are no bigger liars than the indignant.”
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, all you expatriate misogynists, misandrists, and the guys who makes lists about why western women shouldn’t be trusted.
After a bit of teasing and tail-pulling my mother also said:
“You’re all as bad as each other.”
Let’s face it, brothers and sisters, all this fighting about who’s good and bad and what is right and wrong concerning who we choose to date or how to date is infantile. You have absolutely no idea what good or bad means, or what being Thai or western means. You don’t know a western woman as much as you don’t know a piece of dust. You don’t understand a stranger’s affections, nor another person’s desires until you spend a significant amount of time with them. There’s only one thing you can be sure about when you judge other people, and that is that you are always wrong.
James Austin Farrell