Wait, are you telling me that Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys addresses women’s issues? If “women’s issues” include understanding why guys spit, scratch themselves, and give each other noogies, well then this book certainly addresses them!
As for addressing the whole bit about a patriarchal world history, the subjugation of women, and accused responsibility for the Fall of Man, well, you might as well forget it.
Dave Barry might not make you feel better about the stature of women in today’s world or the future of the human species, but hopefully you can say this: you’re not a guy.
Dave Barry’s book reminds me a lot of an episode of Seinfield: it’s all about nothing. It tells the reader what guys are thinking(nothing) and what their “deal” is(nothing). While it does pretty much, well, nothing to help understand women or help women understand, the one thing it does do is hold true to the manufacturer’s guarantee: you WILL laugh. You will not only laugh, but you will laugh hard. You will laugh hysterically, obnoxiously hard. You will want to share Dave Barry’s insight on the male species with everyone you know and every stranger you meet, particularly so if they are women.
Barry’s book speaks little about the real reasons as to why males do the things they do and more about the fact that they are just scumbags and idiots. According to Barry, people “make being male sound like a very important activity, as opposed to what it primarily consists of, namely, possessing a set of minor and frequently unreliable organs”(xi). You will become convinced that the title should not be “Complete Guide to Guys,” but “More Reasons Why Women Are The Better Sex.” In fact, Barry himself seems to support the latter idea through his discussion of “the Punch Reflex,” “the Noogie Gene,” scientific reasons as to why guys act like jerks, the hidden truth of the Space Shuttle program, and standards. Yes, guys are just mindless idiots who like things that go, “Brrrrrrmmmmmmmmm!” I suppose he would know, though: he is a guy.
It is a well-known fact that our world history is dominated by a tyrannical patriarchy in which the majority of women have been forgotten. Somehow, according to Barry, it is the men who have been forgotten. “Guys have played an important role in history, but this role has not been given the attention it deserves, because nobody wrote it down”(9). Yet, in Barry’s fifteen-page chapter recounting the entire history of the world, the male role in the subjugation, victimization, and abuse of women was entirely forgotten. In truth, women- period- were forgotten. What Barry did tell us, however, were actually little known facts about women in history. Prehistoric women actually took care of the children and gathered roots, only to throw them away later(the roots, that is). Women didn’t exist in Ancient Egypt. Women in the Middle Ages only complained that their kids kept getting the Plague. The only women in the Renaissance were statues. God only knows what happened with the women during the Protestant Reformation; the guys were out fishing when that happened. The only participation women had in the Age of Exploration was telling their husbands that they should stop and ask for directions, as well as almost being victims of head-on collisions with Christopher Columbus. Women in colonial America were actually men dressed up as French milkmaids who threw cows into the Boston Harbor. Women disappeared, again, during the Industrial Revolution. The only woman in the Modern Era- or, at least, Dave Barry’s Modern Era- was Sherryl Gingrich, a reader who sent him a newspaper article about family men in their forties who decided to hurl themselves off a ski-jump in a canoe. Yes, I do believe Dave Barry is right: it is the men who have been forgotten in history. In all seriousness, while Barry is intending to only to make a mockery of men’s history, he is also making a mockery of women’s history by disregarding her very presence. Barry’s recounting of history is reflective of the world today, as well as history itself. Barry forgot women in his telling of history, just as so many actual history books have. He deals with the issue of a forgotten sex by mirroring our patriarchal world history: he simply forgets it.
While his efforts as a historian are in vain, Barry is quite successful as a teacher of sociology. While he writes fairly little on women’s socialization techniques, he speaks at great length of the methods of male socialization. They are a hot topic for Barry and, surprisingly enough, he actually offers some very valid information and possible reasons behind male behavior. His explanations of male socialization should be considered in conjunction with his explanations of the male biology, seeing as much of male socialization is directly affected- and primarily caused- by his biological nature. “There are powerful underlying biological reasons why guys act the way they do, as opposed to acting like human beings”(43). By and large, Barry accredits male behavior to hormonal influences(i.e. sexual hormones). “I’m not saying that women don’t think about sex also. I’m saying that women are capable, for at least brief periods of time, of not thinking about sex, and that most guys are not”(31). As well as their ability to be non-sexual, Barry also accredits women with the ability to be logical and sensible through his discussion of the effects of testosterone on male behavior. Barry uses this male biology in combination with gender-focused media ploys, namely, toys and machinery. Both male and female socialization, according to Barry, are influenced by stereotypical gender-focused toys, which imply a certain type of gender behavior. Males are introduced to the ideas of power and dominance at a very young age through toys and the media, whereas these same things teach females a stereotypical duty to be caretakers and gentle. It is He-Man versus Bake-A-Cake. Barry exemplified the effects of the gender-based commercial marketing on male and female socialization through an incident at Burger King with his son.
“I’d see a table of little girls, and they’d be eating and talking, just like miniature humans. Whereas my son and his friends seemed to have some kind of nervous-system linkage between their mouths and their hands, so that they could not chew without punchingI’d look over at the table of little girls, who’d be chatting and thoughtfully passing each other the napkins, and I would wonder how we ever permitted my gender to get control of, for example, the government”(52-53).
Barry uses a very humorous situation to show the honest validity of the effects that society has on the interaction styles of both sexes. Socialization is greatly affected by impressions made by society. It must be acknowledged, however, that these impressions are made by adults who themselves are victims of gender-behavior generalizations that have been passed down through history.
There is little else of Dave Barry’s book that can be compared to the variety of women’s issues broached during this semester. While his book is undoubtedly hysterical, it is not a viable resource that would show the issues that women have dealt with and continue to deal with in today’s world. He quite rarely mentions the trials, tribulations, and successes of the female sex, making the only argument that their greatest problem has been male idiocy. He makes a mockery of the male sex, offering the blanket statement that women are smarter, more reasonable, and all-around better human beings. He makes this statement by dealing only with “stupid human tricks” that males have engaged in(such as the previously mentioned canoe-skiing). It is a book that is entirely worth reading, but it cannot- and should not- be considered a serious source from which to gain actual evidence of women’s issues. It is a book that sheds a very humorous, and sometimes honest, light on the male species, but only on the male species. It is the type of book that one would read after having a fight with their significant other or in the company of women. It is the type of book that makes you highly appreciate being a woman. It is the type of book that makes you happy to laugh and say: at least I’m not a guy.