What did Coach McGuirk mean when he gave Brendon Small this advice:
July 16, 2014 10:17 PM   Subscribe

What did Coach McGuirk mean when he gave Brendon Small this advice: "Brendon, let me tell you a little something about women. Women are like men. But men are not like women..."
posted by jtothes to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The joke of the McGurk character is that he is not that bright and frequently confused. So, probably just that he was trying and failing to give coherent advice. I can't really make any other sense of it. Maybe he was trying to say something like "Women understand men, but men don't understand women," but mangled it?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:43 PM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Hmm. Maybe that men are more complex (not that I agree with this)? So the set of women is within men, but the set of men includes many things that the set of women does not?
posted by mysterious_stranger at 11:17 PM on July 16, 2014

its also a parody of advice dumb guys give younger guys about dating "I know women and let me tell you they have gils and can breathe under the water wait no that is a fish"

cf the quintessential offensive parody of bad dating advice: B*tches Love X
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:51 PM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Its a stupid quote but kinda makes sense if you look at it from the point of view of fitting in. Women have learned to fit into male culture. The idea of the women who is "one of the guys" is accepted and celebrated and exploited by women in the media and male dominated fields pretty thoroughly. Most women can act this role and men tend to accept it at face value.

Men have not bothered to learn to fit into female culture and are, in fact, not welcomed there very much. A man trying to be one of the girls is not seen as a positive by the women involved typically, they are suspicious.

Men are bad at acting like women socially, women are good/better at acting like men socially when they want to.
posted by fshgrl at 12:09 AM on July 17, 2014 [15 favorites]

I think it's supposed to be funny because it sounds just flatly self-contradictory. But there's also something about it that sounds like it could be true.

There's been a long-standing debate in cognitive science about whether the concept of similarity is symmetric. That is: can you think that A is like B but think that B is not like A? Tversky pointed out in the '70s that people are willing to assent to the sentence "North Korea is like China but China is not like North Korea." This violated an axiom of symmetry for the then-popular theories that represented perceived similarity in terms of distance within an internal similarity space. Tversky instead proposed a feature-based similarity model. In this model, similarity is judged along not all the features of the two items being compared, but features that are made salient according to context and convention. In comparisons of the form "A is like B", people conventionally place the term that refers to the more prototypical or important element in the second position. This determines the features of the items upon which the similarity judgment is based.

"North Korea is like China" was judged true (for people in the '70s) because China was the stereotype of a communist county and North Korea was communist. But "China is like North Korea" was judged false because North Korea was the stereotype of an evil dictatorship and people did not want to say that China was an evil dictatorship as well. (Well, actually, I'm not sure what the stereotype of North Korea was at the time. But whatever it was, it wasn't one that made salient a feature shared by China.)

So, take McGuirk's "women are like men but men are not like women." An analogous analysis would interpret this as: "Men have certain features that are stereotypically male, and women largely share those features. Women have certain features that are stereotypically female, but men largely do not share those features." Our culture bends our stereotype of maleness to incorporate generic virtues that are shared by men and women alike (e.g. bravery, industriousness, responsibility, etc.). The cultural stereotype of femaleness includes some features that are shared (e.g. emotionality), but also an awful lot that are distinctive of women. In other words, the "woman" stereotype distinguishes women from men but the "man" stereotype does not distinguish men from women. (Consider why Pac-Man is read as male without a gender signifier but Ms. Pac-Man has a bow.)

So, in a way, Coach McGuirk is right. Women are like men but men aren't like women.
posted by painquale at 4:17 AM on July 17, 2014 [27 favorites]

Fshgrl and painquale have it. McGuirk's blathering rings sorta-true because it's more culturally accepted for women to adopt stereotypically male interests and attitudes than vice versa. Additionally, women are encouraged to be empathetic and understanding with others, yet men are not, which can make it seem like women are generally tuned in to men's emotions while men are still trying to figure out women. So it's not the dumbest advice, given that it comes from a hungover guy with multiple tattoos of food mascots.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:07 AM on July 17, 2014

I have a feeling that if you asked H. Jon Benjamin, he'd just say it was something goofy he improv'ed, and it didn't mean anything. (IIRC, a lot of that show was improv'ed first and then they'd go back and do some scripted stuff so the plot made sense.) That being said, it sure does sound like it means something.

"Men have certain features that are stereotypically male, and women largely share those features. Women have certain features that are stereotypically female, but men largely do not share those features."

No idea if that was the original intent of the line, but that is a pretty smart way to read it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:09 AM on July 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Great answer by painquale, but it's really as simple as looking at the choices available for below-the-waist clothing. Women are like men in that they can choose to wear pants with very little societal backlash (today -- definitely not so in the relatively recent past), but men are not like women in that they cannot choose to wear a skirt without having to deal with some pretty heavy cultural baggage.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:29 AM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here's the episode that comes from: Home Movies 101 - Stay Away From My Mom.

In the episode, McGuirk goes on a date with Brendon's mom. The date doesn't go well but Brendon's mom is still disappointed that McGuirk doesn't call her the next day; this is relayed in a telephone call that Brendon overhears. So, Brendon goes to McGuirk's depressing office to try and convince him to call his mom. McGuirk goes on a extended (maybe improvised) monologue about how he shouldn't be dating any of the kids' moms and he might just swear off of women altogether. With a little more context:
M: I swear to God, I'm think I'm off women altogether. Brendan, let me tell you something about women.
B: What's that?
M: Women are like, they're like men. But I tell ya something. Men are not like women. When you grow up, you'll understand what I'm talking about.
posted by mhum at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

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