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Artist, Heather Oliver             

Snachismo, or: What Do Women Want?

Between the approach of Valentine’s Day and recent discussions in a forum where a lot of stale sociobiological doctrines about women were put forward, I thought I’d put this up… planting a flag, as it were.

Even before hormones signaled my entry into the arena of sex, I had a sinking feeling whenever I contemplated relationships with the opposite gender. I had cause to be worried: I grew up in Greece during the sixties. At that time, the culture was as close as you could get to Islamic outside the Middle East. It approved of strong women – but its definition of female strength was endurance and constant giving. Both the Hellenic and Byzantine legacies of my people were solidly arrayed against uppity women, ready to strike, confine and prune.

hawkeye-coraSo there I was, bright, science-oriented, competitive, unfeminine, demanding equal treatment, expecting my future partners to be both lovers and friends… blessed, too (or should it be cursed?) with my father’s unstinting love, as well as his frank appetites and eye for beauty in everything. Glumly contemplating the thorny path before me, I frequently complained to him for bequeathing the wrong chromosome to the zygote that produced me. A pragmatic man with a strong streak of defiant aloneness, he was unrepentant. The fourth of five brothers with no sister, he was ecstatic that his single child was a daughter to whom he could give the name of the mother they lost too early in a terrible accident – even though he had to fight with the priests, because the name was pagan (there was no separation of church and state in Greece at that time).

I took an obvious path out of my difficulties. I left Greece the moment I could, an escape made possible by a Harvard scholarship. There were other reasons to leave, granted: Greece was a military dictatorship at the time, there was no scientific research going on there to speak of… but in the back of my mind, the question of partners lay like a sleeping dragon.

The first thing I did when I arrived in Cambridge and dropped my luggage on my dorm bed was to open a bank account. The second was to visit the student health services and ask for contraceptives. Those were the halcyon days after the Pill and before AIDS, when for one brief shining moment the act of love did not come festooned with punitive legal or medical strings. The dorms were co-educational, and my experiments in the domain of love were as eager, extensive and adventurous as they were in my courses.

About thirty years and fifty men later (counting short-term encounters), I think I’m finally ready to answer Freud’s burning question: What Do Women Want? I do not purport to answer on behalf of my entire gender. But I can unequivocally say what I want in my men and to put it in a soundbite, the answer is: Snachismo.

What, do you ask, is snachismo? It is a seamless fusion of snugglability and machismo. Those of you who read excerpts of my story Spider Silk saw snachismo embodied in the Koredháni men. For those who didn’t, I will briefly explain the concept.

To avoid confusion, I should point out right away that a snacho man is entirely distinct from a Byronic demon lover, a much more common type to whom many women are fatally attracted – sometimes literally, since many in this subgroup start as Heathcliffs and end up as wife beaters. All the dark brooders found in bodice rippers, including (alas!) Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester, are not snacho. Neither are alpha males or the so-called strong silent types.

So now that we know what is not snacho, let’s see if I can give you the gist of what is. A snacho man is physically, emotionally, intellectually adult. A snacho man, unlike an alpha male, gives his primary allegiance to his partner, not to other men. He actually likes women as people and is not afraid of them as partners or lovers – which means that, in contradistinction to the Byronic brooder, he has no need to dominate or play mindgames and is neither squeamish nor a prude in bed. Nor does he consider it unmanly to laugh, cry, be affectionate or express emotions beyond just anger (using words, not grunts or fists).

These are the primary irreducible attributes of snachismo. They may sound simple and easy but apparently are not, since few men achieve them. Several secondary attributes tend to arise from these. Given the pressure on both genders to conform to social stereotyping, a snacho man is likely to be a maverick and possess an unusual measure of both bravery and dash – an untamed wildcat, not a penned cattlebeast. He is also likely to have more than one active vocation or talent, and at least one in a domain considered not traditionally masculine. So a snacho man will have aspects of the bard, the storyteller, the contrary, the sorcerer, the shaman – roles that today’s men have largely abandoned in their apparent frenetic quest to become cubicle rats.

trevor-aeonA scholarly essay must, of course, give examples… and not surprisingly, I didn’t find obvious snacho candidates among most mainstream fiction. But I can name a few in science fiction: Dominic Harlech, aka Niki Falcon in Emma Bull’s Falcon; Radu Drac in Vonda McIntyre’s Aztecs and Superluminal; the Servitors in Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country – who turn out to be the real men, rather than the so-called Warriors. And off the top of my head, I can think of four in film: Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) in the film version of Aeon Flux; Sam Gillen (Jean Claude van Damme, who would have thunk!) in Nowhere to Run; Rob Roy McGregor (Liam Neeson) in Rob Roy; and, of course, Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) in The Last of the Mohicans. In that film, what pinpoints him as the quintessence of snachismo is not his undemonstrative bravery, the many skills, the untameable beauty, the way he makes love (though they all help!). The unmistakable signal is when Cora takes out her musket during the ambush by the Iroquois – and instead of telling her that ladies don’t do that kind of thing, he hands her his gunpowder pouch.

So what about me? Well, thirteen years ago someone looked at me across a room. He had copper hair to his waist and the most intelligent eyes I have ever seen. A month after our meeting he showed up at my doorstep with his toothbrush and moved in. Suffice it to say that he fulfills all the attributes of snachismo, both primary and secondary… so there is hope after all.

Credit must go to Peter Cassidy for coining the term “snacho”. My thanks to Jester for pointing out that Liam Neeson as Rob Roy perfectly fit the snachismo model.

Photo Credits: Top, Cora (Madeleine Stowe) and Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) in The Last of the Mohicans. Bottom,  Aeon (Charlize Theron) and Trevor (Marton Csokas) in Aeon Flux.

20 Responses to “Snachismo, or: What Do Women Want?”

  1. mrchrstn says:

    Insightful essay, Athena! I enjoyed it quite a bit.

  2. Walden2 says:

    Athena, don’t you realize? We are GUYS! We’re lucky if we can think about more than one, maybe two things at a time, let alone actually do something – and you expect us to be manly AND senstive?! Yikes!

    Now I feel even more insecure, thanks a lot.

    By the way, how come in the two images you use with this article, the women appear to be in need of help from the males with them, who at least from the pics you use don’t strike me as being terribly sensitive. Is there a subliminal message going on here?

    I have enough trouble trying to be appear manly enough throughout the day where I am now and yet still retain some of my intelligence so that I don’t end up swilling beer in front of the NASCAr event on TV.

  3. Athena says:

    Come on, Larry, guys CAN multitask if they put both their minds to it!

    As for the images, in the first one they’re embracing just before separating. In the second, she’s actually holding him up (he’s sporting several bullet holes and his arm is draped over her shoulder for support). You can’t see it clearly because they’re both wearing black.

    NASCAR? You? Nope, I don’t see it somehow.

  4. Walden2 says:

    I have not seen either film (I used to watch the animated version of Aeon Flux, though), so no, I was not quite sure what was going on. Maybe it was just my guy type impressions.

    I tried watching car races a few times. The words “bored out of my mind” fit perfectly for the experience, but then again that is how I feel about most sports.

    Just don’t tell the guys, okay?

  5. Athena says:

    Larry — What’s interesting is that you automatically assumed that the women in both images were the helpless party. As for your sports proclivities, my lips are sealed.

    Christian — I forgot to thank you for your nice words! And I enjoyed your original wording (“I came, I saw, l read.”) What can I say, I like witty, literate men!

  6. intrigued_scribe says:

    Wonderful essay. :) And having seen three of the four films mentioned here (excluding Nowhere to Run), I agree that the male leads in each certainly fit the definition of snatcho. Excellent food for thought, as always.

  7. Athena says:

    I’m happy you enjoyed it, Heather! You were among those who journeyed with me to Koredhán and helped me dream its men, the finest embodiments of snachismo (*smiles*).

  8. Walden2 says:

    Well, at least there is some manliness left in me then. :^)

    You do understand it is very confusing for most males, to have
    to be manly men AND sensitive enough at the same time.

    Women can act silly and hug each other in public and nobody
    even blinks. Men so much as shake hands too long and we’re
    in trouble from society. Personally I am all for evolving way
    beyond our Cromagnons with Car Keys stage.

    I think you will find this essay very interesting:

    http://www.americanpopularculture.com/journal/articles/spring_2004/dennis.htm

  9. Athena says:

    I did find the Dennis article interesting. I call this The Boys’ Treehouse/Girl Cooties syndrome; Hollywood still suffers from it extensively. Few of its films pass the Bechdel test: the women are always vastly outnumbered and always seen in relationship to the men. I referred to this syndrome in my Star Wars critique.

    As for behavior in public, women suffer far worse than men the moment they try to become public figures. Compare the criticism of Clinton and Obama during their campaign and you will see what I mean. These strictures harm both genders, but they still favor men where concrete advantages (money, prestige, appointments) are concerned. I suspect that if we don’t solve this problem we will never thrive as a species.

  10. Walden2 says:

    I just have to say, strictly looking at those images you used for this
    blog piece, that in the first one the man certainly looks like he is
    comforting the woman, and I am referring to his facial expression as well as his actions (and why do these things always happen in the rain?).

    In the second image, the woman looks frightened, or at least deeply concerned about being in some kind of danger. The guy next to her seems to have no particular reaction/expression, at least in that shot.

    At the very least, nobody in these two scenes look happy.

  11. Athena says:

    In the first it’s not raining — they’re hiding from enemies behind a waterfall. In the second, they are on the run from adversaries. In both cases, the other side intends to kill them… so indeed, they’re not happy. But they’re still partners, the women are not distressed damsels.

    If you want to see the full reasons why I consider the guys snacho, I recommend that you see the DVDs. Both films are interesting and well done: adventures in the best sense of the term, so it will be more than just educational! (*laughs*)

  12. Eloise says:

    As always, Athena, I completely agree with what you’ve said.

    I would like, however, to extrapolate on one of your comments. You mentioned Hawkeye’s unquestioning acceptance of Cora’s skill with a musket as a sign of snatchismo. I would say that, in the context of the movie, it can be construed as such, especially in contrast with Heyward’s attitude. Yet even Heyward’s ultimate sacrifice can make us somewhat rethink our position.

    To go back to my first idea, I have to say that for me, a man making sure that I know how to do things isn’t macho per se, so long as it’s not overbearing. Perhaps it’s because I have a strong personality and don’t see it as a cliché against women but rather an opinion on my own capacities. Perhaps it’s because I am fully a woman of the twenty-first century bred in an equalitarian society (moreso, anyway, than some sixty years ago) and therefore more confident in my own worth as a human being. But the truth of the matter is that I see this more as a proof of concern and care than a remark cutting to the quick.

    Still, it is a matter which most surely heavily depends on the context and tone of the question and the personality of the man saying it… And in The Last of the Mohicans, it’s not exactly like Hawkeye and Cora had any time to discuss anything in commitee at that point.

    Cheers,

    Eloise :)

  13. Athena says:

    You’re right, Eloise, the juxtaposition of Hawkeye and Heyward is very interesting. Heyward indeed gains tragic stature with his final act of courage (although both men compete for this painful honor). Heyward’s conventionality doesn’t negate his bravery — but Hawkeye, whom we are meant to side with, is the more complete human being.

  14. Star Spider says:

    Athena,

    Wonderful. I have had the same misgivings about my own future mate many times. It is difficult to find the right combination of attributes and I think you have summed it up quite well! I am so glad you have found someone to embody all of those things – I will continue on my quest, but you have given me hope :)

    Now all I have to do is combine it with Parachute Love and I am set for life! :)

    http://arexistence.blogspot.com/2008/11/parachute-love-or-how-to-woo-and-be.html

  15. Athena says:

    Star Spider, I agree with you totally about life-long wooing. Especially now that we live longer!

  16. Skazka says:

    This article made me smile. As an aromantic asexual, I don’t really ever hope to settle down with a snacho guy of my very own, but I totally dig the concept.

  17. Kate says:

    Great essay. I love your concept, and think it’s a good thumbnail for seeking a mate. I’ve about given up, but somewhere out there may be a man who will hand me the gunpowder without arguing first.

    It would be a betrayal of my romantic soul to give up now!

  18. Athena says:

    I’m happy you liked it, Kate! I agree, such incidents are litmus tests of future behavior because the reactions are automatic! And as a hopeful romantic, I urge you not to give up.

  19. Walden2 says:

    I don’t know if this is the best place for this, but I know you will find it of interest:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/30/harry-potter-hermione-hollywood

  20. Athena says:

    This would fit better in Calvin’s analysis of the Harry Potter films, but it’s fine here, too!