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Fembots: The New Breed of Women


WebMD Feature from "Marie Claire" Magazine

By Theresa O'Rourke

Marie Claire magazine logo

Tired of touchy-feely friendships and being the vulnerable one in romance, a new breed of steely female is beating guys at their own game.

I'm at a sake bar watching a man get drunk on an ice-cold woman. He shamelessly admits he can't stop thinking about her. "Really," she says, devouring a fat slice of tuna in one tidy bite. "That's interesting." Her raw beauty recalls a young Debbie Harry. He soldiers on: Why in God's name is she single? What brought her to New York City? She smiles coyly. "You know all you need to know . . . for now."

Another eavesdropper might have made the assumption that this tight-lipped minx reads dumb-and-dumber books on seducing men. But I prefer to see her as proof of a new kind of woman, one who isn't fighting the urge to prattle on about her feelings. And though I don't know this carnivorous vixen, a part of me wants to shove my fist in the air and cry, "Atta girl!"

I came of age in the gut-spilling '90s, a time of Ally McBeal, "female bonding," Lilith Fair, and the explosion of the self-help section at Barnes & Noble. A decade has passed, but women still seem bent on suffocating themselves with an endless supply of self-indulgent hot air. We're due for a backlash, and I think it has arrived in the form of what I like to call the fembot: the cool, together, emotionally unavailable girl one cube over.

Take a look around, and you'll notice that more women are having their sensitivity chips removed. On Grey's Anatomy, an overachiever played by Sandra Oh cringes when friends ask for a hug, while Courteney Cox's equally ambitious character on Dirt shoos away men in favor of her vibrator. This fall, NBC is remaking the classic '70s show The Bionic Woman — she of the rational mind and superwoman body, an early-model fembot. Even offscreen, our sex symbols are playing against touchy-feely type. Angelina Jolie admits she sees no real benefit to crying. Scarlett Johansson believes that monogamy may not be natural. And Brooke Shields reveals she needs regular time-outs from her kids: "Some people revel in [full-time motherhood]. I revel in a different way."

In 2007, fembotism is the next frontier in the great big gender divide. We can narrow the pay gap, outpace men in earning degrees, helm a company, run the House of Representatives, choose to raise a child on our own, and match a man's sexual appetite thrust for thrust. But there's an unspoken disclaimer: We'd better not forsake our nurturing instinct while doing all of the above. Yeah, well, some of us are saying screw you to the fine print.

Nicole, 33, has been with the same guy for five years and has no plans to marry him — though he would love nothing more. "I like the way things are now, but who's to say that I'll feel that way in a year or two? Relationships are cyclical." She says this crisply and rationally, as though she were talking about selling her stakes before a bullish economy lapsed into a bear market.

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