I think the “women are mysterious” thing can also come from:
1) Women actually being quite clear, but not telling men what they want to hear. ”She said she doesn’t want to talk to me? So many mixed messages and confusing signals!”
2) Women not having cheat codes. ”I tried being nice, and she didn’t have sex with me. I tried being an asshole, and she didn’t have sex with me. Come on, there’s got to be some kind of solution to this puzzle!”
3) Women not being a hive mind. ”First a woman told me that she likes guys with big muscles. Then the very next day a woman told me she thinks muscles aren’t attractive at all. Make up your mind, women!”
4) An individual woman doing something confusing, and instead of asking “why is she doing this now?” men ask “why do women always do this?”
Yeah, I can definitely remember thinking things along the lines of 1, 3 and 4 in the past, and this making me think women were “mysterious.” (I don’t think I’ve ever really thought like 2, but I’ve known guys who did.)
This kind of thing is probably one of the main reasons I have positive views of feminism — specifically, feminism in the “think about male privilege” sense, as opposed to sense of any particular political program (I have positive views of those too, but that’s not what I’m talking about here). I remember thinking things about women that were both dehumanizing and (in retrospect) really stupid, and it wasn’t at all obvious to me that this blind spot was there, and the only way I became aware of it was by people pointing it out.
It seems like men in my society come pre-installed with these oddly terrible (in both the sense of “immoral” and “incorrect”) ideas that just sit around until they get specifically corrected. Broader ideas about equality or open-mindedness can’t correct for them. Indeed, the terrible ideas are so dumb that if they could be dispelled by basic common sense and decency, it seems like almost no one would believe them.
Instead, they live in their own little protected space, insulated from epistemic closure, and you can talk all you want about broader principles and men will still go on doing this stuff. The only way to fix the bug is to point it out specifically — “you have these specific bad ideas about women that seem to function in isolation from everything else and not obey common sense or decency” — and once you go there, you’re Being Feminist, and the vast and complicated reputation of “feminism” rises up to face you.
I wish the cure for this disease were easier to spread than it is. Men can be partly disabused of these ideas, I think, if the ideas are specifically addressed, but the act of “specifically addressing the ideas” has this really complicated reputation which leaves people lots of ways to say “oh, no, I’m not going to do that" and sound reasonable. I wish it were simple, and unobjectionable, to talk about these things.