Late last year, a guy friend of mine emailed The Date Report and asked if exclamation marks are too “girly” for male use. He said he’d sometimes write them in emails, but then decide that unless a situation called for an extreme reaction, the exclamation marks made the tone of his email a bit too…effeminate.

As much as I wanted to tell him that, no, of course a punctuation mark can’t be anything but gender neutral, the truth is there is something a little bit feminine about them. (Does this stem from the social construct of women being expected to be agreeable and affable, while men are expected to be cool and unexcitable?)

The female prickliness regarding how men express themselves on the Internet can be summed up with this Gchat from my friend, regarding a guy she was messaging with on HowHookup:

Cal: Ugh, he finally wrote back but ended like, every sentence in an exclamation mark.
Cal: Not interested.

If you asked me whether it should be acceptable for a woman to use any mannerism or affectation that society considers to be “masculine,” I would vehemently argue “Yes! Of course!“. Because women should be able to do anything men do.

But if you caught me off-guard and asked me whether I would date a guy who uses emoticons, I would unhesitatingly reply with a curt: “Ew. No.” (I even wrote about men who use emoticons disparagingly in this post.)

In an essay for The Hairpin, Joe Berkowitz describes the double standard, and the “nose-wrinkling vitriol with which ladyfriend after ladyfriend has condemned the textual flourishes of the men in their lives lately.”

“If it all boils down to manliness, though, then it’s kind of insulting. Not toward me and my brethren, but for women. Linking LOL and the smiley to a lack of testosterone implies that anything written with less than Comp 101 formalism is automatically ‘girly.’ Obviously, that’s an insane argument to make. It’s not as though dropping an LOL is in the same inherently feminine league as writing squee or using an angle bracket and 3 to make a love-heart. In all likelihood, the real problem with emoticons and LOL-ing isn’t that they make men seem girly, but that, when overused, they make us seem like tools.”

Well. I feel a little guilty now.

What do you say, girls? Can we be a little more forgiving to boyfriends and potential suitors who use these “textual flourishes?” Or is this just a double-standard men are going to have to get used to?

[Note: In my opinion, an all caps "LOL" should be banned for either sex, especially when it follows your own joke, LOL! (See? Insufferable.)]

[Mr. Darcy Might Have LOL'd: On Male Usage of Emoticons and Laugh-cronyms]