March 04, 2005

Whaddya Mean, "We?"

You know, I've been spending a lot of time on the blog lately railing against stupid women, not all of whom are academics. I was actually hoping to post a huge rant about the Churchill-lite chickie who replaced everyone's favorite faux-Indian faux-scholar at Colorado and invoked the Spectre of the NeoConservative McCarthyite Hilterian Jackbooted Thug of Doom™, but I was sidetracked yesterday by an unepected bout of vomit at mile marker 301 (The Boy's, not mine), and I had to defer my apoplexy for 24 hours, during which time it abated somewhat.

And today, whilst persuing AL Daily, I came across this book review which, in the proud Hunter Thompson tradition, tells me more about the book reviewer than the book being reviewed. I'm thinking that the writer has some Issues, and they aren't with the author. Nope, it's all about Marriage.

Here's the paragraph where my internal monologue went from "blah, blah, blah, yadda yadda yadda," to "who's WE, bitch?":

As a divorced woman in her mid-forties, I am only too aware of the ghastly truth that feminism has never touched. My career is irrelevant. Not having a husband makes me a total loser in the eyes of the world ó particularly, Iím sorry to say, in the eyes of other women. We have a dismal tendency to look behind a successful woman, and to pity the poor dear if she hasnít managed to grab a man and a couple of children on her way up the ladder. She may be successful, we say, but she canít possibly be happy.

Never mind the fact that this has only tangentally to do with the book being reviewed, which the reviewer later admits is:

This book is a witty, incisive deconstruction of the entire bridal myth. It is not a call to arms. Kingston is not urging us to burn our white frocks. Although unmarried herself, she is not against the institution of marriage.

So what's with this "we pity sad, unmarried women with good careers" crap? I don't pity them, unless they spend every available moment whining about the lack of good men out there, or about how lonely they are. And even then, I don't pity them. I might fantasize about beating them soundly with an issue of Cosmo, but that's merely motivated by my hatred of all things whiny, not pity.

Let me type this once again, slowly, so that my thicker sisters-in-arms will get it: feminism is a means to self-empowerment. Self-empowerment means that we have the opportunity to be as happy and successful, or as miserable and unsuccessful, as we want to be. It doesn't mean that everyone is going to bend over backwards to praise every life decision you make. It requires more than a small amount of self-confidence. And if you think that everyone believes you're a failure because you aren't married, well, forgive me if that still, small voice in my head wonders if you--not the big, bad, amorphous "society," or poor brainwashed female fellow travelers--are the one who thinks you're a loser.

Sigh. I may start filing stories like this under "Reporter TMI Syndrome"--wherein the reporter cannot get past his or her hangups long enough to write a story. Then again, maybe I won't. I have a feeling the file would quickly get unmanageably huge.

But that's a "Dear Reporters: Stop using the press as a self-help mechanism!" rant for another day.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at March 4, 2005 01:45 PM

Great post BAW!

Posted by: Emily Nelson at March 4, 2005 02:58 PM

About a million years ago (OK, it was 1989), I started my undergraduate degree at a very pretty, notoriously lefty and quite tiny liberal arts school in a town in western Massachusetts. During my first semester I took a course involving a residency with the lesbian/feminist theatre troupe Split Britches. I'd never really been out of Maine before, and I thought they were the bees knees. Fifteen years later, I still think they're the bees knees, and I still remember something that playwright Deb Margolin said during that residency: "Feminism is just self-respect. If you're black, they call it civil rights. If you're queer, they call it something else."

I didn't think I needed to turn in my Feminist Card when I got married, nor did I need to turn it in when I became a mom, highlighted my hair (a tragic error for another time), published my first journal paper or cashed my first paycheck.

I suspect that most women probably do want to find someone to spend their lives with for the same reason that most men want to find someone to spend their lives with: because it's more fun to have a partner in crime. I also needed someone to scratch my back and fetch things.

Posted by: Ph.D. Mama at March 4, 2005 03:12 PM

Psstt... my own three year old son vomited at mile marker 301 the other day. Is it something in the scenery?

Posted by: Ph.D. Mama at March 4, 2005 03:18 PM

PhD Mama -

All I know is that my car still smells of vomit. And I am Not Happy About It At All. Grr.

Also, I had to wash my kid off in the bathroom at work and then drive the 20 miles back home in the vomit-mobile.

I'm thinking of installing barf bags behind the driver's seat.

Posted by: BAW at March 4, 2005 03:56 PM

I read that and thought the same thing!

Posted by: Sam at March 4, 2005 06:12 PM

In an alternative universe, if there were no males, what would feminism be?

I don't think it would have to change much. Its object of scorn is pretty abstract already, involving no actual males but just males in general, as an idea. Of course with no men, there would be no naughty body parts either, so there are disadvantages.

Power is supposed to be an unauthorized reification, by the way, a confusion of auctoritas, potestas, imperium, officium. As a reification you can acquire it and lose it and usurp it, which I guess is handy.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at March 5, 2005 06:21 AM

Actually, I've had people tell me how "sorry" they felt for me that I wasn't married. And then in the next breath, they proceeded to bash their husbands or their kids. (No, these were not people who'd define themselves as feminists)

Cognitive dissonance much?

I made a choice in life (well, not 100% voluntary choice, but still) to remain single and not have kids. I'm willing to live with the consequences of that choice. I realize I've given stuff up but I've got a lot of stuff (like totally uninterrupted Saturdays to work on what I want) in return.

I will say I don't think I've ever had the experience of being "put down" (at least to my face, and if people are going to be catty behind my back I don't want to know about it) because I'm single. I don't define myself on the basis of whether or not I have a man in my life at the moment. (Which is a fortunate thing.)

Just don't give me the pity-face because you can't imagine life without a man, please. There are days I have to admit I can't quite imagine myself coping with a husband and kids, but I don't sigh heavily and give you the Sad Kanga look because you choose to hook your life to someone else's.

Posted by: ricki at March 7, 2005 09:41 AM

I love the Sad Kanga look! You partner up a Sad Kanga look with a Mermaid Dress and some lucite heels and you've got yourself a party.

Posted by: Ph.D. Mama at March 7, 2005 12:53 PM