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Aug. 29th, 2007

I could have sworn that I'd read How to Lose Friends and Allienate People when it was new several years ago. But a couple weeks back I dug it out along with some other books in the basement and realized that I didn't really remember any of it. As I've been reading some things have come back to me so I'm sure I read it. But - I don't know I guess it didn't really stick.

Anyway - there's this stuff in here.

The willingness of New York women to enter what is essentially a nineteenth-century marriage market is surprising. After all, the cause of women's emancipation is more advanced in Manhattan than in any other city in the world. They might not describe themselves as "feminists," but if these women experience any form of discrimination they're straight on the phone to their attorneys. They're more ambitious, better educated and less oppressed than any previous generation of women and yet they're prepared to go to any lengths, however demeaning, to secure a husband. Why?

and in a footnote on the same page:
Katie Roiphe wrong an article for Esquire in which she discussed this paradox: "Seen from the outside, my life is the model of modern female independence... But it sometimes seems like my independence is in part an elaborately constructed facade that hides a more traditional feminine desire to be protected and provided for." "The Independent Woman (And Other Lies)," Esquire, February 1999"

I just found that all a pretty interesting observation. Especially from a male non-American.

A couple of days ago I had a conversation with Karl about the weirdness that comes from feeling like I'm not supposed to behave in a way that is natural for me. I have a basic "let me get that for you" sort of instinct. I want to cook dinner and get you a drink and do the dishes and all that stuff. But all the while I feel like I'm not supposed to want to do that. Because somewhere along the way feminism went from being about the freedom to do whatever you wanted to being just as rigid a mode of thought as the patriarchal bullshit is was setting out to change.
Women are always first and foremost about judging other women. And unfortunately it's gotten under my skin and I am sometimes really sheepish about how I feel.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Personally, I don't quite see what one has to do with the other. Independence and a demand for equality don't, in my mind, suggest a need for non-traditional family structures, frigidity, or homosexuality. I think these things become conflated because a single, very successful political and cultural movement advocated the right to any and all of them, but I don't think they have anything to do with each other except as things that everyone ought to have a right to.
Aug. 29th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
They don't have anything to do with one another. But I don't know a single woman (of anything close to my age) who uses the words "housewife" or "homemaker" without a level of disdain.

In theory I should be able to do whatever the hell I want without having to worry about how it comes across or represents me. I should be separate from my gender. But even my own mother teases me about being "housewifey" and cooking dinner every night and all that other stuff. I don't think I can explain it but from my own perspective (because hell - I don't really have a line on how the rest of the world feels) I often get that weird feeling that I'm not being enough of a "modern woman". That I'm letting someone down in some weird way.

Heh. Now that I think about it I'm sure I definitely couldn't explain it.
Aug. 29th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
i'd just like to say SOME forms of feminism.

and, some would say: how much of the 'let me get that for you' instinct is natural, or something that was socialized into you?

i know i've been socialized that whenever anything happens: start gathering food and stuffing it into anyone who stands still. cancer? have a nice deli platter. graduation: ohh, dean and deluca basket? terrible morning: nice sticky bun, anyone?

i lucked out by destroying the kitchen in the great churro incident[1] of 91, so was banned from the kitchen for a really really long time. i can cook, but feel no strong urges.

[1] hot oil + water = baaaad. very bad. i'm lucky nobody got scarred for life bad.

Aug. 29th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
That right there kind of sums up what makes me feel bad and guilty and pretty resentful. The idea that I couldn't just be someone who enjoys nurturing others or helping them out or who just digs on cooking - it must have been a learned response due to my vagina. The fact that that even comes up is really insulting to me and is one of the things about the feminist movement that makes me feel outside of it and disenfranchised.

I made some incredible hummus last night. Spur of the moment, let's see if I can do this, never tried it before type thing. Improvised most of it. And it's better than anything I've ever purchased before. I felt proud of myself for pulling that off. I just dig on cooking. Then I realize that I can't just own that. Because I'm a chick. So OF COURSE I dig on cooking. It's what chicks do, after all. And hey - if it isn't by virtue of the fact that I'm an innie it's because I'm obviously just some sort of automaton who was programed by our patriarchal society. Poor thing! So I can't just feel okay about being me because my identity is annoyingly entangled with the stereotypes of my gender.

My sister grew up in the same house as me, exposed to just as much motherly cooking/family dinner type stuff. You know why she cooks? Because if she didn't they'd have fast food every night. It's born out of necessity, not her ovaries, and not a learned response.

Aug. 29th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
dude, i blame the patriarchy for damn near everything
i feel like we're on conflicting wavelengths, and i'm saying things badly.

i wasn't saying you couldn't just like cooking. i was talking specifically about what you were saying about the NEED to nurture, and is that inherent in certain individuals, or in all vagina-bearing people, or something that is socialized, or a little of all. is it something that springs from a desire, or something that expectations throughout life helped mold. i have NO idea.

i do think that on some level, the desire to nurture those around us is inherent in EVERYONE, and b/c of both individual desire and overall socialization/stereotyping/expectations people express it differently. but I'm talking about it in a largely theoretical setting. and you're right, being made to feel like shit b/c of your choices isn't kosher.

for most of my life, my mom did all the cooking, b/c she was a stay-at-home mom, and that's what was expected of her. Later in life, after my mom went back to school and started working, my dad started cooking, part out of necessity (eat or die, mom ain't gonna be home) and then discovered he really enjoyed it, and now does most of the cooking. it was a weird moment for the family when we realized dad's matzah balls were vastly better than mom's kinda lead-like ones.

and my dad was extremely affected by gender-based molding/socialization/etc by my grandfather. when my dad went to college, he just wanted to be a school teacher. my grandfather forced him into engineering and the military. did he do well with it? sure, but he always felt disappointed, and when he left the military he went back to school to become one, only to discover that his years of military service pretty much killed all his flexibility and he couldn't work with children. but years later, he's doing a lot of care for my niece (~2yrs right now), all the stuff he wasn't able to be around for, for us, and he's discovering a nurturing side that he never felt was there/able to express/whatever.

and as i work with a certain 6-year old and contemplate horrible things, i realize that certain nurturing things are just not present in me, and i wonder, am i a sociopath, unable to connect and empathize? what the fuck is wrong with me? wow, it's good I don't have any kids, cause man oh man, i would be a fucking horrible mother, and does that make me a bad person? am i better for realizing that maybe it's good to skip on that for now? am i failing all of womankind by not being superwoman, leaping careers with a single bound and raising uberkinder, all without smearing my mascara?

at least we're not talking about the role of lipstick and high heels in enabling the patriarchy...
Aug. 29th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
Re: dude, i blame the patriarchy for damn near everything
I've had the "you've been socialized to behave this way" conversation before with people because I did something "traditional". (I think part of the "oh you cook dinner? oh you bake?" shittiness actually stems from a level of resentment. It's usually women who are poor cooks who get really snotty at me about it. They don't naturally excel at it so because I'm pretty good it must be out of desire to fit a 1950s woman ideal). My response started as "that's the thing that makes me mad" and just ended up me being mad. hehe.

One of my brothers is a professionally trained chef. The other an office kind of guy obsessed with gardens, growing things, yards, etc. and he typically does all the cooking (he's also an incredible father). My sister is mostly work oriented but gets into really intricate detailed maintenance of work things and as a hobby is into scrap booking. She builds, maintains, knows, and really connects with the sort of things that most people would find too mundane to deal with. We are all intensely attached to animals. So if there was a socialization aspect to my nuturing instincts then I think we were all affected by it, regardless of gender.

I understand what you're saying about the molding and such that goes on. And it's definitely a valid conditioning apparatus that I'm surprised more people aren't aware of in their own lives.

My mother got married and had kids because she was supposed to. What she wanted to do was pursue design and fine art. She's always given off an aura that taking care of the family was a duty - not a passion. She was loving and doting and thoughtful and a great nurturing force. But I always knew it was a have to not a want to.

So I've actually been constantly surprised by how happy I am doing really simple things like teaching myself how to make authentic sticky rice. I shouldn't be so proud of that. It's cooking. It's a duty. It's something generally "expected" of women. But I just AM. So the added "ah you're just conditioned to feel that way" push makes me feel bad about it.

I'm always happy when people realize their own suitability toward raising kids. I know at least one person who had kids because she was supposed to. She got the husband she was supposed to have, the career she was supposed to have, the house, the money, the cars, the shoes, the bags, the perfect hair and makeup and then the perfect little kids. She's the superwoman you describe. And to me she screams of resentment. She should never have had children. I have another friend who's swearing she doesn't want kids but she melts whenever she's around a baby. She doesn't think she should want kids. So she's pretending she doesn't.

Personally, my biological clock is tick tocking away like mad. We can't get our shit together and into a slightly larger house soon enough for me.

A friend was telling me that she felt like she wasn't a good enough woman or that she was lacking because she had issues breast feeding. She felt like a failure as a mother within days of becoming one because of all the pressure put on women to be perfect natural all knowing all doing mothers instantly.

So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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