Six Hours in the Car

So, you might wonder what I think about on the road by myself for six hours. In no particular order, here are the things that came to mind:

  1. Wow, you sure hear a lot of Garth Brooks out here still.
  2. Oh, I didn’t know Haggard and Jones recorded together. That makes sense.
  3. Why are the only good drivers on this interstate truckers?
  4. How many of those truckers do you suppose are on amphetamines right now? Should I be scared or impressed that they’re still the best drivers on the road?
  5. What could one be talking about on the phone that would be so important that one would fail to notice that she’s now going 40 in a 70 mile per hour zone?
  6. Illinois! There appears to be about 20 miles south of Effingham that is not under construction. I’m sure this is just some oversight and that the whole damn state will be clogged with yellow and white barrels very soon.
  7. Why doesn’t the dog eat pickles? She eats other vegetables.
  8. Should I pee now?

and 9. I was thinking about MTV’s Meet the Barkers, which is a reality show in which a scrawny tattooed dude drums for some band so that his beautiful wife can lounge around in bed all day.

The first thing I thought was how nice it would be to have anyone pay my way so that I could lay around in bed all day.

But then I got to thinking about the episode where it’s tattooed guy’s birthday and his wife takes him out for this elaborate meal.

On the surface, it seems like this would be the one huge drawback to a really patriarchal bullshit marriage, that it’s always the money that you’ve made pay for this. So, his wife didn’t throw him a dinner; she just arranged for his money to provide him a dinner. She’s just a conduit for his buying power.

But then, I realized that this is actually one of the greatest benefits of male privilege in a consumer culture. If the money is always all yours–made by you and controlled by you–, you never have to accept a gift from your wife, because your wife is never in a position to buy you a gift. She can only pick out gifts you buy for yourself.

Follow me here. Why wouldn’t a patriarchal bullshit man want to accept a gift from his wife?

On the surface, we associate gifts with sacrifice, with going without so that we can give something to someone. We might associate it with currying favor, or kissing up.

But gift-giving is actually more powerful than that. To give a gift is to say, in essence, I have an abundance and I want to share my good fortune with you. Being in a position to give a gift, to be able to be generous, is a position of power.

If you are in a patriarchal bullshit relationship, you don’t want your wife to have power independent of what you grant her. So, I think, accepting from her gifts you know you bought yourself is pleasurable because it reaffirms the “proper” power structure–you controlling all the resources.

Then 10. I was thinking about women in combat and how crucially important it is for women to be in combat positions and for us to be registered for the selective service.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think this evil administration has lied us into a war against a country that never attacked us while failing to find and bring to justice–either earthly or eternal–the man responsible for 9/11 and that our grandchildren will demand to know why we seemed to shovel into our mouths willingly the shit we’re being fed. I haven’t softened on that. No one in our armed forces should be being injured or dying in Iraq, when we were lied to again and again about what the reasons to put them there were. It’s unacceptable. And we are all accountable for the fact that we’ve sent them to do this nearly impossible thing without the proper tools and equipment they need to do it. The utter disregard for our uniformed young people makes me sick. We will surely reap what we’ve sown with these men and women, and I’m sorry about that.

But I want women to be equal citizens in this country. As long as it doesn’t cost us the same as it does men, we’re not. As long as we’re “sheltered” from combat and disregarded as potential draft fodder, we’re not.

I don’t want to go to war, especially this war, and I don’t want to die before I’m good and old. But I want to count.

For us to be both looking around for more and more people to recruit into the armed forces and trying to pass legislation keeping women out of combat zones just shows that women, and our contributions, don’t count. That even in the midst of having the vote and some positions of power, we’re still not really citizens. The same things aren’t required of us. In fact, it’s still inconceivable to some people that those same things ought to be required of us.

That’s bullshit. It’s dangerous bullshit.

Hey, actually, maybe 9 & 10 go together, at least for as long as we have an all-volunteer military. Here we have women saying to us, America, “Here is the gift of my life. I will fight for us.” And we’re so fucking scared of that kind of powerful statement from a woman that we’re constantly trying to dictate the terms under which we’ll accept it so that we don’t have to recognize the radical paradigm shift it represents.

So, even though we’re fighting a war that doesn’t have a front, where anyone in a uniform in Iraq might find herself in a firefight at any time, we cling so desperately to the notion that we can just ban women from combat, as if the enemies we now have will suddenly stop firing at them just because we’ve changed the rules, because we need to diffuse the power of women warriors.

And it will be a powerful change, when women who’ve fought along side men, come home.

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5 thoughts on “Six Hours in the Car

  1. “But I want women to be equal citizens in this country. As long as it doesn’t cost us the same as it does men, we’re not.”

    When will children cost them the same as us? In my view, it’s not WHAT we do that makes us ‘count’, or get all the same rights, but it’s who get’s to decide what’s important.

    Men have decided that what they do is important business. If one day they decide to stay home with children, stay-at-home parents will be eligible for full-time pay, free college tuition, medical care and generous pensions.

  2. I think you and I are actually getting at the same idea from different directions, because, clearly it’s not women in the military who are like “Oh, I’d love to be in combat, but I’m much too delicate.”

    I didn’t mean to imply that we’re shirking from our duty. I was trying to get at how this is yet another way that our contributions are devalued and our potential contributions are thrown back in our face as inappropriate.

    So, I agree with you that “it’s not what we do that makes us ‘count’,” but I would say that the fact that it’s what we’re “allowed” to do and the fact that what we’re “allowed” to do is up for discussion is a clear indication of how unequal things still are. As long as men still decide who gets to participate in things and dictate the terms and the value of that participation, we aren’t fully franchised, I don’t think.

    As you know, we can’t succeed on their terms and we still don’t have enough clout to set our terms of success.

    My question is, then, how do we get enough clout to set our own terms? There are already more of us. How do we convince women to act in our own self interest(s)?

    You can see the struggle for the rights of women and the struggle for the rights of African Americans twisting like a double helix through the history of this country.

    And we ought to learn from the ripple effect that wide-spread integration of the armed forces had on the civil rights movement.

    The one thing I dislike about the written word is that it takes a skilled writer to get across complex emotions, and I don’t have that much faith in words to convey the complex response I have to what you’ve written.

    I completely agree with you and yet, I’m not sure what to do. We keep saying the things you say and they keep pretending like they don’t get it.

    So, I’m trying to say something else that they can pretend not to get.[insert bitter laughter here]

  3. Wow. Really thought provoking stuff.
    The insight into the power display of gift-giving is right on the money.
    And as for women in combat, when have we not been in combat? We’re fighting the very moment we arrive and the doctor announces, usually with a downward inflection, “it’s a girl.”
    Girls and women should get hazard pay just for being female in a society that disposes of us so easily in the acts of battery, rape, trafficking, and murder.

    In 2005, even in these United States, girls and women are still property, are still nothing more than a collection of holes and openings.

    And the government thinks it’s protecting it’s armed women. They’re armed for chrissakes!

    Cindy

  4. What about gift giving in egalatarian relationships where all the money is pooled into one account – can you buy your spouse a gift with “our” money?

  5. Prof, can you treat yourself to a beer? Can you give yourself a fabulous orange scarf? If so, then people with communal money can buy each other gifts.

    Cindy, thanks for the compliment, but I should give credit where credit is due. Every time I read through the Havamal, I wonder about how much time the poet (Odin himself, traditionally) spends on gift-giving advice. That got me thinking that there must be a lot more to gift giving than just butt kissing.

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