A Return to Form–Feminism and Marriage

Remember the old days at Tiny Cat Pants when I would pour my heart out about the shit that was really personally bothering me? I’ll admit, as more people showed up here, I kind of cut back on that stuff. Which is probably a relief for those of you who don’t like whiny introspection or new age mumbo jumbo, but not so good for me, since it goes against my purpose for Tiny Cat Pants, which is to lay it all out there and make some sense of it.

But I’m bothered, bothered enough that I’ve now emailed multiple people about it and made the Professor sit through two long conversations in person, and I’m still upset.

So, I imagine this is going to be long and meandering and disconnected, but that’s how it goes.

I was explaining to W. the other day about women, about how utterly shitty we are, starting in, roughly, junior high and going forward until, I presume, we die. I’m just going to plagiarize from myself*, since I explained it just fine to him.

There are problems men cause women, by and large–rape being the main one. I think it’s hard for men (unless they’ve been to prison) to really get how curtailing it is to feel like you might, at any moment, be violated. I respect that, when we talk about rape at TCP, men want to make some distinction between rapists and all men, but the thing is that we never get to do that. We have to look on all of you as potential rapists and curtail our behavior accordingly.

So, rape doesn’t just affect the woman who’s raped; it has a real chilling effect on the rest of us feeling secure in our own beings.

And, I think, in the past and still now, we trade ourselves to you for a sense of security. And, I don’t think this is really wrong or bad, in general, necessarily.

But understanding you both as perpetrator and protector means that the good safe strong men become almost like fetishes. We fight over you in petty jealous ways, which is bad enough. But then we’ve developed veritable industries–plastic surgery, weight-loss, women’s magazines, gym class, etc.–devoted to making us all feel like shit about our chances of ever deserving you so that, I suspect, there aren’t as many women competing for the good men. The whole point of those things seems to be that, if you aren’t perfect, you don’t deserve happiness, so stay out of the way of the girls who do (if such a beast actually exists, which I doubt).

I think one thing men really don’t get about women is how really rotten we are to each other. I mean, I love to tease y’all about the patriarchy, but it’s really not so simple as “men have everything; women have nothing–share or feel my wrath.” It’s really about trying to find a way beyond a system where we women destroy ourselves and each other in order to prove to ourselves that we deserve you.

I mean, I really don’t think that you get how crappy we make each other feel about our bodies, especially our vaginas–dirty, nasty, smelly, and constantly ready to betray us with blood or (worse) a lack of blood.

Y’all go through a time when having a penis is embarrassing, but I don’t think you ever repeatedly hear that they’re disgusting and that touching them and liking to have them touched makes you dirty and slutty.

But we do that to each other all the time.

Why do you think we long so desperately for your approval? Tell us we’re not dirty, that you love what we’ve got, and we’ll follow you around like dogs. It’s especially bad if you start out by reaffirming what we already believe about ourselves and then seem to change your mind. We’re suckers for that. We feel redeemed.

Good fucking god America. Have you ever opened your mouth and been surprised to hear words of great truth about yourself emerge? How the fuck can I know myself so well and not realize what I do until I go to tell it to someone else? I love shitty men who treat me bad and I love them because I hope if I can change their minds about me, it will prove to me that I can go ahead and change my mind about me.

This is not to say that I haven’t known some genuinely nice guys. I certainly have and I’ve been lucky in that regard. But give me a witty man who treats me like shit and I’m like a dog to its own puke.

I was telling Sarcastro last night that it scares me that I don’t mind when he treats me bad. I said

We play with sharp knives. No one intends to really hurt the other, just a prick to let you know you’re alive, but footings slip, hands shake, and people can sustain deep wounds.

It’s truly fucked up. I know it’s fucked up. I’m glad I know you, but I’m relieved I don’t know anyone else like you. That’s nothing against you. That’s just recognizing something fucked up in me. Someone like you, but lacking your good heart? I could commit slow suicide for years reveling in how bad he made me feel.

Whew, yes, getting email from me is nothing short of great fun.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about all this because of the arrival and apparent departure of the Vox-dayists and the comments in the last thread on feminism, since there seemed to be this strange insinuation that I am purposefully not married (“If you have some weird assumption that committing one’s life to someone through richer/poorer/sickness/health is just some crazy stupid thing for the cavewomen of yore than I must say that I do strongly disagree.” and “When you are living alone in your 50’s and you see your neighbors having there children and grandchildren over, then you will realize the mistake you made. For you it will be too late.”) as some kind of political statement.

At first I was kind of flattered by the implication. My continued singleness has been a source of great speculation in my family–from the accusations that I’m gay to the whole “Being with you will be some man’s personal hell**” to the “you’re too smart” nonsense and my aunt’s “men suck; promise me you will never get married.”–but I’ve never thought of it as a political stance, especially not a political stance that Stuck It To the Man.

Mostly, it has to do with the fact that I’m afraid I’ll end up married to some asshole who will treat me like shit until he dies and only then will I get to enjoy my life without having to constantly cater to his needs.

I’m not married, not out of high-faluting feminist principles, but out of terror.

I don’t see feminism as some kind of completely worked-out and decided-upon philosophy that comes down from on high as dictated by NOW or Bitch or whatever, and when I talk about feminism, I’m not proselytizing to you.

I’m talking about a practice of mine, a way of being in the world I use to sustain me through the bullshit. Of which there is a lot, because I, like everyone else, am fucked up.

And I’m talking about a way of being in the world that allows me to imagine a life different from but respectful of the lives my mom, grandmas, and great grandmas lead. In their own ways, they all married witty men who treated them like shit. I’d rather not do that.

But I find those men irresistibly familiar and comfortable to be around. And so I’m cautious, overly cautious, maybe. And I work to imagine a life not centered around not getting married and having kids; not because I think that’s the best option for everyone, or even for me.

But because I don’t want to be miserable and I especially want to stop making myself miserable, and part of the way to do that, I think, is to be happy with what I have now, and to be happy enough with what I have now to build a life for myself with that as the foundation.

And I feel safe and secure, and that goes a long way to making me happy.

So, that’s that. It’s probably too many different ideas for one post, but they all feel like they fit together for me, so I’m leaving them all together.

*So, W., you can just skip this post, I guess.
**Men, when you have daughters and you fight, keep in mind that we will hold onto those ugly things you say to us and pick at them like bloody scabs, and decide if that’s really a gift you want to give a girl you love.

Oh, Broadsheet

Broadsheet, if you’re going to keep bringing me cool stuff like this, how can I feel justified in continuing to mock Salon.com*?

Both Rachel and Ivy were talking about the Dove commercial for promoting self-esteem among young girls. Rachel says, “I say, it’s nice to see images of non-diet-obsessed women in the media, no matter what they’re selling. ” Ivy says “It is sooooooo important for our little girls to feel comfortable in their own skin and to know that what they are worth, is not at all tied to their appearance.”

And, since I read those things first, and then saw the pictures of the Teddy Girls, it really struck me how amazing these girls look.

Let’s take it from another perspective. In talking about naked men, one of the things I kept coming back to was how weird it was to see men being framed by the camera in such a way that we, as viewers, were supposed to be aware, first and foremost that they were men.

What’s striking to me about the Teddy Girls is that they’re framed in such a way that it’s clear that we’re supposed to be aware, first and foremost, that they’re cool. Not sexy or “available” or on display, but cool.

That’s what, I think, is so amazing about them and so weird about the photos. So often, when you see artsy photos of women, it seems as if the women are posed in a way that says “Look at me.” These girls seem to ask you to really see them.

And I think that’s one of the things so striking, and frankly moving, about the Dove commercials. They invite you to really see the women in them.

Of course that’s powerful. How could it not be?

*Oh, ha, ha, that was rich! As if Salon.com is ever going to stop putting out stories about upper middle class women and treating them like their problems are universal!