Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reply to "a note on feminism"


I'll always be your friend, whether or not I'm registered. :) Truthfully, I'm wary of facebook: Many of my students use it, and I think it's a good idea for the faculty to give students a certain amount of "psychic space." I'm sure they don't want to see me at the bars they hang out at; or see me wearing fashions like they do; or even see me much outside of class at all. I want to honor the fact that they have their own codes and sub-culture, and I want them to honor the fact that I think many of their activities are icky, goofy, or a combination of the two-"icgoofy."

My friend S. forwarded one of your koans -- the one about elephant poo -- and I'm assuming elephant poo only plays a significant role in one of your essays, but I acknowledge I may be wrong.

I teach "Intro. to Women's Studies," and I recognize some of my students in your words. I just don't recognize feminism in it. Upper-middle and upper-class, white women don't like other women, and they never have; after all, mom was a woman, and she was the first to point out just how high the standards are to catch that upper-middle or upper-class, white male with all of his earning power and cognate privilege. To be a working class or non-white woman and to somehow fail to "catch" a similar man is just not as disastrous, so the frenzy is much less intense. Less to lose means less to gain, but it also means other women cannot take away something as important, even necessary, to your standard-of-living. Consequently, "other" women have more female friends, real female friends, not just shopping friends, or book-club friends, or play-date friends. A "real" friend doesn't care how much you weigh, earn, owe, or get laid. It's about you, not the size of your paycheck or your ass. She doesn't flirt with your man because he's not as important to her as you are; in fact, she would help you hide his body should it become necessary for you to kill him, and, of course, you may have to do the same for her.

It's very difficult for any woman to make as much as a man, and it's even more so the further you go up the privilege ladder. A secretary or school teacher may make as much money as her supervisor husband, but a female associate in a law firm will only earn a fraction of her husband -- the law partner.

It is a "necessary but not sufficient" that the law-partner's wife be: pretty; smart, but not smarter than he is; thin; athletic; compliant; a "good mother"; supportive of his career; a great hostess; white; and educated in a non-threatening way; she must also be eternally young, or at least, eternally younger than he is and hot enough so that the other partners would want to "do" her. It is not necessary for any factory worker or fireman to have a wife that is attractive to his male co-workers, but it is a necessity for the CEO.

I can only imagine the bitterness when some women finally read the fine print on the "professional wife contract" and realize "eternal youth" is not really an option, the benefits of botox notwithstanding. Or you could starve, and exercise, and smile, and cheerfully clean up elephant poo, and yet it doesn't work: Maybe no powerful white man shows up to give you 2.5 children and a McMansion in the suburbs. It is a rude awakening, but not as rude as the daily lives of fat women, poor women, "ugly" women," women who are "too smart" and won't or can't hide it, lesbians, women of color, old women, disabled women.

Try to break the rules, and then see what happens: Have you ever seen a "no skinny chicks" or "no pretty chicks" T-shirt? Some women do like other women -- the same ones that also like men, but don't need them to buy stuff for them. And yes, male privilege extends to even the most pathetic bearers of the Y chromosome, who aren't "masters of the universe," but still believe they deserve what Mr. CEO has earned by virtue of his sheer bastardness. That's called "patriarchy." If you only respect "prickiness" then you won't have far to look. Consider meeting more women and men who "just say no" to the gender police. Consider saying no to middle class expectations and weirdness. Consider celibacy. Consider not judging every woman you meet by standards that have only screwed you over in the past. Consider that it is still easier to teach brain-dead undergraduates for dollars-on-the-head (fewer students and they cut your pay or cancel your class) than it is to pick strawberries. Consider that it may be easier to have no man at all than to have a man who just pisses you off whenever you listen to what he's saying. Consider that complete happiness was never guaranteed to any human by God, so how could another human give it to you? Consider eating alone in a restaurant, and both an appetizer and a dessert! Consider two desserts!



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