Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A few steps backwards, then forwards. Ah, the feminist dance.




My response(s).

From a female social worker’s perspective, I say “shame on you” to the first author, Tracy McMillan. Not to discredit my belief that only you and you alone can ultimately change your reality, but McMillan takes her little torch of personal responsibility and runs it into the world of blame. She runs way past being sensible and logical to being cynical and sensationalist for the sake of writing. She is a writer and I do understand the “look at me! look at me” initiative, but she goes a bit far. Blaming women as an entire population for creating and fostering the causes (which she lists in a “witty” manner) of not being able to marry is ludicrous. Let’s take a look at this list, shall we?

1) “You’re a bitch.” No, I am not, thank you very much. Angered women can be frightening—and so they should be. We’ve been marginalized for generations. Although feminism has pushed us into an age where equity is no longer a fantasy, there is still great injustice globally. With the burning of our bras and the sound of our screams to be heard and respected in the workforce—and in general!—ignorant men and ignorant women have shuddered in their boots. It took anger to get us ahead. However, we are not where we should be by far. Along with the positive change, came the notion that women have to be a bitch to get ahead. No wonder so many people are bitter...How do you act as a delicate flower a la Belle in Beauty and the Beast whilst trying to show “the man” that “anything he can do, we can do better” while he stares at our chests instead of our eyes? Do I think being bitter and angry is healthy for anyone—men or women alike? Hell to the no. In the end, world peace won’t be achieved by fighting for the rest of our lives. For now, though, we do have to fight in order to be seen and heard. So do we blame ourselves, us women—or “bitches”—for being marginalized then being angry for that treatment? HELL NO. It’s bitchier to whine about what you don’t have (love, a marriage, a car, some dignity) and blame a marginalized population (i.e. other women, but not men), than to fight for what you believe in and your own population’s rights and actually feel angry about the injustice done to you. Men may be frightened by our voice, but those are the men that tried to silence us in the first place. There are male feminists out there. They may not be as visible, but then again not all female feminists are, either. Wonder why? The male feminists may be ridiculed, the female feminists may be pushed aside or blamed, but we’re alive and well and we exist. I don’t appreciate being blamed for epic marriage fails because I’m not doing the right things (according to McMillan).
2) “You’re shallow.” Again, no I’m not. It is not shallow to search for qualities that our very biology deems us to look for. Success, ambition, blah blah blah, are not the defining basis for “marriage success 101.” Yet, is it wrong to look for those? Dating is sometimes considered the practice for finding the proverbial “one.” Is it wrong to have standards for someone you’re dating to be of similar interests and of a certain level of ambition—instead of selling yourself short because you’ll probably not find “the one” anyway? Where’s the happy middle of self-confidence and self-esteem mixed with reasonable flexibility? Do we really have to swing so far to being “all accepting” of traits in a partner to appease the opposite (or same) sex?
3) “You’re a slut.” Two words: free love, baby! Just kidding...sort of. Who’s to say that your sexual behaviour is “wrong” unless you’re hurting yourself and/or someone else? Do I not deserve to get married to my beautiful, kind, passionate (and Catholic) boyfriend because I’ve made some sexual faux pas in the past? Am I slut because I’ve made some sexual blunders in the past? There are plenty of women who are able to have casual sex, then to develop a relationship with someone later on. Obviously, there are women who, for whatever painful reason in their past, present, whatever have difficulty with relationships and are chronic casual sex’ers, whether they consciously men to be or not. But then again, there are lots of men like that, too. There are also lots of men who could make you blush with how many partners they’ve “had,” but who are capable of a strong and healthy partnership because of choices and personal growth that they have pursued. So, are we all sluts until we decide to change? Is it fair to call someone with self-esteem issues, strong self-awareness and approval of casual sex, or sexually addictive behaviour a slut? Ok then, McJudgy.
4) “You’re a liar.” Ok. No, for your sake, for you, the beautiful woman you are, you probably shouldn’t stay in a destructive relationship. You are lying to yourself if you think he’ll change. But, guess what? I’m not going to actually ever tell you that until you’re at the point where you’re next to destroyed because of how emotionally broken you feel. As a social worker, I’d help you realize that you, yes you, have the power and the choice to change your situation—not him, but your situation and to help you find something else to make you happy because you don’t need someone else to do that. But we’d do that together. Hell, that’s what I’d do as a friend. At some point, as a friend, social worker, parent, sister, colleague, whatever, you may need to blank-point tell a woman or a man that his/her relationship is not healthy for that person. But should we also tell that person “shame on you for lying to yourself, because you’re solely to blame and the other person has no responsibility”? I don’t think so—and I doubt that’s what McMillan thinks, either, but she doesn’t convey her truth amongst her cynical dross.
5) “You’re Selfish.” Oh boy. Note to the world: do not use the words “good wife” in an article and expect feminists to respond positively. And, who’s to say that a successful marriage means kids? There is nothing—NO THING—selfish about taking care of yourself, pursuing your dreams, goals, aspirations, taking up training to be a yoga teacher, making a life for yourself, and pursuing a relationship that fits you and that you fit into all at the same time. Period. If you are honest and genuine in your pursuits for finding happiness and not impeding on others’ lives with your pursuits, go for it. Be happy. Be “selfish” because we all deserve to be happy and live the best possible lives we can.
6) “You’re not good enough.” McMillan makes some valid points in this section, because she recognizes the tragic belief most of us have: that we’re not good enough. However, her whole article has the underpinnings of “how to be a good wife 101.” Should we be taking classes for this bulls***? No. Should we be self-aware and help each other be aware of our behaviour and self-image so we can be happy and healthy? Yes. Should we be striving for the ultimate commitment to the most important relationship (not necessarily marriage) we’ll ever have: to ourselves? Yes. Definitely.

Back to my “shame on you” comment: marriage is not a game or a golden calf to worship blindly. Marriage is a partnership—the official promise of eternal commitment to another person so long as the relationship is equitable and loving. McMillan talks about marriage as if it’s the bouquet the proverbial bride throws for all the hungry bridesmaids to catch. She refers to it like it’s an end—not a means—that one must change for and fit into an ideal for. How about marriage as a recognition of who you are complimenting who the other person is (man or woman) and the bond you have created? How about aiming for whatever relationship (marriage or not) that fits into what lifestyle you’ll be striving in? Marriage isn’t the end-goal for everyone. Stop making it seem like that’s what we’re all going for, and that’s what we’re supposed to go for. McMillan may very well believe in woman power and equality, equity, empowerment—and whatever other feminist buzzwords you want to throw out. However, she’s not displaying that in her written work. She’s actually fuelling the fire of blaming women for our own woes—that is, if you call being unmarried, uninvolved with anyone or multiple people, or being single a “woe” for everyone. To each his/her own, I say!

Ashley the Bitch.

Onto the other article, by Brienne Walsh.

“Oh dear” is what I have to say, for starters to parts of the article. To the rest, I say “well done.” While I do agree that women have been fed the “marriage is not a fairy tale” meal, which has resulted in severe heart burn, I don’t think that saying that having beauty and brains should be a curse. Walsh wants to be empowered, but she flip-flops between being proud as a “successful” woman to basically saying that a “great man” is next to impossible to find for a woman who does well for herself. (I won’t even get into what we can define “success” as, but I digress).

I’m surprised my hair hasn’t completely been torn out by my paws yet. Be proud of your accomplishments! So what if most people you’ve met are intimidated by your greatness?! Walsh even admits that there are non-intimidated people out there. There are. Trust me. <3

I’m not going to be “The Good Wife,” according to McMillan. It makes me sad that Walsh believes that we have to become “shadows of our best selves” in order to fit into the ritual of marriage. I’m happy with myself and I feel “enhanced” in partnership with my boyfriend. We’re married to each other in our minds, and if we do get officially married—which we have decided will be in the Catholic Church with a white dress, flowers, our families, etc.—I’m not going to diminish into something lesser. Those people who feel or who others feel “diminish” whilst in a marriage have self-esteem issues, or “settled” for lesser than each person in the union deserves.

Walsh brings up an excellent point in that the convention of marriage is ever-changing. You do not have to even get married to be happy or accepted anymore. The general status quo does smile more kindly on those straight men and women who fit into cookie cutter roles. Newsflash, people: there are too many cookie flavours to count! Plus, with same-sex marriage being legalized, conventional marriage is an oxymoron.

I appreciate Walsh bringing up the notion of not having to be married or in a (heterosexual) relationship to have children. Having said that, single, married, or committed, if you are going to have children, you owe it to those children and yourself to consider fostering an environment that is safe, secure, positive, and nurturing. McMillan made it seem like marrying just to have kids will make you a good wife. How about she talks to CAS about parents that are their clients who have married on the fly and now have children who need foster care? Kids does not equal good parenting. Self-esteem, self-value, respect, empathy, kindness—all of these are ingredients for good parenting, and—surprise, surprise—good relationship skills.

I hope life isn’t a drudge for all of you reading this. However, I understand and have always experienced challenges in life. We all do! If you find someone who’s happy all the time, then they’re probably Yogis, enlightened, or on Prozac. Lows help us appreciate the highs, and highs give us hope. Walsh believes in hope and believes in dreams—so do I. I congratulate her on ending her opinion piece on the note that we should be allowed to dream. Single women, men, keep dreaming, please. Dream of the life you want, the partner who compliments you and who you compliment (whether that be for the “now” or for the “from now on”). To the women and men who marginalize women like McMillan does, stop trying to force-feed society with your meal of some “outdated ideal,” as Walsh puts. We’ve had enough digestion problems with your heart-damaging words, and require the nurturing comforts of hope.

Most importantly, let’s not forget everyone else in the world. Let’s not forget men’s voices, straight people’s voices, non-heterosexual people’s voices, trans people’s voices, elders’ voices—I could go on. Marriage is not solely for Eurocentric, Caucasian, straight people. Playing the “the good housewife” is not a valid or just expectation of society’s members to struggle to fit into. Stop struggling and start living. Start hoping. Start loving, and start with loving yourself.