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    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Dump the Schlump and Find a Quality Pro-Feminist Man

    J. Courtney Sullivan's little essay in NYT's Modern Love

    FOR the past decade, I have struggled with two competing images of the opposite sex: oppressor, and dream date. ... Then I went off to an all-women's college, Smith, where I didn't see a whole lot of men. I joined the campus women's group and studied up on gender issues. My rage toward men in general grew ever stronger, as did my desire to meet that one specific man who could make my dreams come true. ...

    I would meet a man, and our first date would consist of that lovely unraveling of mundane details. Then would come the second date. With our vital stats out of the way, we'd begin to discuss other, seemingly benign, topics. But somehow, every road led to sexism. A comparison of our favorite movies turned into me complaining about Quentin Tarantino's senseless misogyny. Perusal of the dessert menu somehow ignited a screaming match about women's socially imposed body-image issues.

    Often there was no warning. One minute we would be talking baseball, and the next we'd be embroiled in a standoff about pornography, which would end with me refusing to return his calls and express mailing him a copy of Catharine MacKinnon's "Only Words" without a note. ...

    In a country where you can't show a penis on television, the popular rap star Snoop Dogg can sing a song on the radio called "Can U Control Yo Hoe," in which he says a man has to do what it takes to put his woman "in her place" even if it means "slapping her in the face."

    Outside my office building in Times Square stands a billboard for the new HBO series "Big Love" — three women of varying ages stare blank-eyed and weary at one exhausted, oversexed man. Beneath them are the words "Polygamy Loves Company."

    A block away, there's a long row of sex shops and strip clubs. When I run out to grab a sandwich at lunchtime, men are waltzing into these places without so much as a hint of embarrassment.

    Who are they? I often wonder. What are their lives like?

    It seems impossible that they all live in caves or in their mothers' basements. Most must have jobs, homes, wives, girlfriends. They are not considered abnormal, any more than the guy who purchases a Snoop CD, or tunes in to see how Bill Paxton deals with those three demanding wives, poor lamb. If this is the culture in which we live and love, how must men, in their heart of hearts, view women?

    When I think of men this way, as I often do, I want to go back to Smith and stay there among the shaved-headed sisterhood until I die.

    On the other hand, no matter how enraged I become, I still adore men and the possibility for romance they bring. I love the smell of a man's skin. I enjoy the breathless feeling of waiting to see if he'll call back. I like dressing up for dates and dissecting a dinner conversation with a new guy to determine if he might be The One. I admire the linear and decisive way a certain kind of man thinks, to my curlicue boundless overthinking. And nothing beats the feeling of a man's arms wrapped around me. Nothing.

    The problem here is constructed as her commitment to feminism rather than as her feminism, itself. I'm a strongly feminist-identified woman and I wouldn't want anything to do with someone who thought they were a member of The Furies circa 1971. It's not anachronistic just because it's uncomfortable; it's anachronistic because progress has been made. If only someone had introduced her to postmodernism. Then, maybe she could have found a boyfriend. But it might stand in the way of writing things like her book, "Dating Up: Dump the Schlump and Find a Quality Man."

    I personally don't want someone who wrote a book with that title and an article chronicling the taming of the shrew, wherein she exalts "the linear and decisive way a certain kind of man thinks" (just because you added "a certain kind of" doesn't mean you get away with attributing it to one gender only) and sort of shrugs at heterosexism, not to mention painting feminism as man-hating, representing feminism.

    I feel sort of bad trashing her because I do want feminists to be engaged in public dialogue in "Important" spaces and the ways in which relationships create change in people are fascinating and most every feminist I've ever known has gone through periods of excess and we need to discuss the contradictions between theory and lived experience, blah, blah, blah.

    Jill on Feministe tries her hand at making something of this article with her post
    "Feminists Finding Love".


    Blogger zp said...

    i bought and read a NYT today. but i couldn't read this thing, i just couldn't. thanks, as ever.

    7:12 PM  

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