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    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Diary of a Soldier's Wife

    I tend to hate the NYT's "Modern Love" column. It's usually infuriatingly stupid. I was not offended by last week's offering from a woman who suffered from "love addiction" because it was genuinely weird, not trying to be so, and because it differed from the usual "my husband and I are oh-so different, but love's funny, isn't it?" insipidness by which the column is usually categorized. But here we go again. Ew.

    Sometimes when I gather the cool bullets in my palm, I stare at them and wonder: How did I, a Berkeley resident, a former peace activist, someone with a "Bread, not bombs" button, end up married to The Man?

    I like to tell people we met because he pulled me over, and I avoided the ticket with my feminine wiles. It's not true, but our partnership is almost that unlikely. After all, I've been arrested several times in political protests and once for possession of marijuana. I've even trespassed onto a naval base to spray-paint protest messages over the sloganeering billboards.

    My husband, on the other hand, subscribes to a magazine about wound ballistics, calls people he doesn't like "communists" and distrusts anyone with a beard.

    Ah, how cute. Two total stereotypes in love. Ain't it sweet?

    I wore a short skirt that showed off my long legs. When he arrived, I was charmed by his old-fashioned formality, how he called me "Miss Sophia" and pulled out my chair.

    It was on our third date that I discovered he never left the house without a firearm. We went to see "Heat," a crime drama with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and when we were driving home, I asked, "So when you're off-duty, do you ever carry a gun?"

    He laughed. "Always. Got one on my hip right now."

    I was delighted.

    Why is it that every other "Modern Love" has to show how some "progressive, Berkeley-type" is charmed by some guy's "old-fashioned formality" or something? At least once a month, we who are stupid or masochistic enough to continue subjecting ourselves to this paper must endure yet another "cute" modern retelling of the Taming of the Shrew? Only this time without irony.

    I feel sorry for this woman's husband who has been rendered as a total caricature, a sort of whimsical foil, and, to make matters worse, used as fodder to spur her
    writing career, he's basically just an avenue to some sort of imagined originality:

    Sophia Raday, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., is writing a memoir about her relationship with her husband.

    I can't help but get the feeling she went on this blind date just so she could go on and on about how novel her relationship was for the rest of her damned life.


    Blogger brownfemipower said...

    ummm, the third date he tells you he has a fire arm on and you love it??? hello?? A woman riding alone in a car with a man she's been on three dates with and he has a gun? even if i werne't an anti-violence advocate, i would feel extremely threatened and want to leave immediatly. this woman is as crazy as her husband is.

    3:21 PM  
    Blogger Amy said...

    Gross. It's kind of the opposite or parallel of the sensitive male feminist dupe -- you know, he's aware of the disparities between men and women, publically condemns them, all the while preying upon women who are hoping for a man with a 'little understanding' -- so that he can still claim the mainstream power of men and wield it upon women -- in other words, he talks the talk but takes all advantages of being a male and then some, thanks to his pseudo-consiousness.

    But I'm sure this phenomenon isn't surprising. Now this woman pretends she likes to be empowered and presents herself with feminist sentiment, wearing whatever she wants (after all, she makes her own decisions!), protesting against typically male acts of aggression like war & killing, all the while, making herself into an even greater object to be usurped - because now she appears to be the enemy of the gender in power. But what greater allure is there than to not just kill but to tame one's own enemy? I mean, after all, isn't it every woman's dream ultimately to be domesticated and become the object of a dominant male's affections?

    4:57 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    You smarties.

    Amy - I think your parallel with the sensitive male feminist is right on.

    5:52 PM  
    Blogger Corinne said...

    amy = smart

    also... why does gun=penis=sexappeal?

    can't i love a guy without regard for his willingness to whip either object out?

    you know, i used to think a lot about the ways that sexism screws over women... but i think i'm switching sides and going with the men -- (totally screwy) masculinity is the new black (apparently).

    sorry for the equations and snarkiness. El -- I like your blog a lot I should stop by and comment more often.

    10:44 PM  
    Blogger gandhi rules said...

    Call me ridiculous but I'm always upset when hearing of women joining with ranks of some imbecile the likes of this. He's so scared of the world he has to carry a gun. All the while thinking he's doing it because he's a bad ass. And she thinks it's sexy. Ass

    8:04 AM  
    Anonymous proud loud feminist said...

    How strange that you all assume that her husband isn't pro-feminist. Exactly where in the column did anyone see that? And that because he's in the military that he's pro-killing? It seems to me that he's about being pro-keeping as many people alive as possible--and dedicating his life to do that. That ain't just blogging --that's a lifetime commitment. If military folks are reading Thomas Friedman and opting for biodiesel, then there's hope in my book.

    The writer also points out that she's able to maintain her feminist ideals despite the fact that her husband doesn't agree with everything she says. To me that says something about a person. That you don't need to surround yourself with people who agree with you.

    I think the point was that feminists and soldiers are more open minded than one might think. (gee, and sometimes both labels exist in one person-- the shock of it all!) certainly more open minded than the folks on this list. I think it went right over your heads.

    4:07 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Corrine, I couldn't agree more with you on the way that expectations of, as you put it so well, "screwy masculinity" impact men. Further down on this page, I try to deal with it a bit. And thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    Gandhi Rules, I was actually thinking that the writer looked like an idiot herself, her connection with this guy not withstanding. I don't see the need to carry a gun around all the time, but I don't have major problems with the guy in the article, as a matter of fact. That's why I said it sucked that she seemed to be using him.

    Which brings me to my response to proud loud feminist. I'm glad you commented because, I think you'll see if you check out the blog further, that I am pro-soldier and I actually quite agree with your overall sentiment. There's no reason on earth that a soldier can't be a feminist and I can guarantee that a good many are. Where I disagree with you is that I think there's something mincingly anti-feminist about the writer's liking him seemingly because he happens to have a gun and because he pulls her chair out, etc. She seems charmed by "othering" him as a Big Strong Cop Military Man. Their differences don't matter because the whole point is their differences, rather than some actual meeting of the minds. I frankly think this essay is condescending to soldiers and cops. As I said in my post,

    feel sorry for this woman's husband who has been rendered as a total caricature, a sort of whimsical foil, and, to make matters worse, used as fodder to spur her writing career, he's basically just an avenue to some sort of imagined originality.

    In other words, he is completely objectified in this essay; he is Big Strong Military Cop Man, not a human being. When I see male writers paint female figures as Shy Sexy Librarian or Va-Va-Voom Vixen or Brash Angry Feminist, I hate that terribly.

    As I said to Corrine, I don't like it when wrong is done to people of any gender, and I felt that this man was being represented as less than a human being.

    6:30 PM  
    Blogger belledame222 said...

    What I don't like about it is: it's essentially fetishism (the gun, the pulling out of the chair, the hyper-masculine/feminine roleplaying), which, in itself, fine--except in stories like this it's never seen or even considered as such, you know, because it's positioned as so, just, you know, *normal.* Universal, even. Or--I wonder if this is partly what you were objecting to--the cutesy sort of nod to the idea that underneath it all, there's a universal longing for this sort of "traditional" sex-typed role-playing...because of course it's reified to not be seen as roles at all, really; it's How It Is.

    9:57 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Belledame, EXACTLY.

    10:22 PM  
    Anonymous proud loud feminist said...

    I've been thinking about this, and I've got one more thing to say:-) I think what upset me most about this post is that you accused her of furthering her career by exploiting herself and her family. That is an unfounded personal attack. Women who write creative nonfiction/memoir are often accused of betraying their families whereas men who write their stories are not. On top of that, raday is writing about her family and a police officer/soldier. So she is accused of telling "family secrets" as well as breaking the blue wall of silence. That is unfair-- it is *her* story to tell. She owns it. Period. We have no idea about her personal life or the choices she makes , I think you were a bit low to comment about her in such a personal way .

    Plus, to the woman who was upset about her falling for such a "manly man"-- how can you question someone elses desire? sometimes women fall for "manly" women, and men fall for "feminine" men-- do we fault them or just let them have their relationships as long as no one is getting hurt? again-- I really feel one should critique themes in the writing and not fall into personal attacks like saying she is "crazy". that says more about the poster than the author of the NYT piece.

    12:00 PM  
    Blogger midwesterntransport said...

    yah, this reminds me of that terrible movie with sandra bullock and hugh grant - what was it called? right, Two Weeks Notice - that presented her left-leaning activism as essentially naive. eventually she learned to, you know, work for the big bucks in order to "help in other ways," or some such nonsense. what pissed me off about the movie, and what grates about this article, is that in both cases the more conservative vision is labeled the more pragmatic one, the more "realistic" one.

    2:52 PM  

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