Wednesday, February 08, 2006

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.

40 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who said anything about marriage, B.?

I just wanted to fool around.

-J

2/08/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Um...why? said...

Aunt B,

I'm sorry to hear these words from you. I realize that men can be threatening, but please don't lump us all into possible attackers, not even in your mind. Understand as well that not only are all men possible rapists by your definition, but also murderers, muggers, and mimes....sorry, had the "M" thing going....and that they are possible threats to us all, as are women for that matter. So please don't feel alone in feeling fearful of others.

Also, I do not like the concept of women who have to "trade ourselves to you for a sense of security." If you are trading yourself for that, then you are definitely with the wrong man, and might need some time with a councilor...I know it has helped me. I for one do not want a woman who feels like she is trading herself to me for anything, ANYTHING! I want a woman who is WITH me because she loves me, and she can't imagine being without me. I think most men, if they would be open enough to admit it, feel that way too. We want to be respected...sure. We want to be a source of protection and security to you, sure. But we want to be loved by you, and that is why we want you with us. Any man who feels like he is owed something by you for giving you his protection, time, money or otherwise is a bastard...please excuse my language but that concept is repulsive to me.

As for your fear of being married to a jerk...what else can I call it...that is your responsibility to ensure obviously, you have to be picky...but understand this, if you think you can change him you're wrong. If you think he will get better, you're wrong. If you think he loves you, he probably does. And if you aren't sure, he probably doesn't.

Basically, your statements lead me to believe that despite all your feminist comments and wonderfully witty intelligence, you feel like you are a second class citizen in your relationships with men. Well trust me, you are far from second class. You have every right to be happy, loved, respected, wanted, and trusted as does anyone else.

And at the end of the day, just remember, we love you B.

2/08/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...

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.

I will remember this. Thank you!

2/08/2006 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

I am a man who has though long and diligently (to avoid using the innuendesque word "hard") about the basic nature of men and women, and the fact that women have to work so much harder to be free than men do.

When you talk about feeling comfortable with men who are mean to you I remember a woman with whom I had a relationship in college. Didn't her secrets just unfold like a complex blossom? It boiled down to this: she was married to an abusive man. I was a young idiot, so that didn't put me off. I offered a gentle refuge and respite whenever she wanted me. She relaxed into that warmth and safety, but she still offered some exciting sex. Hey! A win-win situation, eh?

Of course the other man was still a factor, even though he was not around all the time. Something about being in and out of jail. I never asked for details. So sometimes he was available, sometimes he wasn't. This meant that she spent time with him.

Several times she came to me recently beaten.

"Just hold me," she would say. "I love that you're gentle."

One time she showed up in the middle of the night, bent over her sore abdomen.

"I just came from the emergency room," she said. "Bobo punched me in the stomach with a rifle butt."

"The bastard!" I seethed.

She laughed weakly. "Well, I was trying to shoot him with it at the time."

The thing is, after a few quiet nights with me she would start saying, "Hold my arms down. Shove it harder. Haven't you ever had a rape fantasy?"

Well no. I keep myself quite busy enough with fantasies of joyous consensual sex.

Eventually Bobo told her she had to give up her extracurricular activities if she wanted to move into the new trailer with him. She gave me one last farewell performance and took the real estate deal.

She had told me about discovering her parents' closet full of B&D accessories. She'd told me that if Bobo came home and found the house a mess he would break every unwashed dish and then sodomize her on the floor amid the shards.

I'm not making this shit up. She had a long list of stories of sexual barter and recreational violence. But I still understand how her choices can be pathological rather than lightweight options.

Men's relationship to women is often predatory. Women are these other creatures who can make us feel so good but so bad. We humiliate each other to get their attention. They humiliate us. We can take them by force, but society officially frowns on that, and rightly so. But an adolescent male has to learn how to operate his sexuality, his physicality. It's astonishingly easy to destroy some women before you even realize they're perched on the edge of a dropoff. It's easy to fall into an "us and them" mentality, generalizing about women, trying to keep it simple. Give me my gratifications and keep that other crap to yourself. But it's wrong, wrong, wrong.

Even a protective attitude stresses female weakness and heads off the full development of female strengths. It still treats women as animals. They're just no longer wild ones to hunt. Now they're domesticated ones to house, feed and nurture.

On that basis, why not fuck the sheep? It's just another squirmning armful that makes funny noises when you poke it.

On second thought, let's leave the sheep out of this for now. That gets into the whole realm of what is natural sexuality and what is a "lifestyle choice."

Love is a many splendored thing, but sexality is just chaotic. Everyone who wants to relate intimately to someone else is out there laying it on the line, deciding how vulnerable to be. The fact that there are sexual conventions and stereotypes indicates that there are averages, but there are also legitimate variations. Because the subject makes so many people squirm, it is really hard to get complete information. Yet it is key to so many of our interactions. You have your delightful vagina (which I often envy) and I have my grotesque flesh-probe of penis all the time, even when clothing and propriety mask their presence.

I have contended for a long time that the male psyche is a result of a constant battle between the sperm cells and the brain cells. The only way to shift the balance of power in favor of the brain is to evict sperm cells regularly by whatever means possible. When they are in the majority, the really stupid, dickheaded decisions get made. Make of that what you will. Science will bear me out eventually.

2/08/2006 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

I've been married twice. The first one lasted 11 years and ended because she wanted to pursue dreams that I did not, and she wanted to delve deep into organized religion. I'd already made up my own mind in that regard, but I felt she should be free to pursue her own inquiries. We divvied up what we had without wasting scarce resources to pay lawyers and she went her way.

I'm still in the second marriage, to a fascinating person who is completely self made. There's no delicate way to say this: she didn't grow up hot-looking. While this caused her considerable pain in youth, it also freed her to follow her creative path undistracted by socio-sexual pressures. Our 10-year friendship turned into a budding romance when she happened to make one of her occasional visits to New England right after my divorce.

I won't pretend that I didn't feel pretty warped and burned by the emotional aspects of how my first marriage had ended. Regardless of how I respected my first wife, it had been clear for a few years that we were growing apart. Neither of us was getting what we'd hoped for from the relationship. So I was not looking for anyone. I've never been so desperate for companionship that I would take anything that came along. What sparked our interest in each other was this uncanny telepathy we discovered. It was too weird to dismiss.

The relationship progressed through a series of visits, because she lived 500 miles away. That gave us plenty of time to think about it. Either of us could have broken it off.

When she finally decided to move up here, I asked her if she would feel better about it if we got married. She looked like a spooked horse. Her eyes rolled. She shied back. It was so CUTE! She was as commitment phobic as any footloose bachelor.

We lived together for four years before we legalized it. The ceremony was a good excuse to party for a week with whatever musicans we could entice over to the big tent in our back yard, but it really didn't define or alter our commitment to each other. It was mostly a legal shortcut to corporate partnership, because I had a few real assets I wanted her to be able to get immediately with no questions asked, in the event of my death. Nothing romantic about that.

We've occasionally questioned the practical aspects of marriage because of the way the legal/governmental world treats us as a couple rather than two individuals. But the practical reasons still favor the marriage. Judge it on that basis and separate that from your feelings for a given individual.

Bear in mind that marriage is a tough contract, tougher in some states than others. You are choosing to trust someone in a business relationship entangled in a personal relationship. I willingly paid thousands of dollars more to my first wife than the law required, because she would need it as she charged off on her quest for the next great thing. I've missed the money from time to time, but never begrudged it to her. It's just one more angle on the marriage question.

2/08/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Um...why? said...

Interesting viewpoint cafiend...and I particularly like the cell vs. cell arguement, it does make sense you know.

2/08/2006 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

I also have a theory that sperm and egg do not exist to reproduce us, we exist to reproduce them. Our big bodies are just the gaudy creations they generate to carry themselves around so they can meet and mingle with each other. It's a single-celled world out there.

Funny, too, how the boneheaded decisions that result from a sperm majority often center on finding a place to get rid of some of that sperm. A palace coup, perhaps? I feel such internal conflict...

Working within the theory that our single-celled passengers are really our masters, the plans to "score" are simply our overlords plans for outward migration. To the Ovum, and Beyond!

In any case it reveals the circular nature of what looks like a linear process.

2/08/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

cafiend, isn't that Dawkins' theory of the selfish gene?

And, do you have a theory about how the egg moves a woman, or is this something dangerously close to saying that men (and not women) are driven by sex which is the claim that is made to explain the natural existence of rape and the natural submissiveness of women?

2/08/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger jag said...

While I generally do not comment here because I can't hold an intellectual candle to you folks, I did want to address what David M said in his first submission.

I realize that men can be threatening, but please don't lump us all into possible attackers, not even in your mind.

This does not necessarily mean you right now, when you're identified and nice. But it means you when we're walking through an empty parking lot at night, no matter how bad ass we are. I've met B on two occasions, and though she probably doesn't remember me, I doubt she'd take any shit off any man, woman, or beast. Bad assness and kickboxing classes don't mean that society hasn't ingrained into a girl that any man could overtake them.

It's kind of that 'meeting in a dark alley' type of thing. Men in general, not men with faces. Not to speak for anyone else, and not to start any feminist talk or anything. I'm not scared of men. There, I said it. But I still hold my keys through my fingers like so many little knives when it's dark and I'm alone on the street.

2/08/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My niece recently told me that she feels washed up because all the boys she dated in H.S. are getting married, and she's still single. She's 23. I asked her to think back over each of those boys and imagine having make decisions with them for the rest of her life.

I've found that envisioning joint-decisionmaking for a lifetime with any man I know is enough to make me glad I'm single.

Freedom is a choice like everything else.

2/08/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Jon--You crack me up. No wonder all the boys want to be you.

David--It's funny because the Professor and I have been discussing your comment via email ever since you made it and she finally said "I think there's something key in the fact that you and I hesitated to make these comments publicly. It really demonstrates the way many men don't even recognize the legitimatcy of their own voices while we repeatedly hesitate to speak back to them in honest and harsh ways."

And I realized I was doing you a disservice by not wanting to hurt your feelings. So, here goes.

You say "Basically, your statements lead me to believe that despite all your feminist comments and wonderfully witty intelligence, you feel like you are a second class citizen in your relationship with men." To which I say, "My god. Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying."

What I'm saying is that the ways that we--men and women--interact has crippled me in ways that are ugly and painful for me to experience. I don't want to go around living like every strange man might hurt me, but I feel like I have to. I don't want to feel like it's better to be with a guy who's clearly an asshole because at least then the ways he sucks are obvious right up front, instead of surprising you like a fist in the face at some later point. I don't want to feel bad about myself, but I do.

And I don't want you to fix my problems or comfort me or suggest that I'm wrong or not being fair or to explain your point of view. I don't want you to love me.

I want you to witness my pain.

I want you to really see it.

I want you to let me be in pain, because that's the only sane reaction to a fucked up situation, and I want you to see how deep it goes, how ugly it is; as the Professor says, "all of it, all the way down through our bodies and into our souls."

Intellectually, I think it's sweet and amazing that you guys are distressed by my confusion and suffering and fear and want to soothe it. But it's like cafiend says, "Even a protective attitude stresses female weakness and heads off the full development of female strengths. It still treats women as animals. They're just no longer wild ones to hunt. Now they're domesticated ones to house, feed and nurture."

I don't want to be nurtured. I want my fear, pain, and confusion respected. And I want to be heard.

But look. That's not to knock any of you guys. I'm not saying that you're actively preventing me from being heard. I'm saying the situation is fucked up. Look, I posted this more than three hours ago and just now the first woman comments. Just now, after going back and forth with the Professor about what to say and how to say it, I comment.

Why so long?

Because you guys are good guys and you do give a shit about people being unhappy and so I hesitate to say anything, because I don't want you to feel like I'm attacking you.

But then I realized that my hesitation to say anything--because I didn't want to risk you misunderstanding me--is more internalized sexist bullshit.

Because, again, my feminism is not about having the answers. It's about a practice of being more fully human, which includes feeling like I have a right to be heard.

Jag--Are you calling me a badass? Shoot, that's going to have me strutting around for the rest of the day.

2/08/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

"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"

Sing it, B!

2/08/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

thanks, B. In all those e-mails this afternoon, I didn't know just how right and well you would state it in that comment. Well-done!

2/08/2006 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want me. You know you do.

-J

2/08/2006 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

And, do you have a theory about how the egg moves a woman, or is this something dangerously close to saying that men (and not women) are driven by sex which is the claim that is made to explain the natural existence of rape and the natural submissiveness of women?

I have empirical observations that women may get more interested around the time of ovulation. I don't know if anyone has tried to verify this through experiments or more complete, controlled observations.

While I don't view women as naturally submissive, I have realized that sex is an internal experience for women, accepting something into their bodies, while for men it is external, using a projecting organ to send out little buggers that then venture even further.

While modern technology has allowed women to control fertility so that birth control becomes less obtrusive, that does not overcome thousands of years in which the game was a lot more serious for them than for men, who could in theory and despicably often did (and do) just squirt and run. With pregnancy no longer as much of a probability (if the modern woman takes advantage of the technology or the man has had himself clipped) women are more free to experience sex for pure pleasure. But that pleasure must be learned. Many former and current factors can inhibit it. And then on top of that you have to discover just what you actually like.

2/08/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

There have ben studies that demonstrate women's increased libido nearing ovulation. I can't cite them, but I've seen them. One interesting one looked at the amount of and kind of clothing women wore to nightclubs (done over months with regular customers and taking saliva samples to test for hormone levels). Nonetheless, I am VERY cautious about evolutionary biology and psychology given how much of it begins with dangerous sexist assumptions. There's some great stuff out there, but wading through the crap to find the good is tedious.

As well, one thing that I find interesting, and wonderful, and a challenge to much of the work in evolutionary biology and pschology is that sex (even for nonhumans) is a MUCH larger category than the penetration of a vagina by a penis such that characterizing female sexuality as internal and male as external is only a partial view of what I think most of us do. Humans have an amazing ability to eroticize most anything upsetting and interupting those drives, which I do recognize and think are important to understand.

2/08/2006 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

I don't want you to fix my problems or comfort me or suggest that I'm wrong or not being fair or to explain your point of view. I don't want you to love me.

I want you to witness my pain.

I want you to really see it.

I want you to let me be in pain, because that's the only sane reaction to a fucked up situation, and I want you to see how deep it goes, how ugly it is; as the Professor says, "all of it, all the way down through our bodies and into our souls."


Anything I've said has not been an attempt to solve anything, though I do think if you see that someone understands your pain it can't help soothing it a little. I damn sure understand a woman fearing men. It's one of a number of fears we tote around as a result of typically lopsided relationships in society. The comfort I offer is to any human in distress, not to "the little lady."

2/08/2006 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

I am VERY cautious about evolutionary biology and psychology given how much of it begins with dangerous sexist assumptions. There's some great stuff out there, but wading through the crap to find the good is tedious.

As well, one thing that I find interesting, and wonderful, and a challenge to much of the work in evolutionary biology and pschology is that sex (even for nonhumans) is a MUCH larger category than the penetration of a vagina by a penis such that characterizing female sexuality as internal and male as external is only a partial view of what I think most of us do.


The whole time you're figuring out what makes you tick, it's still making you tick.

2/08/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Jon, but that was before I realized you were too smart for me.

Cafiend, yeah, I know.

2/08/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can dumb down if it means I'm gettin' lucky.

-J

2/08/2006 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger cafiend said...

Furthermore, regarding:

As well, one thing that I find interesting, and wonderful, and a challenge to much of the work in evolutionary biology and pschology is that sex (even for nonhumans) is a MUCH larger category than the penetration of a vagina by a penis such that characterizing female sexuality as internal and male as external is only a partial view of what I think most of us do.

One of the things that gives me a certain amount of vagina envy is the way female orgasm seems to be so much more of a total body experience than mine. I'll admit maybe it's just me and I need to figure out how to jazz up my own experience, but the female orgasms I've been privileged to witness have really seemed to come from the core, inside, and reverberate there, whereas my guys just dash out and leave the screen door slamming. It's nice and all, but definitely an act of departure. Seeya!

As for the eroticism of actions beyond penetration, there is the standard repertoire, and then there are the add-ons. See reference above to sexuality as being chaotic.

I remember a film I saw which showed porpoises engaging in social pleasure-sex. A male swam beneath a female and gave her a little flipper-job. I also have a neutered male cat at home who humps stuffed toys, and two apparent lesbian cats in the same household who can make out for hours. Only the male's activity is overtly sexual, but the females' is certainly sensuous. Then they bite each other and have a fight. Ah well. Whatever stirs your catnip...

2/08/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. Mack said...

I don't pretend to fully understand why every single woman I know still deals with some pain from some point in her life. I know many that experience only that, that is, they have grown comfortable with it, and repeat the behavior they think causes it. Aunt B, forgive me, it WAS a long post, and I am trying to determine the main point...That women experience fear of rape or abuse, and that any man is a potential threat? I can get my head around that. Society is geared toward maintaining that feeling in women? I agree there as well. And I would merely point to young Miss pageants (or whatever they are called) and then at least acknowledge that there are billions of dollars to be made by keeping women unhappy with their appearance. It's the point you made about guys showing their faults up front, so that you don't find out too late that they suck. Is it possible, probable, even, that something in a woman's learned behavior that might slowly morph Mr. Nice Guy into Mr. Jackass? I ask, not because I believe that, but I have often wondered how many women unconsciously bring certain things to a relationship that are inherently unhealthy for their male counterpart. When I was a rogue, I got laid. Constantly. Can't say why, exactly, and any attempt to reduce that fact to "women love a bad-guy" seems lame, somehow. I was still a rogue when I met my current wife. Her behavior somehow made it clear to me, instantly, almost, that any attempt by me to treat her like I treated most women would not be tolerated. She never had to stand her ground, or even make some veiled threat. It literally flew off her. In many ways, that was liberating for me. I could just be some weird, struggling guy that made her laugh. I didn't have to play any control games, no need to define roles. In fairness, I have to say that we were both older when we met, and as a young man I may not have been intuitive enough to see her for who she was, instead of being intent to manipuilate her into who I thought she was. Man this is hard to articulate. Anyway, it was gutsy to lay this out in a very public forum, and your readers have all been classy with their reponses.

(But just between you and me? Men are pigs.)

2/08/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...

Even a protective attitude stresses female weakness and heads off the full development of female strengths. It still treats women as animals. They're just no longer wild ones to hunt. Now they're domesticated ones to house, feed and nurture.

Something, I'm constantly guilty of.

It's strange, though. So much of this attitude I carry, the one which demands me to 'fend off the attacking fiend, and carry the little lady's books' was passed down to me through my Mamma's instruction. Although my father shares no less of the props. He was always the shining archetype of cavalier heroics.

2/08/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Mack, it's true, my readers do rock.

And I think I get what you're saying about women having certain roles they expect to be filled and finding ways to force the men in their lives to fill them.

I had a roommate once that, I swear, would manipulate any situation so that I'd want to punch her. It was weird, because, even though my extended family is fairly violent, I'm not. And I definitely don't think people should just go around hitting people. But it made it really apparent to me that, if she found someone who might be abusive, she'd be able to push his buttons.

I don't have any sympathy for abusers, but I also don't think they're always lying when they say "she made me do it." I'm sure, to them, it felt like they were provocked. Fucked up dynamics are fucked up in two directions, almost always.

I've read some research on the extended families of alcoholics along these same lines, how adult children and even grandchildren of alcoholics--even if they don't have drinking problems--tend to reproduce those same family dynamics.

2/08/2006 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Um...why? said...

B,

I in no way meant to hurt you or do you any injustice. I simply wanted you to know that A, all men have the potential to be pigs, but we are not all pigs, and B, you are absolutely not a second class citizen and you should not feel that way. I'm very sorry if you do because you really shouldn't in my opinion.

I will however in the future consider your comments here, and refrain from commenting in a manner that may appear to be an attempt at solving any dilemmas. I'll stick to being the voice of the opposition in political discussions.

I enjoy your blog, you have a very interesting mind and a good sense of humor to go with it. I hope I haven't hurt you in any way, again, that was certainly not my intent.

cafiend - You crack me up!

2/08/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Shoot, David, don't go getting all polite on me now.

You know how it is here--it's all loud-talking, squabbling, and hashing shit out.

I don't get to be immune from that. How do I get to figure out how I feel if y'all don't let me bounce ideas off of you?

2/08/2006 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

See, David, it's that you are clearly gentle and supportive that made that comment so hard for her (us) to post. That you didn't get unneceesarily defensive seems to me to be evidence that you are listening and trying to engage a conversation.

2/08/2006 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger the Professor said...

Huck, sometimes we do need help (sometimes so do other men). And, we should all treat those we care about nicely. Where's B post about opening doors for friends and not just women? But, chivalry is often just another form of oppression. I imagine that you can find ways to practice a form of it that is not oppressive, and that comes as much from an attidtude where, as david m says, women are not second class citizens as from any particular behavior.

2/08/2006 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Sarcastro said...

This is one asshole you don't have to worry about getting hitched to, sister.

You didn't print my reply that matrimony is no guarantee of happiness, or that your clinging to feminism in your case is only sensible given the alternative of clinging to nothing.

2/08/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

My god. Are you still pouting because you got stuck on the Gay List?

2/08/2006 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Sarcastro said...

Ok, fine.
I'll be your Bobo.

2/08/2006 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

You're going to be my trip to Bora Bora?

Oh, wait, Bobo. From earlier in the comments.

Never mind.

2/08/2006 07:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn it B, you have to keep these things fresh for me. I can't go skipping posts if I want to keep my brain active and stave off senility.

w

2/08/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger spiral said...

This is my first visit to this site, and I'm about to cry. Wow. Aunt B, whoever you are, what I love the most is when you say you just need the pain to be there, you just need to experience it, and you need it to be heard--really heard. I've been having fits over something painful that I said almost a year ago, and corny weird as it probably sounds, I

feel

so

much

better.

Explanation: I had been forming a friendship with a man I met at a conference over email and the phone. We'd been talking for several months, and he'd even sent me a postcard from his vacation. He was this amazingly emotionally responsive guy who I just immediately clicked with, and we talked about some usually very touchy subjects, shared our writing, etc.

Well, (I don't know why I'm saying this in such a public forum to strangers) we were talking for the first time in awhile since he had gotten back from his vacation, and the conversation was going great until I blurted out at one point, "Sometimes, I really feel like a whore at my job."

He proceeded to tell me in a nice voice about a recent hiring committee he had been on where the job candidate gave a teaching demonstration that involved getting students to think about the words they use and the power behind those words.

I immediately started fumbling my words, embarassed at what sounded like an off-handed attempt to chastise me or something about my use of the word "whore." I then started through a laundry list of reasons I felt like this, including instances of sexual harassment that I let go by partly because of my part-time, powerless status and partly because of the response of my supposedly liberal-minded, male, full-time colleagues, which was, "I really thought he (as in the harassing person) was better about that after all the talks he's had."

Finally, after stumbling over my words for several minutes, the man I was on the phone with said, "I mean, it's the kind of thing a guy would say or whatever" and changed the topic.

After that phone call, I never heard from that man again. He wouldn't answer any emails, and I've never tried calling. I sent an apology, saying he was right; I should be more careful about the words I use. He didn't reply.

I'm an English teacher at a college, just like the man I was talking to. I know what my words mean when I use them.

All I could think for awhile was that I was really stupid, why didn't I think before I said that, what's wrong with me, etc. I was so hurt that this person I thought I was building a friendship with just dropped me, and I felt like I'd really done something wrong.

Then, a few months ago, new thoughts popped out there: "I've been called a whore by other people. And I know how that feels, which is why I can't remember ever using that word to describe anyone, except myself. And I wouldn't say that about myself unless I was really in pain about something." Even after acknowledging I hadn't turned into some sexist being--that, in fact, using the word "whore" for myself came out of real pain--I still couldn't completely shake feeling like I had done something wrong when I think all I wanted was someone else to hear my pain and acknowledge it. Instead, I've been feeling badly about it for almost a year while continuing to work in the same conditions.

Thank you. I'm not going to feel badly anymore.

2/10/2006 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Spiral,

Thanks for writing. On my bad days, I feel like a whore at my job, too, like I'm paid to befriend people and make these connections with them that feel real to them (and sometimes to me) but are actually supposed to be professional connections.

I'm probably not articulating it very well. But I hear you and I know what you're saying.

And that guy sounds like a real dick.

2/11/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i finally figured out one of the things that's been bothering me about this post. there doesn't appear to be any room in your universe for men that aren't dicks. i'm not saying you hate men, but you certainly seem to be pessimistic about us. you never rule out the theoretical existence of genuinely good guys who have value beyond being a danger that you can anticipate/will protect you from guys who are even worse, but you don't seem to believe that finding one is one of your possible outcomes.

yeah, life is pretty bleak if the only things you think are possible are the horrible things. so, i guess i'm depressed too - are we really this awful, collectively? are we so bad that ya'll are forced to eat each other alive?

brian

2/12/2006 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Brian, I think you get exactly what I'm saying and don't realize it. There's not room in my universe for guys who aren't dicks.

I'm fucked up.

I'm so afraid that every single one of you is secretly a dick that I'm cutting myself off from this avenue of happiness.

I'm not trying to make an accusation against y'all, which is why it's useless for you guys to try to argue with me about how wrong I am. It's something internal to me that I've got to get beyond.

This is what I'm trying to say--that I've got this fucked up idea.

Intellectually, no, I don't think you guys are collectively awful at all. I know that you're not. That, in general, you're sweet and kind and caring and generous.

But I don't know how to get my heart to trust that.

I don't know how to be any clearer than that, but I also don't know if that makes sense.

There's nothing you can do. I've got to fix it. But until I sit down and poor this shit out, I sometimes don't even know what it looks like. Until I reread it, I don't even know how I'm putting the pieces together in my head.

See, that's what I mean when I say that these aren't meant to be accusations against y'all. These are meant to be ways of explaining to myself and to y'all how we've ended up at this point.

Does that make sense?

2/12/2006 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it makes sense, and i can appreciate that the point isn't for anyone to rush in and tell you that you're wrong about us, because you're not really saying anything about us.

2/12/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger A White Bear said...

B, it is really amazing to hear someone finally explain for all of us why it's okay to be feminist and not just humanist. Every time anyone says they have a hard time not feeling afraid of, pressured by, or angry at "men," the male response is, "But we're not all that way!" That would be fine if it weren't for the fact that women have been suffering for one another's sins since the beginning of time. There are men who act that, somehow, by the bizarre circumstance that I have a vagina, that I am their mother, their daughter, their ex-wife, their high school girlfriend who kicked them in the nuts, and I spent a long period of my life paying for those women's sins. How many times have I heard, "Well, I treated you that way because my mom left when I was three," or "You can see why I'm so jealous, because my ex cheated," or "When you touch my neck I assume you're going to choke me like my babysitter did and that's why I punched you in the face"? Yet if a woman says, "I'm a little freaked out by dudes because I was raped," all of mankind comes out to say "But I'm not that way! Why can't you see men as individuals? Why can't you trust me? See, women are SO uptight!"

I've only recently gotten over that phase of my life by dating someone who, like me, has no interest in marriage, commitment, or having kids together. It's amazing. We don't speak for each other or assume demands on the other's time. My feelings on various issues are not predicted for me based on my partner's past experiences with girlfriends. Suddenly, I'm being treated like a real live human being, and it's made me look back in shock and anger at the way other men have treated me. It's true that not all men are monsters, but it's also incredibly shocking how many are.

2/13/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bonedaddy lives!

11/05/2006 11:12:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home