aka The post that will probably get me into a lot of trouble.
My sister and I were talking the other day about how she still gets (and I used to get) all of the questions about WHY doesn't she have children? I mean, its not like its the law that every woman should want to have children, right?
But this made me think of a question I still get, especially since having children and the lead up to children. "Why aren't you married?" Or, "When are you going to get married?" Or "Why don't you want to get married?" Just today I had lunch with J, who is in his late 40s and in luuuuv and engaged to get married, despite the Pacific Ocean that separates him and his fiance. I am very happy for him and I really enjoyed spending time with him today. But then the subject of my state of marriage came up and I did one of my tactless blurt outs:
"Men are 90% useless when it comes to relationships."
Yeah. I don't have issues.
But I kinda think I really don't. This is an academic issue for me and I'd like to qualify this statement. First of all, to prevent any confusion, D and I really do have a BIG insurance issue standing in our way. So marriage to him is beside the point. However, and I love D and he is family and I've said this before, I don't know that I'd marry him anyway because I just simply don't want to be married. Our relationship works on many levels, much better than some married couples I'd say. But one of the reasons it works is because we have so many mitigating issues surrounding disability and how we have to live to meet both our needs that it overrides some other big issues. Just for a really simplistic example: D and I don't fight about who does the dishes, who diapers the kids, who makes dinner and who vacuums because he can't do it anyway. It's irrelevant.
I'd like to think that if he could, he would be completely enlightened and he would see us as 100% equal partners and do all this stuff without question. But chances are good that he wouldn't, at least initially. The way he was raised, using his brothers as examples (which is not totally fair, but that's the little I have to go by) they are entrenched in patriarchal thinking. Male privilege. To D's credit, I think if anything, disability has enlightened him to what it feels like to be treated as subhuman, and has opened his mind to learning about the issues women face. So, it is a bit of a catch-22. If he wasn't disabled, he might be a bit of a chauvinist and not treat the partnership equally. But since he is disabled, he understands these issues that are important to me, but many times can't demonstrate it in concrete ways. But one of the things I most love about D is that he doesn't base his ego on stupid testosterone induced male pride and get all hung up about it.
But back to the usefulness of men. What I meant to say, and not that this is much better, but anyway...90% of men are useless when it comes to relationships with women. And of the 90%, there is certainly a continuum of usefulness. Many men of my generation might be in the top 20% of usefulness, while men of the older generation are perhaps lower on the scale, just based on different generational views and upbringing regarding women. So, what I am actually saying, is of the bell curve of men's usefullness in a relationship, my criteria to even bother with trying is only the top 10%. And by top 10%, I don't mean the top ten in traditional ways, like best looks, most money, most prestigious career, whatever. I mean in their usefulness as an equal partner, respectful, loving husband, kind and generous, conscientious, responsible, mature, honest, courageous, etc. Those kind of things.
Okay. I am FAAAAAR from perfect, but I always said that any guy I would marry had to have his shit together at least as much as I do in these areas. And it always seems to me that that only leaves the top 10%. Arrogant, much? I know, I know. But what I'm getting at here is that I don't consider myself to be in the top 10% of women in these areas. I'm probably just average. What I'm getting at is the discrepency between men and women that I don't want to put up with.
I know. I'm digging myself into a deep pit.
But come, come join me. Let me throw you a shovel. I will also qualify this to say that I have many male friends who I quite enjoy and some who I love dearly. I see their humanity and all their good points and things they have to offer. Besides D, of course, I love his dad, despite our differences. I love my first boyfriend, Kory and always will. I love Nik. I love J. But to enter into a lifelong commitment and equal partnership? There are very few guys out there who could pull off the kind of partnership I want. A patriarchy free one, as much as possible at least. Very few men are up to snuff to make it worth my time and effort. I know that sounds just like the "I don't think all blacks are bad, I have a friend who is black." line. I do understand that it is an unfair statement to generalize all men in this way. And I don't feel like I am doing that so much as observing a social trend that affects both men and women.
In fact, J must be my special special. I must love J so much because I held my tongue and even coughed up a "well, there might be a grain of truth" to his example of that asshat quack John Gray and his stupid Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus drivel. Did you know he isn't even really a doctor? His stuff is misogynistic crap that basically gives men a "biological" excuse to be pigs. Here, for your entertainment, some great John Gray quotes:
"It's such a big deal, 'Well, I didn't get my 20 minutes of clitoral stimulation, so how can you think about penetrating me?' This is all feminist stuff that came in, and women are brainwashed with that. They should have it. I'm not against that. Women should have great sex. It will make better marriages for men."
"Does one spouse owe the other sex? The man goes out and risks his life for this woman. The man works hard for his family. What does she do for him? She has sex for him whenever he wants. That's what sex was. Sex was always for the man. What's this sex for the woman thing?...It's takes 30 minutes [for women] to have a real sexual experience. How do you have sex for 30 minutes every day in a busy life with kids? You don't. But you can do two minutes whenever the man wants."
(From an interview with Yahoo! Internet Life Magazine.)
No wonder his wife left him. My point is that I don't think the trend of men being worthless in relationships is in anyway inherent to the fact that they are men. I don't think it is in their DNA, I don't think men are useless in relationships in any way because they are inferior to females. I recognize that there may be some biological differences between men and women, but more and more research supports that the differences are minor. We are not from different planets, so much as we perhaps just have a different dialect when speaking the same language.
I think that men tend to be useless in relationships because for thousands of years, they had no expectations to live up to. Or very few in regards to accountability to their relationships with women. Women were property and thus could be treated as such. How men treated their property was based entirely on his prerogative, not on her rights or her humanity. Has this gotten better? Absolutely. But thousands of years of patriarchy does not go away overnight. Women have been forced to set their expectations low and men have have been entitled to basically do as they pleased. It is so ingrained into our society that we don't even see it without a trained eye.
So, I call myself a feminist, which for the record, doesn't mean that I feel women are inherently better than men, nor should women rule the earth. Shannon does a remarkable job illustrating my view of feminism in this post. It is about recognizing the humanity of everyone equally while understanding that we are not identical with identical needs. But this won't happen unless men take responsibility for their actions and women expect the respect they deserve.
Here is where people are going to write to me and tell me how mentally screwed I am, or (and I always love these, cuz they prove my point) where someone inevitably comments that I just need a 'good fuckin'. Because of course, when a woman has an opinion that deviates from her requisite dire need of a man, she must just need to get laid.
But here we go: Nothing illustrated the patriarchy and its cruelty to me more than after I was raped. I haven't talked about this much because I really don't want the guy to find me, nor do I want to open up myself to the criticism that always follows rape victims, but here is the story in a very abridged (cuz gawd, I'm sick of this story) and somewhat disguised version:
College. Never heard of the term date or acquaintance rape before. Very, very young. Got a university sponsored ride from a university employed driver (along with several other students) to the airport, two hours away. Talked to the driver the whole trip, a fellow student several years older than me. Nice guy. Perfect gentleman. Went above and beyond the call of duty making sure I got to my flight on time and helped with my bags.
Two months later. At a BYOB frat party with a friend. She wants to make a booze run, we are underage. She asks me if I know anyone at the party who can do it for us. I (barely) know the driver guy. He takes us for a booze run. My friend drinks, leaves with another guy. I don't drink, or drink very little. I'm not drunk. Getting late, driver guy asks to drive me home. Okay. Drives me to his dorm. I don't realize this (cuz I can't see) till we are out of the car and going up the steps. I realize it, I still go in with him. Sit around talking with a bunch of people in this guy's room. One by one, other guys and girls leave. We are left alone. We kiss. I (SUDDENLY!!, cuz I'm dumb) realize that he expects to have sex. I get up and say I don't want to have sex and head for the door. He apologizes. Sweetly. Convinces me that I shouldn't walk home at 4am (the danger!) and he is too tired to drive me home. He convinces me to stay to "just sleep." I stay. I fall asleep. I think I slept about 15 or 20 minutes and am awoken to him pinning me down and the rest I will spare you the details of.
So, my story is typical. You've all heard this type of thing before. We all know a girl who this happened to, right? And we all can see, with our aged wisdom and experience, the 300 things I did wrong to get myself in that situation. And I was naive. But here is the deal: The thing I did wrong, the thing that put me in the most danger, was in believing that my personhood would be respected. I believed, up until the very last second when I was physically overpowered, that I had complete control and autonomy and SAY in what happened to me and what I agreed and did not agree would happen to my body. Obviously, I was mistaken.
What was worse than that night was the reaction I got afterword from the few people I told, both men and women. It ranged anywhere from "how slutty of you" to "well, that's too bad, but what were you thinking???" Basically, the general attitude from everyone was, "well what did you expect when you voluntarily went and stayed in his room?"
Well, wild as this might sound, I expected to be respected. I expected that I would have a say in consenting or not consenting to any and everything that went on that night. When I thought about prosecuting, the main thing I heard about was how I was going to ruin HIS life. Basically, expectations were extremely high for me to monitor my behavior, but nonexistent for him to monitor his. I was supposed to respect my impact on his life but he was not required to respect his impact on mine. Thousands of years of entitlement and low expectations. This had nothing to do with him being from Mars. This was about misogyny and the lack of percieved humanity that I had as a woman. (BTW, I think it was Nik, five years later, who was the first to call bullshit on that line of reasoning and name it 'date rape'. Thats only one of many reasons he rocks.)
Now I do realize that this is an extreme example and most guys are not out there raping people. But even those who won't go so far as rape still carry these attitudes. It is everywhere. Men (and some women) seem to be very confused about rape. This is the litmus test:
At any time, at any moment in any situation, and no matter how she got there, a woman should be able to voluntarily get up and walk out of the room. Even if she consented to sexual actions, even THE sexual action and even if they are in the middle of doing THE sexual action. I'll even spot the guy a ten second reaction time. But at any moment, no matter what she was wearing or what she said or did, she should be able to stop what is happening and walk out of the situation. Now, I'm not saying the decisions she made that got her in the situation were good ones or wise ones or even nice ones, and the guy is free to end the relationship with her if he doesn't like her decisions. However, he is not free to rape her. End of story. Is this so damned hard to figure out?
So, take Kobe Bryan. His situation happened almost 15 years after mine. And I use that situation because it was similar to mine. The girl kinda liked him, she voluntarily went into his room, she might have consented to some sexual acts, and then she did not consent to others and she wanted to stop and to leave and was not allowed. Tons of men, men who I know were not bad men, men who would never rape anyone, said things like, "Well, she should have never gone into his room." Or, "she confused him by consenting to this and not to that." Or, "how was he supposed to stop? Guys get to a point where they can't stop." Or, " She is going to ruin his career." Her identity was leaked numerous times by the press. She received death threats. She was made into a villain. It was "blame the victim" at its worst.
Rape situations sometimes really illustrate how far we haven't come as a society in our ability to see woman as humans rather than objects and property. The standards for men's behavior are so low, and women have to sacrifice SO much sometimes to have a relationship with a man, it is very hard to find truly equal partnerships.
Most of the time, the low standards are much more benign than rape, of course. It is the guy who comes home from work and sits on his ass while the wife makes dinner, cleans up, gives the kid a bath and puts 'em to bed. Or the guy, like the uncles I grew up with, who grouch, "Woman! Get me a beer!" Or it is the husband who agrees to fix the broken stairs a month before the child's birthday party and then doesn't. Suddenly deciding to get his power tools out DURING the party. (True story.) Or another true story: Mom has been working on potty training junior. Asks dad to put off re-tiling the only bathroom for a week until the kid is back in daycare. And he up and rips the bathroom apart while the kid is home all day and has his first day of big boy underpants. Or (another true story, I read too many blogs.) the husband who spends all of his non-working hours playing Second Life on his computer having cyber sex while lying about it to his wife. He completely does not understand why spending his time having virtual sex with a real woman online instead of spending time with his family might be upsetting to his wife. Or the guy who skips his autistic kid's long awaited referral with a specialist to go to a Ferrari convention. Or it is the husbands who think that they work all day while the wife doesn't work. Or gets upset if the wife makes more than him. Or (in phony Ph.D and divorcee John Gray's case) the husband expects the wife to drop everything to give him a quickie but never seems to have time to return the favor. Or calling the type of intimacy that delivers the orgasm for women "foreplay"--an optional precursor to the MAIN EVENT! --the part where the man gets his. I hear about this shit every day and I never understand why women put up with it. Is it just because we have such low standards? Is it the necessity of economics? The exhaustion of raising children alone? How do we get out of the cycle?
There are just a thousand little ways that men don't have to measure up. It is deeply embedded in our society. It is the invisible backpack of entitlement that men carry and women almost don't recognize. And to some extent, men are victims of it as well. I think in the majority of cases, it is entirely unintentional on men's parts. It is for them probably like being a well-intentioned white person who doesn't see their own privilege and sees themselves as being colorblind. Men are often raised this way. It is in every aspect of our culture. Just last week I was lazily folding laundry while watching General Hospital. A successful business woman gives up her career and surrenders to the seduction of a man who is a mob boss (and a 'good guy'!) and can't guarantee her safety, yet won't give up his lifestyle so that his girlfriend and children won't be killed. I know its a soap, but this is still acceptable as romance today? They even had the protest-protest-protest-surrender kiss scene. Un-fucking-believable. Its everywhere.
I also recognize that women aren't perfect and often contribute to this by playing right into it or have a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em attitude". My MIL's generation is full of master manipulators. And I think some women have learned this as a survival technique. If you can't gain power by money or brute strength or position in society, then you manipulate to get what you want. Women are taught from birth how to do this. How to use their bodies, how to trick men into getting what they want. Venus and Mars are all about manipulation. Oprah and Cosmo have articles about how to get your man to do what you want them to do by playing to their ego or sexual desires. Girls are told that the toys they should want at Christmas time are play kitchens and dolls and ironing boards and princess costumes and dolls heads to put make up on. Boys get heavy machinery and superheroes and footballs and toy swords and violent action figures. Toys that focus on power and strength. We are still, in 2007, taught from birth that men are powerful and do important things and women are here to be pretty and clean up after the men and their children.
Although we can't totally reject the patriarchal notions that have been driven into our brains from birth, like we can't really be totally cleansed of the racism we were raised with, we can recognize it for what it is. And here is where the great guys come from. They are out there. They are the men who recognize what is going on and conscientiously work to make sure that they are acting in ways that are not contributing to it. They recognize the humanity and worth of women and don't play stupid Mars/Venus games or act entitled to sex or beauty or a hot dinner waiting or a clean house. They understand the difference between making love and just getting laid. And they understand that the patriarchal bullshit is ingrained in them and will never really go away but they will do their best to try and minimize its impact on their lives and the lives of the women they love. They are out there. I know some of them. They are the 10% that are not useless.
And unfortunately for the most part, they are married. I think they all got scooped up by the woman who were self confident and expected to be treated with respect while girls like me were guilt-tripping ourselves with our misplaced culpability in our own rapes or were being self-conscious about our blindness or our fat or our zits or whatever. I admit it, I was too busy being a victim of the patriarchy (and wallowing in my victim hood) to get one while the gettin was good. Or I got too old and too set in my ways to want to train one in, and the trainable ones are too young for me now.
Yes, now I know I'm an old spinster at 37. And I'm not allowed to like it. But I do. I like my autonomy. I like living my life on my terms. I like not having to play the Mars and Venus game. I like that I can set my own standards as to my personality and standards and appearance and not have to play into guy expectations. It seems like you either have to compromise your standards or choose to be single. I like my choice.
Yes, I know. My standards are too high. I hear this all the time. My standards are too high if I want an equal relationship with a guy who understands and supports feminism and human rights. If I want a guy who not only refrains from saying "I'd hit that" but who doesn't cheer along when his buddies say it. If I want a guy who is not insecure around a smart or successful woman who doesn't feel like her main job is to feed her husband's ego. If I want a guy who can sit down with me and negotiate a conflict in a direct and amenable way for both of us and not let his entitlement or ego get involved. I know that no one is perfect, but I would want a guy that at least understands what an equal relationship is and does his best to strive for it.
I really don't feel like this is sour grapes, this isn't an uptight woman that needs to get laid. I can get laid anytime I want, as can most women, so I never understood that whole line of thought. This isn't a bitter old maid that is making excuses for not having a husband or a lesbian wanna-be or whatever else I get accused of. I do not hate men. I understand to the extent that I can that they are under their side of the patriarchal pressure as well and it can be hard to impossible to see above that. I see the good in men. I enjoy their company. I have many that I love and admire and even lust after a few (Okay, that guy Logan? On General Hospital? He is the only reason I watch that intrepid drivel. That's pure lust, I admit it.) I can see the good in men even though I can also recognize the weaknesses. They are human and deserve the same acceptance and level of respect as women. They deserve to be treated individually and not as a demographic, which admittedly I have failed to do here. I'm extremely lucky to have a long time relationship with a man who, if not always practices equality, understands it and is willing to listen and learn about my frustrations. And who sees me as a fellow human above all else and who tries to contribute what he can to the extent that he can. I have two boys who I love unconditionally and who have in them both the influence of their father and the DNA of another man who I appreciate. I have a father, who although far from perfect in many respects, is responsible and was accepting of my mom as (almost) equal partner. He's about 100% times better than many other men from his generation. I have NIk who is good-hearted and funny and forgiving and smart and tough. And J who is sensitive and witty and almost precious in his rose-colored lack of awareness of all things unjust in the world. I'm not lacking for men in my life. Men who show me their goodness and kindness on a day-to-day basis. Those guys? Top 25 to top 15, at least. ; )
But marriage? The whole institution bugs me. I'm not compromising. I'm opting out, and I'm perfectly fine with that.