Most times, you have to be an extraordinary jackass (or an elected official) to get my hackles up. All evidence in prior journal entries to the contrary, I'm usually a pretty laid-back individual. Relatively pragmatic, probably a little too stable for my own good, etc. Even when engaging in heated arguments, stormy debates, tense exchanges and other activities of that ilk it most often remains separate from the inner me - the calm me. I can have it out with someone - knock down, drag out, pushing each others' faces in the mud and stomping on fingers and when it's done, it's done. I can turn it on. I can turn it off. (ask my ex-husband. I think that always bugged the shit out of him!)
So! Quelle surprise! An opinion column syndicated on yahoo (of all places) from USA Today has caused me to be a seething little monster here at my desk. Literally! Seething! (Churning! foaming! suffering violent internal excitement!)
Oh, these people and their stupid, stupid opinions. You know, I am all for opinions. I have far too many of them for my own good. They’ve changed over time (and I’d like to think for the better), they fluctuate when I am presented with new information, and they define me in a way that other elements of my personality cannot. the flux of my deeply held beliefs becomes almost a life map - like when you suddenly realize you're thinking about french maid costumes and you have to backtrack your last minute and a half of thinking (french maid costumes came from feather dusters which came from grandma ruth's cat which came from orange jello with carrot floaties - oh, yeah! I was thinking about miracle whip! you know?)
So where was I? (miracle whip, opinions in flux, stupid people! oh yeah!) Like I said, I am all for opinions. the problem I have is when said opinions are absolutely, fundamentally resistant to change - or equally bad - if those opinions are viewed by the holder as fundamental truths for all time and thus invalidate contrary beliefs of others. A few of my favorite examples:
fundy christians. Don’t believe in it? That’s proof that the devil is working in the world. Don’t believe in the devil? That’s proof the devil's got you. There is no wiggle room. Either you believe it or you're wrong. Game over.
extremely radical feminists (a rare breed, truly). Don’t feel particularly oppressed today considering that you are a white, upper-middle-class female with a college degree and a well paying job in a ridiculously wealthy and wasteful country? You’re being brainwashed by the patriarchy. Feel that the concept of patriarchy is one that could use some serious updating in a world where multinational corporations and environmental waste are just two of the new biggies serving to oppress and exploit and objectify (even us rich white women in the west)? That’s proof you're oppressed by the patriarchy right there. You’re deflecting.
We no longer live (and really, did we ever?) in some sort of arnoldian objective truth world. Subjectivity is the order of the day, because seeing as how (at least to my knowledge - and forgive my digression into the second person) you are not he/she/it who personally orders the universe; there is no way anyone can take your opinion as the gospel of official truth from the high heavens. Open up a little! Have at least the semblance of being aware of your existence as not the only person in the world whose opinion counts. (Isn’t that a psychobabble tradition - want to be confident? pretend you are! want to be funny? pretend you are! it'll eventually become a part of your being and you won't be pretending anymore - YMMV if you pretend to be a doctor, astronaut, or flying trapeze artist, but I’m not making any guarantees) so, want to not be an absolute fuckwad? Pretend you're not! Worst case scenario is that we won't have to be subjected to your stupidity, and frankly, that's a great worst case scenario.
So why the rants? Who is this columnist who stirred me to the point of expostulation on the detrimental nature of stupid opinions let run amok? A woman named Elizabeth Sandoval, who is apparently a writer living in Los Angeles. Well, Elizabeth Sandoval, with the acknowledgement that you may actually be a great person or fantastic writer somewhere deep in there, get over yourself or shut the hell up and pretend you did.
the article in question: A Neo-Feminist's View of Abstinence
(read at your own risk - I take no responsibility for brain cells lost or any stewing in one's own juices)
if you've ever been curious about what it would look like to see an argument entirely dependent on false dichotomies and ridiculous stereotypes, this is your article. It’s a fun little exercise on putting way too much stock in the idea that women are either virgins or whores and then beating it until it dies - bloodied and mutilated on your front porch. Fun!
So, Elizabeth Sandoval wants to have sex with her future husband. Good for her! Her choice to do so is totally valid, and I hope she is happy and fulfilled with future unnamed husband. No problems there. But, you know, it goes downhill after that first break.
"Quick!" thinks Elizabeth Sandoval, "I must justify my choice by asserting that I am not a troll under a bridge or an ugly fat woman! We must not let them think that I am just too unattractive to have sex!" Elizabeth Sandoval then invokes a litany of stereotypes to support her assertion, since, of course, anyone still reading at this point must be so stupid and brainwashed to believe that the choice not to have sex can only be made by those: ultraconservative cat-ladies, old people who are afraid of "youth culture," and bitterly crusty unattractive women who have never experienced the inherent joy of someone wanting to fuck them. No, Elizabeth Sandoval is a "neo-feminist."
you don't even need a semester of women's studies to know that there are approximately fifteen thousand and three variations and appellations of feminism bandied about nowadays. You can be an eco-feminist, a feminist-of-color, a feminist-who-lacks-color, a marxist-feminist, ad nauseum. (you can probably even be an ad nauseum feminist if you really wanted) hell, I even bandied about my own little definition above to give name to the very small faction of feminists I encountered in my very first semester of women's studies at unnamed midwestern big ten university. Elizabeth Sandoval, however, is a "neo-feminist." her definition is extremely limited (can't have a platform with only one leg, natch, you'll fall on your face), so I decided to check my trusty friend Merriam-Webster Online's definition of neofeminist. apropos, non? Good guess, Merriam-Webster Online - it was mine, too!
but, according to Elizabeth Sandoval, a neo-feminist is: "One who respects her body so much that she won't allow it to be used as someone's playground." and this is where I start to get really, really annoyed at Elizabeth Sandoval.
Seriously! Who is this woman dating?!? Somebody with a nice normal brother or friend, please set Elizabeth Sandoval up! The remainder of her article reads like stereotypes on parade, and it appears that her only interactions with men have been with troglodytes and jackasses. (or maybe, you see what you think you're going to see, Elizabeth Sandoval! be obsessed with sex, which it appears from this article that you are, and you will see it everywhere you look!) And! that women are so sexually repressed that their sexuality is simply a man's playground - god forbid I should build this playground and play in it myself! (am I a virgin or am I a whore? hm?)
I’m sorry to tell you, Elizabeth Sandoval, but as cute and hip as you think you are, not every man you meet wants to get into your pants. Not even "handsome man at a bar," who you have reduced from a human being with independent thoughts and feelings to someone brainwashed by sex and the city and rap videos (!!??). If you allow that you, yourself, could have escaped the clutches of these evil influences, why not believe that "handsome man at a bar" could have? And god forbid he does want to have sex with you! God forbid he view you as a sex object! Why don't you fucking move along rather than reduce an entire sex to drooling sex-starved idiots?
Moving on. Let’s take on the women. Let’s reduce them to simpering emotionally immature idiots who are unable to deal with the consequences of their choices. (and, who apparently only date complete and utter jackasses!) oh, and let's lump them into just a couple of categories which inadequately (barely at all, in fact) address the myriad reasons a person might choose to have sex and while we're at it, let's act like we're all still in 7th grade.
Category 1: Members of the "Sex is Natural and Fun and If It Makes You Happy, It Can't Be That Bad"
Apparently they date simply because "they want sex so badly." then, as does happen, they and their partner "dump" one another (7th grade, anyone?) and now the poor, victimized woman who was wrangled into this sexual relationship completely not of her own accord is "one of many women whom he could point out on the street. 'See her?' he can tell his buddies. 'She's cute, huh? Yeah, I had her.'" Elizabeth Sandoval does not wish to be "her."
Oh, where to begin. Does this make anyone else want to vomit? First of all, I again have to wonder where Elizabeth Sandoval is meeting these men. I will not say that I know no men who act like this - but I will say that these are not the men I would choose to sleep with. (you see, contrary to what Elizabeth Sandoval may think, I have a choice as to which men I sleep with, and I am quite discriminating! and!! wonder of wonders, all men are not neanderthals! really, I promise!) Secondly, in what alternate junior high world does it matter what neanderthal and his buddies think? is your self-worth so fragile and delicate, Elizabeth Sandoval, that should you date a man who turns out to be a total jackass that would say things like this, you would instantly cease to exist? Would his "I had her" remark brand "fallen woman" on your forehead and sully your honor? And finally, what makes you think that over coffee with a close friend I might not point out my hot crush boy walking by and say, "Isn’t he hot? You should see him naked!" is it because I am a woman that I must be the objectified? I cannot in turn enjoy or appreciate sex as sex without being permanently emotionally scarred by not remaining in a relationship with the man I slept with? (Merriam-Webster! you were right!)
Category 2: The "You Have to Know if You're Sexually Compatible or the Marriage Will Be Doomed" club
Well, having been in a marriage that was doomed (hyperbole, anyone?) I happen to know that sexual compatibility is of the utmost importance. Go to a marriage and family therapist and they will ask you - how's your sex life? A good one can help you regain the intimacy you may have lost through other means, and maintaining a good one can help you through yick times. A bad one, or a non-existent one can make you feel miles away from your husband/wife EVEN IF your emotional intimacy is spot on. Emotional intimacy makes best friends. Add in the sex and you've got a marriage. And does anyone else think it's funny that her dramatic article closer asserts that sex is EVERYTHING, and yet the crux of her non-sex argument is that sex doesn't matter as much as we think it does? Pick a mood and go with it, Elizabeth Sandoval!
Okay. Here we come to the part that actually makes me violent. Gotta take this bit piece by piece.
"Many women today are weak-minded in that they readily accept society's portrayal of sexual norms. The people on The O.C. are doing it. Paris Hilton, as she's hosing down that Bentley, appears ready to do it."
When I was in high school, I didn't drink, smoke, or do illicit drugs. when my peers discovered this seeming defect in my personality, their main argument was "you don't have to listen to your parents all the time - you can do this if you want to." it always struck me odd that simply because I did not make the same choice as they did, that their assumption was that I didn't think long and hard about the choice I did make. I must be weak-mindedly listening to my stodgy parents. Elizabeth Sandoval seems to be in the same mindset as my high school peers. Anyone that didn't make the same choice she did must be weak-minded. We must be caught up in the O.C. (isn't that a show about high school kids?) or we must look up to Paris Hilton (regardless of the fact that when PH's name is invoked by anyone I know over the age of 17, it's certainly not accompanied by a desire to emulate her).
Elizabeth Sandoval is thirty-two years old. I am but a child of twenty-five and I can attest that my decision-making process is not governed by the WB or societal pressures. I have the ability to think for myself, and I have reached a point where I am comfortable enough with me that I can make good choices without externalizing everything.
"Women are non-self-respecting because they willingly sacrifice such an important part of their being for just a few moments of pleasure. And they're oblivious because they don't contemplate the profoundness of sex."
Again with the gross generalizations, Elizabeth Sandoval! I am either a virgin or a whore. I am either self respecting and make the same choice that you did, or I am adrift on the sea of popular culture and victimized by the combination of my emotional immaturity and the ravenous wolves known innocuously as "men."
Why must it be that women who choose to have sex don't contemplate its profoundness? Could we not be having it because we appreciate that very profundity? And, in fact, does it always have to be profound? Listen, Elizabeth Sandoval, I have no idea what the men in Los Angeles are like - I’ve never been there. But I’ll tell you that there are some really stand-up guys in other parts of the country that don't fit your outmoded stereotype. there are women who are intelligent enough to tell fact from fiction, who can even recognize degrees of fiction (to use a popular culture reference - just so you'll understand - there are those among us who understand that SATC and the new "Dove" ads are fundamentally the same thing), and we have the ability to make choices for ourselves that are no less valid for not being the exact one you made.
"Women give it up as if it's nothing. When in fact, it is everything."
Oh, Elizabeth Sandoval. Do you not realize that you are the very problem of which you speak? Why do you think SATC and rap videos (??!!) are so pervasive? You, in effect, have reduced me to my sexual parts. If it is "everything," then why are you so upset when it is all handsome man at a bar sees in you?
Way to knock us back a couple of hundred years. Why yearn for a time when a woman's worth was her "virtue," and her commodification was commonplace. At least if Paris Hilton is for sale, it is she who is doing the selling. Thankfully, I am old enough and wise enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality - between myself and Paris Hilton - between a neanderthal and a man. I can only hope, Elizabeth Sandoval, that you can reach the level of maturity wherein you can understand that there is not one truth that fits everyone, and that my choice to have sex or not does not define my intelligence, my womanhood, or my self, and it is absolutely none of your business.