fuzzy notepad

[blog] Suzanne Venker is a robot alien in disguise

It’s my best guess. It would explain some things.

She has written another charming opinion piece and I can’t resist butting my big dumb head in to object to a few things here.

(The article was originally accompanied by a thumbnail of a happy couple in typical wedding garb kissing with a cool skyline background. Minor oversight: both of them were women, which sort of contradicts the article’s title in a number of hilarious ways. Strangely, this illustration has now vanished!)

[book shill elided] Its premise is that if women want to be successful in love, they should reject the cultural script they’ve been sold and adopt a whole new view of men and marriage.

We begin with a perfectly-framed example of how she doesn’t understand what “equality” is supposed to be about. The whole point of regarding everyone as equal is to avoid having a cultural script in the first place! Men are allowed to like football and beer; women are allowed to like knitting and raising children. The only problem is that men and women are expected to like these things and encounter atmospheric resistance by liking something else.

It almost sounds like this leading paragraph would agree with this principle, yet the article’s thesis is that equality sucks. The difference is that there’s now a cultural script she doesn’t like, so it needs to be rejected. The former cultural script suited her just fine, of course, so it was just The Way Things Are and why was everyone making such a big fuss? The irony it is palpable.

1. Women postpone marriage indefinitely and move in and out of intense romantic relationships, or even live with their boyfriends for years at a time. Eventually, their biological clocks start ticking and many decide they better hurry up and get married to provide a stable home for their yet-to-be-born children. Trouble is, their boyfriend’s not willing to commit.

Wait, what? This hypothetical woman is living with her partner for years at a time, but (a) this doesn’t qualify as a “stable home” and (b) the hypothetical partner isn’t willing to commit? How much more committed can you get than to intertwine your lives? It must only count as commitment if you have to sign some paperwork to break it off—wait, oops, both your names are on the lease and the bank accounts.

I can’t even visualize this scenario. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. (I might have blinders on since my girlfriend has been living with me for two years.) Why would you live together for years if you couldn’t “commit”? Why would you have a long-term relationship with someone whose life plans are so drastically incompatible?

The more I think about this, the weirder it gets. It sounds like the woman will just up and decide one day to have children, and the boyfriend is obligated to create and help raise them, and if he doesn’t want to then… it’s the woman’s fault? This is absurd.

2. Marriage becomes a competitive sport. The complementary nature of marriage—in which two people work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the qualities each gender brings to the table—has been obliterated. Today, husbands and wives are locked in a battle about whom does more on the home front and how they’re going to get everything done. That’s not a marriage. That’s war.

How about the qualities each person brings to the table? Mel’s husband cooks because he’s the best at cooking and enjoys doing it. (The two of us both kind of suck at it.) Mel and I work all day. Where exactly does gender come into this?

This scenario sure seems to imply that the woman doesn’t want to do the work traditionally assigned to her, which puts a strange spin on the subsequent proposal that perhaps she should just do it anyway because she’s a woman and that makes her genetically predisposed to being better at holding a mop.

Maybe—maybe—there wouldn’t be fighting if the husband didn’t take for granted that the wife should do the housework because she’s the woman. Maybe.

It’s time to say what no one else will: Feminism didn’t result in equality between the sexes—it resulted in mass confusion. Today, men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what.

How do you get anything done at work? I mean, you have way more than two people at Fox News (I assume), and many of them are the same gender! Without the advantages a prescribed list of what tasks your genitals uniquely enable you to perform, how can you possibly get anywhere?

Oh, right. You delegate. You assign responsibilities. You sit down and figure it out because you’re fucking adults.

It’s hard to claim women were oppressed in a nation in which men were expected to stand up when a lady enters the room or to lay down their lives to spare women life.

They were patronized, paid less, denied the right to vote until very recently, ignored, beaten by their husbands… but by golly, men stood up when they walked in the room!

When the Titanic went down in 1912, its sinking took 1,450 lives. Only 103 were women. One-hundred three.

There were only 425 women on board in the first place, on a ship with over 2,000 passengers. Men outnumbered women 4-to-1. I wonder why that was? Women stuck at home looking after their children while the men went on a fancy expensive cruise, perhaps?

Here’s a little ASCII chart:

            saved       lost        total
women        316        109          425        26% lost
men          338       1352         1690        80% lost
children      56         53          109        49% lost

Women were still proportionally under-represented in the death toll, yes, but by three-to-one rather than thirteen-to-one. Oh, and half the children were lost, which is fascinating given the mention of “women and children first” in the next paragraph.

Compare that with last year’s wrecked cruise line, the Costa Concordia. It resulted in fewer deaths, but there was another significant difference. “There was no ‘women and children first’ policy. There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats. It was disgusting,” said passenger Sandra Rogers, 62.

I have enough faith in my species to believe that there are options between “everyone is an asshole” and “treat women like helpless delicate flowers”.

Why do women specifically need to go first? How about the crew, and everyone who’s capable, help everyone else get off a sinking ship? Your reproductive properties shouldn’t need to come into this. I, for example, own a penis, yet it does not imbue me with many skills useful in a physical emergency.

You see, the problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable—meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications.

But the truth must be heard. Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings.

Marriage was just described as an arrangement where two people work together “as equals”, like three paragraphs ago. And then second paragraph here seems to use “equal” in a good sense again. I don’t get it. Is “equal” supposed to be different from “equality” in this lexicon?

Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to.

And that’s exactly what feminism is saying. Women may be capable of doing the dishes, but that doesn’t mean they want to. (Again, if women wanted to do all the “women’s work”, why would the revelation that they don’t have to be causing conflict within marriages?)

That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.

Or maybe we don’t have more female CEOs because becoming CEO requires a little more effort than turning in a stellar résumé, and there’s a years-long career advancement gauntlet that heavily biases towards men. Maybe.

Maybe those same sunnier employment opportunities for men also explain why there are fewer stay-at-home dads: it’s common for one parent to work, and if the entire employment system is orchestrated such that the husband has a better chance at a better job, well.

What a scummy thing to say.

Unless, of course, you’re beholden to feminism. In that case, you’ll believe the above is evidence of discrimination. You’ll believe what feminists taught you to believe: that gender is a social construct.

This, in an article that began by telling women to reject a “cultural script”. Somehow culture can tell women specifically what to do, but society doing the same is fundamentally different and also mythical, or whatever other wordplay headgame we’re playing here.

Those of us with children know better. We know little girls love their dolls and boys just want to kick that ball.

Sure. Some do. Do all?

The last paragraph said “social construct” with a sneer I could actually hear in my head, like it were some abstract nonsense. But this is precisely what it is, concretely: little girls have nothing else to play with but their dolls, and little boys have nothing else to play with but their balls. Toy stores are remarkably segregated by gender, with entire aisles color-coded pink and blue for the things toy manufacturers assume girls and boys will play with, and only girls and boys on the boxes.

Yes, any child could decide adamantly to fight the system and go in the wrong aisle.

How many would do that in practice? Granted, I don’t have children, but it’s my understanding that the developing human brain is spending most of its effort doing pattern matching: it wants to learn all it can about the world by absorbing patterns and figuring out what things are connected. Raising a child involves a whole lot of instruction in what Is Okay and what Is Not Okay, and the reasons are often arbitrary adult things like “that’s just how it is”. Why would a blank slate, seeded with this information and an arrangement of pre-selected toys with his/her gender plastered all over (something that is ingrained from day one as a very important criterion for discriminating between other humans), do anything other than assume he/she is Supposed To select from those and like them?

This is the heart of the problem egalitarianism seeks to solve: you aren’t even giving children a chance to decide otherwise. You are taking for granted that girls like X and boys like Y, and I guess assuming that people—children, even—will fight back against layers and layers of these assumptions held by millions of people and even published in a news article by the biggest media conglomerate in the country. All just to play with a doll.

What would you do, author, if your son genuinely enjoyed playing with dolls? I honestly wonder.

It just means each gender has its own energy that flows in a specific direction. For God’s sake, let it flow.

Or: each person has his/her own energy that flows in a specific direction; stop putting people in tiny boxes and let it flow.

The battle of the sexes is over. And guess what? No one won. Why not try something else on for size? Like this: men and women are equal, but different. They’ve each been blessed with amazing and unique qualities that they bring to the table. Isn’t it time we stopped fussing about who brought what and simply enjoy the feast?

Oh, honey. Of course you’re equal to me. But you should make me a sandwich and get me my slippers because you’re a woman and I’m a man.”

It wasn’t so long ago—and it may still be true in some parts of the world—that “writing” was not considered one of the unique qualities afforded to women.

Equal but uniquely different” is a dangerous mantra. I could swear history has taught us this a few times by now.

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(illus. by Rumwik)