Monday, March 3, 2008

Defending Women

First things first, I think that something like the piece reported on here is definitely weird, is not normal, and should not be printed in a Western, American, civilized newspaper. I think it's entirely appropriate to write this person or write the paper about it to complain (you'll likely only get some kind of obfuscating, dishonest response, if any, but that's to be expected & besides the point) or even better, to write about it on a blog, e-mail list, or e-mail to friends, or to talk to people about it. The fact that a woman wrote this piece shouldn't deter you-- it's par for the course for the Republicans to give us their most anti-African American, anti-woman, and so on, messages from, respectively, a black person, a woman, or what have you. You shouldn't mistake it at all for not being propaganda for that fact, and I wouldn't be surprised if a man actually helped this woman write this piece, or wrote it for her.

The piece seems to basically be an argument based on the distinction between "intelligent" and "wise" and seems to argue that women are not wise, since the raw-intelligence argument is one that people are less likley to buy. Even worse for a right-wing propagandist, it's very un-PC to try to argue that men have greater raw-intelligence than do women. The reason the writer makes the argument she does is, I think, to get women- one of our core blocs- to feel less confident and to feel less like voting and participating in politics (a lesser goal may have been to make women feel like they should 'get out of the way' of men). I'm sure plenty of people, once they get around some emotional responses, will be able to respond to this just as adequately as I can, but because I know some people will be emotional about this and will let this piece mess with their minds (indeed, it wouldn't have been written if the writers didn't feel confident it would have this effect on some people) I am going to make sure a refutation-- mine-- gets out there, so people will be less likely to be bowled over by a psychological assault like this piece.

I have aggravating relationships and interactions with all kinds of people, and I meet all kinds of people that I think have poor characters (as do probably most of us). But this piece is chauvinistic, and tries to lump it all on women. The first thing that needs to be said is, despite this piece's focus on women being frivolous and shallow, men themselves are often frivolous and shallow- women may, to excess, want to hang out in Bed, Bath & Beyond and then gobble some candy or goodies on the way home (while growing fat); men-- to excess-- watch stupid football games, talk about football, and chew tobaccco, smoke cigars, eat red meat or sodium-laden nuts and chips and so on (while growiong fat). It's not for me to say which sex spends the absolute most time on shallow stuff. But if we're going to judge only based on our anecdotal experience, like this and so many other stupid writers do, it's very easy to come to a tit-for-tat, between men and women, description of what is going on.

Second, the piece seems between-the-lines to be trying to apologize for men who are sort of busted and crummy-- guys who can't commiserate or empathize with a person emotionally and who view the world in a fucked-up and simplistic way. I got the sense the writer was saying, "You stupid women don't listen to dumb, asshole militaristic right-wing men who really know what's best for our country because you stupidly, mistakenly, prefer to listen to people who have all the flair." I think what's really happening is that women tend to listen to people who seem smarter and who seem to care about them more. They're turned off by people who are more anti-social, who function less well in a group, and who seem sadistic and preoccupied with hurting things and people. A focus on things like that- on valuing the opinions of people who are smart and who seem to care about people more- is the kind of thing that women have perennially, and very fortunately for society, contributed a great deal to providing. This in turn has helped to provide a balance against all the dumb assholes a society produces. Sure, some people may mistake false sentiments or concern for the real stuff sometimes, as does everybody. And probably, women are more concerned with closeness and relationships than men are, and there is a lot of science demonstrating a physical/biological and psychological basis for this. What I don't get out of this piece is why that's wrong. Sure, if that was only what people cared about, and couldn't see when it was time to make some hard decisions because they were always blinded by the possibility that every asshole might turn out to be a nice guy, that would be a terrible thing; but that hardly seems to be the case, based on my experience of the women I've known (women are plenty good at being practical), plus, there is an absolute and crucial value in valuing other people very much, even to the point of being sentimental about it. In fact, that sentimentality and esteem for others is so pervasive, it's an easy conclusion to draw to say that our society would probably be destroyed without it.

The writer doesn't seem to stand in absolute opposition to this. Her last (horrible) sentence is:

...I don’t understand why more women don’t relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home.... Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts’ content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are . . . kind of dim.
So, despite her criticism of (what she apparently sees as) the horror of chick lit and Celine Dion, she ultimately doesn't seem to be calling for an end to that, just for people to either feel kind of bad about their liking chick-culture-stuff, or to feel that it's a reason for them to back out of men's way, and let other people think about weightier things, like politics.

To go back to my original point, this is just like saying that men shouldn't think about politics, because some of them are so distracted by something absolutely frivolous and unimportant- men chasing balls on football fields- that if they have the poor judgment to waste so much time that way, they also must have such poor judgment generally, as a sex, that they shouldn't make decisions with regard to anything important.

The writer's remarks are so chauvinistic and mistaken that they are an affront to women everywhere in our culture, and, worse than that, if taken seriously they will mislead us into behaving in ways that will hurt our culture.