A reader sent me this story, asking me to comment, and it immediately made me think of the latest fiction books I’ve been engrossed in.
Here’s the story: during the month of October, the NFL makes a concerted effort to promote breast cancer awareness and donates 5% of all “pink” merchandise sales directly to the cause. That amounts to a MILLION dollars donated by just one enterprise, which is nothing to sneeze at. Komen, the largest breast cancer researcher in the US, reported an income of $400 million in 2009-10, 20.9% of which goes to funding research. That amounts to just over $83 million dollars in research and ONE organization straight up handed them one million dollars of that money.
But naturally, that’s not enough. Jezebel calls the million dollar donation a “scam”.
The fact that the feminist brigade would piss and moan over not getting EVERY LAST DOLLAR ON EARTH handed to them is not really what interests me. Wow – feminists are selfish and shitty. Not really breaking news, it is?
Here’s what does interest me: breast cancer kills approximately the same number of people per year as suicide. Both come in around 40 000 deaths annually. But of course, suicide affects men far more than women.
Where is the million dollars the NFL has donated to suicide prevention? And if the NFL did donate that much money, do you really think the national suicide prevention team would be complaining that it isn’t enough?
I’m guessing the response would look more like this:
And look at this story about how social media forces young women to obsessively stalk boys they like:
What’s interesting here is not just the claim that young women have NO CHOICE but to turn into creepy voyeurs fanatically tracking down what boys like and don’t like and then faking their entire personalities to appeal to said boys (which is disturbing in itself), but rather the story the writer recalls about her own relationship:
This last story really hit home for me, because it sounds suspiciously similar to how my current relationship got started nearly 3 years ago. Drunken hook up, FWB period, denial of feelings, sleeping with other people out of denial, then ‘I love you’ and happily ever after (seriously, we are so incredibly happy, and it all started with black-out drunk sex. Who’d have thought?).
It all started with black out drunk sex.
Uhm, isn’t that RAPE? Hasn’t Jezebel run about 2000 stories insisting that sex while black out drunk is actually RAPE RAPE RAPE? Well, it’s rape when it comes to women. Men can’t be raped while drunk. They remain liable for their own conduct.
It’s not just the contradiction that draws my attention. This act of rape resulted in a relationship, so therefore it’s not rape? Is that how it works? Are we then to assume that accusations of rape arise primarily from the fact that the sex didn’t lead to a relationship? I suspect that is more true than anyone cares to admit.
How about women whining that older ladies who lose their looks get booted out of their media jobs? Well, pardon me, cupcake, but how did you get the job in the first place? Men are hired for their talents, and women are hired as eye candy, and they have no problem taking full advantage of that, but then the caterwauling begins when the ladies hit the wall and their looks ain’t so hot anymore.
Try insisting that women are hired for TALENT, and maybe you have a case, but this is just another example of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. And note that Miriam had no problem chucking her younger, racially diverse sisters under the bus on this one. Being HIRED for your looks is apparently just fine. Being FIRED when you lose your looks is sexist.
Feminism began as a movement to address some very real, very harsh inequalities. Women wanted the right to choose their own political leaders, control their own finances, earn their own money should they so desire, acquire an education that expressed their own interests and have sovereignty over their own bodies.
Fair enough. Men fought long and hard for enfranchisement – a fight that was not won in the United States until 1956.
Yes, that’s right. Women won the right to vote in 1920, and it took another 36 years before Native American MEN were permitted to vote in every state in the US. Utah was the last hold-out.
You hardly ever hear that part of the story, though, do you? The cultural narrative goes something like this:
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE ITSELF, ALL MEN COULD VOTE AND NO WOMAN COULD.
Except it’s bullshit. The Third Reform Act in the United Kingdom still only gave the vote to 60% of men. Countless thousands of men died in WWI without having the right to vote. Nancy Astor took her seat in the British House of Commons in 1919, having won it fair and square, while there were still men who weren’t allowed within a country mile of the voting booth.
The whole issue of finances gets a similar whitewash in contemporary feminism, too. Women wanted the right to earn their own money. Great. Have at it, ladies. They quickly became an exploitable pool of labor, just as men have always been. And they started to die on the job, just like men, too.
What women DID not relinquish was the CHOICE. No man really had a choice. Work or starve. But women had, and continue to have, the CHOICE to earn money or not. And most women who find themselves in the labor force with small children are there because they did a piss poor job of planning their lives, based on the giant cultural story that they should “lean in” to their “careers” rather than raise their own families.
I’m having an interesting private conversation via email with a man who lives in Brooklyn, who writes to me that there is only one other man with whom he has shared the link to my blog, and these two men find themselves discussing the issues we typically discuss in hushed voices, hidden in a corner, because they are afraid of being overheard.
“It’s like we’re living in East Berlin”, he writes.
There’s a lot of truth to that sentiment.
Which brings me to the books I’ve been reading. The first one is called The Book Thief. It’s about to be released as a movie, but I highly recommend the book itself. It’s quite an accomplishment. The whole story is narrated by Death, and it concerns a young girl living in Nazi Germany, who shelters a Jewish man in her basement, and steals books to read to him.
The idea that her thoughts can be and are policed is a central part of the story. There are things she is absolutely forbidden to say, and her beloved father slaps her across the face publicly to let her know that such thoughts are verboten. Their very lives depend upon believing, or at least acting like they believe the lies they have been told.
And tragically, so many people really DID believe the lies. Death collects 40 million souls because so many chose to believe lies.
Martin Zusak presents men and women in such a refreshingly realistic light, too. He doesn’t try to invent them as “equals”, and reading a story where the threat of sexual violence is entirely absent is almost eerie. We are so accustomed to the “all men are rapists” narrative, it feels surprising and dislocating when it is absent.
Here’s a great passage:
A few days after Liesel started school, she went along with the Steiners. Rudy’s mother, Barbara, made him promise to walk with the new girl, mainly because she’d heard about the snowball. To Rudy’s credit, he was happy enough to comply. He was not the junior misogynistic type of boy at all. He liked girls a lot, and he like Liesel (hence the snowball). In fact, Rudy Steiner was one of the audacious little bastards who actually fancied himself with the ladies. Every childhood seems to have exactly such a juvenile in its midst and mists. He’s the boy who refuses to fear the opposite sex, purely because everyone else embraces that particular fear, and he’s the type who is unafraid to make a decision. In this case, Rudy had already made up his mind about Liesel Meminger.
Zusak writes the whole story from this perspective. Women and men are not to be feared. They are to be loved for both their similarities and their differences, and love is something every human is capable of feeling to great depths and heights.
It’s a wonderful story in so many ways.
The second book is called City of Thieves, and it is also set during the Second World War, but this time in Leningrad, under siege by the Nazis. Again we have men and women portrayed as different but equal in their value and humanity. The two men, Lev and Kolya are very different from one another, but fully realized as human beings. Vika, the amazing female character is a sniper, and giant fucking kudos to Benioff, who wrote the book, for acknowledging that women are not simply interchangeable with men. Vika is capable of war, but not in the same way that men are capable of war, and she is no less valuable for being a woman.
Both of these books allow women to be women without denigration of the qualities that signify them as women. Neither of these male authors hate the feminine. On the contrary – they very much love and desire the feminine. We hear so much screaming in our own culture about how feminine qualities and femininity itself is PATRIARCHY OPPRESSION OF WOMEN GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT that it’s easy to forget the strength that belongs to women who are not pretend men, competing and jostling for status and power.
Again, a huge theme in the book is policing thoughts. Lev’s father is denounced and murdered for his revolutionary thoughts, like so many other Russians.
And finally, The Orphan Master’s Son. An exquisitely detailed exploration of the brutality and absurdity that reigns in North Korea. It’s a virtuoso performance of the power of propaganda, when most citizens can only survive the lunacy by believing the stories. The Emperor not only has no clothes, he is completely fucking insane.
“Where we are from… [s]tories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’d be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.”
When I write “Nazis” and then cross it out and replace it with “feminists”, I feel a twinge of … discomfort. The Nazis were about as bad as you can get, which is not to say there were not or are not other regimes that are equally appalling, but it feels a lot like inappropriate hyperbole to compare the two.
And then I read books where genocide begins with policing thoughts. It begins with two men, discussing forbidden thoughts in hushed voices, surrounded by people who really, truly, deeply believe the lies.
And then it doesn’t seem like so much hyperbole after all.
And then I wonder.
Could we be next? Could it get that bad? Our stories are already built on lies.
All men are rapists except when we say they’re not
Culturally, we act like the lies are true.
All men had the vote and then kept it from women.
We don’t question the narrative.
Suicide kills as many men as breast cancer kills women, but only breast cancer is worthy
When the man and the story are in conflict, we insist the man must change.
Gender is a social construct and the masculine must be destroyed
Being of German heritage, I like to flatter myself with the conceit that I would never have been a Nazi, had I been alive during that time. I would have been Liesel, sheltering a Jew from certain death, risking my own life and the lives of everyone around me. I would have been Miep Gies, hiding Anne Frank in the attic. I would have been Oskar Schindler, shipping Jewish children to safety.
Lots of people resisted the Nazis and fought against the stories to save lives.
A hater dropped by this blog once and said something like “You’re on the wrong side of history, bitch. Feminists have already won.”
Am I? Have they? I don’t think so.
And even if I AM on the wrong side of history, I’m on the right side of truth.
Ultimately, nothing else really matters.
Lots of love,