I promise you, feminists snuggle

// 22 October 2006

AlterNet is one of my favourite sources of progressive commentary, as regular readers will know. So how disappointing that they chose to republish this article, which revisits the tired old notion that feminism and love relationships do not co-exist.

Christina Bryza, also a writer for Sirens Magazine, which is currently running a piece called ‘Men don’t suck’, comes to the conclusion that a far-right misogynist is spot on in arguing that women and men should fulfill traditional roles, and that she would be a brilliant cavewoman, because she likes to have boyfriends.

Here are a few particularly unenlightened snippets (and I’m not including any of the frequent uses of the word ‘duh’ in this article, because it’s just too easy):

This harmony between man and woman does not necessitate strict gender roles, says Makow. In his marriage, he does the cooking and she mows the lawn. I take this to mean it is okay to keep my job as long as I do not brag about making more money than my theoretical boyfriend. The key, he says, is to respect our instinctive strengths.

Sure, he\x92s a little out there. But at a gut level, I not only understand his logic\x97I agree with it.

This kind of faux-liberalism really gets on my nerves. Just because you take on non-traditional gender roles in the home, does not justify an argument based on the idea that men are ‘naturally’ more at home in the public sphere and women should, as Bryza correctly interprets it, stay barefoot and pregnant.

Personally, I would have been one hell of a success as a cave woman, but my urges to carry the children of every man I date seem out of place in the 21st century. Eventually, however, I will need a man to have kids. (Preferably, a respectful, high-earning, laugh-loving man who will not ditch me when my tits start to sag.)

I am encouraged to plan my career: I get enthusiastic approval when I outline professional goals. But mention marriage, i.e., my long-term plan for being loved and laid, and it is rolled eyes all around.

Why don\x92t these bitches want me to be happy? Perhaps they lack the pesky genes that push me onto Craigslist, or maybe they buy the idea that professional success can be as fulfilling as raising a family. I don\x92t know.

I’m amazed that this kind of thing can get published at all, let alone on a respectable progressive newswire.

For the readers sitting at the back of the class who may not have been paying attention, here is why this argument is so stupid.

Feminism, the desire for a career and success outside of the home, is not an either or game. The argument is not that having a good job and being respected and treated as a human being means that you don’t get to have a romantic partner. If it did, the human race wouldn’t have survived this long, because men have been combining career and family for hundreds of years.

Being a feminist does not mean you can’t have a boyfriend. Far from it. Feminists of both genders have boyfriends, girlfriends, children or no children as they so wish, and some of them even get married. In short, feminists snuggle just as much as anyone else.

The only restriction feminism may put on your dating plans is that it is highly likely to raise the bar. It may mean that you hesitate before going out with someone who treats you like shit. But how is that a problem? I guess that few people fantasise about a significant other that emotionally or physically abuses them, or treats them with anything less than complete respect.

If you go along with Makow’s argument, here’s where you’ll stand: women are the loving and nurturing ones, and so men are not. Straight women, therefore, get a bit of a raw deal, because they are doomed to relationships with men who are programmed to be unloving and uncaring towards their partners. Hardly a recipe for a happy relationship.

Almost every single human being on this planet is programmed to want to be loved and to want have sex. A large majority want to have a family one day. No-one wants to be alone. That applies to both men and women.

But that, frankly, is it. Efforts to extrapolate from this to justify discrimination, or essentialist views of men and women, don’t have a leg to stand on.

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