Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just doing my part to destroy romance

Oh, but I missed my shot at ruining everyone's Valentine's Day in advance. Sorry I wasn't here writing anything properly cynical. Though I'm not a huge fan of the day, in truth the past few Valentine's Days have been pretty good, far, far, better than the typical disaster that is my birthday. I suppose the fact that I'm not still with my co-celebrators of previous years makes those Valentines a "failure" by dating industry standards, in the way that any relationship that's not currently marriage and/or approaching it, is a failure (or am I supposed to cheerily embrace past relationships as "learning experiences"? Hard to keep up with the experts). Oh, but I won't write the anti-dating-advice-industry manifesto right now. One of the "experts" I caught recently, author of a how-to-date-a-"bad boy"-manual, started off a "dating myths" piece on The Today Show by blathering that "men aren't men" and "women aren't women" anymore, and that's typically a good sign one should turn off the TV, throw it out a window, and flag down a cement truck to thoroughly pulverize it.

Valentine's Day got reclaimed as V-Day, to combat violence against women, a while back, and it's a day to peform that feminist play, you know, the, uh, The Hoohah Monologues? Well, the conservative Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute snipes that “February 14, a day generally recognized for hearts, love and valentines, is now a day that has become increasingly associated with female private parts and the radical feminist agenda," and even has a booklet on how to combat this nefarious presence on your campus. Meanwhile, the Independent Women’s Forum “Take Back the Date” campaign (get it? They turn Valentine's Day into V-Day, we'll turn Take Back the Night into...) has an infamous flyer with a dejected, ball-and-chain-wearing Cupid walking past a Vagina Monologues marquee; as Feministing snarked, “Poor Cupid, tethered to the unreasonable feminist demand that women not be raped.” (By the way, Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda were on The Today Show Valentine's morning, and though I had it on I was more listening to WBEZ, and missed when, as Meredith Viera apologized later, “Jane Fonda said a word from the play that you don’t say on television.” I found it out later. Hint to Chicagoans: it rhymes with the name of a major east-west street that runs through Rogers Park.)

I'll second everything Ann Friedman said here on her 2007 piece on the controversy:
“The idea that a play featuring women's ruminations on their bodies and sexuality is at odds with 'true romance' is deeply disturbing. Personally, I have numerous problems with the Monologues, but one valuable thing about the play is that it communicates to young college-age women, many of whom aren't self-identified feminists or women's studies majors, that it's okay to talk about their bodies, to explore their sexuality. I fail to understand how this -- a frank discussion of women's physical selves -- and romance are mutually exclusive.
Moreover, I would argue that women being knowledgeable and vocal about their own bodies does indeed help curb violence….
…The 'chivalrous' dating practices venerated by IWF thrive on outmoded, restrictive gender roles and an inherently lopsided power dynamic. This type of dating has always placed the onus on women not only to suppress their own sexual urges, but also to control those of their male suitors.”

I've read the play, never seen an entire peformance of it, it's not my favorite...but V-Day seems like a worthwhile endeavor when you've got this quote, said just a few days before Valentine's, from Tennessee state Sen. Doug Henry, “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse. Today it’s simply, ‘Let’s don’t go forward with this act.’ ” Wow.

"Take Back the Date" isn't just an anti-V-Day phenomenon, it's also a reaction against the supposed dominance of "hookup culture" among young people, which like everything else, gets blamed on feminists. I've mentioned it before and I'm sure I'll mention it again, the moral panic over Our Slutty, Slutty Young People and Their Inability to Love ™. Eh, maybe I'll read yet more books about it before I do. "Dates" aren't such a bad idea, the old days of "necking and petting" have their appeal, and if you want to be REALLY old-school, bundling sounds charming. I just don't care to go back to the old days when women's reputations and lives could be destroyed for going "too far." about that article on "settling" that's made Lori Gottlieb the current whipping girl of the blogosphere? See Feministing or Pandagon or Shakesville (hey, I finally linked to a piece by a man), or Gawker for extra snark. I have little to add, except I'm sorry Gottlieb wrote such a bizarre piece; her memoir of having anorexia at age 11, Stick Figure, is probably my favorite (and the wittiest) of the many, many, many eating disorder memoirs I've read.

Since I didn't write this piece in as timely a manner as I wanted to (I was partly afraid of jinxing my actual Valentine's, which went nicely), I'm able to mention this piece that ties together Gottlieb, Take Back the Date, and the hookup hysteria, plus includes Barney from The Simpsons: Take Back the Loser! And something (finally) on how feminism enhances relationships (The website ads that popped up when I looked at this on Pandagon included "Married & Lonely?," "Women's Infidelity," and "Asian Girls For Marriage." How sweet).

A few years ago I was flipping through a celebrity magazine and complained about shirts that said "Josh's Girl" and the like, wondering why women thought it was cool to be someone's property. Then I thought, maybe I'm harsh, people will think I'm Katherine the Scowly Romance-Hating Feminist. I mean, just because I'd never wear "Tom's Girl" or "The Future Mrs. Anderson" or use the expression "my man" other than 999% ironically, who am I to judge? Then I saw this in Us Weekly's Feb. 11 issue. (The ones you can't read say "Cali Girls Do it Better!" [eh] and "If found, please return to boyfriend." [I immediately thought "Found where? In an alley? That's creepy."]) Being his "girl" and "Valentine" isn't enough, now you're a "playground" (note the graphic) and really, truly, calling yourself "property?" And now I flash forward a few years, to when I complain about the "Zack's Property"-declaring rhinestone bracelet, you know, the one that goes along with the tracking device that's been implanted so he knows where you are at all times, because "he loves me that much"... Once again, I've failed to understand modern romance.

I've been avoiding the matchmaker hype--apparently several of them have reality shows--but I couldn't resist watching a recent Oprah episode which promised to be full of things "single women could relate to" or whatever, which meant I was mostly baffled. Patti Novak, of “Confessions of a Matchmaker,” went on about how it's great that women are competent and successful but you have to let men choose the restaurant you go to and open pickle jars for you and blah blah blah to feel like a man. Oprah (and talk shows in general, actually daytime TV in general) seems woefully ignored in the feminist blogosphere, so I was delighted to discover a feminist food blog called Little Ms. Foodie taking this on. Still, she's not as bad as Patti Stanger of "The Millionaire Matchmaker," relish this exchange in Time Out Chicago:
TOC: What’d you learn about matchmaking from your mom and grandmom?
Patti Stanger: That the rules have never changed. As long as you give sex away for free, without exclusivity, you’re gonna end up single and alone and unhappy. You’re the commodity and when you learn that, men will gravitate to you. You want to be the female, you don’t want to lead in the relationship. And the only way the men are going to lead and be the hunters is if you sit back, smell good, relax and let the man drive the car.
TOC: Anyone ever tell you that’s a little sexist?
Patti Stanger: No.
(Well okay then, that's A LITTLE SEXIST.)

As noted, I had a good Valentine's afternoon excursion (with someone), and also got to spend the evening in a single-girl way: sitting at Borders on Halsted, enjoying a Cocoa Trio, reading an obscure old book about Detroit. If you'd like a true anti-Valentine's screed, this hilarious one at I Blame the Patriarchy will do quite nicely. I'll have a good story specifically about Dating For Nerds sometime soon...Besides the ad, the other images in this piece are: The front and back covers of a novel I found at Shake, Rattle, and Read in Uptown; a ad seen in Graceland Cemetery Dec. 2007 (cemetery desecration!); a chalkboard in an abandoned Catholic elementary school; all 69 different messages found in an 18-ounce bag of Necco Sweethearts (yep, I sorted them, that's what nerds do for Valentine's Day [Gapers Block linked to this photo on Valentine's Day, thanks!]); a ad seen along abandoned train tracks (in a desolate area where I also spotted a frozen dead dog, and white police harrassing a black man); if that's how you find love, then here's how you find a wedding photographer; and a photo I already used (seen on an abandoned church in Englewood) in this post, but I just replaced it there with a different one and put it here because Chicagoist used it as one of their Valentine's photos, thanks! I hope you all had a decent (or indecent, as the case may be) Valentine's.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

" I found it out later. Hint to Chicagoans: it rhymes with the name of a major east-west street that runs through Rogers Park.)"

LMAO! Lunt of course! I love it!