To marry … ?

My *** burns in the feminist hall of shame because I want to be called someone’s girl.

Vanessa Hidary, The Hebrew Mamita

On my Twitter timeline this morning, iCon asked a simple but profound question. I’m sure I took it completely out of context, since I’m known for overthinking things, and I can psychoanalyze a loaf of  bread. But it shook me badly, because my response was automatic.

If I knew I would not fail, and I was guaranteed that he would say yes, I would find the man of my dreams and ask him to marry me.

I realize that’s completely lame because I don’t really believe in God or marriage. I don’t know happy couples, and every time I say, ‘What about so-and-so?’ they go and change their relationship status.

I know a lot of functional marriages, where people make things work and thrive without divorce or murder. They respect each other, raise honest kids, survive the empty nest, and manage to be friends. Some even learn to love each other and to keep that love alive. They make a commitment to each other and let things slide to keep it.

But I don’t want a functional marriage. I don’t want the kind of unions that I heard about on Maina Kageni’s show on Monday. I want a happy marriage, one that makes me smile every morning when I wake up next to him, and one that makes me want to hug him even as I yell and cry about the ish he did. I want to be with a man that loves me and lets me love him back. Emphasis on let because I’m terribly clingy.

But then again, I also want a man who doesn’t like strippers, lap dances, blow jobs, porn, or king sized cakes. Also, he has to accept my daughter, not have any children of his own, and not want to have any children. With me. Or anyone else. I refuse to be the evil sexy stepmother. In exchange for mutual sterilization, he will receive delighted conjugation at least five times a day. Morning glory is a guaranteed added bonus if he gets me up early enough. He will accept, despite his consternation, that while I may be good in bed, I rarely clean … and hardly ever cook.

He will never lie or cheat. Never ever ever ever ever ever! Unless I ask him if I look fat. He has to be nice. And sensitive. And straight.  He will refrain from flirting or straddling women in public [and also in private], because I’m super possessive, passive aggressive, jealous … and I like to break things.

Yes, I’m taking lessons in art, sculpture, animation, and alchemy so I can build him out of straw.

Speaking of Maina Kageni’s show, I need an iPod or something. Listening to Maina’s callers in morning traffic is some form of Chinese torture. You know that episode of Sheep In The Big City where he’s chained to a collar? If he tries to escape, his ears are attacked with easy listening music. That’s like really annoying pipe music, the kind they play in lifts.

If you made me Sheep and put Classic Breakfast on my collar, I would stay in that collar even if we had tsunamis, volcanoes, and atomic bombs combined. I keep wanting to smash my head on the window, jump out, and just walk the rest of the way. But clearly, I am alone. Otherwise, his show wouldn’t air in every single PSV. The term Matatu FM was aptly coined.

Back to the point. I’ve decided I’m not built to be a girlfriend. My conclusion is a defense mechanism. After all, the man I want doesn’t exist, I don’t want to settle for anything less, and I don’t want to get hurt again. So I decided I would pose as a married lesbian and refuse to believe in relationships.

I’ve been talking to my married friends, smiling politely and saying that I’m happy for them – and I am – then listing all the reasons why it wouldn’t work for me. Yet even as I list them, I daydream about cuddling my dream love on a couch, having him rub my feet, hanging out at the beach, talking about everything and nothing, doing the dishes together, or simply playing Strip Scrabble.

I envy women who know exactly what they don’t want, because they have solid opinions that will not be swayed. There is such immense joy in being a true rebel … you know, as opposed to just sounding like one and having purple hair. Me, I’m just afraid I’d suck at marriage, so I’m happy not to try. Besides, I was married once … well … sort of. Common-law-come-we-stay-what-what. It didn’t end well.

I pretend to be a feminist – when it suits me. Mostly, it’s because people assume that I’m one and I don’t feel the need to argue. I’ve had guys tell me I’m an ummarriable, and one suggested that I need a wife, so to them, the shoe fits. Besides, how do I explain that while I pay my own bills and ask guys out when I want to, I would still like a man to take care of me? It’s not that he has to, or needs to, or even that I expect him to. It’s that I want him to want to. I want him to protect me and shield my heart, because that’s what a real man does. I want him to stand next to me as I live my dream, ask for my help when he needs it, and hold me to keep all the bad things out. And I want him to do that while accepting that I will never have his children.

See why it’s easier to just denounce marriage?

Sometimes I have myself convinced that I don’t want anybody. After all, I love my life, I have no pangs about Valentines Day, and I’ve become quite efficient in the art. Sometimes, I’m even more efficient without … um … phallic guidance. I like my space and freedom, I’m scared of in-laws, and I don’t want to be told how to spend ‘our money’. My baby’s almost ten, so I have no bio-clock issues, and the folks aren’t complaining, so it’s not like I’m missing anything. I’m not against marriage. It’s perfectly fine – for other people. I’m happy with my life, and with being single. Sure, I could use a lot more money, but I really wouldn’t mind being a hot old maid.

Yet when I’m asked about the one thing I would do if I was guaranteed I’d win, I think of being a bride and living happily ever after. I know there are fights and disagreements, and that sometimes people want to sleep on the couch or be somewhere else, but I just want to be the girl he’s mostly happy to come home to. I’m sure I’d make a lousy wife, but in my deepest parts, I still want to see him grinning at me as I walk down the aisle in my little red dress, bopping my head to Canon Rock. Since the thought came so automatically, it must be really important to me, and I think that’s really sad. I blame it entirely on Walt Disney.

http://diasporadical.com/2011/01/18/when-mom-came-over-to-have-%E2%80%9Cthe-talk%E2%80%9D/

It’s funny … when it’s not you

 

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I bumped into a blog post that tickled me. It was about a restaurant making fun of vegans, and the backlash that followed. Basically, the White Moose Cafe made some sarcastic comments on its Facebook Page, the comments were re-posted by different vegans groups, and then everything went to hell.

I read the entire exchange with a smile on my face. Probably because I’m not vegan, so I could see the funny side. Except … what if I was vegan? Would I still find it funny? What if that Facebook post talked about women, or black people, or fat people? Would I still be laughing? Would anyone?

It’s an unwritten rule that it’s okay to bash *minorities by volume* but never the other way round. Hence, we have fat jokes, and black jokes, and feminist jokes, and even Irish jokes. But when the bashed hit back, it’s not taken with the same vein. No one takes meninists seriously. Reverse racism isn’t considered an actual thing.

I once made a comment about how white people can’t jump – or dance. Then I wondered how different that was from saying Africans have intrinsic rhythm. Or that black people are naturally good at sports. Or that women are softer than men. How is one set of statements bad and the other is not?

It was explained to me that ‘the privileged cannot cry foul when the minorities attack them.’ That a man – or a white person, a thin person – can’t claim discrimination because the world already favours them, so it doesn’t count. The damage, apparently, is in the power dynamic, and the power dynamic is decided by society and context. That’s why, for example, a video about a little girl forcing a little boy to marry her is hilarious. But … a video about a little boy forcing a little girl to kiss him … is not.

Is that all there is to it though? Is it really about context and the shape of society? Or is humanity just so basic that anything goes if it’s happening to someone else? In an ideal world, we could all feel each other’s pain. Then maybe we wouldn’t hurt each other as much. Unfortunately, this world is far from ideal, and we can only try to see the other person’s point of view. Then maybe this world would be far less fucked up.

♫ Same love ♫ Macklemore ft Mary Lambert ♫

So I read The Manipulated Man …

It was recommended by a commenter on my post about gender. I also read The Polygamous Sex. Both books are by Esther Villar. According to the books, not only are women NOT oppressed by men, but they are actually the Master Gender (um … Mistress Gender?) and are holding men under their thumbs. She makes some interesting points, for example:

  1. Men are conscripted; women are not.
  2. Men are sent to fight in wars; women are not.
  3. Men retire later than women (even though, due to their lower life-expectancy, they should have the right to retire earlier).
  4. Men have almost no influence over their reproduction (for males, there is neither a pill nor abortion – they can only get the children women want them to have).
  5. Men support women; women never, or only temporarily, support men.
  6. Men work all their lives; women work only temporarily or not at all.
  7. Even though men work all their lives, and women work only temporarily or not at all, on average, men are poorer than women.
  8. Men only `borrow’ their children; women can keep them (as men work all their lives and women do not, men are automatically robbed of their children in cases of separation – with the reasoning that they have to work).

And yet …

I am a delicate feminine flower

Okay. Let’s start with a story. There are five guys in my building. Okay, there are more than five guys in my building, but I’m only discussing five of them right now. I consider all five of them my friends, and we get a long pretty well. I earn considerably more than all five of them, some as much as five times.

So, Guy 1. We’re going home together after work. No, not like that, mind out of gutter please. We are walking together to the stage, after which we’ll probably take the same mathree to town. Once we get there, we’ll part ways and go to our respective homes. When we get into the matatu, Guy 1 offers to pay my fare for me. It’s only 30 bob, and it’s not like I can’t afford it, but I gladly accept, because it makes me feel nice. It makes me feel like a lady.

Guy 2. We bump into each other at the stage, waiting for a matatu to work. We each pay our own fare, and as we alight he wants to take a detour to buy breakfast from the neighbourhood kiosk. He offers to buy me some as well. Nothing fancy, just a couple of mandazis or a chapati. I say thank you, because, again, it makes me feel valued, and I like feeling valued.

Woman hugging chocolate

Guy 3. We’re in the same industry, we’ve worked together on many projects, and we follow each other on social media. That’s actually how we met, before we ended up in the same job. Twice. So every once in a while, I will put up a random post, and he will respond in the sweetest way. I tweet, ‘craving chocolate.’ He drops one on my desk. I lament on my lost phone case. He offers me a spare. I wax lyrical about bubble wrap. He gets me a few rolls. It’s nice. It makes me feel like he listened, and everyone wants someone to listen.

Guy 4. We share a naughty sense of humour, so one day we make a bet over the meaning of a cheeky little joke. I lose the bet, so I buy him a tub of ice cream at Coldstone. Again, it does’t cost much (the smallest tub is 350) but it’s the principle of the thing. Besides, everybody loves free ice cream.

Now, Guy 5. Things start to go a little beyond good neighbourliness. It seems he’s showing interest. He says he knows that I’m a ‘feminist’, a ‘high earner’ and a ‘single mother.’ I tell him that I understand what all of that implies, and that I’m not looking for someone to pay my bills. However, if a man is in a relationship with me, he does need to be – you know – the man. Which means he needs to ask me out, take me there, and pay for it. I don’t need something fancy. It can even be a plate of 50 bob fries and a soda. After all, it’s not the cost, it’s the principle. He never calls again.

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According to Esther Villar, all these guys prove her point. That I am controlling all these men, and that I’m lying if I say that I’m oppressed in any way. She says women are housewives because they choose to be housewives, because sitting at home and taking care of household chores and babies is the easy job, and that it’s the man who is the slave, forced to go to the office and provide for his wife and kids.

He says if the housewife really wanted to be emancipated, she’d go out and get a job, instead of sitting at home eating her husband’s money. She says if being a Stay-At-Home-Mum was such a terrible punishment, a lot less women would be doing it.

She says that from Age 12, girls decide to become prostitutes and stop developing their brains. Instead, they do everything possible to remain child-like while developing a woman’s body, so that the men in her life will be drawn to protect her. She says mothers – especially the ones that stay at home – raise their daughters to enslave men, and raise their sons to be enslaved by women. She says the only women who take on the work of men are the old, damaged, ugly ones.

When I first read the books, I didn’t get particularly worked up, because apart from those first eight points, I couldn’t see anything of substance. It just wasn’t serious enough to get me upset. I figured she was probably being deliberately inflammatory to sell books, especially since she wrote them in 1972.

Easy as pie my ass

This is 2015, and while a lot of what she wrote still applies in the West, the situation is pretty different for women in ‘the third world’, and even for women in rural Western towns. There are still ‘villages’ even in the US with like 3,000 residents who have never seen a black person, and where the only ‘choice’ for a girl after high school is to marry and have babies.

That said, in today’s world, it’s not necessarily a case of either-or. Few women can ‘decide’ to quit their jobs to raise their kids. A lot of us simply have to make it all work, go to work and look after your babies. If we’re lucky, we have a three month maternity leave, then it’s back to business as usual, except for the leaking breasts and the infant at home. In the third world, we have relatively affordable domestic help – and distant relatives from the village. Out there in the developed world, it’s more like high school babysitters and hyper-expensive day care.

I did wonder about the military service though. For a long time, I didn’t understand why women would want to ‘fight for their country.’ But then I met a few military types. Daughters who grew up in the barracks and wanted to be just like their daddies. Or maybe it was their most logical employment option.

Female soldiers in training

In a lot of countries, being in the army/navy/airforce means free housing, education, and medical facilities. Being sent into active war situations could mean death. But in the event you don’t – you know – die, it means hardship bonuses, promotions, and raises. In short, physically fighting enemies means lots more money for your family. Unless you die first, which would really suck. In that situation – the one where you don’t actually die –  I can see why military women would want front-line rights.

On the other side, in corporate settings, I do see how employers can choose to pay women less for doing the same job. Because if a career woman decides to have a child, she will leave work for a while, maybe a long while, and her husband will have to support at least three mouths on one salary. So it helps if he gets a raise. And employers have no guarantee that a female employee will never have a child and stop working for a few months, or even a few years.

That said … if I’m earning the same as male colleagues, will my salary go down when I get married or start having children? Logically, it can be justified by my time off and my husband’s raise … but it’s still going to feel pretty unfair.

Working mama

And what about the successful mum who comes back to the work force? It’s reasonable she’ll expect to be paid the same as when she left, but what about all the upward movement of her peers while she was away? What about any developments in the field, or training opportunities she may have missed?

The logical thing is to start low and play-catch-up, but again, it feels pretty victimising for her. And that’s assuming her employers are willing to spend the resources needed to get her back up to speed. Strictly from  a business perspective, it may not make a lot of sense.

Feminism – for me – is about women getting the same rights and opportunities that men do. Opportunities for safety, well-being, employment, social amenities, fulfilling lives. Except that in the real world, it may not always be practical for these opportunities to be completely equal. There’s the standard argument that women don’t want to work as loggers or miners or garbage collectors. That we demand equality, but only in the cushy jobs. That we want to leave the ‘dirty’ work for men.

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Thing is though … there are women who want to do those jobs. Not many, but definitely some. And so equality means rather than using the lack of women in – say – construction work – as an example of ‘feminine delicacy’, we should let the woman that want to carpenters be carpenters, and the woman that want to be CEOs be CEOs. Not many men are denied a job – any job – simply because they are men. And yet women are denied jobs based on their gender every day.

And even when they get those jobs, their salaries are based on their gender as well. Plus … and this is the best part … even in jobs that are ‘designated’ for women, men do better and earn more. Case in point? Chefs. Fashion designers. Hairdressers. Even male sex workers get a better deal, and that’s saying a lot.

I suppose then that the ideal situation for me is for everyone to have an equal choice. Do I want to live on a ship and blow up boats from other navies? Do I want to stay at home and raise my kids till they’re 18? Do I want to dress modestly and cover my arms, face, and hair? Do I want to decide when, how, and if I should be pregnant?

Do I want to be promoted no matter how many years, kids, or spouses I may have? Do I want to marry someone that I love? Or walk around – safely – and at all hours – in clothes that I like – without fearing sexual harm? These are choices that should be open to everyone. Nobody should dictate your answers, no matter what organs you have between your legs. And this – I suppose – is why I identify as feminist.

♫ I’m alive ♫ Qqu ♫