sex

DRUNK IN LOVE AND MARRIAGE

 

Anybody have any feminist-related thoughts or comments on Beyonce and Jay Z’s performance at the Grammys last night?

I, for one, loved that it oozed both sex AND partnership. What a concept! As it started, I was thinking, “DAMN. Get it, girl! GET IT,” and by the end I almost shed a tear because it was so sweet.

We should all be so lucky to have a partner with whom we can grow, share in our version of success (whatever it may be), and of course, be madly, butt-crazy, passionately in love with. I feel incredibly lucky to feel that I have that too.

It was also interesting to wake up to an article this morning about how Beyonce and Jay Z “Make The Case for Marriage That Conservatives Can’t“…

 

drunk in love

 

Lyrics via metrolyrics.com:

[Intro: Beyoncé]
I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking
I get filthy when that liquor get into me
I’ve been thinking, I’ve been thinking
Why can’t I keep my fingers off you, baby?
I want you, na na
Why can’t I keep my fingers off you, baby?
I want you, na na

[Verse 1: Beyoncé]
Cigars on ice, cigars on ice
Feeling like an animal with these cameras all in my grill
Flashing lights, flashing lights
You got me faded, faded, faded
Baby, I want you, na na
Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty
Daddy, I want you, na na
Drunk in love, I want you

[Bridge: Beyoncé]
We woke up in the kitchen saying
“How the hell did this shit happen?”, oh baby
Drunk in love, we be all night
Last thing I remember is our
Beautiful bodies grinding off in that club
Drunk in love

[Hook: Beyoncé]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

[Verse 2: Beyoncé]
We be all night, and everything alright
No complaints for my body, so fluorescent under these lights Boy, I’m drinking, walking in my l’assemblage
I’m rubbing on it, rub-rubbing
If you scared, call that reverend
Boy, I’m drinking, Imma bring it right
Oñly bring you a gangster wife
Louis sheets , he sweat it out like washed rags, he wet it up
Boy, I’m drinking, I’m singing on the mic ’til my voice hoarse
Then I fill the tub up halfway then ride it with my surfboard
Surfboard, surfboard
Graining on that wood, graining, graining on that wood
I’m swerving on that, swerving, swerving on that big body Been
Serving all this, swerve, surfing all of this good good

[Bridge]
We woke up in the kitchen saying
“How the hell did this shit happen?”, oh baby
Drunk in love, we be all night
Last thing I remember is our
Beautiful bodies grinding off in that club
Drunk in love

[Hook]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

[Verse 3: Jay Z]
Hold up
I do say it’s the shit if I do say so myself
If I do say so myself, if I do say so myself
Hold up, stumble all in the house tryna backup all of that mouth
That you had all in the car, talking ’bout you the baddest bitch thus far
Talking ’bout you be repping that 3rd, wanna see all that shit that I heard
Know I sling Clint Eastwood, hope you can handle this curve, uh
Foreplay in a foyer, fucked up my Warhol
Slid the panties right to the side
Ain’t got the time to take drawers off
On sight
Catch a charge I might, beat the box up like Mike
In ’97 I bite, I’m Ike Turner, turn up
Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae
Said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
I’m nice, for y’all to reach these heights you gon’ need G3
4, 5, 6 flights, sleep tight
We sex again in the morning, your breasteses is my breakfast
We going in, we be all night

[Hook: Beyoncé]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

[Verse 4: Beyoncé]
Never tired, never tired
I been sippin’, that’s the only thing
That’s keeping me on fire, me on fire
Didn’t mean to spill that liquor all on my attire
I’ve been drinking, watermelon
(I want your body right here, daddy, I want you, right now)
Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty
Daddy, I want you

[Hook: Beyoncé]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

Read more: Beyonce – Drunk In Love Lyrics | MetroLyrics

SEX & PORN

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PORN SEX & REAL SEX!

 

I found this video while reading this Huffington Post article recently. Obviously, this video is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek look at the differences between ‘real sex’ and porn sex, but it also underscores a very real and serious problem in our country:

A severe lack of sex education.

As Nina Hartley says in the aforementioned HuffPost article, “Pornography is a paid, professional performance by actors. It is a fantasy, it is not meant to be a rulebook and guidebook or a how to as a general rule. And it goes to show how poor our sex education is in this country that people are reduced to looking at an entertainment medium for information about the body.”

I could not agree with Ms. Hartley more. In fact, if you’re already following the MFB Facebook page (good for you!) then you probably already know that I am the biggest advocate of education in general (it’s only the best tool in the shed for rebuilding this old house we call ‘Merica!), but sex education is of particular importance to me— largely because a lack of it engenders some specifically unique consequences. One of these unique consequences stems from its inevitable interconnection with porn.

What teen or young adult in this country isn’t looking at porn, if not for “educational purposes,” then out of pure curiosity? And guess what— I’m not even here to slam porn as some of you may be expecting at this moment. Oh, no… I’m just here to talk about sex, much in the same way that Salt n Pepa once did: “Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…” Sex can be great. And so can porn. However, modern-day “mainstream” porn has brought with it an onslaught of problems:

  • People will look to it for sexual guidance (i.e. what to do and how to do it)
  • People will judge their own bodies against the bodies they are viewing, often castigating their own bodies as “wrong,” and believing that they should, instead, look like the ones onscreen— hairless, bleached, six-pack abs…
  • Women are consistently portrayed as passive sexual actors, with even the woman on woman sex scenarios (I hesitate to use the word “lesbian” here, for obvious reasons) usually centered around male pleasure
  • HETEROSEXIST ANDROCENTRISM, pure and simple.

Now, the first two bullet points mentioned above are not directly the fault of porn, per se, but rather, are inescapably bound up with our lack of education regarding the human body and human sexuality. But on that same note, porn could be a useful tool in displaying and promoting bodily diversity, yet, sadly, mainstream porn does not. Now as for the last two points…

Androcentrism is the key word here as far as I’m concerned.

Mainstream porn is no doubt heterosexist (i.e. biased towards heterosexuality), and it is also highly androcentric. Whether literally, as in, the movie itself revolves around a heterosexual male and/or his fantasy, or behind the scenes, as in, it is being written, directed, and produced by heterosexual men.

This lack of authentic female sexuality (and it’s representation in porn) is evident in what artist Sophia Wallace calls our society’s lack of “cliteracy.” As she said to Creem magazine earlier this year, “It is a curious dilemma to observe the paradox that on the one hand the female body is the primary metaphor for sexuality, its use saturates advertising, art and the mainstream erotic imaginary. Yet, the clitoris, the true female sexual organ, is virtually invisible.” “Even in porn, the clitoris is treated as this optional, kind of freaky, ‘wow he’s doing her this huge favor’ thing,” she told HuffPost, adding that women often feel “embarrassed” to ask their partners to pleasure them. “It’s insane to me that this is still happening in 2013.”

Can you hear my applause for Ms. Wallace right now?

Yet another interesting facet that Wallace hints at with this last quote (ahem, “embarrassment”? Read: “body conscious”) is the issue of physical insecurity, and guess what— it isn’t just for women and girls anymore. Take the following statement from writer, Phoebe Baker Hyde:

“A cultural anthropologist shared this observation with me: Pornography consumption on campuses is changing because women can now access porn privately and anonymously on the Internet. While this can lead to butterfly Brazilians and “designer vaginas” in sexually active young women, it also gives these women considerable performance expectations of their sexual partners. It’s hard to imagine a man showing off his fake orgasm over a pastrami sandwich the way Meg Ryan did in When Harry Met Sally, but it seems that young men are becoming more self-conscious and body-conscious during sex, so we may be headed in that direction.”

It is here that I must stop and reiterate: Porn is not evil. It is not a social ill, nor is it comprised of, and/or made by ill-minded people. Moreover, porn can be a really progressive and feminist and overall awesome thing. And sometimes it actually is. Plenty of other sex-positive feminists like myself like porn. And as one article very rightly observed: “Porn never goes away when it’s banned.”

In fact, in the article referenced above [CLICK IT!], the author gives a lot of wonderfully thought-provoking insight on the conflation of mainstream porn, everyday sexism, and ‘real sex.’ What makes her contribution on this topic all the more interesting: the backdrop for her analysis is her experience of YALE SEX WEEK. Here’s an excerpt:

“Censors which stigmatise one type of pornography as ‘bad’ implicitly elevate the alternative, ‘acceptable’ porn. And far too often, that ‘normal’ pornography conveys images of passive femininity that are more easily absorbed into everyday life: artificial conventions of beauty in porn are as dangerous to real women as movies that reveal, astonishingly, that sex and power are linked.

Start banning anything that comes close to a rape scenario, and you’ll block out feminist attempts to reclaim or experiment with centuries-old erotic traditions. You’ll even block sado-masochism that has women on top (does it degrade men, this time? Or does it degrade women, because the dominatrix is still sexualised for male lust? It’s all too confusing!) Gothic images are obviously fantasy (how many castle-owners can afford the metal-polishing costs on gleaming dungeons, nowadays?), but impossibly curvaceous cheerleaders ‘consensually’ putting out for the football captain do a far better job of masquerading as ‘real sex’ guides for today’s teenagers.”

And thus, I am right back where I started. (see what I did there?)

Porn serving as ‘real sex’ guides for today’s teenagers…

I shudder to think of the many boys and girls out there right now thinking that they are “learning” a thing or two from porn (ahem, and probably plenty of grown men and women, too). The many girls trying to comprehend this ostensible link between sex and power, and the many boys absorbing insidiously sexist images and messages. Ladies and gentleman, can we please stop thinking that porn is the same thing as real, regular ol’ everyday people sex? Because it’s not. It’s a movie, it’s part of the entertainment industry— it’s a farce. If you want some real talk, check this out (warning: it really only applies to the straights and lesbians) or, I don’t know… find a cool coloring book to begin your journey of learning about yourself and the wonderful world that is ‘real sex.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: BODIES by Susie Orbach

Single sentence synopsis: Bodies does for our visual culture (& our bodies), what The Omnivore’s Dilemma did for food.

And, as a matter of fact, just as The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores the disconnect between us and our food, so too does Orbach explore the disconnect between us and our bodies and its consequences.

Susie Orbach is a British psychoanalyst who has done much work for, and within, the feminist and women’s health communities, and this book is a social-psychological look at bodies, underpinned by the very feminist tenet that bodies are socially constructed and discursively materialized.

Ok, that’s a mouthful, I know, but let me explain: That is not to say that feminists are of the opinion that bodies magically materialize out of discourse, or are actually (i.e. literally) constructed limb by limb, organ by organ, out of “society.” This perspective merely holds (though there is nothing “mere” about it) that “a body…is inscribed and formed by the accretion of myriad small specific cultural practices… in certain respects, there has never been an altogether simple, “natural” body. There has only been a body that is shaped by its social and cultural designation.”

Did that help make any more sense to anyone? If not, perhaps this is a better explanation:

The point is that our very hand gestures, symbolic physical gestures, our facial expressions, our gender performativity, what we wear, how we speak , everything about the physical body— all of these material, physical aspects— are shaped by our social surroundings and cultural influences. This is what it means to say that the body is socially constructed and discursively materialized. In Orbach’s words, “Every gesture we make, the very way we move, our grace or lack of it, our physical confidence or unease, reflect both the country and local culture we have grown up in and the particular interpretation of our gestures that our mothers and those close to us have passed on.”

It is in this way that many feminists hold that there is actually no such thing as a “natural,” or “organic” body— because each body is informed, shaped, and defined within its particular social context. I think once you read the following descriptions of this book this may all make more sense… *spoiler alert: I cannot recommend this book enough*

Bodies is broken up into the following chapters:

  • Bodies In Our Time
  • Shaping The Body
  • Speaking Bodies
  • Bodies Real And Not So Real
  • And So To Sex
  • (&) What Are Bodies For?

She begins the first chapter by introducing us to Andrew, a case study of sorts. He wants to “do away” with his legs.

IMG_3607

I found this book in my local library, read this first page of the first chapter, and immediately checked it out and bolted home. It did not disappoint.

This first chapter is an examination of people “in the wrong bodies.” Whether it’s Andrew, who cannot feel whole unless he has rid himself of his legs, or Michaela, a prison inmate who wanted to be/ felt he was a woman. In these cases, “Biology and psychology had not melded as expected,” says Orbach.

She also proceeds to give a really great overview of the rest of the book in showing us why Bodies In Our Time is her starting point:

“Our bodies no longer make things… Our relations to the physical and physical work are shifting… Our bodies are and have become a form of work. The body is turning from being the means of production to the production itself.”

In her words, “an obsessive cultural focus on the body” has resulted in “the search for a body, disguised as preoccupation, health concern or moral endeavour. Almost everyone has  a rhetoric about trying to do right by their body which reveals a concern that the body is not at all right as it is…”

Chapter 2, Shaping The Body, is just as fascinating as the first chapter. It explores the hows and whys of the social physical world affecting an individual’s physicality. It’s about how one’s physical world/ physical upbringing can shape them, not just emotionally, but physically. There are some reeeeeally interesting case studies in this chapter, such as Victor, the boy raised by wild animals in France, found in 1799, as well Gina, a modern-day young girl who was moved from foster home to foster home. And don’t even get me started on her discussion of mirror neurons and how they play into all of this. It is insanely engrossing and does not require you to have a background in science in order to understand it (Lord knows I certainly don’t).

Speaking Bodies (Chapter 3) veers into a discussion of therapy itself, as well as the role the therapist plays. And, once again, there are a couple of very interesting case studies here.

Bodies Real And Not So Real ends up taking on a wealth of topics in addition to what I thought it would be about. Not only does she discuss avatars and computer-based relationships, but also, cosmetic surgery, dieting, pregnancy, the controversial French Artist, Orlan, and more. Did you know that, “Diets, it turns out, promote chaotic eating”? As a matter of fact, according to Orbach’s research, “Diets can cause people to gain weight. They are not a wise response to “overweight,” but are part of the destabilising of the ordinary processes of eating.” Furthermore, “overweight people who exercise have a lower mortality rate than thin people who do not. So [as Orbach postulates] one is led to wonder why thin has erroneously become the gold standard for health.” Another significant fact: “In 1995 the World Health Organisation, under pressure from the International Obesity Task Force, revised the BMI in such a way that 300,000 Americans who had previously thought they were “normal” weight woke up to find themselves reclassified. Brad Pitt and George Bush, for example, were now overweight… and George Clooney and Russell Crowe were obese.” And this is just the tip of the iceberg to this chapter alone. These are mere brushstrokes to the greater work she is painting with this book…

She begins the second to last chapter, And So To Sex, with an anecdote almost as galvanizing as the first story of the book (Andrew’s story), except, of course, this time it involves sex. I can’t help but think that this chapter should be read by every person on this planet that has sex. Maybe even those who don’t. But then again, I also think everyone should read this book. That’s just how much I loved it.

And finally, with What Are Bodies For?, she leaves us with the culmination of this work in its entirety. And it’s really relatable. I suppose that’s why I loved the book so much in the first place, and why I couldn’t help but think upon finishing it, “BY GOD, EVERY HUMAN BEING IN THIS COUNTRY NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK!” It’s relatable. It’s about all of us. It is pertinent to our very individual and collective existence.

If I haven’t succeeded in making you want to go out and read this 179 page book yet, I don’t know what else to say except that… it’s intriguing, insightful, possibly cathartic, significantly relevant, and ultimately, if you have a body, it’s about you.

Now isn’t that worth reading?

 

PLAN B (a.k.a. “Hussy Pills”)

plan b

Big news this past week:

Plan B, also known as the “morning after pill,” (or in the words of pseudo-conservative, Stephen Colbert, “hussy pills”) will now be made available over the counter—no prescription required—for girls and women, ages 15 and up.

Naturally, according to conservatives, this just means society is practically pushing young girls into having sex.

Ok, first of all, if anything in society is pushing young girls into having sex, it’s the media and our visual culture’s sexualization of girls and women. Moreover, this line of thinking fails to acknowledge that a young woman may actually be capable of possessing her own sexual agency. I know teenagers are crazy, with their hormones flying all over the place, and they often think they know everything, when as we all clearly know from hindsight, they don’t…. However, it is a point in time during which many are figuring out their own sexuality, and learning to be their own sexual agents (God willing!). So, with that kind of thinking in mind, the old “this is encouraging promiscuous behavior!” rhetoric is really rather patronizing. Plan B isn’t going to “encourage” unprotected promiscuity any more than abortion “encourages” unplanned pregnancies.

Not to mention, this brings up the most glaringly contradictory flaw contained within any and all Republican/conservative, pro-life arguments against contraception:

If you’re so anti-abortion, you should love contraception. You should want more of, and increased access to, contraception. It actually prevents abortions. Guess what, conservatives and Republicans— it’s thanks to Planned Parenthood that I, and many other girls and women out there in the U.S., have never even had to consider abortion. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, and access to contraception. It will never cease to amaze me how pro-life/anti-abortion politicians seem to conveniently leave out of their arguments the fact that contraception is actually essential to their cause. (That and sexual education, which is another thing they are often illogically against.)

And if they want to argue for abstinence or some other such farce, well, that leads to the biggest caveat of all:

TEENAGERS HAVE SEX. Overwhelmingly, regardless of your opinion, or your morals, or what you choose to believe, the fact of the matter is: TEENAGERS HAVE SEX.

A few facts, taken from the Guttmacher Institute website:

  • Although only 13% of teens have had sex by age 15, most initiate sex in their later teen years. By their 19th birthday, seven in 10 female and male teens have had intercourse.
  • On average, young people have sex for the first time at about age 17
  • A woman who is sexually active and not using contraception has an 85% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
  • Each year, almost 750,000 U.S. women aged 15–19 become pregnant. Two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur among 18–19-year-olds.
  • Overall, 68 pregnancies occurred per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2008. The 2008 rate was a record low and represented a 42% decline from the peak rate of 117 per 1,000, which occurred in 1990.
  • The majority of the decline in teen pregnancy rates in the United States (86%) is due to teens’ improved contraceptive use; the rest is due to increased proportions of teens choosing to delay sexual activity.
  • Despite having declined, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate continues to be one of the highest in the developed world. It is more than twice as high as rates in Canada (28 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2006) and Sweden (31 per 1,000).
  • Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned; teens account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually.

[Read more from the Guttmacher Institute’s Fact Sheet on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health Here.]

Finally, I heard a new one here:

According to Conservative Columnist, Francesca Chambers, “Repealing the age restriction to buy the morning after pill will encourage young women who are too embarrassed or afraid to talk about sexual abuse to bypass the authorities. Terrible men who deserve to go to prison could never face charges, allowing them the opportunity to continue feeding their sexual addiction. Despite the way many pro-choice advocates are attempting to frame the issue, this is not a women’s health or a women’s rights issue.”

Wow. I have never heard of access to contraception as something that could, or would, “encourage young women…to bypass the authorities” when it comes to rape. Once again, I am encountered with ill logic. Have we ever relied on pregnancy as an indicator of sexual abuse? Moreover, she is either unaware of the conditions that actually do engender girls and women keeping quiet about rape, or she is aware, but chooses not to disclose that information. Let’s see: Threat of death, humiliation, no one believing you, ostracization, and now, apparently you could get kicked out of school… And then there’s this:

Why Will Only 3 Out of Every 100 Rapists Serve Time?

And ultimately, Ms. Chambers, this IS a women’s health AND a women’s rights issue. It has to do with our—specifically, women’s—sexual and reproductive health. It doesn’t get any more logical than that. (Maybe she’s never heard of a uterus or a vagina? Then again, if she’s a conservative, probably not- those words are dirty!) To try and argue otherwise is like trying to argue that contraception and unplanned pregnancies have nothing to do with each other.

He’s My Man, and I’m His Lady

he's my man i'm his lady

My man generally (on the day-to-day, when in conversation with others) refers to me as his ‘lady,’ (and I do indeed refer to him as ‘my man’ quite frequently) and it has come to my attention that this can, in fact, bewilder some of those who know about my feminist leanings. And it’s funny actually, because now I’ve come to see it as almost a kind of epitomizing symbol of us as a couple. It kind of encapsulates our whole dynamic. After all, we are, I suppose—when I really think about it—liberal, yet traditional. We’re like “traditional radicals,” if that can even be a thing. (Yeah, you know what, it is a thing. Because I just said so. We’re it, so there it is. Done.)

We have democratic leanings, to be sure. We engage in thoughtful political discussions and debates. We share a secular belief system as well as what some might call “radical” socio-political ideals and morals. He is, of course, aware of my feminist perspective, and moreover, he welcomed the thought of possibly becoming a house-husband/stay-at-home-dad if I was to be a full-time (i.e. working 70-80 hours/week) lawyer.

But then on the other hand:

We got married (which does, in my opinion, infer some degree of “traditional” deference). I did say I would take his last name (though I have yet to change it legally). I do, in fact, do the bulk of our domestic housework (laundry, dishes, coordinating puppy-sitting and vet visits), and he does, in fact, handle all of our finances, as well as anything that involves power tools or heavy lifting (& killing bugs).

So, does this make me any less of a feminist?

Does it mean my husband is a sexist?

I think not.

As sexist or stereotypical as it may sound (which it shouldn’t, because I am simply talking about myself here—one singular being—not the whole of women everywhere) the plain fact is, I’m just no good with numbers, I’m no good with money, I’m not skilled in the arts of fixing or building things, and you know what, I’m effing TERRIFIED of spiders. So there. And as for my husband, well it’s as simple as this: he wasn’t raised by a total neat freak like I was, he is gifted in all the aspects of intelligence of which I am not (he went to motorcycle mechanic school/ I studied feminist jurisprudence), and while I seem to be able to effortlessly oversee the “domesticity” of our household, he seems to be able to effortlessly develop amazing financial planning strategies and build things like planter boxes and a dog house for our two large hound dogs.

Is this sexist? Are we gender stereotypes? Is this offending you???

Hey, it’s just who we are.

I’m not saying it’s biology. I’m not saying these are the roles we are meant to play. And I’m definitely not saying this is the way it “should” be. It’s just how we ended up, it’s just what turned out to work for us, and trust me, the irony is never lost on me.

So in spite of the fact that I’ve referred to him as my partner for years now (& still do on occasion), yes, I like calling him ‘my man’. I mean, why not—he’s “manly”! It doesn’t mean he relies on it (being manly), or thinks it’s essential to his persona, or his being. He isn’t dictated by his masculinity. He just happens to have some very masculine attributes. Conversely, as I have mentioned in a certain previous article, I relish in my feminine side. I delight in the gender performance that is femininity. So I like that he refers to me as his ‘lady.’ It’s very old school/old-timey charm, if you ask me, and I’m into it. Why not. We are, after all, traditional radicals.

“WALK A MILE IN HER [gendered, sexist, high-heeled] SHOES”

Image source: http://unews.com/2011/09/26/walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes-men-raise-awareness-of-violence-against-women/

“Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above. ”
― Virginia Woolf

The following was posted to the MFB Facebook page by a reader the other day:

“My school, George Washington University, is holding a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. While I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across, I have an issue with the high-heeled shoes part. According to the website “men will literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes (from Mid Campus Quad to the Lincoln Memorial) in order to help them gain a better understanding and appreciation of the experience of being a woman in today’s society.” High heels play a very very (very!) small part of my life as a woman, and I think that the mere symbolism of high heels can be seen as more of a sex-symbol than empowerment for women’s rights.”
http://gwsasawalkamile.eventbrite.com/

This is what I deem to be a case of “their heart is in the right place but the idea’s very half-baked.”

As a matter of fact, the idea is detrimentally half-baked. To quote the aforementioned MFB reader, “I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across,” but the inference that wearing high-heeled shoes is somehow intrinsically, or perhaps even innately, linked to “womanhood,” or is somehow a fundamental aspect of being a woman is not helpful. It’s actually quite harmful.

In fact, it’s predicated on a very gendered and somewhat sexualized notion of what it means to be a woman. That is to say: femininity does not equate being a woman, nor does being a woman mean being feminine.

One more time:

FEMININITY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING A WOMAN / BEING A WOMAN DOES NOT EQUAL FEMININITY.

A straight woman can be masculine, a gay man can be masculine, a gay woman can be feminine, a straight man can be feminine, many of us can, and do, express both masculinity and femininity, perhaps even simultaneously, and let’s not forget the factual presence of androgyny among us humans, as well. In addition to this gendered notion of womanhood, this “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event also speaks to a sexualized (think: “male gaze“) concept of being a woman due to the inherent sexuality ascribed to the high-heel. It is, after all, a piece of sexual symbolism in itself.

I have to here stop and say, once again, that I applaud the young men that take part in these events across the country. Their hearts are in the right place, as are those of the people that created it. However, it does unfortunately propagate gendered and sexist notions that we women would do better without, and moreover, it doesn’t really accomplish anything in the way of helping young men “see what it’s like to be a woman.” But then I have to ask: Can such a goal even be accomplished? Can a man ever truly understand the experience of what it is like to be a woman?

Something to ponder, from the amazing Cherrie Moraga:

“…a gay male friend of mine once confided to me that he continued to feel that, on some level, I didn’t trust him because he was male; that he felt, really, if it ever came down to a “battle of the sexes,” I might kill him. I admitted that I might very well. He wanted to understand the source of my distrust. I responded, “You’re not a woman. Be a woman for a day. Imagine being a woman.” He confessed that the thought terrified him because, to him, being a woman meant being raped by men. He had felt raped by men; he wanted to forget what that meant. What grew from that discussion was the realization that in order for him to create an authentic alliance with me, he must deal with the primary source of his own sense of oppression.”

(Taken from Moraga’s essay, “La Guera.” Bold added by me, for emphasis)

Marriage is a System of Privilege, Part 2: Love

First and foremost, I would like to say… I looooove my husband. Immensely. He is my best friend, the love of my life, the yin to my yang, my emergency contact, and most importantly, my life partner. I am very happy to be married to him.

In reality, however, love is not a requirement for all marriages. While it obviously should be, and hopefully is the ultimate catalyst for all such unions, people can and do marry simply for those benefits, privileges, and protections previously mentioned. But shouldn’t it be all about the love? I think so.

What if marriage was, in fact, a love-centered social institution, instead of one based on heterosexual romance?

A story, as told by Lisa Duggan (her story*):

 

“A few weeks after September 11, 2001, I went with my ex-lover to register as domestic partners with the city of New York. We had never registered our relationship with any state agency during the 17 years that we had actually been partners. But we changed our minds nearly a year after we broke up, on September 11, as we searched for each other in the chaos of that day. I had spoken to her on the phone that morning, but then lost phone service and all contact with her. She was teaching at Brooklyn Law School then, and I at New York University; we lived near each other only minutes from the twin towers. I did not know where she was, or how she would get home. I started to panic that she might have walked across the bridge right when the second tower fell. I imagined her hurt and me unable to find her, or unable to convince a city worker or hospital employee that she was my next of kin still, though no longer my lover… When she finally came through my door late that evening, covered in grey dust and totally exhausted, we both grasped the significance of that term “next of kin” as we never had before. If anything happened to her, the importance of me being recognized as the one most responsible, the one most concerned, arose in my mind then as an absolute emotional and practical imperative.

As soon as the relevant city offices reopened, we made the trip to city hall to register—though given the requirements and assumptions of the domestic partner provisions, we had to lie and claim we lived together as a conjugal couple. We were not surprised that there was a long line of people waiting to register along with us. We were very surprised to find that nearly all were heterosexual couples. We asked the people around us why they were there, and their reasons were very much like ours. They did not want to be married, or they were not romantic couples, but their experiences since September 11 had convinced them that they wanted the basic legal recognitions that domestic partnership registration would provide.”

 

Lisa’s personal narrative underscores her political one: That the abolition of marriage could be “one other path to full equality of gay and non-gay people…in the meantime, it is obviously discriminatory to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. But given the demographic reality—the diversity of our actual relationships and households—might de-centering marriage and multiplying options be not just another, but a better path to meaningful equality?” The way I see it, she has a point. What if we took heteronormative romance out of the equation, leaving only the love, along with a corresponding “life partner” aspect? What if we redefined marriage (or as Duggan suggests, abolished it completely and replaced it with something new) as a legal union that addresses the “diversity of our actual relationships and households”?

For example, my godmother in Spain once half-jokingly proposed that my mom move to Spain and they get married so that my mom could finally retire, not worry about health care and, they could ultimately, ‘be there’ for each other (after all, the two have been best friends for 40+ years and they are both single senior citizens). Think about it: Why shouldn’t they be allowed to enter into a legal union together, affording them the benefits and privileges of a life partnership if they have the mutual love and respect that I believe any such union should require (and, in my opinion, should be the basic foundation for any such union). Why not? Why should they not be entitled to a legally recognized life partnership in which they share all property, health benefits, and anything else they wish, if they so desire?

Why should that kind of deeply committed partnership not be recognized or allowed? Just because it’s not romantic or doesn’t fit into our traditional notion of “marriage”? Well maybe that kind of notion is becoming outmoded; Or, at the very least, it is no longer the only kind of union or partnership that we are seeing these days. Hence, Duggan’s proposed abolishment of marriage in favor of a new, more inclusive, and pragmatic legal system that addresses the needs of the varying types of households and partnerships that we are increasingly seeing these days. Oftentimes our legal system needs to be re-imagined and reworked in order to more appropriately fit what the current state of affairs in our society is, and I believe that this is one of those areas in which the law needs to catch up with the status quo- not the other way around.

Oddly enough, I think Carrie Bradshaw said it best when she simply stated, “It’s just two grown-ups, making a decision about spending their lives together.” ** I love this statement both because of its simplicity, and because of its inclusion of potentially platonic, yet pragmatic partnerships. It speaks to an institution that “potentially separates state recognition of households or partnerships from the business of sexual regulation altogether,” to borrow from Lisa Duggan again. It speaks to an institution founded on love- one that caters to partnerships founded on mutual respect and love- whether that person is the love of your life or your emergency contact. It speaks to a legal system that is simply about “two grown-ups, making a decision about spending their lives together.”

 

 

 

*taken from Lisa Duggan’s “Beyond Marriage: Democracy, Equality, and Kinship for a New Century.” You can read the full article at: http://sfonline.barnard.edu/a-new-queer-agenda/beyond-marriage-democracy-equality-and-kinship-for-a-new-century/

**quote taken from Sex and the City, the movie.