Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why I'm Not A Woman

Sometimes, I'm just sad.

Cristina translated a piece by Mircea Cărtărescu from Romanian to English called "A Few Reasons Why We Love Women," and then she posted her own response, "A Few Reasons Why We Love Men."

Now, before I start, please know this about me: I did find some of this very sweet. I'm a hopeless romantic. But when I read it, I looked at it again as a litany of all of the things I'm not, of all of things I'm supposed to be, and I came up lacking. This always happens when images of female beauty and "what being female is" are plopped in front of me by (usually male) writers, editors, designers, etc. Not that men don't get this too, but it's the reason written pieces like this bug me. It tells me what somebody wishes me to be. Something I'm not.

And Cristina did express worry that feminists would take it the wrong way:

Reading it as a Romanian, I was amused and nostalgic, and caught myself smiling wisely to myself several times. Then I couldn't help but wonder, could this be written in English, now? Or would it attract irate replies and burrowing frowns from aggravated feminist intellectuals all over the US?... I believe that the spirit of Cartarescu's text is not to be misconstrued as some patriarchal political statement, but rather as the quirky, tender voice of the writer-as-man. And as such, it's endearing and funny.

And yet, despite the swooning in the comments over at Cristina's place, I found the idea of dating a guy who thought these things really uncomfortable. What would happen when he woke up? When he realized I was just a person?

What I found interesting about both versions was the idealization of each gender, the emphasis on separateness, on difference, and the glorification of the "other." A lot of romance, and putting people on pedastels, is built around language like this.

I'm a little weird when it comes to sexual relationships, I've discovered. I tend to look for egalitarian, buddy-buddy relationships. Instead, a lot of guys I deal with look to make me into a child or a mother, when all I really want to do is hang out with somebody funny and interesting and respectful who treats me like a real person, not an idealized "other." I think that idealization is dangerous, particularly when you're with a guy who finally gives up the ghost and realizes you're a real person. Bad things can happen.

And I worry when I read about the reasons women are loved, and find that none of those reasons describe me.

I wonder what that makes me.

Which is exactly the sort of doubt the romance myths look to inspire.

I want to make new stories.

3 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Oh lovely, yet more reasons for me to feel like a fraud; like I'm some impostor in a woman-suit.

I remember reading a Cosmo article a long, long time ago about men talking about the stuff they "didn't like to think about" in relation to women. Stuff like - oh, let's see - regular bodily functions and ailments. NATURAL stuff.

Women apparently shouldn't sweat, have any body hair other than that on their head and eyebrows and lashes - one guy said he "caught" his girlfriend shaving her underarms and after that just couldn't find her attractive - he preferred to believe that she just didn't possess any underarm hair.

God forbid she should ever menstruate, use the toilet, or smell anything other than sweet.

Posted by bluesmama

Anonymous said...

I get really worried about this sort of romantising-all-women-in-general because I do believe that - in addition to banging women on the head - it gives men false impressions about how women are supposed to be, and when they wake up one morning and find out they didn't marry Barbie, they start to resent her.

I had a boyfriend who spent two years putting me on a pedastel, telling me how I was supposed to be, and when I finally stood up for myself and said, "No, I'm not that way, this is the way I am," he flipped out.

It wasn't pretty.

It's a weird message guys get about women: women are beneath you, you're not supposed to *really* care about them (don't get pussy-whipped), calling men "girls" or "women" is an insult, and means they're weak, so women are weak and pitiful and etc. etc. but if you're not in a relationship with a woman, or attracted to women, there's something wrong with you.

What it tends to do is encourage men to put the woman/women they're currently dating up on a pedastel, "She's not like other girls," or "She's different," or whatever, to try and mask the fact that she's really a woman, part of that weak, girly group that guys get compared to whenever they do something lackluster.

It's a crappy mixed message.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

i couldn't figure out how to get to the "why we love women" piece, but i looked at bits of the other, and after saying "they do not, they are not, they do not, they are not" a few times, stopped reading. (were i not in the middle of a divorce and slightly cranky, i probably would have finished reading it and ended up screaming. 

Posted by betsy