It should surprise no one that I come from a family of tall, strong, crazy, hysterical, intelligent, passionate, big-hipped women.
Mostly, we've just been told we're crazy and hysterical. The rest, we had to figure out on our own.
I had a great-grandmother who was a smoking, drinking, philandering type who'd give money to bums who showed up on her doorstep. My other great-grandmother was Grande Dame and ruled by virtue of her mean wit and insatiable appetite. I've got a grandmother who survived occupied France during World War II and hopped over to America with a GI, expecting a Place of Plenty, and finding a heapload of disappoint that she used to channel all of her energy into raising five children on a shoe-string budget and throwing plates at her husband with things got particularly bad. I've got another grandmother who told her drinking, controlling husband to fuck off for several reasons - among them the fact that he wouldn't let her go back to school to become a teacher. She was named Woman of the Year in Vancouver a couple years ago, has swum the Columbia River, was part of a rowing team, and has worked for some ridiculous amount of non-profit agencies benefiting children. My mother's the one I heard about most of my feminist books from - even if they were only in sight while gathering dust on the bookshelf in the dining room. She got herself an MBA and a VP of HR position at a $40M company before she was 40.
There are more, many more ass-kicking women in my family. Mostly, of course, they've been told they're crazy. Mostly, unfortunately, by the men in their lives.
My dad and my sister loved to tease me in my teens, because I look so much like my mom. "Mom's crazy," they said, "you're going to be just like her."
It wasn't until I was 19 or so that I realized that, you know, really, being like my mom really wouldn't be all that bad.
But women trying to raise children and have high-powered jobs and live up to their full potential are generally just regarded as nuts. There's a reason for this, of course: as a woman, not only are you expected to raise perfect children and have a clean house and get everybody to soccer practice, but you're supposed to have a successful, money-gathering, fulfilling career, too. And if you don't find doing all of this totally fulfilling and happy all the time, there must be something wrong with you.
Better drug you up.
Women in particular have been drugged up to "cure" melancholy forever, particularly with the advent of the scientifically "diagnosed" case of hysteria.
Luckily, doctor types don't generally diagnose women with hysteria anymore. Instead, we're just really depressed.
According the latest numbers, 49% of women take at least one perscription drug. Unfortunately, there isn't a breakdown as to how many of these are anti-depressents. Since we live in a capitalist society, drugged-up men are rapidly coming up just behind women, at 39%. Again, no breakdown as to how many are anti-depressents and how many are heart medication/cholesterol medication, though I'd make a broad, educated guess that says most of the men's drugs are heart medication or viagra, and most of the women's are anti-depressents.
Cause if you ain't happy, there must be something wrong with you.
Now, I'm cool with people diagnosed with severe depression and particularly those diagnosed with being bipolar being on medication, if they so choose. Depression sucks.
But I view depression more often as a symptom, not a disease. Just like I think gastric bypass surgery is a stupid "cure" for obesity when in fact, many people put on weight for many different reasons, and gaining weight is often a symptom of something else, I think that depression should be met with alterations in your lifestyle before you drug it up.
I come from a family of crazy women, and it's crazy women like those in my family who are the first ones prescribed anti-depressents. Even my younger sister has gotten up onto this bandwagon. Cause if you're depressed, it's not your life that's screwed up, it's you.
It's the message smart women have been getting forever: there's not something wrong with the system. There's something wrong with you.
When half the female population has to be drugged up in order for the system to function, I don't call that a good system.
I've learned to deal with depression by examining what's going on in my life: what I'm eating, how much I'm exercising, first of all. Then how much I'm moving towards the goals I have: how much I'm writing, how well I'm spending my reading time, my social time. Do I feel like I'm spinning my wheels? Do I feel like I'm not living the right kind of life, that I'm not living up to my potential?
90% of the time, making alterations in one or more of those areas and taking control of my life instead of playing the victim ["Oh, I *have* to stay at this job I hate/have to stay with this person I hate/have to put up with this stuff I hate"]will get me back on track.
The other 10% of the time, I take a tylenol PM and go to bed.
Sleeping lets my brain mull over what it is I'm chewing on, and I can get up the next day and go, "OK, here's what I'm feeling, here's what I'm thinking, here's what I'd like to do."
And then you do it.
I have a deep fear that when women go to their doctors and say, "I'm depressed. I love my husband and I love my children, but I just feel really unfilled in my life," the doctors respond by writing up a perscription for a happy pill, no questions asked.
Nobody says, "What would you really like to be doing? Do you feel guilty sometimes that you'd rather be doing that than doing your husband's laundry? Can he do it himself while you take a class in International Politics at the community college? Can your kids make their own lunch in the morning so you can teach yourself Arabic before work?"
I worry that we turn to drugs too quickly. I worry that complacency is stifling our potential.
Friday, December 03, 2004
It should surprise no one that I come from a family of tall, strong, crazy, hysterical, intelligent, passionate, big-hipped women.
So, it bugged Amanda and Echidne, too, which I find quite funny, because when I hopped over to Kos's place and read his justification for the lack of PC diversity among his guestbloggers, something in me went, "Huh?" too. Amanda explored the issue further, I think, in this post about the democratic party's seeming reluctance to forward a progressive agenda for women.
Kos's comment actually read a lot like the backlash against affirmative action. I would love it if we lived in a world where merit alone really decided whose voices we hear, but as Amanda and Echidne pointed out, we don't live there. Bringing in a voice that comes at issues from a new and different perspective (non-white, non-male, non-Christian) is a merit in itself.
Now, I'm not going to harp on Kos, because blogs are, of neccessity, very personal endeavors, and you have a right to run them the way you want to: but if you're looking to put forward voices for progressive change and you take out women - those bold, powerful women and minorities whose campaigns for equal rights shook up this country so enourmously and so quickly in the 60s and 70s, then you're missing a whole lot of shit. You're missing the whole point. You're not looking to change the world, you're just looking to change your own place in it. And when you're on top, you'll switch sides and go conservative, because you've altered the system so that you and your white male buddies are in charge, instead of rich guys like Bush and his buddies.
Shuffling around old white men within the same power heirarchy isn't getting any of us anywhere. It's got the dollar dropping, healthcare sucking wind, social security going out the window, and a backlash against women's rights that's been steadily getting worse (in some circles) since the 80s.
Because what are we really talking about, when we talk about these "huge issues" "dividing" the country? Sure, the war in Iraq is huge. The war on terrorism is huge. But creating Big Bad Enemies is supposed to unite a country, not divide it.
The issues that were put up front to handwave people away from the war are the two big issues that people in the US are now most passionate about, and clawing at each other about: abortion/reproductive rights and homosexuality.
Let's get that straight (ha), once and for all. The attacks on freedoms have to do with women. Yes, yes, terrorism is a big issue, and racism, and I don't want to forget those - but reproductive rights and attacking homosexuality and preaching Back to Bible Basics is about controlling women.
Gay men are scary because the conception of "gay men" in red-staters heads likely brings to mind anal sex (whether or not said men engage in anal sex), and the gender binary says that means one of them's gotta be passive, one of them's gotta be the woman. Which means any man can be passive. Any man can be the woman. And in a society whose fear and disgust for women is shared by many women who spent their childhoods believing they could grow up to be "real" people, this is a terrible revelation.
And there's nothing scarier to people who love to argue biological and/or Bible determinism than two women who not only can support themselves, raise children together, and provide one another emotional support, but don't need men around for sex either, cause they're quite fulfilled all on their own.
That's some scary shit.
And, scarier than that: women who can decide to have children or not. Women who decide, therefore, whether or not a man has children.
That's why people are angry about abortion. That's why the father's rights freak-outs are freaking out.
Women control fertility. Children don't come out of thin air. They're created OF a woman's body: her blood, the food she eats, the air she breathes. That's what makes a baby. A woman. Men submit a string of DNA, which triggers a chemical reaction inside of the egg, and the egg begins to divide itself. An egg is cells. Dividing cells attach to the wall of the uterus. Attaches back to the woman. And it's women's bodies that take over from there. Life depends on women. Life is women.
Get over it.
This pisses people off. It's always pissed people off.
If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, then the people who control women control the world.
That's why controlling women is a major part of pretty much all major religions. That's why women should be quiet in church, and obey their husbands, and not fall in love with women.
And yea, this world doesn't benefit all men. There are lots of geeky guys who don't want to be violent, and hurt people, and be mean to women, and play sports, and rule the world. There are a lot of guys who really do want to just have friends, and love people. In fact, I think most people are like that, male or female. If we let sex be more social and less romantic-kill-me-I'm-dying-you-must-marry-me-cause-I'm-lonely/pregnant/can't do my own laundry, then I think we'd be getting back to what the hell sex is really about in the first place. There's a reason women's clitorises are outside of the vagina, and a reason 70-80% of women don't have orgasims with penetrative sex alone.
Sex isn't all about procreation.
The biological "facts" about men and women like to ignore the clitoris, and the fact that men can get off just fine without a vagina.
Sex is about keeping people together, forming social connections, it's about showing affection. And when women are allowed to control their sexuality, when they decide that no, maybe, they'll live in a house of women and raise children, or a house with some guy friends and some girlfriends, or a house by themselves, they have the power to cut men out of the affection loop, and eventually, the children loop, if they so choose.
This is real power. And women are raised to believe their bodies are wacky, abberant, dirty, disgusting, bloody, awful, fat things.
The bodies that could rule the world.
We're told we don't have merit. We don't have voices, because if we were really all that good, obviously, someone would have noticed us. If we were quieter, prettier, if we preached violent foreign policy, men would like us, and if we parrotted their own views back at them, we'd be allowed to talk.
We would talk about what they wanted to talk about: We'd stop talking so much about those silly bloody uteruses that are so obviously so bloody fucking unimportant that the women carrying said uteruses have been the targets of rage, hatred, and Biblical control for most of recorded history.
In fact, women's issues are so completely frivolous that men don't even talk about them, except to harp about how women being able to take care of themselves and kiss each other is biologically abberant because it leaves men out, and how women should be forced to carry around a man's strand of DNA until her body creates a child with it because "killing" a man's DNA is so much more awful than forcing women into slavery for said DNA.
Yes, we've been over this before. Women bloggers aren't read because in addition to screaming at the world and talking about healthcare and politics, they talk about their uteruses, and talking about uteruses doesn't interest men.
In fact, it doesn't interest anyone at all.
That's why entire religions, social mores, and scientific theories have been built up to control them.
Women have no merit at all.
I don't know why I didn't see it sooner: being a woman, and all.
"I get incredibly close to my characters. When I'm in full-on writing mode it's the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before falling asleep at night. Sometimes when I wake up in the night I wish someone at Microsoft would invent something that allows you to write on the dark."
- David Mitchell