Guest post: People like it, so what are you complaining about?

Originally a comment by iknklast on If she can walk she can marry.

However, the inferior status of women is so “baked in” into what our society considers normal or “normal enough” to make allowances for, that it takes a great deal of effort to even spot specific instances

This has been my experience. In my playwriting collective, there are a number of women, and the members of the group mostly identify as liberal. They would be horrified that anyone would suggest otherwise, or should anyone suggest they see women in a patriarchal role.

Yet there is much in the plays they write, and in how they are produced, that simply accepts the “way women are” as presented so commonly throughout history. It is so difficult for them to see the situation that few noticed when my intelligent, strong, educated woman (and asexual, being a worker bee) was turned into an airheaded ditz during production. Not only that, she was portrayed as a sexually frustrated spinster who swooned over the first boorish male she encountered. While some people were uncomfortable with the sexual overtones that were added to the role by director and actor, even they did not realize the violence done to feminism in the portrayal, and the comfort such a portrayal no doubt leant to the patriarchal structure of our society. And most of them, when the discussion began, simply said, well, it was a success, people like it, so what are you complaining about? Damn.

And no one, absolutely no one else noticed what they did to another strong, educated, intelligent female character who actually managed to perpetuate a nice slap down of the male character when he was acting like a jerk to try to impress her. She came on into an office setting carrying the things to go on her desk – a wastebasket full of bric-a-brac, pictures, hand lotion (which was actually applied during the play), perfume, and other feminine niceties. The male character then stepped in to his desk carrying a telephone and a piece of paper – a lean, mean, working machine contrasted to the feminine, sort of trivial female who was demonstrating that she put family and nurturing first by the pictures on the desk. I know the author of the piece, and I doubt it bothered him. He would say, like they all would say, well, this is just how it is. Women are caring and nurturing, men are stripped down and hungry. Surely you don’t have a problem with that? After all, isn’t it nice that women are like that, so they can make the world a better place to live? Damn it, no. I’m sick of it. It is a subtle way of reminding us that women are more of an ornament and an assistant in the working place, while men are the efficient go-getters.

And as for marrying? I was constantly reminded, from the age of six, that my role was to marry. My mother started my hope chest when I was 8 by buying me a punch bowl for Christmas (have you ever known an 8 year old who would rather have a punch bowl than a Mr. Potato Head?). My older sister began dating at 14, and married the man 2 years later. I was a big disappointment, because I never did what a fundamentalist Christian woman is supposed to do. I guess I wasn’t very good at that stuff. God was more like Santa Claus to me, something you believe in when you’re young and discard when you get older. But I was still expected to toe the line and marry a good Christian man and have good Christian babies, die a good Christian death and get buried next to my husband/owner in a good Christian grave, visited regularly by my 97 good Christian children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My family considers me hopeless; I have one child, and even though I am now 57 years old, I do not have (nor desire to have) any grandchildren. I am a scientist, a playwright, and a feminist/atheist/environmentalist – in short, the true black sheep of the family. I am the only one who ever finished what I started, and I know that I would have achieved little of that if I had married at 16 like my older sister. But I would have made my parents very happy.

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