This week’s House of Cards essay will expand on last week’s piece, “The House of Cards Vision of Infidelity: More Fact than Fiction.” Yes, unfortunately we remain stuck with this slimy theme of infidelity. But instead of pegging our nation’s male moral-offenders, this week let’s talk about the women.
Men have had a leg up in the world, especially in the workplace. Females are still trying to catch up. Salary comparisons and lack of women in certain fields will underline this fact. Unfortunately, Some women feel like they are faced with two options: be ruthless and work really hard to achieve their goals at the risk of the “ice queen” label or take an easier route and use other means… Some women do decide to hark back to medieval methods (think Anne Boleyn in the Tudor days) in order to succeed in the workplace… and this is all too evident in big cities like Washington, D.C.
Women have employed method #2 for centuries — men have as well. But dabbling in this kind of currency can lead to two very different ends: career destruction or the attainment of dreams. In our foray into the Little Black Book of Washington, D.C. last week, we talked about how scandals tend to be both concentrated and magnified in The District. The cutthroat culture here seems to breed an underground marketplace of give-and-gets with scandal as the most likely outcome. Ultimately, Washingtonians must decide if they are going to enter that market — or try and forge their own way up the ambition ladder.
* …Spoilers on coming pages…*
Some slaves prefer slavery: “A prominent Saudi female activist,” Emirates 24/7 reported last Thursday, has come out against Saudi Arabia’s lifting its ban on women driving cars.
Rawdah Al-Yousif complained that campaigns to give women the right to drive ,
“continue despite the clear response by the rulers of this country that any decision to allow women to drive cars is up to the community not to just 3000 people or to some articles in newspapers or online. I hope there will be no decision to allow women to drive at this stage because we have first to respect the wish of the people and the society…Women are also not ready yet to bear their responsibility and leave their homes at a time when news of blackmail against the women are widespread.”
Ah, yes. Women are not yet ready to bear their responsibility, just as we heard in the antebellum South that black Americans were not yet ready to bear the responsibilities of freedom, or in the Jim Crow South that they were not yet ready to bear the full responsibilities of citizenship. This is a common argument that oppressors make to justify oppression; it is unusual to hear it offered by one of the oppressed themselves.
Yet Rawdah Al-Yousuf is the prime mover behind a recent campaign in Saudi Arabia called “My Guardian Knows What’s Best For Me.” This involved, according to Emirates 24/7, “sending letters to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in which women confirmed their full support for an Islamic approach in administering the Kingdom.” Al Yousif expressed her “dismay at the efforts of some who have liberal demands that do not comply with Islamic law (Shariah) or with the Kingdom’s traditions and customs” and railed against what she characterized as “ignorant and vexatious demands” to abolish the guardianship system.
Although it was many years ago, the image of a young woman with a tear-streaked face and blank stare is forever etched into my memory. She sat in front of the television cameras, shredding a soaked tissue, telling her story. Once a happy new mother, now distraught and on trial for the death of her baby — the infant died in her arms. The cause of death was starvation and malnutrition.
The first-time mother said she loved her baby and breastfed her regularly. She cared for the child to the best of her ability. She claimed that she had no idea the newborn failed to get the nourishment she needed. Nevertheless, the baby languished in her arms until she became too weak to suckle. It was only then that help was sought.
Of course the outrage came quickly. Bony fingers of blame pointed in all directions. Some held the hospital responsible, believing the first-time mother got released too soon. No doubt a direct result, others moralized, of the cold, cost-calculating insurance companies. Always pressuring hospitals for earlier discharge of maternity patients. Others cast the blame on social services. The government let this poor young woman slip through the cracks. Over and over, the resounding cries filled the airways.
Their haughty laments over that young mother’s fate still echo in my mind: “Where were the pediatricians? Where were the lactation experts?”
The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.
Where was her mother?
There are fewer female musicians for me to hate, because a) there are fewer female musicians and b) I’m a chick.
It pains me to admit that I’m prone to the same irrational tribalism I denounce in others, but it’s true:
The second Sarah Palin strode onto that stage to accept the VP nomination, I turned into a six-year-old:
“A girl! A girl!! Yayyyyyy!!!”
I knew nothing about her policies. I didn’t care. I still don’t, much.
Because female performers are easier for me to identify with, they’re harder for me to dislike.
But I managed to scrape together a trio…
Last week I wrote about my “evolution” on guns during the Boston manhunt:
In the middle of that night listening to the Boston police scanner, I evolved. I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me. I knew at that instant if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed up at my door while I was “sheltered-in-place” and aimed a gun at my head and only one of us would live, I could pull the trigger.
Once I made the decision that I would not be a victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I plan to share the experience of choosing my first gun in a future post but first I’d like to deal with some of the moral implications of the decision to purchase, own — and potentially use — a gun.
I wrote about one of the reasons I refrained from owning a gun for many years:
The other thing holding me back was my belief that if you’re going to own a gun, you must be willing to shoot to kill…I searched my heart and realized that in the heat of the moment of an attack, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a gun in my hand. I knew that could be more dangerous than being unarmed; it wasn’t worth the risk.
A gun is an inanimate object and as such is morally neutral. Lying on a table, tucked under a mattress, or locked in a gun safe it cannot kill, inflict harm, or protect its owner. However, the fact that a gun is in one’s home creates the potential for both danger and protection depending on many variables, including the training, skill, and temperament of the residents of the home and the mental capacity and willingness of the gun owners to use the weapon, whether in self-defense or to inflict intentional harm.
While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications. Perhaps this is because I’ve mostly lived in safe, virtually crime-free neighborhoods and have never experienced violent crime. Whatever the reason, it’s not an excuse to jump into gun ownership without first embarking on this intellectual exercise.
Throughout this series I’ve questioned where the line is drawn between reflecting and affecting when it comes to the media’s relationship with real life. Either way, the determining factor is relatability. You aren’t going to imitate something unless you can relate to it, and if you can’t relate to a show, chances are it isn’t anywhere near a reflection of who you are.
So, in the interest of all things entertainment, let’s take a simple quiz to determine your relatability factor when it comes to the portrayal of “traditional family” on television using two popular prime-time family-themed shows: Family Guy and The Middle.
Family Guy: The show is apathetic, even nihilistic at times, mocks the same politically correct values it thrives on, and typifies men and women in terms taught best in Gender Studies 101. The Middle is one of a handful of shows to make it to the air that depicted exactly what its title intimated: a middle -lass, middle-of-the-road family living in the middle of nowhere, America. As working middle class as the Griffins, the Hecks are a family of five that mirrors the demographics of the Quahog clan: father, mother, two sons with a daughter in the middle.
So, what’s your relatability factor? And how does your relatability compare with the ratings? Take this simple five-question quiz to find out!
Poor Seth MacFarlane. The guy sings one song about boobs and suddenly he’s #1 on the Hates Women List with a Steinem next to his name. (That means if they capture him, she gets to rag on him incessantly. Who wouldn’t want a bullet after that?)
It’d be too easy to join the chorus singing, “MacFarlane hates women.” As a woman, I despise the cop-outs women often take, chiding every man as being both the desired master of her universe and the despised crafter of her fate. If we really believe in Girl Power, what’s our responsibility in all of this? Are we allowing the fate scripted by guys like MacFarlane to come true?
It took about 10 minutes to pull video for the following five most common stereotypes about women portrayed in Family Guy. The sad news is that it took about 15 to pull five examples of the same behavior from the most popular Girl Power reality television show out there: The Kardashians. Praised by some feminists as career women comfortable in their own skin, it has been observed that “50 years ago, the Kardashians could never live the way they do. It’s all thanks to the Feminist movement that they are who they are – and they embrace every benefit from it fully.”
So, culture judges that you are, tell me: Is the evidence compelling? Is MacFarlane a He-Man Woman Hater, or do the Kardashians prove that girls finally busted through the glass ceiling in the tree house and joined the club?
Watch out, ladies in the dating world: Family Guy’s prized demographic is totally Petarded.
According to the show’s creator, Family Guy’s target audience is men ages 18-34. This happens to be one of the most desirable demographics for advertisers and women looking to eventually get married and settle down.
Who hasn’t dreamed of a life with Peter Griffin?
Obviously, not all men between the ages of 18 and 34 are going to find the humor of Family Guy appealing. Yet a growing majority of them do. I long ago learned as a woman not to attempt to comment on the male psyche; why these men find Family Guy so appealing is not in my realm of interest. However, the message Family Guy sends about masculinity is so apparent that I can’t help but laugh at this not-so-subtle irony: Most women looking for men, the ladies trolling the clubs and hitting Happy Hours at the bars, are the ones who tend to stereotype men exactly the way they are portrayed on the show.
I used to hate politics. Then I met Ann Coulter.
In case you haven’t seen PCU, allow me to explain: I am only one of many in my generation who grew into adulthood harboring a strong desire to avoid all forms of political discussion. For many of us growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, the deafening liberal attacks coming across cable news, talk radio, and then the internet defined politics as a source of talking-head tsuris and therefore best avoided at all costs.
The unavoidable reality hit when I enrolled in grad school and promptly learned the phrase: “Everything is political.” And that was before I got the chance to interview the prospective film studies professor who declared himself a communist without blinking an eye.
Critical theory, my chosen area of study, comes in many forms. The most memorable (and popular) being a series of schools based on race/ethnicity/gender/sexual demarcations that could easily be classified under the heading “White Men Are Coming To Get You Studies.” All theories are taught under the general pseudo-philosophical guideline of postmodernism. I could spend entire articles trying to explain that one. Instead, I’ll just let this handy little comic do it for me.
Nothing I learned made sense yet all of it was accepted as holy. Any time I would question these ideas I would receive furrowed brows, gobsmacked expressions, or simply be told in so many words that I just “didn’t get it.” These reactions probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much except for the fact that they were coming from the professor who would sign off on my thesis, providing me with the paperwork I needed to graduate and get the hell out of Dodge.
Hell. I was in hell. Instead of being taught how to think, I was paying to be told what to think. Waiting in the airport for my flight back to campus after winter break, I contemplated throwing in the towel. And then, I heard an angel’s voice and a bright light beckoned me to the bookstore in the terminal…
Okay, not totally. But I do know for a fact that finding Ann Coulter’s Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right on my way to the plane was a divine appointment. Three hours later I landed on solid ground and felt my feet beneath me for the first time in 18 months. Finally, someone was making sense.
Perhaps if conservatives had had total control over every major means of news dissemination for a quarter century, they would have forgotten how to debate, too, and would just call liberals stupid and mean.
Ann waited until page 2 to verbalize the crux of the problem I’d been facing: This liberal professor had total control and, therefore, could demean and dismiss me whenever he liked.
Or so he thought and so did I, until I met Ann Coulter.
Jazz and Islam, Part IV
Recently Islamic supremacists in the Egyptian city of Mansoura made a statement: they dressed a statue of Umm Kulthum, the revered Egyptian chanteuse, in a niqab. Proud of their achievement, they sent photos of their handiwork all over the Internet. They should have been hanging their heads in shame.
Their statement was clear enough: they were calling for the imposition of elements of Islamic law mandating that women not go out in public unveiled. That they would choose a statue of “the first lady of Arabic song” to make this statement suggests also that they object to the very idea of an unveiled female singing about secular subjects: they object to her being unveiled; they object to her being female and yet an independent human being in her own right, not just the slave of some man; and they object to her singing about non-religious matters, since the only music allowed in Islamic law is Islamic religious music.
In honor of Umm Kulthum, therefore, it is a good time to remember and celebrate some women we love, women who led lives and sang songs that were decidedly un-Islamic, and who would have left the world poorer had they forsaken the stage and recording studio, donned a veil, and retired to the inner recesses of the house in order to serve their menfolk. These five women never donned a niqab, and for that we should all be eternally grateful.
There is an age-old question that will probably plague human curiosity (and laboratories) until our race perishes: when it comes to X, are men or women more capable? There have been multitudes of studies on perception, reaction times, pain-thresholds, physical, mental, emotional capabilities, etc. on both sexes to determine who is better equipped to do certain activities. Research conclusions that sought to divide the sexes by suitability have been refuted as both men and women have defied science and stereotypes. Worlds that have been traditionally “male-dominated” or “female-dominated” have collided and our stereotypical thinking has been challenged and overturned. Dangerous sports, such as racing, still seem to be firmly rooted in the “male-dominated” category, but women have slowly begun to infiltrate the paddock walls.
We oooh and ahh over females on the racetrack, but women in fast cars are not new. In fact, in the past few decades, several female racers have set records and taken top honors:
1. Shirley Muldowney was a pioneer in drag racing and the first woman to obtain a license from the National Hot Rod Association. She has a resume of accomplishments and awards that reads like a menu from Bubba Gump Shrimp. She was a real oil-burning lioness.
2. Janet Guthrie was the first female to qualify and compete in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 and to drive in a NASCAR Winston Cup superspeedway race. In 2006, she was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
3. Lyn St. James started in the Indianapolis 500 seven times (Danica Patrick is currently tied with her record). She has two wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona and one at the 12 Hours of Sebring. She also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice.
It would be hard to argue that, one hundred years ago when women couldn’t vote or hold the same careers as men, our society wasn’t tilted against the fairer sex. However, those days are long dead and gone, and women have largely achieved the sort of parity with men that the feminists of the sixties were demanding. In fact, we’ve gone beyond that point now and what we’re finding is that many women want to have it both ways. They want to be thought of as just as strong, tough, and capable as men while simultaneously demanding all sorts of special protection. In fact, it’s considered bad form to even suggest that men aren’t privileged and that, yes, in some cases, women are the ones who have an advantage because of their gender. We’re not even supposed to ask the most basic questions about the terrible trials women supposedly face because of their sex.
For example, it’s fine to complain that women earn 76 cents for every dollar that men earn, but any reasonable person should agree that’s not sufficient to show that there’s a problem. To prove there’s a real imbalance, you need to ask tough questions. Are women working the same long hours that men do week in and week out? Why should the woman who only works 40 hours so she can have a “balanced” life make as much as the man putting in 60 hour weeks to get ahead? Along similar lines, if a woman takes three months off to be with her child after she has a baby, while a man whose wife has a child just takes a weekend, isn’t he more dedicated to his job and thus more worthy of a promotion? What about a female secretary and a male coal miner with the same skill level? Even if their education and level of ability are the same, shouldn’t the one doing the dirty, dangerous, unpleasant job make more money? Moreover, from a common-sense perspective, if you could actually get by with paying women 76 cents on the dollar to do the same work that men do, wouldn’t all-female firms dominate every field because of the reduced overhead? You don’t hear people who complain about women making less discuss relevant questions like these because when you compare apples to apples, that pay gap disappears. That’s why on average you find that a never-married, college-educated woman actually makes more than a never-married, college-educated man.
It finally had to be done. I had to catch up with the rest of the world and watch Lena Dunham’s Girls. After fortifying myself with three days or prayer and fasting, I dove in. I purchased season one, and watched the season two marathon on HBO.
Girls has been overanalyzed, so I won’t offer a broad interpretation. I can only point out what I think is Girls most glaring flaw: Lena Dunham did not include any control.
As in a control in a scientific experiment that serves as a “normal” component that you are not conducting the experiment on. Girls is the story of four twenty-something women in Brooklyn and the pathetic “men” that they date. There is Adam, the attention-deficit artist who always seems to be banging on something and has degrading sexual fantasies. There’s Ray, the schlub who manages a coffee shop and is almost too insecure to function. There’s Charlie, the soft-spoken musician who is so passive he can barely open doors. There’s Thomas-John, who has a job making real money but is written so one-dimensionally we really don’t know that much about him. And then there’s Booth Jordan (seriously?), an artist who locks one of the girls inside one of his works of art. He’s short and vulgar. (Doesn’t a single one of these guys–New Yorkers!–like or play sports?)
Girls creator Lena Dunham is very talented, and she’s only twenty-six, but it has to be said: like so many liberal Hollywood and New York artists, she has a powerful streak of cowardice. Girls would have been a much more compelling and less narcissistic show if Dunham had the guts to introduce a control into her Brooklyn petri dish.
A reader sent me this WSJ article entitled “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee”:
Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood….
A 2007 survey of 1,000 American workers released by the San Francisco-based Employment Law Alliance found that 45% of respondents had been bullied at the office—verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority, deliberate destruction of relationships—and that 40% of the reported bullies were women. In 2010, the Workplace Bullying Institute, a national education and advocacy group, reported that female bullies directed their hostilities toward other women 80% of the time—up 9% since 2007. Male bullies, by contrast, were generally equal-opportunity tormentors.
A 2011 survey of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association found that 95% of them believed they were undermined by another woman at some point in their careers. According to a 2008 University of Toronto study of nearly 1,800 U.S. employees, women working under female supervisors reported more symptoms of physical and psychological stress than did those working under male supervisors.
The article points out that Queen Bees often assault careers in ways that leave “no fingerprints.” I find this interesting; I think that men are more direct in their tactics, often women tend to be more manipulative so that they do not have to take responsibility for their actions and can deny or disown them. And their victims barely know what hit them. Men’s directness is easier to spot and criticize, women’s tactics, not so much. It is more difficult to “prove.”
Cross-posted at Dr. Helen.
The joy of children also comes with the horrors of what motherhood does to the body. Trying to recapture some semblance of my former self, I joined a few fancy corporate gyms with salons and spas and pretty associates selling banana-choco-gluten-free $12 shakes, but I never achieved the results I wanted. It turns out that quitting was the answer. I finally discovered how to get fit and have a great time doing it. I joined a family-owned, martial arts gym. The following truths will convince you to ditch your corporate gym membership in favor of a much better option that actually produces results while improving every area of your life.
9. “Do you believe in love at first sight or do I have to walk by you again?”
A simple Google search on “picking up girls” will lead to hundreds of smarmy articles advising men on how to hook up at the gym. This particular sentiment — from someone claiming to be a gentleman — sums it up about perfectly:
Utilized properly, the gym is one of the finest hunting grounds for the well prepared cocksman.
Wow. Where to begin? If you’re 20 and this is the kind of thing you’re into, I’d say that guy is right. Big corporate gyms with lots of young, dumb girls would be a good place for a sexual predator to stalk his kill. However, when you’re a married mom or dad, this is not the kind of environment that will encourage your marriage. Further, it’s uncomfortable to feel as if you are being sized up by people who refer to themselves as “cocksmen.” It’s also disconcerting trying to avoid that one guy who stalks you with his eyes when you’re trying to use that embarrassing machine where you pretend to strangle someone with your thighs. Awkward.
A small, family-owned gym that caters to both children and adults has a totally different vibe for more mature members with the goal of family fitness. Many people don’t know that most martial arts programs have cardio classes and training for adults. My family belongs to Randori Jiu-Jitsu, where we can take a variety of classes like jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, judo, karate, mixed martial arts, and conditioning and strength training all without a nightclub atmosphere or threat of venereal disease.
Most people think Marv is crazy, but I don’t believe that. I’m no shrink and I’m not saying I’ve got Marv all figured out or anything, but “crazy” just doesn’t explain him. Not to me. Sometimes I think he’s retarded, a big, brutal kid who never learned the ground rules about how people are supposed to act around each other. But that doesn’t have the right ring to it either. No, it’s more like there’s nothing wrong with Marv, nothing at all — except that he had the rotten luck of being born at the wrong time in history. He’d have been okay if he’d been born a couple of thousand years ago. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman Arena, taking a sword to other gladiators like him. They’d have tossed him girls like Nancy, back then. — Sin City
Ever watched a classic action flick? Of course you have. Movies like Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, First Blood, and 300 have become fixtures in the American psyche. All these movies feature either a lone man or a small group fighting in a desperate, violent struggle and yet, somehow, coming out on top. Throughout most of America’s history, the average man could more easily relate to the experiences in those movies the way someone who shoots hoops at the park could relate to watching an NBA game. Sure, they might not have been able to do what they were seeing on the screen, but they were well-acquainted with violence. Either they had inflicted it, suffered it, or seen it up close and personal. We’re a nation that was birthed in a bloody revolution, where feuds and dueling were frequent occurrences, where intermittent battles with Indians occurred until the twenties, where roughly twenty percent of the male population served in WWII, and where fist fights and brawling were relatively common.
The average man may have seen hundreds of thousands of murders on his TV screen and committed tens of thousands more playing video games, but he has also probably never struck another human being in anger in his entire adult lifetime. In other words, he may be captivated by the imagery he sees at the movies, but he goes home knowing that he will never even live out a pale imitation of what he’s just seen.
It’s Valentine’s Day and romance is in the air. Am I allowed to say that? It would seem that romance is no longer allowed in American society, and I’ve recently figured out why. It’s not because of men, as women like to think. It’s because women ruin everything for women.
I’ve suspected this for some time but, last week, events transpired to confirm my suspicions. It all started with the Audi Super Bowl commercial. For those of you who missed it, a geeky guy is so overcome with confidence at being lent his dad’s Audi that he marches right into the big dance and kisses the prom queen. I loved it and, by the reaction shot, so did she. You know why? Because he was a man. Because it was romantic. No, the political correctness police opined, it was not romantic at all. In fact, it was “rapey.” Rapey.
That was bad enough, but it didn’t end there. The feminist shrews among our population then went after the iconic image of the sailor kissing a nurse in a spontaneous celebration for the allied victory over Japan in World War II. These were, by any measure, extraordinary circumstances. This VJ day kiss, one of the most romantic moments ever committed to film, the image that has made women swoon since 1945? Turns out that’s rapey, too, according to modern-day feminists. Do you know why men think women are crazy? It’s because women act crazy. And that, dear reader, is how women ruin everything for women.
Manhood is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character. It is no easier to become a man than it is to become virtuous. In fact, the two are the same. The root of our old-fashioned word “virtue” is the Latin word virtus, a derivative of vir, or man. To be virtuous is to be “manly.” As Aristotle understood it, virtue is a “golden mean” between the extremes of excess and deficiency. Too often among today’s young males, the extremes seem to predominate. One extreme suffers from an excess of manliness, or from misdirected and unrefined manly energies. The other suffers from a lack of manliness, a total want of manly spirit. Call them barbarians and wimps. So prevalent are these two errant types that the prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple injunctions: Don’t be a barbarian. Don’t be a wimp. What is left, ceteris paribus, will be a man.
– Terrence O. Moore, Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown
As we seem to be rushing headlong into the decision to allow women to serve in combat, a decision with wide-ranging implications, let’s consider a few inconvenient truths.
Men commit violent crimes more than three times as often as women. Ninety-nine percent of rapists are men. Serial killers are almost always men. Mass shooters are almost always men. From early infancy, boys and girls show sex-linked toy preferences.
This is not to suggest that all men are violent psychopaths, but anyone who has ever raised male children knows that they are born with an innate tendency to throw, hit, destroy, and create general mayhem.
When our boys were little we belonged to a playgroup that included girls. Quite honestly, I often found myself shocked at the behavior of my little boys compared to their angelic female playmates. My male tots, who were in no way being raised in a violent home and who watched nothing more violent on TV than Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, had an inborn propensity for violent behavior. If they could lift it they wanted to throw it. If they felt anger their natural reaction was to hit. They saw an open tub of Duplo blocks as an invitation to hoist the tub in the air and scatter the blocks across the room. Usually, their female toddler friends tried to reason with them — babbling incoherently, no doubt scolding them for their barbaric behavior. When that didn’t work, they just stared at them as if they were space aliens (the toddler version of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).
Psychologist James Dobson wrote about this natural propensity in Bringing up Boys:
[O]ne of the scariest aspects of raising boys is their tendency to risk life and limb for no good reason. It begins very early. If a toddler can climb on it, he will jump off it. He careens out of control toward tables, tubs, pools, steps, trees, and streets. He will eat anything but food and loves to play in the toilet. He makes “guns” out of cucumbers or toothbrushes and likes digging around in drawers, pill bottles, and Mom’s purse. And just hope he doesn’t get his grubby little hands on a tube of lipstick. A boy harasses grumpy dogs and picks up kitties by their ears. His mom has to watch him every minute to keep him from killing himself. He loves to throw rocks, play with fire, and shatter glass. He also gets great pleasure out of irritating his brothers and sisters, his mother, his teachers, and other children. As he gets older, he is drawn to everything dangerous—skateboards, rock climbing, hang gliding, motorcycles, and mountain bikes. At about sixteen, he and his buddies begin driving around town like kamikaze pilots on sake. It’s a wonder any of them survive. Not every boy is like this, of course, but the majority of them are.
Recently, I argued that we like heroines who act like men and so writers construct stories enabling women to physically compete. So what about the female characters that don’t act like men?
If writers don’t have a female character fight for herself and by herself, then we typically ignore them. Sometimes we ridicule them. If given the opportunity, we rewrite them. Then, we complain that there aren’t enough of them. There are many, and the comment thread on the last article mentioned a few. These are my favorite five.
5. Princess Buttercup, The Ignored Heroine
In The Princess Bride, Buttercup lives on a farm and falls in love with a quiet and dedicated farm boy. The boy, Wesley, goes off to seek his fortune so he may marry Buttercup, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup despairs for Wesley’s death. Years later, the prince of the land choses her as his bride. Powerless to refuse him, she agrees. Soon, Wesley returns and rescues her and the land.
Targeted by an evil prince for her beauty, but with no physical way to resist him — no superpowers — Buttercup relies on her courage and wits to keep the prince and his henchmen at bay until help arrives. With Wesley’s help she escapes and together they save the kingdom from a needless war. But she got rescued and does not physically fight. She engages in elegant verbal sparring, of which I’d provide a video clip, but I can’t find any of those scenes online. They aren’t popular enough that anyone thought to upload them. I’ve rarely seen Buttercup mentioned as a feminist favorite even though The Princess Bride‘s cult following rivals Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s. Strong-willed and spirited she might be, but she’s just not manly enough to merit much attention.
“It must be him, it must be him, oh dear God, it must be him or I shall die.”
Before the advent of answering machines, and decades before mobile communications and social media, waiting by the phone for your man to call was an ancient mating tradition that single women of all ages thankfully will never again have to endure.
I was reminded of this dating ritual since we are on the cusp of celebrating what is traditionally known as the greatest date night of all, New Year’s Eve.
While wracking my brain thinking of a suitable baby boomer topic applicable to this holiday, it hit me… New Year’s Eve, 1971, when I was a high school sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior.
All that stands out about that evening was my having to wait by the phone for my boyfriend to call to tell me the time he was coming by to take me to a house party (where someone’s parents were out of town).
As 5 pm turned into 6 pm, turned into 7 pm, turned into 8 pm, I became extremely anxious, especially when my mother said, “Would it be so bad if you stayed home?” (Yea mom, how about the end of the world as I know it.)
When Mr. Considerate finally called at 8 pm the trauma ceased. But thinking back upon that 1971 New Year’s Eve, it was how waiting by the phone helped form five positive personality traits that women like me did not even realize we were developing. Eventually these five traits served baby boomer women extremely well as we made our way through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s taking advantage of all the new career opportunities that the women’s movement afforded.
Here are the five personality traits aging baby boomer women learned while waiting by the phone.
When you were forced to accept someone else’s timetable you learned it was not just all about you. Waiting by the phone developed patience and was superb training for almost any career and life in general.
This feeling was experienced when you finally realized that he was not going to call after he said (or you assumed) he would. Learning to cope with rejection without feeling like a complete loser was an important life lesson. The key was to think about all your positive attributes that this man was obviously missing. Then move ahead and don’t look back. This concept was easily applied to the professional world, especially if you were a business owner or involved in sales of any kind. Women of a certain age who experienced sitting by the phone waiting for him to call learned how to be resilient in the face of rejection.
3. Self worth/Self esteem
You waited by the phone and he did call. High five! You were on top of your game. All your flirting skills worked and you were the master of the feminine universe. (But sometimes you discovered that he was not worth waiting for!)
Later in life this same initial exhilaration was experienced when you landed a new job or a new client/contract/project was won. But you never let it go to your head. One learned early on that you must never be cocky because rejection in love or life could be lurking right around the corner.
He called, (maybe even weeks after he said he would) and you refrained from telling him that he was an insensitive jerk. But since you were really glad to hear from him you said no such thing. Later in the business world this skill came in handy when “the customer was always right” even if he/she was not.
5. Playing the Game
Once while chatting with some guy friends in my high school classes they admitted to me that often they did not call a girl after they said they would because they did not want to appear “pussy whipped.” (Yes, that was the operative term at the time.) So from this conversation I learned that there was a lot of game playing going on when it came to the timing of “the call.”
As a result, my friends and I would discuss when it was time to stop waiting and time to start living. (However, flirting with his friends was always an appropriate response.) The lesson “stop waiting and start living” developed into positive personality traits that were applicable to many future life situations.
But alas, girls/women today don’t have to deal with any of this waiting by the phone. In fact, waiting is a thing of the past since now there is no stigma attached to calling a boy before he calls you. Girls today will call, text, tweet, Facebook, or email and if that does not get his attention they will have their friends call, text, email, Facebook or tweet. From what I have heard about today’s dating habits, “whatever it takes” to catch the attention of the man of the moment seems to be acceptable behavior.
This behavior is a result of both the instant communications revolution and the women’s movement which generally has made the girls/women of today much more aggressive than my friends or I ever were in high school and college.
Perhaps this more aggressive behavior is cultural “payback” for all the countless hours their baby boomer mothers and grandmothers spent waiting by the phone especially in the weeks leading up to important date nights like New Year’s Eve. For around that time whenever the phone rang, teenage girls and young women were conditioned into thinking, “It must be him, it must be him, please be him or I will die.”
Happy New Year’s everyone!
More on generations at PJ Lifestyle:
On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).
This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.
The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.
Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.