Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Daughters of feminists

The last 24 hours have been full of luxury: I bought some yarn, found a thrift store, and got the registration number I needed to get a library card. I now have all the books I can read, purple fuzzy yarn, two wool skirts, and a copy of Marie Claire (to practice my French, but more fun than a textbook.) I hadn't realized how poorly I function without access to thrift stores.

In the library I witnessed a rather pathetic sight: a Danish guy was giving a blues performance with his guitar in the main lobby. I assume he had written the lyrics himself, because they were pretty stupid. I felt bad for him, since he was writing in a language that obviously wasn't his own, but you just can't sing the blues in Danish. What would it be about, anyway? "My heart's aching but at least we have free healthcare"? "My woman left me because the kids are in state-funded daycare so she doesn't need my income, and Lutheranism isn't that strong here anymore"? "It rains a lot here"?

My pre-library card reading was Michael Crichton's A Case of Need, which I think was intended to raise issues, but not the ones it raised for me. Without any other factors, you can tell it was written around 1970 because it's clearly after the civil rights movement but the women's movement. Crichton makes a point of having one of the characters be a black lawyer, just like he makes a big point of having female doctors or something in his later books (but a maximum of one main female character per book.) Here, the secretaries are all female and are referred to as girls. The doctors are all men. Their wives are all housewives who apologise for not keeping the kids out of their husbands' hair enough.

The thing that made me think was that a couple of years ago I wouldn't have noticed this at all. He's not making some point about "This is the natural order, and all women should be in the background supporting their husbands." He just doesn't notice or challenge it. It seems so stupid that for 18 years I held most of the assumptions about gender that people started questioning decades before I was born. It makes me want to raise my kids in a vaccuum so they're not raised surrounded by images of people in the traditional roles while they're still too young to question it all. I don't want them to have to go through the miniature revolutions in their heads when US society had this revolution long ago.

Of course, this doesn't work because a) doing this would mean forbidding them most of the world's books, art, etc. because a truly feminist culture has never existed, and b)the scraps of Disney movies that make it into the house would be prized because they're forbidden and rare. It's like that rather clever song:

Daughters of feminists think they'll get married
To some wealthy guy who'll support them forever
Daughters of feminists don't bother voting at all.
Daughters of feminists beg to wear lipstick
Each day from the age of three.


sandy said...

i don't know roomie---i never had that image of women. i don't know if it had to do with the way i was raised---i mean my mom always worked as much as my dad---or something else. i mean, i am pretty old-fashioned---but on the other hand i don't see my role as a stay-at home mom--even though my life's greatest ambition is to have lots of babies. but i still want to work--and not depend on anyone to raise them. granted i want a good husband...but i still don't want to be a millstone around his neck. anyway---i'm sure you didn't want that whole tirade. i just wanted to say that you can't bring someone up in a vacume....but that your children probably will follow the example you and your husband set for them....and will grow up lovely, charming and very feminist.

Julia said...

I'm not saying I was raised with a completely 1950s mindset, but I definitely notice more inequality now than I did several years ago (in several areas, not just gender.) Pop culture teaches people to accept the status quo, and I think the status quo has some big problems.
/sociology student speech