Many things have come to light as I recover at home from a hysterectomy, regarding my own life-long struggle with depression and lack of self-worth, as well as similar issues with my friends and family. I did not have TV for almost seven years, and since a December breakup I have moved into my own apartment and decided to break down and get TV and cable. Then there’s the marriage equality fight, and the recent nomination of Sotomayor, and I started putting some things together and felt the need to share it with my fellow Kossacks.
Why is it that among my female friends this common feeling of loneliness and lack of self worth is so prevalent? Why is it that on TV shows we see so many stories, real and fictional, about women with battered woman syndrome? I’m a fan of Judge Judy (yes, I admit it) and over and over, I watch cases that deal with a girlfriend that “naively” gave money, clothes, jewelry, cars, motorcycles and even new rims to a worthless boyfriend who never really gave a crap about her. In my own life, I have moved 11 times in 22 years, almost always because I was moving in with or out from a man.
Then there are the commercials. My god, I certainly hadn’t missed anything during my TV-free years. First I was shocked at how many focus on the “typical” family unit, or at the very least, always depict women in a relationship. Is it my imagination or what?? At least half of the households in this country are single parents, and there sure are a LOT of single folks out there. I would say at least half of my friends and acquaintances are single. So why are 100% of commercials on TV about happy, romantic, Beaver Cleaver lives??
In particular, there are two commercials that come to mind. One is for DanActive yogurt (you know, women LOVE yogurt)...
The commercial that I'm talking about focuses on a SINGLE woman with children, and went something like this:
“You have to work, manage your finances, take care of your children, and still have time for friends. Take DanActive, blah blah blah”
Well I was pretty impressed; that is a pretty good depiction of just some the challenges that a contemporary woman faces. But after seeing the commercial a couple of times, the commercial changed. Now it goes more like this:
“I have to work, manage OUR finances, take care of OUR children, and still have time for friends…”
And suddenly our single multi-tasking goddess is joined by her very handsome hubby, helping her pour over the family finances and serving food to the chilluns. What the hell?? And, another commercial for Cox Services here in San Diego did the same turn around. After airing a couple of single mom versions, suddenly they switch to mom and hubby. Why can’t Madison Avenue break this obnoxious habit?? Why is depicting women as single such a poison pill?
In my own experience, and anecdotally with friends and experiences noted above, a lot of this pain mentioned comes from a lack of mostly male approval, although sometimes just general approval from others is the compulsive need. What causes the pain, of course, is never finding external approval sufficient - because what we learn in therapy is that the approval needs to come from within.
But why do we have to go through therapy to learn this? Is it in our culture, or genes even? Or is it because women have been forced to endure male domination for centuries – no, make that millennia?
This whole argument about supposed “traditional marriage” and the articles written about both sides have dug up some real insight into a woman’s role in the institution of marriage. Of course, we have the crap-tastic article from the Weekly Standard, “The Worst Thing about Gay Marriage: It Isn’t Going to Work” by Sam Schulman. Although I have to admit that the essay is well-written, obviously by someone who is intelligent and well-educated, but MY GOD the assumptions he makes; it is really shocking how misogynistic and bigoted this man is, and apparently no amount of education will help him realize it. I won’t cite all the quotes, but please go and read it yourself. The one that I am choosing below simply shows how far women have yet to go to free themselves of the idea that they are worthless and vulnerable without the protective partnership of a man:
“The first [effect of marriage within the kinship system] is the most important: It is that marriage is concerned above all with female sexuality. The very existence of kinship depends on the protection of females from rape, degradation, and concubinage. This is why marriage between men and women has been necessary in virtually every society ever known. Marriage, whatever its particular manifestation in a particular culture or epoch, is essentially about who may and who may not have sexual access to the woman when she becomes an adult, and is also about how her adulthood – and sexual accessibility – is defined”.
“But the duty of virginity can seem like a privilege, even a luxury, if you contrast it with the fate of child-prostitutes in brothels around the world”.
“This most profound aspect of marriage – protecting and controlling the sexuality of the child-bearing sex – is its only true reason for being, and it has no equivalent in same-sex marriage. Virginity until marriage, arranged marriages, the special status of the sexuality of one partner but not the other (and her protection from the other sex) – these motivating forces do not apply to sex-sex lovers”.
Now, (deep breath) I realize that just these snippets are offensive on so many levels, but for the subject of this diary I will confine my comments to those that relate to the role of women in marriage. Schulman isn’t wrong; in fact, he is correct about the biblical incarnation of marriage. However, as Barbara G. Walker writes in her article for the Freedom From Religion Foundation called “A Short History of Marriage,” there was a time before biblical authority had spread like a virus around the world that things were quite different.
“Human males were once as unaware of fatherhood as any other mammals, but all people knew they were born of, and raised by, a mother. Men claimed no ownership of children. Our cartoon Paleolithic ‘cave man’ with a club intimidating ‘his’ mate and ‘his’ offspring is an absurdity derived from our modern patriarchism. It seems much more likely that women owned the cave and the land, provided most of the tribe’s food and clothing, planned and built dwellings with the men’s help, shared child care, and coupled with various men whenever they felt like it. Certainly there was no such concept as monogamy, even though some women may have retained particular males for long periods, or even for life. Like other mammalian females, women probably ignored men when they were pregnant or nursing. This custom still prevailed in many primitive cultures recently studied”.
“When men finally discovered that they had something to do with reproduction, they began to claim the allegiance of offspring… The bible maintains a whole patriarchized view of a wife as a husband’s property, because it was necessary to restrict each woman’s sexual activities to one man only, so he could be sure that the children she bore were his alone.”
And thus we have this whole idea of one-way monogamy, marrying a virgin, the power of the husband to cast out the wife whereas the wife cannot divorce her husband, etc. The relegation of woman=wife=property (value) is still SO with us today, as Schulman has demonstrated. I highly recommend reading Walker’s entire piece; she also discusses the fact that actually the Church was against marriage before it was for marriage. It wasn’t until the 16th c. that they accepted the civil institution as a religious institution due to public pressure. (The Catholics were BIG end-timers, even back then. They felt that no one should be having sex – period – or else Jesus would never come back. Nice try).
So back to my initial quandary: why is it that women feel so worthless sometimes, especially if they’re single (and I count lesbian women too)? I think that answer is pretty obvious; the pressure to be in a relationship is still extraordinarily huge. Hell, we still can’t even get congress to pass the ERA.
Some point to the “liberation” of women in the sixties and seventies as contributing to the high divorce rate and the destruction of so-called “family values”. Perhaps, but why then all the lather-rise-repeat? Even our buddy Mr. Schulman admits he has been beguiled into walking down the aisle three times.
I would postulate that the divorce rate is not a symptom of women’s “liberation” – GASP! – but rather the modern ideal of romantic marriage. After reading, watching and experiencing, I don’t think that it’s possible for the vast majority of people to remain in love with one partner. Sure, it happens, but that certainly isn’t the norm.
So sisters, please don’t let your self-worth depend on whether or not you’re in a relationship; remember those ladies in the cave. Believe me – they knew, before men did, how babies were made. And they chose to keep it a secret. They were goddesses and had the power of creation. They controlled it and men literally worshipped them. In many cultures, as Walker notes, the cult of the goddess was huge. A man could have no credibility, no access to power, unless he was attached to a woman.
I’m posting a couple of pics of me and my girlfriends, some single, some not, some in unhappy relationships. But guess what – can you tell which is which in these photos?
Never forget the goddess power of creation that is in all of us, regardless of whether you actually bear children. Power is the key; don’t let it go, don’t give it to someone else for free. Don’t feel ashamed because you don’t have a partner. And if you do and you’re unhappy, try to let it go. If you need help, please get it. Because life is too short and a healthy, happy, confident woman has so much to give!
UPDATE: Just watched the video and noticed the Google Ads provided at the bottom of the screen. What a riot! Thanks Google for helping me prove my point!!
WOW!! THANKS grog and Diary Rescue!!! I posted this Saturday afternoon; I thought the helicopters disappeared and I was lost forever.... ;-) Thanks - this really is an honor!!