God bless 1995 and John Stossel

As some of you may know, I'm trying to sell my behemoth of an armoire (with absolutely zero luck, I might add) and so in an attempt to get ready for its [hopefully] imminent departure from my home I've started to clean it out. I went to the Container Store yesterday (thanks solely to a catalog I got in the mail this weekend - yep, direct marketing worked on me) and bought a really cool door-mounted media storage system by Elfa.

In one of the boxes I was cleaning out and reoganizing into my beautiful new door-mounted media storage system were a dozen or so VHS tapes. (Anthony and I have kept our VCR even in the face of a total phase out of video cassettes - we're old fashioned like that.) I dusted them off and one by one popped them into the VCR to see what was on them. I was nervous and excited whenever I put in an unmarked black tape. Would I find some exboyfriend's Skin-emax show about the beautiful, buxom, and naked-on-a-Bow-Flex-loving personal trainer trying to solve the mystery of her lover's murder? Or maybe the Jump-Off finals of the 1992 Equestrian Olympics? Well - yes, and no - I'd found that Skin-emax movie years ago and threw it out, but the jump-off is a new discovery! But I also unearthed an old 20/20 about the differences between the sexes hosted by John Stossel.

I'm watching it now and it is still relevant! I'm shocked - really. Yet I don't see myself represented in it. I think I'm one of the new breed of feminists. I believe that men and women really are different and have different strengths and weaknesses and are complements to one another. It's how we've evloved over thousand of years. Our societies need both of us. Men are generally stronger and better able to tinker with shit that breaks. Women are more intuitive and generally do things that involve nesting (see above) and binding social groups. I'm a feminist because I believe we are as smart as men and deserve equal pay for the same work, but I'm different because I have a masters degree and yet choose to stay at home to raise my babies during their formative years.

I've taken what my sisters fought so hard for during the sexual revolution and women's rights movements (choice and freedom) and [shockingly] I've decided to do exactly what they didn't want to be forced to do: stay home with a baby.

I've been challenging myself to change the definition of "success" in my new world. Success does not equal a paycheck. Success does not mean having a powerful position in a company. Success does not equal being important to people whose pockets you line. I struggled with it at first, but I'm really beginning to sink into it now.

Isn't this how we created sexism and got women in a second-class position in the first place? Nearly every single thing a woman does has less importance (and associated success) than a man does... unless, that is, she's doing things that mostly men do. And this is also how we emasculate men: a man who does something mostly women do often has his very maleness questioned. Is a male kindergarten teacher viewed as successful a man as a CEO?

I think all the time about how to educate my kids about this mess. It's so complicated and tricky. I want them to know that things may come to them easily because of how they're wired (however that may be, boy or girl), but they may get flack for it because of our culture. I want them to know that it's ok to go against the grain and find their place and define their own meaning of "success." I want them to know, especially my boys (if I have more than Hollis) that it is utterly supported and ok to pursue things usually only girls are interested in. I don't see why it's ok to be proud of a tomboy, but embarassed of a little boy who's quieter, more sensitive, and who likes dolls.

It's so fucking twisted. Why would I encourage anyone to shut off parts of themselves that come naturally? Thankfully, I don't have a macho-man husband and he's behind me 100%. I think he's kinda girlie and he knows it and I love it. It's more attractive to me that he's a thinker, not a hitter. That he loves to read books, not Playboy (although, the articles really are very good). That he is sensitive to my feelings and never punishes me for having them and expressing them. He even does a little fairy-wave-wrist thing that is adorable and hilarious (have I mentioned that before on here? haha).

And because Anthony's so not a macho-man, we've talked at length about sexuality and how to address it with our kids, too. I hope to avoid saying things automatically like, "Oh, he's a lady killer." Who knows? Maybe he'll be a boy killer? I'll keep it open. I don't want to add to the societal assumptions about my kids' sexual preference. There will be enough of that in the outside world if they end up being gay.

Wow. All this from a dusty old VHS tape. The show ended while I was writing this. It was called, "Men, women, and the sex difference: Boys and girls are different". I Googled it, but 1995 was so pre-internet I couldn't find it anywhere except referenced in some thesis.

Anyhoo, stick that in your cap and chew on it... er... you know what I mean.

1 comment:

  1. Jessica, this is such a great post, and I thought about this all the way to Louisville. (A friend and I recently had a similar conversation surrounding body image, exercise, and health/fitness.)

    I guess this is what comes with being enlightened women. Though it sometimes feels as though some "choices" aren't really on the table anymore lest the feminists ask for our membership cards back, the bottom line is our sisters and mothers before us fought for CHOICE. And this means that all the choices are legitimate when we choose them freely and mindfully. It most certainly appears that you have done this.

    But I totally hear you -- it's hard not to let our inner feminist voices beat us up for choosing to stay home and have families (or for wanting our athletic bodies back).

    I think you're really onto something in the section where you define what success/happiness means for you. Frankly, I think a lot of people are more "duped" by socially prescribed definitions of happiness than the whole gender role debacle. Most never stop to think carefully about what true happiness would mean for them.

    Seems like you are ahead of the game on both counts.