It really is time for a comprehensive survey, in no particular order.
7. The young ladies of Sweden.
6. The Lagarfljótsormur. Come with me when I inevitably resettle in Iceland, and we shall hunt him together.
5. Speaking of Iceland, elves. Note that the important point is not that the Icelanders believe in elves, although that’s nice too. No, the crux of the matter is that Iceland is home to the huldufoldk, and someday I will find them.
3. Snorri Sturluson. Have you read the Prose Edda yet? No? Then stop reading this blog and read that instead.
Also, names like Snorri Sturluson.
Deliberately not mentioned: Abba, Ikea
Extra anecdotal reason: I spent time in a Stockholm airport recently, and the men all looked like Ryan Gosling in a fisherman’s sweater.
And it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of luxuriant blonde hair and paid paternity leave must be in want of a wife.
Only what we’ve all been a lifetime waiting for.
An Omar Souleyman remix of Bjork.
Regarding the regretful ache for the absent.
Most of these are technically love songs, but I think their actual emotional scope and application is broader.
I know a woman, possibly also secretly a superhero, who is training to be a doula (a non-medical point-person for general support during pregnancy and childbirth). This means, among else, that she gets to terrify men on the subway with her doula training book featuring women in various states of undress and dilation.
I am very jealous.
I was also struck, as we talked, by the vision of an alternate reality in which my convent school (open thread soon for recovering and nostalgic graduates of convent schools?) did not abandon its flaccid “health” curriculum after two semesters, but had an entire senior year dedicated to our reproductive systems. We’d learn the latest methods and technologies for fertility awareness, we’d learn how to chart our cycles; we’d have doulas and gynecologists give guest lectures, we’d read Woman, an Intimate Geography together; we’d hate it and say it was gross and protest with all the force in our kilted bodies, but dammit, we’d face the wide world with a new-found respect for and confidence in them.
Unfortunately, the closest we got were routine public service announcements asking us to please, stop changing in the hallway.
The idea of learning the mechanics of NFP when one is about to get married or has just gotten married seems insanely stressful to me; more importantly, even if I become a nun or confirm my spinsterhood in cats, I want to know how my body works.
So tell me, what do you know about fertility awareness/NFP? What do you want to know? What frustrates you or makes you curious? What are some good resources, especially for people who are not yet forming families or maybe break out in hives at phrases like “couple to couple”?
Specially petitioning Kassie, the queen of knowing cool stuff about fertility (also the queen of putting up people who were planning to sleep in Port Authority), married ladies who Know Things, doulas in training, Addie who is both a married lady and writes for this blog what??
We’ll set the appropriate ambience with some Child ballads. “Child” actually refers to the compiler, though given the recurring motif of pregnancy, it could as easily to subject matter. Thanks, William!
My high school Spanish teacher, a very clever and terrifying woman, knew exactly how to get a bevy of 15 year old girls to pay attention in class–Apollonian curls, tantalizing glimpses of bare male chest, and hip-swiveling that always remained just a little too family friendly for our tastes.
In other news, one of the nicest things about men from Mediterranean cultures is that they are not afraid to unbutton. I mean, I don’t mind showing a leg, a collarbone; wearing a skirt that plays up the sway of my hips–but ye gods, men, you’ve got to reciprocate a bit.
Independent Woman is one of the most reliable girl-power playlist constants.
We all love this song, and that’s ok, not least because full economic participation and parity is an important frontier for women as a class.
But the women in this video aren’t talking about their work, its value and visibility in the communal apparatus. They are talking about their consumption.
The shoes on my feet/ I’ve bought it/ The clothes I’m wearing/ I’ve bought it /The rock I’m rockin’/ ‘Cause I depend on me/ If I wanted the watch you’re wearin’ /I’ll buy it/ The house I live in/ I’ve bought it/ The car I’m driving/I’ve bought it/ I depend on me
In order to reject the kind of infantilizing pet status that drove women of earlier times to abandon many of their class privileges for the sake of a job, the singer must position herself as an autonomous consumer. Independence is bought liberation–a series of commodities that represent the bearer’s place in the economic system and which create her sense of self in isolation. She’s not primarily your girlfriend, she’s the owner of a Porsche.
Woman-as-consumer is hardly a groundbreaking conception of feminine life, and it conveniently elides the reality of female labor. Women work–women have always worked. The leisure sex was always largely a polite fiction, but now the construct exists only in the most rarefied of circles. We don’t need to be told that we needn’t depend on a man; we need men, and the world at large, to recognize the extent to which they depend on women.
Women are invaluable and often exploited contributors to the social economy; the time for proving women’s competence is over. It’s time to ask why so much of the work is assumed to be women’s, why the work women do is so often de-valued, trivialized, or made invisible; why women are so often denied a public identity, and how the association of certain kinds of work with female identity helps preserve the status quo. The conversations about whether women can have it all or whether single mothers can raise well-adjusted children are dead. Why should they have to in the first place? The glorification of independence employs exactly the same ruse as the vintage Hoover ad: casting female labor as fulfillment by framing it in terms of consumption.
If independence is bought liberation, it’s lure depends on the promise that purchasing power will replace and obscure the ties in terms of which the singer might otherwise have understood herself. Independence is the freedom to reject relationships, and over and over we’ve had women onscreen, in novels, in songs, saying “I depend on me” presented to us as the pinnacle of feminist progress.
But people are dependent. You may have bought the car you’re buying, but you didn’t build it, and you didn’t build you. Dependence is how human relationships work, and forcing women to exclude themselves from a major component of the human experience can only undercut their commitment to equality and, eventually, to each other.
The fantasy of independence keeps women agonizing between two impossible choices: subjugation or alienation. Any alternative to patriarchy can only be an individual escape for the outliers–women possessed of the requisite talent for loneliness or superhuman self-sufficiency . You pays your money and you takes your choice–now, which do you want to be, Rosamond or Dorothea? Betty Draper or Liz Lemon?
Dependency is not a pathology endemic to the female sex, and freedom from the demands and limitations of relationships is not the final goal of feminism. Restructuring those relationships along more equitable lines is. The majority of women who take their husband’s name are not necessarily victims of internalized misogyny or social pressure. When the question of nomenclature routinely stalls at autonomy and independence, a certain amount of distance from the relationship rather than a legal identity that recognizes equally their mutual participation in a unity, why should they bother? Independence is a kind of strike, and no one wants to be on strike for a lifetime.
The logic of independence is usually implicitly limited to male-female relationships, but it’s not unusual for women to carry it to its conclusions. Hence we have the kind of cowboy feminist who insists that she’s not a victim, she’s not afraid to be a dissident, she’s strong and independent enough to take it and make it on her own. The aim is not to dismantle or even to escape the patriarchy, but to win it*.
I don’t mean to take up a Chestertonianly** obnoxious position towards female independence. Some degree of economic and personal independence can be a real necessity (particularly for victims of abuse), and was probably an important goal for incipient feminists. But it was important in the same way that adolescence is important, and to continue harping on it is to keep women stuck in an adolescent performance of personal prowess and individuality incompatible with coming into our own as fully equal adults.
*If someone knows how to make a badge that says “I Won the Patriarchy” that would be great.
*I don’t hate Chesterton, but he was completely obnoxious about women.
Here is my present.
Was your Valentine’s day not all you expected? Did the man of your dreams turn out to be a two timin’ sonofa or closet Steven Crowder? Or, even more common in these shameless modern times, did he ditch you for some broad with a thirty thousand pound dowry or fail to mention the mentally ill wife locked in his attic till you were on the point of saying “I do”?
Here, without further ado, is a breakup playlist inspired by the different* ways some of our favorite romantic heroines, broadly defined, handled heartbreak, split-ups, and rotten lovers..
Feel free, of course, to add your own.
Because, although she does not exactly tell Edward she should have changed that stupid lock, she should have made him leave his key, etc, she is a survivor if anyone is.
Honorable mention, because I had to
Ellen Olenska re Newland Archer
Ellen Olenska re Count Olenski
Jo March re Laurie
*Of course, there’s different and there’s….different
Courtesy of my slightly younger and much cooler sister.
You’ve survived another Wednesday!
Polly is proud.
This Friday we’ll be discussing up to chapter 22 in Middlemarch, and there’s a surprise.
Also, this song.