For two years now I have been concentrating on a thesis regarding romantic love. When I fell in love in 2013, I decided I wanted to write about it and since experiencing a painful end to that relationship, I have been channeling positive energy to explore love. Through the lens of using love in terms of philosophy, science, and personal experience, I have developed a theory about love that I am very proud of. That theory I came up with is constantly evolving as are my interactions with various men. In searching for my Mr. Right, I developed high standards that I refuse to deviate from. The result was accepting nothing less than total respect and slowly noticing when men were being sexist. Something happened in our society to heighten my awareness of just how enormous a problem that this continues to be in our society. The recent election of a male chauvinist pig as our president has made dating more interesting as I hear white men mostly, defending Trump and his completely out of line comments of “grabbing a woman by the pussy”. He has made countless attacks against women, and sexualized his own daughter, talking about her breasts. The amount of repulsive comments made by this man is sickening, and thinking that this man represents our country now is even more sickening. How horrible is it to think that those men may actually believe the same core beliefs that our fine President Donald Trump has brought forth.
Now, realizing how many men want to control women and what they ate, their job, and their reproduction, I am seeing the use of patriarchy in dating and am absolutely disturbed, mortified and saddened that I haven’t seen these signs more clearly and soon. I have been thinking and writing and experiencing love for much longer that I realized how sexist the world we are living in is. More importantly, how loving someone doesn’t change how they believe and how they may use your vulnerability to perpetuate the patriarchy. In my first and only experience of loving a man, he said things and behaved in a sexist way. At the time, it was off putting, but I put up with all of it because I loved him and stupidly because I thought he would change. Dating now and how I view comments made by men has changed since I started this course. The Dworkin reading called Woman Hating particularly stood out to be because of the notion of fairy tales. As young girls, we are taught to love fairy tales and emulate them as much as we can. There is this notion of the damsel in distress in all the fairy tales that Dworkin discusses. In Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel all the women need saving. I don’t want to “need saving”. In fact, I have moved out to live with roommates, and I plan to live an independent life, not depending on and taking care of a man. Her writing starts with, “This is a book about action, a political action where revolution is the goal. It has no other purpose. It is not cerebral wisdom, or academic horseshit, or ideas carved in granite and destined or immortality” (Dworkin 17). That is a really powerful way to start a book and I want my thesis to do for love what this book is doing for women, reclaiming the place in society they always deserved but were never allowed. I saw over and over the strength she shows by not accepting the fairy tales and tearing down the stories within them in such a remarkable and note worthy way.
The huge problem is that in these fairy tales women are taught to be passive and just have the man save them. The mother figure in the fairy tales is also problematic. What I find more problematic is the men never have accountability for their actions. Hansel and Gretel are left by both parents, but the mother is the monster in the story and the father who didn’t do anything to get them back is welcomed back with open arms. “Though the fairy tale father marries the evil woman in the first place, has no emotional connection with his child, does not interact in any meaningful way with her, abandons her and worse does not notice when she is dead or gone, he is a figure of male good. He is the patriarch, and as such is beyond mortal law and human decency” (Dworkin 48). Anther long but strong passage that demonstrates my huge problem with fairy tales is this, “Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow-white, Rapunzel – all characterized by passively, beauty, innocence, and victimization. They are all archetypal good women – victims by definition. They never think, act, initiate, confront, challenge, feel, care. Or question. They have one scenario of passage. They are moved from the house of the mother to the house of the prince. First they are objects of malice, then they are objects of romantic adoration, They do nothing to warrant either” (42). This is particularly disturbing because of the notion of romance. I want to be loved by a man very much. Would it be wonderful if he loved me because I was beautiful to him? Yes. However, my intelligent, my humor, my quick wit is something I want to be loved for. I want to be loved for my talents and the way I laugh or the silly way I dance. No more do I want to fall under a spell because someone thinks I’m beautiful. I’m so much more than a pretty face, and that’s all the women in all these fairy tales are – a beautiful victim to be taken advantage of. I never want to be viewed as someone who needs pity!
Another enormous problem I see Dworkin present is the idea of how a women is supposed to look according to society and to be desirable for a man. This enormous problem I personally have with my self-esteem is largely a social construct of how woman are supposed to be. There are parts that I do for myself, such as shaving my armpit and leg hair and maintaining my pubic hair. Now, I developed the third idea on my own, but all the shaving makes me question if it was engrained in me, so I do it, or if I actually want to do it or I’m so used to it that I cannot deviate from it. Dworkin says “She is evil because she acts” (49) and this is true of many examples of powerful women. The media has made this idea of a passive woman, and controlling everything about her body goes way way out of control. I myself struggle with my self-image. I like wearing make up from time to time, and I love picking clothes to show my style. What I do not like is the constant pressure I receive from home and from the media to lose weight. I actually go to the gym and find it insulting that my self-worth is determined by how I look for so many. As a white woman, I have the skin color than our society finds desirable. Yet I shudder to think that so many beauty standards for women were far more tortuous then losing weight. I will say that I have developed an unhealthy relationship with food and struggle to accept my body. It is upsetting to try on clothes that don’t fit, but more upsetting to be reminded over and over how I need to lose weight.
The saddest part is that I wanted to lose weight for myself. I wanted to fit back into some of my clothes and feel less tired from carrying the extra 20-30 pounds around all the time. But, I decide to make that change on my own because it will make me happy. I decide to wear a dress that I bought, because it makes me feel beautiful. Not because society says so. Because I say so, damn it! I will be in control of my body and be a champion for others to follow me in accepting who you are. The foot binding in this book was a way to not only control women but make them sexually attractive. I cannot express my disgust enough at the idea of mutilating a woman when she is a girl, forever destroying her feet, for a man’s enjoyment. That notion of foot binding as cultural is true, because it was practiced in China, but the effects of controlling a woman’s body are horrifying. I connect the idea of an idealized skinny body to that of foot binding. The idea that women should eat salads on dates is so depressing. I am all for a healthier lifestyle as my family history shows I have a higher chance for many dangerous illnesses. But I cannot live in a world and accept that women are to be seen and not heard. People fear how much power women can have, and therefore try to take it away constantly.
To continue the idea that fairy tales make woman in society devalued and pushing this idea into reality a victim is a book called The Image by Jean de Berg. Claire and Anne are two women and Jean is a man who wants but cannot have Claire because she does not desire him. Claire abuses Anne physically and sexually but the text claims that Anne is always wet and always wanting this kind of treatment. She sucks Jean’s cock and a rose with thorns is forced inside her. All of this is deeply erotic (?), but is actually incredibly disturbing. On page 85 the ending is this “Jean de Berg goes home, has a dream about Claire, is awakened by a knock on the door, and lo and behold! Claire has recognized her true role in life (I have come, she says quietly) that of Jean de Berg’s slave. He hits her, and she lives happily ever after.” What I understood of this very creepy, perverted way to portray women is that women because we don’t have a penis will be tortured by another woman for a man’s pleasure until the woman he actually wants to ravish realizes she is the missing piece in the master/slave equation.
Women are lacking someone and that makes them less of a person. I never understood this, and learning that it is something people actually believe to be true is really nuts to be quite honest.“The Image paints women as real female eunuchs, mutilated in the first instance, much as Freud suggested, by their lack of cock, incapable of whole, organic, satisfying sexual union without the intrusion and participation of a male figure.” (67) How unbelievable a thought that I am not a complete human because I do not have a penis. It is a ridiculous notion that Freud came up with and now is used as a tool by men over women. This story made me physically cringe as I read it and feel so enraged for this was a very popular book. This book is about abuse of a woman and worse is that she wants all the abuse and is shown as submissive first to Claire then to Jean de Berg. I felt sickened and wronged even though none of this happened to me. And people thought this was deeply sexy? To thrust a thorny rose inside a woman? To rape a woman? And to show that the woman torturing Anne realizes that she should be the one experiencing the abuse just shows how deep sexism runs in our society. I did not find this story erotic or sexy at all. I felt nauseous and furious the entire time and fearful of what would happen to Claire. The Story of O is equally sickening as women are used only for sex. The idea of the value of a women being the space between her legs and when that is no longer of interested that she should be killed and asked to be killed is beyond disturbing. This story is called “love for love’s sake”. Is there any kind of love actually in this story of a woman being raped and tortured until she is no longer needed? The people who wrote both these books are confusing love with lust. Furthermore, if it is lust they desire, it should be a consensual one, but of course that shatters the image of the submissive woman. We cannot disturb what they have set up.
Every part of the book Woman Hating makes me think of a quote by T.S. Eliot, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Do I dare question the notion that I am a sex object according to society? That I as a woman need to play the victim and be submissive? I do not accept any of these roles as my reality but in the introduction Dworkin points to a bigger issue of women not wanting to push the boundaries that have been placed upon us, and ones we do not want to accept. “The money available to middle-class women who identify as feminists must be channeled into the programs we want to develop, and we must develop them. In general, middle class women have refused to take any action, make any commitment which would interfere with, threaten, or significantly alter a lifestyle, a living standard, which is money and privileged” (Dworkin 17). Dworkin has opened my eyes using what I thought was something wonderful and precious, fairy tales and proving how much it devalues women. Using the Story of O and The Image, as well as discussing foot binding and the magazine Suck as just perpetuating sexist ideas, the chance to have my eyes opened has happened.
I always knew that women were unequal to men but I thought it was supposed to be that way when I was much younger. As I grew up I recognized how great it was when a woman was powerful and independent but how men were threatened by that. They are threatened because they don’t want to lose the social order where they enjoy so much power and privilege as a male. Now, the door is bursting open for me to challenge those ideas. I want to challenge the reasons that Dworkin points out are reasons for love. Because, truly that’s not love! For the woman it is a life of torture and for the man it is abuse without consequence. I see no love in these fairy tales or in either of these erotic stories. Dealing with issues of how we look and our bodies as objects is so difficult, but while accepting myself for who I am, I don’t want to fall into the comfy lifestyle and not challenge injustice.
Through my love of football, campfires, power tools, wood working, drinking a good drink, and working out I am challenged at home by females who see me doing what is considered “the man’s job”. For as long as I can remember I have been asked to cook, clean, and behave daintily, like a desirable woman would. All of this is disgusting to me. While I love dresses and I like makeup, I value respecting myself and being who I want to be above all things. I will never change who I am to impress a man. Therefore, I will shave because I want to. I will wear make up for myself. And, I will continue to have the hobbies I wish to have, while still being a woman. My strength is recognizing all the things I do have as a white woman. This text just shows I and all women have a lot further to go to be respected and shown as an equal to men. We are capable of so much and we shouldn’t have to prove our worth any longer. All the great women that helped shape history have already done that for us. Despite our current president and all that he wants to do to reverse any progress we have made, I feel compelled to not sit still. I feel compelled to act and when it comes to love, to never accept someone who doesn’t respect me or belittles me as a woman. I am just as valuable as a man in this world, and I wish with my entire heart that I didn’t have to constantly need to prove my position in this world. The gift of this reading is awareness. Without awareness, nothing can change, and now that I am aware of all the twisted things going on, I intend to fight for a world where love isn’t based on looks and my sexual desires alone. That is not love.