Tuesday, June 17, 2008

grow up

SATC: the movie has restarted the all too familiar critique that the lives of Carrie Bradshaw et al perpetuate a myth that to be fulfilled these women ultimately all must acquire men. hearing that critique again, and a very challenging conversation with a gay man who's lifestyle is polyamorous, has had me thinking about why it is that heterosexual desire on the part of women - in the form of monogamy - is something that can be openly critiqued or even ridiculed. is monogamy a myth?
it seems one isn't allowed to be an intelligent, educated, sophisticated (see interview below) woman and then expect with reasonableness to be in a long term faithful relationship, particularly if one's object of desire is male. or perhaps, you can desire it but just don't vocalise it. men, on the other hand are permitted or encouraged in patriarchal systems to be limitless. our culture is such that men are not expected to ever weigh up the cost benefit of career success, parenting, partnership. can women "have it all"? men certainly can. and do.

and then today i was passed an article by Wendell Berry, which in its thesis (on our current economics and their ecological effects) argued that [American] culture is based on limitlessness...
i was struck by this line...
The normalization of the doctrine of limitlessness has produced a sort of moral minimalism: the desire to be efficient at any cost, to be unencumbered by complexity. The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination -- this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.
mindful of the fact that our leaders and heroes are for the most part male, it reminded me of my reaction to this, which describes one perspective on what's it's like to have it all, and want more...
The Affairs of Men
- one of the most depressing pieces of writing i have read in a long time. on a number of levels.

stephen colbert interviewed the author, philip weiss. in fact i hunted down the article because the interview (of Monday 9 June) was so memorable. Colbert's mask slips for a moment and he goes straight for the jugular. or was he plunging a knife below the table? regardless, he asks the question this guy never seems to have bothered to ask his buddies or himself although he does admit to feeling guilt, which he resents.

boundaries, limits - they exist for a reason. the article references georges bataille. in his book, eroticism, if i am remembering correctly, he writes about taboo. the argument runs: taboo exists in order that we can function as a stable society. all eroticism is transgression. what is permitted is not erotic. taboo is where we put the stuff we shouldn't do that would undermine our stability. so taboo is kind of like a closet full of our guilty pleasures. and it is a kind of necessity for us.

so, we could assume that the breakdown of taboo is that we get what we (apparently) want without such stabilising constraint. to live without taboo is to live without limits. and yet maturity is surely about limits. limits don't just exist to protect the self, but to protect others.

the spoiled child gets exactly what they want, when they want it. perhaps philip weiss would be happier if he didn't treat his wife like she is his mother.



  1. interesting. i am coming to thinking that maybe i don't actually _want_ it all. that maybe full-fill-ment means getting to grips with that which we don't or can't have as well as that which we do or can. 2 weeks until i leave my career in teaching...


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