Gender norms are much more fiercely policed within each gender than outside of it.
A male friend shared that he never fears that women will condemn him as not being manly enough for being sensitive, crying in the movies, writing poetry, following fashion trends, and enjoying manicures. It’s the men he knows – his father, brother, friends and male colleagues – who make him feel that there is something wrong with his way of being male.
I told him that I feel the same. I never fear that men will condemn me for being insensitive, obsessed with my career, prone to laugh at sentimental movies, bored with fashion magazines, loud, and brash. Every single voice that told me, “Clarissa, you are such a man!” was always female. Men don’t criticize my body and men never ever badgered me for being single (when I was single) and not having children. I know for a fact, though, that many of those men who have no problem whatsoever with my lack of gender conformity practically bully their male friends for a slightest deviation from the male gender norm.
I never liked hippies. For a year, I lived in Ithaca, NY, a town that had been built up by the hippies and their presence could be felt in everything. Ithaca is a place where you can see well-off parents in expensive business suits and dresses walk down the street smoking a joint after dropping their freshman off at the dorms. I would often get high just by walking down the Commons to my apartment building. Every eatery has endless vegan options, there is a big hemp store and a coffee shop that serves different kinds of mate, and the food co-op sells the strangest food I’d ever seen anywhere. The hippies were everywhere. I was quite wary of them. They were all so nice, welcoming, relaxed and good-natured that I knew there had to be something seriously wrong with them.
The American 1960s fascinate me. I obviously wasn’t around either chronologically or geographically but I figured out very soon after emigrating that something really huge happened in the US between 1965 and 1975 and that we were still both enjoying many of that era’s achievements and experiencing an enormous backlash against it. Sigrid Nunez’s brilliant novel The Last of Her Kind helped me understand the sixties in a way I never did before. The novel is very well-written and beautifully crafted (except from one section that is too heavily influenced by Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.“)
The novel has two female protagonists: Ann, who symbolizes everything that was good and hopeful about the era (the progressive social movements, the rejection of the bourgeois fallacies, the sensitivity to the world’s injustices), and Georgette, the symbol of the post-sixties backlash (the erosion of the rights of women, the return of women to the practice of housewifery, the loss of interest in politics and social justice.)
The relationship between Ann and Georgette is too complex to be addressed in one short review, of course, so I will just mention that it offers a very important insight into why the progressive social and political movements so often fail to connect with the very people for whose benefit they are militating. Ann comes from a rich family but she hates her race and class origins and wants to champion the rights of the downtrodden. Georgette, Ann’s college roommate, is precisely one of these downtrodden but the gulf of misunderstanding that separates the two women can never be bridged.
The most idiotic post of the week: this poorly written confusing rant suggesting that in order to “afford” art programs, universities need to drill for oil. Or have somebody else drill for oil. Or whatever. Why is it that every ignoramus seems entitled to offer opinions about academia?
And the feel-good post of the week: a mother uses her Kindle to help her with breastfeeding. I warn you, though, the amount of cuteness (in the best sense of the word) in this post is overwhelming. If you don’t feel like letting go of your bad mood at this point, don’t read this post. It is destined to make you start smiling goofily.