Friday, February 20, 2009

I'll give you fucking 'Rules'....

Am I living in a fantasy world inhabited only by me? Am I the cock-eyed optimist from South Pacific only the other way round? Was everything I learnt from my mother applicable only to her, and then only in certain, wintry sunshine, test-tube conditions? Well, yes, to all of these, and I think we all know that. But surely not about FEMINISM! My fucking immoveable ROCK of doctrine when all the others- socialism, pacifism, smoking- seem to waver. I know there are women and men who don't believe in feminism, just as I know there are people who are wrong about many things but still lead happy, fulfilling lives and try to be good people. But I seem to be surrounded by women who make no connection between a vague rebuffal of feminist theory and activism and the miserable conditions they 'find themselves in' in their own personal and particular ways. I didn't mean to read The Rules, it was lying around. And after Rule 16- 'Stop Dating Him If He Doesn't Buy You A Romantic Gift For Your Birthday Or Valentine's Day', I did decide to brush through the remaining 39 rules as quickly as I could, which took me all of 15 minutes. This book sold over 2 million copies! Although it is absolutely bursting with gems such as 'if you have a bad nose, get a nose job,' and 'It is never necessary to make eye contact... let him look at you!' I don't want to linger too long on this subject. It's a backlash classic. It's for women whose confidence has been so buffeted they wish it was the 1950s again. It's a bit like a religion in its canny, manipulative, win-win set-up, as it underlines over and over again that if you follow The Rules and he is The One, he will propose to you within 15 months. If you follow The Rules and it doesn't work out, then he was not The One. If you don't follow The Rules and you still get together, it won't work out, as reavealed in dozens of 'real-life' examples from people called things like David and Sandra. If you believe in God/The Rules, you don't need proof. If you don't believe/obey, don't be surprised if you get no proof. Don't ever call him. Don't ever ask him to dance. Don't offer to pay half. Et cetera, et cetera. The book's advice to women can be summed up as 'Nothing ventured, nothing lost.' Oh, and don't jump his bones until he puts a ring on your finger. I was getting really upset. I had to get out Cynthia Heimel to cheer myself up.
'A woman needs a man like a fish needs a net.' Cynthia Heimel
This is more of a rant than an analysis. I just get so tired of 'Even if you're a beast in the board-room, be an angel/little girl/bunny rabbit outside of work'. Passivity seems to be shoved in my face from all directions. And no one's happy! For one thing, who gives a fuck about the board-room? You call that being a successful woman? I fantasize vaguely about ways to rehabilitate you and the rest of your class back into useful positions in society. And don't get me started on 'equal oportunities'. I promise you, when I come across an equal opportunity I will be sure to blog about it. I'm sure it will be something along the lines of identical twins raised by wolves. I sometimes wish I was a man so that if I ever heard a woman saying 'Well, we got everything the suffragettes were fighting for,' I could punch her in the face. I could do it anyway, and have received the cue THREE times since Christmas, but it wouldn't be as good. Plus I'm mostly against violence. French women are making me depressed. I still have to finish reading The Second Sex but already I'm sure Simone de Beauvoir must be turning in her grave. I felt in London that women's lives had got better, that all women didn't necessarily have to campaign for their rights in order to be in the Sisterhood, that people irrespective of gender could get together and form adult decisions about their dignity, their bodies, their lives together or apart. God knows I haven't always had perfect relationships, but I never felt seriously attacked or compromised or that anyone behaved badly due to gender differences. Taking the rough with the smooth always had its place in relationships just like it has in every aspect of life. Here I find not that there is less confidence in feminism as a way of life- it's maybe taken more generally for granted, just like socialism, pacifism and smoking, but that basic principles that I barely think of as feminist but rather as good-sense, sound rules for everyone's happiness are ignored. Men are more macho. Women more docile in relationships. Relationships more serious, and even in people of university age, more likely to end in marriage. The divorce rate is the same here. Whatever. My close friend's girlfriend thinks I am Jolene from the Dolly Parton song, and cannot be reassured. My drunken comfort about 'La Sororité' left her more muddled. The only compromise I could find was to beg her to voice these fears to me as often as they came back, and to tell me straight away if she thought I stepped over the line that I in fact wouldn't have dreamed of straying near. Another girl was dumped by her boyfriend three days before Valentine's day, during which he slept with someone else, and then took him back. An English girl I know was amazed to find after drunkenly getting off with someone that they were now officially going out. Another English girl dated a French man for some time before overhearing him talking to a friend about his other, real girlfriend. I haven't moved to Saudi Arabia or somewhere, but these differences are freaking me out a bit. And everyone is so down, so nervy, so unconfident. No wonder there are people who will seize any Rules, no matter how Victorian, in order to feel they are in control of their love life and that they're doing things right. I would like to propose my own rules, which I personally think will either lead you to an engagement with The One in under 14 months. Or perhaps to a bit of self-respect.
  1. Have lots of friends. And make as many new ones as you have memory for in your phone. Then make some more.
  2. Tell the truth. Not necessarily the whole truth, but definitely nothing but the truth.
  3. Except if you're playing the 'Outrageous lies to strangers' pulling game. But you are only allowed to play this with people you're never gonna see again. And if by accident you do see them again, you have to confess immediately that you're not really a scuba-diving nun about to show the Pope some coral reefs in Indonesia.
  4. Never call a love/lust interest. Never answer his/her calls. Never go out with him/her. Never let him/her kiss you. Never sleep with ANYONE. Unless you want to. (Thank you Cynthia.)
  5. Think about stuff. Think about everything you can think about. Then buy books on things you want to think about a bit more and read them. Don't believe everything you read.
  6. Use a condom.
  7. If someone is really mean to you, never see them again. If you don't enjoy this, meet them once to discuss it.
  8. Never salvage a relationship. But start a brand-new relationship with the same person if you want to.
  9. Pay your way, you dirty sponger. According to your ability.
  10. Never treat anyone else's set of rules as anything more than advice. Make your own fucking rules!