Male AND Female Liberation
Feminism has become a pejorative term, although I suppose it always had a stanky sensibility to it. The other day Dear Husband asked me what precisely my motto was during my years in the High School environment. I reacquainted him with my concept:
Male and Female Liberation
It was a unique concept at the time, a date that remains congealed in that fourth dimension because the notion of fairness being afforded to both sexes is still foreign to many women, but most of all to the “feminists.”
You can’t liberate a woman from stereotypical roles unless you also liberate the man from stereotypical roles: there was my logic. It’s still my logic.
And the illogic of our present conundrum with the battle of the sexes, duking it out with lawsuits galore in public spaces, is that women are objects. Not men, but women.
Somehow it never occurs to these hypocritical harlots that men are, and have been, objectified for millennia. Just look at that statue of David, for instance. Quite an object d’art, if you ask my opinion.
Furthermore, a woman objectifies herself long before anyone else does. She positions herself in front of the eyes of a man, hoping to garner his attention. How often has she not the honesty or the nerve, the ethical guts, to accept the fullness of his gaze in appreciation of her physical appeal, her beauty, her aura.
Wrapped within that physical allure are so many other senses: sense of humor, sense of decency, sense of common sense, sense of intelligence, sense of courage, sense of charm, sense of fair play, sense of play.
The fun of flirtation between the sexes has been eroded by the fear that the mavens of modernity, the Philistine Prudes, the Young Old Maids of a New Generation, might object to any man who thinks of a woman as an object. And call a lawyer.
A perfect love doth cast out all fear, but the fear of lawsuits squashes young love-bugs at work, at play, in the park, in the day, even in the dark. Being emotionally strait-jacketed cramps one’s expression d’amour. Words of love stay choked in the throat. The liberty to love starts with the freedom to speak freely!
The light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek merriment that was once playful banter between men and women first began to evaporate with the heavy-handed but hare-brained hectoring by "feminists" who hungered for, not liberation, but power. Power over anyone but themselves.
Liberation became a political ploy, and a humongous advertising tool, complete with its signature scent: a perfume named Charlie. This floral aldehyde was devised by Revlon for women seeking . . . liberation. The perfume model was the very first to wear pants in the ads! And the stuff sold: it soon became the world’s best selling perfume.
Were women that easy to exploit with a trendy gimmick and a slogan pitched at a quickie-concept that’s a life-long endeavour? That revolution sure was fast! Presently, there are dozens of spin-off Charlie fragrances, but the 1974 Charlie for Men was discontinued long ago. I guess he objected to wearing a skirt.
Charlie came prior to my perfume-wearing, but I did seek liberation, and a liberated male with whom to share my journey through life.
I started my quest young. During adolescence, I read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir in the English, and in the two volumes of the French, Le Deuxième Sexe. I re-read the French version once again, after I’d become a wife and mother. My perceptions of her perceptions had not changed, and I was heartened to see that the truths I’d apprehended as a girl were affirmed by my experiences as a woman:
The liberation of a woman does not depend on anyone but herself. Because she is an object to herself long before she an object to anyone else, that objectification is part of what defines who she is and what she becomes. Freedom and identity are inextricably tied to one another. The freedom to be is the freedom to love.
As sagely written by Molière: « La grande ambition des femmes est d’inspirer l’amour. » The great ambition of women is to inspire love.
Here, “ambition” means aspiration, or dream, or even the freedom to dream. Simone de Beauvoir did not fully comprehend that freedom, the spirited yearning that truly liberates an individual.
No one gives freedom to anyone, except the Giver of Life. The writing of Miss de Beauvoir regarding liberty smacks at times of the bitterness of the atheist. It was that mordant strain that must have endeared Miss de Beauvoir to the Existentialist movers and shakers of the post-World War II era, a time of intense despair, especially among the French.
Le Deuxième Sexe was tellingly published in 1949, when the cynicism of the French, indeed of all of Western Europe, plunged arts and letters into a cauldron of self-loathing. If the English intellectuals would be the end of us all, the French intellectuals would be the end of themselves.
Her animus toward marriage was an intellectualized hostility toward this alliance between a man and a woman. Marriage was a social institution whose fruits and harvest she would never reap. Her witty but biting mockery of the traditional roles for women (wife & mother) cuts through the entire two volumes of her feminist tome.
The ideas of Miss de Beauvoir are compelling, but dated and morose, due to her limiting experiences in life. She was reportedly thirty-eight when she penned her chef d’œuvre. It’s an age when a woman in full bloom can begin to discover her most profound sensations, mental and emotional as well as physical. For this bourgeoise Frenchwoman, The Second Sex formed a cul-de-sac of her psyche. She would not significantly grow from that point. She would only re-work and repeat previous ideas, concepts that fed the ego of her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, who, quite ironically, lived in very bad faith where Simone was concerned.
At the base of her philosophy, if one can call this work a philosophical treatise (I do not, and de Beauvoir humbly did not consider herself a philosopher) — is the determining disappointment of her life:
She was denied marriage because she lacked a dot, a dowry.
The wealthy banker father of this Frenchwoman lost the family fortune after the Great War. During that era, no self-respecting Frenchwoman dared to hope for a husband without bringing a dowry with her into the marriage. The dowry was her ticket of dignity from the past into the future.
The ardent meaning of this rite of passage — from girl to woman, from “me” to “I”, from Object to Subject, from dream to reality — was stated with power and beauty and eloquence by the character of Mary Kate Danaher to her husband in The Quiet Man, the 1952 Hollywood film directed by the redoubtable John Ford:
“ . . . until you have my dowry, you haven’t got any bit of me: me, myself. I’ll still be dreamin’ amongst the things that are my own as if I had never met you. There’s three hundred years of happy dreamin’ in those things of mine and I want them. I want my dream. I’ll have it . . .”
Simone de Beauvoir would have her dream, but not in the ways that three hundred years of happy dreamin’, de beaux rêves, would bring to her. Her dream, and hopes, were to be fulfilled through her writing, her life as a single woman, her identity not as The Other, but as her own Subject. The self-enclosed life, however, is not the lifeblood of a liberated woman.
For me, the most appalling aspect of this Frenchwoman who initially defined “feminism” was the passive ease with which she allowed her “amour” Sartre to use her, to steal writing from her, to objectify her through attitudes and actions far more wretched that those of any “chauvinistic” husband toward his wife. The protection of a woman was never written or codified in the existential agenda of those male scoundrels who signed onto “liberation” and “equality of the sexes.”
During the past decades, not much has changed on that front, of men using women in the so-called battle of the sexes, except that more and more women have signed onto their own victimization, their own objectification, while, at the same time, ranting and railing against men.
Male and female liberation would at least call a truce or cease-fire to this battle. a contest that once upon a time enjoyed the fire of attraction known as passion. As for liberation — I say that true liberation — for a man and for a woman — is being loved and loving in return.