more yes, please

Alpine Climbers, Midi-Plan Traverse, France.
photo credit: Tommy Harris, National Geographic Magazine.

there are too many voices in my head. usually there are few. they lounge, chit-chat. drink Early Grey and plot world domination. fine by me. then they invite their relatives and it turns into a shout-fest and their conversations spill over into my conversations in real-time and now Huston we have a problem.

the bodacious ones in this round of internal polylogue have hitherto been wallflowers, so when they exploded out of nowhere no one brought proper PPE and thought-filter plugins were disabled and that’s why this post might be huge. the most recent trigger was my reading of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, where she described the overall dissatisfaction of the post-WWII female population. womanhood at that time was contoured by domestic chores, but Friedan–and as she came to realize in her research, her contemporaries–felt unfulfilled. as with most unhappiness, we slab on a psychosis label and try to talk it out, except back then psychotherapy for women was an euphemism to dismiss the patient’s unhappiness as a fluke.

thence began the feminist movement in earnest and now i feel like we’ve overcompensated. now women are supposed to do everything that a man can and it is uncouth and unimpressive to be only a housewife. on the other hand, men are cosigned as clueless mess-makers and football-watchers and sex-drives draped in skin and i feel like we’ve missed the point. when i look at social norms and tradition and expectations the discrepancies even within one community is daunting. and for the twenty-somethings i feel it’s even harder, because we are answerable to the generations before us and where our own lives seem to be going and often the two (and three and four and a dozen) are not in accord. i’m sure my philosophically-inclined friends who have a feast with parsing out which one is the good and true and worthwhile of pursuit whereas i am simply lost.

so, what happens when there’s too many voices?

it would seem that the elixir to information overload is effort-output anorexia. everything we are doing most of the time are met with “no”s: i ought to not be frank in my relationships lest frightening the other, i mustn’t want because it’s envy and that’s a sin, i should not laugh loudly because it’s childish, and good heavens i should not ask a guy out because it’s unladylike. some of my friends noticed that they’ve become less creative, either because they have no time to be creative outside of their assigned, ye-must-do type of work, or they have been honed toward something that is predictable, and predictably successful. it seems like my generation–and perhaps, an inherited trait from the generations preceding ours–is living by this whittling ourselves, and we end up choosing what-we-do-based-on-what-we-can’t/shouldn’t/ought-not/shan’t-do. and it appears to be that the only workable alternative to make ourselves feel less limited is to manipulate others into limiting themselves too.

it makes me sad that we, as human beings, as collective creators, as creatures of potentials, and as lovers of the deepest degree and magnitude and sincerity often feel so limited, whether by other’s choice or our own. and i refuse to believe that we can only be satiated and secure when we dismiss and discredit others, whether between genders or races or cultures or choices or opinions.

when there are too many voices, i think it’s good and honorable and worthwhile that women–and men too–choose what they wish to do. i certainly cannot raise a toddler and keep up the house and work full-time and keep up my friendships. (the first and second items named in the previous sentence are mutually antagonistic.) and i certainly cannot save the world by decoding the secrets of neurotoxin and world-travel and world-create and take dazzling photographs of my cats. (hence there are not any at the moment.) i cannot do many things but there are people, strong and able and admirable, both men and women who can and i don’t understand why any of them should be scrutinized because of they know themselves and decide to live thusly.

i cannot do many thing and cannot be who people expect me to be, but i can do many that are my own and be my own person. i can bake mocha german chocolate cake with raspberry glaze and make ratatouille with basil puree and dance a mean foxtrot and read Craig Thompson novels and recite Yeats and caress Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise from a 18th century violin and perform micro-surgeries and carry on conversations in a French accent and write pixels on a screen that makes someone feel less alone. and i am saying yes to these things.

and i believe we need more yes, regardless of genders or races or cultures or choices or opinions. and i don’t want to use terms like feminism or proper social roles because they seem so very narrow, because they divide and we can only be dissected so much before we forget we are more than the sum of our parts.

so more yes, please.

thoughts? vehement objections? relevant revelations? leave a comment. much obliged.

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8 thoughts on “more yes, please

  1. There are people who will think it’s uncouth to be only a mom, but I think the feminist movement was about letting us have choices, so we can Choose to be a stay-at-home mom, but we don’t have to be. We can choose to have a job outside the home, but we don’t have to. Still, women still don’t make as much money as men for the same work, and (especially in the science fields) there still exists a lot of discrimination. When it does come to children, women are still expected to do most of that, so you end up with women who have 2 full-time jobs: one outside the home and one as a mom. Either that, or the childcare tends to come out of the woman’s paycheck. A lot of that is changing, slowly as always, but I think the feminist movement still has a long way to go. I used to be shy about calling myself a feminist until I figured out that feminists are people who want equality for women, not just angry lesbians who hate men. Conservative upbringing and all, you know how it goes.

    As for that being frank in relationships thing…I wouldn’t be with Joe if he couldn’t handle frankness. Everyone’s different, and every relationship’s different, but I cannot stress enough how valuable communication is in our relationship. The marriage workshops have all worked on teaching us how to communicate with one another, and I wonder if this fear of frankness in relationships is why this is necessary. You’re not trying to dupe someone into marrying you, you’re looking for a partner, aren’t you? And how can someone be a partner to you if they don’t know everything about you, and vice-versa? There should be no secrets. I suppose there’s such a thing as easing into things, and that’s sensible. Just don’t let anyone tell you you’re “too intense.” Paul used to tell me that all the time. Now I’ve found someone who matches me for intensity, and I value that immensely. I’d rather have someone who can keep pace with me and match my intensity than slow or dim myself down for someone else. If they can’t handle your frankness, maybe they can’t handle you.

    One of the things I love about Joe is his child-like smile. Smiles and laughs can never be too big. I don’t personally ask guys out, but there’s nothing wrong with it if you do! Sometimes guys are to blind or dumb or shy or just lack the balls to ask you out themselves. Again, if they can’t handle you asking them out, maybe they can’t handle you!

    “i cannot do many thing and cannot be who people expect me to be, but i can do many that are my own and be my own person. i can bake mocha german chocolate cake with raspberry glaze and make ratatouille with basil puree and dance a mean foxtrot and read Craig Thompson novels and recite Yeats and caress Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise from a 18th century violin and perform micro-surgeries and carry on conversations in a French accent and write pixels on a screen that makes someone feel less alone. and i am saying yes to these things” –PREACH!!

    • a feminist author (whose name escapes my memory) said that she is “accused” of being a feminist when she objects to women being treated as either prostitutes or doormats. which i think captures the essence of feminist-phobia quite well, as does with the misconception of what feminism stands for. which i think (as you said here too) is the freedom of personal decision and respect thereof.

      • This is precisely why I don’t really like the term “feminism.” I guess I’ve never thought of myself as being a feminist, but I suppose I certainly am. I’ve made the choice to quit my job and stay home because this is what is best for my family–and for myself. In the first place, I could never and will never feel fulfilled by simply being able to work a full-time job. The people in my life are worth more to me, and I have so many more facets to offer to the world, and to my son! More than anything I have actually felt confined and limited and perhaps even slightly dehumanized by working a job 40 hours a week. That’s not something I want for myself or for my family or for anyone else–and I think the feminists would be proud.

  2. Thank you for this, dear. I completely agree that we’ve overcompensated and ended up right back where we were. If women had to conform to certain standards in prior centuries, we are certainly not free from expectations (even though they may be different) in this day and age. Certainly the feminists have helped women to have the freedom to pursue anything, be true to themselves, and to fulfill whatever vocations they are called to do in this life, however the lie they have spread is that we must do it all, do it all well, all at the same time. Let’s not be in such a rush, for heaven’s sake! We are not defined by how much we can achieve in a certain span of time…Lord-willing we all have many years on this earth, and yes we must spend them and use them wisely–but I don’t think that trying to squeeze in every possible activity so as to avoid idleness at all costs is a wise use of time, any more than dropping out of school and living on government aid one’s whole life.

    I think the other tragedy is that we’ve lost sight of the fact that God DID create two different, but equally valuable genders, for a reason–not to compete with each other, but to help each other and complement each other, and to contribute to God’s world TOGETHER in a way that wouldn’t be complete or meaningful without both. In their fervor to make sure women could be equal to men, could do just as much as men and better, they have ignored the fact that we each have our important roles to play in each of life’s different seasons. I’m not talking about people fulfilling “proper social roles”…the world certainly needs women who are passionate about the fields in which they serve, as much as it needs the women who dedicate themselves to nurturing their children and helping them grow into the people who will serve the world tomorrow. I’m simply saying that we each have different gifts and strengths, and there would be a lot more harmony in the world if people didn’t always try so hard to conform to

    And the two women I just talked about? They could certainly be the same person. Maybe at the same time, maybe not, but who are we to say what is best? And who is to say that the women who puts off a career for the sake of children is worse off than a women who is called to go to graduate school to pursue her career and then has children at the time God sees fit to give them to her? They are both serving others and serving the world in the capacity they can at that particular time.

  3. Perhaps I ought to have said in that last sentence “in the capacity they were meant to do at that particular time.” :)

    • and unfortunately, public/social opinion can scare one away from choosing what is the best and thus a lot of what we do is for what people expect of us, and not necessarily what we want for ourselves.
      i’m glad you now get to spend as much time with James as you desire.

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