Thursday, July 17, 2008
Studs, Sluts and letting boys be boys
Once again my fave section of the newspaper--the Sunday Style section of the New York Times--has provided fodder for comment. A book review by Liesl Schillinger (love the name--always brings back "Sound of Music") of two books about male-female differences plays beautifully into the non-fiction project I'm presently writing.
She reviews Kathleen Parker's Save the Males, which laments how women's conflicting messages of "seduce me!" and "respect me!" are throwing men for such a loop they've "lost their moral compass." Then she addresses "third wave" feminist Jessica Valenti's He's a Stud, She's a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards every Woman Should Know. "Third wave feminists," in case you're wondering, followed the first, who "got women the vote" and the second, who "got them employed and divorced," and now, in this wave, "are busy making women porn stars". Yes. Porn stars. I can't even pretend to understand that, but in an interview, Valenti admits that she, too, doesn't understand what she means when she calls herself "third wave." Kowabunga!
Ms. Valenti points out that her 50 nasty double standards "punish female assertiveness," a quality she deems good. But after looking at her list of double standards as well as two YouTube videos in which she talks about her ideas, I have to say that she basically re-packages ONE unarguably unfair double standard into fifty wafer-thin slices: the one about sex that's on the cover--that men who want sex are manly, and women who pursue sex are trashy. Why does this stereotype persist after all those waves of feminism? After Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and Margaret Sanger and Hillary Clinton, women in sexual pursuit remain disdained, while men who chase the chicks are not.
The answer's very simple, and both authors, Kathleen Parker and Jessica Valenti, not only know it, but write their books about it: Men and women are different. The genders are biologically, psychologically, behaviorally divergent. Ms. Parker doesn't like what this fact does to men; Ms. Valenti doesn't like what it does to women.
K'vetch, k'vetch, k'vetch.
Reality can be tough to accept. The lament in Kathleen Parker's book is that the Jessica Valentis of the world won't let men be themselves. And Valenti's work shouts that she doesn't want women to be themselves, either, if it means they're less aggressive and less sexually-driven than men (as all psychological and brain research shows). You'd think the real third wave of feminism, if defined correctly, would acknowledge the scads of studies and daily evidence of everyone's eyes and just decide how to make the most of it. But nooooo, it's far more fun to complain.