Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? (Not) Sure

I just read 2 interesting (and contradicting) articles. They are from online.wjs.com and titled ‘Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? Yes’ and ‘Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? No’. Both were written by different women. The Yes one was from Ann Patchett and the No one was from Mary Eberstadt. I think both have some points that we should consider and some other that I don’t really agree with. Let’s take a look one by one.

Myth No. 1: The “war on women” consists of tyrannical men arrayed against oppressed but pluckily united women.

In the first place, womankind, bless her fickle heart, is not exactly united on…anything.

Public opinion polls show women to be roughly evenly divided on the question of abortion. This same diversity of opinion was also manifest in the arguments over the proposed new federal mandate forcing employers to pay for birth control, including abortifacients.

Women never united in anything? Well, damn true and not news. We already saw this kind of tendency even from the first time we enter school. Elementary? Junior High School? High School? College? Work? We just never become truly one. Even in the case that women become the victim. I guess that’s just part of our nature. Hahaha. However, we also has another nature, which is empathy & loyalty (sometimes in our own way).

Let us so empower the young women in our communities with the excellent education that is available to them, the love and support of their families, and the abundance of positive role models, that they are strong enough within themselves to wait until they feel fully ready to have sex with a person they trust, a person who values them. And let the young men of our communities benefit from that same education, that same love. To make things easier, let’s remove several million degrading images of women that can give a boy the wrong ideas about the value of other people.

Education is always a good thing in this sexual revolution. Some might say that high educated with high income become choosy in partner and thus end up not marriage. Well, towards the decline of the Qing Dynasty at the end of the 19th century, Chinese women were considered a negative influence on their own children because they were uneducated and superstitious. In an attempt to strengthen the nation, Chinese intellectuals during the first half of the 20th century championed the idea that a stable home space meant a stable nation, and began a movement to train women for their jobs and responsibilities as household managers. The home came to be seen as a small-scale model of the imperial order of society, and its management became central to national concern. (http://www.salon.com/2012/03/12/all_the_shengnu_ladies/singleton/) So, no matter what, education will still be a positive thing. If then we have, what some may call, too high standard,  well… it will not be far different from men’s standard since the ancient time.

In severing sex from procreation, humankind set into motion forces that have by now shaped and reshaped almost every aspect of life in the Western world. Families are smaller, birthrates have dropped, divorce and out-of-wedlock births have soared. Demography has now even started to work against the modern welfare state, which has become harder to sustain as fewer children have been produced to replace aging parents.

I think it’s true that birth control is one of the things that become a great factor in the sexual revolution. And it does has good and bad effect. One of them is by having smaller family, dropping number of people, and so on, women got more attention. People started to see how we actually can do what men can do and the industry started to think how to use this opportunity. I’m not saying that sexual revolution is completely a product of industry, but we can’t deny it certainly has a great deal of influence. Then the company and university also allowed us to join because they need us. After that came also many other changes.

In the end my conclusion is the same with this article title, Not Sure. However I still think the revolution is needed. We, as a human being has a nature to change. We always evolve in physical, mind, and moral state. Evolve here, I think is not always become better. Human changes to adapt with the environment. And as the globalization emerges to almost everywhere, we have to change. That is what I think of revolution. Industrial Revolution did not make everything better, same with revolution from Orde Lama to Orde Baru, and now until Orde Revormasi. However it’s true that from time to time, there’s some which is better and some which is not and then we have to deal with all of them. In the end, human always have to accept the change and live with it (like what Ann Patchett said, by choosing which is good enough to be kept and which is not to be put some distant). We all, after all, have the ability to choose between good and bad, at least for ourselves.

Oh, here’s the articles:

‘Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? No’ :

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304724404577297422171909202.html?mod=rss_Today%27s_Most_Popular

and

‘Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women? Yes’ :

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304724404577297391174489950.html

The Price of Oppressing Your Woman

Just reading an article about the price of oppressing woman in one country. In her writing, Naomi Wolf (a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries), wrote about how a recent Newsweek arcticle listed the best and worst places to be a woman, and explained the disadvantages of the oppression. First we are showed that there seems to be two different world in woman’s world. The first is the “Best Places to be a Woman”, which is Iceland and the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Canada. And in those countries; plus several other like US (women are out-earning men in college degrees), Turkey (domestic abusers are being banned from their homes and tracked with electronic monitors), Denmark and Australia (female prime ministers are being elected); woman can life comfortably, or at least not have to fear too much about their life and thus they can develop themselves. This means, they can give something to their family and also their country, resulting in economic and education growth.

On the other hand, there are still “The Worst Places in the World to be Woman“. In Chad, the worst of the worst, women have “almost no legal rights”, and girls as young as ten are legally married off, which is also true in Niger, the seventh worst place for a woman. Most women in Mali – the fifth worst – have been traumatised by female genital mutilation. In Democratic Republic of Congo, 1,100 women are raped every day. In Yemen, you are free to beat your wife whenever you like.

I have to say that this is not something new to most of us. Many people and organizations already working on the issue. But one thing that have to make us think is this:

But the data in the Newsweek list show that we need to frame this issue in stronger, more sweeping terms: When poor countries choose to oppress their own women, they are to some extent choosing their own continued poverty. Female oppression is a moral issue; but it also must be seen as a choice that countries make for short-term “cultural” comfort, at the expense of long-term economic and social progress.

It is not politically correct to attribute any share of very poor countries’ suffering to their own decisions. But it is condescending to refuse to hold many of them partly responsible for their own plight. Obviously, the legacy of colonialism – widespread hunger, illiteracy, lack of property or legal recourse, and vulnerability to state violence – is a major factor in their current poverty. But how can we blame that legacy while turning a blind eye to a kind of colonialism against women in these same countries’ private homes and public institutions?

Even though I’m a huge fan of culture (especially since I live in Indonesia where there is so many amazing culture that are wasted), I couldn’t really say this is what culture is. My love to culture is based on my greediness (or some call it stinginess, haha) that I feel poking me when seeing something so beautiful and have no substitute began to decease. But, this thing, this is not only ugly, but also very stupid. As Hilary Clinton, US secretary of state said, “The world needs to think more strategically and creatively about tapping into women’s potential for growth. Studies show that helping woman access trade and grow businesses helps create jobs and boost incomes.

After all, like Naomi Wolf said:

If you are not innumerate, you can start a business. If you are not living in mortal fear of rape and beatings at home, you can organise your community to dig a new well. If you are not subjecting your daughter to traumatic genital injury at three and marrying her off at ten, she can go to school. And, when she does marry and has children of her own, they will benefit from two educated, employed parents, which means twice as much literate conversation in the home, twice the contacts, and twice the encouragement to succeed. Educated, pushy mothers make all the difference

The “surprise” on Newsweek list confirm that educating woman costs economic prosperity. Many countries with histories of colonialism and other forms of tyranny, as well as countries without abundant natural resources, have chosen to educate women and grant them legal rights. Some continue to struggle economically, but none is abjectly poor – and some are booming. Think of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey.

The low status of women on Planet Worst cannot be blamed on cultural stasis: Many of the “surprise” countries – Romania, Portugal, the Philippines, and India – treated women far more unequally a mere 50-100 years ago. In Pakistan, marital rape is not illegal today, and there are 800 honor killings a year. What kind of economic boom might stagnating Pakistan enjoy if patriarchy relaxed its grip?

But on Planet Worst, forcing terrified, uneducated women to remain at home is more socially acceptable than facing the fact that this means choosing to drag down incomes for everyone. It is time to stop tiptoeing around the poorest countries’ responsibility to do something essential about their own plight: Emancipate their women.

Note: In the article, Naomi Wolf and several commentators make comment about Islam and veil, but I won’t go there because I do not see religion as culture. Though I have to agree if someone told me that sometimes religion “forced” the native culture fading away. Something that happened a lot in Indonesia and I have to cry upon that.

Here is the Naomi Wolf’s article: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/10/2011102133713539233.html

‘Feminine tosh’ VS ‘Masculine tosh’?

It’s been months since I think about V.S. Naipaul sexist remark about female inferiority both in daily and literature world. But several days ago I read an article about two new books that out this summer seek to rescue Austen by telling us how we ought to read her. And I couldn’t help but remember that silly and awful event. At that time, Naipaul scorned Jane Austen for “her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world,” declaring that no woman, not even Austen, was his literary equal. Than his next infamous remark:

“A woman,” he said, “is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing.” Women at best produce “feminine tosh.”

The first thing that came to my mind is how arrogant & silly that remark is (I’m not a super fan of Austen myself, though I still like her novel; but hei, I’m a woman! Hahaha). It’s like he was saying Chinese write like Chinese, Latin write like Latin, and Western people are better because they are writing like Western people (means other style is a tosh). For me, everything is about taste. If you prefer Asian food to Western, then eat the Asian without insulting the Western one. I would rather observe the Western food and than take some good points there (because despite the dislike, there must still be good points there) to be put in Asian food so it can be better than good. Not to mention that I can bet my money Naipaul can’t write in woman style, especially since he must be to proud to even try it.

As always, I’m proud to be a woman and often wondering why woman could only be called great when she throw aside her feminine side and mimic the masculinity of male. Because in that case, of course man are better. Man in masculinity vs Woman in masculinity seems quite silly for me. Not that I said woman can’t be masculine, everyone has their own taste & style after all. But I think no one should feel shame about become feminine. Not even a man that has feminine taste. They should proud of it, and have no shame on doing (achieving) something great in (by) feminine style (way) anymore.

Ok, come back to the article. It was written by Audrey Bilger who is the Faculty Director of the Center for Writing and Public Discourse and Associate Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College. And I have to say it is a good one. She open the article with fact and opinion about Jane Austen. Here she wrote that like it or not, the reality on the ground is that Jane Austen benefits and suffers from being associated with women, and her status as a major writer has been complicated by gender issues since her earliest readers. True enough, further she gave us one example:

Contrast Austen’s fame and fandom with that of Shakespeare. As Deidre Lynch, editor of Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees, points out: “Shakespeare fans, we should note, can act like fans, parade through Stratford-upon-Avon every April 23 sporting sprigs of rosemary, and not put at risk the plays’ claims to be taken seriously. No one, it seems, feels compelled to take this cult audience to task for their excesses and their failure to blush over them.” Bardolatry does Shakespeare no harm, but Austen’s cult following has, in the eyes of many, branded her as a chick-lit exemplar, a frivolous writer of “feminine tosh.”

Two new books that I mention before are A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter by William Deresiewicz. Bilger said it is his self-explanatory and I haven’t read it myself. But I think it will be quite interesting since I want to know what Jane Austen’s book look like from man’s point of view. The second is Why Jane Austen? by Rachel Brownstein who asks and attempts to answer her titular question, “Why Jane Austen?”. I haven’t read this one either but I have a feeling I would like the Deresiewicz’s better since the article said even though Brownstein shares Deresiewicz’s humanistic approach, but unlike him, she would rather we stopped talking about gender altogether. Not a bad thing of course. This is what most people see as equal after all. But it will missed my point in the beginning, of how someone can make and do something great by being a woman. Because for me even though pretending there is nothing called ‘woman’ and ‘man’ could help equality, this doesn’t mean there is nothing called ‘woman’ or ‘man’. I think, same as nationality, equality means not doing prejudice because of gender or ethnic, but still proud of the uniqueness that it carries. Maybe in other time and topic, I could prefer Browstein’s. She was, after all, also wrote great book with great thinking, like when she worries that Jane Austen has become such a name brand that no one actually bothers to read her any more: “Familiarity breeds contempt; simplifications trump complexity; writing has driven out reading; Jane-o-mania has gone on too long.”

One other great thing that I get here that when she expresses surprise when a surgeon tells her that literary study is superior to medical research because “art saves lives”. A real remarkable thinking (of surgeon…) I even consider this as my topic for my second year’s SIDANG (session) at college. Maybe I could adjust it a bit with my main topic latter. Haha.

I think you should read the article about how Deresiewicz changed from someone who might have agree with Naipaul’s point about Austen’s inferiority to then calls her as “the woman who would change my life” at the interview for a position as an English professor when the  hiring committee (a woman) asked him, ‘So what’s with you and Jane Austen?’. He also said:

“Like so many guys,” he confides at the outset, “I thought that a good conversation meant holding forth about all the supposedly important things I knew: books, history, politics, whatever … [I]t had never occurred to me to imagine how things might look from someone else’s point of view.” Once he discovers that “[r]eal men weren’t afraid to admit that they still had things to learn — not even from a woman,” he’s well on the way to a happy ending.

He said that he finds Jane Austen with the help of a humanistic professor, one who required “[n]o lists of secondary sources or packets of supplemental reading, no theoretical framework or critical jargon.” “Literary study,” this professor taught him, “was not about learning a secret language or mastering a bag of theoretical tricks. It was not about inventing a new, professional personality, either. It was about getting back in touch with the ways we used to read — the ways people read when they’re reading for fun — but also about intensifying them, making them more thoughtful and deeply informed.”

After his eyes are opened to Austen’s merits, he looks back on the writers whose heroes he had wanted to emulate and finds them wanting by comparison: “[S]he didn’t need to play the same game as the big boys. Her small, feminine game was every bit as good.” Austen, he sees, took her stand in the midst of the everyday; she “understood that what fills our days should fill our hearts, and what fills our hearts should fill our novels.” We’re firmly on “little bit of ivory” turf here, rounded out with the gallant notion that women, because of their limited sphere, have special civilizing powers to tame masculine excesses and make them fit for society. Men should read Austen, according to Deresiewicz, in order to learn “what it means to see and think and talk like a woman,” “what it meant to act like a woman,” and “why it was worthwhile.”

Then he also presents his hard-won life lessons in terms that are fiercely humanistic and practically platitudinous:

Learning to read … means learning to live. Keeping your eyes open when you’re looking at a book is just a way of teaching yourself to keep them open all the time. … Life, if you live it right, keeps surprising you, and the thing that keeps surprising you the most, I now understood, is yourself. … Love, I saw, is a verb, not just a noun — an effort, not just another precious feeling. … Friends, Austen taught me, are the family you choose.

So, like Bilger wrote, his journey of discovery is punctuated by such neatly packaged insights, not, ultimately, about women’s worlds or men’s worlds but a common ground of humanity. And despite some impression that I before I give more weight about being a woman, this is very very true. And I could’t resist to put it here. Hehe

However, again, she wrote about something that Deresiewicz said that had to make us proud of being woman and if our status used wisely, it could bring many advantages.

Deresiewicz, who similarly calls Naipaul a “grumpy old man,” takes a different tack on the woman writer issue, providing a context for why gender matters when we talk about Austen:

What he says about Jane Austen and women writers in general is the biggest cliché, the least original thing you can possibly imagine. People have been saying this, ever since she wrote. Women write about trivial things, women write about narrow things. They’re sentimental.

The fact is that Jane Austen is not only a great writer, she’s a great writer because she was a woman, because instead of going out hunting and shooting and conquering India like the men of her time, she was sitting in a drawing room, watching how people interacted, listening to how they talk. She’s the greatest writer of dialogue in the language, after Shakespeare, because she listened to how people talked.

In Deresiewicz’s approach, feminism coexists with humanism. We can see gender difference as a cultural reality without writing off women (and feminine) as less than fully human.

Here is the link to the Willian Deresiewicz’s book at goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9859183-a-jane-austen-education

And here for Rachel Brownstein’s:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10532143-why-jane-austen

Oh, almost forgot. This one for the article:

http://lareviewofbooks.org/post/9827382304/just-like-a-woman

Obedient Wives Club

I just watched TalkIndonesia at MetroTV, episode 4 Sept, 2011 and one of the topic is something that talked a lot both in Indonesia and International world, Obedient Wives Club. Its motto is to make wives obey their husband in bedroom, every time, if they don’t want them to go to prostitute.

As an educated person, obviously I fell this is ridiculous. Because this insulted both women and men. It’s clear that this suggest an idea that men is any a beast that couldn’t even control their lust so in order to prevent them go to a whore, they need their wife to be a whore herself. Personally, if I have a husband like that (God help me so it won’t happen), I better kick his ass out, or if that’s not an option, let him whore himself with whoever mistress he had so I can do whatever I want.

However, one thing that quite surprising here is that many women join the organization. Here’s come the question, is that what they want or that is because they are lack of education? And seeing the situation, I think the latter is more possible (not that the first impossible). Most of them are either lived in rural area or someone who is so fanatic that made them blind of reality. And it sadden me thinking about someone like that. Before I though women in developing country needs more education, but apparently so does the one that life in developed country. Education and respect (both to themselves and opposite gender) are the biggest problem here. Women, so they respect themselves more, and know they are not a weak creature that doesn’t has right to have opinion and say it. Men so they proud themselves as a gentleman that has enough charisma and ability to love and respect women and made them give themselves to you (rather than (half) forcing it). And they proud themselves also as someone that doesn’t ruled by mere lust and can keep their promise of being faithful. Not blaming their fault to their wives…  I think this way wives could love and respect the husband much more easier.

I’m a Special Woman

Several days ago, I read an article titles ‘Helen Castor on Queens and Power’. It’s an interview about powerful woman historical role in politic, especially in Britain. There, she chose several books as the topic of discussion. The first one is a biography of the 12th-century Empress Matilda by Marjorie Chibnall which is (as she said) a wonderful piece of authoritative medieval history. Here she stated, “we often imagine that historical developments are more linear than they really are”. And I have to agree. For me history is always like curve, there had to be time when one civilization reached their golden era where art, beauty, literature, and other knowledge were well known by the people. Then at that time, they were no barbarian anymore and started to leave their military power. Consequently, when people from other civilization that still in the barbaric mind-seat attacked, it was conquered easily. So then the high civilization fall apart, and they have to start again from the bottom. However, the ‘attack’ doesn’t always has to be physical, it could also be concept, particularly religion.

The second book she chose was John Guy’s My Heart Is My Own. This is about an even better known queen, Mary, Queen of Scots. And the third one is the queen of historical biographers, Antonia Fraser, with The Weaker Vessel. Here she told us why she chose this instead of The Warrior Queen, which is much more obviously about queens and power, and is a great book as well. Also then the question lead us to two powerful British women, Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth I. And I found a beautiful statement that made me have to rethink what I always believe:

People often say, “Well, these problems can be overcome – look at Elizabeth I or Margaret Thatcher.” But what those two women both did was not say, “Women can rule, women can hold power.” They both said, “Yes, OK, most women are pretty feeble, but I am a special woman.”

See what I mean? That sentence really hit me right as a feminist. And here I also adding the interview about a soon-to-be-released book titled Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim. It’s about why women should be using their sex appeal to get ahead. (http://www.slate.com/id/2302762/pagenum/1).

The forth book is Monuments and Maidens by Marina Warner, which is more about the symbolism of women than actual historical figures. Here she was asked about how does this feed into her idea of power. This is her fabulous answer:

What’s so interesting is the way in which, in our culture, female figures become a vessel for abstract ideas. It’s interesting, too, that Antonia Fraser’s book has that word in its title. So the figures of justice, victory and liberty, for example, are all female. And Marina Warner comments in her conclusion that, “Meanings of all kinds flow through the figures of women, and they often do not include who she herself is.” In other words, the difficulty for women is agency; it’s doing something and being an actor in the narrative. Being an abstract embodiment is what women can do much more easily in our culture, which is why I think having queens now works quite well – because monarchs are required to be, rather than to do. But if you go back to the 16th century, monarchs had to rule – and that was where it became much more difficult for women to take that role.

Last book is Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies, which is all about medieval political theory and explores the idea of the divine right of kings. This time she said about the different between the impression we get from female and male body. “The male body is politically neutral, but the female body is sexualised, whether as sinful Eve or the Virgin Mary. It’s very difficult for a queen, as a woman – who’s constructed after all in biblical terms as the lesser being – to find neutral political ground to stand on.”  Which lead the question to how Elizabeth I dismiss her body as this weak and feeble thing but sometimes she would also harness it in ways that going to bolster her.

Of course at the end we arrived at the question about her latest book, She-Wolves, that tells the stories of the medieval and Tudor queens who ruled England before Elizabeth I. It was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Financial Times and BBC History Magazine.

I think you can read the rest of the interview by yourself at (http://thebrowser.com/interviews/helen-castor-on-queens-and-power?page=1)