Marriage and the Two Religions


I had afternoon classes this semester, so I was still at home late enough in the morning to watch those shows — you know the kind I mean.  They come on after the morning news, but before the soap operas and sassy-judge programs and, while they are not news exactly, they still concern themselves with commentary about what’s going on in society to an extent that occasionally warrants a response.

And two of the “stories” I saw on them this past week didn’t sit right with me.  One was about “the changing face of menopause” or something, and the other was a series of riffs on some new statistic revealing that single women now outnumber married women in America.  The fact that both “stories” were about women isn’t the problem — logically, half of all stories that are about someone should be about women, and besides, statistically, more women than men are watching TV at that hour, and you have to know who your audience is.  It was the way that they were “about women” — the fact that they both led up to the inevitable “so take that, men!” — that intrigued me.

So, as instructed, I “took” it — took it, and 1585ed it.

Does every “story” — or, for that matter, movie or commercial — about women have to end with a “so take that, men” in order to “count” as being about women?  I've certainly never told any women that they had to be ashamed of discussing menopause, or that they were under some kind of imperative to get married — so why does the fact that society is coming around on these matters need to be constructed as some kind of rebuke to me?  After all, the idea that gender is a zero-sum game — that anything that's good for women has to be bad for men, and vice-versa — is a big part of the problem. 

On the other hand, though, someone must have been telling women these things.  It is the case that, until very recently, women did feel as if they had to be ashamed of discussing woman-specific medical issues, and as if they were worthless if they couldn’t land a husband by “a certain age.”  So if men weren’t necessarily telling them this, who was?

Let’s think here… it was… oh, yeah:  Religion.

So here we go again.  I swear to you that I genuinely wanted to post an essay this week that had absolutely nothing to do with the fucked-up relationship between religion and feminism — we really did.  But then I woke up this morning and the fucked-up relationship between religion and feminism was still here.  When something is finally something else’s fault, I promise I’ll say so.

crucifix with sexy legs in high heels crucified on cross
Now, you two play nice...

At this point, many Academic-Feminist readers are probably ready to accuse me of clouding the issue.  You say that these things were actually the fault of religion and not men, they might object, but what’s the differenceReligions were invented by men and enforced by men to make all the stuff happen that men wanted to happen, so it’s immaterial which one of them we blame something on.

That’s a good point, and it provides a good starting place, but it’s not the end of the discussion by a long shot.  For one thing, regardless of whether religions got started by men, it’s still in recent times been just as much the fault of women that religion continued to exist — especially with regard to stupid societal-propriety shit like in these two stories.  It’s not your religious uncle who slaps your face when you bring up some sex thing — it’s your religious aunt.  It’s not your father who won’t stop bugging you about when you’re going to get married — it’s your mother.

The feminist response to the above examples would be to say that the women in them have been brainwashed.  Well, yes, exactly.  That’s my position too.  But they've been brainwashed by religion, not men — this is my position because, clearly, the brainwashing was conducted by religious women at least as much as it was conducted by religious men, and way more than it was conducted by non-religious men.  Sometimes, it seems as if feminism is really just a struggle against religion that cannot bear to acknowledge itself as a struggle against religion and, as a result of this, has had to turn itself into a religion — in the sense that its repeated assertions that all the problems caused by religion are actually just caused by men can only possibly be defended by faith.

Ask yourself the following question:  since, in real life, women want to get married and men don’t, how come less marriage is being celebrated as a victory for women?  Your response might be that it is false to say that women want to get married and men don’t.  Okay, fine.  But false how?  It’s also false to say that all men are taller than all women, but the statement “men are taller than women” is still generally a true statement, because if you have a hundred men and a hundred women in a room, the average height of the men will always be taller than the average height of the women.  Whatever the reason, the vast majority of women want to get married way more than do the vast majority of men, so bringing up examples of your friend so-and-so who doesn’t want to get married even though she’s a woman and your friend so-and-so who wants to get married even though he’s a man is pointless.  It only serves to draw attention away from the issue, when the issue is clearly still there.

Just as in religion, the first response is always to deny the very existence of the issue.  This is possible because there’s a compartmentalization of the brain at work, same as in religion — just as many religious people genuinely believe in Creation when they’re in church, but realize it’s a load of crap when they’re not in church, many women genuinely believe that they don’t want to get married when they’re in Gender-Studies class, and then, once they leave the classroom, their lives go right back to revolving around wanting to get married.

Okay, fine, that last statement was unfair.  But to the extent that it is fair, here's how women can change it:  Stop indulging your friends when they act like it's the biggest deal in the world that they're getting married.  Seriously.  When your friend tells you she's getting married, just say “Hey, wow, that's great, congratulations,” but don't scream and cry and jump around.  If she asks you to scream and cry and jump around, punch her in the arm or give her a wedgie or something.  If she expects you to spend all your time over the next several months doing shit for her so that everything will be perfect, punch her in the arm or give her a wedgie or something.  If she tries to make you wear some ugly dress in order to ensure that none of her friends looks better than she does on her special day, punch her in the arm or give her a wedgie or something.

Honestly.  That's what guys do when our friends step over the line, and trust me, it makes things run a lot more smoothly.

An academic “-ism” is supposed to be a methodology of examining the world that continually redefines itself in the face of new evidence, like a legitimate science.  There is no existentialist party line, and no utilitarian party line.  But if you were in a Gender-Studies class and asked “If a decline in marriages is really a victory for Feminism, then how come virtually all women in real life want to get married?”, and persisted past the first-response denial-of-the-issue, you would get the second response of “they’ve been brainwashed.”  But — once again — brainwashed by whom?  Men?  But men don’t want to get married!  Why the hell would we brainwash women into forcing us to do something that we don’t want to do? 

And if you asked that question in a Gender-Studies class, you’d probably just get thrown out, the same way you’d get thrown out of a church if you stood up and asked “When you guys say you don’t believe in evolution, does that mean you don’t even believe dogs evolved from wolves, because, you know, we made that happen ourselves, during recorded history?”

I'm not anti-feminist — I just believe that smart women and smart men need to join together against the common enemy of religion, but that Academic Feminism is keeping this from happening by taking the focus off of the real enemy.  Most college Feminists spend more time being pissed at science than they do being pissed at religion — apparently, just because it makes for more fun.  Since there are usually no religious fundamentalists to be found at a decent college, acknowledging the problem for what it is would leave them no-one to yell at.  But there are guys around who like science, so the college feminists yell at them, because it’s better than not being able to yell at anyone.  But feminism needs to realize that the enemy of its enemy is its friend.  Religion is its enemy, and science is the enemy of religion, which makes science the friend of feminism.  Even if science believes that, on average, girls will probably be a little bit worse than boys at Tetris, this is negligible compared to what religion has to say about you.

The brave and well-intentioned Academic Feminists of an earlier generation who got the ball rolling have now lost control of the ball and don’t even realize it.  In the minds of today’s teenage women, feminist-inspired liberal arguments have melded with religion-inspired conservative ones into a contradictory nexus that would have seemed inconceivable to the college feminists of the early ’90s.  The statement “models are too thin and cause eating disorders, and that’s why premarital sex is wrong” would be senseless to a college woman in 1992, but it is par for the course in 2007.  If you don’t believe me, ask a woman who’s currently attending a politically middle-of-the-road college.  The conversation may surprise you.

On that note, let’s back up into some more logic, aimed at the original statistic, which said that single women now outnumber married women.  Since that means that fewer women are choosing to get married, or are getting married later, or not staying married as long, doesn’t that also mean that fewer men are getting married, or are getting married later, or not staying married as long, and that single men will soon also outnumber married men, if they don’t already?  If one thing is true, then the other thing has to be true, right?

So why was this presented as if something is only changing relative to women?  Isn’t society’s repeal of compulsory marriage a victory for all independent-minded people?  Of course, if you presented it as such, then you’d have to do the other half of the story.  Can you imagine?  And now, Part Two of our story, wherein we examine men’s reactions to the news that men are getting married less…”  Cut to some footage of single guys pouring champagne on a stripper, screaming “Yeah! Woo-hoo! No marriage!”  Doesn’t exactly make for highly-rated daytime TV, does it?

Only presenting half the story means you don't have to offend potential viewers by exposing what the statistic really means:  if all you say is that women are getting married less, you can frame it as a rebuke to sexism, and 100% of the daytime viewing audience is pleased.  If you go the whole nine yards and explain that people are getting married less, then it's no longer a “you go girl” story, but instead a “decline of religion” story — and since women who don't work and are home in the daytime to watch these shows are more likely to be religious, far less than 100% of the audience is pleased.

Remember what I said earlier about compartmentalization of the brain?  The fact that the story was presented as if what was obviously only half the story were in fact the whole story — even though this can’t logically be true — allows for the mind of the viewer to do what it wants to do without having to do what it doesn’t want to do.  The viewer can imagine strong single women focusing on their careers or whatever without having to picture wasted single guys partying.  If both halves of the story are presented, the compartmentalization is destroyed, the doublethink exposed as doublethink, and the viewer would have to confront the fact that she wants to get married and doesn’t want to get married at the same time.

Am I saying women have to get married?  No.  I’m not saying that anyone has to get married — women or men.  Focusing on your career instead of getting married is okay, and so is going to strip clubs instead of getting married.  Any other position constitutes a religion and is bullshit.

Let’s go through that one more time.  Imagine that you yourself are watching the “story” over your morning coffee, and trying to figure out how you should react. 

The conservative reaction is “Boo! Everyone has to get married!” 

The liberal reaction is “Yay! Women don’t have to get married!” 

The 1585 reaction is “Well, we’re all for people not getting married, but why the fuck are they presenting this as if it’s just about women?  Oh, right — because presenting it as just “marriage vs. not” would make it clear that this is actually a religion vs. humanism thing, which would mean the audience would have to think deeply about important issues instead of giggle childishly at light infotainment, and this audience would almost certainly change the channel rather than do that, so clearly the only solution is to spin it as yet more “battle of the sexes” crap, even though in the long run this just makes everything worse because it confuses people about what the real struggle is.  Fuck the world.”

Clear?  Good.

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