Friday, January 3, 2014

Love is ...

Those of my age will remember that once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a line of panties that featured a painfully cute little cartoon character and a caption that always began "Love is ...". "Love" always turned out to be something saccharine and, as The Last Psychiatrist would add, something narcissistic because it was intended to make the wearer feel good about herself rather than encourage her to contemplate loving a man sexually, which, given the location of the printing, is what it should have been about.

Anyway, Dalrock, a blogger I know little about besides the fact that Instapundit reads him and often links to him has hit on something really important this week. I think he gets this one half right but that half is really good stuff:
One of the effects of feminism is that men of my generation have had a much wider opportunity to cook. I can’t think of any men my age or younger who don’t know how to cook. Moreover, I can’t think of any men of my generation or younger who don’t enjoy cooking. This is in stark contrast to the women of the same generations, who (typically) view cooking as an indignity. The reason for the difference in attitude boils down to what cooking is all about. Cooking is an act of love, an act of service to others. It is an opportunity to care for others in a very fundamental way, to literally nourish them through the work of your own hands. This is precisely what troubles the modern woman so much about cooking (or cleaning, or changing diapers). Serving others in the mind of a feminist is an indignity, so cooking, cleaning, or any other act of service and love is the object of revulsion. Women now actually compete to show off their miserliness in caring for others, each trying to outdo the rest in proving they are the greatest scrooge with love. It has gone so far that large numbers of women are quite proud of the fact that they have never learned to cook or otherwise care for others.
I say that this is only half right because he blames feminism for the problem. That's simply not true. The attitude he describes was already common in women of my mother's generation, which preceded second wave feminism.

I think the attitude at base here is very much like that attributed to Sex and the City, which was that women should be able to "F*&k like a man". The implication being that men had sex purely for pleasure without desire for love and commitment. The problem with that thinking is that while some men do indeed do that all the time and while most men try to do that at some times, most men don't do that most of the time. To really "F*** like a man in the way most men actually do it, a woman would need to want to care for, nurture, encourage and support the man she has sex with while willingly accepting that many of the times she wants his love he just isn't going to feel like it—in other words, it would mean going back to what our grand parents understood as married love.

A similar false parallel was drawn with work. The assumption was that men went to work for self-fulfillment and  that what women did while "trapped in the home" was done "for others". Women, tired of living for others, wanted to be "like men". The problem with that is that while some men no doubt did behave as imagined, most didn't. Millions of men went to jobs they hated as an act of love. They did it to nourish others by the work of their hands.

And thus the recurring issue of women wanting "to have it all". Women, rightly, sought the right to join the workforce but expected that, in doing so, they would find a way to be truer to themselves only to discover that even the best jobs consist mostly of tedious, boring work that can only be made meaningful if we do it as a service to others.

One of the many paradoxes of love is that you must experience the one you love as an obstacle to really love them. This so because it is the sense of their being an obstacle that allows us to recognize them as a truly other being whom we need to reach out to love. The person with whom we never felt frustrated or angry with, the person whom, indeed, we didn't sometimes wonder if life wouldn't be better without them, isn't a real person at all but a projection of our narcissistic fantasies. (And this applies most of all to our attempts to love God.)  Everytime we find ourselves crashing into them as an obstacle, that is an opportunity to love.

Remember Kate Bolick?
I’d spent the past year with a handsome, commitment-minded man, and these better qualities, along with our having several interests in common, allowed me to overlook our many thundering incompatibilities. 
Everyone of those "thundering incompatibilities" was an opportunity to love.

But feminism, despite its many problems, didn't create the sense that the most important thing in life is to be true to yourself and that we should try to eliminate from our innermost circle all the people who prevent us from being true our "authentic selves". Feminism is often ugly because it is a symptom of that disease but it is not the disease itself. Women and men were already starting to think the way before feminism and the ugly sort of feminism that is rightly deplored would not have been possible is we hadn't already made that prior move of thinking that the most important thing in life was to be true to ourselves instead of what it really is, being true to another.

(And, no, Shakespeare did not advise us to do this; Polonius is an idiot about everything else, that this spectacularly bad advice is exceptionally credited as a "modern" way to think tells us a whole lot about what is wrong with modern life and nothing about Shakespeare.)

1 comment:

  1. I agree, but opportunities to love don't seem to be high on anyone's list these days. I agree with what you're saying about men, that is absolutely true especially your reference to Sex and the City. I also agree with you mostly about feminism, although I have to say that my mother was genuinely happy being a wife and mother, loved to cook and was proud of it, baked cupcakes for us to bring to school on our birthdays (that's probably not allowed anymore) and she was always there when we needed her. Feminism never achieved what they said was their goal, i.e., to hring the feminine perspective or "touch" to the workplace, politics, government and thus humanize those venues (at least that was the argument in the 70s). Because we were and still are dealing in stereotypes, the opposite happened. Women became more like what we consider men to be, they became more like the stereotypical man, i.e., aggressive bullies (which most of the men I know pre and post feminism never were). In a strange way Feminism has actually been a compliment (not complement) to the Masculine, they all want to be the way they think we are. So the Masculine is still the normative standard, whether they like it or not.