The Truth About Fakin' It
They way things stand right now, it's not just "fake it 'til you make it" in the boardroom, but "fake it because you're trying to make it" in the bedroom.
Reading at the Observer, I (re)discovered this 2006 article on Fay Weldon. Weldon may be considered obsolete for many, but her work is worth a look especially in light of Third Wave Feminism.
Fay Weldon insists she has never aspired either to seriousness or feminism, yet she's sure explored women's issues with her fiction, especially as her characters encounter the oppressive patriarchal structure of Western society.
Yet, in her book, What Makes Women Happy, Weldons says:
"If you are happy and generous-minded, you will fake it and then leap out of bed and pour him champagne, telling him, "You are so clever" or however you express enthusiasm. Faking is kind to male partners ... Otherwise they too may become anxious and so less able to perform. Do yourself and him a favour, sister: fake it."
I don't agree entirely with Weldon's words (which really sound like a grand satirical read), but I do understand some of the sentiments behind them. Women who choose to focus on a career may find it very difficult to have an idyllic romantic and sexual partnership. However, what Weldon (and others) fail to point out is that this is very true for men too.
While Third Wave Feminists have decided they too 'can have it all,' what Weldon and others see is that this isn't so.
No one really has it all.
I'll admit men have more options than women, more pay than women, and more perks all the way around. It's still a man's world. But here in the US of A anyway, there are few men who can write their own ticket, exploit the world to their own benefit, or otherwise just do as they damn well please. It's not (necessarily) God or karma which gets in their way, but simple economics.
All things being equal, and I don't agree they are yet, the majority of us are not in power broker positions. Since the richest 10 percent of the adult population possesses 69.8% of the country's household wealth, that leaves 90% of us 'not wealthy'. Class aside, the general population toils to make ends meet. Single or married, male or female, you've got to be working. (Thankfully, feminists got the patriarchy to see that taking care of children &/or the home was, in fact, work.) So no matter your pay level, or lack thereof, you're a working person. If you're interested in a career, a progression of your professional life, you do more than toil to make ends meet; you toil to get ahead.
All this effort means there is little time, little energy, for romance and relationships. Working for, or to become, The Man, means little is left for getting your mate ~ and, should you get one, less time for actual mating and intimacy.
Affected as this culture still is by the Industrial Revolution, and even more imprinted by the atomic bombs of nuclear family and 50's subdivision morality, the model of working male who earns and therefore protects 'his own' (seed and stock legally defined as 'family') things have shifted. Women are now among the earning protectors. By choice or forced via the economy, we women have roared into industry like Rosie the Riveter, doing as we must. But the reality, the dynamic of someone needed to nurture family, hearth and home hasn't changed. The 'who' may not be (so much) assumed to be 'the little woman' anymore, but the question remains: Who will take care of things besides income?
This is where Weldon comes in. Her lifetime of experience (74 years at the time of the article) has shown that when it comes to give and take, men will still desire to take. She's not the only one saying so. Even men themselves admit to the propensity. Like Michael Noer, the news editor of Forbes.com, who that same year (2006) wrote to men: "a word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career."
Rather than assuming Noer and Weldon compared stereotypical notes, or that men are just 'takers,' here is more of what Noer wrote:
"If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).
Why? Well, despite the fact that the link between work, women and divorce rates is complex and controversial, much of the reasoning is based on a lot of economic theory and a bit of common sense. In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally, men have tended to do "market" or paid work outside the home, and women have tended to do "nonmarket" or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases--if, for example, both spouses have careers--the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely. And, indeed, empirical studies have concluded just that."
It may not be a man's nature to be a taker; it may just be a human one. All this gender role changing leaves us scrambling, even in our relationships. How will we reach Utopia? What will real equality look like? For that, we may need to turn to science fiction, which says little or nothing about how we'll get there. For now we struggle with where we are.
In the name of fairness, Forbes also ran a counter-point piece, Don't Marry A Lazy Man, by Elizabeth Corcoran (found on the same page as the Noer piece).
While Corcoran makes some equally valid points, her piece, in truth, comes across as whining. Perhaps this is because she isn't living among us. Her solution to a messy house?
"There is, of course, the continual dilemma of who does the work around the house. But if both spouses are working, guess what? They've got enough income to hire someone else to fold laundry, mop floors, etc.
Money is a problem? Honestly, the times money has been the biggest problem for us have been when we were short of it--not when one of us is earning more than the other. When we have enough to pay the bills, have some fun and save a bit, seems like the rules of preschool should take over: Play nice, be fair and take turns."
Yeah, Liz, most Americans are totally able to afford a maid or service. :snort:
Back to my point(s).
Corcoran says that "both people have to learn to change and keep on adapting," and that's true enough. But in order to adapt we must first accept where we are.
With both partners working (and I don't just mean hetero folks either) there's little time for romance. Little time for sex. Even less time for good sex.
A man giving it is all at the office may have interest in your orifice; but he'll have little steam left for it. He's more concerned about making it in the proverbial boardroom than he is with his performance in the bedroom. His ~ your ~ livelyhood depends upon it. Weldon spoke to that issue by telling women not to expect fireworks everytime, and to thank him anyway.
Should she, as feminist or female, advise a woman to lower her expectations? I don't know what else the answer can be but, "Yes." Why? Because men have spent the last few decades being told to lower theirs. If men ought not to expect to be married to Mrs. Cleaver, nor access the beaver just when, where & why they want to, then why should women be taught to expect Mr. Right will be both a Rockefeller and a Lover-Fellow?
Unless you're part of the 10% who counts among their luxuries the ability to pay the other 90% to take care of their home, hearth, family and yes, sexual needs, you're going to need to reevaluate your expectations and make allowances.
Author Maureen Freely said of Weldon's work, "It will exacerbate the deepest concerns of the brilliant young women who I teach, who are extremely worried that sooner or later, they are going to have to pay for their independence and intellectual vigor because men don't like it." She even added, "...if I had to tell my own daughter to put up with what Fay is suggesting, I would be asking her to put up with situations which are, quite frankly, abusive."
Freely misses the point. It's not because men hate us, nor is it a backlash against "brilliant young women". It's not (entirely) motivated by fear of women, but a fear of well, Life. When both partners are working towards career goals the sweat is saved for the office, not the sheets. It's not misogynistic; the "abusive" nature of this smacks both men and women in the face equally.
Date nights and periods of 'quality time' may not be in your version of Utopia, nor telling your partner they're great when they aren't. But when couples lives are more separated than together and each partner risks becoming "all work" and alone (even in the relationship), creating compartmentalized pockets of intimacy and possessing the grace to acknowledge why attentions must lie elsewhere, well, it just doesn't seem so bad.
It's unfortunate; but not aimed at women to hurt us.
Camille Paglia praised Weldon and her book, calling both courageous. And she noted, "It's an important point that the career woman may often end up alone. That scenario needs to be put to younger women as they begin making their choices about life."
You may call that ugly. It's ugly that many women who put themselves on the fast-track for their careers have to face fertility problems. It's all ugly; but it's true. Sticking your head in the sand ~ in the name of feminism or anything else ~ won't make it go away.
If the idea of choosing is difficult, the idea of settling is horrific to most of us. And I'd love to say that no one should ever settle. But just as 'settling down' doesn't mean you are settling for less than singles have, setting your sexual expectations to luke warm now and then (and being grateful for your partner's willingness to try) doesn't mean you're settling for less either.
Love & marriage are, after all, for better and for worse. That includes the state of the economy and our society.
Until we all get to Utopia, real equality in a fashion which our economy can support, we're going to have to come together more often than we cum together. Or accept that the alternative choice: That if we can't accept things the way they are we may, in fact, need to go solo.