The Clare Spark Blog

July 8, 2014

What is sexual freedom?

applesnakeIn my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2014/07/06/the-hobby-lobby-decision-and-the-war-on-women/), I predicted that the issue of sexual freedom would strongly affect the outcome of the next election cycle. A Facebook friend asked me what I meant by that. He took my ensuing response to express “responsibility” as the controlling value. I only partly agree with that judgment, but the issue bears more elaboration.

This blog expands the answer to my online acquaintance. It is partly  an opinion grounded in my particular experience, but also the result of historical research into changing mores. It is not a romp into relativism. I could come off as some kind of female ‘puritan’ and killjoy, though I don’t see myself that way.

First, consider the vogue for expensive weddings as no more than conspicuous consumption, female narcissism, and often absurd demands on the parental pocketbook. Note too that sentimental literature and romantic comedies are focused on that delicate period between puberty and marriage, where adolescent rebelliousness must be reined in for the sake of the status quo. Romantic love has long been associated with revolt from below. So a certain amount of order must be imposed on a process that could get out of hand. Free love, like free thought, has its limits.

The drama of the hunt and courtship dominates the mass media genres preferred by women, but stops at the usually humdrum period of marriage and parenting, where sexual passion almost inevitably fades, to be replaced by parenthood, community/political involvement, and the unforeseen demands of the aging body. Almost all our ideas about sex are shaped by maintaining our sexual attractiveness, including fashion, hair and skin care, “working out” and of course plastic surgery as if it is normal to be sixteen forever. While shopping the Bloomingdale’s July 4th sale, I heard one woman snort to another that Eileen Fisher’s flowing minimalist designs are meant for “menopausal women.”

wedded-blissswarovski

What I have already written should be obvious. No pop culture group celebrates companionate marriage and growing old together, let alone the day to day challenges of managing family life; nor are there trendy analogs to the Thomas Moore poem and touching popular song “Believe me, if all those endearing young charms….” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Believe_Me,_if_All_Those_Endearing_Young_Charms.) Instead we have the dubious passion for redecoration and home-building—a creative act in some cases, but also escapist. Old people, a growing part of our population, are stowed away out of sight and out of mind, unless they are fabulously rich and can attract gold-diggers of either gender.

Second, I rejected libertinism (often a consequence of “existentialist” despair, and “what the hell”), mostly because, though Casanovas and Don Juans probably think it is their birthright to cat around, for women it is most certainly the case that sex is not a drink of water. There is not only the rational fear of STDs, there is the partly irrational (?) fear of abandonment. Add to that the rational fear that birth control technology is imperfect, and you have anxiety during and after the sex act. (I am not suggesting that males do not have their own anxieties, partly over performance, partly over arousing usually buried feelings about Mother and the mother-son bond that may be problematic; the same goes for women, who may be anxious about “unresolved” relationships with Father.)

But all these considerations pale in contrast to the issue of abortifacients and abortions—an issue that is said to be highly “emotional.” Let me make a more materialist observation: the timing of her pregnancies is the single most important economic issue that women make. That is why many feminists are adamant about controlling “reproductive rights,” and take it to be a women’s health issue, not to be negotiated under any circumstances.

I understand that many religious persons see the “pro-choice” position, a symptom of mass media-induced “hyper-sexualization,” as the moral issue of our time, for eternal hellfire is often at stake. Some of the faithful are ready to go to the mat to overturn such laws as Roe v. Wade. Hence the polarization that complicates every election, for no Republican candidate who deviates from the pro-life position, or the related stipulation that stem cell research cannot be conducted with discarded frozen embryos, only adult stem cells, can expect to be nominated or elected (except in New England, perhaps). Meanwhile, in much conservative propaganda, late term abortions and infanticide are trotted out as talking points, as if all liberals and libertarians were potential baby-killers and communists.

The controlling context of this debate over abortion rights is the growing power of the state in surveilling and presumably controlling even the most intimate affairs of individuals. Many conservatives are appalled by “feminism” as if all feminists marched in lock step over “women’s issues,” or were out to destroy the family as the only haven in a heartless world.

Because of cultural/religious pluralism, institutionalized in the law of the land, pro-lifers can practice their religion without imposing a theocracy. It puzzles me that some media conservatives take a triumphalist tone, as if they were theocrats. It should not be a requirement that all Republican candidates are forced to conform to the Catholic/Evangelical social agenda, opposing not only abortion rights, but gay marriage. If statism is to be reduced, then religious conservatives should get their priorities straight and lighten up: as I have written before, capitalism/free markets are on the line. The women’s vote cost Mitt Romney the election of 2012, did it not? (https://clarespark.com/2012/11/07/capitalism-is-on-the-line/)

Here, finally, is how I view my most important feminist commitment, in which the welfare of children trumps individual preference—say for no-fault divorces. Having been through one such divorce in the early 1970s, I was in a position to observe the grief and confusion inflicted upon my own children. I don’t understand why feminists have not written more about the complicated fates of She Who Is Dumped and her offspring.

My own conclusion: if you are unwilling to put children’s emotional stability above your own whims or passions, then don’t have children. Obviously, if the marriage is so abusive, physically and emotionally, to spouse and kids that divorce is the only possibility of rescue from a disastrous home life, then divorce is the only remedy, but be prepared for the fallout affecting every member of the broken family.

divorcegg

July 6, 2014

The Hobby Lobby Decision and the War on Women

silencedwomanThree events prompt this blog today: 1. Last night I saw the much praised “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” for the first time (out of anxiety in watching a fiercely antagonistic marriage told through an existentialist lens?); 2. There was a Masters of Sex marathon in preparation for the second season starting next Sunday on Showtime; and 3. One of the panelists on Fox News Sunday predicted that Democrats would benefit from the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision, one that upheld the right of businesses to withhold abortifacients from their employees in the cause of “religious liberty.” This blog is definitely NOT about government forcing pro-life advocates to provide free contraception/abortifacients.

Start with Lizzy Caplan’s character “Virginia Johnson”—a witty and streetwise young woman “ahead of her time” as the show is set in the repressed 1950s, and the bohemian Virginia (a divorced ex-singer with a swing band and mother of two children) is a model of sexual freedom, outspokenness, an advocate for “women’s health”, and a reluctance to commit to bourgeois marriage. (The women’s health argument is currently featured in the talking points of liberal feminists reacting with shock and anger at the Hobby Lobby 5-4 decision.)

Which reminds me: numerous professionals on current television series are depicted as monomaniacally devoted to their professions, and wary of marital commitments (both “Alicia Florrick” and the late “Will Gardner” on The Good Wife, “ “Dr. Katherine Black” and her doctor lover on Black Box, “Olivia Benson” on Law and Order: SVU, “Meghan Draper” on Mad Men, and even “Olivia Pope” on Scandal. Is it any accident that married women or “male feminists” created most of these shows?

I have written numerous blogs criticizing the focus on sexuality to the exclusion of the context in which sex happens or doesn’t happen; I have also written about “the family” as the site of strife and even bondage—a point that is obscured by political rhetoric deploying the rhetoric of heterosexual family unity either to buttress collectivist ideology, or to fend off the decadence and poverty that conservatives attribute to illegitimate birth and mother-headed (usually minority) families.

I have also written extensively about misogyny, a neglected subject in defenses of male homosexuality, even as male critics praise film noir as their favorite genre, a genre that gloried in representations of the “femme fatale,” carrying forth the stereotype of the terrifying “woman with book” (as Leo Steinberg called her, in one of his popular lectures: I believe that the newly literate woman is one of the monsters inhabiting the Tory imagination: Woman as Jew of the Home). (See https://clarespark.com/2011/04/27/james-m-cains-gorgon-gals-2/, retitled “Film Noir decoded”.)

Also on this website, I have emphasized developments in the diagnoses of mental health problems, both aligning with and opposing the anti-psychiatry movement. I should have mentioned more frequently that individual psychiatry is no substitute for family therapy—a field that presumably closely examines how individuals in families relate to one another—or fail utterly owing to underdevelopment of the emotions in our supposedly “modern” society. Such family or couples therapy presumably avail themselves of attachment theory.

But most to the point, I have criticized the omnipresent, belabored usage of the phrase “hard work” especially as the key to achieving “the American Dream.” The subject of women’s labor in the home, with or without male participation, is rarely treated with the respect and caution it deserves: surely the second wave feminists were often on the lam and only partly deserved my scorn.

In one of my favorite episodes of Masters of Sex, Lizzy Caplan (“Virginia Johnson”) sings “You Don’t Know Me”—either a conventional love song about a triangle, or an ironic comment on a doctor lover who wants to tie her down, while her heart remains with another. She is in a booth in an amusement park, with the (temporary) boyfriend and her children looking fondly at her while she warns them through music not to presume anything about the content of her inner thoughts. (For the entire clip see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjfQwNXSfgo.) We have always lived in hierarchies, whatever the pretensions of democratic “egalitarianism” may be. Let those higher up in the food chain beware: You don’t know me/us.

As I have said over and over, “hierarchies breed deceit.” The Woman Question may never go away; in any case, the women’s vote may well decide the next series of elections. And it will be about sexual freedom. (For my explanation of “sexual freedom” see https://clarespark.com/2014/07/08/what-is-sexual-freedom/)

Image (84)-001

August 26, 2012

Democratic Party talking points 2012

Pro-Andrew Jackson cartoon

[Read this along with https://clarespark.com/2012/06/26/aaron-sorkins-scottish-blood/. Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom (now complete) will preview Democrat talking points, without missing a beat.]

The Yankee Doodle Society is a 501©3 organization, and its purpose is education, not polemicizing for one party or the other. Nevertheless it is not unscholarly to note the ideology informing the talking points of the Democratic Party.  I start with my own list, then add several messages submitted by Facebook friends.

Clare (off the top of her head): [From NPR:] Voter fraud a bogus issue invented by the pigs (or as Aaron Sorkin calls them, “the American Taliban”) to negate minority voting

The War on Women/women’s health

Romney is waging war on the poor through clever evasion of income taxes [NPR interview with Nicolas Shaxon]

R wants to harm students and teachers

R is destroying Medicare and Social Security

FB friend: it’s all bush’s fault… the other guys want to return to the same failed policies that led us to the brink of disaster…mitt is out of touch with the voters.. flip floppers.. mormons are weird(unless of course they are senate majority leaders)… republicans want to lower taxes on the rich and raise them for the middle class…people who oppose obama must be racist… they will destroy medicare as we know it…. mitt’s a felon… mitt didnt pay his taxes for 10 years.. mitt likes to fire people… mitt is a job exporter… mitt and bain are tax cheats…ryan has dangerous randian notions… republicans are greedy and unfeeling , democrats are kind and generous…. republican party is the party of the rich, corrupted by evil corporations… we’ve created 4.4 million jobs since bo took office, more than george w or reagan did in recoveries(really false btw).”

FB friend Mike Murray: War on Women, White Privilege, Fat cats, Fair Share. On a local note, something I find absolutely fascinating.  The state of Minnesota would, per the language of the proposed amendment, provide a free photo ID for every eligible voter, as a photo ID would be required to vote.  Taxpayers would pay for this, of course, so it wouldn’t be “free,” yet this is somehow evidence of a war on the poor?

FB friend Randy Davidson: “Obama’s Pet Peeves: The Constitution, Congress,The Supreme Court, The separation of powers, Thomas Paine, Israel, Alexis de Tocqueville, Capitalism, Oil companies (even though he accepted more money from them than any other Presidential candidate in history), Thomas Jefferson, The free market, Private jets (with the exception of Air Force One, Pelosi One and Soros One), Hayek, Chevy Suburbans and Cadillac Escalades (with the exception of those used by Rap Stars and the Presidential motorcade – where is that fleet of Chevy Volts the White house ordered?), Montesquieu, Doctors (he accused them of unecessary amputation among other things, although he’s okay with late-term/partial-birth abortion), The private sector, Banks (see oil companies). Ironic afterthought: Although Barack Obama is a rabid anti-colonialist, he does in many ways bear a striking resemblance to the late King George III.” [Added by anon. FB friend: England… Arizona…Fox News… Health insurance industry.]

Taken as a whole, a detached observer might conclude that the Democratic Party is waging “total war” on their challengers for the presidency.  This is nothing new for the Democrats. As I showed in prior blogs, Claude Bowers laid out his program here: https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/. But see also the “progressive” appropriation of German/Nazi methods of mind management here: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.

These tried and true propaganda techniques were not once brought out in my graduate school education (not at Harvard, not at UCLA), nor have I seen an article or a book that identified them with a critical eye. We should all be asking, “why not”?

Blog at WordPress.com.