Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ladies, Here's Your Knowledge -- Part One: The Boyfriend

In an earlier post I touched the subject of "female regurgitation of knowledge." I'd like to poke at it some more today, and tomorrow, and the next.

We can separate different types of regurgitation into three main categories. The first is the regurgitation of the boyfriend's knowledge. This is the lot of the common woman. The second is the regurgitation of the entire history of man-centered knowledge. This is what ails the female populous in general. Finally, there is regurgitation of the professor's (and other men in a teaching/advising position's) knowledge. This is what befalls the college student or scholar.

I can say that I have experienced the first and last types of regurgitation (that word is becoming cumbersome), blind acceptance, and zealous bandwagon jumping. I've managed to steer clear of the second. Even as a teen in the gay 1990s, when I thought I was the last bastion of anti-feminism, I was really thinking like a feminist (I can see that now). I have always been suspicious of old dead white men. But as I grow older, I have developed a healthy suspicion of living men too, yet as a student I continually find myself influenced by male professors.

The Boyfriend

For the rest of female humanity, let's start at the beginning. (We're writing in the royal "we" today, or in first person when needed. I am tired of the language complications caused by the impersonal third person "one.") Agreement with boyfriend, believing any "facts" he delivers, acceptance of all his ideas and ideals, zany, socially unacceptable or otherwise, seems to be a problem for young women in particular. Figure 1: Where is the young lady's funny hat?

It is especially sad when we see intelligent young women dating intelligent young (or old) men whose ever-expanding egos leave the young women in shadow. From cultural training or lack of a gelled personality (what teenager is outside of influence?) young women hang on the words of their smart young men, shoving aside their own ideas, rationalizing his, and essentially stagnating their own thought processes. A brilliant girl can whither if she sticks by the doctrines of a not-so-brilliant guy who thinks he is a genius. Not to say we all need to be perfectly matched by IQ tests or ego sizes. But a woman who is sharp should not be afraid to turn her wits loose on or around her mate.

I experienced this mind-corralling as a teen. I escaped it at twenty-one. I must say it is advantageous for intelligent young women to date men who are interested in things, who are curious. We can be inspired by their clear thoughts, by their varied experiences. But men, usually the older part of the couple, are bound to be more rigid in their thinking, and less influenced by their young companions whose brains are still bouncing all over, who may not as yet have found focus on a subject or a cause. Sticking to unformed women may be men's way of not being challenged.

Men often think of young women as their muses. Well, the muses inspired creativity for a reason: they actually did all the things they inspired! If they are the symbols we conjure up to represent something, doesn't that mean they must have been pretty darn good at that something? If so, isn't everything man creates on the inspiration of a muse merely an imitation? Men are catalyzed by the beauty and/or talent of a woman, and seek to create art/words/thoughts that can only fall short of the beauty that inspired them, their hairy bulge-veined hands snatching wildly for the proper male expression of or reaction to a female essense.

But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
Else of our sex, why feigned they those Nine,
And poesy made Calliope's own child;
So 'mongst the rest they placed arts divine
But this weak knot, they will full soon untie,
The Greeks did nought, but play the fools and lie.

Male scholars, you have a muse as well, and her name is Clio. She is hard at work writing histories recounting your abuses of her methods and memorizing your infractions against her mortal counterparts.

I bet Zeus was proud of his heartbreaking muses, even though his pride was a manly pride in his own offspring, his own creation.

Clio, the "hot nerdy chick" muse.

How many great women have been consentually overshadowed by great men? Let's think of a nineteenth century couple: both the lovers and all who observe them seeing her as the muse, he as the thinker, writer, painter, whatever have you. Of course when he dies she can take up a study of something from her bed, maybe write a book or two about it, accept posthumous awards and degrees for him, run a foundation in his name.

But he spent his whole life creating -- his formative years when he made unheard of conjectures, his mature years when he honed his theories or practice, his aging years where he had a chance to recant or defend any part of his body of work. We women can make this life for ourselves, as writers, artists, scholars, but it is far more difficult for us than for our husbands and companions who are better positioned to reap the benefits of a strong mind.

To some few friends, and to thy sorrows sing,
For groves of laurel, thou wert never meant.

Support from a man is something that should be quite welcome to a woman who has a mind to speak. But if the only things on her mind are things he put there, we'd might as well tell her to go back inside and mind the children.

"My husband says attachment parenting is the latest advance in child rearing. So I've sewn all three of mine onto my gown. Cecilia stop squirming! The man is trying to paint us!"

1 comment:

  1. I was literally rubbing my hands together when I read the title of this entry.

    The second paragraph really spoke to me. Living in the family that I do, one that glorifies the fifties, I'm surprised I'm not bald for the amount of times I pull my hair out in extreme frustration. Sometimes it seems as though women are but a shadow to men.

    When you wrote that you were tired of the impersonal third person "one", it reminded me of the very first rewrite I did on my first novel. I was guilty of using "one" constantly and my mentor had a hell of a time getting me to break the habit. He succeeded though, because whenever I read "one" instead of "I" or "we", I actually cringe.

    I can't agree with you more about women blindly agreeing with everything boyfriend says. When did it become necessary for women to dumb themselves down?

    Your writing reminds me of Woolf's. You speak your mind in such a beautifully literate way that it brings to mind the golden age of literature. I don't even remember the last time I heard (or read, actually) the word advantageous used. I couldn't believe how much I'd actually missed it.

    This comment is kind of jumping around. My sincere apologies. I was lucky to escape being mind-corralled. Of course it came with a lot of sacrifice, namely friends. I've always been rather solitary. People just didn't interest me as much as, say, nature or literature. I doubt I shall ever be involved in any kind of romantic relationship, which is just fine. I much prefer to be independent with a small but close group of friends.

    Is it just me or are actresses constantly described as muses nowadays? In the past two or so years, I've read countless amounts of articles about the director's muse. Dario Argento has his daughter, Asia (although with her, she's self-described), Tarantino has Thurman, and then just today I read that Woody Allen's muse is Scarlett Johanssen. Still, at least they are doing something to earn themselves such a title. By the way, I do love a good mythology reference.

    Your discussion of the relationship where the woman takes second seat as the muse while the man creates reminded me of two famous women: Frida Kahlo and Simone de Bouvier. One was married, though it was quite rocky, and the other is often labeled as a mistress. I discovered both long after high school, which irks me now. Women are so marginalized even in the classroom.

    That last paragraph gave me a bit of a nostalgic feeling because it reminded me of my mentor again. We started meeting my junior year of high school. Before I met him, I had no idea there was such a thing as a feminist. I also didn't know men could actually cook and was thrown for a loop when I went over one day to find him baking (we laugh about it now, but at that time, I was actually struck mute by the sight). He was the one who actually taught me that my opinion mattered and it was of the utmost importance that it was my own. Perhaps I was also guilty of regurgitation (the third type you are going to write about), but I managed to find my voice.

    Another excellent blog entry. I can't wait to read the next (a three parter, I could almost do a happy dance). I so hope we get a good connection in the places we're going to stay at.

    Off to packing again!

    By the way, love the pictures you get for your blogs.



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