I really need to find something geeky to geek out about, other than how bad I am at MvC3…
I am taking two courses this semester with opposing schools of thought. One is a seminar focused on examining images pertaining to the male character across literature and media. The other is the women and comedy course I mentioned before. They both meet on the same day, and it’s typically been a head-trip going from one to the other—because one looks objectively at men in society, and the other is prone to hating on men in society.
Last week, I had perhaps the single best classroom experience in my entire college career, and it was awesome.
The day began with me actually excited to have something relevant to say in the man-class. You see, the day before I overheard on one of the local radio talk shows a call-in discussion pertaining to a man. This man called in with a question of manhood—his sister-in-law was(and probably is still) giving him crap about “not being a man.” He’s called “not a man” because he’s married, his wife works, she makes bank $$, no kids, they have a cleaning lady, and he does not work. He does the occasional odd-job, but he doesn’t have a 9-5, or any other aspirations for a career. He doesn’t play videogames, and orders basketball tickets since it’s the season and lots of men do that. So the hosts posed the question through the station—
Is he a man?
Every single woman who called in just about cremated this guy. They accused him of sitting around playing videogames all day, of being a freeloader, of stealing all his wife’s money, of being lazy, and “not being a man.” BUT, these same women also admitted that if the genders were reversed, it would not only be okay, but acceptable for the situation to remain as it is.
“[They] don’t do it, no [they] work for [their] money, but it’s okay for a woman to be more/less kept by a husband, or even boyfriend.”
Now marriage is even chucked out the window! These women fiercely argued that this man, if he wanted to “be a man,” should find a job and “support” (yes, that card was played) his wife, even if he doesn’t make as much.
I posed this story to the man-class, and we had a good discussion about the whole “breadwinner” concept and how it pertains here. But moving right along…
That afternoon in the women-class we discussed the intersections between Emma, Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, and the recent episode of 30 Rock where Tina Fey’s character tries being a spinster. The teacher pointed out that “spinster” isn’t a term readily used anymore, and the topic revolved around the idea of women being single—particularly older women remaining single. What are our perceptions of spinsters? We went through the range of stereotypes (lonely, unhappy, somehow unable to land a man…etc).
Finally, the topic drifted to other women. I pointed out that in the 30 Rock episode, it’s Liz’s female friend who rallies against the idea of Liz being okay, or even *gasp* happy, with being single, and that most pressures for today’s women come from other women. (Today was a rare day for volunteering)
The good question/discussion came out from this point: n the 21st century, does a woman need a man? What is the modern relationship between women and romance? Along those lines, why are women still wrestling with the exact same thematic material of a book (Emma) written going on two centuries ago? Is the idea of a woman being single and happy in some way threatening to other women? These are questions we didn’t really come to a good, concluding answer on.
Look back to the couple above. During the course of the segment the husband stated, several times, that him and his wife are happy with their situation—and frankly I think that’s as far as should be anyone’s business. Does the wife in this relationship sound like she really needs to be supported?
In contrast, a woman who (either in real life or in books/movies/shows) supports herself without a romantic relationship, or marriage, is privy to scrutiny by other women—with the running stereotypes being alone, unhappy, desperate for companionship, and little-to-no money. Side effects include being prone friends’ supposedly constructive meddling.
Compare this to the statements of the women callers, who plainly stated it’s acceptable for a woman to be completely kept by a man. Boyfriend or husband, a man still needs to be somewhere in the picture of a primary supporting role. The focus of the radio show was the man, of course, but I’ll admit to being more fascinated by the outright, admitted, hypocrisy of the women—and painfully, painfully aggravated.
I have to admit, I’m confused. The women who called into the radio were very territorial over “their money,” and that collectively a man should not have anything to do with “their money.” But if a man is supposed to be supporting you, what are you honestly doing with that money? If you, as a woman making money, still need or want a man to support you in order to be “the man” in the relationship, what is he doing with his money? Is yours hoarded away like a dragon’s cave? Do you burn that extra on clothes, shoes, bags for every season? I’m only asking because none of them suggested, inferred, implied, or stated that this male to female form of “support” is evenly distributed. It’s one thing if you’re splitting rent money, or utilities—it’s another if “the man” has to pay for those completely because that’s his role in your life, and then you turn around wielding the phrase, “No man is touching my money.”
I understand there’s equally damaging assumptions to both sides of the equation, but for now I’m focusing on the women. If I remember the song correctly…
“Ladies, it ain’t easy being independent.”
If there was an episode to sell me on watching 30 Rock, that wasn’t it. I don’t buy the concept that there’s only two forms of existence for women: single and unhappy, or involved (in any of its mono, poly, fwb, open, engaged, or married forms) and happy. No matter how much humor you incorporate.
In addition, I have yet to be sold on the idea that the episode was constructed to parody that notion.