Monday, August 17, 2009

Protect, Provide, Defend?

These are apparently the roles of a man. And I have been REJECTING them, ALL MY LIFE. Since I drank at the fountain of feminist enlightenment with my Grandmother. NEVER DEPEND ON A MAN, GET YOURSELF A CAREER, BE SELF-SUFFICIENT.

It would be an insult to expect someone to provide for me. Taxpayers have invested good money in my education, and further I do not want to be beholden to a man. When I first heard the expression "Marriage is prostitution" (at the tender age of about 30) I had no idea what it could possibly mean. I have been married once, but I have never expected a man to PROVIDE for me in return for services in the bedroom and kitchen. HORROR.

As for protection. I am not weak, I do not need protecting.

During my marriage, this worked quite well. In Simon, I had not sought out a provider, he was ineffective at work, but still had the manly attributes of strong opinions and apsirations. We both worked, we both cooked, we both cleaned. Until the baby came along. Then Simon lost his mind, and, just as I had never expected to be protected or nurtured, I found myself quite incapable of nurture.

But, it seems the joke is on me. Because many men want to fulfil the protector and provider role and many women of my generation are happy to nurture them in return, and, in maybe half the cases, where they are able to respect one another, there is not even a sniff of prostitution in the process.

I could've forgotten about getting an education, focussed my energies of attracting a provider and lined my little nest. I have to say this would've been much easier than the single parent role where I try to be Mummy and Daddy... huffing about trying to get ahead at work by day, endlessly wiping and cleaning by night...

But stay, what of that other 50% those unhappily married for whom the deal did not work out. They have no skills they are trapped by a unfaithful, disrespectful, user and abuser.

Perhaps in my attempt to avoid this, I also passed up the opportunity to allow a good man to protect and provide for me.

For a little moment here I had the worst of both worlds. I was able to go out and earn a living in a respected professional role, whilst having to opportunity to share my home with someone who expected me to be a chef in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom, an who would physically slap me down If I tried to speak up for myself or negotiate in the domestic economy. Someone who offered me a form of protection and provision I never asked for - "Oh you have magnificent breasts! What's for dinner?" The protection and provision were so hard to discern they were almost theoretical, and yet he traded on them. You clean up after me, because I work FOR YOU.

I have, in my time, been guilty of feeling sorry for my single friends because they could not snare a man. Oh the lonely life of a spinster, to be pitied. And yet that joke is on me too, because had I not entered into this whole marriage/partnership enterprise I would be in no worse a position. Perhaps better even. No unemployable husband living off me, no testosterone charged zealot cheating on me, hitting me, spending my money of flat screen TVs. I would've been able to direct my hard earned dollars to investments that worked for me. If I had not treasured old fashioned notions marriage and family I could even have become a parent.

But now I picture a new stronger me. My efforts will no longer be focussed on finding a partner to share my life, but to creating a better single life for myself. The best it can be.

And what of my feminist grandmother? She died last year, protected and provided for her whole life by a man who loved and respected her. Perhaps she felt dis-empowered, so she had these dreams for me, dreams of freedom, autonomy, personal wealth and its rewards, respect from society.... I think I know where she was coming from.

Yet somehow I think perhaps like many of my generation I am caught in that narrow alley between feminism and post-feminism where there are three options;

  • throw caution to the wind and love freely hoping to be given the freedom to pursue your dreams,
  • trust only yourself and remain single, or
  • become a case study in mismanagement of the feminist ideal as have I.

1 comment:

Cat said...

I think it takes the balance on a knife blade for marriages to work.

Liek life - my marriage has its good and bad days as of late, and for the bad not being horrific I am grateful.

Had I to do it all over again, I would have had the children and never married, because nurturing my boys was what came naturally for me and I have receievd much more in doing this than I have given out...

As for marriage, its muych like jewelry to me I think. It looks nice on, but lately it is just not something I need all the time, ya know?