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The Feminist Hangover

I feel let down. I put my foot right into my mouth justifying why women want to watch Sex And The City 2 despite the first movie having been such an epic disaster. The second one wasn’t just bad, it was mortifying!

I’m tempted to suspect that the second movie was secretly scripted by men and acted out by guys in reverse drag, all part of the anti-feminist movement. But credit where it’s due (or blame in this case). The SATCmania has spiraled downward into a place where even your best galpals don’t want to follow, or indeed be associated with.

Whininess, cheating (and being condoned), shameless ignorance of and blatant disrespect to other cultures, spoilt-princess behaviour….okay, none of these were ever on the agenda for women’s lib. I feel like I should apologize to all the men I’ve been preaching to over the years about equality and empowerment. This, ah….this wasn’t what I meant.

At another level, I feel like this movie mirrors my own attitude shift in the recent times. A close guy friend (yes, there is such a thing even though he’s straight) said something interesting.

“You know what the trouble with you women these days is? You’ve got your grades and then your promotions. You’re taking care of your families. You’ve got great careers and fabulous lives. And so you believe you’ve achieved everything and that you’re invincible. You know, you still do fall sick, you still need other people too. Everyone does. It’s not a man or a woman thing. But all of you act like no one else matters, run over anyone who cares about you because you think that’s how a powerful woman is supposed to behave.”

I didn’t like hearing that at all. But there was truth in what he said. He was thinking about his ex- who was sacrificing her health for career and lifestyle and refused to listen to his concerns over it. But I was thinking of my own workaholism, my arrogance and ruthlessness. I cultivated all of it thinking I needed it to survive in these times. Well, maybe that’s true or maybe it’s not. But it’s also left me with an unhealthy level of cynicism, I’ve lost a number of good friends over the years, there’s judgement where there used to be connection and oh yes, the health has suffered too. I’m not condoning chauvinism or saying equality was a bad idea. But that’s why this is so difficult. Toughness has meant losing gentleness, caring and indeed some of the most wonderful things about being me, being us.

The other side of feminism was supposed to acknowledge that men had emotions too and could be just as nurturing and caring. But somehow it spiraled into a blamegame, an ugly, vindictive ‘up-yours’ crowing-over. It’s not about equality anymore, it’s one-upmanship (upwomanship?). All of us are losing.

My friend is as torn up over his breakup as I’ve ever been over mine. I just fear his lady is as well but she doesn’t know it or won’t acknowledge it. Remind me again how this is good for any of us? It takes two to build a relationship. How do we proceed when one of us is hungover on power, sado-masochism and inaccessible?

I had another thought about the classic equation of relationships – men trading love for sex and women trading sex for love. At that oversimplified level, all these years were about men reneging on their side of the deal by taking sex without paying back with adequate love while women withheld sex till love was forthcoming. It was a business and it worked with all the bartering, the bad debts and the constantly fluctuating scales on both sides. Today though, it’s women saying they’re not interested in shopping at this market anymore. Why pay for love when you can get its substitutes (power, fame, respect, attention, awe) far more easily? And there are the women who decide to infiltrate the competition and take over the business. Enter the Samantha Jones prototype – a woman who trades for sex the way men have been thought to do.

I’m not going to judge what anybody wants and how they go about getting it. But I do wonder about the fabric of our society, based as it is on the warp and weft of both sexes, the constant barter and transfer of emotions and sex, of needs and provisions.

This is the morning after the party and we’re hungover on that potent mix of power, glory and attention. I don’t think most of us are thinking straight any more. Who’s going to rescue the world now that Superwoman has ousted Superman and killed the collaboration?

The League of Ex-girlfriends

The one safety valve on a man who goes with too many women is the fact that there are a that many vindictive/resentful/unsure-about-feeling women to ally with.

I’m reminded of a conversation from Fables: The Mean Seasons between Cinderalla, Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow White that goes,

We’re like an annual meeting of his parole board, getting together once a year, to confirm that he’s still an unrepentant fuck and continues to be deserving of our organized contempt!

..the man in question being their common Ex-, Prince Charming.

Now that we’re well out of adolescence and the dewy-eyed freshness of first romances and having accumulated a few rough experiences, we find others in the same boat. Not just women who’ve dated similar men, but women who’ve dated the same man!

And thus is born the League of Ex-girlfriends. Women who at one point are sworn enemies, bitter rivals or even uncomfortable acquaintances spot a chance to turn pals. Few women would let this go by, I kid you not.

So what does the League discuss? Like all groups of women – clothes, celebrities, family, friends, work, finances, children, books. Don’t whew in relief just yet….women prefer to be refined and subtle in such things. All of these topics can be discussed with practically any other woman, regardless of age, culture or relationship status. We talk about these to establish that comfort factor and to scope out the other woman closer up, to decide if she can be included in our respective Leagues or not.

And that done, we arrive at the prime reason for the League’s existance – the man (while I have the choicest of epithets at my disposal, I refrain in deference to my more modest fellow compartriots). So we’ll be polite and nice, ladies but talk about him, we definitely will!

Is a man then advised to ensure that he dates all kinds of different women so they don’t feel that comfortable with each other to gang up on him? HAHAHAHAHAAHA is all I can say to that. The more diverse the group, the more things we have to talk about him. Every detail will be scrutinised and dissected in great detail and if you think women don’t do locker-room talk, daaaahling, we do lunch with the other girls. Miaow!

There’s a hierarchy in this, which true to womenhood, lies beneath the surface and occasionally causes subtle conflicts. Thus the most recent one to join is given the floor, which makes sense considering the older members have probably already dissected all they know to bits. Besides they’re all waiting to see if their predictions about the man and his latest flame have turned out right. With that many women (didn’t you know we were all born with a Ph.D in male psychology?), they’re bound to have been right and the “Ha! Didn’t we say so?!” feeling is enough to overcome any prior animosity or personality differences. The new recruit looks about nervously at first or defiantly (depending upon her type) and feels encouraged to spill more of the beans as she sees the response her words are getting.

The one who stayed with the guy the longest is the undoubted queen bee of the group and most likely its creator as well. On the other hand this lady may as well not even belong to the group, believing that allying with the other ‘flings’ is beneath her.

The one that ended with ‘But we wish each other well and have decided to stay good friends!” sort is definitely not a part of the League. Oh wait, she’ll receive an invitation to the girls’ League too but it’ll only be to update the other members on the man’s life. The League works in unfathomable ways and have definitely heard of ‘getting insider info’.

What about men whose ex-es are not resentful, bitter, vindictive (in short women who aren’t women…okay, okay, forget I said that!)? Okay I can only surmise that such Leagues don’t exist in those cases. Since the women in question have presumably worked out all their emotions neatly, they feel no need to air them out, let alone join in a mass dirty-laundry-of-same-idiot airing. I also suspect these are the kind of women who lurrrrve hearing about other people’s dukh-dard-ki-kahaniyan but never let spill any of their own beans (“Oh but that’s too personal!”). Can you tell I don’t like such creatures? Actually I have nothing against them except a strong skepticism of their existence.

But never mind what I don’t believe in. What I do believe is that for every slighted, hurt, betrayed, victimised woman, there must be at least a few others in exactly the same boat. If not, wait a bit, the guy doesn’t change all that much and is bound to accumulate a few more broken hearts. And then it is time to call a meeting of the League of Ex-girlfriends.
Do women worry about their ex-es forming similar cliques, a la A League of Ex-Boyfriends? Not particularly, considering that men will happily bond over every stupid common thing from a workplace to a shared fascination for yellow, foul-smelling, barley-brewed alcohol….but can absolutely not bear the thought of another man having been the object of their paramour (current or former)’s affections. Besides where would they meet – the Hall of Shame?

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