I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you, you were playing like a girl?” Now, I expected him to say something like, “I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry,” something like that. No, the boy said to me, the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.”
And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?”
“We need to acknowledge that we cannot know what it’s like to be an oppressed racial minority. Cannot. The end. Period. We don’t know because we’re queer, because we’re disabled, because we’re Jewish, because we were the nerdy kid in school. These things may have hurt us severely, but we need to stop playing Oppression Olympics and acknowledge that when we’re talking about race we Do. Not. Know. No more metaphors.
We need to accept that when a person of color tells us we’ve fucked up, the answer is not to get defensive. When we get that instinct to say “geez, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way at all,” it’s time to stop right now. It doesn’t matter how you meant it. It really doesn’t. Someone doesn’t have to have racism in their heart to do something racist. And doing something racist doesn’t make you an evil person who can never do good again, should never be an activist, should run off and hide in a hole somewhere. It means you did something hurtful, you made a big mistake, and you need to own that mistake. You need to say “I’m sorry.” Full stop. I’m sorry. And if the person who called you out is generous enough to take time to explain what you did wrong, you need to have a seat and listen.”—
“What if all women were bigger and stronger than you? And thought they were smarter? What if women were the ones who started wars? What if too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos and no K-Y Jelly? What if the state trooper who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike was a woman and carried a gun? What if the ability to menstruate was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs? What if your attractiveness to women depended on the size of your penis? What if every time women saw you they’d hoot and make jerking motions with their hands? What if women were always making jokes about how ugly penises are and how bad sperm tastes? What if you had to explain what’s wrong with your car to big sweaty women with greasy hands who stared at your crotch in a garage where you are surrounded by posters of naked men with hard-ons? What if men’s magazines featured cover photos of 14-year-old boys with socks tucked into the front of their jeans and articles like: “How to tell if your wife is unfaithful” or “What your doctor won’t tell you about your prostate” or “The truth about impotence”? What if the doctor who examined your prostate was a woman and called you “Honey”? What if you had to inhale your boss’ stale cigar breath as she insisted that sleeping with her was part of the job? What if you couldn’t get away because the company dress code required you wear shoes designed to keep you from running? And what if after all that women still wanted you to love them?”—For the Men Who Still Don’t Get It, Carol Diehl. (via ashemo)
“The fundamental difference between the 19th century romantic novels and the contemporary romances that borrow heavily from them is in the self-possession of the heroines. Although the unmarried and all but dowerless Elizabeth Bennet and the orphan governess Jane Eyre are in positions of greater social vulnerability than their contemporary counterparts, neither 19th-century heroine is willing to sacrifice self-respect in order to gain financial security or love. …By contrast, the scenes in which Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele literally fall at the heroes’ feet and rely on the heroes’ strength to stand foreshadow each heroine’s willingness to stay in a relationship with a man whose dominance overwhelms her sense of self, and without whom she seems lost.”—
Kristina Deffenbacher, Professor of English at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/159709-lesser-shades-of-jane/#.UCHs_6LE1jI.facebook
What 19th century romance novelists were doing, which most modern ones are not, is very carefully examining, discussing and criticising the world around them in a conversation that was almost entirely held between women. Novelists during this period, especially romance novelists, were almost exclusively women, as were their readers. Men were still expected to read and write poetry if they were going to read and write any kind of art, because poetry was the higher art form, and also accessible only through the classical education that was denied to most women at the time. So women wrote (and read) novels, which were derided as ‘low’ forms of entertainment until men like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens came along and legitimised the medium by writing the first ‘historical’ and ‘state of the nation’ novels.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is probably one of the subtlest and smartest critiques of the way women like Elizabeth Bennett - self-possessed, opinionated, well-read, passionate - were portrayed in the media in the late 18th and early 19th century. A young, ‘over’-educated woman with opinions of her own was probably the most derided figure in the medium, soundly mocked as utterly self-deluded, ugly, undesirable, raised by fools and liked only by fools; at best she’d end up eventually repenting all her previous opinions and meekly settling down to spinsterhood, at worst she’d end up dying tragically by the end of the novel whilst its real heroine, a stereotypical feminine angel, married happily having surrendered herself entirely to her husband. Pride and Prejudice turned this formula on its head, making Elizabeth the desirable heroine because of her opinions, her education, her self-possession, and fiercely criticising the idea that a woman who gives up her entire self to (the idea of) a man/a marriage, can ever be truly happy (see, Mrs Bennett, and Charlotte, even Lydia).
In essence, the original, great romance novelists of the late 18th and early 19th century, were doing their best to engage with and subvert the problems they saw for women in particular in the world around them, especially in the ‘pop culture’ of the age, commentating in the only medium available to them. The current generation are interested only in pandering to popular culture, not taking it apart and shaking it up and calling out its bullshit - and therein lies the problem.