Crying Rape for Regret

Regarding the view that women ‘cry rape’ when they regret having had sex, let’s concede for a moment that that’s true.  The concession begs the question: why do so many women regret having sex?

Even if it turned out to be a mediocre experience—if the man wasn’t very good at it, due to lack of skill or lack of maturity (in terms of wanting the woman to have an orgasm too)—one would hardly cry rape.

Perhaps the woman got pregnant.  If she didn’t want to get pregnant, one would think she’d either be using contraception or she’d trust the man to wear a condom.  So either the contraception didn’t work or the man didn’t wear a condom (or took it off part way through) or he promised to ‘pull out’ before ejaculation (not knowing that semen can get into a woman’s vagina even before ejaculation).

However, my guess is that the woman thought they were going to make love, and it turned out he was just fucking her.  Worse, she realized (once she realized it was just a fuck) that she’d get a bad rep, to put it mildly: her name would circulated, the guy would post humiliating comments, maybe even images, on social media, etc., etc., etc.  It makes perfect sense: as long as women who consent to sex are considered sluts, they’ll be tempted to cry rape—non-consent.

So men, you don’t want to be charged with rape?  Don’t have sex the woman will regret: make it great sex; use a condom; and don’t consider the woman a slut because she wanted it.

 

13 Reasons Why: How to Make a Movie (and maybe Write a Novel *) without acknowledging the Elephant in the Room 

So I’ve just finished watching 13 Reasons Why (Netflix) and am struck by the completely unacknowledged elephant in the room.  Not one character acknowledges that almost all of the problems leading to Hannah’s suicide stem from sexism and its many tumours – misogyny, male entitlement, male privilege, hypersexualization, objectification, the rape culture, etc., etc., etc.

Consider:

Justin – Being a man is all about getting sex, using women for sex, and bragging about it afterwards to get points, to improve your status (among males).  Exaggerating and lying about your ‘achievements’ is, well, standard operating procedure if you’re a guy.  ‘Bros before hos’ — even if it means letting your girlfriend be raped (because hey, what’s mine is yours) (and women are just property, after all) (otherwise, it wouldn’t even have occurred to him that what he ‘owed’ Bryce could include Jessica).  That said, (weak) applause for his eventual decency, especially given his relative-to-Bryce lack of privilege and the pull of moral obligation for reciprocity (albeit disgustingly overgeneralized, as mentioned).

Jessica – Men are more important than women.  One, getting a boyfriend is the most important thing you can do, being someone’s girlfriend is the most important thing you can be; your status, your value, depends on your relation to a male — which is why as soon as she and Alex hook up, Hannah is dropped like a second-class piece of shit.  Two, what men say is to be believed, they are authorities, about everything; when they open their mouths, truth tumbles out like little golden nuggets — which is why she believes what she’s told by Alex et al about Hannah.   Three, she’s a cheerleader.  Her actual ‘job’ is to cheer and applaud men when they do stuff.  (In fact, many of the girls in 13 Reasons Why are cheerleaders, and many of the boys are jocks.  A whole 90% of the student body is missing.  Why?  Give you one guess.)  (Actually, on second thought, strictly speaking, that’s not true.  Of the eight boys listed here, only three are jocks.  So why did I get that wrong impression?  Because they appear as a group, wearing uniforms.  They appear as a team, a gang, a team, an army.  That’s why they seem more … powerful.)

Alex – Women are to be evaluated solely on the basis of their body parts, on whether their body parts please you/men.   Again, (weak) applause for his regret and guilt, and his speaking up, but, yeah, men like Alex who confront men like Bryce will get beaten up.  Thus, his limited confrontation and his suicide attempt can also be traced to the fucked-up patriarchal culture.

Tyler – Women’s bodies are public domain; ergo, photographs of women’s bodies are public domain.  It’s not like there’s a person inside or anything.

Courtney  – Being lesbian in public means you risk ‘corrective rape’; can we blame her for hiding?

Marcus – When a girl agrees to meet you for a milkshake, she’s really agreeing to have sex with you.  At the very least, she’s agreeing to have her genitals fondled by you.  In public.  In broad daylight.  And certainly in the presence of the bros you brought along to witness your conquest.  If she objects, well, your outrage is justified.  Because you’re entitled to touch her.  In fact, you’re entitled to touch any woman.  Any time, any place.  Simply because you’re a man.

Zach – She doesn’t particularly like you?  She rejected your advances of friendship?  Well, yeah, FUCK HER!  Because men are entitled to the affection of all women.

Ryan – Sure it’s okay to publish someone’s work without their permission, without crediting them, perhaps especially if they’re a woman and you’re a man.  Because you, men, know best.   What’s best for her, women.  (Oh, and thanks for carrying on the great tradition of ‘Anon’…)

Sheri – Perhaps the only episode that doesn’t implicate the elephant.

Bryce – Women don’t know what they want, but you, you, a MAN (well, a boy), you know what they want.  (And they all want you.  They all want your penis inside them.)  (At least, you “assume so.”)  (And that’s good enough.)  Thanks to the patriarchy, you can be appallingly deluded about your knowledge and your appeal.  You can lie to yourself about it.  Again and again.

Mr. Porter – Yes, he goes to regretted sex first, then to alcohol and drugs, but when he gets to rape, Hannah says she didn’t tell Bryce to stop, she says she didn’t tell him ‘No’ – so what’s he supposed to think?  He suggests she may have consented then changed her mind (which she’s certainly entitled to do) (and which still leaves the door open to rape), then asks whether they should get her parents or the police involved, but she says ‘No’ – again, what’s he supposed to think or do?  And of course, he can’t promise that Bryce will go to jail.  Guess why.  He tells her it may be ‘best to move on’ (but only after he clarifies that Hannah won’t give a name, she won’t press charges, she’s not even sure she can press charges), showing that he too is caught in the mire of our fucked-up patriarchy.

Clay – Clay buys into the Prince Charming shit: he blames himself for not saving Hannah.  (He doesn’t blame himself for not saving Alex – though perhaps he doesn’t know yet…)  Near the end, he says something like ‘We need to start treating each other better, we need to start caring about each other.’ Well, as Bryce would surely tell him, caring about others is for sissies – females.  And in a patriarchy, male values trump female values (and yes, in a patriarchy there’s a difference).

Hannah – She exhibits a lot of passivity, a persistent denial of agency.  She wants Clay to kiss her; why doesn’t she want to kiss him? (She wants to be kissed; she doesn’t want to kiss.)  She wants Clay to ask her to dance; why doesn’t she just ask him to dance?  She wants him to be her Valentine; why doesn’t she just tell him that?  She tells Clay to go away, but then expects him to stay.  Not only is he not a mind reader, but it’s that kind of shit that got us to ‘no means yes’.  (Tony had it right: she asked him to go, he should go, end of story.)  Standing outside Mr. Porter’s office, she waits to be saved, for him to come running after her.

And of course as soon as Bryce, whom she’d seen rape Jessica, gets into the hot tub, she doesn’t get out.  She probably didn’t want to appear rude.  You know, hurt his feelings.  Once he begins, she doesn’t scream STOP; she doesn’t scream NO.  She just … accepts it, endures it.  (And ‘it’ looks like it might have been sodomy, not ‘just’ PIV rape.)  That’s what women, girls, are supposed to do.  That’s what we’re raised to do.

If the girls wore alarm necklaces (instead of short little genitals-easily-accessible skirts) she could’ve pulled its pin (like a grenade) when she saw Bryce start to rape Jessica …  And again when she was in the hot tub …  And, backing up a bit, why do we keep our teenaged girls so clueless, so desperate for … what? that they get into a hot tub at a party at a rapist’s house in just their bra and panties (let alone go to a party at his place in the first place)?   Not to mention, of course, why do we keep our teenaged boys so clueless the moral wrongness of patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, male entitlement, male privilege …

So the thirteen reasons why pretty much boil down to one.

And it’s not even acknowledged.

Feminists have exposed and fought against patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, male entitlement, male privilege, hypersexualization, objectification, rape culture – hell, we named most of that shit – for decades.  Not acknowledged.  Not once.  Not even a little bit.  It’s like Jay Asher was born yesterday and has remained oblivious of such women’s voices.  Ironic.  To say the least.

(I cheered when ‘the male gaze’ was actually mentioned by the girls – but then they got it wrong, they made it sound like it just describes the attracted look on a guy’s face.  Oh for the love of God!)

There are no doubt hundreds of 13 Reasons Why novels written by women.  Have any of them been published?  Made into a movie?  Received great critical claim?  No.  But a man writes about what it’s like to be raped, what it’s like to be subjected to misogynistic shit every fucking day, well, world, PAY ATTENTION!  Asher is himself a shining example of the male privilege his novel criticizes so unwittingly.  Again, the irony.

Furthermore, how many more Sylvia Plaths do we need to see?  Why must we keep seeing women kill themselves because of this shit?  Why can’t we see as many, if not more, saying FUCK THIS SHIT!?  Yes, okay, Jessica was drunk, and Hannah isn’t a cheerleader, but why couldn’t Asher have reversed that?  Because, hey, if a girl can do four back handsprings (without mats even), she surely has the strength (shoulders, abs, legs) and the courage (without mats, remember?) to fight back at least a little.  Why didn’t we see a sober cheerleader, or two or three, bustin’ Bryce’s ass when he tried his shit.  Why don’t we see more movies like Jodi Foster’s The Brave One?   Give you one guess.

Never mind the elephant.  13 Reasons Why is a trojan horse.

 

* I’ve just watched the movie, so don’t know how much of this applies to the novel.

 

Chefs and Cooks: What’s the difference?

Used to be women did the cooking and the baking.  Then men starting getting into it.  And in theory, I have no problem with that.  In fact, I’m all for making everything gender-unaligned.  But now that men are in the kitchen, suddenly it’s important.  So important it’s being televised.

And my god, the drama!  (And they call us drama queens.)  The tension, the conflict… Chefs (yes, men are chefs; women were just cooks) scream with self-righteous anger at their minions, they rush around with great urgency making sure every sprinkle of cinnamon is just right, because, well, it’s so frickin’ important.

The phenomenon defies logic.  Drama, therefore importance?  No, because then the toddler screaming about his toy truck in the shopping mall would rank right up there with nuclear disarmament.

If anything, the reasoning goes the other way around: important, therefore drama.  (Although that’s not necessarily true either.  I tend to present my case calmly and rationally, without drama, but one time, the vet’s wife failed to recognize an emergency, dying or dead fawn in my arms notwithstanding, because I wasn’t screaming.  Another time, the local township council didn’t put up a requested road sign until I called a councilmember shouting at her with anger and distress, since minutes earlier, I’d almost been turned into a parapalegic by a speeding vehicle — my previous half dozen requests, accompanied as they were with just sound arguments, were ignored.)

Or is it that the drama, the tension and conflict, are the consequences of the endeavor now being competitive.

And why is that?  Because men are involved?  Well, yes, men see everything as a competition (except for those who resist their primal brain, their testosterone, and/or their Y chromosome).  Women freely share their favorite recipes.

But it’s not just the cooking shows.  Song and dance, even travelogue shows, they’re all bloody competitions now.  And why is that?  Are we all addicts to competition?  Have we been turned into competition addicts (by male producers) (seeking male sponsors)?

I’m thinking men, therefore important.  Look at what happened to bank tellers: when men were bank tellers, it was important; once women started being bank tellers, it became much less important. Similarly, but in reverse, when women did the cooking and baking, it was no big deal: some were very good at it, some not; sometimes it was a chore, sometimes a joy; it was an art and a skill, yes, but women didn’t make a show — a show — of it.

Actually, food preparation was important before too; doing it the wrong way can be fatal.  Literally.  Which makes it even more irritating that the recognition of importance didn’t occur until men started doing it.

And the bizarre thing is they’ve made the trivial aspects of it important; people don’t die if the cinnamon sprinkle isn’t just so.

Which suggests something else: since they aren’t focusing on the legitimately important aspects, the aspects with intrinsic importance, they have to manufacture importance; and making something into a competition is a way to do just that, a way to make what they’re doing seem important.

And here’s something else that would never happen to a man …

So this guy in our neighborhood has early Alzheimers and dizzy spells.  He’s looking for a babysitter (his word) and someone to cook for him and do his cleaning so he doesn’t have to go into a home.  And he asked me.

I have no experience babysitting.  And absolutely no aptitude for it.

Yes, I do my own cooking and cleaning, but I have no interest in it, at all, and do as little as possible.

So why did he ask me?  Because I’m a middle-aged woman.  Apparently that’s what middle-aged women do, that’s what we are, that’s what we’re for.

Yes, I’ve been friendly with him, stopping to chat or at least wave when I walk by (as a result of which he once asked me if I like sex and whether I’m any good at it—apparently that’s another thing women do, are, are for), but I doubt that friendliness on the part of a man would have indicated that he’s available for babysitting, cooking, or cleaning (or sex).

I’ve got three degrees, I used to be a philosophy instructor, I’ve published several books, and I’m currently making a living as a freelancer.  Would a man with such credentials be asked to be someone’s babysitter and do their cooking and cleaning?

Ah, but this guy doesn’t know I’m all that.  And that’s also telling.  If I were man who has lived in this neighborhood (small, rural) for twenty-five years, everyone would likely know all of that about me.  But I don’t go around announcing these things, and no one’s ever asked.  Because they just assume I’m—well, none of that.  After all, I’m just a middle-aged woman.

P.S. – Spread the word – I invite women to add their own “And here’s something else that would never happen to a man” entries via the comments function.  I’d love for this post to turn into a blog sort of like ‘What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?’

 

Solo Women’s Invisible Economic Expenses

It really hit home when my father gave me twenty bucks for a pizza, his treat.  As if I were a teenager.  Instead of a 50-year-old woman with a mortgage to pay, property taxes,  and monthly bills for oil, electricity, phone, internet, tv, house insurance, car insurance…  Amazing.  He was sitting in my living room at the time.  (My living room.)  A carpenter I’d hired to do some renovations on my house (my house) was outside working at the time.  And yet, he seemed to think I didn’t need, or couldn’t use, any real money.  He couldn’t see me as an adult negotiating my way in the real world, the one with jobs, paycheques, mortgages, and bills.

How did he think I came to own my own house?  Who did he think would be paying the carpenter?  Who does he think bought the car sitting in my driveway?  And pays for its repairs?

I don’t doubt for a minute that my parents have given my brother and my married sister a lot more than twenty bucks over the years (I divorced them thirty years ago, so I don’t really know) (and for that reason, I don’t feel entitled to anything from them, but that’s not my point), starting with the hundred-dollar (thousand-dollar?) gifts they gave them to start their households.  Said gifts were ostensibly wedding gifts, but hey, I had a household to start too.  Why do they get a new fridge and I get a hand-me-down blender just because they’re starting a new household with someone to whom they’ve contracted themselves?

And it’s not just my parents, of course.  The twenty-bucks-for-pizza incident wasn’t by any means the first time my economic expenses have been apparently invisible.  A neighbour (a kept woman) explained to me once that she and her husband were happy to have given the commission from the sale of their property to a certain real estate agent, a woman, (instead of selling the property without involving her, which they could have done), because her husband had recently died, so she was on her own now.  No similar sympathy has ever been directed my way.  And I’ve been on my own since I was twenty-one.

Why is this?  What can explain this phenomenon, a phenomenon that is surely causally related to women’s lower salaries?  The belief, clearly mistaken if anyone cared to open their eyes, that every woman is married?  (And every married woman is completely supported by her husband?)  The insistent belief that women are, or should be, considered children?  (And children don’t have adult needs, adult financial responsibilities…)

In 2009, American single women outnumbered married women (All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister).  So what do people like my parents think?  That banks waive our mortgage payments, and landlords never charge us rent; that insurance companies waive our premiums; that oil and propane companies fill our tanks, but never send us a bill; that we get our cars and bus passes for free; that we don’t have to pay for gas; that grocery stores let us walk out with all the food we want, for free; that our dentists and optometrists don’t charge us for check-ups; and that little elves come in the middle of the night and leave heaps of money so we can pay for whatever else we need.

 

This is your brain.  This is your brain on oxytocin: Mom.

I think many women realize that their children make them vulnerable; their love for them holds them hostage.  So many things they would do (leave?)—but for the children.  I wonder how many realize that their imprisonment is physiological.  And, in most cases, as voluntary as that first hit of heroin, cocaine, whatever.

‘But I love my children!’  That’s just the oxytocin talking.  You think you love them because you’re a good person, responsible, dutiful, and, well, because they’re so loveable, look at them!  That’s just the oxytocin talking.

All those women (most of them) who didn’t really want to become pregnant, but did anyway (because contraception and abortion weren’t easily available, and sex was defined as intercourse), and then claimed, smiling, that they wouldn’t have it any other way, they love their children—just the oxytocin talking.

The assurance that the labour will be worth it, that you’ll forget all about the pain as soon as you see your baby, as soon as you hold your baby—all true.  Because of the oxytocin.

Which you’ll get more of if you breastfeed.

And which you’ll get more of if you have a vaginal birth.  Which is why women who intend to give up their babies for adoption or who are surrogates should have caesareans.  It’ll reduce that drug-induced attachment, making it easier to follow through with their plans.  (Why doesn’t any medical professional tell them that?)

“Roused by the high levels of estrogen during pregnancy, the number of oxytocin receptors in the expecting mother’s brain multiplies dramatically near the end of her pregnancy. This makes the new mother highly responsive to the presence of oxytocin.” [2]   And, “Researchers have found that women’s oxytocin levels during their first trimester of pregnancy predict their bonding behavior with their babies during the first month after birthAdditionally, mothers who had higher levels of oxytocin across the pregnancy as well as the postpartum month also reported more behaviors that create a close relationship, such as singing a special song to their baby, bathing and feeding them in a special way, or thinking about them more. Quite simply, the more oxytocin you have, the more loving and attentive you are to your baby.” [1]

So those new mothers who don’t fall in love with their babies?  The ones who want to throw them out the window because they’re fucking crying all the time?  Their brains just didn’t produce enough, or perhaps any, oxytocin.  Post-partum depression?  It’s just oxytocin deficiency.  (It certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.  I’d throw the kid out the window too.)

And here’s the kicker: oxytocin rewires your brain.  Permanently.  “Under the early influence of oxytocin, nerve junctions in certain areas of mother’s brain actually undergo reorganization, thereby making her maternal behaviors ‘hard-wired.’” [2]

You become a mom.  Permanently.  Oxytocin makes you sensitive to others’ needs (not just your baby’s needs, not just your kids’ needs).  It makes you want to fulfill others’ needs.  (Not just your baby’s needs, not just your kids’ needs.)  You become nurturing, affectionate, caring.  (You become a proper woman?  A woman who knows her place?)  Oxytocin changes your personality.  It changes you.  As any drug does.

The rest of us, those of us who live oxytocin-free?  We don’t give a damn.  We’re not into nurturing others—children or men.  When we say we don’t like kids?  We mean it.  And when you say ‘Oh, just wait until you have some of your own, you’ll change your mind!’  They’re right.  Because we’ll become doped up with oxytocin.

So if you don’t want to turn into a Mom, if you don’t want to dedicate your life to others, to meeting their needs and desires, Just Say No.

 

[1] http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/pregnancy/oxytocin-pregnancy-birth-mother

 

[2] http://www.attachmentparenting.org/support/articles/artchemistry.php

 

[3] http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2007/feldman.cfm

On the Radfem Doctrine of Separatism

Here’s the thing.  Men are already separatists.  (So really we have no choice.)

Men already exclude women from anything, everything, important.  (Any inclusion is tokenism: a false symbol, a PR move.)

Men already refuse to get involved with ‘women’s issues’, whether personal or political.  That feminism itself is considered a special interest thing indicates that.  (It shouldn’t be.  And it wouldn’t be if ‘women’s issues’ were typically included in ‘issues’.  That we have to establish them as ‘add-ons’ proves that ‘issues’ are really ‘men’s issues’.  See?  Separatism.)

 

Men and Words (?)

As a result of a recent exchange on a blog in which I felt insulted enough by the patronizing tone taken by the moderator that I decided not to participate any further, while another commenter (a male) responded with a mere “LOL”, I asked yet another commenter (also a male) about why he thought our reactions were so different.  “Don’t men know when they’re being insulted?” I asked.

His response?  “We know, we just don’t care. At the end of the day, it’s just words on a
screen. Most of us don’t expect to convince anyone else, this is a social event of sorts for people who like to talk about stuff.”

He went on to say “We don’t expect to change anything, we’re just engaging in venting,
observation, and entertainment. If we learn something new, all the better.”

I find this horrifying.  Words have meaning!  Meaning is important!  At first I thought okay, maybe that’s just a philosopher/non-philosopher thing, but then I recalled conversations with male philosophers in which I similarly felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously, in which I felt like, the man nailed it, “entertainment”.

I don’t feel that when I speak with women on these matters.  So it’s a sexist thing, not a
philosopher thing.

But it’s not that men don’t take women seriously, it’s that they don’t take each other seriously either.  Suddenly their attitude toward debate—it’s a game—makes sense.

As for not expecting to convince or change, maybe that’s a non-teacher-non-social-activist thing, but again, if it’s a male thing, then again, it’s horrifying.  No wonder the world isn’t getting better and better: the people in power aren’t talking, thinking, acting to make it so.  Their discussions on policy are just “venting, observation, and entertainment”!

I wonder if at its root, it’s part of the male relationship to words.  Women are better with language, so it’s said, whether because of neurology or gendered upbringing; men are better with action, so it’s said, again whether by neurology or gendered upbringing.  So that would explain why women (in general, of course) consider words to be important, and men (in general, of course) don’t.

 

Sweet Sixteen (a short story)

 

It’s John’s sixteenth birthday tomorrow.  He’s coming of age.  His cousin, Jane, who lives just down the street, won’t come of age until her eighteenth birthday, and everyone said at the beginning how unfair that was, but truth be told, and John knows it, guys can do a lot of damage between sixteen and eighteen.

“It’s your sixteenth birthday tomorrow,” his mother had said that morning, in a carefully neutral voice.  “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know!” he’d screamed at her, as if she’d asked the question a hundred times before.  Then he stomped out of the house, slamming the door on his way out.  Standing in the middle of the yard, he’d called a few of his buddies, but they were all away.  Summer camp, vacation, whatever.  So he’d climbed into his old treehouse and sat there, alone, fuming.  It was all he could do not to kick the walls out.

 

What happened was, in 2035 organized religion finally went too far.  That might seem like an odd thing to say, given the institutionalized misogyny of Judaism what with Jewish men thanking their god every morning for not making them female, the Vatican’s decision to prohibit contraception and permit pedophilia, the routine defrauding by various Protestant evangelists, the Puritans’ tendency to cut off people’s ears and bore a hole in their tongues with a hot iron, the witch ‘trials’, the Inquisition’s habit of dislocating limbs and burning people alive, the human sacrifices of the Mayan, Inca, and Aztec theocracies, the Islamic Taliban, jihads, fatwas, burkas—

Ironically enough, it was the Americans’ ramped-up military engagement with Islamic countries that made the long-time similarities between Christianity and Islam suddenly all too apparent.  People started to see the my-god-versus-your-god subtext and were hard-pressed to prove their own god was the one true god.  It wasn’t something they were used to doing, providing support for their beliefs.

So what, you may ask, was the thing that was considered going too far?  Because really, how much further can you go beyond torture and mass murder?

It was this: the American president was not only refusing to sign anti-nuclear accords and pro-environment accords, he was actively pursuing nuclear and environmental destruction to ensure that the Biblical prophecy of the apocalypse would be fulfilled.  He would thus prove once and for all that the Christian god was the one true god.  That there would be no one left alive to appreciate such proof seemed to have escaped his notice.

Immediately upon discovering this insanity, the Scandinavian countries organized a global boycott of everything American, and, upon further thought, of everything from every country that claimed, one way or another, to be a nation under god.

The world became atheist overnight.

And then philosophy finally, finally, took its true place in society.  The ‘Philosophy for Children’ programs run by various fringe ‘wingnuts’ were suddenly mandatory.  The brave initiative in Canada in 1995 to introduce philosophy into the high school curriculum, an initiative that flashed then faded, blazed into popularity: both senior courses became mandatory not only in Canada, but also in the United States, and courses were developed for grades nine and ten as well.  At universities, Departments of Philosophy and Religion finally separated: Philosophy became a department on its own, and Religion was added to Folklore Studies or completely subsumed into invisibility in Ancient History.

And people, ordinary people, began to think.

Almost overnight, instead of hearing people talk on and on about sports, you could hear them, here and there, talk about things like how sure you had to be about something before you could say you knew it.  Epistemology in the pubs!

And without religion to issue decrees, suddenly questions of right and wrong were, well, questions.  Recourse to legal moralism was common among the lazier minds, but the presumed equivalence between law and morality did not go unchallenged.

People also talked a lot about rights and responsibilities.  It was almost as if they had been wanting to do that for a very long time, but had lacked a vocabulary.  The sudden proliferation of philosophy courses, as well as philosophy blogs, philosophy newspaper columns, philosophy talk shows, and even philosophical counselors (after all, many mental health issues are simply the result of not thinking things through clearly) gave them that vocabulary.

One of the first things to go was the right to reproduce.  “The Smiths and their Biochem Cubes” had become a staple in the grade eleven Philosophy course:

Suppose the Smiths make biochem cubes—biological-chemical cubes about one metre by one metre with an input for the resources required for sustenance at one end and an output for the unusable processed resources at the other.  Why do the Smiths make biochem cubes?  Good question.  Truth be told, the cubes are unlikely to make the world a better place.  And the Smiths don’t sell them.

Should we make allowances for the Smiths with regard to money (salaries, taxes, subsidies, etc.)?  After all, they have, let’s say, ten biochem cubes to support.  If the cubes are to stay alive, the Smiths need to provide sustenance.  They need a bigger house.  More electricity.  More food.

Should we encourage their ‘hobby’?  Perhaps even consider it respectable, a rite of passage to maturity?

Or should we censure it?  Because once their biochem cubes become ambulatory, the rest of us have to go around them in one way or another.  And when we’re all dead, the Smiths’ ecological footprints will have been at least ten times the size of those of us who don’t make biochem cubes.  (More, if the cubes they made go out and make other cubes.)

Suddenly everyone was aware of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous comment, ‘Your right to swing your fist ends were my nose begins’.  That is to say, suddenly everyone understood that the crux of the matter for rights was that, and how, others were affected.  No right was absolute because no person was an island.  Everything, everyone, was connected.  Maybe not directly, maybe not immediately, but if the change in the Earth’s climate had taught us anything, it had taught us that.

So a right to reproduce?  No.  It was a privilege.  One had to earn it.  And even so, it could be taken away.

Shortly after, the abortion question was finally seen as a simple matter of competing rights: the right of the fetus to develop versus the right of the woman to carry on with her life.

And once it was decided that the fetus’ right didn’t trump the woman’s right, that the fetus didn’t automatically have a right to develop, a right to life (why would it? just because some man ejaculated into some woman and started the process?), it was a very small step for people to realize that they themselves didn’t automatically have a right to life.  After all, everyone was just the result of some man ejaculating into some woman.  Everyone was just someone’s biochem cube.

A lot of people resisted.  They struggled to argue for a right to life, an inalienable right to life.  But there was simply no basis for it.  Absent a god to grant it.

 

John wasn’t aware of any of this, of course.  He just knew that once he came of age, he had to prove somehow that he had a right to live.  He had to be useful or valuable in some way.  You got a free ride until then, that was the deal now.  But once you turned eighteen, or sixteen, if you were male, you had to earn the right to life, you had to prove your life was worth—well, worth the resources you used, perhaps, or worth the negative consequences you inevitably caused for others.

It was easier for girls, John thought.  Jane had been useful since she was old enough to dry the dishes, standing on a stool at the sink.  She had a whole list of chores to do: dishes every day, dinner twice a week, dusting and vacuuming on Saturdays, babysitting on Sundays…

She’d even learned to play the piano.  By the time she was fourteen, she was practicing an hour a day, and the last time he was at her house, she played something by Mozart for him.  She was useful and valuable.  And she wasn’t even sixteen yet.

When John saw how good Jane was at the piano—she’d even played some retro Supertramp for him once—he decided he’d become a musician too.  So he got a guitar.  But he had no idea how to play it.  A friend of a friend finally showed him a few chords, but even after two whole weeks, it was hit-and-miss, so he gave up.  Clearly, he had no talent.  Jane was lucky, he thought, she could do shit like that.

He didn’t know why it was different for girls.  Maybe all that stuff just came naturally.  Guys were different.  For example, a couple weeks ago, he and his buddies broke all the windows at their school.  Every last one of them.  They’d had a race to see who could break the most.  And just last week they had a great time turning over everyone’s garbage.  He always felt a little bad the day after they did these things, seeing the mess they’d made, but a guy’s entitled to have a little fun, right?

It took Jane a good two hours to pick up all the stuff that had overnight blown onto their lawn.  Wads of tissue, scraps of soiled, unrecyclable packaging—  So, he thought, philosophically, he’d given her the opportunity to be useful.  Didn’t that make him useful?

Long ago, his parents had told him he had to cut the grass, but he’d said ‘Fuck that!’ and took off.  They didn’t insist.  Truthfully, they were a little afraid of him.

All the young men who in earlier times might have proved themselves useful as soldiers didn’t have that avenue open to them now.  Because now there were no wars.  Killing someone—remember, everyone had earned the right to live now, everyone who was alive had proven themselves to be useful or valuable—killing someone, taking away someone’s right to life, was the quickest way to get your own right to life revoked.

And once people started thinking, they realized that football, hockey, soccer, basketball—these things did nothing to improve humanity.  So that avenue for young men was also no longer open.  The entertainment defence for that level of sport, for that concentration of resources for sport, was tried, but it failed.  As it did for pornography.  There was simply too much violence involved—and in the latter case, too much degradation—to grant entertainment value to anyone but vicarious sadists.

Even so, at the beginning it was easy for guys like John.  On their eighteenth birthday, guys like John would just start roaming the highways picking up the garbage that littered the ditches.  But a generation later, well, the kind of people who had earned the right to live weren’t the kind of people who tossed their garbage out their car windows.

The more ambitious guys got jobs.  But jobs weren’t that easy to find now.  Certainly John couldn’t find one overnight.  And he certainly wasn’t doing well enough in school to argue that he was going to become a scholar, a scientist, or even an entrepreneur.

The truth of the matter was that John wasn’t unusual.  A great many men by the age of eighteen hadn’t done anything, not one thing, to improve life for humanity, to justify their existence.

The same was true, of course, of a lot of young women.  The ones who’d expected to get a free ride by being somebody’s wife and/or somebody’s mother.  In fact, Brittany, one of John’s classmates, would have trouble a couple years from now.  In a previous time, she may have been useful as a prostitute, but once pornography became illegal, prostitution quickly followed.  The similarities were clear, once people thought about it, but also, the demand for it decreased quite quickly.

Even so, even now, in certain cesspool corners of the world, to which John and Brittany could escape if they’d known about them, Brittany could have, would have, found herself useful.  But she’d’ve been raped to death within six months.

And then John would have discovered just how useful he could be.

John kicked at the walls of the treehouse.  Now he wishes they had, he wishes his parents had insisted.  Again, and again, and again if necessary.  That he cut the grass.  Or whatever.  It was their responsibility to make sure he was useful, wasn’t it?  They created him.  It was their fault he was in this situation!

He looked back toward the house.  Then came down out of the trees.  And went on one last rampage.

Tomorrow he’d be sixteen.

And he wouldn’t be missed.

Catherine, by Chris Wind

Catherine, by Chris Wind (from Snow White Gets Her Say)  www.chriswind.net

 

That you don’t recognize me by name is but the first of my complaints about my tale. Oh you know me alright. I’m the main character—in a tale titled with the name of one of the men in the story. But what’s in a name? A lot. Especially if it’s a man’s name. This man’s name is the answer to the question upon which rests the fate of myself and my newborn child. So his name is very powerful, it is very important. My name apparently is not.

Nor is my life. For whether it is to be filled with joy and delight from being with my newborn, or empty with grief and loss from separation is to be decided by a mere guessing game.

Nor are my words important. I denied my father’s boast. I told the King I most definitely could not spin gold out of straw. But he didn’t believe me. Of course not. He chose instead to believe the words of an immature, egotistic, vain man. And I suffer the consequences.

The consequences. To pay for my father’s ridiculous lie, I lose my sanity, my freedom, and my dignity for three nights—and almost my child, forever. (And one sentence—one sentence in the whole tale is devoted to that ‘choice’, that decision to give up my child in return for my life.)

Because I ‘succeeded’ on the third night, I was ‘rewarded’ with marriage to the King. Thus, for all intents and purposes, I also lost my life. Can you imagine what it is like to be married—legally bound to honour and obey until death, and socioeconomically bound with little option but to stay and make the best of it—to a man who didn’t believe me, a man who locked me in a room for three nights, a man so greedy that he said three nights in a row he’d kill me unless I did as he wanted? And that was before he owned me.

But as the tale says, I am shrewd and clever. And I have learned the force of threat, and the importance of a name—especially if it is male. Proud fathers want very much to pass it on. But royal fathers—dear husband, aging Highness, what would happen to your precious lineage if my, your, only son were to suddenly—

Since I am not dead, and am living still…

 

**

Catherine is the name I’ve given to the woman in “Rumpelstiltskin”. One day a vain and proud miller boasted about his beautiful and clever daughter to the king, telling him that she could spin gold out of straw. The poor maiden denied it, but the king locked her in a room full of straw and insisted that she spin it into gold or else she’d lose her life.

Once in the room, she began to cry; then “a droll-looking little man” appeared and, after hearing her story, offered to do it for her if she’d give him her necklace. When the king returned and saw that the straw had indeed been spun into gold, he locked up the maiden with another roomful of straw. This time she paid the little man with her ring. The third time, the king added the promise of marriage if she succeeded, but she had nothing left with which to pay the little man. He asked for her first child, and having no other option, fearing death if the king returned to find straw and not gold, she agreed.

So she was married to the king, and when her first child was born, the little man came to collect. Appalled, she offered him instead “all the treasures of the Kingdom”—but he wanted the child. Eventually he softened his terms and said that if within three days she could tell him his name, she could keep the child.

For the next two days, she guessed all the names she knew and sent messengers all over the land to gather new ones. Finally, on the third day, a messenger returned with the name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’—which was indeed the little man’s name. She was therefore able to keep her child, and everyone laughed at the little man, Rumpelstiltskin, as he made his way away.