If I Were a Boy

Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy” is an interesting exercise in role reversal (as is her video–click on the link). It’s clearly a love song with a feminist twist. The singer is warning her lover that he may not get away with acting “like a boy” if he takes it too far. She implies that if a man had a clue about what it’s like to be a woman–and how to love a woman–then he’d be a better man.

Is this man-bashing? I don’t think so. If anything, it’s a cautionary tale. “Listen to her…Don’t take her for granted…or all that you have will be destroyed.” If the song touches a nerve–or a heart–it could be because it’s a common female lament. Maybe with Beyonce singing this, men will pay attention to the lyrics (and not just to how Beyonce looks in a police officer’s uniform).

No Sex in the City

Dawn Eden has written The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On, about the virtues of chastity for the single person. Eden comes from a Reformed Jewish background but is now a devout Catholic, which means, for her, that she went from being “reluctantly” pro-choice to decidedly pro-life, among other things. She is also the founder of the blog, “The Dawn Patrol.” (Look at December 8, 2008 for videos about the views she espouses in her book.) Here is an article about her book (It also includes a video of a panel discussion on MSNBC’s Today Show). And here is an interview with her from Salon.com. Read an excerpt from Chapter One here. (You can find other videos on YouTube–search for “Dawn Eden.”)

I was intrigued by what Eden had to say about the value of chastity. This is so not in line with the feminist party line (especially from the Free Love period of the ’60s and ’70s) that I felt it was worth examining. I don’t know if Eden would call herself a feminist, but the fact that she has “converted” to chastity should not disqualify her from being one. There is nothing about the feminist ideology that says that you have to be “free” sexually, but it is often assumed that there is, which is one reason why conservative women abhor feminism.

I myself welcome the concept of not putting yourself “out there” sexually, especially if you do it because “everyone else does it.” But I don’t think it’s realistic that young women would flock to chastity without having religious convictions that take them there. And feminism is about choices, which means that it doesn’t condemn people for having sex outside of marriage. But it should also not condemn people for not having sex outside of marriage. I think that it’s safe to say that the feminist line is that women should be free to choose either route.

However, I also think it’s safe to say that most feminists would be uncomfortable pushing chastity as an ideal for single women (and men). It seems too restrictive and smacks of judgmentalism. Eden’s choice is right for her (and to be fair to her, her book is described as a memoir, not a manifesto). But is it an ideal worth considering? I think that depends on why a woman has sex outside of marriage. If she does because she is afraid she will lose the man if she doesn’t, then that is simply demeaning. In that circumstance, I would recommend chastity. As Eden puts it in her book: “If you have to ask someone if he’ll still love you tomorrow, then he doesn’t love you tonight.”

But what if you don’t care if he loves you tomorrow? What if you just want to have sex? Eden herself has had plenty of it in her life; you could argue that chastity might not be as hard for her to take on since she has already “sowed her wild oats.” I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that it is. Do you need to try free love first in order to find out if it’s right for you or not? Or just take Eden’s word for it?

The feminist in me says that every woman should be free to experiment. Conservatives argue that choosing chastity first ensures that you will not experience the heartbreak and dehumanization that casual sex brings. (Not to mention disease and unwanted pregnancy.) But insisting on abstinence ignores the needs human beings have for intimacy and the fact that it is not always realistic to expect that they will marry before having sex. You could even argue, as some do, that not having sex before marriage could lead to a higher divorce rate. Our grandmothers may have said, “Why buy the cow if you can have the milk for free?” But today’s couples are more likely to say, “Why buy the cow if you don’t know beforehand that it will produce milk?”

I tend to think that is a healthier approach. After all, the former question implies that a man is buying a woman. The latter that the couple is buying a marriage. There’s a distinct difference.

Laughing About Aging

There’s a new show coming to town and it’s called “Menopause: The Musical.” Apparently it’s been taking the nation by storm, and has toured in at least 12 others, since its first performance in March of 2001 in Orlando, Florida. The writer and producer, Jeanie Linders, was inspired by a bottle of wine and a hot flash to create this 90-minute four-woman show around 26 songs from the ’60s and ’70s, cleverly re-tooled to reflect the theme of aging. Thus “My Guy” becomes “My Thighs,” “Chain of Fools” becomes “Change of Life” and the Peter, Paul and Mary classic becomes “Puff, My God, I’m Draggin’.”

“Menopause: The Musical” will be in my hometown in February and I hope to be able to see it despite the ticket price ($47.50 to start). If not, at least I was able to get the gist of it from the website and some videos I found on the Internet. (See one below.)

Another “menopause” show is “Hot Flashes! The Musical,” which has been around since 2002 and originated in Portland, Oregon. Here’s a song from that musical:

Is this really entertainment? If you’re either going through or have survived menopause, it is. It gives aging women a chance to find their “inner comedian.” What better way to deal with something that most of us view with trepidation? It’s a part of life, after all, and will happen to all of us.

What I like about shows like these and others (see here) is that it brings the topic of aging out into the open and gives older women a chance to celebrate this new chapter in their lives. Maybe you have never thought of menopause as something to celebrate, but that’s a view that may be changing. As in so many other things, Baby Boomers may be leading the way in remaking societal and personal attitudes about a condition that used to be something to be ashamed of. You never know what might be next. “Viagra” for women, anyone?

Liberate Yourself

Sexism begins in our own hearts. All too often, we ourselves are the ones who accept society’s limitations on our lives. We believe all the crap that’s been socialized into us: that men are our heads, that they are meant to dominate, that women cannot have children and a career, that women are primarily responsible for the home–the list goes on and on.When we stop accepting these bromides as the Truth, we are taking the first step toward personal liberation.

This doesn’t mean that we have to hate men, reject motherhood, and strike out on our own. There’s nothing wrong with being in relationships, having children and being interdependent. It is the absolutes that kill us: you must get married, you must have children, you must be dependent on your husband, you must be subservient to men. But until we ourselves believe that we can make our own rules, rules that express our individuality, we will be stuck dancing someone else’s dance and never discover the satisfaction and joy of dancing for ourselves.