Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New York Magazine, Gender Inequality, and Wine

I read this story, about female teachers soliciting their students, in New York magazine today, and I wish I hadn't. I began the first sentence one minute into my session on the elliptical trainer, and I felt my pulse rise and my face get red even before I hit the usual five-minute exertion mark. I knew it would be a long night, and I knew I would need to walk home to calm down and maybe get a bottle of red to continue the cooling-off process at home.

It's stories like this that explain popular theory about sex and gender roles that make me depressed about the United States and our popular culture: When boys have sex with female teachers, they turn out fine, but when girls have sex with male teachers, they're ruined forever. Color me surprised that this seems patently unfair the grand scheme of everything that is good and right in this world.

This is my own sexist, extremist opinion, and I'll own up to that, but I still believe that women are the good ones in our culture. We begin with good intentions and want fairy tales. We don't set out to hurt, to use, to deceive. And then something happens -- something abusive or heartbreaking or disappointing -- and the landscape changes. We lose the notion of the fairy tale, and everything becomes very different and stacked against us. And because we're women, we can't do a damn thing about it. We lose, period.

I like to watch this Chase Bank commercial (click under "Life" to view the correct one) about a couple getting married and spending the rest of their perfect lives together -- replete with cheesy, manipulative soundtrack -- that clearly struck a nerve with our society, seeing as it's replayed roughly 11,394 a day, including during expensive slots on the Today show. When I watch it now, I mentally ask Chase Bank the following questions:

- Where's the shot of him losing his virginity to some cheerleader at a party his senior year of high school?

- Where's the shot of her waking up in a fraternity house one night after a party her sophomore year in college with her underwear on backward?

- Where's the shot of each of them politely tolerating each other's parents while silently wishing they were anywhere but sitting there, at that dinner table?

- Where's the shot of her thinking of her ex during sex?

- Where's the shot of him thinking of his ex during sex?

- Where's the shot of her finding out she got a sexually transmitted disease from him a year and half into the relationship?

- Where's the shot of him yelling things like, "What is wrong with you?" at her?

- Where's the shot of her nagging him to death because she needs to assert herself somehow?

- Where's the shot of her quitting her lucrative career to raise his children and suddenly realizing the importance of things like duvet covers, matching blinds, and Dora the Explorer?

- Where's the shot of him having an affair with his administrative assistant when he's 40?

- Where's the shot of her on her third glass of wine, crying in the kitchen because she's pretending not to notice he never comes home before nine?

- Where's the shot of her thinking about the one who got away?

- Where's the shot of him thinking about the one who got away?

- And where is the shot of both of them wondering what would have happened -- and if they'd each be happier -- if they'd never gotten married?

The above list is composed of reasonable fascimiles of events that have actually happened to people I know.

We need some reality in this mess. But I'm not going to be the one to pull all the little fourth-grade girls aside and tell them how everything really is.

Just an aside: I admire Forksplit these days because although this post offended me at first, she seems to be surer of herself and her femininity than I ever will be.


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