Monday, February 16, 2015

So mothers, be bad to your daughters

Today I got into a discussion about the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey with a self-described feminist who argued that the book and movie are popular because they undercut the idea that women like to be dominated by men. She reasoned that because, apparently, the guy ends up committing to the female protagonist,it illustrates that in fact gender is little more than a social construction.

There are a thousand ways to take this down, and I employed several of them, but approach 1,001 came to mind during the conversation. It feels like if I'm not unknowingly plagiarizing Heartiste here, I'm surely just restating what someone or several other people have already pointed out. Still, the articulation at least is novel to me.

If women, who are putatively by their very natures are as gender-neutral as young boys are, become acclimated by society over time to accept male-preferred sex roles, shouldn't there be a dynamic of young, naive daughters falling for sweet, gentle, doting guys against their mothers' wishes? In a society free of patrimony, these mothers would encourage their daughters to follow their passions and stay with these nice guys. Their mothers warn them against the nice guys though, because, as middle-aged women steeped in decades of patriarchal mind control, they've been inculcated to the point of reflexively pleading with their daughters to forget the nice guys and instead start chasing the pump-and-dump rebels who play by their own rules. Sure, the mothers' efforts usually fall on the deaf ears of the poor girls who are indifferent to the bad boys and hopelessly enraptured by the nice guys, but a mother still has to try, doesn't she?

The exact opposite scenario characterizes the real world, of course. In reality, middle class American parents try to mitigate and temper the natural desires of their children with the wisdom and practical understanding they've picked up over the courses of their own lives. Society tries its best to artificially move towards something approaching gender neutrality--not entirely without success--but in so doing is fighting against that tenacious bitch, biology.   

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