Just to show how useful movies are to taking the temperature of a culture, as a societal barometer if you will, my impetus for posting a discussion on gender roles comes from having taken my girls to the new Pixar movie, Brave, and subsequently from reading the NRO review of it by Frederica Mathewes-Green.
In Mathewes-Green's NRO review, Roger Ebert is quoted as having said about Brave that it
“seems at a loss to deal with her as a girl and makes her a sort of honorary boy.”
My sister Trink and I had just discussed the gender deracinating influences on our society the night before I read that brilliant line. Brave may have been a tipping point for initiating this conversation at Ricochet, but it's been in the works for a while now, dating back at least to my promised, but as yet unwritten post, on the ill-effects on society of extending women the franchise (that got your attention now, didn't it?).
It occurs to me this post could alternatively have been titled Men as Honorary Women had I seen a Leonardo DiCaprio film. The Gender Distinction Eradication Project (GDEP) our society has undertaken goes both ways -- hypersensitive feminized men and overaggressive masculinized women.
GDEP has many effects on our conception of women in society, producing not just the wildly independent warrior princess archetype portrayed in Brave, but the Kardashian Bridezilla aggressively sexual type as well. The right to choose not to bear the next generation, to defy nature in service to that masculine end, either through contraception or abortion, is sacrosanct in our society. Even for most people opposed to abortion, even for most Catholics opposed to abortion, contra-ception is an ideal to uphold. I suspect this holds here at Ricochet too. Contraception is a uniting societal norm among conservatives and liberals alike.
Built-in to the arguments for same-sex marriage (SSM) is a tacit assertion that genders are interchangeable in their roles within the family. If the ever more agreeable opinion of the 18 to 30 crowd to SSM is any indication, the Project is coming along nicely.
I've seen some other movies over the past weeks which got me thinking along these lines. In the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, Holmes' love interest, Irene, may dress the part of the proper Victorian lady, but she's every bit as ruthlessly competitive and wily as Holmes is. In the first movie, she even drugs Holmes' wine and he awakens in the morning naked and tied to the bed in a sort of reverse date-rape scenario. She has him beaten by Moriarty's thugs at the beginning of the second film when he gets in the way of her work. It's all fine with Holmes though. He doesn't just love her despite her masculine traits -- he loves her for them.
Speaking of societal fashion, Trink and I were lamenting in the course of our conversation that even we wear the uniform. Unless she's off-the-grid and making her own clothing, the average woman is dressed in a cut of clothing indistinguishable from men's fashions, only with brighter colors and a little bead-work or other adornment. I'm in a t-shirt and cargo shorts at this very moment (I know, TMI. You didn't ask, "Whaterya wearing?," did you?). As a middle-aged woman, I'm increasingly jealous of Holmes' masculinized love-interest, Irene. At least she got to wear flattering clothing!
We can debate whether GDEP is a good thing, and maybe we should. But for me, one of the most interesting aspects of GDEP is its imposition of uniformity on individuals, while pretending it is somehow countercultural. It isn't countercultural. It's inauthentic to our nature. Women are physically vulnerable in their nature. Women with children are financially vulnerable and need a provider. Men are physically and socially competitive and aggressive. Their nature is to protect and provide. Certainly there are individual exceptions. But, society has decided to do away with them by denying and defying the natural state of the unexceptional norm, by leveling the differences, through GDEP.
I'm always tempted to ride off the rails at this moment and point out how demonic this deception is. Instead, I'll just relate that the gender traditionalists I know -- the people who teach their children the transcendent purpose of sex and the body; of loving your neighbor through modest, but not genderless, dress; of expressing your most authentic feminine or masculine traits in a traditional family dynamic -- these people are radically countercultural now. They're the brave ones.